It’s been a tough couple of weeks for notables

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 10, 2009


It’s been a rough 18 or so days for folks who enjoyed some measure of notoriety.

A quick review of the compilation on Wikipedia (current through July 4) shows no fewer than nine persons whose name would have been more familiar than others to the public.

Consider the list:

• Alec Gallup (Gallup Poll) on June 22

• Ed McMahon on June 23

• Farrah Fawcett on June 25

• Michael Jackson on June 25

• Gale Storm (My Little Margie) on June 27

• Billy Mays (Hi! I’m Billy Mays) on June 28

• Harve Presnall (Paint Your Wagon, singing “They Call the Wind Maria”) on June 30

• Karl Malden on July 1

• Mollie Sugden (Mrs. Slocombe on Are You Being Served?) on July 1

• Steve McNair on July 4

Granted, some of those are lesser-known, but if you saw the silver screen edition of Paint Your Wagon, which starred Lee Marvin and a young Clint Eastwood, you’ll never forget Harve Presnall’s singing of “They Call the Wind Maria.” Likewise for Mollie Sugden, better known as Mrs. Slocombe, the head of the ladies department at Grace Brothers Department Store in London. I first saw the BBC-created show on PBS in the early 90s and watched it ever time I could, primarily because of her humor.

Of course there were those who were more notable … Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Karl Malden … but grieving for any — and perhaps all — of them was virtually hidden from view when Michael Jackson died.

I saw him perform at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson on March 31, 1972 — leading the Jackson Five. The show was opened by Mac Rebennack — better known as Dr. John. I don’t remember a lot about the show, other than I do recall hearing “Goin’ Back to Indiana” the first time and always liking it.

I also remember that from that night forward I bought any and everything I could that Dr. John did. I’ve got 800 or so albums, several hundred CDs and about 1,000 45s — and if I told you I knew I had anything by the Jacksons I’d be lying to you.

It’s a shame when anyone young dies … before they’ve had a chance to live what we would traditionally call a full life, although the youngest of the three on my list … Jackson, Mays and McNair … obviously lived a lot more than many of us older.

Because network television fell all over itself in trying to show anything Michael Jackson from any angle, we saw many more people “agonizing” over his death than with any of the others. Farrah Fawcett probably fought the most valiant fight and it seems as if Steve McNair threw one pass too many … but while grieving is good, none of those on the opening  list were people who changed the world … they saved no lives … they stopped no wars … they cured no diseases.

They did make us laugh, they caused us to tap out feet, clap our hands, stand up and dance and laugh and sing … they entertained us on stage, screen and gridiron; they sold us and sold us and sold us and they let us know what we thought about things.

But heroes?


Just folks who filled a role in society and did it better than most.

May we let them rest in peace.

(John H. Walker is editor and publisher of L’Observateur and may be reached at (985) 652-9545 or at