Nothing Up My Sleeve

By Jon Gallagher

But Wait!  There’s More!


Okay, I should warn you, if you’re offended by making fun of dead people, you might want to skip this column and go read John Ring or the Peever. 

All right.  But I warned you.

I heard that the University of Illinois was offering a new degree those interested in studying the plumbing systems of ancient Egyptian rules.  Those enrolled in the program will be known as Pharaoh Faucet Majors.

Do you know what the Cubs and Michael Jackson have in common?  Both wear gloves on one hand and no one knows what for.

But wait!  There more!  If you continue reading right now, you’ll get more insensitive comments about two recently deceased celebrities at no extra charge!  Just pay shipping and handling….

Enough of the (allegedly) funny stuff.  This past week, on my way to Chicago to see the White Sox and Dodgers play, I heard that Farrah Fawcett had lost her battle with cancer and had passed away. 

As a college aged young man in the late seventies, I remember Farrah Fawcett-Majors.  I watched Charlie’s Angels every week. 

If you threatened to chop off my fingers one by one, I still couldn’t give you the plot of a single episode.  Nor could any red blooded male my age.  The plot just wasn’t that important.

And although I never owned one, her poster featuring her in a swimsuit, looking very cold, sold into the millions, most of which ended up in the general vicinity of the beds of aforementioned males.

On my way home from the ballgame, I tired quickly of the endless recaps of the 13 inning game I’d just seen.  I flipped my radio over to XM where I tired even more quickly of the endless coverage of Michael Jackson’s death.  I flipped to a music channel and was bombarded with Michael Jackson music.  It didn’t matter if I tuned to the 60’s, 70’s, or 80’s; Michael was ubiquitous that evening.

As I tried to avoid Michael, I heard an ad for another XM channel that was broadcasting a 1981 interview that Barbara Walters did with Farrah.  I figured that beat hearing Billie Jean for the 47th time, so I punched in the channel.

I almost turned over to Radio Disney.

Farrah proved to be as shallow as a sidewalk puddle as Walters asked her such tough questions as “Do you think you’re pretty?” or “Do you think of yourself as sexy?” (for the record, Farrah answered “No,” and “yes.”)  Most of her responses sounded like she was either stoned or buzzed.

I listened for a few miles before I couldn’t take it anymore.  Farrah was giving new meaning to the phrase “dumb blonde,” while Walters was busy coming up with questions that sounded like they came from a star-struck teenage guy.

I was just about to chalk this up to Farrah being a young, immature overnight sensation when she admitted that she was 33 years old.  That was the official point of “too much,” and I switched over to the comedy channel.  At least the people on this channel were trying to be funny.

Fortunately, Farrah grew out of her self-centered persona, and learned how to act.  She gave some phenomenal performances later in her career, most notably as a battered housewife in a TV movie called the Burning Bed. 

I sympathize with her family and I applaud her bravery in her battle with cancer.  But had she not been a famous actress, her plight would never have been noticed.  Thousands of people die each day from cancer, and thousands more courageously battle the disease.  Her celebrity may give hope to some who are going through the same thing, and it does show that no one, no matter how beautiful or sexy, is immune to the horrors brought on by the disease or its treatments.

Not too long ago, Ed McMahon was in danger of losing his home.  Had Jay Leno not stepped up and quietly written a check for the former sidekick of Johnny Carson, McMahon might have died in a homeless shelter.

It’s hard to understand, at least for me.  McMahon was the second banana on the Tonight Show for thirty some years.  Although he didn’t command the big bucks that his boss did, I’m sure he wasn’t applying for food stamps during his tenure.

After Johnny retired, Ed found plenty of things to do.  He was the host of Star Search, NBC’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes, and the spokesman for American Family Publishers (not Publisher’s Clearinghouse which was the competitor of AFP).  Surely somewhere along the line he saved some money.  And I’m sure that his services as a spokesman for companies like Budweiser and didn’t come cheaply.

Still, with all his fame, Ed McMahon was reportedly one of the most accessible stars in history.  Radio hosts report that he always had time for an interview and that he was more than happy to record promos for them with his trademark, “And now, Heeeeeeeere’s…” and insert the name of the host.  He held no false illusions about his own fame, knowing that had it not been for Johnny, he probably would have been unemployed for most of three decades.

When his financial troubles became public, Ed tried his best to elicit sympathy from the public.  It left me scratching my head.  He and his wife appeared on Larry King Live, claiming that they didn’t have millions of dollars as one might expect.

I guess that would explain why they lived in a one of the cheaper Beverly Hills homes, valued at just under five million dollars.  Had he not been such a nice guy, I doubt if anyone would have felt even a little bit sorry for him.

While sitting in the upper deck of US Cellular Field, the news spread around the stadium.  Michael Jordan had just been found dead.

I told the guy next to me that Michael had just been in Peoria, a few months ago, to watch his son play basketball in the State Championships.  We were both shocked.

Somewhere along time line, Michael Jackson had been referred to as MJ, and in Chicago, there is only one MJ.  It took about a half hour before the correction made its way to the upper deck and we knew that the King of Pop had suffered the same fate as his former father-in-law.

Jackson was a musical genius.  He was innovative with both his music and his dancing.  There’s no denying that.

He was also a flat out weirdo, a black man who evidently wanted to be a white woman.  He’d undergone so many plastic surgeries that instead of being buried, they might consider recycling him.  I’m not sure if he ever sued his plastic surgeon, but he should have.  That is, unless he really wanted to end up looking like a pale Carol Channing.

Every time Michael made the news, I shook my head and muttered something along the lines of “Geez, what a fruitcake!”  How could he bring this on himself? 

Each time he made the news, whether it was dangling his kid from a balcony or defending himself against child molestation charges, the tabloids had a field day.  Maybe Michael enjoyed the attention he got from this section of the media. 

One thing is for sure.  The tabloid press will have a field day with this and have plenty of material for at least the rest of this decade.

I guess I should also mention that we named one of our cats after Michael.  When we got the cat, it was half black and half white and we couldn’t tell if it was male or female.  That’s why she’s named “Jackson.”

But wait!  There’s more!

Super pitchman Billy Mays was found dead in his Florida home this past Sunday morning.

Mays was the guy in the blue shirt who seemed to be on every TV channel hawking everything from cleaning products to tools, from kitchen items to pens that remove scratches from your car’s finish.   Everything he endorsed sold for $19.99, and he ALWAYS included something more to make it look like an added value.

Recently, the Discovery Channel gave him his own reality show, Pitchmen, where cameras followed him around as he searched for new products to pitch.  It also followed him behind the scenes of his infomercials that brought him into all our homes.  The show revealed him to have a bigger ego than the other three celebrities mentioned above. 

Basically, in case you couldn’t tell from his infomercials, he was a jerk.

I spent the better part of a recent Saturday evening, watching a Pitchman marathon on Discovery.  Most of the show was spent documenting arguments he had with his partner, Anthony Sullivan, and him bragging about his skills as a salesman. 

One segment had him showing off the material for an insole for shoes.  The material was supposed to cushion impact, so he folded the material over a hand and then smashed it repeatedly with a hammer.  I’ll bet it felt better when he quit.

Then someone got the bright idea to wrap his hand with the material and run over it with an SUV.  The cameras were set and Billy crouched down with his hand under the rear wheel of the SUV. 

He chickened out (I don’t blame him).  “I make my living with my hands!” he kept telling people.  Finally, his partner grabbed a blue shirt, put it on so that it looked like Billy and let the vehicle run over his hand.  Although I’ve not seen the actual commercial, they left the impression that they were going to let everyone at home think it was Billy’s hand when all the final edits were done.

There’s just one product that he didn’t endorse that I wish he had.

It’s the stuff he used to keep his hair and beard so black.  I could have used it to polish my shoes.

You were warned.  I told you not to read if you were offended by stuff like this.

My heart and prayers go out to the survivors.  I truly feel for their loss.  It’s hard to understand how God works sometimes.  We’ll all be in this same position sooner or later.

In my case, when I die, I’m guessing God’s going to have some questions for me.  It’ll be kind of like when Dr. Phil asks, “What were you thinkin’?”

If I’m right, then God’s been asking that question quite a bit this past week.