Friday, June 26, 2009

Also on the obit page

So we have all heard about Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, but today's obits from the NY Times provided their less famous counterparts.

The off-Broadway actor, T. Scott Cunningham, died at age 47, which is way too young, if you ask me. His seems to me to be the story of a working actor and gay man in New York. His obit announces that he is survived by "his partner, Harry Bouvy, of Manhattan." It's so matter-of-fact, I'm very touched by that. Broadway World goes further, naming him as "his partner of 14 years." Also no doubt by his bedside when he died, but without the drama and paparazzi of L.A. And a blessing for that.

Then there's Betty Allen, a mezzo-soprano who sang with the Met and everyone else under the sun and whose childhood was as agonizing as you hear Michael Jackson's was.

In the obit, they mention how she is not as famous as her Wilberforce College classmate Leontyne Price. She doesn't seem too worried about it.

“I’m not a household name,” she told The Times in the 1973 interview. “I don’t stay awake nights plotting and planning. Maybe I don’t have that extra drive and ambition and energy that makes for a blazing career. I need a home, and I need to be looked after. I may look to be a very self-sufficient female. I act very brazen and hard and matter-of-fact and seem as though I could cope with anything. Well, I can’t. I’m as soft as putty underneath.”

I don't think fame does people a lot of favors. Certainly not in death. I feel for Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson who I think suffered quite a bit because they were famous. It looks so good from a safe distance, fame does, but it seems to me that both Scott Cunningham and Betty Allen worked hard and did well with a much healthier dose of public recognition. Maybe they wanted more, I don't know. But I can't help but think that fame is a rotten thing, or at any rate a thing that rots quickly. I want to think some more about that.

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