Top: Farrah Fawcett Doll (Mego), The Jackson 5 Toon (Rankin/Bass)
Bottom: David Carradine Kung Fu Lunchbox and little me in the ’70s

Lately it feels like whatever remains of my childhood is slowly being flushed down the pop culture toilet. I couldn’t find the words for David Carradine’s death because I was deeply saddened by the news and everyone else in the world seemed to have something to say about it. As I’ve mentioned before, Kung Fu (1972-1975) was one of my favorite television shows when I was a kid, as was Charlie’s Angels (1976-1981) and the Rankin and Bass Jackson 5ive (1971-1973) cartoon. I saw some of these shows in reruns, but that didn’t lessen the impact they had on me. Like a lot of little preteen girls who grew up in the ’70s, I fondly remember that one of my first crushes was on a very young and incredibly cute Michael Jackson and for years I wanted to be a private detective thanks to the influence of Charlie’s Angels.

When I think about being a kid in the ’70s my memories are filled with Kung Fu lunchboxes, Charlie’s Angels’ dolls and Jackson Five records (or The Jacksons as they were called at the time) that my mom ordered from the Columbia Records mail-order club. David Carradine, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson were truly iconic figures of the ’70s (as well as the ’80s in Michael’s case) and thousands of writers will be eulogizing Michael Jackson for years to come. Whatever I have to say today really means nothing in the big scheme of things, but if you grew up with these people on your television, on your lunchboxes and in your toybox, they sort of take on an almost mythological status through the years that’s hard to explain. And yet, here I am trying to explain how their deaths make me feel, but frankly I can’t. It sort of feels like the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus all died within weeks of one another. This feeling isn’t helped by the fact that I recently experienced another death in my own family. June has been a cruel month.

I realize that the ’70s officially came to an end 30 years ago, but today it feels like they’re finally and forever over. At least for the little girl in me who still owns her original Farrah Fawcett doll.

. . . Earlier this year: Bob Wilkins 1932-2009

11 thoughts on “Goodbye Childhood

  1. “It sort of feels like the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus all died within days of one another.This feeling isn’t helped by the fact that I recently experienced another death in my own family.”

    I get what you’re saying, and nice to see it in print on your site as a great eulogy to them. While others on the net are making fun of the deaths (typical), I also remember them as part of that whole same universe of the 70’s- and suprised with their loss how much I think I miss that time now.

    And- so sorry to hear about your loss recently in your family, also having the grim reaper strike on this side of the world to relatives this year, too. The fragility of life never fails to shock, can’t seem to ever get used to it.

  2. Harvey – Thanks Harvey! (great to hear from you btw, but sorry to hear about your loss). I think it’s an extra bitter pill to swallow because these people were still rather young. I also think a lot of Gen Xers like myself expected Michael Jackson to at least out live guys like Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney or Stevie Wonder.

    As for all the nasty comments and jokes… I just don’t get it, but I’m seeing a lot of it myself. A lot of people think Jackson was a monster even though he was never found guilty of anything, but for what it’s worth, I prefer to remember him before the surgeries and courtroom circuses. Even though I lost interest in Jackson during the ’80s, he’ll always be a sort of monumental and tragic figure in my mind.

    And in the immortal words of my favorite poet Shelley (who wrote a lot of eulogies to dead strangers): “Men do well to mourn for the dead: it proves that we love something beside ourselves.”

    Catherine – Thanks so much Catherine! I appreciate the kind words.

  3. This is such an interesting post to me, because there is a lot more pain when someone from your childhood memories dies. I listened to the Jackson 5, still have my “Thriler” LP, and watched “Kung Fu” and “Charlie’s Angels,” but I don’t have the same associations with these performers. For me, the knife in the heart came when a guy named Frasier Thomas, who was the host of a local kid’s program on WGN-TV, died. I felt like I’d lost my father. I really think celebrities had a much lower effect on me and possibly my generation.

  4. Speaking for myself (but I expect this applies to a lot of Gen X kids), I was a latchkey kid and the TV was my babysitter. After my own father died, my mother had to work so she was rarely around and the TV became a sort of surrogate parent in some ways. I probably latched on to pop culture figures more enthusiastically than some kids because I was longing for a family I didn’t have. Plus, the ’70s was really the first decade where kids were bombarded by advertising thanks to TV, etc. We didn’t just play with dolls, we had dolls that looked like celebrities. In some ways the ’70s ushered in a cosmic shift in the way kids were sold things, which is probably why so many Gen Xers are so damn nostalgic.

    On the other hand, your description of “feeling like your father died” after a TV show host passed away seems like a very strong response. Are you sure you aren’t a member of Gen X?

  5. Over at Cinema Retro, there is a sad commentary from The London Mail on MJ. WGN HD had a Charlies’s Angels mini marathon. I hope to see one on “Kung FU”; letting their work speak is so much more, well, civil than the tabloids. And, being raised in Oklahoma I never had and accent; I had my own personal English tutor, the TV.

  6. Chuck – I’m trying to avoid the news/entertainment channels and gossip rags/newspapers right now. There’s blood in the water and the sharks are having a feeding frenzy that will undoubtedly last for weeks. It’s nasty out there.

    Marilyn – Well I assumed you were making some point when you said that “I really think celebrities had a much lower effect on me and possibly my generation.”

    Nostalgia is a problem for all of us I suppose, but I’ve always thought that Gen Xers were the worst offenders.

  7. I feel your pain, Kimberly. I was enraptured by Charlie’s Angels too, to the point of ripping pages out of Tiger Beat and whatnot for my huge scrapbook of Angels clippings. My friends and I would trade those Topps Charlie’s Angels bubble gum cards, etc.

    The 1970s is dead, long live the 1970s. Don’t get disheartened, it’s all part of the cosmic plan. The cool thing is, the young kids today respect us for having grown up in the cool 1970s a lot more than we respected parents for having grown up in the square 50s. And as all things revolve and repeat, the glory of the 1970s shall return!

  8. Erich – I traded those Charlies’ Angels cards with friends as well! They were so cool to collect. I can remember rushing to the local drugstore with my meager allowance and buying 2 or 3 packs of cards every weekend for months. Good times! We also used to play Charlie’s Angels a lot and act out various episodes. I always played Kate Jackson’s Sabrina character.

    In a lot of ways I actually feel sorry for Gen Y and I’m glad I was a kid in the ’70s and a teen in the ’80s, but both decades had a lot of problems, in particular the ’80s. We did have some kick-ass pop culture though! The music was amazing.

  9. Wow. Yeah, having grown up in the 70s as well, I can say a good bit of the above applies to me. Especially Kimberly’s initial comments (except that my father didn’t die — he just split early on). And yeah, I guess the time has come ’round that we can (unfortunately) expect a certain amount of this kind of news.

    Funny thing about growing up in ’70s: For years it had a bad reputation — commonly being dismissed as a shallow, no-haps decade. Maybe it was because it followed the 60s, which it took too many so long to get over. Didn’t Warhol once supposedly remark that, “The Sixties were very full, but the Seventies are very empty.”? (Unless he was referring to his own output during the decades in question, the comment always struck me as utter hogwash.) Culturally, politically, economically — I think one could argue that a lot of relevance happened in the 70s. I many ways, it was a pivotal/bellwether decade for much (good and bad) of what would follow.

    Anyway, I’d better let it end there before I start to go off on some culture-theory spiel that drifts too far off-topic.

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