Most of us have vivid memories associated with Michael Jackson. Intel Chris remembers playing Thriller, his first-ever record, on his Disneyland record player. Jessica Coen played that album on her Playskool tape recorder, apparently while strutting around her suburban Michigan neighborhood in a glittery Michael Jackson T-shirt and her “one white glove from like Easter Sunday,” which is basically the coolest thing we’ve ever heard of. Dan Amira remembers the first time he saw the face-morphing “Black and White” video, when he was 6 and wished he were Macauley Culkin. And Intel Jessica remembers endless rehearsals of a dance routine to “Smooth Criminal” with her jazz class, and can probably still perform the whole thing (and she might, later, if she has enough to drink and there is a fedora lying around). But when it comes to Farrah Fawcett, her fans’ most powerful memories seem to center around one thing: masturbating.
Obituaries can be touching, interesting, enlightening. They’re usually not titillating. But when Farrah Fawcett died yesterday and a generation of men sat down to record their very special memories of the actress — and that poster, thatposter! — sense memory took over and the results of many of their efforts turned out to be revealing and actually kind of steamy! Farrah touched a lot of men, it turned out, and in turn, they touched themselves.
Herewith, a sampling of our favorite touching tributes:
In Vanity Fair, photographer Todd Eberle reveals he kept his poster in a telltale location: “I had the poster on the ceiling above my bed growing up in a town of 500 people in the middle of central Florida, and without it I’m not sure I would have become a photographer.”
In the New York Post, Adam Tschorn gave life to the photograph: “The photo seemed as if it had been taken almost surreptitiously (on a beach in Cancun?), a woven blanket in the background. The rust-red one-piece swimsuit seemed damp and noticeably cool, and a thin gold chain around her neck dipped into her décolletage.
On Slate’s Brow Beat blog, James Ledbetter remembers looking long and hard at the poster: “Looking now at that iconic mid-’70s poster, anyone can see the surface attractions that propelled her to fame: perfectly feathered hair, impossibly confident smile, and — particularly if you were a seventh-grade boy like me, staring for too long at that red bathing suit image masking-taped to the wall — the unabashed alert nipples.”
In the Washington Post, Paul Farhi recalls the lore that surrounded the photo: “With Fawcett’s high-beam smile, the flash of nipple under the suit, and the devil-may-care tilt of her head, the poster managed to be simultaneously naughty and sunnily wholesome. (Fun fact traded among us boys: If you looked closely at Farrah’s hair, you could make the word sex “written” in the tangled thickets). Long before porn went mainstream, the poster threaded a certain needle: It was plenty racy, but your mom didn’t object.”
And Will Campbell at Metblogs LA’s memories were eclipsed by an interaction with the actual Farrah, who came into the bookstore he worked in as a teenage boy and caught him gawking at her: “She put her hand to her mouth, looked me square in the eye and blew me a kiss. Not a quick one, either. It was a long slow exhale, enough to carry it over the bestsellers and the travel books and hit me square in the heart.”
Update: The Big Money’s James Ledbetter clarifies, in order we imagine, to spare the Googling eyes of his parents: “For the record, I was NOT talking about masturbation. For me anyway, it was way too early for that. More like an early platonic adoration.”