Leno's Choice re: Jayma Mays Interview Sparks Memories of Patrick Swayze and Grief


, Blogger: Orry's Orations
Grief is a difficult thing and people tend to deal with it in different ways. When it comes to a celebrity and his/her fans, it is no different. For example, my all time favorite celebrity is the late Patrick Swayze. Multi-talented, he was on the path to becoming the next great male ballet dancer when a knee injury caused him to shift gears and turn to acting. He appeared on TV in commercials for companies like Burger King, starred in the Mod Squadesue TV drama, 'The Renegades', and saw his face plastered everywhere once the awesome 'North and South' mini-series aired, his performance as Orry Main thrilling viewers before his theatrical career skyrocketed him to international fame.

Swayze died in 2009 of pancreatic cancer. I cried, and I cried a lot. So did my friends. We knew it was coming, of course, the pictures of his frail body shown often on TV and in the printed media; but Swayze was a fighter, and if anyone was going to beat this killer disease, it was going to be him. While he won a few battles, he ultimately lost the war. Grief abounded.

For me, though, I was always able to appreciate the legacy he left behind through his work. I wanted to talk about him and could with ease. Watching him on film was sometimes tough, but I could do it. I might cry here and there, but in the end, the role he was playing always swept me away. Not only that, but the month before he died, the courageous thespian recorded the audio for his memoir, The Time of My Life.

That was unreal. Weak, dying, his voice somehow communicated not death or sadness, but strength, courage, perseverance, and love. His last words are what cut me the most because they were about the fans and to the fans, to people like me. He was saying goodbye in a way that few entertainers ever do to the people who made them famous. Tears form in my eyes now as I hear him speak in my mind, words of thanks and appreciation.

Swayze's legacy abounds with marvelous performances in a wide variety of shows as well as with the person he was and the gift of living, of the love of life, that he demonstrated and left to us all.

Still, while I was able to watch and enjoy, my closest Swayze friends could not. Their grief didn't allow them to watch. Some tried, but the emotion was too strong. It actually has only been in the last six months or so that the majority of them are finally ready and able to enjoy something as lighthearted as 'Dirty Dancing' again. It's taken a lot of time to heal, though I don't think healing is the right concept at all. I'm not sure people heal from deaths, but time does make it easier to remember and move forward.

Grief: it's different for everyone. Some of my friends couldn't even talk about Swayze except to say they missed him. It was too close; he was too close, so much in our hearts. Some had met him, as I have as well, and enjoyed precious moments that will live strong in our minds and hearts until the day we die. I remember touches, hugs, and even, oh my, a short, sweet kiss (my luck gene was shining that day for sure). All magical seconds of an actor and his fans, fans now with memories to be cherished and honored forever.

I was reminded of all this again this morning when I read a news story by Adam Buckman. I had turned to it because the headline was about Ashton Kutcher confirming that Angus T. Jones would not be a part of the TV show 'Two and a Half Men' this season at all. At the end of that article, which essentially talked about what Kutcher said on 'The Tonight Show' last night, Buckman mentioned the other guest was Jayma Mays, a regular-turned-recurring-performer on 'Glee'. Buckman lamented that Jay Leno did not ask the star about the passing of her co-star, Cory Monteith. He wrote, "Omitting Monteith from the interview agenda for this guest was unfortunate because some viewers likely tuned in to see what she had to say about her co-star. Maybe she just wasn’t comfortable talking about it."

That rankles me, even with the last line. Look, I'm as curious as anyone about the feelings and opinions of co-stars. When Swayze died, I was eager to hear what his one-time co-stars had to say, people like Jennifer Grey and Rob Lowe, so I get it, the need to know, the desire to know. There is something, though, about saying it was "unfortunate" that the subject wasn't brought up, especially since the reason for that state being that viewers had tuned in just to hear her talk about Monteith. I wish I could better explain how it made me feel. I'm a viewer and a fan of the celebrity world. Like I said, when Swayze died, I was eager to hear what everyone had to say, but it's the expectation element that seems to stand out here.

The world today is so media driven, even more than when Swayze passed just a few short years ago. Social media is stronger and bigger, and cell phones with cameras have changed the news game. Just ask the NTSB that responded quicker and with more candor than ever after the recent Asiana Airlines crash, due in part to passengers themselves commenting on Twitter and posting pictures. The world has changed.

Leno chose to broach the issue of Monteith with guest Jane Lynch a week ago. It was emotional and difficult, occurring just a few days after the 'Glee' actor was found dead in his hotel room. Craig Ferguson apparently felt like he had to do the same thing a couple of nights later, only that was more of an awkward failure. There is such a fine line in knowing when the moment is right and being able to handle the query and the response.

I don't know if Mays asked Leno not to bring up Monteith's death or if Leno just decided it wasn't appropriate. He'd had his news-making moment with Lynch. Maybe he knew he didn't really need another one. I just wish I felt better about that line dealing with the omission of the question being unfortunate because, gee, maybe viewers had turned in to hear Mays' emotional response to the passing. The essence of the statement bothers me, that Leno should have asked Mays about it because viewers were watching only to hear her grief. I guess that's it, that hint that the viewers' expectations should have directed Leno to ask the personal question.

Sure, with Swayze I wanted to know, and I tuned into a lot of shows and interviews for a while, hoping to hear different stars remember the actor I admired so much. Sometimes they did, and sometimes they didn't, but I never had an expectation that they would, and I never felt like it was the duty of the interviewer to ask a performer about their relationship or feelings toward Swayze. The expectation is what gets people in trouble now and then.

America is certainly captivated by Monteith's death. At the grocery store last night, the newstand was full of magazines with the 31-year-old on their covers. It is a sad loss. For Monteith's fans, I'm sure grief is strong and may take a long time to resolve. It certainly has for my Swayze friends. We're just two months away from the fourth anniversary of the Ghost star's passing, and it still feels like yesterday for most of us. I just wish the world had a better sense of propriety and respect for the process of grief and how it affects us all differently.





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