Giant black poodles do not make the best guide dogs for the blind. That was what I learned this week as the world came to terms with the death of Michael Jackson. A strange combination of events, you have to admit, but life does get increasingly more strange here.
The Jackson news came when I was on the treadmill at the gym, where I had been watching it on NBC, Fox and CNN. When I managed to find a channel that wasn’t showing the event, I managed to tune in to a commercial that just so happened to have Jackson singing I’ll Be There on it. Well, not anymore he wasn’t.
That was my own private thought, shortly before jokes started clogging up my Blackberry. But this "humour" felt like something unreal taking place in a dreadful hole of incredible shock. Other jokes quickly followed. “And he looked so well” said one. “He’s re-releasing the Thriller video in six weeks’ time” said another. All inappropriate, but a reflex reaction.
I felt desperately sad. I grew up with Jackson at the centre of my pop world, and although Donny Osmond was my great love, no one can take away the huge impact Jackson's music, not to mention his influence regarding the recognition of black artists (or blacks in general, come to that), has had upon the world. Too young. Too soon.
I had moved to the stepper by the time the next bit of news arrived, again on a friend’s text: “And now Jeff Goldblum. Found him on his back with his legs in the air.”
I’m not a big fan of jokes about people who have only just touched down the wrong side of rigor mortis, but had let it pass with Jacko because when I was 14, my mother decided to give me an afro perm so that I would look like him.
His hairdo was, at the time (well, according to my mother), the height of fashion. I sat through double history in school (How could you, Mum? A schoolday, too?), with my duffle coat hood up, sobbing my heart out. At lunchtime I went home and made her take it out with the same level of peroxide that she had put the dastardly thing in with.
But Goldblum? What? Had he died? How? Had he been ill? And what was there to laugh about if he had? (I hadn’t ever seen him in The Fly, so didn’t get the joke anyway).
I met him a few months ago, when we both appeared on Richard and Judy, although not together, alas. He was on with Kevin Spacey to talk about Speed the Plow, in which they were starring at the Old Vic. I was on to talk about a highly destructive relationship I had once had with one of my school-teachers.
“So, you shagged a teacher!” the ever- sensitive Richard Madeley said, as I walked into the studio (Actually, I hadn't, and it was a lot more complicated than that, but heck, they who appear on daytime telly must die by its sword).
Jeff Goldblum putting his arm around me more than made up for it, and it was my knowing that he practised Transcendental Meditation that subsequently sent me back to it. I learned the technique years ago, but had let it lapse; the stress of trying to find 20 minutes to meditate at the end of each day nearly gave me a coronary; but now, in tandem with my new healthy lifestyle, I make sure I fit it in, and it has once more lowered my blood pressure to normal levels.
Of course, it rocketed to high heaven when I heard of Mr Goldblum’s “death”, so swings and roundabouts and all that.
On top of his being my inspiration to seek meditative calm, Mr Goldblum is the new face on Law and Order: Criminal Intent, and his comic timing and charisma have sent this series soaring to even greater heights.
In fact, I was in the process of writing him a fan letter, saying as such, last week. So news of his demise literally threw me off the stepper in tearful shock.
And yet no one could substantiate it. Google said that the New Zealand police had (at that point) confirmed the news (which they hadn’t); and every single US channel was still covering Jackson’s death.
In Britain, our broadcasters would have been among the crowd, just so happening to find the tallest, slimmest, blonde female mourner, to say what the star meant to her. They would instantly have started speculating about the amounts of medication that might have led to the death. In the US, they stuck to the facts – and it was boring as hell. Acres and acres of footage from concerts, and that Thriller video, over and over and over again.
When Britain woke up, my friends, who clearly have no conception of the size of Los Angeles, assumed I must be among the throng, if not already choosing my hat for the funeral. “It must be amazing there,” they texted. Er, pretty much like every day, actually, apart from not being able to find anything decent on the telly.
Others suggested it was a bit strange that since my arrival in LA, the showbiz world had lost Michael Jackson, Farah Fawcett and Jeff Goldblum.
They had not yet heard the confirmation that Mr Goldblum was very much alive and that the whole thing had been an internet hoax. Pretty damned sick, I call it. Also, Kevin Spacey had Twittered to put everyone straight and asked people to stop spreading rumours – the ultimate irony, on a site by its very nature designed to spread information as quickly as possible.
With my new best friend Jeff resurrected from the dead, I woke with a light heart on Friday, but that damned Thriller video was still on every channel. I tried to get away from it and went to the gym again, but it was still hogging the news channels on the equipment TVs, and it was also on the changing room telly, too. Yet it was still so hard to take it in.
At least you can always get a bit of peace in the pool, because they play classical music in there. But no sooner had I landed in the water than a blind lady arrived with her guide dog (a black poodle the size of a horse), plonked him by the side of the pool and left him there while she went in for some exercises.
Now, I have the utmost sympathy for anyone with any sort of disability getting some exercise; and I love dogs. But this damned poodle barked. And barked. And barked. And barked. I swam 50 lengths that took me 45 minutes, and still the creature was at it every time the water moved, which, with all eight lanes filled, you can imagine was pretty often.
I thought that after 24 hours of non-stop Thriller (and I really used to like it), the dying throes of a hyena would have been music to my ears, but a poodle is no golden labrador when it comes to guarding its blind.
Finally, I could stand it no more and ventured off to the steam room. After ten minutes, I thought I would rest for a bit in the Jacuzzi. No chance. The damned dog had moved to the Jacuzzi area and stood guarding it with Alcatraz-like enthusiasm. A naked woman started to go down the stops, but our curly friend was having none of it, barked wildly, and the breasts never even made it to the first bubble.
“They’ll be bringing in their tigers next,” moaned a woman in the dressing room, which just made me wonder what sort of company she kept of an evening.
Still, at least Jeff Goldblum was alive and well and living in Los Angeles, and, being awake while Britain slept, I was one of the first to be able to start telling everyone. I texted. I phoned. I e-mailed. It was the very opposite of that bizarre, secret pleasure one has, when breaking news of a death to people who are not yet in the know.
Jeff Goldblum is alive!
I could shout it from the rooftops. Best of all, nobody was singing about it.