Did Farrah's Story on NBC Friday night make you a little queasy? Uncomfortable about the exploitation and exploitative methods? Confused about the validity or effectiveness of the "alternative" treatment she received in Germany?
Thank NBC News for that. They're the ones who took what could have been an historic, agenda-shifting subject and turned it into the equivalent of an Americanized version of a British reality show: in this case, the televised death of Jade Goody.
Farrah Fawcett spent two and a half years videotaping her battle with cancer, from her treatments here in the States, where doctors told her there was nothing else they could do, to Germany, where experimental and cutting-edge treatments cut away her tumours and kept her alive far longer than she would have survived had she done what American doctors told her to do, which was get her affairs in order and die.
We've got an inside track on this story.
Our pals at Frozen Pictures have been working on a documentary project called The Klinik that covers similar ground. Theirs is based on the experience of another Seventies icon, former Hudson Brother and current Frozen partner, writer-producer Brett Hudson, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer back in 2007, and for all intents and purposes has beaten it (though he needs to put on some more weight), most all because of treatments he received at the same "alternative" kliniks where Farrah was helped.
Since it first appeared last summer on The Klinik website, Hudson's blog has become a rallying point for cancer patients across the country. Hudson has bared all, including the painful treatments, the outrageous disparity between pharmaceutical costs here and in Germany, and the treatments that are dismissed out of hand by the American medical establishment but have worked in his and other cases.
Brett Hudson knows Farrah's real story.
A Wing and A Prayer
He was not only treated at the same German kliniks as Farrah, he was there with Farrah. He traveled with her and Alana Stewart through Germany. He was interviewed for Farrah's and Alana's documentary. He didn't make the cut, because the documentary was taken away from them by the sensitive souls-- no make that exploitative hacks-- at NBC News.
Farrah and Alana had wanted to create a film called A Wing and A Prayer. They intended to tell her story in diary form. Early on, while they were filming, there was talk that Hudson and his partner in Frozen Pictures would get involved with the project, but it was put in the hands of a guy named Craig Nevius, who produced Farrah's reality show on the TV Land network. Farrah wanted her film to open with the question of why alternative treatments that were extending her life weren't available in the United States. It was going to be "Farrah's Story."
Then Farrah and Alana made a deal with NBC. They sold their footage for about a million dollars, and then the hacks took over. You can read about the hacks in Tabloid Baby. They're the children of Tom Brokaw, the old "anchorman" whose industry's influence was capsized by tabloid television and only got it back by infiltrating the tabloid television ranks with network news people and, while the new bosses ran the tabloid genre into insignificance, appropriated it with "respectable" imitations like Dateline and 48 Hours and "anchorpeople" like Katie Couric and Matt Lauer (you can read all about it in Tabloid Baby). That's why the only media group impressed with the Farrah special was the corporate porn-pushing gossip site, TMZ.
The NBC News producers are the ones who think the way to wring some emotion out of a story is to fill it with tinkly baby-in-the-incubator piano music, lots of slow motion footage and tears. They're the one who let William Shatner-- sorry, that was Ryan O'Neal-- wedge his way into the project and nudge Nevius out (Nevius is suing). Don't blame Farrah for the footage of her shackled son climbing into bed with her when she was close to comatose. That's NBC News going for the money shot.
One look at the credits and the number of producers and camerapeople involved showed that this was not Farrah Fawcett's vanity project. What was to be a documentary treatment, based on Farrah's footage, with the message she wanted to deliver, was hijacked by NBC News.
NBC News is the news division of the television network NBC, a part of NBC Universal, which is majority-owned by General Electric, a multinational techonology conglomerate which deals in everything from nuclear weapons to medical imaging equipment to healthcare, and would have its own connections and reasons to keep a lid on publicizing the progress and cheaper, life-extending alternative treatments available in Germany.
The powerful GE would have its own reasons for portraying the technological advances in Germany as quackery, and showcasing Farrah Fawcett as the modern version of Steve McQueen seeking laetrile thirty years ago. (You were shocked that the movie Network became a reality? That's nothing. 30 Rock is reality.)
The message that Farrah Fawcett wanted foremost in her doco was tacked on to the end like a contract-filler. Brett Hudson writes about it tonight in his blog:
"At the end of the special, Farrah said, 'I have some questions. Like why isn’t there more research done on certain types of cancer? And why doesn’t our health care system embrace alternative treatments that have proven to be successful in other countries?'
"How about these questions, among others:
"Why do some medicines cost five to ten times more in the United States than they do in Germany?
"Why don't we do chemotherapy sensitivity tests here like they do in Germany and other countries?
"And why is the United States of America so far behind in treatment for this horrendous disease?"
We'll have to leave it to Hudson and The Klinik to show the real story.