"Fame if you win it, comes and goes in a minute; where's the real stuff in life to cling to..."

That popular song of some decades ago (reprised for the movie "Sleepless in Seattle" and "sung" by Jimmy Durante) might serve as a musical metaphor for the lives of Michael Jackson (who died at 50) and Farrah Fawcett (dead at 62).

The value we place on externals is no more evident than in these two lives. Fawcett was beautiful by the standards of the 70s which relished big hair and perfect teeth, among other things. When her body began to age, she had plastic surgery and appeared naked in Playboy. But her beauty was a curse that produced bad marriages and abusive "boyfriends." In the end, her celebrity could not cure her of cancer.

Jackson had it all, but blew it in a career of weirdness and inappropriate relationships with young boys.

While culture celebrates celebrity (the wall-to-wall cable TV coverage of these deaths and constant taped replays of their public lives testified to that), it has a fickle relationship with the famous. Jackson and Fawcett are gone, but they will be replaced by other beautiful and strange people. Celebrity lasts for a while, but celebrities don't. So many succumb to age, drugs, drink, broken marriages and the lie that this world has something to offer that has lasting value. Most celebrities never find "the real stuff in life to cling to." Theirs are often tragic lives, but we help ruin them because of our own insatiable need to live vicariously through the fame most of us will never win. And the fact that we never will is something for which we should be profoundly grateful.

Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist and FOX News Contributor. Get more Cal at www.calthomas.com.

Cal Thomas is America's most widely syndicated op-ed columnist. He joined Fox News Channel in 1997 as a political contributor. His latest book is "What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America" is available in bookstores now. Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribune.com.