The icons are dropping like flies; in just a matter of a few hours Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and now Michael Jackson are all gone. The paparazzi are swarming like flies, tearful fans leave flowers at the wrong star on Hollywood Blvd. The Internet comes to a crawl as the world Googles Michael Jackson.
Now I am typing slowly here; I resisted writing this until I had slept on it first. I’ve HATED Michael Jackson for years. Back in the 80’s I learned to hate him when the media felt compelled to report every time he wiped himself. The same nauseating saturation coverage they give Britney Spears today; Mikey’s name and face was in the paper every day. When Thriller took off you couldn’t get away from him; his face was everywhere. I remember walking through a Sears in 1984 or so and seeing an entire aisle of those hideous red Sgt. Pepper jackets he took to wearing for sale and no takers. Wonder what landfill they’re all in today?
But in all fairness to Mikey unlike the typical “celebrity” Hollywood chooses to cram down our throats these days at the very least Michael had a degree of talent. He could sing and dance and even if his music sounded like it was written with a punch press, he wrote songs. Now take a look at the typical “celebrity” we get today. Paris Hilton: professional slut or Perez Hilton: professional gay man. Vapid one-dimensional non-talents and that’s holding back on what I really think of them. In comparison to them Mikey truly did have star quality.
Now when someone sells as many records and CDs as Mikey it’s not unusual for them to be forced to withdraw from the world. The reporters, paparazzi and obsessed fans will force a person to hide from the world and into a near-bubble-boy existence. Those of us who aren’t famous can only imagine what it would be like to not be able to go to a restaurant or a business without causing a fuss. Or what it would be like to have to employ security who are at our sides 24/7. I can imagine how this would twist a person after so many years.
But what I will never understand is someone’s compulsion to alter their appearance with plastic surgery and transforming themselves into a real-life Joker or Phantom of the Opera. How much Demerol must one consume to consider THIS a “look”?
There was a lot of speculation in prior years about Mikey’s health. He wore a germ mask in public long before the SARS or swine flu scares and in recent years was wheeled around in a wheelchair. To a degree he seemed to welcome the buzz, even possibly fueling it just to keep the public talking about him. Everyone knows your stars shine will fade if the fans aren’t talking about you. And after allegations of child abuse began to surface, it took its toll on his record sales. Throughout the 90’s he kept re-releasing his “greatest hits” packages over and over and they sat on the shelves gathering dust. “Comeback” tours would be announced and canceled within hours. No matter how childlike he acted the fact remained he was a 50-year-old man; and 50-year-old men are a tough act to market to teenagers.
In recent years watching him go Peter Pan was an uncomfortable experience. Despite allegations of child abuse, he continued to host “slumber parties” with all-male groups of small children seemingly uncaring about what the public thought. At that point one can only speculate on the motivation of the parents who would dump their kids off at the Neverland gates. Were they hoping for their kids to be molested so they could cash in and get a little piece of his estate? A handjob to easy street? One can only wonder.
But as much as I hated Michael Jackson and his Pollyanna-ish squeaky-clean image, it was kind of sad watching a 50-year-old man locked in an undeniable bout of denial. Getting older is not easy but how hard is it really to just accept it? It happens to all of us rich and poor alike. The last thing I am going to do is pay a plastic surgeon to mutilate me into some freakish monster; real life is scary enough.
Meanwhile ordinary people are dying protesting in the streets of Tehran. Women are being raped in the fields of the Congo by soldiers. Children are being murdered in civil wars all over the world. But as Nikolas Shreck so wisely pointed out in his documentary CHARLES MANSON SUPERSTAR somehow in the public’s eyes the death of a celebrity is so much more terrible than that of an ordinary person.
The English band the Stranglers once recorded a song entitled “Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead” and the news reports for Mikey’s passing are going along with that train of thought. Well forgive me if I’m not joining in on this little love feast. I say drive a stake through his heart. Just to make sure he doesn’t come back…