Thursday, June 25, 2009

Death of An Enigma

The "real" Michael Jackson [above left, with producer Quincy Jones at the 1984 Grammy Awards]: 1958-1995....not 2009.

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford [R] thanked the late-pop star Michael Jackson on Friday for helping to get the politician's whimpering visage off of the nation's front pages. "It was awful big of him to die," Sanford said cheerily, speaking of the 50-year old Jackson, who succumbed to what is believed to be a "massive coronary event" [which sounds like something Jackson would bill one of his concerts as, now that I think of it] on Thursday. "I thought my ass would be on the front page for months," Sanford said. "Now I know how Woody Allen felt when O.J. whacked his wife."

Ok, the above didn't really happen. The reality though is. as most of the world mourns the loss of Michael Jackson, there is a Republican governor down south who is probably moonwalking across the governor's mansion. With Jackson's stunning death, news of another politician with an active penis suddenly seemed passe. It's possible that Sanford actually started cheering up mid-morning on Thursday, as news of the death of another icon - Farrah Fawcett - hit the media like a punch in the nuts. Still, by mid-day, slowly Farrah news was sharing the front pages of news sites with new details of lurid emails between Sanford and his 'strange' that sent the "creep-meter" into purple and made even one of South Carolina's top Republicans [State Rep. Glenn McCall, who is one of South Carolina's two national representatives to the Republican National Committee] - a well-known hypocritical, bible-thumping, God-knows-there's-something-in-his-closet, homophobic Neo-Con - to call for Sanford's resignation.

This blog post was originally going to be written Thursday evening and it was going to be about the penis of Mark Sanford. Maybe I'll write that one tomorrow. [Fear not, it still will be about the governor's pecker, as this has nothing to do with any other part of Sanford]. But, as I sat down before dinner on Thursday, to turn on the computer and try to figure out why the White Sox-Dodger game was still on [they went to 13 innings, it turns out], my homepage came up with the news that Jackson had been rushed to a hospital and that "it has been reported he was not breathing."

If that last part hadn't been part of the headline, I would've continued unconcerned to the ballgame. It's not exactly news when a reclusive lunatic genius like Jackson gets rushed to a hospital. It is news, though, when he's not breathing. The thought popped into my head, "Jesus, he's dead!" Another thought followed, "No way. He just collapsed, probably trying to dance on top of a Land Rover again", or something equally ridiculous.

Then, though, came the confirmation of my first impression: Jackson was dead. Earlier in the day, I'd been thrown for a loop with Fawcett's death. Sure, it wasn't unexpected: even a guy like me, who ignores popular culture post-1990s and has no clue who in the fuck Jon and Kate are, knew that Fawcett was dying of cancer. The cold reality of it, though, was what hit me. So did the picture of a long-forgotten poster that hung on my bedroom wall for years: the iconic shot of Fawcett in a red swim suit, head cocked just so, long beautiful hair trailing over her shoulder. I'd say something rude here, but actually my sexual fascination with Fawcett pre-dated puberty for me. So, in that respect, it was actually pure. As a 7, 8 and 9 year old, I knew nothing of sex but I sure knew she was pretty. It was - hold down your lunches - a pure kind of romantic falling in love with Fawcett for the little me [me as a youngster, not my pecker, smart-asses]. I honestly don't think I ever thought of the actual sexual "act" with her. She was just probably one of the first 'girls' who made my heart race.

I feel the same way about Olivia Newton-John, so I'm warning you: when she goes, I'm writing something equally sappy. Fawcett was - to me - what the 1970s were all about. It was pre-puberty, pre-high school, pre-'celebrities and politicians get shot', "pre" a lot of stuff. So, with her death, I figured I'd be spending much of the rest of the day thinking about the 1970s. I had no idea that the 1980s flashbacks would be coming so soon.

I have to confess: I stopped listening to Jackson's music shortly after the second round of molestation rumors began earlier this decade. And I'm a grown heterosexual man who bought his double-CD HIStory in 1995. No casual fan. The first set of charges were disturbing, as they became known in 1993. At the time, though, either the sordid details of those charges weren't available to the general public [pre-Internet for me], or I ignored their existence. It was only after the second set of charges that I read the lurid details of the first set of charges on The Smoking Gun and decided that my earlier feelings that Jackson had to be innocent were misguided to say the least.

Maybe it was because by 2004 I had children of my own, I don't know. Whatever the reason, I made a conscious effort to stop listening to his music. I kept the CD's, but I took them out of rotation; took them off of my computer, etc. I loosely followed his 2005 trial. For some reason that I'm sure has to due with a severe character flaw in me, I was thrilled when he was acquitted. Not "O.J. IS FREE - LET'S PARTY"-thrilled, like some celebrity-worshiping pea-brained schmuck, but happy for him nonetheless. I was equally pleased when he got the hell out of Dodge [or, in this case, Neverland and the U.S.] and lived on an island in Bahrain. The less I saw or heard of him, I guess I thought, the greater the chance that I could forget that whole side of his life and maybe one day appreciate the music again.

I'm so unhip to popular culture today, that I totally missed the March announcement that Jackson made - naturally with much fanfare - that he was going back on tour. I knew nothing of the 6-hour rehearsals at Los Angeles' Staples Center; the rumors that people were concerned that he was overextending himself physically in trying to practice dance-routines he created at 25 years old as a nearly-51-year old anorexic prescription-drug-addicted shadow of a man. Had he lived, I'm sure I'd have paid no attention to the new tour, nor to any other news about him.

The only chance that would have been different, however, would have been if he had somehow been able to resurrect his music. The music industry is dead, has been for years. Maybe partially because Jackson wasn't in it; I don't know. That may be making too much of his importance. He apparently released something in 2001. I vaguely remember hearing that, but with all that was going on in my life then, I had no time for new [or old] music. Then the second charges came and that was that. But I wonder if - somehow - he had been able to [pardon the unintended awful pun] breathe new life into the moribund music industry, if he had been able to write another hit song, would I have "come back" to him?

Now that he's dead, naturally the tendency is to think I would. Who knows? I do know that his music always touched me [see, thanks to those charges, I even feel creepy writing that]. There was very, very little of his work that I didn't take an immediate liking to. Me and about 2 billion other humans [maybe more, actually]. He had a gift, and if he really was the animal that he was portrayed in that lurid '05 trial, it still doesn't change the fact that he was a musical genius. Other than buying half of the Beatles catalog - and granted, that was a helluva 'other than' - he was a nightmare in making business and personal decisions. It seems clear he and his entire family had lost their minds years ago. Of course, with that lunatic Joe as a father, I'd have lost more than my mind.

I'm hoping that I can come back to his music now, although somehow I feel that is wrong. I made a decision years ago that this was a bad, bad man and that by listening to his music I was somehow condoning his behavior. Watching the news coverage last night [and I don't think I've watched cable news for five hours straight since the Space Shuttle Columbia went down in 2003], whenever a pre-1988 Michael would be on the screen, I was warmly remembering him. Less so the 1988-1991 Jackson, even though I loved Dangerous. Really less so the 1991-1995 Jackson, again even though I actually liked a lot of the songs on HIStory. Damned near nauseous the post-1995 Jackson, every time the freakish image appeared on the screen. Having not actually looked at him, probably since the trial in '05 and definitely not as intensely as watching him on that surreal 2003 Martin Brashear documentary, I found it painfully uncomfortable to look at the footage of the March 2009 press conference announcing the latest "Final Tour". Hence the photo I chose for the blog post today. That's how I want to remember him. For some of you, even that photo is too freakish - but I was too young to remember what he looked like [although I do remember what he sounded like] when he was in the Jackson 5.

Yet, for whatever reason, I and billions of others this morning can't get Michael Jackson out of our heads. Long ago, for a period of about 10 years [longer for those of you born pre-1970], we couldn't get Jackson out of our heads, either: at least we couldn't get the tunes he'd write out of our heads. Even though he hasn't recorded a relevant piece of music in about 14 years, his death still resonates, obviously. That, too, must be a gift.

I also confess that I grew tired of Jackson's, "Oh, woe is me" bullshit regarding his "awful" childhood [or lack, thereof]. With kids starving to death by the thousands around the globe, I found it hard to shed a tear over what Jackson "went through". I'll grant, though, that what he suffered was clearly child-abuse. Whether he inflicted child-abuse himself, I don't know but my gut feeling is he did. I don't think he was a classic pedophile. But I do believe he sexually molested more than one boy. I cannot imagine anything coming out between now and the end of my own breathing that will change that opinion.

Now that he is dead, though, and he can no longer shock the world with new bizarre behavior [although, remember, the rest of the family is still alive], maybe Michael Jackson "the entertainer" as opposed to Michael Jackson "the entertaining" will come back into our heads. That Michael Jackson,? Well, I wouldn't mind if I could never get him out of my head again.
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