Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 10:13 AM

Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, is dead

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Paying tribute to Michael Jackson as the King of Pop is rather like paying tribute to Joseph Ratzinger as the Pope.  For, where his musical genius was concerned, Michael was not only entertaining, but also revered and respected to the point of seeming, well, Invincible.

Of course his musical legacy is set in platinum: i.e.,  in terms of record sales (Thriller sold over 100 million copies worldwide), music videos (he pioneered black R&B videos on MTV) and memorable performances (his breakout performance as a solo artist on Motown’s 25th anniversary show). Not to mention all he did as a member of the Jackson 5.

But, unlike so many of his fans, I cannot reconcile his musical genius with his personal life, which seemed beset by childhood traumas that led to a lifetime of irresponsible (if not illegal) and freakish behavior.

Frankly, the pathological self-loathing, predatory entitlement and attention-grabbing antics that characterized his personal life were beginning to fatally undermine the appeal of his professional life.

This is why, in an admittedly perverse sense, his death was timely. Not to mention how it plays into the legend of “only the good die young” (a la Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, et al), with which Michael was reportedly so fascinated.

At any rate, three things stand out when I reflect on his personal life:

  1. Michael was considered a shrewd businessman who reportedly earned over one billion during his lifetime. Yet he was such an unconscionable and irresponsible spendthrift that he died almost half a billion in debt.  Reports abound that Michael fed this habit in recent years by contracting to perform, collecting hefty advances and then resorting to all kinds of ploys (often involving hospital visits) to avoid getting on stage. Indeed, despite reports of him rehearsing for his big comeback series of concerts, I am convinced that, having collected a hefty percentage of the advance ticket sales, he had no intention of actually performing. It shall remain one of the greatest ironies, if not mysteries, that, for a man who claimed to be happiest when performing, Michael did so much during the last years of his life to avoid being on stage. His last concert performance was in 1996….
  2. Even though he was acquitted of criminal charges of child molestation, Michael clearly courted intimate relationships with little boys that crossed all bounds of propriety. And bear in mind that he always denied molesting them with the same sincerity and conviction with which he always denied having ANY plastic surgery (until 2003 when British interviewer Martin Bashir forced him to admit to having just “two nose jobs“).  Of course Michael was famous for treating many children with angelic affection and Santa Claus-like kindness; and he was ostensibly charitable to a fault….  But this affection, kindness and charity on the one hand only seemed to make him self-righteous about his perversion on the other.
  3. The most manifestly troubling aspect of Michael’s personal life, however, was his role as a father. Because, in addition to many other Freudian questions, I wonder about the psychological impact on his three lily-white children of having this black man (notwithstanding his appearance) insist that he is their biological father. But just imagine the psychological defect (self-hatred?) or physical dysfunction that led Michael to choose the sperm of a white man instead of using his own to inseminate the (white) surrogates who gave birth to his designer babies….

No doubt, in the fantasy world he cultivated for himself, it was perfectly reasonable for Michael to go on million-dollar shopping sprees despite being effectively bankrupt; to undergo numerous plastic surgeries to change his Negroid features then insist that he looked white naturally; and to act as if sleeping with little boys is the most innocent and loving thing any man could do.

Think whatever one might about the histrionics of the king of pop. But it seems that the people who associate with him either enable or adapt to his questionable and surreal lifestyle – almost all of them harboring ulterior motives. Most notable in this respect are the two women (one of whom is Lisa Marie Presley) who joined him in marriages that amounted to little more than publicity stunts and were arguably never even consummated.

[Michael Jackson fights for his freedom…, TIJ, April 27, 2005]

Incidentally, if you think his personal life was “wacko,” just wait for reports on the incomprehensible mess he left behind….

Nevertheless, there’s no denying that Michael belongs in the pantheon of modern-day tragic heroes alongside Elvis Presley and John Lennon.

He died yesterday from an apparent (prescription) drug-induced cardiac arrest at his home in Los Angeles. He was 50.

Now, just as they contributed to the death of Anna Nicole Smith, I suspect we’ll soon be hearing about all of the Drs. Feel Good who carelessly fed Michael’s drug addiction.  And, even though the infighting over the estate of James Brown was unseemly, greedy and embarrassing, I suspect the infighting over Michael’s will make it seem genteel by comparison.

Farewell Michael

NOTE:  I’ve been accused of spreading the superstition that the deaths of famous people come in threes.  Well, with the deaths this week of Ed McMahon and Farrah Fawcett, Michael’s now makes three….

UPDATE: Am I the only one who prayed that this elusive doctor would not turn out to be black…?  First Dr. Jan Adams with Kanye’s Mom, now this Dr. Conrad Murray with Michael.  A shady coincidence to be sure, but what a damn shame!

Related commentaries:
Michael Jackson: Not guilty, but hardly innocent
Michael Jackson fights for his freedom
Deaths of famous people come in threes
Kanye’s Mom dies mysteriously

* This updated commentary was published originally yesterday at 9:58 am.

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