A sad ending to a sadder life

If you were alive in the eighties, there was no escaping the juggernaut that was Michael Jackson. He was twenty-four years old when he released Thriller, and even if you didn’t own the record chances were you knew all the songs on it just because it was all over the radio and MTV. Who knew as we watched the “Beat It” video for the millionth time that he was at the midpoint of his life, a life that would be dragged through the mud of the modern media, and that he would transform himself from a somewhat eccentric but respected performer to something resembling an extra in the Tim Burton version of Planet of the Apes who after his name was mentioned would invariably invoke a crack about kids’ pants being half off and “Jesus juice”? His death on Thursday at 50 promises that the circus will continue for years, if not decades to come.

I was never a big Michael Jackson fan-I was 16 when Thriller came out and although I liked what I heard I never bought the record-I did have Off The Wall which I consider to be a better album. The only thing of his I ever bought during the height of everything was the cassingle (how eighties) of “Dirty Diana” off his Bad album. But as the years passed and he descended into “Wacko Jacko” territory I sometimes wondered if he was just flat-out batshit crazy or just screwing with the media.

Anything we know about any celebrity is based upon what they choose to show the media, which in turn chooses what to show us. With interviews you better believe that Michael Jackson had veto power at every level, which makes the results that much more tragic. Remember, he had been famous since the age of FIVE, nine-tenths of his life. He never had anything even remotely resembling a normal childhood or adolescence by his own admission. The fame that came with Thriller made things even more strange. I remember watching Martin Bashir’s interview and just feeling incredibly sorry for him. It was, for me at least, like listening to a reasonably intelligent eleven-year-old, artless and thoughtless. He obviously believed himself to be an equal to the children he had over, it showed in his words and actions.

Recently a friend posted the video for “Dirty Diana” which I hadn’t seen in decades, and as I watched I was struck by one thing-although he had the long Jheri curls and the eyeliner he was masculine, very much in control. No one would have dreamed of accusing that Michael Jackson of pedophilia. Much easier to accuse the creepy bleached pointy-nosed fake-cleft-chinned shadow he became, and the shift came after the Bad album because, like a child, he had no idea of the image he was presenting-he liked it, he had the means to indulge himself and he did.

I believe what Lisa Marie Presley wrote, possibly one of the few people in the world who could somewhat relate to him. The words “he loved me as much as he could love anyone” echo with me. He was unquestionably one of the most gifted performers the world will ever know, I don’t care what kind of music you like. I don’t know whether or not he was a pedophile. What I do know is that none of us could even begin to comprehend what it was like to be Michael JacksonTM … and chances are we wouldn’t want to find out.

I believe the whole sad saga of Michael Jackson can be summed up in three words: