Thursday, July 22, 2004

So what’s going on with michael jackson?  Shortly after the raid at the Neverland ranch, NBC set up a ‘Dateline’ special about the situation, barely days after his property was raided and the arrest warrant issued.  Talk show hosts speculate on what will or would happen should he be convicted.  60 Minutes’ Ed Bradley did an interview with him, and it was only vaguely revelatory at best.
Is it a set-up? If so, by whom?  The family of the child has hired the same lawyer that represented the child in the first case 10 years ago.  Supposedly, this evidence was revealed in psychotherapy, allegedly involving seduction by pills and drink.
I always admired (and when I was younger, idolized) the man, and his family’s music, especially knowing they were from my hometown.  It was kind of like, you could be from small-town indiana and make it, too.
I always enjoyed watching him on tv, in the videos and occasional concert footage.  I never got to see him live in person.  I remember when the Victory tour was announced, tickets were sold out in hours.  I was truly disappointed.  During the Bad tour circa 1988, I was out of town when a pair of tickets were wrangled through a family friend.  So, I never got to see him.  Now, it is increasingly doubtful if I ever will.
Despite my admiration for his music and influence, his extracurricular activities have often been puzzling.  Early on it was the zoo menagerie, which was innocent enough.  The seemingly relentless costume-wearing, including masks and such, was arguably odd but not morally dubious.  There was the hyperbaric chamber stunt, which he later admitted to doing just to see how people would react.  Then, there was the hanging out with youthful stars like Emmanuel Lewis, Alfonso Ribiero, and later, Macauley Culkin.  Pre-1993, it was dismissed as unpredatory.  The skin lightening came gradually, and was a source of much controversy.  He was definitely deep brown during Off the Wall, then he turned lighter by the time Bad came out; he was even lighter when Dangerous came out.  Was it chemical bleaching, or an aggravated case of vitiligo?  I guess only the family knows for sure.
Then, the plastic surgery.  I guess adults can do what they want to do with their bodies, to an extent.  But to me, it  can only go so far before it quickly becomes ridiculous.  I feel that the doctors who worked on him over the years should be sued.  There should be a point when such a doctor must clearly see the subject has already had a certain amount of work done, and altering one’s features even further is too long-term to do on a whim, regardless of money.  And who knows- maybe a few did turn him down.   But eventually, somebody couldn’t say no to that loot.
Having that type of money affords you an inner circle that apparently only that type of money gets you.  And in Mike’s case, his management/advisers seemed to become increasingly whiter as his solo career took off.  The documentary by Martin Bashir was revelatory in that it exposed a side of Michael that is apparently not shown when he’ not on stage—maybe.  Throughout his conversations with Bashir, he displays an almost childlike naïveté about how the public perceives his behavior, which is unfortunate.  There was one exchange while walking out in Neverland, and Michael takes to climbing a tree—Bashir asks if there are other things he could see himself doing—making love, perhaps?  “I like to climb trees.”  Indeed.  There was finally a more intimate interview when Bashir asks Michael about his plastic surgery.  Michael clearly becomes upset at this, as does when Bashir asks about the parentage of his three children:  Prince Michael, Paris, and Prince Michael II-- why? Why give your child the same name as a sibling?  All the children are blondish and, to the casual eye, Caucasian-looking.  The children are seen wearing elaborate masks around the house—on camera, at least, as well as in public.   Hopefully the children have playmates, and are not of the impression that people are supposed to wear masks and such every day. 
The parentage of Prince Michael II, aka ‘blanket’, is said by Michael to be a black woman.  As the child gets older, this may or may not be made apparent.  In any case, the dangling from a hotel window was a near disastrous blunder on his part.  There was also an incident where Michael and the older children visited a zoo, and were nearly mobbed by onlookers.  As his entourage picks up the pace to get to their limousine, Michael seems to get a little giddy, despite the fact that the young kids, on foot, can clearly not keep up.  Bashir grabs one of the children and helps out, and they finally make it to the car to leave.  From this, it is clear that there is still a portion of Michael that lives for the attention and desires it, despite his isolation. 
In the aftermath of Bashir’s program, Michael supposedly fired several people early in 2003, and is now managed by some German fellow, reputedly influential.  Shortly afterwards, Michael issued a rebuttal of sorts, selling an assortment of his own family home videos to Fox TV to air his own special, which he narrated.  They ran the gamut from the 70’s to the early 90’s, and contained nothing of questionable behavior.  Later that year, there was a music award show where Britney Spears jokingly referred to a stage prop as an ‘artist of the millennium’ award.  Michael, who was scheduled to present, apparently thought this was for real, and stumbled through a brief acceptance speech before being alerted to the truth and the show continued.
To me, he should hire some honest and savvy black folks who have his back, instead of these sometimey white folks.  I wonder what the celebrity fallout from this will be.  Will Steven Spielberg and David Geffen distance themselves again?  How about others?  Like his close friendships with Liz Taylor, Liza Minelli, these are upper/middle-class whites who, good intentions aside, just don’t relate to the urban black experience, and the politics that follow you regardless of whatever money you make.   Johnnie Cochran has backed off from criminal trials, so he’s out.  What other prominent black lawyers are out there?
Who gets the kids?  If social services decides to temporarily revoke custody pending a verdict, they’ll hopefully go to relatives. Debbie Rowe has no comment.  With her situation, it is entirely possible that Rowe was a paid surrogate, and is not the biological mother of either of the older children, with the egg donated from elsewhere.  Which could explain how she was so apparently willing to ‘abdicate’ custody.  The third child, as awkwardly revealed in that interview, was apparently done that way, by a woman that remains anonymous.  And now there are allegations that yet another woman has been impregnated, with quadruplets this time.  It has been denied by Jackson’s spokesperson, but if true, the children are due in December.
Supposedly, there’s evidence that the first case was spawned when Mike rebuffed the first child’s father (a dentist) who approached him with a movie script, and the child was coached with a cooperative psychologist to reach a predetermined conclusion.  If true, this latest case could be a repeat performance.  But the added criminal investigation has consequences more dire than a multi-million dollar lawsuit.  Which if he fights it, he may very well lose, regardless of how the criminal trial goes.  In the court of public opinion, at least 50% of people feel that he is guilty, and it only takes, what, 9 of 12 jurors in a civil trial to decide? Look out:  $$$$$$$$$
As for his security detail, looks like he’s abandoned the Fruit of Islam, the security offshoot of the Nation of Islam, which supposedly came at the suggestion of Jermaine.  Too bad.  Maybe they would have made him get rid of the makeup and weird disguises.  Supposedly Debbie Rowe objected to their potential ‘influence’ on the children.  I doubt anything like that was on their agenda, but I actually find it hilarious the thought of a couple of blond, blue-eyed children at an NOI function-- I remember the sequence in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, when ex- revolutionary Clarence Williams III brings out his wife and children- Eve ‘Jan’ Plumb from The Brady Bunch and a pair of blond moppets, who recite a school report excoriating Abraham Lincoln.
His current attorney, Thomas Mesereau, replaces Mark Geragos.  Geragos also happens to be the counselor of Brendon Peterson, accused of killing his pregnant wife—and possibly the unborn child, as she was near term.  The ugliness of the Peterson case cast a rather dark shadow over Michael’s own ugly case, as Geragos is looked upon by many as being very flamboyant and insincere.  Michael was late for his first arraignment, and was wearing a typically costume-ish outfit.  He was admonished for lateness by the judge, and after it was over, he then gave an impromptu dance on the roof of his limousine as onlookers crowded outside the court.  Shortly after this, Jackson separated from Geragos, who allegedly was not his first choice of lawyer. 
It’s probably for the best that Michael not be ‘associated’ with that case, since most people in the public tend to think of Peterson as clearly guilty.  Mesereau has helped build his reputation by doing pro bono cases, especially in the African-American community.  Mesereau had just recently quit as the counselor for Robert Blake, on trial for murder.  Reportedly, it was due to a clashing in vision strategy between Mesereau and Blake’s other advisers.  His involvement with Jackson has produced at least a cosmetic change in the singer.  At his most recent court date, for a formal reading of the final charges, Michael wore a conservative black suit, and simple wire-rimmed clear glasses.  His makeup seemed minimal.  Mesereau read a brief statement to the press but did not stand around to pose for photos, and neither did Michael.  The trial is set to begin in September.  Mesereau issued a disagreement with this, but the decision apparently stands.  As of right now, it is not only the child abuse charges he faces, but also conspiracy charges, alleging that he tried to hide evidence of this.
Even if he is acquitted in the criminal trial, any civil suit is bound to cost him dearly.  To prevent total bankruptcy, he’ll probably have to sell Neverland and the trappings within.  Which is just as well, since being anywhere near the company of children besides blood relations should be avoided from now on.  Moving back into the family mansion, or a smaller, low-key estate, is probably best.
This was his last album for Epic/Sony, so it’s doubtful they’re looking to re-sign him.  At this point, of course, no other major labels are going to want to be bothered, either.  Which, in some sense, could work to his benefit.  He could easily self-finance all future recordings, and then license them to a distributor.  He may not sell multi-millions anymore (forget about beating Thriller!), but he’d have his master tapes and probably more satisfying royalties.  If he doesn’t have to sell his other music publishing holdings (Beatles, etc.), he should be okay, as long as he doesn’t keep living like he’s got unlimited credit anymore.  All of which is moot if he is convicted.  The jokes are already long-standing relating to how a man like Mike would be treated in prison, not the least of which is that jail culture frowns on child predators-- inmates routinely mark such convicts for harassment.  We’ll see what happens.  I hope the real truth, whatever it is, comes out.  I hope for the best, but i’m prepared for the worst.


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