Michael Jackson: 1958-2009
June 26, 2009
In the beginning the boy was wholesome and cute and sang like an angel and dazzled as a dancer. His early musical success transcended that of most adult stars, and as a young man he generated the light of a supernova. None of that, we must periodically remind ourselves, is helpful in shaping a tranquil soul. Michael Jackson, at times, may have sensed that. His character and tendencies probably would’ve been similar had he been a postman, but fame opened the trapdoor to mystery and excess.
Why would he bleach his brown skin till it turned a pasty and ghoulish white? Why would his representatives insist the color change was entirely due to vitilgo, a disorder that causes depigmentation in patches of skin? Why would he masochistically return to unscrupulous, and evidently unskilled, plastic surgeons for a series of nose jobs that eventually almost carved away the center of his face? Whey did he repeatedly pay the butchers to dramatically alter and re-alter his forehead, cheekbones, lips, and chin? Why didn’t those Hippocratic-Oath heathens tell him no more? Why did he experience radical weight losses some medical observers attributed to anorexia nervosa? Why, if his father had abused him as he claimed, didn’t he seek the help of psychiatrists rather than celebrity butchers? Why did the man millions wanted to be with cry from loneliness? Why did he become addicted to tranquilizers? Why did he consider himself so vulnerable to bacteria he often wore surgical masks? Was he hiding the self-mandated maiming of a once-alluring face? Why did he, in spite of the ethical shame and inevitable exposure, continue to sleep with children? Why didn’t he surmise that a trial would so traumatize him he’d become addicted to morphine? Why did he dangle his youngest child, a baby, over the balcony rail of his high-rise hotel room? Why didn’t he consider consequences?
The general answer to these questions is the same: he was an unstable and tormented man whose elegant toys and games and sleepovers were those of an adult child with endless money in his hands. The money enabled him to fashion a nightmarish Neverland dream refuge from which he bribed some accusers and defeated others in court but always further damaged himself.
Like Elvis Presley, whose daughter he wed in a union panned, justifiably or not, as a farce, Michael Jackson sold hundreds of millions of records and made that many people swoon. But his fabulous journey must have been hell.
Editorial note: This morning from my dusty cassette case I retrieved and listened to a very old edition of “The Jackson 5 Greatest Hits.” Nothing the adult Jackson sang in “Thriller” or any other album surpassed – and very little equaled – the energy and charm of his childhood masterpieces “I Want You Back” and “Who’s Lovin’ You.”