Michael Jackson Has Left The BuildingBy David K. / Thursday, June 25th, 2009
George Orwell once said that a man has the face that he deserves at age 50. And while I’d agree with that sentiment as it relates to just about every single post 50-year-old walking the planet today — think Dick Cheney — I’d have to take exception with how that curse applied to Michael Jackson.
Dead at 50 and possessing a face with which no one should ever have to contend. Mike’s adult face was actually a mask. A direct creation of self-hatred, plain and simple. That and the way our own ghoulish fascination with his self-loathing spurred him on. An obsession that was prodded, secretly I think, by that part within each of us that dislikes parts of ourselves: wrinkles, sags, spots, dots; imperfection. Given unlimited wealth and time, Michael could nip, tuck, tweak and freak to his heart’s content. Only he could never get away from the self-loathing.
But enough bummer talk. Michael was a true blue puer aeternus … and no self-respecting puer, worth their essence in gold records, should ever live into his fifties. Michael was just taking leave on cue, true to his mythology. It makes perfect sense to me.
Michael Jackson delivered so much musical joy in my life I feel like I need to send a truck load of money — right now — over to Barry Gordy and Sony Records. Like those folks who can tell you exactly where they were when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, I can tell you exactly where I was, what I was doing (and who I was doing) the day I picked up Michael’s Thriller album. I became the local hipster in one fell swoop, debuting the album for a gathering of friends that very night: Hawaii. Manoa Valley. Early December. And I was doing a handsome stud named Mark — meeting furtively down at our local graveyard no less because I was cheating on my boyfriend. Thriller indeed.
Michael also gave unlimited hours of meanspirited fun to Nightcharm’s editor, John Calendo, and me as we worked on different off-the-wall entries for this blog. To this day I can’t shake from my peabrain the evening when Michael was due to be sent up the river on child molestation charges, a news event narrated and overseen by CNN’s resident vulture Nancy Grace.
John and I were calling each other, frantically — Washington to New York — (this was before Twatter) every five minutes: “Can you believe what that bitch just said? Jackson is a cross between a man and a god!? LOVE IT!” We’d a contest going, pounding out the best one-liners on our keyboards and then posting to the site as fast as we could pop ‘em out. It was divine. To this day I can still reread our Birdwomen of Santa Barbara piece and bust a gut. That was the other kind of unintentional joy Michael stimulated. I mean, come on, he was a lightening rod for bizarreness — and you loved him for it!
And then there was John’s full-blown coverage of the 2003 Martin Bashir interview, Living With Michael Jackson. The screencaps of which got us into trouble as we dared to show the cancer kid’s face from the documentary, the very same boy that was, years later, dragging Michael to court. Well, his parents were doing the dragging. I’m sure the kid was clueless — a harmlessness indubitably tainted by adult graft and greed. And I knew Michael was innocent way before the verdict ever arrived. Jackson was a Virgo, for christ’s sake; his star sign being the only proof I needed.
But that’s all meaningless effluvia now. I mean, at least to me it is. The great stuff is Michael’s music and videos and dancing — especially when he was on his long legendary “roll”. Though he’d never top the mega-gonzo-blotto super reach of Thriller, there were still dozens of golden moments and songs to follow. I was watching his stellar Man in the Mirror performance on Youtube earlier tonight, from a 1988 Grammy Awards show (below). There are a couple of lines in the song that have always made me go soft, when I’d play the song in the past — like the way a sad poem fuzzes up your world for a moment. But tonight the words hit me doubly hard, the bit about: “A willow deeply scarred…Somebody’s broken heart…And a washed-out dream…They follow the pattern of the wind ya see…Cause they got no place to be…”
Who wouldn’t cry?
And then like everyone tonight (I think the internets almost broke at some point, right after Jackson’s death was made official) I haphazardly, randomly, clicked my way along a string of rather dullard Jackson reports until I landed on Mark Morford‘s SF Gate column. Mark wrote it so well, in that pointed, occasionally ‘cosmic’ way that he can write. So I’ll close with his thoughts and simply add: “what he said.”
“How many millions rushed home on hearing the news of his sudden death and put on Off the Wall and cranked it full volume, and swam in the memories, and are still doing so, right this moment? They say pop culture is generally meaningless and transitory and has no lasting effect, lowers the bar of discourse and poisons the intellect, is the junk food of the human soul. All very true. Mostly.
Let us pose the impossible question: How do we measure what’s truly important? How do we parse and separate and decide? There is bloodshed and death and revolution happening, right now, in the streets of a fiery foreign country. More than one, actually. There is meltdown and oppression and disease and countless huge-hearted people working against impossible odds to improve the lives of others in immeasurably honest, profound ways.
And yet over here is someone like Michael Jackson, his music, his dancing, his genius, his odd persona, well, it’s like it’s some different realm entirely. Strip away the cheese and the tabloid and the bizarre, freakish spectacle of his rather tragic life, and what’s left?
Well, you might say it’s a kind of sheer happiness, a kind of freedom like you can’t even speak about because it’s not really an intellectual thing. It’s just a simple joy. It’s also fairly essential to our survival.”
©2013 Nightcharm, Inc.; All Rights Reserved.