Bubbles the chimp
What’s so funny about the death of Michael Jackson? These were the thoughts that raced through my head after receiving several requests to blog about the untimely passing of the “King of Pop”. I write irreverent and humorous stories about moi, not someone else. Not write about me? Why would I do that?
“Because he’s an icon. Because it’s so weird,” said my husband, who apparently doesn’t think I’m serious about the divorce thing. “Does everything always have to be funny? Or about you?”
Well, yeah, I thought as I accidentally threw my sandal at him. He did the George Bush duck as I called out “Sorry! Slipped!” But his words stuck with me as I sat in front of my laptop, ignoring the muffled cries for “help” coming from the other room (it’s strange, but I have an uncanny ability to tune out the boys when I’m writing).
Not a believer
I am not particularly a fan of Michael Jackson. I was raised with his music and I admit I sang along, as a child, when “Ben” was played on the radio, but I’m not a die-hard. I jumped on the “Wacko Jacko” bandwagon when it rolled through town and helped dissect him in the press when the pedophilia charges came out. I rolled my eyes when he claimed to have vitiligo, the condition that turned his skin white, and wagged my tongue when it hit the papers that he had married the just-as-odd, Lisa Marie Presley. He weirdness made him such an easy target, it was hard not to gossip about him.
I was still in shock from the announcement of another iconic passing, Farrah Fawcett, when the texts about MJ’s death started coming through. I figured it was just another media-hype, like the hyperbaric oxygen chamber he claimed to have slept in, or of his friendship with Bubbles the Chimp. When I found out it was true, I reacted the same way as when John Lennon was killed or JFK, Jr. died, I couldn’t make sense of it. It seemed too surreal – he was of my generation and too young to die.
Michael Jackson did not know me, but I knew him. I knew of his marriages, his divorces, his successes and failures. I knew his children, the Jackson family and the famous friends. I knew when he was arrested and when he went to trial. I knew his shame and embarrassment. I knew his secrets.
No matter how strange someone is, it’s still sad when they die. The running movie that was Michael Jackson’s life ended abruptly and with an unsatisfactory conclusion. Like Princess Diana, their unexpected death took me by surprise; I wasn’t prepared for the emotional jolt, the fact that we wouldn’t grow old together. What would their senior years have brought? Would Elvis ever have faded away? Would Heath Ledger’s star have continued to rise? It speaks to your own life and possible untimely death. It makes me wonder when I will die.
His life and times
When I started looking back on Michael Jackson’s life, I discovered much about him that I either didn’t know or had simply forgotten. I found out that he holds eight records in the Guinness Book of World Records, mostly for his musical achievements, but also one for his support of 39 charities, more than any other entertainer. Through his foundations, he has donated millions of dollars to the poor, the hungry, the sick. I was also reminded that, as a child, he was continually abused by his father, a claim supported not only by the senior Jackson, but by his eight brothers and sisters as well. Even as an adult he was afraid of the dark and slept with the lights on.
The issue that bothers me most is that of the pedophilia, but even then, does that mean he deserved to die? Or that somehow he got what was coming to him? I don’t know and I can’t speak for those who have experienced the agony of abuse. Does his support of so many charities somehow offset the horrific charges against him? Does what he gave outweigh what he took? Was he a sick man who let the sycophants pander to him, like Belushi or Marilyn? Somewhere along the way, he dropped the reins – was it his fault that he wasn’t in charge of his life? Maybe.
I wonder what will happen to his children. Will they be as strange as their father? How does being raised with a veil covering your face, (or a burqa for that matter) shape your life? Will genetics or fate step in and save them from circumstance or is it too late? Will they forever be known as “the children of Michael Jackson” or can they ever break away and make their own future?
Money and happiness, not always compatible
For all the fame and fortune that Michael had, it seems his personal demons nestled in and never left him. They didn’t care who he was, but he was good eatin’ and they made a meal. We’re all familiar with demons and how they operate – ignore ‘em and they grow. Soon they’re giving advice and before long they’re running the show. Over time and with proper nourishment, some demons get so big that there’s no fighting them, they’re too powerful. Their hold is strong – all they have to do is remind you of your insecurities and how you’re not fooling anyone. Then it’s over.
I have so many mixed thoughts and questions about the life and death of Michael Jackson. Whether you like him or not, it’s hard to dispute the fact that he was an icon, that five decades of his music will influence generations to come, and that his personal story will be forever clouded with doubt and shame. He lived a life that was so bizarre, I can’t even imagine it.
No one likes to speak ill of the dead. We search for the nice things so say in a eulogy, the person’s strengths, what a good cook they were or what a green thumb they had. Their peccadilloes are brushed over or not mentioned at all. Even in death-row inmates, we elaborate on how they found God or of the fine rehab work they have done with other inmates. The nasty and the mean must have something positive that can be said about them. Right?
I am not fond of quoting from scripture but the passage “let he who is without sin, cast the first stone” comes to mind. How quickly would we forgive the wrongdoings of a Dick Cheney or a Bill Clinton if they were to pass away? Does someone have to die before they can truly be absolved of their sins?
I can hear your quick reply “of course not” but I’m not so sure it is a question that is easily answered. Do we ever forgive the truly heinous (Hitler)? The horrible (OJ)? The despicable (Bernie Madoff)? Where do you draw the line? Or do you turn that decision over to a higher power?
You tell me.