Friday, June 26, 2009

The Real Tragedy of Michael Jackson

This may not do me a bit of good. Gather 'round, children, while Mr. Degan commits journalistic suicide. Please forgive me for not participating in the canonization of Michael Jackson.

This is not meant as a condemnation of the man's private life, his eccentricities or the accusations hurled against him in the last decade-and-a-half of his all-too-short life. A jury found him innocent of the worse charge (other than murder) that can possibly be made against a human being. We can speculate forever but in the final analysis, we have no other choice but to respect their verdict. My problem with Michael Jackson is a bit more complicated.

One day in the Spring of 1971 I heard a song on the radio by a group called the Jackson Five that was called Never Can Say Goodbye. It was (and is to this very day) one of the most beautiful pop songs I have ever heard. A couple of months later I read in the paper that the lead singer of that tune would be celebrating his thirteenth birthday the following day on August 29. This news piqued my curiosity; I had just turned thirteen less that two weeks before on August 16. Because the two of us were born on the same month in 1958, I would find myself over the years following his triumphs with the pride of a schoolboy watching a favored classmate win the World Series one year after another.

I was also intrigued to find out that, like me, he was a stone-cold fan of Charlie Chaplin and that he had actually met the great man - as I had. Over a span of time, however, the admiration I felt toward Michael Jackson would devolve into bewilderment and, eventually, disgust.

Although I was never a huge fan of his music (my Jackson collection comprises a mere handful of 45 RPMs and one long-playing album) there was never any denying that the man was possessed of immense talent. It was my belief that, like Sinatra, he'd still be packing them in at eighty years of age. How ironic is that?

Last night in front of the Apollo Theater in Harlem, Al Sharpton was lauding Jackson as a shining example to the Black community. I am sorry but no statement could be further from the truth. At a time in history when young African American males were desperately yearning for a positive role model to look up to, Michael Jackson was running scared from his racial heritage.

This is where I will probably get myself into big trouble. After all, I'm just a middle-aged white guy (assuming I live to be one-hundred-and-one). What right have I to stand in judgment against Michael Jackson - or anybody else for that matter? My "right" (such as it is) is as a casual observer of "American pop culture" and nothing more. I attempt here to be neither psychiatrist nor sociologist.

Watching the slow evolution of his facial features throughout the years - the "Caucasianization", if you will, of Michael Jackson - could not have been something that would make your average African American kid swell up with any amount of pride. The martyred South African dissident, Steve Biko, used to tell his people that "Black is Beautiful". Although Jackson never dared to say it out loud, he spent most of his adult life implying that "Black is Ugly". There is no other explanation for it - none.

And here's some more irony for you: In his heyday, long before the multitude of "procedures" which would eventually alter his looks to such a horrible, even grotesque degree (procedures he would deny to his dying day) Michael Jackson was an extraordinarily good looking guy.

No one could fault him for his first plastic surgery in the early eighties. In the past many Hollywood legends, for whatever reasons (not all of them bad) have sought to "soften" their features. Actually the result of the first operation was pretty good. Picture him as he appeared in 1983 with Paul McCartney in the Say! Say! Say! video. He looked great, didn't he? Why couldn't he have left well enough alone? What the hell was he thinking?

By the turn of the new twenty-first century he no longer looked like an African American male. Do you remember that infamous mug shot after he was arraigned in 2003? He reminded me of Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest. Google both images if you think I'm exaggerating.

What has amazed me since the news of his demise came over the television yesterday afternoon are the writers who have credited Michael Jackson with being the first "cross-over" African American artist to reach a predominantly white audience. Most of those writers are in their early thirties (and, I assume, white) and may be forgiven for not remembering the names Louis Armstrong, Bert Williams, Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Sammy Davis Jr, The Mills Brothers, Josephine Baker, Jimi Hendrix, Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Eckstine, Ethel Waters, Bill Cosby, Diana Washington, Sarah Vaughan, Eartha Kitt, Chuck Berry, The Ink Spots, Little Richard, The Temptations, Sidney Poitier, Richard Pryor, Dick Gregory, Charley Pride, Flip Wilson, Stevie Wonder, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, Harry Belafonte, Redd Foxx, Diana Ross and the Supremes - and a score or more other pioneers who were able to chip away the walls of America's racial divide years before Jackson entered into our collective consciousness. That he was a major influence cannot be argued. But he was not the first - far from it.

One cannot help but wonder what might have happened had this most gifted performer not attempted to hide who he was and made more of an effort to set an example to the desperate children who shared his skin color - or used to share it anyway - the same children who would eventually seek to identify with the faux thugs and jackasses who produce "Gangsta Rap". Some of these kids - most of whom had no conscious memory of the Jackson Five or even Thriller - believed him to be white. And why shouldn't they think that? He was white! He was whiter than I - and I'm pretty damned white! (Irish complexion, you know).

To say that he was a good example for African American kids to emulate is - forgive me - one half step shy of insanity.

We have to give the man his due: Michael Jackson was - beyond a shadow of a doubt - a great artist whose recorded legacy will endure for decades, maybe even a century or more. But an examination of his life is riddled with questions of all that might have been; all that should have been. It is more than likely that this was a severely mentally ill human being who never sought the treatment he so desperately needed; surrounded by fawning sycophants who enabled his sickness by constantly reassuring him that he could do no wrong. As John Lennon once said in the same context about Elvis Presley, another victim of the excesses of fame: "It's always the courtiers that kill the king".

The sad, inescapable truth is that for reasons we will probably never be able to fully understand, his talent and his career were ultimately wasted. Like Charlie Parker, John Belushi, Montgomery Clift, Judy Garland and Lenny Bruce before him, his brilliance as an artist would be overshadowed by severe, psychological torment and an unexplainable desire for self-destruction. Therein lies the real, unspeakable tragedy of Michael Jackson.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Oh yeah, and by the way, Farrah Fawcett died yesterday, too.

Here's a link to read more recent postings on "The Rant":

"The Rant" by Tom Degan



At 11:25 AM, Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

"Many writers have credited Michael Jackson with being the first "cross-over" African American artist to reach a predominantly white audience. Most of those writers are in their early thirties and may be forgiven for not remembering..."

I think your list of prominent black artists is ample evidence that Mr. Jackson wasn't the first to have a majority non-black fan base. Like you, I'm not negating the genius and talent of the man, only seconding your observation that he wasn't, by any matrix, the first black artist to appeal to more Caucasians than blacks. Those thirty-something writers, making that claim, certainly lack a sense of entertainment history. Granted, his early-1980s album, Thriller, continues to be the top-selling compilation of all-time, but so many earlier black entertainers made the jump before anybody even heard of Michael Jackson.

Despite his fame and adoration, I believe he lived a life of inner-turmoil and pain -- more so than most of us have. May he rest in peace.

At 3:12 PM, Blogger Prairie Waif said...

I agree with you Tom. For me, it was watching my older sister dance to I'll Be There and ABC 123.

Like Elvis, Michael Jackson became a parody of himself to such an extent, I don't think he had an idea of who he had been prior to all the startling behavior and plastic surgery.

I do believe he befell the same fate as Howard Hughes, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). His obsession with Plastic Surgery is one manifestation of this mental illness as is the face masks and gloves that added to the bizarre caricature of a person, let alone such a musical talent.

I like that line of Lennon's; very true and fitting. He had 8 siblings, were none of them concerned enough to disrupt their lives to help salvage his? I have 3 siblings and they never fear to tread on me! They didn't; they let/ watched him implode, literally.

I have to force myself to think outside of the current foray of his music and criminal behavior (guilty or not of the pediphile charges, dangling kids from a balcony would have gotten anyone else some time in parenting classes and children in protective custody of Family Services) to remember those early days of seeing the Jackson 5 on our first color TV and Burt Sugarman's Midnight Special.

That kind of memory will only come along once in a while. As with Elvis, I cannot hear his music without loathing what he had become, likewise with Michael Jackson.

Where were all these people who "love him dearly" as he sank into some seriously odd behavior and mental illness?

I hope no one loves me so dearly.

At 3:18 PM, Anonymous John said...

Speaking of your list of artists, some great performers there.

There is something tragic about whatever drove Jackson to the various surgeries. And is speaks volumes about our society in general. There is something weird about what a large fraction of Americans are on anti-depressant pharmaceuticals and opt for cosmetic surgery. In a way he was just one of the crowd that succumbs to the media's non-stop message. Buy these products - life will be better.

If someone as rich as Michael Jackson can't buy happiness, perhaps that pursuit is not the best way to enrich your life...

At 3:39 PM, Blogger charles moore said...

Tom, you really are right on target here. Another excellent and extremely perceptive article. The sad thing about your list and the 30 somethings is how unaware they are of the enormous contributions many of these earlier musicians made. Some of the names listed - Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, MIles Davis, Dizzie Gillespie, Duke Ellington, - well hell, practically your whole list completely CHANGED the face of jazz and popular music of the time. These people were not merely entertainers, they were creative geniuses.

At 4:25 PM, Blogger Prairie Waif said...

I finally found which song by the '80s British Band, The Smiths. The lyrics haunted me until I was able to find the album and song from which they came:

Album: Strangeways Here We Come
Band: The Smiths

Paint a Vulgar Picture
Paint a Vulgar Picture from their "Strangeways Here We Come," (Strangeways being a prison in the U.K.)

Paint A Vulgar Picture (Lyrics)

"At the record company meeting
On their hands--a dead star
and ooh, the plans they weave
and ooh, the sickening greed
At the record company party
on their hands -- a dead star
the sycophantic slags all say:
"I knew him first, and I knew him well"
Re-issue! Re-package! Re-package!
Re-evaluate the songs
double-pack with a photograph
Extra Track (and a tacky badge)
A-list, play list
"Please them, please them!"
(sadly, THIS was your life)

After I read your posting and read more online "tributes" regarding how he broke the color barrier, I had to come back and check your list for the two black musicians who were THE ROSA PARKS of MUSIC; Paul Robson and Mahaliah Jackson.
If naming anyone as the color barrier breakers, these two are those I would say were punished, shunned and eventually acknowledge for their stand for there veracity as humans as equals to the Pat Boones who "covered" black musicians so it would be "okay" for white kids to listen to "white" music.

Robson was disallowed a venue to sing in Washington State, so the Canadian's put him on the Peace Bridge and he sang to them from Canada and through speakers they heard HUMANITY.

Mahaliah Jackson was denied a venue; Elenor Roosevelt put her on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and she sang the gospel music to 10's of thousands.

My Dad had this album of Mahaliah's. It is one of my memories of the late '60s and the human/civil rights marches and demonstrations.

Michael Jackson had his talents but over selling him (Repackage! Repackage!) only verifies how short he fell of reaching the influence of Robson and Jackson.

At 5:37 PM, Blogger Anna Van Z said...

Tom, you made some great points here. The artists you mentioned were truly ground-breaking, and had a profound influence on white artists also.
In addition to what's been said here already, I think that Michael was probably very much a "wounded child" inside. His upbringing sounds like it was more than a little abusive - both mentally and physically - and devoid of warmth, emotional support, and appropriate guidance. This is not to excuse his later actions, but rather mentioned as another possible element of understanding what happened to this person.
You did a great job of summing up his bizarre evolution over time. I too could hardly believe my eyes as he sought to change himself so dramatically, and in ways that only he seemed to think was attractive. What you said about his "mommy dearest" photo was exactly what I said way back when I first saw it! It was scary, like how Anthony Perkins dressed up like his dead ma in Psycho was scary. I used to wonder how any doctor with a medical license would agree to keep doing those surgeries on him. No plastic surgeon I've ever heard of would keep operating on that nose - it was said that the tip of it was actually a prosthetic device, because the cartilage there disintegrated. And did no one in his life ever sit him down and say, WTF are you doing to yourself??
I choose to remember him as a handsome young black man, before the surgical mutilations and the white-ification process - hugely talented, and the whole world ahead of him.
I wish his death hadn't eclipsed Farrah Fawcett's, because I think she was a brave and classy lady who deserves recognition in her own right. Plus, she really was iconic for Gen-Xers. The movie "The Burning Bed" was very powerful, and my first graphic introduction to the issue of domestic violence. I think she may have had a genetic tendency toward digestive tract cancers; I read that she was born with a tumor in her digestive system that had to be removed immediately after birth.

At 7:00 PM, Blogger charles moore said...

Note to Prairie Waif, sorry but it was Marian Anderson, not Mahalia Jackson who sang at the Lincoln Memorial.

At 9:28 PM, Blogger Prairie Waif said...

Thanks for setting the record straight Charles.

I shouldn't have relied on memory. I guess I should "google" more often!

At 8:41 AM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...


Regarding Farrah Fawcett; a few years ago, I was visiting a girlfriend at her house when she told me she wanted to watch the new Farrah flick on the tube.

"Are you kidding me?", I said. I remember the seventies and had never succumbed to "Farrah-mania". Truth be told, I thought the whole thing was a bit silly. I had sat through no more than two episodes of Charlie's Angels and thought it was awful.

I relented and sat through the film which was called "The Burning Bed. I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. She really turned out to be a good actress.

Tom Degan

At 9:03 AM, Blogger Fabianna said...

I agree with everything Tom wrote but I disagree that no on in his family tried to help him. I recall attempts by Jermaine and by Latoya. But the the overwhelming response (including my own) was that they were just jealous of his success. Jermaine was interviewed when Michael only first began to undergo his surgeries and basically said what Tom did in not so many words. Yes he was, at the time, launching an album of his own. That is why he was being interviewed. But when questioned about his feelings on his brother I now believe he was sincere in his answer. This was even before Michael started to look "really wierd". I imagine he must have said a few things to Michael but what it boils down to is that it is difficult to force anyone to stop doing something that is bad for them. Have you ever tried to get a good friend or family member to quit smoking, or to stop overeating or biting their nails or taking drugs?

Latoya, who herself seems to have had a few too many nips and tucks, also made comments in interviews about his lifestyle and the people he had around him. But she was the "black sheep" (no pun intended)of the family that had gotten into a few ridiculous situations herself and so no one took seriously. The response to her comments was "She is just jealous of Janet who is prettier gets along better with Michael."

Sibling rivalry is a natural thing, but it usually disappears when the chips are down. I am now thinking maybe Jermaine and Latoya were the ones who may have cared about Michael the most.

At 9:28 AM, Blogger Avram Mirsky said...

Tom, in the always grotesque culture of celebrity that serves first and foremost as the bread and circuses served up to the populace as a soporific while their pockets are picked, MJ's path followed the usual: confirmation ---> condemnation ---> canonization. Once again, my friend, you are totally right on.

At 2:08 AM, Blogger Dearest Friend said...

Spot-on as usual...I found myself yelling at the tv when the "color barrier" comments started. Had these commentators never heard of Bill Cosby - to name just one person?

Okay - something else for people to think about - how many times in an interview with someone in show business be it music, theater, movies - whatever have you heard them say that they enjoy or truly love what they do - quite often, I've found. Kate Hepburn, Robing Williams, Bill Cosby - etc, have all at one time or another stated how incredible a feeling it is to do what they do. MJ's own "friend" Paul McCartney didn't ever expect to be a billionaire out of making music - he just LOVED making music! Think of the look of calm rapture on Harpo Marx's face when he sat down with his harp...he loved his music!!

My point? I realized that in all the interviews I've seen in the past three days about MJ - not once did I hear him ever (NOT ONCE, mind you) say at he loved making music or dancing...he could do it - did it well...but I don't think he loved doing's all he knew how to do - people can blame his father for pushing him into it, perhaps, I don't know...but I just think that it is a really sad realization.

RIP's too late for those closest to you to help...and too late to reach for it - that is the saddest part - just re-watch Germaine Jackson's mini-press conference - you see a brief flicker of anger and frustrsation cross his face as he announces his brother's death. Too late to help...I think he truly tried as someone else on here said.

RIP Farrah - and I don't mean to make her an afterthought. She was a brave lady these last few years.

At 7:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

good art.a loteasier on mj than i would have been,but good nevertheless.The thing thatdisturbs me the most is the BIG thing that the rest of the condolences are forgeting.
HE WAS A PERVERT.I UNDERSTAND NOT WHY WE LAUD PERVERTS.So now some one please explain to me the DONT ASK DONT TELL attitude

At 7:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He turned into a freak as a result of a non-existent childhood and an abusive father.

At 7:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always thought it strange that no one bothers to find out more about his "Caucasianization" before criticizing it. The man had vitiligo. He gradually turned lighter because of it. And because of the treatments that he was getting for that and some other diseases that he had, his skin got even lighter.

Lee Thomas from Fox News has it, too, and he has to use tons of makeup to make himself still look black.

At 7:42 PM, Blogger Prairie Waif said...

This video shows the News Anchor as his vitilgo worsens and he becomes "white." Look at the man's hands, that is the color he is becoming and since this video was shot, he has now more white skin on his face than black. I defy anyone to look at just his hands and identify him as an African American without knowing his medical condition.

Lee Thomas and Vitiligo

At 9:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...Farrah died, too..." And, your point would be what exactly? That, just as in life, everything about Michael Jackson trumped everything about Farrah Fawcett-Majors(O'Neal)in death? How petulent, Tom Degan! Let's be fair: Charlie's Angels forever codified Aaron Spelling's tittiful television productions as the new low in TV 'suck.' The crap was about as aimlessly banal and hoeplessly unbelievable as television got back then. To be honest, Farrah only did two joints of any credible merrit: The Burning Bed, and The Apostle. And, for the record, Bobby Duvall did all the heavy lifting in The Apostle.

Now, granted, Michael Joseph Jackson was a tortured soul. But, he was also beloved and idolized all over the world, despite the largely circumstantial evidence of wholly over-embellished reports of his bizarre behavior too often beaten into our brains by the biased mainstream media. The truth is Jackson fans loved Michael, no matter what the media claimed he did. Fans really couldn't care less about the guy's sexuality, his ethnic identity crisis, his beef with Joe the child-abusing tyrant, the accusations of child rape, his short failed marriages of convenience, or the subsequent invasive spectacle around three artificial inseminations that granted him possession of three white children. Michael Jackson entertained us the way no other entertainer ever has or ever will again. Michael set new standards for the way we will be entertained from now until eternity. No other performer is ever going to grab his crotch, jump up on his toes, and scream in falsetto, tearing off his shirt in the wind as he grinds and growls at us with that much energy and passion ever again. So, HELL YES, in that ethernal pantheon Olympic entertainers to be forever worshipped and adored, one Michael Joseph Jackson will be canonized and beatified, whether you agree or not.

And, why wouldn't he be? Michael was an overtaxed little brown kid from Gary, Indiana, put out professionally much too young by an avariciously ambitious father living vicariously through the sweat and talent of his defenseless sons. Despite that, Michael worked hard and rose to global prominence off his own steam. The dude was just BAD! Mike took pop music a couple of new levels up, despite the media and the industry hounding him. Sure, the guy was strange, with a lot of quirks. But, really, aren't all these nuts to whom we're pitching live animals and cash, just to see them eat something alive? I have to agree with Bob Dylan. Folks really are quick to sanctimoniously judge the geek for eating the live chickens we paid to throw into its cage. What does that say about the fans, the industry, and the media? More specifically, what does it say about you, seeing as how you have spent quite a bit of effort driving readers from over here just to crap on the man's grave?

Seriosuly, Degan. We get it: you think the allegations of Jackson's kiddie rape should have resulted in his black ass being stripped of all the accolades and fanfare he had rightly earned working his butt off as a performer, right before he was publicly executed. The truth is any parent who left their kids at some 'role model's' home, only to have the kid plied with booze and molested, needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for child endangerment before having their kids taken from them. Remember, Degan, these conniving greedy parents brought their little darlings to Michael's house with nothing but the hope of thier getting lucretively lucky. Michael did not stalk or visit them, okay?

At 3:48 AM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...


I try to be polite to everyone who posts on this site - no matter how stupid or insulting those comments may be.

However, the question is just screaming to be asked:

By any remote chance, did you even bother to take the time to read what I wrote?

Have another sip.


Tom Degan

At 11:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, Mr. Degan, I've read your bullshit twice - here and on I just don't agree with you, that's all. Furthermore, I'm offended that some Irish prick is "jeopardizing his writing career," as it were, to gallfully presume to interject MSM media conjecture as the totality of everything Michael represented in life. You need to check yourself. Fool, by your own admission in this Enquirer-esque opinion piece, you've bought one Michael Jackson album for one song. So, you're anything but an expert on Michael's career and his music. The truth is you're not an expert on black entertainers in America by any stretch of the definition, for all your ability to mundanely list black entertainers you recognize, ridiculously marginalized colored people too commonly patronized by "good" white folks like yourself.

Insulting? Be---otch, I've got your insults right here. I'll grip your insults, jump up on my toes, and go oooh hoo hoo for ya! How's that?

At 11:29 AM, Blogger Zeke Krahlin said...

I think the real tragedy was that Michael was probably gay, but no one reached out to help him out of the closet.

At 11:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^^ LMAO! Damn, Annonymous!

When a simple 'f#ck you!' just won't do!

At 12:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You stated some true facts. But I fail to see the tragedy. The guy died filthy rich with a great career at 50. That is not the worst way to go. I know a guy who burned to death in Camero at 20, and he didn't even have a job. I think he would have given anything to die a famous weirdo millionaire at 50.

At 5:56 PM, Blogger Anna Van Z said...

Tom, I see that the dreary dregs of the Alternet commenters have drifted over like a noxious gas cloud. Many of the people that comment there now have some profound "issues", to put it mildly. Hostile, idiot ragers would be another way to put it. Unfortunately, none of these people seem to have the nuts to sign their bizarre commentaries. They just fire the flame thrower and run, hiding behind "anonymous".
I always look forward to your posts, and can't recall being disappointed here. Oh, and I LOVE Irish guys....

At 11:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 11:17 AM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Thank you so much for your latest contribution to enlightened discourse.

Did you think for a minute that I would delete your arrogant and ignorant comment? Think again. You're only making my point. If you had half an ounce of courage, you's post your name.

Sincerely, Tom Degan

PS - You can say what you want about me, but I take serious issue when anyone disses my pal Ana van Z!

At 11:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BITCH, you are your pal Anna Van Z! Everyone knows that's a picture of Morgan Fairchild! Get it together, boy. Stop projecting your sexual, mental, and emotional issues on a dead man.

At 1:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't agree that Michael Jackson was a victim here. The guy had 50 years to seek therapy. But, anonymous is spot on about these parents. The guy was strange as hell. Why would any parent allow their kids to be within a country mile of a child?

At 2:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Sorry, I meant within a country mile of Michael, not a child. my supervisor sneaked up on me. I posted wrong.

At 4:35 PM, Blogger rage said...

I've read all the threads, but the bottom 10 or 11 are the most compelling. Not to mention hillarious.

Tom, your observations about the troubled King of Pop are brilliant, as are most of the past posts you've published. However, a couple of the anonymous posts have proven to be formidable rebuttals, also making some great points. I can't help but wonder why you found it necessary to point out that Farrah also died on the 25th of June in an article about the trials and tribulations that haunted Michael Jackson.

Don't get me wrong. I loved Farrah. I had my hair feathered just like that red-swimsuit poster in the 1970s. I, like you, have worn out my Burning Bed DVD in her memory. She suffered and very bravely met her end with great dignity. Farrah will be sorely missed by many, especially me. As crappy as the show was, I tuned in religiously every week until it was finally cancelled. I was one of those who reveled in one of Charlie's Angels' marrying the Six Million Dollar Man, the glorious hunk Lee Majors. That said, nothing about her career connects to Michael beyond them both being show business people.

It really was unfortunate that she made her transition only hours before the final acts of the Michael Jackson circus, a circus overrun with more than enough outlandish attractions to suck the air out of any competing media event. The timing just couldn't have been worse. That, and absolutely NO ONE saw this coming. No one could have told me two weeks ago that I would be watching Michael Jackson's memorial broadcast live from the Staple Center tomorrow without me asking for a hit off their bong.

I've been wearing out my Never Can Good Bye disc in his memory. I'm still stunned. Though Michael looked like the portrait of Dorian Gray, he was a vegan who didn't drink or smoke, and spent most of a decade sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber, breathing pure oxygen. For all I knew, the guy had another half century of life in him, if he had a day. I was awaiting the coming to America of the This Is It Tour with baited breathed. And, then he went and croaked on pharmaceuticals he was overusing to ease his pain! In the end, Michael went out the same way most of these stars go, conflicted and addicted in every thinkable way. But, those are the fleas that come with the dog of entainment success.

As I summarize Mike's life, the thing that strikes me is that the very horrible things about him that so repulsed the public are the sames things that mesmerized us and kept us following his star. And that was all by design. Michael was one of the most successful marketing ploys known to contemporary business. Everything about Michael the human amusement park was built out of millions of well spent marketing dollars. He was never anything but an industry crafted shell honoring a mythical fable we all watched magically unfold in entertainment products. The golden idol was never a real boy, but a marketing ideal.

Sadly, Michael was never able to live up to myth supporting that ideal. He was too human. He made a whole lot of mistakes that will forever tarnish the golden image. He failed because he was just another black guy marketing his actual brand, to his handlers' chagrin. Michael wanted to live out his own fantasies, not play by the industry script. But, when you don't put the tabloid lotion on your skin, the industry orders the media to blast you with the hose again. For me, Mike's inability to live up to the industry demands and fan expections, while effectively hurdling all the obstacles built up around him was not the real tragedy. The real tragedy is that too few bothered to truly know the real Michael Jackson. Michael's most enduring legacy is that, from now on, every time some idiot says Michael Jackson, a cash register will ring.

At 7:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

See? Now ya playin! Where'n'a hell do you get off fixing those thin chapped lips of yours to tell the Black community who our heroes and role models should be, white boy? And, I just love the way you so hypocritically slid in how insane we are, like Mike ain't been y'alls portal into the 'hood since Vincent Price brought it in Thriller. You know good and dam well that was yall lookin at Beat It and Bad like they were gang documentaries. I will give you a couple points for nerve. That was greasy, dog, real greasy.

Look, Mr. Well-Intentioned White Man, with all this phony madness about this 'tragedy', we'll thank you to get your chisled, freckled nose out of Black folk's bi'ness. We will celebrate whoever we choose. We don't bother you about all the folks you want to marginalize. So, don't step up in here bashing Michael, calling us crazy for still wishing yall's cheating asses didn't own more of him than was ever made available to us, okay?

Besides, that was yall all punked out in them gay ass red pleather jackets and them floods with the glittery socks. The real bruhs, down like 4 flats on a '69 Deuce, would have died and gon' to hell twice before they would have ran out of a burning house, wearing that stupid bullshit. To us, Micheal dressed like a Vegas punk on a stroll. Sho' nuff, his hops were sweet, even though we knew the Moonwalk was just Backsliding to club steppers. And, his singin was just a'ight. We had heard way better. And, yes, we studied how Mike made that grip of paper. But, that was as far as it went. Black folks exercised the option to celebrate our own people our own way. We were never that into some fictional fairy character from the pedophile Walt Disney's imaginary kingdom of twisted wet dreams. That was yalls Mickey Mouse asses.

Let's just keep it real, white bruh. We've been questioning what side the boy buttered his toast since that first nose job, got me? Katt Williams is just the most recent playa to make the "son, guard ya booty hole from Michael" announcement in his comedy rip, not the first. So, mind ya bi'ness, we got this. Trust me, black folks were the ones who put that memo out there. Yall the ones who read it late.

At 7:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rage's post was cool.

The anon that followed needs to seek some therapy. There's got to be a 12-step program out there for this sort of behavior.

At 8:18 PM, Blogger Prairie Waif said...

Anonymous, er, Harry:

You know, you write a great script, a few problems with the learning disability (re: tenses, punctuation) doesn't impede your swinging a cat in a room full of flames.

You really should put it to use writing a compendium of short stories of "life in the 'hood." You have a very descriptive voice and I am sure it would find a good market if the stories hold true to the one presented here.

Thanks for the urban lingo update too.


At 6:44 AM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Good morning, Waif....

I don't think that that was Harry from Mass (in fact I'm sure of it). Although Harry disagrees with me vehemently on a whole range of subjects, I have learned from corresponding with him that he is a fairly reasonable guy.

But I will tell you this: the person who wrote that is not an African American. His prose reminds me of written dialogue for an old-fashioned minstrel show. It's really quite racist when you think about it. I get the distinct feeling that he is channeling Stephan Fetchit.

"Sho nuff"? Please.


Tom Degan

At 6:50 AM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Note to "rage":

I tried to contact you but was unable to access your profile. Just wanted to say that I thought your comments were well put.


Tom Degan

At 12:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, dude, I will give you this, you are brave. I think I would have nixed a bunch of these vicious haters. But, you bravely posted the dissenting voice. Good on you, dude!

These hate-mongers aren't necessarily wrong. Their just so damned mean and bitter with their opinions. I realize they are morning the death of their god, but damn! They are getting to be just a wee bit scary here. These defensive nuts need to dial it back about ten clicks, and then decaffeinate gradually.

At 3:13 PM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Thanks for the kind words, friend. I'm watching the memorial as I write these words.

His older brother Jermaine just sang a song which I quoted on this site three months ago, on the one-hundred and twentieth anniversary of the birth of the man who wrote it, "Smile" by Charlie Chaplin:

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it's breaking
When there are clouds in the sky
You'll get by


Tom Degan

At 2:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am just sorry that Jon Stewart in on vacation this week! I am sure he would have a similar take as you, Mr. Degan.

At 10:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

word on the street is ur a homo

At 10:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

why r u such a little flamer and u think you are a good blooger but you really suck dick ................... and the reson you have this wed site is because if you meet any one in real life they would nt even talk to you

At 12:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The media did everything that could be done to destroy Michael Jackson's career, rarely ever reporting on the many good and caring deeds he did for the world.

Kenny Ortega talking about MJ's big heart

Australia loves Michael Jackson - A True Humanitarian

The media was not very honest on a number of issues. Read Aphrodite Jone's ... The Michael Jackson Conspiracy.

Aphrodite Jones and Thomas Mesereau

The Michael Jackson Conspiracy Book Release


Michael also spoke out about SONY .... so, in my opinion, it’s conceivable that certain large, key players were involved in his death.

Why did Murray wait so long to call 911? Yes, this is a suspicious death. I strongly believe Michael was murdered and that there is much more to his death than is possibly being reported.

At 9:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found Jackson to be somewhat absurd as a human being and all those transformations to make himself look other than he was is a form of madness. I think that he wanted to escape into some land of fantasy and never grew up or matured and he had all the opportunity to make a huge fortune dancing and prancing and then blew it. I think many of these pop stars get board with their lives as there seems to be nothing left to do as they done it all. What is the measure of success in this business but to make a lot of money, fame and fortune are the means to certain death which seems to be what many of them succumbed to and they burn the wick of the candle very fast. He no less took time to alter his look over the years and he looked as if he were from different planet. I am wary of use of the word musician as I never saw him play an instrument but he was a song and dance man for sure. I think the man was weird as it can get and in the end the inevitable happened as it usually does with the famous and not so famous. We all die eventually and that is a good thing.

At 6:41 AM, Anonymous holojojo said...

So much hate and anger, so little reason! If I had nothing but insults to back up my opinion, I wouldn't post. Why can't a white person comment on "black" music, or vice versa? How are we ever going to understand each other if we don't communicate? Or do we just go with Anonymous (or was it Rage?) who wants white people to keep their freckled noses out of Black Business? In that case, why not just build a wall across the Mason-Dixie line and shout at each other over it? Ye Gods, you'd think we were beyond that now, in the second decade of the 21st century!

At 11:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Asshole he was found NOT GUILTY!!! because there was absolutely no evidence..... WOOOHOOO!!!

At 11:28 PM, Blogger Beverly Margolis-Kurtin said...

I never liked Michael. I'm into classical or jazz. I'll never forget the day I went out with some of my Air Force flight and walked into the Metropole Cafe. I was kinda inebriated. Okay I was flat-out drunk. There was a guy playing a trumpet. His horn was simply the most brilliant sound I ever had heard. I looked up and said "Hey, beautiful horn player, you look like Louie Armstrong." I instantly sobered up when he said, "Well sweetheart, I AM he."

After the set he was playing he came over to me and we talked for a bit. What a wonderful human being he was. I lost all of my jazz albums when I moved to California. There I lived near Sneaky Pete's on Sunset Blvd. Page Cavanaugh was playing and Johnny Carson, an old friend of Page's happened to be there. WOW! When Page moved is venue to the valley, he had invented dynamic jazz which didn't live to long but it was fantastic!

Then folk music came into style. My brother and I started to hang out at Ledbedder's where the Backporch Majority, the "farm team" for the New Christi Minstrels. Ah, those were the days. Randy Sparks hung out there as he owned the joint. What memories. Oh, also out in Hollywood was Manny's ManHole. Incredible jazz!

We met the Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul, and Mary. The night that Carol Burnett had her homecoming I got last minute tickets to Hollywood Bowl. Lucile Ball was there as were hundreds of stars. I lived a block north of Hollywood Boulevard around the corner from Grauman's Chinese which is now the TLC Chinese. I'd have to laugh whenever I saw a trailer for a movie on TV that said now playing at your neighborhood theater. It was Gruman's.

Then I got married and there went the fun. What amazing memories.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home