I don't know if you're aware of this or not (since it's hardly gotten any press coverage at all,) but Michael Jackson recently died. I know -- right?! I was shocked when I learned of it, too. I hold some very strong opinions of The Gloved One, who was previously known as "Wacko Jacko" for years in the tabloid press. Not that I think that reputation was necessarily undeserved or anything, but I don't want to pursue that line of argument here. We'll never know if he really wanted to buy The Elephant Man's skeleton (which is one of the few things he's ever done that I can identify with because -- Honest Injun! -- I think bones are cool; ) or if he truly slept in a hyperbaric chamber. There's no sense speculating at this late date on that hooey, and in spite of my strong convictions otherwise, I am not even going to dwell on the idea that the man was, in my opinion, a pedophile. I'm only going to say that if I happened to be a tax paying resident of the city of Los Angeles, I would be showing up at every city council meeting asking what, if any, steps had been taken in legally demanding that NAMBLA kick in a little scratch toward the expense of burying him.
But that's just how I roll -- I have my opinions. I am choosing not to focus on that ugliness, here. No, I'll focus on something else, entirely... the true reason Dead Michael Jackson burns my ass better than a three-foot high fire, and how hearing his name every five minutes for weeks on end like I was trapped in an episode of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" filled me with an awe-inspiring rage that I had to come to terms with; because, friends... it's been touch-and-go for me and my not committing the sort of horrific, violent act that lands you as the lead story on CNN, with the down-the-street neighbor whose dog shits on your lawn claiming there was "always something off" about you.
And not that I am denying there is anything "off" in me, either.
After the first 72 hours of All-Michael-All-The-Time Television, I realized something had to give, and I realized (given the public's fascination with lewd, lascivious or even just simply abhorrently aberrant behavior,) it was highly unlikely that the world was going to change simply because of me. As an aside, I have a faded, near-crumbling Frank & Ernest comic strip that I clipped from the newspaper back when I was in 7th grade, wherein Frank looks at Ernest and says, "I don't want to change the world. I want to stop the world from changing me." Know this: I have lost the original copies of both of my children's birth certificates. I have no clue where my passport is. But that little cartoon has traveled with me for better than 26 years. I told you I was "off," but I'm trying to convey something more to you in sharing that: I recognize that, no matter how annoyed I am by people, things and events around me -- I don't want to change the world. But I am certainly all over changing myself in order to make my stay here among you mortals a little less painful. I am neither yardstick nor arbiter, and I have no answers as to why, in the grand scheme of things, Michael Jackson garnered the attention in life (and death,) as he did (and does.) It seems to me that the world, at large, would be better served by joining a bowling team or perhaps learning to knit rather than expending so much energy on this, but who am I to judge? It's simply up to me to find a way to exist amongst the madness, since I am seemingly a lone voice in the wilderness of excess and "golden coffins."
Then again, that's just me, and I've had my own celebrity obsessions of late to deal with, of the flavor and sort that absolutely befuddled those who know me best. John & Kate Plus Eight? Couldn't get enough of that train wreck and I embarrassed myself once when I realized I could have no more have crowed at Kate Gosselin's fall from grace than if I'd stood on my own roof and shouted, "COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO!" at the top of my lungs. I, like everybody else, enjoy a good public comeuppance and the gory, little details that are inherent to fame and celebrity.
But the scope of the public's fascination with Michael Jackson has always -- and I mean, ALWAYS -- left me scratching my head and wondering if maybe everyone else on the planet is high. Please remember, too, that around the same time I was clipping comics out of the daily paper, MJ was moon walking his way to immortality (except he didn't, because he's dead. Just wanted to bitchily point that out.) I was the "target demographic" for his schtick, for I am fully a member of The MTV Generation. I, like most of my peers, was front and center and watching, waiting, as the seconds ticked down to the premiere of the Thriller video. I think the argument can be easily made that it was a seminal moment in history, much like a previous generation's claim to watching The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Like knowing where you were when Kennedy was shot or when the World Trade Center was attacked, most of my peer group has a Thriller memory...
Except that mine ends in a vastly different way from theirs.
When the credits rolled, I distinctly remember turning to my friend, Amy (whose house I was visiting because her end of the cowtown we lived in had cable and mine -- the hoity-toitier section -- did not, due to the rich asshole who represented my end's interests insisting that, "Cable TV is a passing fancy. People won't pay for television!") Amy was awash in what I assume beatific splendor looks like; there was almost an Old Masters' glow to her skin. I looked to my other friend Amy next: same damned thing. Even Deanna, who also had cable at her house but wasn't the sort to allow herself to be left out, was swooning.
And there I sat, a solitary island unto myself on the burnt orange and lime green shag carpet of Amy's parents' rec room, trying to figure out what the big fucking deal was. So... there you have it: I didn't "get" Michael Jackson, and my long standing hatred of him is not borne of my own ignorance to his genius, it's just that I didn't -- and still do not -- get what all the damned fuss was about.
I don't believe that Michael Jackson was the greatest entertainer that ever lived. I will buy that he was extremely talented, but I don't see that his talents overshadow those of any one else. I tend to think that he was the "force" he was because, like a tornado or an unplanned pregnancy, conditions were right. You might be able to make the argument that I don't have enough respect for him because I don't grasp the scope of his talents. I won't disagree with you actively, but I will say, "ENOUGH ALREADY!"
Because I am absolutely burnt out and fried with the near-constant mention of the man... and his mother... and his kids... and that Debbie Rowe chick who is as painful to put up with as chewing tin foil... and what makes me sad is that Tito is no where to be found. In all of this, Tito is further relegated to the back-burner of Jacksons who, to my cynical eye, are going to milk this for every bit of bullshit publicity they possibly can, because they are attention whores who like to show their boobs at the Superbowl and then say, "Oops!" with an almost defiant glee.
But I digress... but I also afford you a rare glimpse into how my mind spins out of control when I start to get sucked into this shinola. In a way, I should be grateful to Michael Jackson (and to an equal extent, Madonna,) for taking up the burden of ruining radio in the '80s. Had they done anything worthwhile that I could have listened to at that time without being overtaken by an urge to flush my ears with Clorox, I might have never known of The Sex Pistols, Lou Reed, The Ramones or The Smiths. For that -- and only that -- I am thankful the world had a Michael Jackson.
Balancing that out, however, is the fact that to this day, as a 40 year old woman, I know every word to the song, "P.Y.T," but I can't remember what the Pythagorean Theorem is, much less how to apply it usefully to anything. I know that Billie Jean was not his lover, but I cannot remember the name of an ee cummings poem that I desperately loved and have sought out fruitlessly since 1986. I am also well aware that the song, "Human Nature" is some of the crappiest pablum the world has ever swallowed and asked for seconds of.
I hate that song.
So, the last two weeks and a day have been absolute, painful, stinking Hell on a cracker for me, what with people blaring the Michael Jackson in their Escalades at the gas station (Poor, forgotten C-Murder! I remember you, dude!) and the way that every newscast for awhile was signing off with, "I'll Be There" (which he won't be because he's dead, I point out twice as bitchily again.) And we are not discussing that song further, either. I have children to raise; I can't take the time out of my life a conviction for felonious arson would bring.
And through all of this pain and sadness brought on, once again, by the fact that the rest of the world is fucking high and I am the only one with any sense, I had to find a way to cope. I happened upon it in a fit of pique and happenstance at my local 7-11, when "Rockin' Robin" was blaring on the -- swear to god -- transistor radio behind the register, and my local 7-11 clerk was singing along like Bubbles the Chimp... if Bubbles the Chimp had mainlined a 2 liter bottle of Mountain Dew and snorted some Poprocks.
The cure for what ailed me, dear friends, is this: Elvis Presley. Or, more specifically, my brand-new, refillable, Elvis Presley lighter. That's right: I purchased some sanity for a buck-forty-nine, alongside a half gallon of milk and a cream cheese and jalapeno taquito.
Let me be perfectly candid with you: I freely admit that Elvis, as far as hypocrites go, was a capital H - hypocrite. But... and this is a big but... who BUT Elvis would we accept dying from drugs on a toilet, even though we KNOW he wanted a badge from the Drug Enforcement Agency? That's right -- nobody else could get away with that sort of stuff without being vilified and mocked. But we don't make Dead Elvis jokes -- no! We have Elvis sightings and stamps and a furor over whether he should be young or fat on them (for your edification, he's pleasantly plump on my lighter, because when it comes to Elvis -- it makes no difference to me.) We commemorate his birthday and people dress up like him and multiple Elvii show up in movies because Elvis was so goddamned cool.
AND he could sing... and dance... and act... and didn't some of you people swoon when he was on TV? I thought so. So, there you have it -- an explanation as to why you can almost always find me humming "Marie's The Name (Of His Latest Flame)" under my breath (it's also like garlic to a vampire when it comes to banishing both "Beat It" and "Bad.") It's why, when people start to go on and on (and on and on) about those "poor kids," I reach into my pocket and wrap my hand around the true King -- because Elvis Presley is my Michael Jackson Anti-Drug; because Elvis could kick Michael Jackson's ass, with all that Karate and shit he was into. Do I need to point out that Elvis died WITH his nose on his face? I think not.
So, if the non-stop coverage of the now-dead Dancing Machine ever gets you down, do what I do: Sing a few bars of, "If I Can Dream" and Elvis your TV set.
Works every time.