Sorry we are a bit behind schedule at the moment with this. And one of the reasons I wanted to write about Michael Jackson in this way was because I really didn't like what I saw written out there, in the mainstream media, the specialist music press or the alternative news which in general dropped the ball a bit with this.
Since last time, the coroner's report
into Michael's death is pointing towards an overdose of the general anesthetic Propofol/Diprivan and some other drugs.
This was ruled a homicide which means prosecution can be made against someone else, in this case the focus has been on Jackson's personal physician attending to him at the time, Doctor Conrad Murray.
What's striking about Michael's death is the uncanny similarity to Elvis' death, which I'm no expert on, but I've been looking at too. Their deaths near-immediately before starting a new performance schedule. The prescription drugs, yet according to other doctors being in apparent health only shortly before their death, the focus on the personal physician, the extravagant spending and lifestyle, being the absolute top of the tree but not being in quite the same intensity of public prominence as they were previously and the general similarities of what they meant to others as stars and performers.
And from what I've seen Michael Jackson was acutely aware of what happened to others like Elvis and John Lennon, and was quite concerned about ending up in either of those situations. He was also very concerned about what happened to Princess Diana, and there's some interesting footage about that here
The other thing of course is Michael has been laid to rest
at the Forest Lawn Cemetery near Los Angeles. Obviously, it's a decision for the family, but on a purely personal note, although I understand the controversy around Neverland, I don't feel totally at home with this. And it wouldn't surprise me, if like Elvis
you may hear at some point Michael is moved again.
Needless to say, Michael Jackson was one of the great figures of the 20th century, one of the great cultural pillars. In the 1980s, he was the biggest star in the world. There was Michael Jackson, and then everybody else. He was described in news reports, along with President Ronald Reagan, as possibly one of the "two most important and famous men in the world" (6:39
Back then of course, there was no need to label himself the "King of Pop", Michael was the King of all Stars, all performers, all artists. It didn't need to be said, to say it would be immoderate. (Although it was originally Elizabeth Taylor's description, it's only when things started to move away a bit from those heights you started to hear the term "King of Pop" actually be used.)
I don't think it's possible to underestimate the influence of Michael Jackson, it is so considerable, it is a cultural fundamental and Michael Jackson has become part of the firmament and universal ether of ideas.
And very interestingly, someone slightly younger I know said they didn't fully understand this, and just were aware of the allegations and controversies
until his death when some of his stuff was put on TV. You couldn't have a more stark example of the power of the media to turn everything upside down.
Like everyone I grew up with Michael Jackson, as a huge fan, but later on wasn't following his career as closely. I would hear this or that about him, about his music, his first marriage to Lisa Marie Presley, about his children, but there was a sense Michael Jackson had some difficulties knowing where to go after Thriller and Bad. Whatever he'd opened the door to
in an MTV world, whatever had come out, although could never come near his status, had somewhat displaced him afterwards on the ground. Indeed Michael's former producer on Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad, Quincy Jones
touches on this here.
Perhaps partly as a consequence of that, there was some insistence on more extravagant productions, more Disneyeque qualities , which I personally I think some of that, didn't always necessarily do Michael that many favours artistically, although he was the only person in the world who could actually do that work.
And really when I became particuarly aware again and started thinking again about Michael Jackson, was in 2003 when the Martin Bashir documentary (aka Living with Michael Jackson)
was broadcast. And despite everything, however much a chunk of the media had turned against him, however much this was a different Michael from the days of the historic eminence of Thriller and then Bad, however much, despite his incredible success, Michael now seemed more on the outside looking in or rather back, and however uncomfortable and nervous Bashir made everybody feel, I remember at the time the scene when Bashir asks Michael to show him some dancing (5:20+
), and I remember getting awakened again to the incredible sense of who Michael Jackson was.
Suddenly all the media nonsense, all the crap, as well as all of the layers of things that perhaps didn't endear some fans over the years just fell away. And I'll be honest this was a very important and moving piece of television for me personally.
And despite his fabulous wealth, despite the lavish lifestyle, it was all the more difficult to see what exactly had happened since say Bad, and why this incredible man, who was once the Star of all stars was in a documentary with Martin Bashir trying to explain himself. At the height of Michael's fame, this would have been an unthinkable nonsense.
And I think the Bashir documentary/affair is important in all this, because this is Michael trying to connect to the outside world, trying to share a bit of his universe, trying to make people understand himself instead of through the layers of media venom and he presumably thought Bashir was the person with the right credentials for this. Possibly, as Bashir did the famous 'Queen of Hearts' interview with Princess Diana
back in 1995.
(The story I've heard is that Uri Geller effectively sold a meeting with Michael Jackson to Bashir for £200,000.
Again these people aren't friends, same with this Mark Lester character of course, who's ex-wife remarked recently that Lester was actually nuts and had an obsession with Jackson(1)
But the documentary overall was a PR catastrophe and a depressing catalogue of mindless pointless miseries assembled by Bashir. It all came out as a disaster, and I don't think a lot of people have any idea how that can make someone feel if they are trying to connect to the wider world, but instead it just makes everything worse. It's not a nice experience to be on the end of, especially for very sensitive creative people. And then it lead to more allegations, utterly opportunistic, by, as Michael's former manager Frank DiLeo
described as a 'bunch of gypsies passing through', disproved in court, but which took their their toll.
It is said Martin Bashir is a Christian, I actually see this guy as a grade A tool, and you can see how totally uncomfortable he looks throughout the documentary.
It is possible that Michael simply wasn't aware how what he was trying to communicate could be seen, seized upon and presented as, including any unusual relationships with children, a subject that has in general been made hyper-sensitive and a source of day to day paranoia by the media and government across the board anyway. And anything that's seen as a challenge to that paranoia and atmosphere is going to be a problem, and I have unease and concern about that scene in the film as I think everyone did.
But at the same time, there's no question Bashir sees Michael Jackson as a strange curiosity that belongs in a jar on a shelf somewhere with an appropriate label on it in a museum of bizarre curiosities. You wince as you watch Bashir clumsily trying to ascribe this, ascribe that from his text book of moron's crap, and the sad thing is, the really sad thing is, he thinks he's doing a great job as a journalist. Yet ironically it's Bashir who can't seem to participate in anything Michael does without looking extremely uncomfortable and trying to pathologize it.
Bashir (rewarded with a job in the US with ABC) made this film at a time when it seemed to be safe territory to make a provocative documentary about Michael Jackson, and after Michael's death recently made slithering remarks(2)
towards him about the 'greatest entertainer ever' as if he'd never made the documentary to begin with, perhaps to try to exonerate his own role in Michael's problems.
Part 4 Next....
Labels: King of Pop, Living with Michael Jackson, Martin Bashir, Michael Jackson, MTV