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Michael Jackson – The Promise of Neverland
“A measure of any society is how it treats its young people… Raising children – providing them with food, security, love and education – should never be considered an altruistic act.” Pat Lancaster
He’s really gone…and now all we can do is go back in a kaleidoscope of memories. We are left with memories that connect the innocence of “ABC” to the idealism of “We are the World” and the introspection of “Man in the Mirror”. Looking back, we can’t help but realize that he was always with us…and somehow we thought he always would be. Losing it is like going back to our old neighborhood and finding our missing favorite places. We struggle to understand this; but ultimately we recognize that this is a vacant position that can never be filled.
For many of us, loyal fans included, we couldn’t have dreamed that there was such a deep reservoir of love for him around the world. For the past 13 years, he’s become tabloid fodder…more super freak than superstar. “Wacko Jacko”, possible child molester, financially troubled has-been, Peter Pan, a misfit are just a few of the labels the media has given him over the past 20 years. The most charitable observers saw him as a lost and tormented soul at best, in desperate need of therapeutic intervention.
Bubbles the chimpanzee, self-harm, Neverland Ranch, Elephant Man’s bones, and his hyperbaric oxygen chamber are just a few of the bizarre behaviors associated with him. Many stories were blatant fabrications; however, Michael’s publicist sometimes chose not to refute them as they got people talking.
Of course, hanging his child out of a hotel window and having sex with children certainly contributed to the idea that he had come undone. Still somehow now, none of those controversies matter. All concerted efforts by the media to reduce it to a monster of sideshows have failed spectacularly as we examine the facts. London’s O2 concerts give us an idea of the fierce loyalty of its fans. 800,000 tickets were sold in 5 hours, nearly double the sales of his Hay Day performances in 1988. The Staple Center Memorial site reports receiving half a billion visits. Amazon reported that 60% of all CD sales were from fans buying anything with their name on it. Barnes and Nobles sold its CDs, DVDs and books.
Even China, a country known for rejecting American excesses, gave it full coverage on the country’s largest website, Sina.com. Predictably, Japanese media covered “Michael-san’s” death extensively, as did CNN in Asia. The three largest cable news networks – CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC – averaged 8.2 million prime-time viewers, a figure that nearly doubled their normal viewership. The BBC reported an increase in viewership just after the night Barack Obama was elected president. The reaction from the Russian, South American, Canadian, Australian and African media has been equally massive.
It’s been 13 years since Michael last toured and many wondered if he could really deliver anything close to a smooth moonwalk or the youthful energy of his “Thriller” or “Bad” performances or would it just be another mishap tailor-made for tabloid consumption. Even the promoters admitted to being anxious but couldn’t resist the possibilities and profitability of a re-emergence of Michael Jackson. The press has expressed serious doubts that at 50 he could put on the grueling 50-date O2 gig. However, video footage from his final days showed he was about to give the world one more thriller.
You couldn’t help but wonder if this comeback story was more about overly optimistic promoters trying to retcon Humpty Dumpty. Stories of him having skin cancer and a host of other chronic health conditions have always persisted. He reportedly began his descent into prescription drug addiction shortly after his hair caught fire while filming a Pepsi commercial in 1984. The 1993 child molestation charges finally pushed him to the edge. Relatives of the singer say that in 1990 he underwent around 10 plastic surgeries, prompting some mental health experts to claim that Michael suffered from body dysmorphic disorder. It is a psychological illness that causes a feeling of physical repulsion. In 1993 he shared that he had vitiligo in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. In December 2008, Michael Jackson biographer Ian Halperin said he suffered from alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a life-threatening genetic condition, as well as emphysema and gastrointestinal bleeding. Its management has vehemently denied most of this. However, we all wondered when footage of him in a wheelchair and his zombie stare in his latest assault trial surfaced.
Despite all the speculation about his mental/physical health, he passed his medical for Tour Insurance “with flying colors”, according to AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips. Photographer Kevin Mazur who has followed Michael for 30 years and documented rehearsals for the tour book said “Michael was back – that’s all I could say, ‘Everyone close to Michael, from his choreographer to producers of shows, agrees on this. He looked full of energy and ready to give the performance that would bring him back to his former glory and maybe beyond. His O2 concert series was to begin in July and be followed by a world tour.
True to form… MJ’s death cannot be clearly explained. It looks like the King of Pop will remain king of the tabloids long after his burial. He has now undergone two autopsies and the cause of death is still inconclusive. Toxicology reports due in 3-4 weeks can shed light on the cause of death. Police reportedly removed the powerful drug Propofol, marketed under the brand name Diprivan, from his rented home in Holmby Hills. It is certain that the Los Angeles police and the DEA will investigate how this drug came into his possession.
His personal physician, Dr. Murray, and a host of other physicians/facilitators will no doubt be subject to further scrutiny, although LAPD say there is currently no evidence of foul play. Dr. Murray, a 56-year-old cardiologist with a practice in Las Vegas and a clinic in Houston, has lived in numerous homes over the past decade in multiple states. His former partner, also a doctor in Houston, was incarcerated for distributing prescription drugs rather generously. According to public records, Dr. Murray filed for personal bankruptcy in 1992 in California and has five tax liens against him for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Health Grades, a healthcare ratings company, says he is not certified in his two specialties, internal medicine and cardiology. Although certification is not required to practice a specialty, it is recommended and indicates a high level of training and expertise. We have to wonder why someone of Michael’s stature would hire someone with less than impeccable credentials.
As we reflect on the global appeal of this singular pop star and try to grasp the media frenzy and worldwide outpouring of emotion around his passing, we must ask ourselves why we are so transfixed. What is at the heart of this phenomenon? This man-child, as Paul McCartney so aptly describes, who for a moment eclipsed all world events, including wars, swine flu, global economic collapse and Kim Jong-il’s nuclear ambitions.
Why did the world stop for this pop star? His shy, girlish demeanor, surgically disfigured face, and endless stories of bizarre behavior don’t fit the Mr. Clean image that idol makers typically present. It has never been classically “commercial”. He was definitely not a good candidate for the hardcore rocker or hip-hop image because despite the phenomenal sales of the “Bad” album, he was much cuter than “bad” when he released that album. In fact, imagining Michael as evil or intimidating is perfect material for a Saturday Night Live skit.
Everyone close to Michael, from Deepak Chopra to his manager, all agree that his adult years were deeply troubled and that he only seemed to find peace and fulfillment when he performed and was getting a “fix” from his adoring fans. Interestingly, despite his painful memories of his father’s abuse, when asked if he would give anything to have a normal childhood, he said no.
Michael’s refusal to “grow up” – his childish idealism may ultimately be the key to his universal appeal. Our adult world is a world where 963 million people around the world go hungry and where wars inflict untold suffering and the depletion of precious resources. Every day, a child dies every five seconds from hunger-related causes. Over the past decade, approximately 2 million children have been killed in armed conflict. This is the world of so-called competent adults.
When we examine the life and contributions of Michael Jackson, we must conclude that he was much more than a man of song and dance. Her consistent and some say naive messages of love and unity are perhaps why the world is reeling from the loss of this sweet soul. Of course, the media never widely reported that he gave generously to 39 charities around the world. Not surprisingly, the primary mission of many of these charities was the welfare of children.
As we begin to grasp Michael’s universal appeal, it becomes clear that this self-proclaimed King of Pop was singular, vast and timeless enough to truly deserve this accolade. Her magical performances transported us away from the relentless banality/brutality of the REAL world… and allowed us to escape into a musical Never Neverland. For that, we are eternally grateful…and we will all rejoice in his rich musical legacy forever and ever…and forever.
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