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Posted at 9:51 AM ET, 06/26/2009

Michael Jackson: Separating the Artist from the Art

By Liz Kelly

A makeshift memorial outside Michael Jackson's Los Angeles home. (Getty Images)

A funny sort of thing happened on Thursday when word of Michael Jackson's death started to sink in to our cultural psyche: We weren't sure how to react.

While it's true that scores of Jackson fans gathered outside the UCLA Medical Center where Jackson had been rushed by paramedics and the news propelled sales of Jackson's songs on Amazon, many of us hesitated. Reminiscences of Jackson's infectious hits were tempered by the ugly reality of multiple charges of child molestation, the man's seeming inability to cope with the world and his outre habits (children draped in veils, packing his one-time mansion Neverland with a village-worth of hideous life-sized dolls.)

The memory of Michael Jackson, King of Pop, was threatened by Wacko Jacko, increasingly reclusive and derided freakazoid.

But is it possible to honor one while continuing to back away from the other? To reconcile the very real disdain for the man while at the same time recognizing his music as every bit worthy of praise? And by admitting that we appreciate the art of someone we may find morally objectionable are we selling out our own ethics?

Michael Jackson isn't the first person to inspire the question. Writing about classical musicians who were openly anti-Semitic or aligned themselves with Germany's Nazi regime retired music critic Dimitri Drobatschewsky wrote:

Unfortunately, there are so many "unsavory characters" in the world of art, science, literature and general culture that if you boycotted their given genius, there would be precious little art left to enjoy.

And therein lies the rub. If one looks closely enough, uncomfortable realities can probably be found for many of pop culture's venerated artists -- big and small: Mel Gibson, who is slowly working his way back into Hollywood's mainstream despite his 2006 anti-Semitic, sexist rant. Woody Allen, who continues to attract A-list talent, critical praise and audiences for his films despite being roundly criticized for romancing and marrying his stepdaughter. Amy Winehouse, who despite an inability to pull herself from the clutches of addiction and really bad paparazzi moments, still has an undeniably beautiful and original voice.

Does an appreciation of "Billie Jean" or "Rock With You" mean we're giving Jackson a pass for what -- if nothing else -- were inappropriate relationships with minors? No. And here's why:

For many artists -- Van Gogh, Franz Kafka, Marilyn Manson -- art is an expression of one's demons. For Michael Jackson art -- in the form of pop music -- represented liberation from those demons.

Jackson's music wasn't in any way a reflection of his personal life. It was a place Jackson was able to supersede his timidity and failings -- to be "Bad" (meaning good), to look at "The Man in the Mirror" ("If you wanna make the world a better place," Jackson sang, "Take a look at yourself and then make a change.") and to label himself "Unbreakable." In no song did he encourage dangerous liaisons with unlawful partners or ask his listeners to follow him down the road to disfiguring plastic surgery. Jackson instead transcended his image as a man-boy prone to eccentricity and became the unchallenged King of Pop.

This guy:

And that is the image that will stick for most of his fans. As D.C. resident Akil Wilson says in this video interview after hearing about Jackson's death, "Some people are better as thoughts than as actual physical manifestations ... this Mike that existed from the '90s on, he just wasn't a real person."

By Liz Kelly  | June 26, 2009; 9:51 AM ET
Categories:  Michael Jackson  
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Next: Jackson's Doctor Questioned by Police; Pitchman Billy Mays Dead at 50

Comments

I think that someone's FB status for me really summed it up - that he was so much of our growing up, but he stopped being that person a long time ago, but we can still remember the person he was and what he meant to us in the 80s.

Posted by: suzannepdc | June 26, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Never thought I'd see Franz Kafka and Marilyn Manson in the same sentence, but it makes sense. Definitely admire the art, without saying the creator is an admirable person. Edgar Allan Poe,Richard Wagner, Diego Rivera/Frida Kahlo, the list goes on and on. Why not Jacko?

Posted by: reddragon1 | June 26, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Pretty weak comparing Jackson to Amy Winehouse, Mel Gibson, and even Woody Allen. While there are plenty of artists with unsavory histories, Jackson preyed on young children and used his money to elude justice and free himself to continue ruining lives, he was a monster and the world is better off with him gone.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | June 26, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Gosh- I can't muster any snark or criticism for Michael. I was really happy to hear how his upcoming concerts had sold out and was hoping that he could make a solid comeback. I feel sad- he was my first childhood crush (when he was the cutest thing on tv in the 70's); his music was the backdrop to my high school and college years. Later when I got married and more recently when I had kids (I was just dancing w/my little ones 2 weeks ago to "ABC"), his music was in the backdrop. This dude provided the soundtrack for most of my life- how can I not embrace his artistry? Had he become a freak; did he have at the very least, inappropriate relationships w/young boys; did he appear to have weird fetishes- yes, yes and yes. But that doesn't negate the fact that we have lost a really charismatic and talented artist who at some point, directly or indirectly impacted our lives.

Posted by: plamar1031 | June 26, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

It's congnative dissonace, pure and simple. I'm guilty of it, and I accept that. I know the guyu was a lunatic and a freak and a kid-toucher and everything...But that doesn't change for me the fact that 'Thriller' is one of the top 10 greatest albums of all time.

I will never like Michael Jackson, but I will never not like Michael Jackson's music.

Posted by: VTDuffman | June 26, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

As genius as Michael Jackson was, it is hard to separate the artist from the man and here's why. When he was a child, he was a consummate performer precisely because he was intimidated and terrorized by his father. Had his father not abused him so, would he have had the same ambition and drive? We'll never know.

Fast forward to adulthood and you have a complex man with moments of brilliance that were displayed when he had good and talented people around him, like Quincy Jones. But he could not sustain it because he spent most of his time running away from that scared little boy he used to be. The surgeries, the isolation, even the alleged child molestation and his strange custody control over his children. It comes from the same place that kept him from pursuing the movie career he had wanted or from writing more interesting lyrics about life and love.

Of course is wrong to victimize a child. But we all have to remember that as a child, he was victimized himself. He never had a chance to break the cycle. In his death, the irony might be that his own children have a chance to break the cycle. That's my hope.

Posted by: mdreader01 | June 26, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

With all the hoopla reviewing his life, has anyone said what will happen to his kids? Where are they now, who will they stay with short term, and where will they live long term? Will their mother(s) be back in their lives?

Posted by: agog1 | June 26, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

As sad as I am about his passing, to me, he died 15 years ago.

I hope that his children will have a better chance at normalcy than they would have in the bizarre world of his he had them. I hope than can live without masks.

Posted by: mdem929 | June 26, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

agog - i heard on the radio this morning that the kids will probably go to his mother (who I don't know much about other than she let Joe Jackson terrorize her own kids). Debbie Rowe signed away all parental rights, so she cannot know try to get custody. (Plus, I think she's only the Mom to the older two.)

Posted by: suzannepdc | June 26, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

I am not sure that we *know* that he was a "kid toucher." We do know that he was *accused* of touching kids, but he was a great target for that accusation for that due to his other weirdness and his money. In absolutely no way do I mean to defend child molestation, but I am just not sure that we actually *know* that was the case...
I have always thought that many of MJ's problems - the weirdness, the freakishness, the seeming inability to cope with reality - stemmed from his complete lack of childhood and being thrust into the spotlight at so tender an age, and from the (alleged) abuse at the hand of his father. We have seen this play out with other child stars too. It has always seemed to me that MJ was kind of stuck as a young boy himself, that he never fully developed into a mature adult and I often wondered if his admittedly inappropriate relationships with children were more a product of that than of any predatory or monstrous proclivity.
Anyway, I think his life was sad from the get go. I think he was used by his father and resented by his brothers and targeted by gold diggers and hangers on of every description. It's no wonder he was paranoid. Maybe he would have benefitted from the oversight of one Mr. Jaime Spears...
Oh, I have heard that his children will now be under the custody of his parents. I had so hoped that they would be taken by Aunt Janet, but the word is that he had never made arrangements for their care in case of his death. People, make a will, there is no excuse for this.

Posted by: VaLGaL | June 26, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Ed McMahon: yawn

Farrah Fawcett: yawn

Michael Jackson: yawn

Jerri Nelsen Fitzgerald: now that's sad

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5h7dEn62AYluMJP0ux50-irj7-5aQD9912PE85

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | June 26, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

"I will never like Michael Jackson, but I will never not like Michael Jackson's music." --VTDuffman

Exactly. And while it can be hard to separate the person from the artist, in Michael Jackon's case, both his brilliant talent and the sheer volume of his great work transcends much of the debate about alleged legal or moral guilt.

Posted by: td_in_baltimore | June 26, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

I was greatly saddened with the death of Michael Jackson. I am a proud fan of Michael Jackson and his music. His music is often the soundtrack of my life and I am emotionally tied to a lot of his songs because of the memories that are evoked. Like plamar1031, I was excited to hear about his upcoming concerts and was looking forward to his potential comeback. Admittedly, Michael Jackson had his fair share of life dramas but I also think he had a crazy upbringing and life which no one could have survived without a few eccentricities.

I think what is interesting in the observation of the coverage and commentary of his death is almost the divide in the reaction, not only between generations but also between the color lines in the US.

Posted by: yanni1976 | June 26, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

When I think of MJ I think Greek Tragedy. He was best by external and internal demons. It wasn't a good combination. RIP MJ.

Posted by: caroleg1 | June 26, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

I was thinking how much his life was like Elvis's and how we also want to remember Elvis in his prime (not the bloated, drug addicted person he became). Also, the fact that their realities became warped by tremendous fame. I think there is no contradiction in acknowledging the great music these folks gave us, while also understanding they had their flaws as people.

Posted by: kvs71 | June 26, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

I can appreciate his music while wanting him to pay for his crimes. I can also mourn his passing for the loss to the music world (although what has he done lately? ooops wrong Jackson) and to his children while knowing he has a lot of 'splaining to do in the afterlife.

As for the children, Debra Rowe may have signed the rights away, but with the changed circumstances, she can petition the court to reinstate them. After all, she signed them away in a contract with Jackson, not in a court of law. Jackson even sued her on that contract once, the issue of parental rights was not reached only whether she was still entitled payments since she had talked about MJ. She also sued for visitation a few years ago and I believe it was granted. So, she could argue that since she is the sole known biological parent of the two older ones she should get custody. Especially because she can argue that the mother still lives with the guy who abuses children and they have no money. MJ supported them and the home is mortgaged. Debra Rowe has her own business raising and training horses.

Which brings up another question -- all his debts? Will the Beatles finally get their catalog back when the MJ estate is liquidated to pay the debts?

Posted by: epjd | June 26, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Re McMahon, Fawcett, Jackson. For most people, I think the memories these names evoke are as important, or more important, than the people themselves. While Dr. FitzGerald by all reports was a stellar and courageous person, I think her name does not resonate with as many people or evoke the nostalgia that the others do. In a sense, when we grieve for them, we grieve for our younger selves.

Posted by: reddragon1 | June 26, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

ep - Just read on tmz that the Debbie Rowe had not signed away her rights as previously believed - she tried to give up her rights, and the Judge ruled that she had, but then reseved herself (it seems that one reason was that they did not conduct the parental fitness evaluation as required under CA law), but she's only the mother of two of the three - just hope that, no matter what, all three get to stay together.

Posted by: suzannepdc | June 26, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I think it is indeed possible to separate the art from the artist. The same could be said for Farrah Fawcett, who had a tumultous personal life but some really good acting. Michael Jackson was an incredibly talented artist -- how I feel about his personal neuroses doesn't change that.

All that said ... I wonder why I feel this way about Michael and Farrah, and not Woody Allen (who turns my stomach) and Tom Cruise (who I can't stand to watch anymore).

Posted by: Californian11 | June 26, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

No, I don't buy it. You're just trying to justify thinking Micheal was still great. He wasn't. His legacy is that of plastic surgery, perversion and pedophilia. Now that he'd dead, the media are turning him into a saint. He wasn't Elvis, he wasn't the Beatles. His contributions are base and vile. I hope "his" kids inherit the royalties from all the songs everyone has gone nuts downloading.

Posted by: doobrah | June 26, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Dr. FitzGerald grew up close to where I did. We are proud of her as a doctor and as an Irish American. However, she is in no way more popular with the masses than the three stars who have died this week.

Are there any normal Jaskson's who can take these kids? Don't they have an older sister who isn't in showbiz? Micheal's mom should not get custody. I am sure there is a will.

Posted by: supersonic2 | June 26, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

That always happens, doobrah. Case in point: Ronald Reagan. Is there anything NOT named after that guy? Many of us in this country do not think he was a good president and is definitely not worthy of the sainthood being bestowed upon him since his death.

Posted by: Californian11 | June 26, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Elvis was romancing Priscilla when she was underaged, I'm sure Woody was doing the same to Soon Yi, but that hasn't changed my opinion of "Sleeper" or "Love Me Tender."

I'm just sad for the generations that only know him as Wacko Jacko.

I'll try to remember that little boy in J5 & the guy that gave us Thriller, THAT was MY Michael Jackson, not that sickly pallid white woman that has been parading around for the last few years saying she's Michael Jackson.

Posted by: wadejg | June 26, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

by -TS- June 25, 2009 10:21 PM PDT
Whom Was Michael Jackson? Michael Jackson Was BlackSmith Whom Forged Iron of Our Red Hot Street, Taking ilBeGottons & thru Fire od Creativeity, Sparks & Hammering Beat of Rythmic Gesturing, New Self Awareness Was Forged. True Kinship With ALL Peoples. Truely One of Worlds GREATEST Artist. Going from Friends Family & Opening Market. Machael Jackson Took Arts To heights Never Thought Possible.

michael Jackson Was MAN of GREAT Devotion to Family & Humanity, Knowing of Special Position Michaels Family Had Carved For Jacksons,yet Humble. Caring Friendship that Molded Socieities Brethren Into True Self Appreciation & Pride.Michaels Skills Are Unsurpassed,Snipped By Fate or BAD Luck, Machael Jackson Will Never Be Replaced In Arts & Letters.

Had Michael Lived In Peace And Harmony AS Michael Sought, Near Shakespearean of Modern Age Was Emerging. Forger of Language & Culture, Introspective Eye, Now Upon Hard Works & Loves of Youth, Polictical Force, BAR None. Michael Jackson Generously Gave Talent To Video Sercves, ALL Over WEB, Shows Michaels Humbleness & Gratitude. Its Fright That Michael IS Gone. Unkowninf of Own Blessed Works. Us. Michaels Children of Delight, Will Hold Michael Jackson Dearly IN Our Hearts Until
Day We Die. too.

Signed:PHYSICIAN THOMAS STEWART von DRASHEK M.D.,D.D.,B.F.A

Posted by: ThomasStewart1 | June 26, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Californian11, I offer this as free advice. Remember, you get what you pay for. Farrah and Michael evoke a particular era. Woody and Wee Tom are still doing what they do.


Woody has been added to the Lizicon (I think) as a noun for someone who has abnormally friendly relations with their kin. For example, if what they say about Morgan Freeman is true, he is an uber-woody.

Supersonic2, your question is too long. The question is, "are there any normal Jacksons?"

Posted by: reddragon1 | June 26, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Careful, doobrah - you're liable to grind that axe down to nothing going at it so hard.

You might be able to argue that MJ wasn't the equal of Elvis or the Beatles.

On the other hand, saying that "his contributions are base and vile" sounds like the kind of evaluation he might get from Fred Phelps at the Westboro Baptist Church, but no reasonable person could say that with a straight face.

Posted by: byoolin1 | June 26, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Last night I watched the 10pm coverage of Michael Jackson on CBS.

On the screen were Harry Reasoner and Michael's lawyer. The lawyer was very emotional and made a statement that Jackson had been abusing prescription drugs for years and that if this proved to be the cause of Jackson's death, he would not remain silent about it because he had been warning the people around Jackson for a long time that Michael was putting himself at great risk with these drugs.

Now THIS was relevant. This was an avenue a legitimate news organization would doggedly pursue.

But what did Reasoner do? He asked ONE, JUST ONE followup question so they apparently could get to showing footage from one of Michael's music videos.

I mean it was just pathetic. To watch a supposed news show being such a PR hack.

But it was just reflective of how most of the so-called news media is covering this. They're just whipping up hysteria for business purposes.

Because there is now so much cross ownership between media and entertainment outlets, there is no longer a clear distinction and no longer any truly objective journalism. At least that is the way it seems.

Michael Jackson was a pedophile. Because that leaves deleterious life-long effects on children, it should trump everything else about him.

While alive, Jackson went on 60 minutes and said straight out that he saw nothing wrong with inviting children into his bed. Of course, then he tried to spin it as something oh-so sweet and innocent, but c'mon there is no way of spinning it. No adult in his 40s does this kind of thing.

The guy was a classic pedophile. He screamed it out with the over-the-top lure of Neverland.

If Paul Newman, who devoted so much of his energy to building the camps for sick children had gone on "60 minutes" and talked about how he would invite the little girls in those camps into his bed, would we give Newman a pass because he was such a good actor?

No, we wouldn't and rightly so. In the same way, Michael Jackson should not get a pass because he was a gifted musician.

Posted by: trwv | June 26, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

It's not "giving a pass," it's separating the art from the artist.

Was "Thriller" a great album, yes or no?

Was "Cool Hand Luke" a great film, yes or no?

Was "Guernica" a great painting, yes or no?

We have no trouble separating art from artist when it's the other way around - when perfectly nice guys create mediocrity. The difference is nobody ever got famous for being a crap painter, but really good with kids and pets.

Posted by: byoolin1 | June 26, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Was O.J. Simpson a great football player?

Yes, but so what compared to the harm he did.

Posted by: trwv | June 26, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

agog - i heard on the radio this morning that the kids will probably go to his mother (who I don't know much about other than she let Joe Jackson terrorize her own kids).

Posted by: suzannepdc | June 26, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Wow! Will MJ's kids be raised as JWs? Talk about irony...

Posted by: jezebel3 | June 26, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Exactly my point, trwv: OJ *was* a great football player. And a murderer. Remember him how you want, but it's possible to be both. (You could say that it's what makes America great.)

****

From the "Overheard At The Office" website:

Excited coworker: I have to tell you a story about Jackson.

Surly coworker: Wait, is Jackson your dog?

Excited coworker, excitedly: Yes!

Surly coworker: I have to go. (walks out of the room)

Posted by: byoolin1 | June 26, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

On MSNBC just now:

1. There was no will.

2. Michael Jackson was not the sperm donor.

3. Michael purchased the sole custody of the oldest two children from Debbie Rowe.

The kids are currently in his mother's custody and until the sperm donor (the same for all three) comes forward, that is likely where they will stay.

Posted by: mdreader01 | June 26, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Wow. *I* have a will, and I'm just a normal person. Amazing when uber-rich celebs don't think that far ahead. 'Course, apparently MJ was in uber-debt.

byoo, you crack. me. up. That is all. :)

Posted by: Californian11 | June 26, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Quote: Exactly my point, trwv: OJ *was* a great football player. And a murderer. Remember him how you want, but it's possible to be both. (You could say that it's what makes America great.)
__________________________________________

Yes, it's possible to be both, but thanks in large part to the media, Simpson's athletic contributions are now significantly tainted by the perception of him as a criminal (even though he may have gotten away with his crime in the legal system).

In the same way, Robert Blake, though acquitted, has been permanently stained. Big whoop that he happened to be a good actor.

There is some behavior that leaves a reputation permanently altered. Pedophilia should be one of them. Maybe Michael Jackson did not take a life, but who knows how many children he robbed of their right to an adulthood that was not terminally riddled with the aftershocks of their experience with Jackson.

That's why I resent the media putting more emphasis on Michael Jackson's gifts as a musician than on his transgressions against children.

Phil Spector was also a genius in the field of music. But in context of the rest of it, so what?


Posted by: trwv | June 26, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Sas
Jerri Nelsen Fitzgerald: now that's sad.

So true, cryptid. She was a genuine hero.


Re Liz' point: My mother forbade Wagner's music in our household when I was growing up (because his music had been among Hitler's faves), so we didn't listen to the Met on radio whenever they did any of his operas; I finally heard "Tristan und Isolde" and "Siegfried" in a college music survey course. My mother was not alone: Does anyone else remember the major objections when music director Zubin Mehta (I think) programmed the overture to "Die Meistersinger" for the Israel Philharmonic? Ditto for my mother and the music of Richard Strauss, who was very elderly and sat out the War in Switzerland (and even though he had a Jewish daughter-in-law).

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | June 26, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

I looked through the responses to Liz' earlier posting "Share Your Michael Jackson Memories," and I see no memories from those who, as children, spent the night with Jacko at Neverland.

I am sooo disappointed. I suppose they and their agents are saving their first-person accounts for their upcoming books and tabloid internviews.

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | June 26, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

No one is addressing the real issue here:

Was Micheal Jackson or was he not sitting on the toilet when he died?

God Almighty, everybody. Get a life!

(Me too.)

Posted by: wgmadden | June 26, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

OJ *was* a great football player.

I feel sorry for baby boys who were named OJ after him, before the murders. What a terrible burden to bear. Does anyone know some of them changed their names later in life, after the scandal?

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | June 26, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

"There is some behavior that leaves a reputation permanently altered."

First of all, It's not a very good comparison because OJ and Robert Blake were not to their respective fields what Michael Jackson was to Pop Music. Not even the same stratosphere.

But that doesn't even really matter. The whole point is separating the artist from the art. I don't know any sane person who thinks that Michael Jackson was a Good Dude. I also don't know any same person who doesn't think that "Billie Jean" is a great song.

If you can't separate the art from the artist, that's cool too. My opinion, however, is that you're depriving yourself as a result.

Posted by: VTDuffman | June 26, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I put together my thoughts on Jacko together on my blog including some thoughts about the artist/person duality:

http://livebythefoma.blogspot.com/2009/06/michael-jackson-remembered.html

To quote myself:

The rumors about his personal life got darker and more twisted. There were lawsuits and settlements and testimony too creepy to dismiss. Jackson's arrested adolescence turned into a fixation with adolescents that got him arrested. He played with his image, perhaps to distract us from his real life with magician-like redirection. The difference between reality and persona became too hard to separate. In the Rashomon cult of celebrity we will never know the truth. Not all of it.

Posted by: yellojkt | June 26, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Nosy, I recall that Mehta caught a lot of flack from the "Never Again" crowd for including Wagner in some of the Israel Philharmonic's programs.

Red Dragon, you're right about deceased celebrities being representations of our younger selves. However, I have plenty of personal memories from my youth to consider, and many more that I'd like to forget.

As to the standing of Michael Jackson, Ed McMahon and Farrah Fawcett, I'd like to be around in 30 years to see how their artistic reputations stand the test of time. Actually, you can get a good idea of that today. Ask your relatives aged 12-24 what they think of Michael Jackson, Ed Mcmahon and Farrah Fawcett. Forest Lawn is full of the graves of once famous, now forgetten celebrities.

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | June 26, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

No one is addressing the real issue here:

Was Micheal Jackson or was he not sitting on the toilet when he died?

Posted by: wgmadden | June 26, 2009 2:59 PM

---------------------------------------------

http://instantrimshot.com/

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | June 26, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Oh, give me a break.

Jackson was acquitted - he wasn't on trial for being weird and neurotic, he was on trial for child molestation. Found not guilty.

trwv says:
"While alive, Jackson went on 60 minutes and said straight out that he saw nothing wrong with inviting children into his bed. Of course, then he tried to spin it as something oh-so sweet and innocent, but c'mon there is no way of spinning it. No adult in his 40s does this kind of thing."

I have had sleepovers with my 7-year-old niece (I am female, in my 40s). We have slept in the same double bed, and in sleeping bags on the floor. I hug her, I brush her hair, we play dress-up. I'm not molesting her, and nobody thinks I'm molesting her.

Admittedly I'm not a crazy pop star addicted to plastic surgery, but what differentiates my actions between his? The fact that I'm not a public figure, and that I'm not rich enough to get sued? The fact that I act societally "normal" in public? Or, nothing, because he wasn't doing anything wrong either? Unless someone can definitively prove that he has molested children, we need to believe in "innocent until proven guilty".

Just because he was over-the-top nuts doesn't make him a pedophile. But people assume that someone who is mentally ill on any level must also be morally corrupt. Give it up!

jkm

Posted by: schnitz108 | June 26, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Sas, in 30 years:

* They'll still be playing Michael Jackson's music on the radio (on "oldies" stations akin to wherever Elvis and/or Sinatra music is airing now).

* As for Farrah Fawcett, you'll have to search a bit to find "Charlie's Angels" episodes and "Logan's Run." But they'll be there, and not too hard to find.

* But unless there's an Ed McMahon Satellite Channel somewhere dedicated to preserving "The Tonight Show" and/or "Star Search" reruns, it'll be tough to locate his work. (Seen Jack Paar clips lately?)

Part of that inequity is due to when they became famous -- why do we still watch "I Love Lucy?" Because it was recorded for posterity, unlike other 40s/50s shows.

To your point, though, in time all three will fade from memory; such is fame. But let's enjoy the art while we can.

Posted by: td_in_baltimore | June 26, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

"Oh, give me a break.

Jackson was acquitted - he wasn't on trial for being weird and neurotic, he was on trial for child molestation. Found not guilty."

I argue that you're not helping either. Anyone with two eyes and a brain knows the chances are much more likely he was a kid diddler than he wasn't. Someone in that exact same situation but without the money and the fame would be in jail for life.

The bottom line is that the "acquitted" line of reasoning doesn't really hold a lot of water in a country where everybody knows the justice system favors the rich and powerful.

Posted by: VTDuffman | June 26, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

EVEYRONE should have a will. If you don't have one, get one. Call the bar association for a referral or watch for free will clinics. Get an advanced medical directive while you are at it too. This keeps your loved ones from having to make difficult decisions at an overly emotional time.

Okay, PSA to keep lawyers employed over. I thought the sperm donor was anonymous? How are they going to find him so he can assert his rights. As for Debra Rowe's rights, since the purchase may be void as adverse to public policy, she can reassert rights. I bet she will.

Posted by: epjd | June 26, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Oh yeah, whoever couldn't listen to Wagner -- you have no clue how lucky you were. I went to see The Valkryie once. Thought I was gonna die of old age before it was over. Wagner should be ignored not for Nazi ties (he was dead by then and had no say in them using his work) but because his stuff is soooooooo long and boring.

Posted by: epjd | June 26, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

When?

Posted by: alligator10 | June 26, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Being acquitted only means not found guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Even Dr. Sam Shepherd's son could never get his late father (no, not Jessica Lange's longtime squeeze, Sam Shepard) found "innocent," just had to settle for "not guilty."

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | June 26, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

ep, dear, we'll just have to agree to disagree over Wagner's operas. But I promise never to force you to attend (or watch, or listen to) one with me, as long as you promise not to stop me from doing so. OK?

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | June 26, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

BTW, some brilliant MJ snark on Pookie's online chat today:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2009/06/25/DI2009062502559.html

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | June 26, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

ep,

Long and boring was considered good for 19th century composers. Guys needed a place to fall asleep while they were out with their SOs.

Posted by: reddragon1 | June 26, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

wait-Newman was camp-buddies with little girls? I thought he had just cheated on Joanne Woodward (a concept that's hard to get the mind around.)

Posted by: reddragon1 | June 26, 2009 3:44 PM | Report abuse

ep, Wagner operas are not meant to be run as marathons. At Bayreuth, the intermissions between acts of Wagner operas would be long enough for an entire meal!

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | June 26, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

I have had sleepovers with my 7-year-old niece (I am female, in my 40s). We have slept in the same double bed, and in sleeping bags on the floor. I hug her, I brush her hair, we play dress-up. I'm not molesting her, and nobody thinks I'm molesting her.
*******************************************

What if she weren't your niece? What if you, while a single adult and childless as Michael Jackson was at the time, had a home which had been wall-to-wall done up as a children's playhouse.

And to this playhouse you then invited the children in your neighborhood. And invited them not only into your house, but into your bed.

And oh yeah, to get the scenario closer to Michael Jackson's own, you had so altered your physical appearance as to be freak-like and to appear to want to erase your own gender. Say instead of wearing lipstick and eye makeup as Michael did, you, as a female, walked around with a beard and mustache you had pasted on.

And you had settled an abuse of child molestation out of court for millions.

Etc. etc.

All this would be much closer to the situation with Michael Jackson than what you have described with your niece.

Posted by: trwv | June 26, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Liz -
I wish you had one of those "Like" Facebook buttons - this post was pitch perfect. Nice job!

Posted by: Lizka | June 26, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Deal Nosy. Even with a meal break and regular other intermissions, The Valkryie was too long for me. I love opera. Just not Wagner. So glad I live in DC. Got to see Placido Domingo in Tamerlano last year as my graduation present to myself.

As for Jacko and the child molestation charges. Don't forget, not only did he invite the children over, but when the families came, they slept in cabins outside the main house while MJ insisted the child share his bed. And he only invited little boys over, not girls. I think the police picked the wrong family to come forward since they were grifters. but, if they had found someone else without that past, the outcome might have been different.

Jacko didn't help himself by insisting on having the kids over. Nor by surrounding himself with people who just used him. He didn't have a parent like Brtiney Spears to step in and save him. If Brit's parents had not stepped in, we might be discussin her death.

Posted by: epjd | June 26, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Jackson was acquitted - he wasn't on trial for being weird and neurotic, he was on trial for child molestation. Found not guilty.

*****
someone else already addressed a response to this comment, but i can't help myself. people equate not guilty with innocent and it means no such thing. all it means is 1. the jury disregarded the evidence and did not convict (jury nullification) or 2. the evidence was insufficient to meet the burden of proof or 3. the prosecution lawyers were not good a la o.j. it does not and i repeat, does not mean the accused is innocent. that said, i'd rather see a guilty person walk every day of the week than see an innocent person stuck in prison.

Posted by: frieda406 | June 26, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Hear, hear, ep. Everyone in my family has both, thank goodness.

Posted by: Californian11 | June 26, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

trwv wrote, "Phil Spector was also a genius in the field of music. But in context of the rest of it, so what?"

See, *that* I completely understand. What he did to "Let It Be" was unforgivable.

Posted by: byoolin1 | June 26, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

frieda wrote, "people equate not guilty with innocent and it means no such thing. all it means is 1. the jury disregarded the evidence and did not convict (jury nullification) or 2. the evidence was insufficient to meet the burden of proof or 3. the prosecution lawyers were not good a la o.j. it does not and i repeat, does not mean the accused is innocent."

No room for "4. the person is actually innocent"?

And that doesn't even necessarily require the idea that under our system, the person on trial *is* innocent.

Posted by: byoolin1 | June 26, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

In the US, you are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Not guilty in the US is not the equivalent of the Scottish "not proven." It means innocent as in didn't do it according to the law. Legally, Michael Jackson was innocent of child molestation. In the court of public opinion, that is another matter.

Posted by: epjd | June 26, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

In the interests of full disclosure, I feel I should point out:

1. Of course MJ was a creepy guy. Didn't like his music much, either.

2. Of course OJ killed those people. Couldn't give a rat's behind about the NFL.

3. Phil Spector damn near ruined Let It Be (esp. Across The Universe & The Long and Winding Road).

4. I don't have a will. Upon my death I expect a major battle for custody of my goalie equipment, and I don't know what the loser of that battle will do with it.

Posted by: byoolin1 | June 26, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

"Ask someone who is 20-24..."

How about kids? Yesterday, I came home from work and one of my kids told me that "the guy who sang 'Thriller' died."

My kids were born after his last best-selling album.

Michael Jackson made some amazing music and videos with some of the best producers, choreographers and directors in the business. He was untoppable. Then, he descended into madness and everyone around him just stood around and watched. I stopped being a fan after "Bad." He severed his partnership with Quincy Jones and went in a completely different direction in the 90's. To me, that's when Michael became a caricature of himself--deeply disturbing as a person and not very interesting as a performer.

Posted by: mdreader01 | June 26, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

I have to share this. Hal Sparks filled in for Stephanie Miller on her radio show today and had this observation about Michael Jackson:

"Of course the guy was strange. Do you realize that he wrote two songs about NOT sleeping with a groupie? ["Billie Jean" and "Dirty Diana"] Everyone knows that you go into rock and roll for the chicks."

Posted by: mdreader01 | June 26, 2009 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Likewise, mdreader, MSNBC has a headline this afternoon, "The 'King' is dead, long live his merchandise." (Apparently Amazon is being swamped with orders).

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | June 26, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Living in LA meant that we were inundated with more details than anyone would want in the two MJ allegations/incidents/settlement/trial. I eventually developed an opinion about his guilt or innocence based only on what we can know from the proceedings.

First, Michael has vitiligo. It isn't the really bad kind (big splotches of non-pigmented skin all over the place)--he's got the same kind I have, which is nicknamed the "lip-tip syndrome". Means I have a small splotch on my lip and no pigment at the ends of my fingers and toes. (Hence Michael's infamous glove--I always figured it was super noticeable on that hand, especially as he had darker skin then so the white blotches would be striking). There's no effective treatment. However, for those with it over more than 50% of their body, one option is to de-pigment the rest of you, which is clearly what he was doing as he went from black to paler than I am. Another feature of this syndrome, especially for men, is it can appear on his, er, equipment. Which would make his equipment highly identifiable. Which was a feature of the trial. (continued in second post)

Posted by: sorcerers_cat | June 26, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse


So what I think happened is he, man/child, had boys over. I think he thinks of himself of an age with them. He has no friends his own age. I think they went swimming and changed in front of each other just like the kids in the locker room. I think for sure some of those kids would have seen him naked. I'm not convinced that he ever did anything sexual with them. There were too many who also stayed with him over the years that said he did not.

So, assuming the above is correct, is this still inappropriate behavior for a grown man? Yes. The parents were out of their minds to allow sleepovers and unsupervised visits because there's no way to know that it's safe. Inappropriate is not necessarily criminal, though. And I never liked the argument that "any other man" would have been convicted and jailed--he's NOT any other man, he's Michael Freakin' Jackson, on stage since childhood, terrorized by his father, childlike in manner who builds himself a peter pan ranch. He's not "normal", he was never a proper child and more or less became one when he could afford it. He's always struck me as totally asexual, like an adolescent boy. It doesn't track for me that he'd be a sexual predator.

Just my opinion. We'll never know for sure.

Posted by: sorcerers_cat | June 26, 2009 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, meant to say "highly identifiable even from a distance"--in other words, being able to describe in detail marks on his body wouldn't NECESSARILY be because of proximity, especially with black skin.

Posted by: sorcerers_cat | June 26, 2009 6:50 PM | Report abuse

No room for "4. the person is actually innocent"?

sometimes. but the writer wrote that the not guilty result showed he was innocent and that's not always the case, now is it? i'm only speaking from 31 years of being a lawyer.

Posted by: frieda406 | June 26, 2009 10:31 PM | Report abuse

Legally, Michael Jackson was innocent of child molestation.
******
i'm sorry but that's wrong. not guilty does not mean innocent, legal or any other way. it means not guilty. not innocent. he was not guilty of the chargs. scotland? how relevant.

Posted by: frieda406 | June 26, 2009 10:34 PM | Report abuse

in addition, the constitutional law in a criminal case requires the government/prosecutor to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. it's not the other way around. no one would even face a trial unless someone believed the accused was guilty, that a crime had been committed. now that someone could be the victim, the police, the prosecutor, the grand jury, but someone believed it and the accused was charged. the government presented sufficient evidence for the charges to be issued and mj to be tried by a jury. that means there was probable cause to believe he committed the crime(s). the fact that he was found not guilty does not mean he did not commit the crime. what's so hard to understand about that concept?

Posted by: frieda406 | June 26, 2009 10:42 PM | Report abuse

His celebrity kept him out of jail and out of Saint E's. If someone with his character traits and personality disorders had moved into the burbs, authorities would have been called. Two months ago in LV there were whispers about him living close to a school.

Posted by: whocares666 | June 28, 2009 12:48 AM | Report abuse

Legally, Michael Jackson was innocent of child molestation.
******
i'm sorry but that's wrong. not guilty does not mean innocent, legal or any other way. it means not guilty. not innocent. he was not guilty of the chargs. scotland? how relevant.

Posted by: frieda406 | June 26, 2009 10:34 PM | Report abuse
*********************

Actually frieda406 the in this country a man is innocent until proven guilty. Now if the government fails to prove someone's guilt than by law that person's innocense stands. So the statement "Legally, Michael Jackson was innocent of child molestation" is not entirely an incorrect one.

Posted by: 6thsense79 | June 28, 2009 3:39 AM | Report abuse

We are all free to develop our own opinions about this and other art vs the artist matters. That's what makes this country (AMERICA) so GREAT! I appreciate these types of articles, because it gives us all the opportunity to hear how open and closed-minded we can be. Like it or not, Michael Jackson will live forever through his music. So yes, the artist and his art are separate. I can continue to think that he was the greatest entertainer ever, without addressing my opinion or others' opinions of his personal life.
My heart goes out to his children and family.

Posted by: Nctrl365 | June 28, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Murray has NO dea Number Nor License., Michaels Dead Body Photo'd
Heres Michaels Dead body On Gurny:

http://www.geocities.com/tsvondrashekmd/getattachment.jpg

Notice Its Nighttime. Obvious question, why was anyone inside home, in Michaels bedroom, specificlly, Murray, HAs NO License Nor dea number, its not hard to believe that claims to not have written prescription. Probably designer look alike drugs(called Police Drugs), known as: Diethlyamide, made to look like drugs mentined. Short lived trance effect is good indication of that.
Most likely Murray entered Michaels bedroom, suffocated Michael Jackson with Rubber Bag over head(Procedure Pathologies Like Cardiac Arrest), standard medical termination device, then got caught, late at night, Getting Thru While Family & Michael Was asleep. yet

coroner is nO md ethier. Bet is PEPSI ruined Michael Jacksons face when contract was disputed, Killed michael Jackson when Michael was about to start new catalog of songs. Pepsi is Russian company & thats :From Russia With LOVE. Gangster Mayhem & Killing, enforced thru others by False Promises.
Signed:PHYSICIAN THOMAS STEWART von DRASHEK M.D.

posted by thomasxstewart on Jun 29, 09 at 10:47 am

Posted by: ThomasStewart | June 29, 2009 2:07 PM

Posted by: ThomasStewart1 | June 29, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

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