It’s got to be thirty years, since the death of John Lennon, that we’ve gotten into the car and turned on the radio to hear the music of a single artist on every station. In the past 24 hours, the selection of Michael Jackson songs across the dial has been awe-inspiring and emotional.
We grew up with Michael Jackson’s music, can remember the first time we heard I Want You Back bursting out of the car radio speakers, saw The Jackson 5 on the Ed Sullivan Show. and his world-stopping performance at the Motown 25th Anniversary special on CBS. But that was long ago, and by the time the tabloid television industry was launched and moving into its heyday in the late 1980s, Michael Jackson’s glory days were behind him and he was descending into a kind of public madness that was not only tolerated but in many ways encouraged until August 7, 1993, the day he stepped onto a jetliner to embark on a concert tour in another part of the planet the very day that police in Los Angeles began investigating a thirteen-year-old-boy’s allegations that the self-proclaimed king of pop had molested him during a four-month romance. That was the day all the Home Alone with McCauley Culkin comedy segments, Elephant Man parodies and plastic surgery jokes stopped being funny and the Michael Jackson story became a crime story.
Now he was Jacko, and for the next ten years, as he paid off a pack of pubescent circle jerk buddies and sank deeper into a drug-addled seclusion that was as obvious and unspoken as the paedophilia traits of the past decade, Michael Jackson wasn’t funny any more.
We heard all the stories. We had all the information that we couldn’t air. And when a vengeful prosecutor who couldn’t get the god the first time managed to arrest and try Jacko for child abuse in 2003, everything was fair game.
But it wasn’t. The Jacko molestation case ended our editor’s sideline as a cable news television “talking head.”
“I was sitting in some satellite studio with an IFB in my ear and a monitor in the corner, arguing with some woman in New York over what Michael Jackson had been doing behind closed doors at Neverland," he recalled today. "During the commercial break I realized I didn’t know what the f*** I was talking about. I didn’t know what went on behind those closed doors. Neither did the woman I was arguing with. We were filling time.”
One tabloid television veteran made Jacko’s prosecution her industry, and while serving as a supposedly unbiased television reporter, twisted every line and repeated every rumour fed from the DA in a determined drive to put Jacko behind bars.
When the prosecutor couldn’t get a conviction, her career, for all intents and purposes, ended.
Jacko’s story is dark and because of his bizarre life, overdose death and molestation accusations, the celebrations and vigils that have carried on into a second day seem slightly twisted. Unless you concentrate on the music-- or discard the factoids that have become facts over the years, and reason that, in the words of a tabloid television godfather, Jacko is “the most maligned, persecuted and slandered person in our time.”
The world circus that's only just getting underway is the perfect tribute and one Jacko would appreciate. It's bound to exceed that of John Paul II. This is bigger than Elvis, who was considered a has been when he keeled over and didn’t even make the lead of CBS News. Already the conspiracy rumours are out there—that it’s an impersonator who died on Carolwood Drive, and that the real Jacko hightailed it to Bahrain to get out of those fifty concerts at the O2 Arena.