I’m hearing from all quarters today about the Michael Jackson Memorial that’s happening in L.A. today. As I wrote shortly after his death, Jackson was a talented guy with major problems. Twenty years ago he was one of the biggest pop stars on the planet, achieving levels of fame not seen since the days of Beatlemania. I get it, I really do.
The circus surrounding his memorial says more about the people in attendance than anything else, though. Since the early ’90s, Jackson’s fame has revolved entirely on his physical disintegration, his mental and emotional aberrations, and the accusations of pedophilia. From his sham marriages to his baby-dangling hijinx to hiding the faces of his childen with blankets and masks whenever they went out in public, Jackson’s continued level of fame is based on a combination of nostalgia for the days when Thriller blasted out of MTV every twenty minutes and the urge people have to look at accidents by the side of the road.
My guess is that most of the people in the Staples Center can’t name a Michael Jackson song after “Scream” or “You Are Not Alone” (if they can even remember those). For the record, “Scream” and “You Are Not Alone” came out in 1995, and “Alone” was his last number 1 hit on the Billboard charts. Jackson hasn’t even released an album in the past 8 years, what with those annoying interruptions from the police and all. Yes, Invincible briefly hit the Number 1 spot on Billboard in 2001, but that was just an initial surge of buying from the hardcore fans. You have to go back an additional 10 years to 1991 for the last real hit album he released.
Which, at long last, brings me to my point. Hey, it’s my site and I’ll take as long as I want to get to the point.
There certainly are legitimate mourners today: Jackson’s family, his friends, and his lawyers just to name a few hundred. But the Staples Center is filled with people who are mourning themselves. They are mourning the long-gone days of dancing to “Billie Jean” or eagerly anticipating the much-hyped premiere of the “Thriller” video. Jackson’s music was an integral part of their lives and in the midst of Jacksonmania in 1983 when the world was younger and so were we, Jackson seemed somehow more than mortal. Surely a man with this much talent (and who had not yet boarded the Crazy Train, though he was clearly waiting at the station with his bags packed) would live forever.
Michael Jackson was the Man in the Mirror for so many of those at the Staples Center. The weeping and gnashing of teeth, out of all proportion for a has-been pop star with a predilection for cuddling up to young boys, is a cry for a lost youth for most of those people who are lining the streets. I am sure there are some real fans who are legitimately upset. I was upset by the murder of John Lennon, and the stupid, stupid death of Kurt Cobain. I get that, too. But when Cobain killed himself, I never once thought along the lines of this truly disgusting open letter. What the writer of this letter fails to realize is that it is precisely this type of revolting sycophancy that hurt Jackson. What Jackson needed was not some knucklehead to tell him that he was “the Alpha.” He had plenty of those jackals surrounding him. Jackson needed someone to sit him down and say, “It’s time to grow the hell up, Mike.” It’s a good message for many of those spending today with tears in their eyes, too.
If you wish to honor the man’s music, put on Thriller and dance the night away, and reminisce about days gone by. Save the tears for someone who deserves them.
UPDATE: Michelle Malkin reminds us who really deserves honors.