We’ve spent nearly two weeks now pointlessly interviewing the man in the mirror, and—other than a lot of hasty revisionism—we have yet to begin changing our ways. In some respects, the alternately misty and damning reflection on what Michael Jackson’s death means to us has been a cathartic exploration of our relationship to celebrity itself. In other ways, it’s just been sort of annoying, a constant back-and-forth buzz of empty platitudes and pointless arguments whipped into a thundering but ultimately impotent vortex. But then, we suppose that’s not much different from the regular toil and trouble burning in our charmed pot of Friday Buzzkills.
And of course, now that we’ve laid a fresh blanket of snow on thorny ground with our rushed and somewhat guilty canonization, and the national consciousness has finally settled into a properly stymied “Show some respect!” versus “MICHAEL JACKSON WUZ A CHILD MOLESTER!!1!” point-counterpoint, we’re finally able to find some peace and get back to our comfort zone—namely, talking about what a fucking weirdo he was, and which he will continue to be until the last unauthorized biography is uploaded directly to your brain-pan sometime around 2059. In the meantime, the daily updated post-mortem is its own compelling page-turner, with revelations pouring in seemingly on the hour about Jackson’s prodigious drug intake, which seem to suggest that, in the years leading up to his death, the pop star was less flesh-and-blood creature than merely powdery bones and increasingly translucent skin that barely concealed an internal, languidly boiling cauldron of Xanax and Demerol. That Jackson had trouble sleeping, suffered from panic attacks, and spent most of his days hiding behind a fog of downers isn’t much of a surprise, frankly: Fame at that level is nerve-wracking, with or without the insane level of scrutiny that Jackson lived under—and hiding under the protective bubble of a private fantasyland, and counting a chimpanzee and Elizabeth Taylor among your best friends pretty much suggests you’re using more than yoga and beer to unwind.
But naturally—and dispiritingly—that probe has now threatened to turn criminal, and the fingers of blame are being pointed at random Doctor Feelgoods and security guards who did what they did because they’d rather not go back to bouncing, thanks, which is both understandable and lamentable in its yearning to assign meaning to the death of a guy who waved goodbye to any sort of explanation for himself somewhere around the mid-’80s. And even though it’s those scapegoats who are most likely to swing for it, there’s an equally vociferous contingent that already sees a far broader conspiracy behind the death of the King, one that can never be brought to justice because it’s too far-reaching and powerful to ever face prosecution: You did it. You, with all your nasty comments and prurient speculations and “little boy’s pants half-off” jokes. You, with your endless thirst for details about his life—like the recently revealed fact that even his iconic glove was just a cover-up for his skin problem, or that his body is currently lying in state while his brain is hanging out in a glass jar in the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office—you just couldn’t get enough of that stuff, could you? You’re the one who drove daddy to drink, or in this case, inject painkillers directly into his neck. What’s wrong with you, anyway? Why can’t you just ignore every report of bizarre behavior that continues to drive the 24-hour news cycle even in the aftermath, and instead focus on the early artistic triumphs followed by the increasingly creatively stymied music that managed to trickle out every five to 10 years or so? What is your fascination with Michael Jackson’s forbidden closet of mystery?
Or maybe you’re one of the true believers who never listened to the rumors and genuinely regarded him as the King Of Pop. In that case, did you know you’re just another blasphemous idolator who, by paying respect to Jackson’s golden coffin, sublimated yourself before the altar of a latter-day Golden Calf, and have subsequently hurried the apocalypse by worshipping a false idol, whose death was perhaps not the culmination of years of exhaustion, poor health, and rampant drug abuse, but rather the angry smiting of the one and only (but still kinda jealous and attention-whorish) true God? And if it were only the hyperbolic natterings and grasping at theological straws of a marginalized section of society, would USA Today be posing that same question (to a guy who just so happened to write a new book about celebrity worship)? Think about it: You loved Michael too much, and now the end is nigh. Those who claim to see Michael Jackson’s face in strange cloud formations over New York City, or in the hollow of a tree stump, or those psychics who see deep numerological meaning in the theory that Jackson’s life was so intertwined with the number seven (or is it the number five… hey, who’s counting?)—and especially you, Corey Feldman, who attended that very funeral in your purloined wardrobe from Rock ’N’ Roll High School Forever, shamelessly making yourself over into the living image of your false idol—ye are the choirs of the damned, headed for a day of reckoning when you will be doomed to sing “P.Y.T.” over and over again for Satan’s amusement.
So you better wise up and listen to the Republican Party before it’s too late, who—as usual!—are the only ones with the moral fortitude to see through all the hagiography and call for an end to the needless attention being given over to Michael Jackson in the news, which they are accomplishing by appearing in the news and mentioning Michael Jackson every chance they get. Lone wolves like Pete King, who went before every camera he could find this week to decry the media’s “orgy of glorification” and tell everyone who would listen that Jackson was a “pervert” and “child molester,” and shame everyone who has wasted so much airtime on him when there are real things we could be talking about like, um, Mark Sanford and Sarah Palin—and oops, he has to go now because he has an O’Reilly Factor taping to get to about “Why Michael Jackson Isn’t Really A Black Icon, According To A White Guy From Fox News (Because White People Bought His Records, Which Somehow Proves That He’s Not A Black Musician, Because I Have No Idea What The Term “Crossover Artist” Means), And How Sick It Is That ‘A Cowardly Media Will Exploit Any Event For Ratings’—But That Doesn’t Include Us, Because We’re Totally The Ones Calling It.”
And beyond these clear-eyed pragmatists who refuse to be bullied into quiescence, or even changing the subject to one they think is more germane rather than bitching about being forced to comment on something no one asked them to comment on in the first place, there are the brave, everyday soldiers in the New York Senate government who refused to yield on their endless stalemate long enough to hold a moment of silence for Jackson and Farrah Fawcett. Nay, they coughed and murmured mightily, which was in, its in own small way, a latter-day Patrick Henry cry for liberty and the petty pursuit of control. Why, this whole thing might just be a stunt perpetrated by the liberal media to shift attention away from the cap-and-trade bill, Iran, and Obama’s secret plans to turn the White House into a super-conductive antenna used to summon Gozer The Gozerian! Or whatever! Point is, because you’re all so busy listening to Off The Wall, well, you’ll never know.
Except, of course, it’s not just the Republicans who have had it up to here with the never-ending coverage of the sudden and mysterious death of one of the most internationally famous and endlessly strange celebrities ever to walk the earth, which in fact has already tapered off remarkably, considering. Even Lead Liberal Jezebel Of The House Of The Rising Sun Nancy Pelosi put the immediate kibosh on Rep. Sheila “Jackson Is My Middle Name, Which Is Apparently Enough To Merit Me Wasting 10 Minutes Of Global Airtime With My Painfully Showy Ramblings” Lee’s much-ballyhooed resolution to have Congress officially recognize Jackson as “bad,” or whatever the hell that was. And even the common man-on-the-webcam has officially had enough, taking to the comment boards and the CNN iReport page to say, “I care about Iran and stuff! As I will laboriously explain over the next five minutes, I think there has been too much talk about Michael Jackson!” Thank God, then, that this is all almost over with: Jackson’s body will soon be reunited with his brain, rousted from its current layover in Berry Gordy’s crypt, and then laid to rest in an undisclosed location while doctors pontificate on the toxicology reports for the next several months and his once-whimsical, now creepily stilled personal amusement park begins its rapid transformation into a ghoulish tourist stop—in other words, things will be normal again. Even his father Joe Jackson is thinking about tomorrow; why, he’s already laying the groundwork for a showbiz career built around Jackson’s children. We hear he knows a thing or two about shaping young artists.
See? Everything’s going to be fine! Life goes on, etc. etc., and even death isn’t the end. Michael Jackson’s legacy will live on through his timeless music—and the cycle of rapid ascent to stardom followed by life-destroying scrutiny and inevitable public lambasting that’s about to be visited upon his kids tenfold—in much the same way that dying of heart disease was not enough to free pitchman Billy Mays, who’s been sentenced to at least another month or two of paddling the river Styx over bubbling currents of OxiClean with two new commercials that will find him extolling the virtues of Mighty Tape and something called the Mighty Putty Super Sack. While some worry that viewers won’t be able to get over a dead man excitedly telling them how to fix a leaky drain pipe, Mays’ business partner tastefully argues that if he knew the ads were being pulled, Mays would “roll over in his grave.” (Sounds like a job for Mighty Tape!)
Also providing some comfort in uncertain times: Knowing that no matter what fires may be raging below, the drizzly salve of an unbearably sappy Will Smith movie is never more than a few months away. The latest glurge-fest from the actor who had kids and summarily decided every single project would be about how much he lurves them is the high-concept City That Sailed, the story of a father and daughter separated by the Atlantic, whose lurve is so powerful that it causes Manhattan to split off and sail across the ocean, causing rampant power and water outages, widespread riots, and the immediate instituting of martial law by FEMA. Just kidding! It probably just involves people taking time out from their workaday schedules to watch dolphins frolic and reflect on the importance of their own families or whatever. Similarly, despite all the status-quo-challenging strides made by the Hispanic community over the years that recently culminated in the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, it’s somehow reassuring to know that things haven’t changed so much that, should a biopic be made about here, the role wouldn't still most likely go to Rosie Perez—we’re guessing because Salma Hayek will be busy that day and Ugly Betty is too young. And finally, no matter how bizarre the truth can be these days, we take comfort in the fact that Hollywood still has such a firm grip on the reins of fiction and imagination that it sees potential in backing a film based on View-Master, which is officially the last stop before Tinkertoys: The Movie.
And hey, if that’s still not enough to comfort you, how about the thought of a little Marcia-and-Jan Brady lesbian action? Even if it was just a joke that Maureen McCormick made to turn her otherwise pointless autobiography into a bestseller, the potent image of the sitcom sisters engaging in an on-set sapphic romp has done more than just keep McCormick from having to sign up for Celebrity Veterinary Hospital or whatever-the-fuck kind of offers she’s getting these days, it’s also apparently pissed Eve Plumb off enough that she’s reportedly no longer speaking to McCormick—and you know what that means: It has the ring of truth, which means you’re free to use it to momentarily distract yourself from the previous litany of bullshit. Or you could also have a good laugh at that joker Chris Brown, R&B’s own Alfred E. Neuman, who impishly arrived at Puff The Illogically Wealthy Dragon’s “White Party” last weekend wearing a $300,000 pendant that spelled out the word “Oops!” in diamonds. That incorrigible scamp, playing on our huffily p.c. expectations of decorum following a very public display of savagely beating your girlfriend!
Finally, if you still find yourself carrying the weight of the world, perhaps you could do with a good, thorough cleansing, Gwyneth Paltrow style. The actress took a break from her normal diet of bubbles and deep gulps of her own jasmine-scented breath for a three-week fast where she drank nothing but juice, which she delightedly told readers of her semi-regular GOOP discharge left her feeling “pure and happy and much lighter,” having dropped the “extra pounds” she gained during a brief “relax and allow my body to start producing hemoglobin again” phase. Those wishing to emulate Paltrow’s results, don’t forget to allow time for essential activities such as “sauna, massage, and skin-brushing,” okay? And while you’re at it, try to stay properly hydrated—ideally by gulping down a designer bottle of water that says, “I have a very sad, desperate need to be regarded as ‘cool,’ but no time or desire to keep up with things that are actually ‘cool’” like the new Ed Hardy Water. Much like the people who wear Ed Hardy clothing, Ed Hardy Structured Water is just as plain, boring, and indistinguishable as ordinary water, only wrapped in douche-y tattoo graphics. It’s also ridiculously expensive, and probably tastes like kissing Brett Michaels, but sweatier. In other words, it’s the perfect way to quench your thirst for inane bullshit after two weeks of unbearably sere conditions. Drink up, because who knows who else will die tomorrow?
Harve Pressnell was a veteran of musical theater on Broadway and in film whose most constant role was as Daddy Warbucks in various runs of Annie. His deep baritone and overbearing 6-foot-4-inch frame made him a natural for manly men—a harder role to fill in musicals than you may think—which landed him such plum leads as playing Rhett Butler in the ’70s musical version of Gone With The Wind and also in films such as Paint Your Wagon. But even those whose tastes don’t include singing and dancing will likely recognize Pressnell from his turn as William H. Macy’s father-in-law, Wade Gustafson, in Fargo, where with his brusque exterior and brushy mustache, Pressnell made a perfect take-action foil to the emasculated, floundering Macy. Among his many other film and TV roles: Face/Off, Saving Private Ryan, and the short-lived but beloved Andy Barker P.I., where he played the tough and cynical mentor to Andy Richter’s character. Pressnell died this week at the age of 75.
In a sad reminder that the early days of cinema are becoming all but lost to the history books, this week also saw the death of Bob Mitchell, the last surviving organist of the silent film era. Mitchell started accompanying movies such as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis when he was only 12 years old at a small theater in Pasadena, but found himself ousted by the age of 16 with the advent of talkies. He later went on to oversee the Robert Mitchell Boys Choir, which appeared in more than 100 films like Going My Way and That Girl From Paris, and eventually landed a job as the first house musician at Dodger Stadium in 1962. Mitchell returned to his roots in 1992, accompanying performances at L.A.’s Silent Movie Theater, where he played until his death this week at the age of 96.
Have a super weekend!