One thing you have to admit about the American pop-culture barrel: It really has no bottom. You think the Jackass/Bruno/Borat oeuvre was the last word in vulgarity? You have yet to meet Tucker Max. You think the long, sordid story of Michael Jackson’s corpse ended when his moldering bones were finally planted in Forest Lawn? You would be wrong.
I watched the trailer for “This Is It,” which is apparently a Michael Jackson concert movie, only there was no concert, so it’s been repackaged as a “rare, behind-the-scenes look” at the rehearsals, at least whatever sort of rehearsals could be held while Jackson was medicated into temporary uprightness. (I just Googled the phrase “rare, behind-the-scenes look.” Results: 133,000. Not so rare, I guess.) You have to marvel, really, at the unmitigated gall of the Jackson family and the cast of human cattle egrets who follow their herd, eating the blood-engorged ticks on LaToya’s back. The film will be in theaters for two weeks only; tickets will go on sale a month in advance. I suppose this will build buzz among the people included in the opening phrases that appear onscreen — the “billions reached” by his music (an uncomfortable echo of McDonald’s there, eh?), the “world inspired” by his “dreams,” etc.
Let me just pause for a moment and consider the brief flash shots of people driven to near-hysteria by the presence of their idol. A few years back, one of my colleagues won one of those Rotary Club scholarships to spend a few months overseas, being a Rotary ambassador. He went to Chile, where he distinguished himself as an ambassador of pop music; his first duty upon returning was to make mix tapes from his vast record collection and send them to South America, where his new friends were absolutely starved to hear anything other than whatever crap was carried on local radio. ABBA had played a series of shows in Santiago while he was there, and it was an event that nearly brought the city to a standstill. When I hear people talk about Michael Jackson and what his music meant to them, all I can figure is, they must have recently moved here from Chile.
As a cynic, I’ve been cheered to see the reaction to the mountain of evidence in the case, which is pretty much exactly as I predicted when the corpse was still warm: Jackson died of a drug overdose, and was an abuser at a level you could only call baroque; the most ossified Detroit junkie must stand mute in the shade of a man who had a private physician turn his bedroom into an operating theater every night, literally anesthetizing him into unconsciousness. And was I right about the other thing I predicted? Ahem:
“He was just careful about what he ate; he just tried to be healthy,” said Kevin McLin, a friend of the family and Jackson’s former publicist. “He ate turkey burgers, Chinese food, a lot of vegetables. He always tried to eat healthy stuff. … He tried to stay away from red meat.”
So what is the official reaction to this news? Charging Jackson’s doctor with homicide. He killed our hero, that bad man! All the patient wanted was a good night’s sleep, even if it had to be aided by the drug they use to keep you quiet while a surgeon is sawing your sternum in two, and what did the quack doctor do? Gave him too much, depriving the world of his music and inspiring dreams! And we know he was a wonderful, wonderful person, on the brink of a comeback, because his daughter said so at the funeral, right after Auntie Janet made sure she was speaking directly into the microphone.
During the crack wars, when the homicide rate in places like Fort Wayne was climbing through the roof, the editors at my newspaper would send a reporter to chat with the family of the murder victim, even when it was clear the victim was a sleazebag banger with a target on his back. The grieving mother always provided the same narrative: Sure, her boy had been bad, but he was turning his life around. The recent birth of his latest child had changed his heart, and he was planning to get his G.E.D., enroll in college and perhaps found a software empire, or maybe enter the ministry and help others. How tragic he was taken from us when his potential was so, so great.
It’s good to see the narrative hasn’t changed. It’s also good to see there were enough fragments of rehearsal footage, and millions of suckers, for the Jackson family. They have a lot of egrets to feed.
OK, then. I’m working extra hours this week, extra late hours, which have left me sleep-deprived and even crankier than normal. Not so much bloggage, but what I have is pretty good:
The Detroit City Council is rattling its saber about a strip-club crackdown. In a normal city, this would bring out the church people to say, hear hear. In Detroit, it brings out the strippers to say back the fuck off of my livelihood. (And, to be sure, a few church people.) Click through to note the fine booty on the woman speaking at the podium, and for this quote:
“I take care of my family,” said Omni Jenkins, 21, a dancer at a local club. “By cutting us off and making up all these rules, it’s going to cause crime rates to go up. It affects not only the entertainment community, but Detroit as a whole.”
Even lame-duck Martha Reeves gets off a good one. You can find it on your own. I gotta hit the shower. And the coffee pot.