June 25, 2009 – The day Michael Jackson died. Reflecting on this is an odd experience for me. This man is a huge personal hero, one whose passion and innate ability to entertain is accentuated by his irrepressible eccentricities. Most of the world loved him for his magnificent voice and groundbreaking body-talk – the “weird stuff” was something they had to look past to appreciate the pop royalty. But myself, and many others I’m sure, reveled in how strange he was -we loved him largely BECAUSE he was totally isolated and misunderstood by the rest of humankind.
This misfit mystique permeated in the countless montages reflecting on his career, often alongside similar dedications to former Angel Farrah Fawcett, 62, who also succumbed to death today following a long and very public battle with cancer. Her life in 5 minute video eulogies was characterized by a loving and committed romantic relationship with partner Ryan O’Neal, her persevering spirit, and a likable public persona. She seemed like a genuinely sweet human being.
This was quite a contrast to Jackson, whose personal life was often harshly indicted by a probing public (including the crippling allegations of child molestation, speculation of his cosmetic surgeries, and a questionable parenting style). He became known also for his lavish spending, which had resulted in incredible debts – a perplexing feat considering he is responsible for the highest selling musical album worldwide. On top of all this, the poor guy’s privacy was a thing of the past at age 5. He knew nothing of a life outside of international fame.
His life was most unfortunate – He had the innate talents and workmanship that meant he was destined for fame, but he showed signs of this so early on it tended to undermine basic childhood development. Even at 50, he retained a widely misunderstood man-child persona. For a culture so obsessed with youth, it was puzzlingly unkind to a full-grown man whose life was characterized by his desire to retreat to something simpler, who had romanticized the notion of childhood more than anyone else.
I will always hesitate in making the bold claim that a person is in a better place once they’ve died, even if, as I believe, that place is no where. But in Jackson’s case, I’m not sure where I stand. His debts were growing. His health was, apparently, and according to his own family, not very good. It seems the world was too much for him. I want to believe that, for someone who had such a hard time fitting into this life, there is an eventual promise of peace. He spent a good portion of his adult life building and hiding away in Neverland Ranch. His desire to escape, to uncover this idealized eternity of youth to him must have sounded like something close to heaven. The glorified “childhood experience” must have eluded Jackson. Indeed, being the King of Pop inevitably complicates things. But I’ll be damned if anyother pop star had so thoroughly earned such a title.
Here’s to hoping he’s found his Neverland.