??Please, please be fair,? Michael Jackson pleaded during a telephone conversation I had with the pop star months ago. Journalist Martin Bashir had just released a documentary containing damaging footage of Michael Jackson sharing his bed with child visitors. He wanted me to tell his side of the story. Instead, I wrote about how regardless of whether he fondled the children or not, he still shared a bed with them, and that was unforgivable. As was the conduct of these kids parents, who were so star-craved that they funneled their own children into a stranger?s bed.
Now Jackson is in the midst of a child molestation trial. Inside the courtroom, Jackson?s accusers share salacious details about his sleepovers. Outside the courtroom, throngs of fans chant Michael?s name in enduring admiration.
One of Jackson?s representatives again called my office, pleading for me to treat him fairly in my column. Sure, I?ll try. But Jackson doesn?t make it easy. Last week, he showed up to court more than an hour late wearing pajamas. The judge had threatened to arrest him, before Jackson finally limped into the courtroom looking dazed and weakened. It?s probably an act, a way to garner public sympathy by giving the appearance of being persecuted. At the same time, he is laying the foundation to plead incapacity. My bet is that his lawyers file a motion next week claiming that Jackson is severely ill, and taking so much medication that he is having difficulty understanding the proceedings or meaningfully communicating with his attorneys. That would buy him time and allow him either to influence the jury pool by playing the part of the victim, or avoid the trial altogether by feigning incapacity indefinitely.
One wonders if it?s even worth the effort though. It is hard to imagine a jury sentencing Jackson to jail. Never underestimate the gratification he brings them by putting them so close to center stage. Then there is the sympathy factor. Who wants to send a frail withered Michael Jackson to his final demise? We all know what criminals do to alleged child molesters in jail. Michael would probably hang himself before stepping into a cell.
Meanwhile, the pulic cocks an eager ear toward the television as Jackson?s accusersshare lurid stories about sharing wine, pornography and a bed with the pop star. We read stories about how Jackson?s empire is teerterting on eocnomic collapse. We stare with bizarre fascination at Jackson?s oddly distorted face?that portrait of self hatred writ in flesh. And then E! Television packages it all up into daily reenactments, beamed out for the edification of the star craved.
I guess it?s the kind of story we feel we deserve. The public loves to put our heroes up on a hill, then gratify our egos by dragging them down. It?s been this way all of Jackson?s life. First his father crushed any childhood out of him; then the public refused to even let him walk down the street. He never really had a chance to be a part of society.
Somewhere along the line he freed himself. He got away from his father. He regressed away from an overbearing public and into the childhood he never had, sealing himself off from society in an amusement park fantasy world plucked from a child?s imagination. It?s a tragedy that he should be rewarded for his talent with such smothering scrutiny. Then again, he regularly slept in the same bed with kids. So who knows, maybe he?s just fooling us. Maybe the guy who sagged into court in his pajamas, is just setting us up for a plea of incapacity. Maybe he is just performing. It seems fair to ask.
My prediction: he walks. His accuser?s testimony has been riddled with inconsistencies and the jury will be looking for any excuse to let him walk. Still, his life will never be the same. This, not his art, will be the enduring legacy in people?s minds.