Last week, Michael Jackson was cleared of all charges in his child molestation case. As the verdict was announced, Jackson's fans cheered. Four days later, 400 Jackson fans gathered at the Chumash Casino in California to celebrate the pop star's acquittal. One of those fans, Pauline Coccoz, was a juror in Jackson's case; she cried as the casino blasted "Beat It" over the loudspeakers. Meanwhile, rumors continue to fly that the King of Pop will attempt a world tour and/or a brand new album. His trial once again raised his musical profile; according to Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems, Jackson's radio spins went from 197 the day before the verdict to 1,171 the day of; over 18.8 million people heard a Jackson song the day the verdict was announced.
Seventy-two years ago this month, former silent movie star Fatty Arbuckle died in his sleep at the age of 46. Twelve years earlier, Arbuckle had been accused of raping a young woman, Virginia Rappe, using a foreign object; supposedly, this had ruptured Rappe's bladder, killing her. Despite the fact that Arbuckle was later acquitted of manslaughter after two hung juries, he was essentially blacklisted from Hollywood. His career was over.
Clearly, Arbuckle was the victim of injustice. Evidence strongly supports his innocence. But that was a different time and a different place: It was a place where even the suggestion of impropriety was enough to cause public scandal. It was a place where immorality was not tolerated. Judgmental? Yes. But was it better than today's no-standards society, where known child molesters like Michael Jackson are celebrated after their acquittals? Absolutely.
Americans have always been fascinated by celebrity, but it is only in the past few decades that scandalous celebrity behavior has been accepted by a willing public. For years, Hollywood covered up the private lives of its biggest stars. Most people now realize that Judy Garland was addicted to drugs, but MGM went to great pains to cover it up at the time. And few people know even now that the married Clark Gable sired a child by unmarried Oscar-winning actress Loretta Young -- and that Young subsequently "adopted" her own child to avoid scandal.