Sex, Death & Michael Jackson
Like millions around the world, I was shocked when the news of Michael Jackson’s death hit me harder than I’d ever imagined it would. True, I grew up on MJ, enjoyed my first make-out session to the guiding notes of “ABC,” slow-danced to “I’ll Be There,” moonwalked to “Billie Jean,” jilled-off to “Beat It” and opened my heart to “We Are The World.” But throughout our lives, I had no problem taking Jackson’s music, his moves, his scandals and paraphilias in moderation. I always liked to dance – and make out – to his tunes (who doesn’t?), but I was never a huge fan, never even went to a live concert. He seemed so, well…commercial. And then there was his tacky taste in art, not to mention those bizarre pajama parties with boys the age that he was when he taught me my ABCs.
That all changed on the afternoon of June 25, 2009. As soon as I got the news, I caught the wave. Where were you when MJ died? Like millions, I was on Twitter. Within seconds of TMZ’s scoop, “RIP MJ” hit #1 on Twitter’s trending topics with “Michael Jackson,” “Jacko,” “Gloved One” and other nicknames occupying almost all the other top spots. From Farrah Fawcett to the Iran Election, all other news was kicked to the curb. Make way for the King of Pop!
Twitter wasn’t the only site infected with MJ fever. News of his demise sent the internet an unprecedented surge of traffic that caused crashes and slowdowns in what many referred to as a major “wake-up call” for internet infrastructure. At first, I didn’t believe the news, assuming it was a Jeff Goldblum-style hoax, or maybe even Jacko’s own amazing scheme. Could he have somehow slipped out of his looming 50-concert tour, then stolen away to some far off palace in Bahrain where he would live as a woman, going out to the local mall in an abaya and watching sales of all his old records soar in his wake? The family could have been in on it too. After all, Saint Michael’s Ascension to Heaven has buoyed the whole Jackson Juggernaut. Unsolved mysteries pervaded the news and didn’t get solved even as facts emerged. Visions of Zombie Michael rose from the grave like a “Thriller” creature in my dreams, maniacally laughing at our tears and quietly raking in the revenues.
That might have made a hot Michael Jackson video, but it wasn’t the cold corpse of reality. With various authorities examining the body, pronouncing it dead as a multi-platinum doornail and even removing MJ’s brain for further study, I put the Elvis-Is-Alive theories to bed, at least for a while. That started my spiral down into the depths of Dead Michael Mania. Forget Swine Flu; I had MJ fever, which is a lot more contagious and sometimes lethal. Supposedly, 12 Michael Jackson fans killed themselves when they heard the news that their idol was gone. Even as I derided their devotions, I joined the zillions already down on their knees worshipping Dead MJ in the interdenominational Church of the World Wide Web, scouring YouTube for scratchy old Jackson 5 videos and “exclusive” interviews with the Gloved One, awaiting breaking news of the autopsies, perusing scholarly assessments of the Pop King’s famously “weird” sexuality, gawking at photos of the freshly unmasked Jackson 3 – Prince, Paris and the MJ-lookalike Blanket – and studying amateur videos of a fourth kid (love child Omer Bhatti whose mom is rumored to have been the Norwegian-Pakistani Billie Jean). The mass hysteria over the “welfare” of these kids is like that over the heirs to a crown.
The backlash began before the body was cold. Bill O’Reilly announced that he was “fed up” with the likes of me and my Jacko-inspired brothers and sisters. Of course, O’Reilly is just an old, natal white guy with a loofah up his butt, freaked out by the fact that not only is his President black, but so is the most internationally successful – and internationally mourned – entertainer the world has ever known.
But O’Reilly wasn’t the only one outraged by the mass adulation of this “poor black boy who grew up to be a rich white woman” (thank you, Red Buttons). Over a month after his death, right-wing ranters John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou were still ranting on KFI-AM 640 about the travesty of spending taxpayers’ money on security for a “memorial service for a pedophile.” In the Twitterverse, explosions of MJ backlash constantly roiled – and still roil – the enormous sea of adoration. “Hopefully there are child rape survivors out there shouting down this worship of Michael Jackson,” tweeted ConservativeLA. “Infuriating. Unacceptable!”
Unacceptable as it was, there it was – and still is: a tsunami of MJ awareness. Gandhi may have had a bigger funeral, JFK more conspiracy theories, and Princess Di more swag, but no one had more of an instant international outcry of very personal yet universal grief – as well as equally passionate outrage over the grief – as Michael Joseph Jackson in the moment of his death. It was as if his last breath – a final high-pitched “hoo-hoo” – shattered light bulbs in a zillion rooms. The sheer magnitude of the worldwide response was enough to make me feel eminently justified in my newly acquired MJ addiction. How could I help but be swept up in such a tremendous tidal wave of feeling?
I must confess that, at the time, I was plagued by a major web development problem (which is still plaguing me! Drupal experts, please help!), and MJ’s untimely death provided what seemed like the perfect means of escape. Immediately, I stopped focusing on my own problems to stare at the many masks of Michael, the different phases of his face, from little Boy Wonder to Awkward Adolescent to Androgynous Hottie to Peter Pan Man to Diana Ross’ Sister to Whiteface Mime to Creepy Mug Shot to Masked Dad to Dead Head on the Gurney. I played hit after MJ megahit, on and off RadioSuzy1, including at the Star-Spangled Speakeasy, even devoting a whole show to the Gloved One and, of course, “beating it” in his memory. I binged on *pop* salted with tears, stuffing myself with MJ music, moonwalks, celebrity hype, interracial politics, sexual drama, illicit anesthesiology, hints of homicide and toxic cotton candy-textured gossip.
Now, like a pop cultural bulimic, I am purging by writing this voluminous bloggamy. Please excuse my verbosity, my darling reader, but the life and death of the King of Pop is giving me the hiccups. So…how do I really feel about MJ? Like the jewels on his coats of many colors, there are multiple facets to my feelings…
Voice of An Angel: MJ as Castrato
First there is The Voice. Ironically, Jackson’s death pushed the death of Neda, the Iranian “martyr” whose name literally means “the voice,” out of the news. MJ’s was not Neda’s voice of protest; it was a voice of amazing grace, high and sweet from childhood until death, a voice that has both seduced and repelled me since Michael first taught me those ABCs. Unlike Prince and the Temptations, MJ wasn’t singing falsetto when he hit those skyscraper notes. He just had an unusually high voice for a man. His speaking voice – even his laughter – was girlish and sweet, without apparent strain. Of course, most young boys have high counter-tenors, and little Michael’s was one of highest and sweetest of all. But how did he maintain that treble tone which almost all males lose in puberty?
My MJ-feverish thoughts raced back through time to the notorious castrati of Renaissance Italy, adult male counter-tenor sopranos who had been castrated before puberty to preserve their high angelic voices. Some of these boy-men were the Michael Jacksons of their day, wildly adored by fans for their beguiling androgynous voices and flamboyantly sexy manners. I raced to the Internet to find that I was not the only one wondering if Joe Jackson, in addition to notoriously beating his gifted child, also had his son castrated to guarantee Michael’s sweet voice would be preserved and continue ringing in the dough. Was Motown mogul Berry Gordy in on the deed? Was a literal lack of balls the “distinguishing characteristic” of MJ’s genitalia to which young Jordy Chandler was referring in 1993 when he claimed to have been up close and personal with the Pop King? Is that why Jacko thought he could play in bed with the boys – because no penetrative harm could come of it?
Hmm…interesting, but probably no more real than a “Thriller” zombie. After all, how could Joe, Berry and Michael pull off such an outrageous stunt all these tabloid-infested years with no one spilling the beans? Jackson could have been a virtual castrato due to some endocrinological condition. But that too would have hit the tabloids by now. MJ’s high speaking voice may even have been a partial put-on, says Court TV’s Diane Dimond in her new book, Be Careful Who You Love. She wrote that Jackson had “a big, deep voice…if you bring him bad news or if you make him mad, his voice gets very, very deep.”
Nevertheless, the image of MJ as Castrato moves through our collective imagination. Many have called him “sexless.” Michael Kinsley alluded to the Castrato Theory 25 years ago when the young adult MJ had just become “bigger than Sinatra, Elvis, the Beatles, Jesus, Beethoven – all of them” in popularity. “What’s happened to Michael Jackson isn’t too different from what they used to do to young male singers in Europe a few centuries ago, to keep their voices sweet,” he wrote in the New Republic back in 1984.
Kinsley wasn’t just referring to MJ’s Mickey Mouse voice here. He was talking about how Jackson was kept by his handlers – and eventually by himself – in a state of perpetual arrested development “living in a fantasy world…that he thinks is real.” Conventional wisdom is that Michael “never had a childhood.” That’s often said of child stars, and that’s how the singer himself described his life. But perhaps it’s more appropriate to say that, with the help of his immense fortune and formidable talent, MJ managed to make his “childhood” last 50 years.
Whether or not Jackson died with his testicles intact, he exhibited the diva/castrato persona throughout his life. Being a cross between male and female, the castrato can seem to be a kind of god, elevated above mere male or female humans. But of course, the castrato is also a victim, a tragic child sacrifice on the altar of our entertainment.
MJ As Child Sacrifice
Whatever the condition of the Jackson Family Jewels, Michael was a child sacrifice. He was “raised on the stage” for our pleasure. As Agamemnon sacrificed his eldest daughter Iphigenia on the altar of ancient Greek military politics, and as Abraham almost sacrificed his son Isaac on the altar of God in Genesis, so Joe the Jackson Family Patriarch sacrificed his fifth son Michael on the altar of American showbiz.
I’m not joining the chorus of MJ lovers who hate Papa Joe for his drill sergeant style of raising young musicians. There is no good excuse for using violence against children. But not all parents had read Dr. Spock in the 60s. Whupping kids with a belt was more common than giving time-outs. That doesn’t make it right, of course (and it isn’t). But f not for mean old Joe, MJ might have become nothing more than a singer in a Gary, Indiana church choir. Then again, he might still be alive.
Katherine Jackson was a Jehovah’s Witnesses, the type of Christian who’s supposed to avoid “sinful” music and dance. Michael was more like a Jesus freak, the child star who followed his paternally ordained destiny to “Heal the World,” killing himself in the process. Christ-MJ lived and died for our sins of hypocrisy. He rose up on the wings of our desire, thrived on the gold, frankincense and myrrh of our accolades, suffered from the thorns of our accusations, bled from the spears of our derision, burned in the fires of our commercialism, and choked on our conflicted fantasies, nailed to the cross of his own success. He took advantage this image during concerts, often stretching his arms out into the Orans pose, Christ-like.
When he died for real, we who grew up on MJ felt a collective pang of longing for our own misbegotten childhoods, coupled with communal guilt over our participation in his sacrifice. That was my first reaction to Jackson’s death: We killed him. I tweeted, “Why such a huge orgasmic outpouring of RIP MJ grief? Partly bc #MichaelJackson was a pop genius. But also bc we feel guilty 4 hounding him.” We gave him the greatest honors, and then we charged him with the worst crimes. How could the world’s greatest entertainer also be the world’s most well-known accused child molester? How could our God on Earth and the Devil Incarnate be one and the same?
This stark dichotomy is integral to his mass appeal, an appeal that blossomed into full-fledged worship, iconography, pop sanctification and the gestation of a commercial posthumous enterprise that has just begun. My own MJ Fever is just a tiny flickering particle of this viral frenzy ricocheting around the world, a communal agony bordering on ecstasy. The King is dead! Long live the King!
The fever then took me down a more personal memory lane when the King started out as the Little Prince. The first Jackson 5 song I ever heard was “I Want You Back,” ironically appropriate for how so many feel about his passing. But the song that really hit me where I lived was “ABC,” the children’s ditty that’s also a love song. Here was Michael, just a kid like me, but wiser and ever so much cooler than me, teaching me that complicated adult feelings like love could be simple as child’s play. With the Little Prince’s irresistible timing, megawatt smile and adorable James Brown imitation, how could I resist that lesson? If I could do my ABC’s and Do-Re-Me’s, I too could master the art of love as little Michael apparently had. Ha! Little Michael sold me a bill of goods. This was the message of pop – love is as simple as carrying a tune – and MJ was the carrier of the message.
I realize now that I was a little jealous of Michael Jackson. I wanted to shake my bootie in crazy colorful outfits with a band of brothers behind following my lead, surrounded by crowds of proud grown-ups and adoring fans. Of course, I wasn’t quite as talented as Michael. And I was a whole lot lazier. Plus, my Dad didn’t beat me, and my Mom made me go to school to actually learn the real ABCs. “They shouldn’t make a child sing and dance for adults like that,” she disparaged. “He should be in school. “ On the surface, I agreed with my moral mom that it was “bad” to make Michael Jackson perform like a monkey for the pleasure of grown-ups. But Mom couldn’t stop that powerful little Peter Pan Voice from infiltrating my head and whisking me off to Neverland “1-2-3 Baby, You and Me…”
Body of MJ
It defied gravity. Light and magical as a marionette, Jackson was skin and bones with soul. So many original signature moves: the moonwalk, the robot, the mime, the lean, the tiptoe stance, the lightening spins, white socks glittering as he goes. Michael was born into a dancing family like circus people are born into circus families, and he danced all of them – and all of us – under the table.
MJ danced like a man on fire. That’s why most fans took it in stride when his hair caught fire during the making of that horrific Pepsi commercial. He never complained about it. And Pepsi made sure we didn’t know how bad it was; only releasing the video of the freaky accident after his death. Supposedly his addiction to painkillers kicked in after this. When you see the video of the man’s head ablaze, you can’t blame him for wanting something stronger than a Tylenol.
Then there’s another, more unsettling aspect of MJ’s Body: Modification. Jackson constantly experimented with music, dance, costuming and performance, usually with awesome results. He also experimented with plastic surgery. Even his own face was a stage, a place to try to create something new. Obviously, in most people’s opinion (including my own), he was more successful with his performance experimentation than he was with his face. Some of his later facial appearances are downright frightening, like one of the desiccating zombies who surround and possess his younger, more supple self in “Thriller.” But sometimes his Kabuki-like visage catches the light at just the right angle, such as in “Ghost” or “Scream,” and it is utterly beautiful in an otherworldly, Pierrot-esque, only-MJ way.
MJ as Integrator
Michael brought black and white together, sometimes in the most politically correct, universally admired ways, such as breaking the racial barrier on MTV or bringing all those mega-stars of different races and musical styles together to warble “We Are The World” for African relief. Other times, he did it in the most politically incorrect, utterly “weird” ways, such as lightening his chocolate skin to paler and paler shades of beige. Whether he did this to combat the skin-mottling effects of vitilago or because he wanted to deliberately produce what I call his “whiteface mime effect,” it was unnerving to see a black man turn white over the course of a few years, especially for people who like to think of race as a fixed factor.
Beyond the bleach, Jackson was an African American icon who married two Caucasian women, the daughter of Elvis and the nurse of his dermatologist. Obviously, he liked white women. A lot of black men do. And vice versa. It’s all part of integration through sex. Not that MJ necessarily had sex with either wife, or anyone else – which wouldn’t make him “sexless,” just not into partner sex (but more on that when we “beat it”).
MJ mainly integrated through his music. “Black or White,” brown or pink, it always reached out to us and made us want to dance, make love, make peace, or just hug someone a little different from ourselves. He also appealed to different generations. An idol to the young, he was not vilified or feared by the middle-aged, because they had known him since he was a child.
If Only MJ Had Seen A Sex Therapist…
Like most of us, Michael Jackson’s sexual life was a rich tapestry of nature and nurture, feelings and experiences. His greatest, most passionate, tempestuous and erotic love affair wasn’t with any individual woman or man, or any particular young boy or chimpanzee. It was with the public. In a sense, Jackson’s sexuality was that of a consensual exhibitionist with the public as his bedazzled voyeurs. The exhibitionist-voyeur relationship between MJ and the public was not always overtly sexual, but when it was – as in his signature crotch grab or those humiliating allegations – it really was.
From pubescent sex symbol to accused sex offender, Michael Jackson’s sexuality has long been objectified by the public. Though MJ’s sexual nature was inherently personal, just like every other human being’s, it was inextricably intertwined with his relationship with the public. Ironically, the public – and certainly the media – never could *get* MJ’s sexuality, and still can’t. So we called him Wacko Jacko, and still do. And some of us called him a pedophile, the worst label to slap on a human being in modern society.
So let’s get one thing straight (so to speak) in the land of labels. There is no evidence – hard or hearsay – that Jackson was a pedophile, meaning that he was turned on by children younger than prepubescent. There is some evidence that he was a hebephile, an adult who is sexually aroused by pubescent youths (10-14). He certainly seems to have been psychologically stuck in pubescence himself, a Puer Eternis, as Marie Louise Von Franz put it, an “Eternal Boy” or Peter Pan. Those fantastic toys and rides in Neverland weren’t built *just* to seduce kids; they were there for Michael himself to enjoy.
Michael was raised as a sex object, groomed to be an exhibitionist, dressed up and made to dance and sing for the pleasure of adults. In his off-stage hours, he observed two very different attitudes towards sex. Performing in strip clubs at age nine, he saw his “strict” father cheating on his mother and his brothers having casual sex with groupies while he hid under the covers, probably scared that these older females would come after him. Maybe some of them did. Maybe some of the guys did. Whatever happened in those seedy venues, eventually little Michael went home to his beloved mother who was strict in a very different way, a devout Jehovah’s Witness, who taught him that “lust in thought or deed” was horribly sinful. No wonder his adorable head explodes into a monstrous werewolf right after a girl embraces him lovingly in the opening scene of “Thriller.”
I don’t think MJ ever talked to a sex therapist about his feelings. No, Deepak Chopra doesn’t count, though he is an endocrinologist in addition to being a “healer.” I’m talking about a sex therapist who wasn’t too starstruck to be able to help Michael to sort out his erotic feelings and memories. Of course, being a sex therapist myself, I’m biased. Though I would never divulge the identities of my clients, I will reveal that MJ was not one of them. And it’s too bad, because he might have greatly benefitted from sex therapy; it could even have prevented his untimely death.
Young Michael went out with a few high-profile It-Girls like Tatum O’Neal and Brooke Shields, as well as more mature divas like Cher, Liz Taylor and his first “older woman” crush Diana Ross. Of course, he never seemed to be having sex with any of them. Each female was a kind of Wendy to his Peter Pan; she might have had sexual feelings, but he didn’t, though he loved her anyway. Did he break his own Peter Pan mold in marriage? According to his ex-wife Lisa Marie Presley, too wealthy on her own to have been paid off, Michael was a “hot” lover, and they had “normal” hetero sex.
He’s also rumored to have had “hot” homo sex. Another unofficial MJ biographer Ian Halperin, author of Unmasked: The Final Years of Michael Jackson, claims to have spoken to two of MJ’s male lovers, including an actor named Lawrence who told the author: “He was very shy. But when he started to have sex, he was insatiable.” With lyrics like “Your butt is mine, gonna take you right” (Bad), the idea of a gay MJ is a natural.
Another unnamed lover supposedly told Halperin, “The very first time he had sex with me he said, “The King of Pop’s going to lick your lollipop.” Lollipops are for kids, of course, but at least these alleged male lovers were all grown-ups. Though gay love is bad too, according to Jehovah’s Witness doctrine and Mama Kate who fended off would-be outers in 1983, saying, “Michael isn’t gay. It’s against his religion. It’s against God. The Bible speaks against it.”
The Bible speaks against crossdressing too. “A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 22:5)
Of course, MJ hadn’t been a practicing Jehovah’s Witness for years. Towards the end of his life, there were rumors that he converted to Islam like his brother Jermaine, and changed his name to Mikaeel. In any case, Islam condemns gay sex as well as crossdressing, pointing to the same Biblical passages (another example of how Islam, Christianity and Judaism are really all the same old-time patriarchal religion with slightly different spins).
Whatever his faith, Michael was often seen in dresses and other feminine attire. He was practically a transvestite or at least, a modern-day dandy. Not that the original, flower-power and sequin-festooned Jackson 5 costumes were what you’d call “masculine.” And performers commonly wear some makeup. But from Thriller on, MJ’s makeup ontop of the plastic surgery and skin-bleaching got more and more extreme. The running joke was that he was trying to look like Diana Ross. What was he doing? Jackson may have had a paraphilia clinically known as “autogynephilia,” sexual arousal at the idea of being a woman.
His autopsy report declared that he had had at least 13 plastic surgeries, the essential objective of which seems to have been to make his face more feminine. But not totally. The general effect of his surgeries was a softer look, but then there are the pointy nose and the cleft in the chin, not conventionally feminine characteristics. According to Northwestern University Professor J. Michael Bailey, MJ was a “homosexual autohebephile” attempting to look like Disney’s version of Peter Pan.
Again, a good sex therapist could certainly have helped Michael to deal with these conflicting feelings, especially as they relate to his private and public lives.
Mortification of MJ
No doubt Michael was obsessed with the elusive Disney-fied Neverland of “childhood” where he and the Lost Boys ran the ranch, sending their dimwitted parents off to get facials, body waxes and new cars. Like Peter Pan, MJ shamelessly proclaimed that he “slept” with pubescent boys in the infamous interview with Martin Bashir, trying to make an incredulous Bashir understand that “the nicest thing you can do for someone is to share your bed” before nonchalantly adding that he actually slept on the floor while the kids slept in the bed.
Neither Halperin’s book nor any other hard evidence has emerged that Jackson had actual sex with anyone on these odd sleepovers. There’s a reason that the Santa Barbara court acquitted him in 2005 of all of District Attorney Thomas Sneddon’s pumped-up charges. Sneddon and his team were hungry to eat MJ alive. They wanted to “make an example” and put that uppity Man in the Mirror behind bars for a long time. But the jury, despite MJ’s loopy behavior, couldn’t find any real proof of lawbreaking, and acquitted him fully.
Jackson’s own statements in the Bashir interview were Sneddon’s most damning “evidence.” So, why did he brag on national TV that pubescent kids slept in his bed? Why did he go so far as to say “It’s good. It’s very loving…”? Why did he allow himself to be filmed in front of that tacky painting of himself as an angel surrounded by doting little boy cupids? Was he crazy? Drugged? Going too far with his exhibitionism? Suffering from sleep deprivation? Or did he somehow think that just as he changed the racist policy of MTV, he could change the dirty minds of a molestation-crazed public? If so, he was in for a hard smack in the face.
Michael Jackson may have been fully acquitted, but just being charged and tried for such a mortifying offense punished him severely – mentally, physically and financially – and poisoned his relationship with his one true love, the voyeuristic public. All in all, it virtually ruined his life, as it does to so many who are similarly accused in our current witch-hunting climate. Some say that Sneddon’s charges were, on a certain level, what really killed MJ. Here is where intensive compassionate sex therapy could have helped Jackson a great deal.
Whatever his sexual orientation, paraphilias or fetishes, there is no doubt that MJ was an avid, though covert, proponent of the art and sport of solo sex. Maybe he wasn’t the greatest sex partner, but he sure knew how to “beat it.” At least he sang like he did. One of his top songs and one of my own personal favorites, “Beat It” manages to be both a catchy paean to non-violence and a joyous celebration of masturbation.
It’s a lot more acceptable as an anti-gang song, of course. But “Beat It” as the ultimate “beat off” anthem is undeniable. The video starts with some Lost Boys of the “young, dumb and full of cum” variety, roaming around, strutting their stuff, looking for trouble. MJ makes his entrance alone in his bed, wearing just a white T shirt before he dons his iconic red leather jacket to penetrate the cold, wet, nasty world and lead the testosterone-pumping Lost Boys into a better, more peaceful and even more potent Neverland. The rumble is on, but MJ is in fine dancing form, so fine he gets two knife-wielding toughs to stop fighting and dance with him. Then he makes an extravagant beat-off gesture with his right hand, blending a long fast stroke with his finger-snapping West Side Story style. It’s kind of corny, but inspiring in a bonobo way that this precocious Child of the 60s who grew up into the Pop King of the 80s turned “Make Love, Not War” into “Don’t Fight, Just Beat It.”
Soon enough, all the chorus boys in both gangs are jacking with Jacko in a giant circle jerk without the circle. At least, that’s what it looks like to me. I admit, it takes a particularly dirty mind, or a sex therapist’s mindset, to see the “beat off” in “Beat It.” But in concert footage, Jackson did even more of these masturbatory stroke movements, enhancing them with some lingering crotch grabs as well as sensuously rubbing his chest, and miming the zipping and unzipping of his fly. The crowd went into an orgiastic frenzy. I wish I could have been there live; I’d probably have creamed my jeans. It was a great moment in exhibitionist-voyeur history.
A more politically historic moment in exhibitionist-voyeur history occurred when Michael’s little sister Janet bared her heavily pierced nipple during half-time on the Super Bowl, stirring up a storm of outrage and censorship. Is there a tendency toward exhibitionism running through the Jackson genes? More likely it’s just that many successful performers are driven exhibitionists. They love the limelight with an erotic, sometimes crazy passion.
MJ’s untimely death is fraught with as much intrigue as his life, beginning with the Pop King’s own morbid fascination with his impending mortality. Jackson was obsessed with the idea that he would die young “like Elvis,” according to his ex-wife Lisa Marie who just happens to be that other King’s daughter. According to his sister LaToya, MJ was afraid he might be murdered, saying, “They’re gonna kill me for my publishing. They want my catalogues and they’re gonna kill me for these.” Did he have some kind of death fetish? Though he always seemed to be a peaceful guy, his videos are filled with shootings, killings, ghosts and zombies.
Or was he done in by his own exhibitionism? Did he perform himself to death? The accusations of 2005 were a 21st century tar and feathering. Some say MJ wanted to make it up to his fans and his legacy, to do one last P.T. Barnum-esque spectacle of fantastic proportions: This Is It! And it was personal. He wanted to show his own kids that this guy they called Daddy really was Peter Pan.
Or was he being pushed? This time, instead of Papa Joe forcing him to “perform or die,” there was a team of money-driven handlers, doctors and enablers. Was this just business as usual with an aging, debt-plagued pop star? Or are they guilty of homicide? Manslaughter? Is kooky sister LaToya right that “Michael was murdered…in a conspiracy to get his money…”?
He looked pretty good doing those high kicks and spins on that rehearsal tape. I understand how he could be performing like a dynamo one day and dead the next. The same thing almost happened to me. One night I was doing a show and within 36 hours, I was in a coma, almost dead from septic shock. The only thing that saved my life was the speed with which my husband called 911 and the paramedics got me to USC’s Emergency Room. MJ – with all his mega-fame and fortune – somehow didn’t get that kind of care. The King of Pop didn’t even have a phone in his room.
What he did have was his own personal IV drip, several tanks of oxygen and a stash of the powerful drug propofol. When the Pop King said he was “bad” and “dangerous,” he wasn’t just playing. Propofol, commonly known by the brand name Diprivan, isn’t kid’s stuff. It’s a super strong anesthetic, only legally administered for surgery in hospitals. MJ must have had some harrowing insomnia to demand propofol for regular home use. Or maybe he suffered from yet another paraphilia: anesthesia fetishism. Here again, and most critically, a little focused sex therapy might have saved MJ’s life.
The French call orgasm le petit mort, the little death. But a more literal “little death” is general anesthesia. Your consciousness is as good as dead on the stuff. And yes, some individuals, including some of my sex therapy clients, have an erotic craving for the knock-out punch that ultra-strong anesthesia delivers. Sometimes they want a sexy nurse or doctor to “put them to sleep.” Other times it doesn’t matter who delivers the goods, as this type of heavyweight drug is so hard to come by outside of a hospital. Some anesthesia fetishists actually feign or induce medical conditions in an attempt to obtain general anesthesia from medical personnel. This could have been one of the hidden reasons for MJ’s numerous plastic surgeries: He craved entering the blissful, blacked-out Neverland of anesthesia.
Whether he was an anesthesia fetishist or just a misguided, stressed out insomniac, just because the spoiled star demanded propofol doesn’t mean he should have received it, not from a responsible doctor anyway. Most of the medical professionals he begged for the drug refused to get it for him. Eventually, he found Dr. Conrad Murray, a Houston cardiologist who seems to have given him propofol on several occasions, including the day he died. Rumor has it that the $150,000/month cardiologist had fallen asleep while MJ’s pulse was dropping and by the time he woke up, the world’s biggest star was already dead. Murray is now the subject of a federal manslaughter probe. Many unsavory possibilities are now being savored all over the Internet, as we the MJ Feverish await the police reports, toxicology results, news of even more beautiful children and zombie sightings.
Whatever comes, it all seems like destiny. Whether his death was a homicide, a trick, an act of astounding criminal negligence or just a simple tragedy, his spirit has taken on the wings of Saint Michael the Archangel of Pop in the hearts of his beloved voyeuristic public. Finally, like Peter Pan, he can really fly.