WHEN I heard that Michael Jackson died, I thought of that white mask and couldn’t summon any feeling.
When I heard that the King of Pop was 50 when he died, I had to look for the papers to verify what I heard on TV
I’m not a fan, finding him more grotesque in his life—or the bits of it splashed across tabloid pages—than in his “Thriller” made-for-TV video (MTV).
Yet few things can get me lost in the past as the high, clear and dulcet tones of the young Michael of the Jackson 5 singing “Give Love on Christmas Day,” “Ben” and “One Day in Your Life.”
Few things make me cringe as the kitsch of “We are the World” and the sanctimoniousness of “Heal the World.”
His early songs impressed on me the vulnerability and power of innocence.
Yet his strutting and crotch-grabbing, that ludicrous metallic make-believe costume, and notoriety from allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior with boys make me associate that kabuki-white mask with the deviousness of pedophilia.
Knowing how he was terrorized at a very young age by a sadistic and controlling father, remembering how he dangled his infant son over a balcony, reading about his Neverland ranch that drew first the children to its toys, rides and animals and later, dubious sleepovers—he deserved the media moniker of “King of Pop” because, more than other newsmakers, he morphed stories into a kind of hyperreality composed of versions that alluded to but never represented the truth.
Being more shocked that he was 50 when he died than by his dying brings to me the reason why I don’t share in the world’s mourning: enamored with the Joker of the tabloids, I thought the music ended long before it could be despoiled by age and decay.
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* Published first in Sun.Star Cebu's "Matamata" column in its June 29, 2009 issue