Occasionally one receives an advantage from living one's life on the edge of insanity. Being there at the edge affords one an unobstructed view into the abyss. In the two weeks that have passed since Michael Jackson's death there has been a lot of foot traffic in the abyss. And I suppose I should be more amused by it than I have been.
Every major broadcast network yesterday carried Jackson's memorial service live and in its entirety. MTV actually broke away from its regular broadcast schedule, which now apparently is comprised of programming featuring the bony little chicks from "The Hills" challenging the losers from "The Real World" to a series of physical competitions such as piloting a "Road Rules" RV up and over Kim Kardashian's caboose, to air the proceedings live and in their entirety. VH-1 did so as well. And last night, in the 10:00 p.m. hour here on the East Coast the three broadcast networks that program that hour (FOX does not - scheduling only to 10:00 p.m. and not 11:00) each had a "news" program recapping the life and death of Michael Jackson.
Enough already, please. Once upon a time Michael Jackson was an incredibly talented, precocious young man whose talents earned him a rightful position among the pantheon of stars. However, somewhere along the line either his train jumped the tracks or he steered it off of them himself. The final decade (at least) of his life was all about everything but his music. It featured civil suits against him (and one reported eight figure payout), a criminal prosecution and, by some accounts, the diminution of his multi-million dollar estate and his descent from being the self-proclaimed King of Pop to Mr. Irrelevant.
Two months ago, on this side of the Atlantic at least, his announced comeback tour (50 shows at London's O2 Arena) was met principally with yawns. Irrespective of the ticket sales over there, no buzz existed in these United States for an American leg of the tour. Tragically, given how much of it was apparently of his own doing by the end of his life, it was as if all of his cosmetic procedures and surgical alterations of his form had indeed turned him into someone else - Elvis Presley.
Amazingly - and disgustingly from my vantage point here at insanity's edge - his death has made him a hot commodity again. Given the history of litigious behavior by and between members of the Jackson family (a crew that makes us Kennys seem as if Norman Rockwell whipped us up himself), forgive the somewhat jaundiced view I take of his four big brothers announcing that they intend to "honor his memory" by playing at least five of the fifty shows that he sold out at O2 Arena. A tribute to their baby brother, really? Inasmuch as these four - without Michael - have not been able to sell out a phone booth (even when offering a free roll of quarters), the whole "we are doing it for him" mantra seems more than slightly unbelievable to my ear.
We the people of these United States are an odd bunch. We bitch and moan about lines at the airport security checkpoints but we wait in line hoping against all hope to be one of the "lucky ones" who wins a golden ticket for admission to the Staples Center in Los Angeles for Jackson's memorial service. We cannot be bothered to watch Presidential debates, Presidential news conferences or - at any better than a fairly pedestrian clip - show up and vote in national elections yet we sit transfixed in front of our television sets in an effort to suck up every piece of information about the life and death of an aging entertainer who devoted the final third of his life into becoming a caricature of himself.
And do not believe for a moment that our "news organizations" do not pay heed to our tastes and preferences. Michael Jackson's death has been big business for broadcast networks, cable networks, magazines and newspapers. We all know that crap is king and there we are, its loyal subjects, bowing and curtsying.
As a good rule of thumb/litmus test for determining when something has gone far beyond the pale - as has the coverage of Jackson's death - it is useful to gage the response of another shameless publicity whore. Elizabeth Taylor, a once-gifted screen actress who has spent the last two decades or so of her life becoming more well-known for her role as a serial bride than for any role she ever played on-screen, and Jackson were close friends for a number of years. Taylor passed on attending the memorial service. "I just don't believe that Michael would want me to share my grief with millions of others. How I feel is between us. Not a public event," the former screen siren said in a message on the Twitter.
Perhaps with the memorial service in the rear-view mirror, we the people can devote just a scintilla of our time to some of the other issues of the day? Our news organizations can go back to keeping an eye on - and reporting to us - those other stories that command our attention, perhaps? For crying out loud, not a word has been published about Jon & Kate in more than a week.
And you can go ahead and call me a vulture/
Call me any kind of name/
Nothin sells in this culture/
Quite like disaster/
I'm not to blame.
I just wanna ride, all the way across the abyss. I think I can make it. Wanna come?