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News Gone Wild: All Jackson, All The Time

Nov 24, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Can’t you just picture the wall of monitors and the temporary labels stuck on them in a TV news control room: Baghdad, Istanbul, London, Neverland Ranch? The news capitals of the world, not necessarily in order of importance. The news gets more entertaining every day, which is good perhaps because entertainment gets less entertaining every day. At some point there’ll be a loud yawing sound, like continents shifting, and news and entertainment will become forevermore indistinguishable.
Breathless commentators and their guests tried to analyze what Michael Jackson meant last week when he flashed the “V” or “peace” symbol upon leaving the sheriff’s office in Santa Barbara, Calif., after giving hours of testimony behind a closed door; don’t you think he might have meant “victory” or “screw you”? This guy has to be the most deposed pop star in music history, among his other claims to Guinness World Record fame. On AOL’s invaluable daily news service, that screen full of garbage that greets you when you sign on, the Michael Jackson story was so big it displaced the previous day’s red-hot scoop: “Feeling Peachy: Secrets of Jessica Simpson’s Luscious Lips.”
Those of us who hadn’t had a chance to read that one earlier and couldn’t identify even one secret of Jessica Simpson’s peachy luscious lips were screwed. The Michael Jackson Pedophile Patrol was back on the march! After all, a Michael Jackson scandal story is the TV news equivalent of a presidential motorcade in Washington: It must be given the right -of way. Everybody else-move to the side, please!
Heaven only knows what would have happened if CNN or someone else had scheduled a Democratic candidates’ debate for that night. Maybe CNN would postpone it so it could air those somewhat O.J.-like chopper-shots of Michael supposedly in his black SUV driving up and down the main drag of Las Vegas, to which he had hastily returned after being deposed within an inch of his life back in L.A.
The anchor calculated that the SUV had plenty of time to make several complete round trips up and down the street. Every now and then a gaggle of fans would pop out from nowhere, rush up to the shiny black vehicle and dance about, so great was their joy at beholding Jackson in all his epicene Michaelness. But was he even in the car? Or were the Jackson forces staging a farce to make the media look silly (talk about gratuitous wasted energy).
It was, though, perhaps a day for staging farces. Back in Los Angeles, people in power are supposed to know something about timing. So how is it the authorities decided to haul Jackson in for their garish little production months before he is to be formally charged with something? He apparently will not be arraigned until the second week of January 2004. There was no formal presentation of charges at his appearance Thursday. Is this the way it works? Then $3 million bond was demanded on the grounds that Michael Jackson showed the capacity for flight. Capacity seems rather an understatement in this case.
The day before, of course, we’d had the spectacle of Neverland Ranch being ransacked by cops, who couldn’t say what they were looking for but took hours trying to find it. On CNN we could see such disconcerting yet giggle-producing headlines as “Massive Search of Neverland.” One gentleman was identified as the official “Neverland spokesman”; how’d you like that job?
On CNN’s “Larry King Live,” a pair of female reporters showed no restraint in kicking wild rumors around on the air, as if they were privately gabbing poolside from their cellphones. One of them said there were rumors that a family had been held at Neverland “against their will,” which prompted the spokesman to say that anybody who has ever been to Neverland would never have to be held there against his will. Then came the counter-story from the Jackson camp: The mother and father who joined their 12-year-old son at the ranch liked it so much they refused to leave, and cops had to be called to evict them.
The allegedly molested child, it was said, was the same kid, a cancer victim, whom Jackson had warmly (too warmly?) embraced on the air during that notorious interview special that aired in February on ABC-the one in which Jackson, curiously enough, admitted he liked having kids join him in bed.
Someone made a reference to the oddness of a 45-year-old man wanting to sleep with little boys, and then we were shown Jackson’s mug shot from the police department, his face a pastier white than Norma Desmond’s in “Sunset Boulevard” but with that same freaked-out “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille” look on it-and didn’t you have to ask yourself, “that is a 45-year-old man???” Surely these things are relative.
Well, whether dangling babies out of hotel windows or sitting pensively in trees or playing with his life-size choo-choo in a backyard the size of Disneyland, Michael Jackson certainly has kept America entertained, and now we have the ugly specter of child molestation being raised again, though raised under circumstances so peculiar that one can’t help wondering if “the authorities” aren’t going to screw it all up again and log themselves another fiasco-and that the only “Law & Order” to come out of L.A. is the kind produced by Dick Wolf.
The not-recognizable voice of Jermaine Jackson was heard on the air during all the hullabaloo. “My brother is not e-centric,” he said in his own less-than-convincing way. You could almost hear a judge’s gavel bang and a crusty voice declare, “That is not germane! … In fact, it sounds more like Tito.”