My favorite anecdote about Michael Jackson comes, from all people, Joe Barbera. He wrote a book called "My Life in Toons." It's pretty interesting, if you enjoyed the Hanna-Barbera cartoons of the 50's and 60's.
Anyway, Barbera tells the story about one of his most prized possessions, an autographed picture of Michael Jackson. M.J. signed it along the lines of "Thanks for bringing to life the great characters who were my only friends during my childhood." Such a line could keep psychologists at work for months.
Much has been said during the past few days about Jackson, who certainly ranks as one of the most influential musical and cultural influences in the past century or so. I can't complain about the amount of coverage he's received in the past few days. Jackson was a huge celebrity, and he died suddenly at a relatively young age. That's news.
The problem centers on what comes next. It figures to get mighty ugly.
Jackson was always an odd personality as an adult, and some of his actions may not have been technically illegal but were certainly inappropriate. Those will be rehashed. His parents are already claiming title to his affairs; that's going to be complicated. Throw in the usual autopsies, toxocology reports, tributes, etc., and there will be enough news printed about Jackson to kill some forests in the coming weeks. That's fine, and natural.
What really scares me, though, is how the "tabloid" press is going to handle this one. This story is going to go on and on and on. You think "The Insider" and "Entertainment Tonight" went overboard on Anna Nicole Smith? Think of what they'll do about someone who actually has talent.
It's tough to know how much coverage is too much in a situation like this, thanks to a high level of interest. But I have every confidence that if there is a line, we'll be flying past it in a couple of weeks, if not sooner.
Poor Michael. I don't think he ever had much of a chance at living a normal life. I'm glad he's missing what's ahead.