Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Fame and Fortune are Bad for You

At this point, and to judge by the turf wars provoked in facebook by the commemoration of Michael Jackson's death, it is safe to say that the world can be divided into two camps and a distant third: Those who think Michael is a pervert, a creep and a criminal who didn't serve time because of his celebrity and his millions; and those who think he is the closest thing to the Messiah.
In the third camp are those of us who look at the entire spectacle in bewilderment and annoyance.
Nowhere in the world is the tradition of Celebrity Fuck Up more bizarre than in America. People here indeed have the possibility to hail from poverty and obscurity and catapult into humongous stardom (Elvis, MJ). But then, the dissolution of their dream once they reach the pinnacle of fame is usually grotesque, bizarre and terribly sad.
Before Michael dethroned him, Elvis was king. But Elvis came from another era. He was much more humble, much less affected by delusions of grandeur. Yet it seems that at the end of his life he was very unhappy, fat (favorite treat: a full loaf of unsliced white bread, stuffed with peanut butter and jelly and then deep fried), and addled by booze and by drugs. A bloated version of his younger self, playing the crowds in Vegas.
By the way, I saw ELVIS. I was like 10 years old. He would throw his sweaty, makeup stained handkerchiefs to hysterical women in the audience who would throw their underwear at him. He was wearing the white, sequined, flared bottom jumpsuit and he was definitely chubby. The way he sang "Fever" remains in my memory to this day. I suddenly understood why all the flying bras and panties. I think I got a fever from listening to him singing that song.
Why are the spoils of fame and fortune so bitter for some people?
In the case of Michael Jackson, the story is complicated by race and child abuse, and perhaps closeted homosexuality and self-hatred and by the fact that he made more money than God.
Compared to Neverland, Graceland is a bungalow. Just think about it: Graceland -- there is something of hope and faith and humility in the name. Neverland -- at best it's escapist fantasy, at worse it's self-destructive nihilism. It's not fit for an adult man either way.
But the worst part is the public's reaction. The adoring public is part of the reason why these people lose their marbles in the first place. Their every move is scrutinized, people treat them like gods.
They die and everybody decides to become cheesy and maudlin and shed crocodile tears.
This is when everybody all of a sudden forgets that Nixon was a prick and a crook, and that Lady Diana was a pathological narcissist and world class manipulator, and that they used to call him Jacko because he engaged in inappropriate behavior with minors. That he hated his black looks so much he bleached himself and changed his face and his hair and made sure he had white children (I find this almost as offensive as his warped sexuality, but everybody right now is totally looking the other way).
There is no doubt he was a great artist. But he was never the second coming of Christ.
Get a hold of yourselves and your easy tears, people. I cannot bear the spectacle. Why are the masses not equally outraged and passionately motivated to speak out against the war, or torture or the fact that we are all being bamboozled by insurance companies and banks?
Because everybody in this country would rather live in Neverland.

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