My growing concern and platitudinousness toward the lower end of media gathering started long before Tiger Woods drove his favorite commercial endorsement into a fire hydrant near his neighbor’s property and long before David Hasselhoff got so drunk (no funny floor cheeseburgers this time) that his family allegedly had him involuntarily committed for a day. It happened before the Salahis pulled the ultimate party crash, before Brangelina or Jon & Kate (Plus 8) or the (untimely?) death of pop star Michael Jackson.
(Notice, I didn’t mention a lot of the other celebrity or public figure gossip and sightings, like anything Kardashian or Adam Lambert. That’s because all too often, much of the paparazzi snapping, online bloghounds and agents involved in certain “happenings” actually want the attention. They crave it.)
The argument could be made that Jackson did what he could to keep the jackals at bay despite his coronation as “The King of Pop” — which has certain responsibilities inherent in the title. Of course, anyone who is a giant music figure that has sleepovers with kids at his Peter Pan-themed home, shops until he’s broke twice over and has multiple plastic surgeries, may be seen as someone who is just poking the beehive of media outlets with a stick.
MJ was attempting to once again prove F. Scott Fitzgerald wrong, who famously said that “there are no second acts in America.”
I’ve often cited Fitzgerald as being wrong, but then come back to his way of thinking: the best part of an American story is often the first act.
Howard Hughes set aviation records, made millions and got the Spruce Goose off the ground. But what does everyone remember? An OCD eccentric who wore Kleenex boxes for shoes. Marilyn Monroe used her sex appeal to ascend the movie mountain. What does everyone immediately flash on? Failed relationships and a drug overdose.
In Michael Jackson’s case, his tour launch was likely a means to pay off huge debts. The video shot during rehearsals was likely meant for a concert DVD or documentary and not a theatrically released memorial service. Yet, somehow you knew when MJ’s brothers wheeled out the gold-plated coffin at the Staples Center that this wasn’t going to end well. Now, the fallout and sorrow are turning into profit.
Let’s tally up what’s happened just in the month of November: Janet Jackson appeared for a seven-minute song and dance that opened the American Music Awards, perhaps to promote her newly released greatest hits album but also because Michael was up for many posthumous awards. Starting Dec. 13, the remaining four brothers will appear in a new A&E reality series, “The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty,” that chronicles their 40 years of working together. Michael’s father Joe intensified his bid to get control of the money from his estate. In New York, various memorabilia and possessions of Michael’s fetched millions at auction.
And in local news, the Paramount’s Laser Spectacular — which regularly toured a tribute concert to Pink Floyd — announced a Michael Jackson tribute show. The multimedia showcase with various MJ impersonators will roll into the Riverside Theater mid-February. It wasn’t enough to profit off of his image through street vendors and online salesmen who hawked T-shirts and Halloween costumes. Now, the over-the-top and not-so-subtle profiteering can really begin.
All of this, Jackson and pervasive celebrity intrigue, begs the question: just what do we (the public) deserve to know about our idols’ lives? At some point, most people have seen a few minutes of the TMZ show — currently the new champion of celebrity dish. The show is formatted to make the paparazzi and celeb-reporting hounds seem like average, normal personalities. But keep in mind, many of them sit around for hours in a car waiting for someone to pop into a restaurant or out of an outfit. They mill about the airport and purposefully ask stars annoying questions in order to provoke a response. When a celeb has a medical situation, they flock with flashbulbs.
There has always been a question of whether those people fuel the American pop psyche of cultural ownership or whether our cravings for such knowledge feeds the machine. I don’t really have an answer. Obviously, I’ve seen the pictures of MJ drawing his last breath. Was it something I sought out, or was it paraded in front of me? After someone cries foul, even seemingly legit shows like Access Hollywood and Entertainment Tonight cry like a 7-year-old, “But he started it. Why am I getting blamed for something the others are doing?”
The other problem, of course, is the dissemination factor. If I want to see Tiger Woods’ cracked-up Escalade, I only have to look it up. It’s readily available over and over again at the merciless TMZ, but it hasn’t yet spread out to other blog sites. If I want to find the latest speculation and rumor printed as fact, I don’t have to look far. To make matters worse, this creeps into network newscasts as part of their grandiloquent logorrhea and filters into the official 10 p.m. reports on local stations. It feels unavoidable.
There is such a thing as public domain, and the right to know. These are official terms with good intentions. But how the right to know leads to super-long lens photography and knowledge of Michael Jackson’s autopsy results is unclear and unwanted.