Live Blogging:The Michael Jackson Funeral With Sarah Palin, Howard Hughes and Elvis

by on July 7, 2009 · 16 comments

in Culture, Media

Please excuse the headline. I lied. Now that I have your attention, however, let’s talk about our so-called star system.

We live in a culture that is obsessed with stardom. People that find themselves designated as stars, regardless of their ability or desires are thrust into an alternate reality. A reality where the unthinkable becomes everyday and the everyday becomes unthinkable: a world where handlers and enablers define truth. Consequences are mitigated with large sums of cash and liberal doses of spin. The image becomes more important than the humanity.

A lucky few humans seem to be able to adapt to this circumstance, and even then we mortals may just be blinded by the light of their stardom. Howard Hughes, one of the richest and most famous men of his era, died looking like a homeless man, toenails uncut for so long that they’d grown back into themselves along with hair that was unwashed and uncut. By most accounts he was mentally deranged for years prior to his demise, yet the iconic machine created by his subordinates rumbled on, untroubled by its leader’s insanity.

Young men and women with extraordinary athletic ability are the most common victims of this insular insanity we call stardom. Many end up their lives in misery and poverty, their physical gifts destroyed by the myth of their own invincibility fed by an inner circle of associates who draw their inspiration from promises of shared wealth and fame. The never-ending sagas of steroids, sleazy sexcapades and substance abuse seemingly do nothing to deter each year’s crop of high draft picks and huge bonus recipients from repeating the mistakes of their predecessors.

The entire hubbub about Mr. Jackson’s demise seems to be based on the assumption that his considerable talents somehow justify his less than considerable lifestyle. Fame counts for more than the pain he inflicted on those around him. Or maybe it’s because many of these fans perceive fame as the antidote to pain. Millions of people sought tickets to attend his last fifteen minutes in the spotlight, not because they admired his talents-his albums in recent years have sold miserably–, but for the opportunity to somehow share a piece of his fame. It’s as if his celebrity-ness could somehow be shared and all their daily struggles with the real world would disappear upon fleeting contact with Michael Jackson’s alternative universe.

Life doesn’t quite work that way. And that’s the point of this essay. Our media induced glorification (and demonization-on the flip side) of performers, politicians and athletes serves as a useful distraction (and profit center) for the corporatist state we live in. Caribou Barbie up in Alaska lights up the news wires with her decision to quit, while environmentalists struggle to make us aware that our very existence as a species is threatened. A known pedophile’s funeral gets major media attention, while health care activists fight unnoticed to promoted legislation that would benefit millions of Americans.

I’m not saying that Ms. Palin’s message (as much as I disagree with what there is of it) or Mr. Jackson’s music should be ignored. It’s just the unreal expectations that people have about fame that need to go away. Turn off your TV and go hug your kid, because that’s the kind of influence that will make everybody’s reality a better one. Read a good book rather than logging on to a gossip website. And get involved in your world, whether it’s at the community level or with global issues. That’s change we should believe in.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Wireless Mike July 7, 2009 at 9:16 pm

Is anybody else as sick and tired of hearing about Michael Jackson as I am? Most of the major news outlets seem to be obsessed with gossip, as if nothing else was going on in the world. It’s too bad the news media can’t pay attention to the people who are more talented and less famous, instead of this daily media freak show. But apparently it’s the freak shows that bring in the corporate profit.


mr fresh July 7, 2009 at 9:29 pm

you forgot to include adam lambert in the headline. just sayin…..


emw July 7, 2009 at 10:36 pm

Just marginally related to this topic… when did everyone and their grandma become addicted to their cell phones? Not just checking in here and there, but completely heroin’d out on their conversations and concentrating on little else? I only bring this up since I’ve noticed the rise in cell phone use is following the same trajectory as complete oversaturation of all celebutainment.

You also mentioned to hug your kid instead of buying into the celebrity “news”. I’ve seen so many parents completely ignoring their children while they carry on personal conversations on the phone or obsessively check their text messages. C’mon kids, let’s try to remember that there are other people in the room, in the library, on the bus, in the restaurant… that don’t give a flying fuuhhh about your conversation.

Whew. Sorry for the vomitous rant against cell phones… I totally agree with you, Doug :)



annagrace July 7, 2009 at 11:15 pm

It’s tough out there- news 7/24. Gotta kill time (while time’s killin’ us…).


annagrace July 8, 2009 at 8:26 am

Check out Jon Stewart’s very funny piece on the Mark Sanford/ Michael Jackson connection. “God killed Michael Jackson to save your ass!”


doug porter July 8, 2009 at 7:40 am

from actual liveblogging over at…(ugh)

1: 30 p.m. It’s not easy putting on the greatest memorial show on earth. As delays abound at the Staples Center before the Jackson tribute, the networks are scrambling to fill air time with a desperate anticipation that’s grimly fascinating.

On Fox, they’re busily reading off Lisa Marie Presley’s MySpace page. On CNN, they’re showing the darkened Staples center with split screen footage of Jackson’s last rehearsal.


urely the minutes before Jackson’s memorial will go down as the most frenzied hour in television punditry. On Fox, Greta Von Susteren noted with a tinge of disappointment that there was “no sign of pandemonium” outside the Staples Center, while on CNN, an in house analyst mused that “99% of all artists” who’ve followed Jackson have been influenced by him.

As the split screen followed the procession from Forest Lawn to the Staples Center, networks scrambled to get everyone who’s ever written for Ebony or Billboard to patiently explain, for the umpteenth time, why “Thriller” mattered. It was a mix of eulogizing and “HEY, ISN’T THAT LARRY KING?”


bodysurferbob July 8, 2009 at 3:13 pm

Don’t forget the profit motive! (I know Doug you didn’t) But it’s huge. The big media have to sell ads, and the news is depressing, so why not totally engulf somebody who is famous but marginally on the same planet (listen, he made a lifestyle out of being weird – he definitely promoted it) and squeeze as much air (read ad) time out of it. Just because it made many of us sick and turn off our tube (I do have one out there in the seaweed) because there wasn’t anything else on – many others turned to their tube to glow in the last moments of a dying meteor.

While the media focused on MJ, they got to ignore significant developments in Iran, coups in Honduras, riots in China, and downplayed Joe Biden saying Israel can now bomb bomb bomb Iran.


Molly July 8, 2009 at 3:15 pm

Any suggestion that Jackson is the equivalent of the Beatles is ridiculous and insulting – or is it a generational thing? Probably real Elvis fans say the same thing about the Beatles.


Molly July 8, 2009 at 3:15 pm

Hey, by the way, guys, how do ya like my new avatar?


bodysurferbob July 8, 2009 at 3:18 pm

uh, Molly, is that a red star in your avatar, behind the peace symbol?


Molly July 8, 2009 at 3:20 pm

Those are flowers, you water-sogged seaweed livin’ fishman!


bodysurferbob July 8, 2009 at 3:29 pm

YOU can call me Aqua-man.


lane tobias July 10, 2009 at 9:59 am

Molly, as someone from the generation you speak of, I can see why people would compare MJ to the Beatles: the marketing, the aura, the musical influence. But again, as someone from that generation, I also think its ridiculous because the man had an unhealthy obsession with little boys. The Beatles, particuarly Paul and John, had an unhealthy obsession with music (and eventually themselves…) which eventually led to them making the best music ever. Elvis on the other hand is regarded by many white people as the king, but also considered by many in the black community as a musical thief.

So heres the breakdown from a 25 year old: Elvis, although beloved by pretty much all of white america, stole black peoples’ music and became an icon. the Beatles re-invented that stolen style of American rock n roll and made it international, modernized songwriting, and embellished on Elvis’s iconic status by including mass appeal and international marketing. then, on top of it all, played the shit out of their instruments. MJ took back black peoples’ music and dancing from Elvis and made it universal, continued the Beatles tradition of icon status and international appeal, but didnt have proper support and turned into a pedophile.

In my opinion, the Beatles are the best band of all time. MJ WAS the 80’s and very early 90’s, but really had little influence after that. Maybe his music still stands up, but the Beatles stands up more. Cant say the same for Elvis. As a huge music fan, I don’t have one Elvis song….thats out of almost 100 Gigs of music.


Molly July 10, 2009 at 10:02 am

Lane – thanks for the thoughtful response. As a child of the Sixties and Seventies, Elvis was of a different generation than my peers. It was the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and then everybody who followed.

My vote for best American band: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.


lane tobias July 10, 2009 at 10:05 am

And going back towards the subject of this article, MJ’s lifestyle disgusts me – from the self entitlement, to the 500 million dollar debts, and obviously pedophilia. Its really strange to me that people can overlook that. I work with a lot of family therapists who didn’t have one ounce of sympathy for the man when he died…and I completely agree.

On the other hand, I was born after John Lennon died and I still mourn his death…


lane tobias July 10, 2009 at 10:16 am

CSNY is a good one. My vote for best American band is Phish….which also gives a good indication of my age.


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