Friday, June 26, 2009

Another One Hits the Dust

I am not a fan of Michael Jackson (although I think he was an incredible dancer) but my friend Michael Whelan did the painting on the left for the Victory album and for one evening during the duration of a chocolate and champagne party the original painting hung on the wall of my photography studio in Merrifield, Virginia. The full cover is a wrap-around, so what you can't see is the rest of the star-scape that would be to the left of what is on screen. It is fairly large.

Michael, his wife, and his daughter spent more than a month in L.A. while Michael worked on the cover. Alexa, now a biology Ph.D. from Cal Tech, played with her Barbie dolls on the floor with Michael Jackson. He was, apparently, far more comfortable interacting with a child of 3 or 4 than he was with adults.

When the Jacksons went on the Victory Tour, I was still shooting for the Washington Post on a regular basis. I was sent to RFK stadium to photograph people waiting to get in to one night of the concerts, particularly the folks who were dressing like Michael--shiny gloves on one hand, jackets resembling those in the painting. I found it rather irritating that Michael Jackson took credit for "designing" the clothes on that tour, when they clearly were derived from the drawings that Michael Whelan did for this cover.

My son Michael (please keep them straight, there are so many of them in this post) had what he called a "Michael Jackson jacket." I think it is still in storage because he looked so cute in it, I couldn't bring myself to get rid of it. It was red, faux leather, and I did a portrait for my portfolio of him in it. I wish I had a digital copy to post.

Days after the party mentioned above, I left my son in the care of my sister and the company of his two cousins, on two years older, one 9 months younger than his almost three years at that time. I headed off to Colorado, and when I got back to Des Moines to pick him up, he was moon-walking. My little John Denver fan had turned into a Michael Jackson fan, courtesy of Kristina and Stephanie. He is one of a generation whose first musical purchase request was for a Michael Jackson recording.

It is strange how male celebrities of 70 or 50 are described as "young" when they die under these circumstances, when most of us who are women or over 40 are put in a position to avoid talking about our ages or risk losing out on work. David Caradine, who lived a few blocks from us, looked like a lot of bad miles and certainly not young. Yet there was shock that "he died so young." Michael Jackson was just plain creepy to me, and clearly had emotional and mental problems from having been a cash cow for 45 years. He never had to grow up, but he never really had a childhood, if you believe the bio-pic of the rise of the Jackson family.

MSNBC looked like the TV Guide channel last night. I missed my Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow government news fixes (Keith was on, but covering this story.) The entire area above the fold of the front page of the Los Angeles Times this morning is devoted to this story. Half of the remaining space goes to Farrah Fawcett. What's going in in Iran is limited to about four inches of text. The Supreme Court ruling on school strip-searches got about six inches of text. The Sanford story was relegated to page 20, following five more full pages of Jackson coverage. There is something not right about that kind of journalistic decision-making, but I'll bet the bean counters will be happy.

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