The media post mortem following Michael Jackson’s death, which shows no signs of abating, has unearthed some astounding observations. With the tearful tributes, the questions about cause of death, the demand for a second post mortem, potential custody battles over his children and the absence of any will and testament, I can’t help feeling that the greatest tragedy in this whole sad affair, is the unadulterated exploitation of a man who was clearly disturbed and at the mercy of a number of charlatans.
Of course show business is exactly what it claims to be – business – and it’s always been the same for stars. Very few have had real control, whether you’re talking about Buster Keaton, Judy Garland or Marilyn Monroe. But there’s usually a team of people behind the star who know how to make money and keep the brand going, but with Jackson he seems to have been constantly exploited, either by those in his entourage or by his family.
The word is that the pressure on Jackson to perform fifty dates at the O2 arena contributed to his untimely death. Wouldn’t his fitness to perform have been checked in a medical before the ten dates turned into fifty. Surely the heart would be the major organ to feature in such medicals?
It’s been suggested that the sharp rise in the number of dates was also responsible for Jackson losing his nerve, another issue that needed treatment from his “private” doctor. But why was Jackson playing fifty dates at the O2 when he could have played eleven dates at Wembley Stadium to the same amount of fans. The o2 holds 20,000 and Wembley Stadium holds 90,000. Weighing in at only 8 stone, with a suspected pill habit, why did Jackson’s advisors think it beneficial for him to do fifty dates instead of eleven?
It seems that Wembley has been overtaken as the definitive rock venue by the O2, which is hoovering up all the gigs. But there was a time, a few years back, when you couldn’t pay anyone to set foot in the place; now it’s the mecca for rock music, made cool by the likes of Led Zeppelin and Prince. The turn in fortune for the o2 was partly down to Rob Hallett, the head of the o2’s programming who was purportedly the man behind the increase in the number of Jackson dates. He was backed by Randy Phillips who heads up AEG worldwide- both parties no doubt benefiting extensively from this business deal. The statement released this morning that AEG intends to treat the Jackson fans with as much respect as Jackson himself did is rather jarring considering the statement was accompanied by a calculated publicity stunt.
This must be the biggest single event to be cancelled – ever. The tickets have been sold internationally, via internet sellers, through agents and touts and on ebay, making a vast network of ticket owners. The idea, then, that AEG is offering the fans a choice of a refund for the ticket price or the concert ticket itself as a souvenir, which could be worth something in years to come, is a stroke of (obvious) PR genius.
The cost of a paper ticket will have been a fraction of the price of the ticket value, and a large proportion of those fans will probably opt for the ticket rather than a refund as it will be one of the last items of Jackson memorabilia available to them. Handy really for AEG, as it turns out they are apparently only insured for ten Jackson dates. If, however, they are hoping that people will go for the ticket as a possible investment, the people who booked tickets should be aware that there are 1 million of them and this doesn’t make for much of a limited edition. AEG might have done better to promise some of the money to a Jackson-friendly charity.
Jackson was surrounded on both sides by people draining him – by fans on one side, who drooled over his every word and on the other by people making money out of him who kept him divorced from reality. He always surrounded himself with sharp operators who were top-notch at short-term brand work – but no one who could play the long game, which would explain all the difficulties that dogged throughout his life. I worked with him once, briefly, a long time ago, and his people always had their own agenda. I was unable to work with his entourage as I was just a pawn in a multifaceted chess game. Jackson, however, was just a puppet in the middle.
The same is true in death; the scrum to loot Jackson’s brand is underway and, like the beat, it will probably go on and on. The Jackson brand will never be laid to rest.
Now, people are free to turn Michael Jackson into what they always wanted him to be; the perfect pop prince who will be spotted living on the moon with Elvis one of these days, humming a few bars of Thriller. Death cleanses people like Jackson; all the negative copy has been laid to rest on the man himself. Instead it is being directed at the sharks gathering at his coffin side, the whole dysfunctional family, who have come to loot what they can. AEG are benefiting, albeit inadvertently, from Jackson’s death, but many others are cashing in on the Jackson brand whether it be via merchandising or creating DVDs from Jackson’s upcoming show rehearsal clips. Jackson’s father, however, is using this time to launch a record label as a method of mourning.
Jackson is, simply, worth more dead than alive – his death allows his life to become the Disney fairy tale he always wanted it to be. And, like a Disney fairy tale, all the really strange and unfortunate aspects of Michael Jackson’s life have been excised.
He will be buried at Neverland, the palace he built to try and contain his long-lost youth, after being carried through the streets of LA in a glass coffin placed on a carriage drawn by white horses and followed by a motorcade and doubtless hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people will come to watch. This was the family’s idea of a special send off
Jackson is being Dianified. And on top of that I have it on good authority that there are plans already afoot to create holograms of Jackson that will, effectively, keep him as a ‘living’ presence for evermore. Imagine it – Michael Jackson, permanently fit unless there’s a powercut, playing Vegas forever. It really wouldn’t surprise me if holographic technology were brought forward by decades just to achieve this.