I am writing this in the days following the death of Michael Jackson, thinking about those dreadful shrines people put on dead stars’ doorsteps, or any number of loci significant enough to bear the weight of crazed portraiture, sentimental plush, guttered votive candles and personal notes that invariably make assertions about immortality.
The shrines, which were once randomly, and idiosyncratically, assembled, are now curated according to modern tradition: One may, for example, write I LOVE YOU MICHAEL with a glitter-pen; but one may not leave a suicide note written in blood on the back of a Gund toy. One may leave cheap cellophane-wrapped daisies, but not a spangled blood orange; one may not set fire to the shrine while howling about its tawdry sentimentality that likely disgusts the ravening, entirely-too-tasteful monster, Death.
The aesthetics of these shrines ensures that order and goodness prevail, while guaranteeing an absence of authentic regard for the deceased.
Michael Jackson, that sublime arbiter of taste, and peerless artist, has nothing to do with piles of garbage on street-corners: This is a man who was seldom seen without a surgical (or, occasionally, comical) mask in public; without bandage-wrapped fingers or pitch-black glasses, as though the world offended his senses and sensibilities.
Yet, he had a great deal to do with the maudlin effusions of fans. For all of his reserve, his seemingly phobic behaviors, he was unfailingly kind to, and open with, fans. While healthy celebrities routinely treat their public in the manner of Marie Antoinette, as contagions and threats to be swiftly dispatched of by their handlers, Jackson, who was genuinely fragile (in every sense of the word) would allow fans to kiss, hug, touch and even maul him.
When he said, “I love you all so much” at his last press conference to his delirious, screaming fans, he actually meant it.
And why not? Having spent his life despising and deforming The Man in the Mirror; having so few friends, he looked out, and, astonishingly, saw us looking back.
Look at this video of a Munich concert where a young woman rushes him, and he holds her, while singing “You Are Not Alone.” He holds her like a friend, like a brother, and like a lover, and he does not let go until she is dragged away screaming.
Michael Jackson, “You Are Not Alone” (Live in Munich)
In this Bucharest concert, yet another young woman seizes him during “She’s Out of My Life,” and he not only holds her back, he plants a brief, smoking hot kiss on her. When she is dragged away, she is in a state of sexual frenzy. That lucky girl, reads much of the commentary. I feel the same way, except paralyzed with violent jealousy.
Michael Jackson, “She’s Out of My Life” (Live in Bucharest, 1996)
Jackson was so sexy, something so few ever speak of, and the objects of his sexual attention were so arcane, so unknowable, a mere touch from him must have been explosive (this precise paradigm drives the fans of “Twilight,” who yearn so terribly for the leading man because he is also inscrutable and highly selective he is a hundred-year-old Vampire virgin.)
When Jackson came out hard, around the time of “Black or White,” with his new, crotch-grabbing move (which was promptly stolen by Madonna, the woman Jackson called “That heifer”), he became an even greater threat — brilliant, and dangerously, so strangely sexual.
Strangely, in part, because we knew we would never grab that; or for that matter, know of anyone who did.
By making his genitals so central to his mid-career performances, he implied, through gesture, that his sexuality was the key to the music, the dancing, the heat he put out (compare one swipe of Jackson’s graceful, dirty hand to the Mick Jagger’s laborious insistence, in “She’s So Cold” — ‘Put your hand on the heat, your hand on the heat and come on baby let’s go!”: black and white)
I used to want to buy posters of Jackson and rape them, I loved him so much.
And still do.
A few months ago, I went on a blind date with a surprisingly suave little man, who lives in a basement, has no job and likes to smoke pot all day.
He had been writing me ardent letters for weeks, and on the phone one night, he choked up: “This is it. You’re the one. I… I love you.”
And even as he clung to me as if I were a colossus made of sugar, his tiny legs and arms moving like insect feelers, I thought, “He is a nice man, I should give him a chance.”
He called me the next day to say I was “too angry” for him to deal with.
I called a friend and after laughing a lot about me caring what the cruel midget thought, he said, “When someone loves you, they love all of you.”
I feel that way about Michael Jackson. I love his music, his performing; I love his beauty and brilliance.
I also love the nylon wigs worn slightly askew, the painfully chic pairing of cotton pyjamas and garish haute couture, the messed up, make-out lipstick, the huge, black irises, the sexy taint of scandal, his curatorial practices, the name “Blanket“, the way he jumped on cars, or smashed up cars then turned into a proud black panther.
His startling innocence, his dope; how he felt his way through self-analysis saying “Childhood” a song and video that Stanley Kubrick seems to have made is his purest autobiography—his constant assertion that he was deprived of a childhood (true, and tortured during it also), which is why he is always with children.
I love that he sang the most beautiful love song, “Ben,” to a rat.
I love him for playing through the pain, the pain he said was “thunder.”
I love meeting a young gay friend and watching huge projections of his videos, watching him play with his then-wife Lisa Marie Presley in “You Are Not Alone,” because you can see a flash of his obviously enormous penis, something very clearly missing from the art of Jordy Chandler.
My friend once told me he used to fantasize that the rumours were true and wished he could meet and be ravished by Michael Jackson when he was 13.
But it was hard to fantasize about Jackson, whose sexuality was, ultimately, part of his mystery, part of the burlesque nature of some of his work. The man who was so complex that to have erotic thoughts about him is like making a pin-up of Picasso’s Dora Maar.
I love also, the crazy fans who attacked him on stage, for their ardent and innocent belief that if they held on to him, he would not let go.
He never did.
Death would have his way with my narcotic beauty, and, like so those driven to near-madness by this profound intimacy, would not release him.
- Lynn Crosbie