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Michael Jackson, the self-proclaimed King of Pop, died suddenly on Thursday June 25, 2009, at his home in West LA. An autopsy report was inconclusive, so a second autopsy has been asked for by the Jackson family. A toxicology report will be released in the next few weeks, which will prove or disprove rumors surrounding his use of prescription medication. It certainly has been a bizarre end to a bizarre life. He was 50 years old.
According to Lisa Marie Presely, daughter of the King of Rock and Roll Elvis Presley, Jackson had once intimated to her that he thought he would meet his fate in a way that was similar to Elvis’: “At some point he paused, he stared at me very intensely and he stated with an almost calm certainty, ‘I am afraid that I am going to end up like him, the way he did.'” Deepak Chopra also recalled a similar comment from Jackson, adding that Jackson didn’t “want to go out like Marlon Brando. I want to go out like Elvis.” Chopra has also alleged that Jackson was fasting, and not ready for the strain of a world concert tour. He also believes prescription medications played a part in his death, which Jackson’s doctor denies. In fact, the police have just discovered prescription pills in the performer’s home.
I personally have had mixed feelings about this whole tragedy. Certainly, Jackson was an amazing performer, but his personal affairs were more than shady. In the now infamous documentary by Martin Bashir, Jackson admitted to sleeping with boys in his bed, claiming that it was the ultimate form of love. This film also included the young boy that would make the molestation accusation that launched the criminal trial (of which he was ultimately acquitted) in my hometown of Santa Maria, Ca (which I, at the time, dubbed the Kingdom of Jackson). Following the trial, Jackson spent some time in Bahrain and Las Vegas. In the last few months, Jackson announced a comeback world tour, and, according to Chopra, he was working on an album that would move the world: “He was talking about this new song that he had done. He had shared that with me. I think I’m the only person who has the music right now… he was thinking really big.”
I recently went back and looked at an anti-Michael Jackson website that I had set-up during the trial. Following the trial, I updated it and added some anecdotes documenting my experiences with the self-proclaimed king of Pop. It is pretty rough! I am posting my diatribe (which is admittedly brutal) in full and uncensored, as well as the link the site. Some of it has since been taken down. Given the glowing media coverage, I figured I would put my two cents in.
Living in the New American Century, with neo-fascists and criminal celebrities, is scarier than waking up in a bath-tub full of ice with a throbbing pain in your lower back. How are we to survive, especially as the downward spiral of dumbness grows tighter… The center can only hold for a little while longer before things fall apart…
Before Michael Jackson contended that it didn’t matter if you were “black or white”, he tried to convince us that he was “bad”. Then, he tried to convince 12 jurors that he was actually not that bad, after all. Then, suddenly, maybe it did matter that he was black and not white. He attempted to play the race card, unsuccessfully. But Michael ain’t OJ, Tom Sneddon ain’t Mark Furman, and the only offensive six letter word he might have heard was “GUILTY”.
Oh, how I hoped he would hear it. At the very least, he deserved to hear it. Like a nightmare following a long night of Jack Daniels and loud music, my once boring town known as Santa Maria was overrun by the media circus, devoted Jackson fans, and the streets were littered with police. Every morning, while on my way to work at a local junior high, I had to fight my way through traffic and keep from staring at the near-naked woman selling sandwiches to the cold and starving Jackson well-wishers. If it weren’t for the slow movement of traffic I wouldn’t have noticed how lovely her curves were and how the cold affected her anatomy. Well, all that is beside the point. This went on from February 28, 2005 until the verdict was announced 14 weeks later. My town had become the Kingdom of Jackson, and I was but a lowly peasant trying to go about my busy day.
This sicko deserved all that the legal system has to offer. His guilt or innocence with respect to the molestation was irrelevant. The man paid between 15- 20 million dollars in January 1994 to shut up a 13 year old boy who had accused Jackson of molestation. Obviously, he was guilty… of something. You do not pay that sort of cash if you are innocent. His career in the nineties had been dogged by rumors of pedophilia and molestation. The new millennium was not looking too great for him either. But it’s his own fault, you see– not Tom Sneddon’s. Jackson should have stayed away from little boys and kept them out of his bed. A 2003 documentary by one Martin Bashir revealed that Jackson believed that, “the most loving thing to do is to share your bed with someone.” So, he had sleepovers with little boys. Mostly, I blame him for invading my homeland and making me feel like an outsider. Fucker. Rot in jail.
Ho ho, but he isn’t alone in his guilt. That useless mother of the accuser deserved jail time too. She let her child play with a grown man known for his affinity for small boys. She isn’t that stupid, though. She put her child into harms way knowing that she might make a buck. Or at least $23 million bucks. On April 15 2005, she went on the stand to try to convince the world that she and her son were prisoners in Jackson’s Neverland estate… BULLSHIT. She has a history of bringing lawsuits, such as the lawsuit she brought against JC Penny. She also defrauded the welfare system. Under intense cross-examination, the accuser’s mother self-destructed and admitted to lying under oath twice. She put her son in a dangerous situation with a sexually eccentric older man with the intention of reaping great financial benefit. This isn’t libelous, mind you… the woman is guilty as sin and I hope she pays dearly for it.
And when the defense called their celebrity witnesses the media circus went wild with orgasms and tales of lewd conduct. I was told about a midget fornicating with a clown, all the while making balloon animals. True? Doesn’t really matter does it, because it might as well have been! Jay Leno, Macaulay Culkin, and Chris Tucker took the stand, but a whole slew of celebrities were on the list of possible witnesses, including Larry King and Kobe Bryant. So maybe balloon animals don’t seem too far fetched. I half expected George W. Bush and his mother to testify! After all was said and done, all I wanted was an autograph from the Home Alone guy and Corey Feldman. I should’ve gone out in front of the court house to wait with the adoring fans waving banners while proclaiming his innocence, citing only his music as evidence.
I met Jackson once at a Toys ‘R Us, in about 2003. My girlfriend and I were browsing the aisles, looking at Star Wars action figures, when I encountered a tall thin man with long black hair weakly pushing a shopping cart full of toys. He was wearing a fedora and a black mask that covered his mouth. I elbowed Amanda and whispered, “Check out this guy!” She shushed me and we walked by. I was unable to take my eyes off of him. He looked so familiar, but I coudn’t place him. Suddenly, two small masked figures carrying blunt objects came running in my direction. “So, this is how it ends?” I thought. Murdered by midget assassins in a Toys ‘R Us. I shook myself sober and realized that these were not assassins, but children bearing toys. They were squealing, “DADDY!” Holy shit, I thought, that guy is Michael Jackson! And those are his children! The poor little children were wearing grotesque clear masks painted with clown make-up.The hideous red lips curled in a demonic smile could not mask their excitement. I quietly passed this along to Amanda who stood staring in horror.
We walked quickly to the next aisle, giggling with surprise, where Toys ‘R Us employees were hurriedly pushing a shopping cart and loading it with items that “Michael” had requested. They spoke his name as though he were royalty and not the scum that he is. Pathetic really.
I seem a bit angry don’t I? That’s because I work with kids as a tutor. I encounter them on a daily basis. They have enough shit to deal with without having to deal with crazies like our King Jacko. They are relatively innocent and mostly full of life and they provide me the confidence to continue in the field of education. People like Jackson and the accuser’s mother are guilty of denying children the right to their innocence and childhood. Michael should be more sympathetic. His father, through emotional, mental, and physical abuse denied him his innocence and youth. He carried on that shameful lagacy.
Amanda and I proceeded to the exit, but I first took one last look at Jackson. I shouted, “Hmm, sweet, check out that eight year old ass. Hmmm hmm hmm!” I’m horrible and have very little shame, you see. Amanda punched me pretty hard for that. She was a good person and was ashamed of my actions and words. I saw him again, much later, when he was formally indicted, on April 30, 2004. That was when he moonwalked on top of his SUV. I laughed long and hard. I was part of the mob that chased his vehicle until it pulled away and rushed off to his Neverland ranch where he was having a party of some sort for his fans. I had little choice, though. It was either run with the lemmings, or fall under the feet of the stampeding admirers. He held himself like royalty on that day. A king of kings, if you will. He did not grasp the gravity of the situation and did not feel that the law would catch up with him.
It is sad to think that only weeks into his trial he began his slow mental decline. He wore his pajamas to court and was consistently late. His behavior was so bizarre and erratic that he became fodder for late night t.v. Even his buddy Jay Leno couldn’t help but poke fun at his behavior during his opening monologues. As the trial neared the end, though, he seemed to get a firmer grip on the reality of the situation. He also realized that the prosecution had a very weak case and had virtually no hope of winning the trial. He started to act like his old self again.
On the day of the verdict, Monday June 13, 2005, I was at the mall sitting in the Red Robin across the street from the courthouse where the verdict was about to be read. Me and a couple of teachers had taken the AVID class there to eat lunch as a reward for good behavior. As we watched the proceedings on television, I looked outside of the restaurant and saw Tom Mesereau, Jackson’s lawyer, talking anxiously on a cell phone. I pointed him out to my students who did not quite understand who he was. A few moments later, Mesereau left the mall and headed for the courtroom. We could see him on the television, making his way. I pointed him out again on the t.v., only this time they were very excited. This was a unique moment for them. It was then that I leaned over to one of the other teachers and said,” What the hell am I doing here? I could be over there now instead of watching it on a t.v. across the street from where it is actually happening!” With that, I stood up and ran out of the mall and across the street to the courthouse.
I saw thousands of people, all trying to get closer to the action. Every person that I had ever met in my life in Santa Maria was there. Long lost elementary school friends, ex-girlfriends, casual acquaintances, and a whole host of recognized faces. There were also countless paparazzi. The police were all standing by with fist-fulls of plastic cuffs and batons in case the crowd went bat shit and needed a good beat down. I was actually afraid to think of the riot that would ensue if he were found guilty. Cars would have been turned over and burned, the strawberry fields would have been set ablaze, and the library would have been ransacked, though few read. I might have been hurt! The sound of the crowd was deafening, and their forward motion reminded me of zombies trying to break into a boarded up house with brains trying to hide inside. I crammed my way through the crowds, often brushing uncomfortably close to a stranger or having to beat my way through a jungle of signs praising the pedophile. Eventually, I was close enough that I could see the doors of the courtroom where Jackson would exit and make his way for the getaway SUV’s. Suddenly, there was an eerie silence that fell over the previously obnoxious crowd. It was an almost religious experience, albeit a cheap one. I could hear someone shout out, “Not guilty!” There was a short roar of approval from the mob, which was cut off by calls for silence. This continued again nine more times. Jackson had been acquitted of all ten charges that together very well could have landed him in jail for 20 years. I half-expected Jackson to burst out the doors doing the moonwalk. But no. He burst out the door, running, and made his way for his SUV, his family and entourage not far behind him. And again, as the SUV sped away, I was forced to follow Jackson, compelled by an aversion to being trampled upon. He was on his way to Neverland for a huge party, where there would be half naked boys dancing on poles, no doubt, or Chimpanzees juggling chainsaws, or whatever crazy shit happens at his retreat.
The mobs went away eventually. My life returned to normal. I have even made friends with people who came to Santa Maria from great distances for the trial, and ended up getting stuck here. One lonely night at Denny’s I met a photographer who covered the trial. We had a long discussion about the trial. It is now clear to me that the people of Santa Maria are not only loyal citizens of the Kingdom of Jackson, but so too is the greater population of the world.
In light of his recent death, I hope this isn’t too offensive, though I don’t really care. Too many people are sensitive to words! My, oh my. At any rate, my heart goes out to the Jackson family, even to Joe Jackson, who recently stirred up controversy for promoting a record company while discussing his son’s passing. I especially pray for his three children, who might now be allowed a normal life. Jackson’s mother today was granted temporary custody of the children, and hopes to be given full custody soon. There is no will, and Jackson died with half a billion dollars of debt. This is not over, not by a long shot.
Tomorrow, perhaps, I will visit his star on the Walk of Fame. Not to see the star, per se, but to watch the well-wishers and to document their uncritical and undying love for the complex man and entertainer that was Michael Jackson.
I recently wrote about a local figure and a family friend named Ted Zenich, who was diagnosed with ALS in the last year. His battle against the debilitating disease came to an end on Friday, May 15th. His daughter commented on the blog piece:
Thank you for your thoughts and prayers regarding our Dad Ted. As I am sure you have heard, Ted passed away on Friday May 15th, peacfully at home. Your article was very touching and really appreciated. Please feel free to contact us via email if you would like. Memorial Service will be on Thursday May 21, 2009 from 12:00 to 5:00 at the VFW Lodge on Battles.
Thank you again.
I would also like to ask people to keep Ted and his family in your thoughts and prayers. If you want to learn more about ALS, or donate money to research, click on the following links:
Just before my wife and I left, I gave Ted Zenich a tight hug and wished him a happy Easter. Ted, a large man, now in a wheelchair, did his best to hug me just as tightly. Before I could pull away, he weakly held onto my arm and said, “I still have some months. Don’t worry about me.” I smiled and nodded, hoping that he would have more time than that. As I walked away, I took one last look back at Ted. It broke my heart to see him in the state he was in. For as long as I had known him, and for all of the decades my family has known him, Ted was a strong, boisterous, and loving man.
In the last year or so, Ted was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrigs disease. He has lost virtually all of his strength, forcing him into a wheelchair, making it impossible for him to feed himself, and quieting his once booming laugh. When I entered the home that Easter Sunday, I was not sure what to expect, but he recognized me. And, by the glimmer in his eyes, I could see that he was glad to see that I’d come to see him. He also was pretty happy to meet my wife Danielle, and, with some effort, he made sure to shake her hand. Clearly, his mind was still in great shape, despite his body’s betrayal.
As my uncle and aunt spoke to Ted’s kids (with whom they had grown up), they exchanged stories about Ted from their childhood. There was a lot of laughter, moments of quiet reflection, and under it all was a strong sense of respect. Here was a man who, with his faithful wife Darla, raised their children, helped to raise their grandchildren, and, for all intents and purposes, were currently raising their great-grandchildren. He and his wife are at an age when most people start to take things a little slower, but Ted and Darla are strong people who take care of their family. All the stories shared on that day attested to that fact, even if the stories were somewhat colorful and grand.
In Santa Maria, California, Ted is also an institution. Not only a strong supporter of fundraising efforts across the community, Ted is also a prominent local figure in the development of cheap and affordable housing. Since 1978, Ted has been on the Housing Authority board, and has been a vocal advocate for affordable housing in Santa Maria. In February 2007, on an empty 1.6 acre lot, construction began in earnest with a groundbreaking ceremony. By that point, there were 5,000 names on a waiting list. Clearly these homes were needed. But it had been an uphill battle since many in the community feared that affordable, low-income housing would bring an increase in crime, traffic, and lower home values in the surrounding areas. Nevertheless, the homes were approved by the city council, and by the beginning of 2008 the homes were built.
“It’s something you can go to sleep at night and say you did something good for the county and city,” Zenich said at the time. He had been tireless in his efforts, knowing that he was doing something lasting and good for his community. And it is because of his efforts that the 24-home complex was named Ted Zenich Gardens in his honor. And despite the opposition to the homes, crime rates have not changed, niether has traffic, and the homes have actually increased property values in the surrounding area. The homes are quite beautiful, and they serve as a vital opportunity for those among us who are low-income, yet need a roof over their head. Thanks to Ted Zenich, they have that opportunity.
And now, in the last week or so, Ted’s health has dramatically declined. It seems as though he is in his last days. It is a tragedy to see a man, especially in Santa Maria, who is so active in the community lose his life. Not only is it painful personally, painful for his family and mine, but it will be painful for a community that lacks leadership. So few people are willing to look beyond themselves and to the plight of others. I live in the Bible Belt of California, a pretty conservative area, yet I rarely see the kindness and community spirit from our Christian community– instead, I see selfishness and fear: fear of Mexicans and fear of the poor.
In my next blog, I will write more on ALS, and I will keep my blog posted on the health of Ted Zenich. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.
Here in California, we’re having a bit of a financial crisis of our own, and our educators and students are starting to feel the pinch. On Friday, March 13th, the teachers in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District got together with parents and students to protest against Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget cuts, which threatens to put our schools at 48th out of 50 states for per pupil spending. It was a great rally and I’m proud of our little town of Santa Maria for showing us so much support.
I was there, with my handy-dandy camera, to document:
Here are some video clips of the rally: