I was swept along with millions all over the world watching (Sidebar: Is it just me, or was this the largest number of black people we've ever seen on CNN? The delicious and juicy nerdolicious Don Lemon, Suzanne Malveux -whom I'd rather see the than Wolf Blitzer, any day, Donna Bazille, Soledad O'Brien -who thanks to Guanabee I learned is Afro-Cuban-Australian...) the dramatic Michael Jackson memorial this afternoon. It helped that practically every channel - cable and broadcast - was giving the memorial. It was a historic global event and I was curious to see how the family would stage it. His legacy was framed in a very consistent manner. He was portrayed as the greatest entertainer ever (as Barry Gordy described him), his work on behalf of various charities - including his pioneering of global celebrity charity work in the We Are the World initiative against AIDS - was spoken of extensively. At some points, especially when he was anointed by the Rev. Al Sharpton (in the most amazing speech I have ever heard him give) and the children of MLK, he was described as a quasi Prophet, Civil Rights Leader and martyr. Analogies were implicitly made with Jesus - a leader who left us too soon, but his work here was done and his love remained. The symbolism was fascinating.
By the way, although I agree that he broke barriers for musical and other media entertainers, I am not sure that he should get all of the credit for President Obama's election. In terms of entertainers, should we not also credit Sydney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Diana Ross? And are we forgetting MLK and other Civil Rights leaders (sidebar: Jesse Jackson didn't speak, surprisingly, although the Rev. Al gave him a shout out), as well as Harvey Milk, or Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton, as pioneers that made our current President's run possible?
The performances were once-in-a-lifetime: Lionel Ritchie, Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey (who sadly could not hit a note, although she attempted to distract us from this with her signature Dramatic Hair Toss and Wavering Hand Move), Usher, Jennifer Hudson, Jermaine. Several of these were preceded by emotional acknowledgments of love or admiration for Jackson. Usher, in Ray Ban aviators, broke down in tears as he touched the casket. Queen Latifah read the ubiquitous Maya Angelou poem, I know it's not PC to say this, but I find her poetry platitudinous. (and as a failed poet, I know of what I speak)
More than one person alluded to the dark allegations made against him which a court of law ruled were unfounded. (I have to say that after re-reading Maureen Orth's entire set of articles (1993-2008) about Jackson's legal, family, financial, and prescription drug woes in Vanity Fair, I was nauseated and more conflicted than ever about what the actual truth about Jackson might be.)
Janet, LaToya, and Jermaine console the children
On a frivolous note, let's talk Jackson Family Fashion. The brothers all had on silvery bedazzled single gloves. Janet and LaToya looked fierce. Janet had on a tight pencil skirt, a short sleeved sweater, short black leather gloves, diamond tennis bracelets, pearls, sunglasses and a beret style hat. Black Panthers Meets Chanel! HOT! And miss LaToya had on a huge hat the size of a satellite dish with a tight black suit. That hat was Old Hollywood glamour, you can imagine one of the Gabors or Greta Garbo rocking a hat like that. Update: Janet asked Donatella to make clothes for the family as an homage to the late Gianni, who was MJ's favorite designer. This explains the Fellini-esque mourning attire of the ladies. So I should amend the above to "Black Panthers Meets Versace." I also need to acknowledge the Patriarch's look, his signature old school hat fit right in with his daughters' glam accessories, but why has no one commented on his large gold Africa map necklace? It looks more Ice-T than old man but he rocks it with pride. That thing must weigh 10 lbs. Mama Jackson looked gorgeous (she is) and the massive Chanel sunglasses added a touch of discreet elegance.
I cried during several parts of the memorial, it was extremely moving to hear Brooke Shields, Sharpton's and MLK's daughter's speeches, Jermaine singing his brother's favorite song, but seeing the three children really pushed me over the edge. The kids resemble LaToya and Janet, I think they might actually be his after all.
At some point, I noticed that Blanket held a doll depicting his father. Nothing that I have read comments on this poignant fact. The level of weirdness that those poor children must have experienced can never fully be understood. The ways in which most celebrities live can never fully be understood. This is the only life that they know.
I could not believe the finale, after two of the brothers went up to the mike, Paris Michael Katherine stepped up and tearfully said goodbye to her father, in front of millions of people world-wide. She said he was the best father in the world, then collapsed into her Aunt Janet's arms. Is this exploitative? Is it as close to a funeral (although they did have a private service just prior to the event at Staples Center) as they would get? Would not many of us want to speak to our loved one for one last time? Will Debbie Rowe be incensed? Dame Liz Taylor tweeted (!) that she did not want to participate in the "whoopla" or add to the circus like atmosphere, Rowe said something similar, and where was Lisa Marie, I wonder? And Diana Ross? I later saw that Smokey Robinson (in a gorgeous custom-made plaid suit, he looked very handsome) read a statement from her excusing her absence and sending her love. No such thing from the others, though, as far as I know. As we say in Spanish, ahi hay gato encerrado (there is a cat locked up in there), not sure why, but basically, DRAMA! And I had forgotten about some of the shandisimos like the allegation that Jermaine hooked up with his brother Randy's wife, the latter had two children with her, but the union with the former gave us Jermajesty. As always with me, it all goes back to the naming practices. And what is it with the family's love of royal monikers? Let's be clear, I certainly don't critique it, I only wish I'd thought of it first!
I also found the Honkey Interlude interesting: suddenly Brooke Shields came on to give an extremely moving account of their childhood shennanigans, tearfully recounting pranks and confidences of two young child stars. I guess she was there to represent his heterosexual side, although she has said that he was asexual and there was nothing between them. In any case, she was lovely and followed by John Mayer doing his instrumental guitar riffing version of a few of his songs. Every single other person was African American. I think the concert promoter at the end might have been Latino, he had a hispanic surname and of course our girl Mariah is half Afro-Venezuelan.
In the end, I admire him for breaking barriers for African Americans in the entertainment industry. I was sad for the loss of a genius, one of my favorite entertainers, of whom I have fond childhood memories. I was sad to think that he was so unhappy with himself and for his children and family. And I dread the future revelations regarding his cause of death, because clearly we'll never know the truth about his life.
The moment when Paris spoke about her father - the grisly finale: