Living with Michael Jackson was shown in the UK last night and won't be shown in the US until Thursday. Without wanting to spoil things for my American friends, I will reveal that… wait for it… Michael Jackson is a bit weird.
Martin Bashir (of the 'Diana-with-tilting-head-interview' fame) spent a few months with Jackson traveling with him and staying at the Neverland ranch. He filmed Jackson being weird, being really weird and being a downright fruitcake, and I loved every single second of it.
I, like most of my generation, and subsequent generations, thought he was the coolest of cool. He invented the Moonwalk for god's sake! He gave us Billy Jean, he was BAD!
And he has been utterly screwed up by a brutally ambitious father and far far too much money. I mean really. We see him 'generously' donate a jacket to a charity auction which raises $16,000 then impulse buy, amongst many other items, a $89,000 chess set in a hideously tacky 'art' shop in Las Vegas.
Bashir was with him immediately after the 'baby dangling' incident. Poor Michael was clearly not well. He was shaking his baby, Blanket (?!!), as he struggled to feed him, his efforts hampered by the veil over the child's head. If this was behavior of a single parent on a housing estate, that child would have been in care and his mother sectioned under the mental health act quicker than you could say 'jamone'. His reason for not putting his children in school was that teachers might be a little harder on them because of their father. (When I was at school a teacher rapped me on the knuckles with a ruler and called me 'the incredible bulk' and I did alright. I've never even had a nose job.)
Jackson insisted that the children were from his sperm, which must be a miracle; I have never seen blond-haired blue-eyed mixed-race kids. Incidentally, their mothers never see them, despite the fact that he was married to the mother of two of them and says he had a relationship with Blanket's mother, he insists they were surrogates. The kids never see them; Blanket was taken away from his mummy before his placenta had been washed off. He seemed to enjoy the circus that surrounded his young family when he took them to see gorillas in the zoo. With the kids in masks and the paparazzi crushing each other to get a look, you wondered which were the caged animals.
Jackson, quite rightly, insisted that he had not had a great deal of plastic surgery, just two nose jobs. I say 'rightly' not because I believe he hasn't snipped, nipped, tightened, lightened, implanted, extracted every inch of his body, but because it is the only thing he can say. He knows we know. We know that he knows that we know. It just saves a lot of time and energy to deny it. It's his way of saying 'I'm Michael Jackson, I own giraffes, a $89,000 chess set and I invented the Moonwalk. I don't have to explain myself to anybody.'
But, of course, he does. That's why he's done the show.
The most disturbing part of this freakumentary was Jackson's obsession with children. Now in a world where every other day a Catholic priest is exposed as a child molester who had been protected by their Bishop, you'd think we wouldn't bat an eye at a 44-year-old superstar sharing his bed with underage children. But we should and we do because this man needs children and believes that they need him in a way that cries out for deep therapy.
Jackson tells us that he has never invited the kids in his room himself, that they always ask if they can stay with him. Paedophiles often say how they were only doing what the child wanted, that the child led them to do it. Now I'm not saying that Jackson's a paedophile, but his love of sleeping with kids has to be regarded with caution.
Michael defends himself by telling us that what is wrong in the world is that we don't touch each other enough, we don't show each other enough affection. I am inclined to agree with this and there is nothing I like more than sleeping with my five-year-old cousin, have him snuggle up to me, smelling his gorgeous baby smell in the night and having fits of giggles with him in the morning. I am a great fan of cuddling my family.
But a forty-something man befriending children and calling a twelve-year-old one of his 'best friends' and hosting sleep-overs? Get that man a straight jacket. He tells us that he's Peter Pan when to all the world he looks like a transsexual who has never had a grip on reality.
Michael Jackson is truly peerless. He has nobody on any level who has the degree of success and fame that he has. He is a phenomenon and as such has become slightly dehumanized by everybody, not least himself. Martin Bashir captured this beautifully. His down-to-earth, no-nonsense, very British interview style contrasted beautifully with Jackson's LA materialism and airy-fairyness.
I'm still a big Jackson fan. I was intrigued to see him, for the first time reveal himself to the extent that he did. He has lived a life so different to anyone else in the world. Horrific deprivation of love together with an insane abundance of wealth has made him unable to regard himself as part of the same world that the rest of us live in. To himself, he is a higher being, exempt from the rules that govern the rest of us. Damn good dancer though.
Shappi Khorsandi is a standup comedian in the UK. See Features