I wasn't kind to Michael Jackson in the 1990's.
Mostly because I knew too much about Michael Jackson in the 1990's, from where I sat as a columnist for the NY Daily News. What especially disturbed me was his behavior toward underaged boys, and the remarkable extremes he went through so that regular folks would never, ever get to know the now infamous and, ahem!, alleged claims of child molestation.
I wasn't alone in what I learned as flat-out fact back then. I was flanked by my boss and mentor, Linda Stasi (currently a TV critic for the NY Post) and Michael Lewittes, a Yale graduate who eventually became the invaluable Robin to my Batman, once Linda decided to leave the gossip game for good.
But when the three of us were together, our column "Hot Copy," - was the first to shake the initial kernels of confirmation out of the bullshit bush - leaving Liz Smith, Cindy Adams and Page Six in the dark as Jackson's nightmare unfolded and our papers flew off the racks. To this day, I hear so many journalists taking credit for breaking the story and it makes me want to light the rest of my hair on fire. They're all full of shit. Here's how it literally fell into our laps.
A wonderful, impeccably-dressed, sweet-hearted publicist named Bernie Bennett (who has since died) innocently told us over lunch one day that his wife's best friend was the mother of the kid who Jackson was allegedly molesting. We even printed the kid's name - Jordan Chandler - because we thought it was odd that Jackson was taking this kid to Euro-Disney, Neverland and anywhere else he thought a good time could be had. Once we printed that Jackson had a new 13-year-old sleep-over buddy, all the other columns started to dip their toes into the water.
What these other columnists didn't have - and would never have - was the pillow-talk and off-the-record testimony that we were receiving almost on a daily basis.
In addition to all this, were the phone calls and personal meetings I would have lunch with Michael's sister LaToya Jackson, begging me to tell the truth about how Michael keeps his bedroom door locked whenever a few of the kids from Neverland wanted a Jesus Juice break. She'd plead with me, "A.J. PLEASE do something about this. I love my brother, but he's not normal. He was abused as a child and I just know he is abusing those boys up in his room."
This was pretty explosive shit for a columnist to receive, but at the time, LaToya was working a burlesque show in Paris and had also just posed nude in Playboy with a yellow boa constrictor in her layout. I couldn't write what she told me, but it always stayed with me. Just what was a 35-year-old man doing behind closed doors with teenage boys? I don't know about you...but if my 13-year-old nephew one day introduced me to his 35-year-old best friend and locked his bedroom door to catch a few videos....I'd be heading in through the wall with a sledgehammer and a flame thrower.
And then when Jackson pays a $23 million out-of-court settlement, we're all supposed to forget about it and write it off as another civilian sucking a celebrity dry.
Somebody was definitely getting sucked dry.
Listen, in terms of creativity and musical genius, I believe Michael Jackson deserves a send-off in the same manner as John Lennon, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, you name it. I had his posters on my wall. I wore out dozens of socks trying to Moonwalk. I even pleaded with my varsity basketball coach that we enter the gymnasium to, "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough."
But it's almost like all these years, he was telling us through his music that he wasn't right up in his head. His song titles alone: "Bad," "Smooth Criminal," "Dangerous," "Pretty Young Thing," "In The Closet," "Off The Wall," "Leave Me Alone." Shit, he even looked at the man in the mirror and asked him to change his ways.
But you all didn't see this coming? Maybe you have to have known a few fucked-up drug addicts in your day to fully appreciate what happened to Michael Jackson. A 50-year-old sickly man is faced with millions of dollars in debt, and can no longer do the one thing - dance like nobody else in the world - that can get him out of that hole. That, right there, is enough for a man to reach for more drugs than you can imagine to make the pain go way. That's what he did. The autopsy will read like an all-you-can-eat buffet at an after-hours house in South Central. We're talking a little Zoloft just to stop being a downer to his friends. Then a few Paxil to see some sunshine through the rain. Hell, a handful of Vicodin will keep you strong through lunch. Might even have some young dancer playing catch-up to you during rehearsal. Of course, after all that exertion, you're gonna need a few injections of Demerol. Damn, three millograms will make you feel like you're on Morphine, Now, after that long, crazy day of 50-year-old aches and pains, you're gonna wanna come down with s little cocktail of more Vicodin, a couple Soma to relax your muscles and, finally, some Xanax to make sure your body shuts down to do it all over again tomorrow.
Mourn him all you want, but Michael Jackson finally decided to take his mask off and be free.