Ed Driscoll

I'm Looking At The Man In The Burka

Mark Steyn has some thoughts on the Artist Formally Known As The King Of Pop:

For all his wretched songs, it’s the impenetrability of Michael Jackson that fascinates. Let’s take it as read that the default mode of a celebrity is weird. Why wouldn’t it be? Nobody treats them normally except in respect of their abnormalities. For example, a couple of years back, Jacko visited Britain accompanied by Omar Bhatis, a 12-year-old boy who came first in a Michael Jackson look-alike contest in Norway. If you checked into the Saskatoon Econo Lodge with a prepubescent look-alike wearing matching white gloves and surgical masks, the gal at the front desk would give you the fish eye and buzz the house detective. But at the Dorchester in London it’s not a problem — if you’re a pop star.

There are some rare exceptions to the celebrity-weirdsmobile rule: by the time I met Frank Sinatra, no one had treated him normally for half a century yet he was the most non-abnormal superstar you could imagine — stable, grounded, real friends, three kids who all turned out cheerful and well balanced, several wives all of whom speak very highly of him, as do most of the one-night stands. But, other than that, the A-list celebs are the latter-day equivalent of Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria or the loopier Ottoman sultans, the ones it wasn’t safe to leave alone with sharp implements. Certainly, mere royalty can no longer expect such deference. A visitor from planet Zongo who caught, say, ABC’s Diane Sawyer interviewing Barbra Streisand and some surly BBC hack interviewing the Prince of Wales would have no doubt which was the regal personage. When I try to visualize Michael Jackson being “normal,” I think of my friend Don Black, lyricist of Born Free and Diamonds Are Forever and also Jacko’s first big solo hit, Ben. Don’s married to his childhood sweetheart Shirley — they grew up together in the East End of London — and he’s famously one of the sanest men in showbiz. Michael used to go round and see them at their pad in Hollywood and Shirley would put on a nice cuppa tea for him and Michael would make some fey zonked-out observation and Don would respond with one of his old London music-hall gags and they’d play snooker with Don’s teenage boys. And you realize that, in the end, even for the most famous and famously damaged celebrities, wackiness is a choice.

Meanwhile–speaking of wacky lifestyle choices–Jackson and Blanket were recently spotted wandering around Bahrain, in togs that suggest that they’re perhaps rehearsing out of town for the Saudi Arabian roadshow version of Some Like It Hot.