Both of the articles below were printed in a column written by Heidi Oringer, director of entertainment programming at ABCNEWS Radio. The column is called "Just Saying" and appears weekly in the ABC News Entertainment section. Many fans brought the original aticle to MJFC's attention and president Deborah Dannelly decided to take action.
King of Pop? Hardly
Commentary by Heidi Oringer (director of entertainment programming at ABCNEWS Radio)
November 8, 2001
Is Michael Jackson Reduced to Making In-Store Appearances to Boost Sales?
Ever had an ingrown toenail? It is a tremendous source of pain because it hurts even when you look at it.
You know the nail must be removed or at least altered in some way because, although it has served you well in the past, it is not doing so in its current state. You try to ignore it hoping that it will go away, but it does not, instead reminding you of its existence with each step you take. It must be dealt with because, after all, it is part of you and in some form, has been with you your whole life.
You decide to approach it practically, but head on. You gently remove your sock and at first glance, you turn away. It is hideous. You slowly turn back and look again. A shiver courses through your body in anticipation of what will happen next. You get dizzy. You may even sweat. Then, very carefully, you begin. You start to get into it. You yank and twist and jerk. The pain is sometimes so unbearable you almost pass out, but you go on. Suddenly after you've been at it a while, the hurt subsides and turns into an inexplicable pleasure.
Once it's all over, you feel relieved. But from then on, you never look at that toe quite the same because you know, even though it is a positive asset, it is capable of causing pain and invoking horror.
And so, we come to the subject of this column Michael Jackson.
Please. Hold your fire! Hold your fire!
These thoughts occurred to me because the self-proclaimed King of Pop (he apparently foisted this moniker on the folks at MTV to use when referring to him) has been all over the place lately. He's become more of a presence now than he has in more than a decade. The reason for this resurgence is obvious. It's not that he had an epiphany and suddenly decided he wanted to be warm and fuzzy with the public.
An Album That's Hardly Invincible
Truth be told, Michael released a new album last week titled Invincible and is eager to prove he's still a viable musical force.
Here're the facts: although sales were strong in the first week (366,000 copies sold), they are fairly modest when compared with today's hit makers. N'Sync's No Strings Attached sold more than 2 million copies the first week. The follow-up, Celebrity, sold more than 1.9 million. Britney Spears and Eminem sold more than 1 million copies each of their albums in their first week of release. Dave Matthews sold a comfortable 750,000 copies of Every Day its first week out. Even DMX's new The Great Depression sold upwards of 439,000 copies in its first week.
So, what does this prove, you ask?
I'm wondering how Michael can still be deemed the King of Pop in this environment, when his album sales keep him more in the range of Jester, or even King's loyal lackey.
To clarify, I do not dispute Michael Jackson's incredible talent. He is a great songwriter, singer, moonwalker, and a visionary in the realm of music video. He has had an illustrious career and has been a tremendous influence on some of this decade's most successful artists. He is, however, not what he once was.
Let's be honest, folks. The guy has gotten progressively stranger over the years and is now about as odd-looking a creature as I've seen living on this planet. You can be a musical genius, but it doesn't mean you have to be a self-imposed freak of nature.
Jacko's Long, Strange Trip
Did you know that during his recent concert appearances at New York's Madison Square Garden, there was a rumor going around that his nose had fallen off?! This is something that would not draw much attention or surprise if we were talking about Mr. Potato Head, but we are talking about a real human being here.
Look at him, if you can.
He used to be dark-skinned and he is now blue-gray (he says it's a skin condition). He used to have a nose that spanned his face. Now it looks like the nose toddlers draw on a face with a crayon because they have no depth perception. He has strange fingers without nails and wears Band-Aids on them as an accessory. His cheekbones jut out like handlebars on a bicycle and he has a cleft in his chin that looks like someone used a bottle opener on it.
And this, my friends, was done by choice.
The craziest thing is that all these years, he's managed to shroud himself in secrecy, and instead of being considered eccentric and crazy like Howard Hughes, there's been a mystique and a magic that has surrounded him and made people hunger for more. (Of course, there were some no-so-magic moments of publicity when he was accused of molesting a boy, but he settled a civil suit brought by the family and no charges were filed. And then there were his short-lived marriages to Lisa Marie Presley and Debbie Rowe, who managed to produce two children, but let's not go there.)
Remarkably, his invisibility throughout the years helped fuel his success.
Not any more.
For the first time in his solo career, Michael Jackson made an in-store appearance at a record store in New York City. This is a chore normally reserved for new artists who are just getting started. It's also for those artists who have had lagging record sales and are seeking a way to move copies. Bottom line: It's a PR move and it is most often out of necessity, not choice.
Like it or not, Michael Jackson, once an untouchable icon, has descended the ladder.
Many feel questions about his behavior have taken its toll on his career. Others think he's just too damn creepy to look at.
Either way, no matter how you feel about it, he's still here much like that toe with the ingrown nail. Only you can decide if you want to dance or put a sock on it, so you don't have to keep looking.
Letter in reply to Heidi Oringer
by Deborah Dannelly (president MJFC)
November 14, 2001
Dear Ms. Oringer:
I have had several people contact me concerning an article you recently wrote about Mr. Jackson. Usually I don't involve myself with the comments made by the media about Mr. Jackson, but since I have had so many fans contact me I feel it only fitting that I contact you with my comments.
First, you can imagine how I feel about the media. You sit behind a desk, pen in hand, writing your poison for the world to read. You never once take into consideration the effect this will have on the lives of other people.
I would imagine at this point you are expecting me to go into a 'fit' about your comments on Mr. Jackson and defend his title (rightfully earned) but instead I would like to take this in another direction.
I have been a fan of Mr. Jackson's for 33+ years and my reasons are numerous. But there is a side of him that you and the other journalists refuse to write about. A part of his life that you are missing completely. So, lets not dwell on the horrible, hurtful things you have to say about Mr. Jackson and instead please read what I have to say.
I have watched a very young boy with an amazing talent grow into a wonderful man with a wonderful gift. That gift is not seen on stage or in interviews, (unless you count the bandages he wears on his fingers, reminding the fans of the suffering around the world) but instead this is a side of Michael Jackson you can only learn about by closing your mouth (or in your case putting down your pen) and opening your eyes and heart.
As the President of The Michael Jackson Fan Club, I have, on several occasions felt the necessity to reach out to him for assistance with making the dream of a fan come true. Not once have I ever been turned down. Michael will, on every occasion, grant the request to make a dying or sick fan feel needed and loved by him.
Mr. Jackson's music speaks volumes to the world of fans who love him. He teaches us to love each other, to have compassion for our fellow man and to continue to Heal The World. Because of his request to the fans through his songs and his words to us, we have waged a war against racism and bigotry, and learned to respect people for what they believe in, how they worship and live. The fans have donated millions of their own hard earned money to charities around the world and have learned to help people in need. Michael has taught us all of these things. Most of the fans around the world work day and night to earn money to give to charities and at the same time give Michael's 'family' of fans a place of solace they could not otherwise enjoy because of the ridicule they get for being a fan. Ridicule fueled by journalists like yourself.
Michael has not only asked his fans to Heal The World, but has endlessly shown us how with his own actions. I would like to bring your attention to just a few of the things Michael has done during his career. Because of the length, I have attached the list to this e-mail. Please take a moment to read it.
Finally I would like to say this. To me Michael Jackson has and always will be a beautiful human being. If he looks strange to you then so be it. Remember, If you haven't got anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. But, when someone comes into this world and does as much good as this one person I don't care if they are from Mars and are green with long fingers and no eyes. In a world where we have so much hatred why would someone like you be so set on bringing more pain to so many people? Isn't there enough without your help? You, through your article, have hurt a lot of people who have spent much of their free time in life working to help Heal The World. What have you done to help your fellow man?
The people you have hurt, aside of Mr. Jackson and his family, were in NY on September 11th. Many of them, including myself, were trapped, lost, confused and scared. BUT we were NOT alone. I watched while hundreds of fans roamed the streets finding each other and lending a hand in any way they could. They pulled together money, food and shelter. Fans from all over the world, every color, every religion and every language held onto each other to survive the ordeal. And for that I can only say one thing: Thank you Michael Jackson for teaching us all the meaning of love and compassion so that we would be prepared to survive this ordeal and show the terrorists and the rest of the world that you really can Heal The World.
I'm sure this is not the type of information you will print in your column. But, I ask you, from one human being to another, keep in mind what you have done. I ask you to search your heart and write a retraction for the horrible things you said about Michael. Apologize to his fans for bringing more pain into their lives and restore their belief that even the people who aim to bring harm with their words can realize the pain they have caused. Do you have the strength to write the truth? I hope so, although I believe you will ignore this letter and have no reaction.
I wait your reply. And remember, when the world is in need of unity and comfort we, the Michael Jackson fans from around the world, WILL BE THERE!!
President of The Michael Jackson Fan Club
Letter in reply to Deborah Dannelly
by Heidi Oringer (ABCnews)
November 14, 2001
In reference to your email regarding my column...
I understand you are one of the many die-hard fans of Mr. Jackson's. I understand you follow his every move, his music, his charitable donations, his career. I understand that you will never see anything but the good in the man and his incredible talent. You are, after all, his fan club President and one of the millions of people who feel this way about him. And you are allowed to be that, to feel that, to have that type of admiration for him.
This being said, no matter what I or anyone else writes about him, unless it lives up to your expectations, it will not be good enough. There have been countless articles praising Michael Jackson as well as others that have not. I myself have written about him before when "Thriller" was a ground-breaking album. I praised Michael and his innovative thinking. That was then. Times have changed. He has changed. We all have. You cannot dispute that.
I have had a successful career as a writer and broadcaster. I have an entire archive of columns on abcnews.com that I've written about other entertainters, about the industry in general, about good things, bad things, etc. Despite this, your only concern is what I have to say about Michael Jackson. I am sorry your feelings were hurt. I am sorry you do not agree. I am not sorry that I wrote the article. Mr. Jackson will continue to flourish with or without my support. I am well aware of that. My intention was not to destroy him, something I certainly would not be capable of doing even if it were. And again, just for clarification, it is not.
The fact is, there are millions of other people who were once Michael Jackson fans, who no longer are. There are people who look at him through eyes that are not blinded by adoration. He is a public figure. He chose to be one. Like it or not, he is open to both praise and criticism from the media. He has altered himself in such a way that he is virtually unrecognizable from the young man on the cover of "Off the Wall," even from "Thriller." No other public figure has changed to this extent. You surely cannot deny this as fact. You also cannot tell me that none of this was self-imposed. This being said, why isn't it fair to discuss this aspect of Mr. Jackson's life? Why can we only praise his good deeds and his music? Because you and his fans say so?
I am not an evil human being. I truly mean no ill will towards anyone. I write an opinion column. It's called, "I'm Just Sayin'" because it is MY opinion. You do not have to read it. You do not have to like it. Just think how boring this world would be if everyone wrote and said just what you wanted them to.
Please remember something, In the column I never wished any harm to come to Michael Jackson or his fans. I do not wish harm to come to anyone. In contrast, many of Mr. Jackson's fans threatened and made incomprehensible remarks to me. If you think this is warranted, then so be it. You are all entitled. The point is had I said something negative about someone you didn't care about, there would be no emails, no discussions.
I have written a new column this week regarding the emails. I think it is important for people to see what kind of responses I recieved from Michael Jackson's fans. Based on the incredibly negative things people said about me, you should find some comfort in knowing that I do not think I am above reproach or reprehension. It comes with the job.
In closing, I ask you to broaden your scope in life. Let this column be what it was...
Director Entertainment News/Programming
ABC News Radio
by Heidi Oringer (ABCnews)
November 14, 2001
JACKO FANS RETORT
Barrage of Hate Mail Comes in Response to Jackson Column
We are living in an ever-changing world right now and I imagine it frightens people. One day, you are safe. One day, you are not. One day it's OK to fly. The next day, it's not. It seems fewer and fewer things stay the same.
Luckily, some do, though.
Your family is still your family. You still have to pay taxes and you can't spit into the wind. (You can, but it still produces the same dreadful result.) One of the other things that I thought hadn't changed were the constitutional rights to freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Apparently, I was wrong. These rights were changed right under my very nose and no one bothered to tell me. I didn't even get an interoffice memo.
After my column on Michael Jackson, hundreds of people made it abundantly clear that I am just not allowed to write unfavorable items, whether they be truthful or not, about the "King of Pop."
'You Have No Right'
Over and over again, I was told "you have NO RIGHT to say those things." I am only allowed to extol his virtues. I am only permitted to talk about his talent and generosity. I can't talk about the way his skin looks or the way he behaves. I can't mention his album sales in the United States unless I acknowledge them worldwide. And don't bring up the nose.
It seems I can only write what people want to read. So, when it comes to Michael Jackson, I'm no longer entitled to an opinion.
What makes this declaration so lopsided is that it is only my rights to freedom of speech and press that are being taken away. You see, all of those who responded regarding the column were allowed to write whatever they wanted to about me.
I knew the column on Michael Jackson would cause a firestorm of responses. I expected it. What I didn't expect was to see people's judgment so clouded by their feelings for the man. Interestingly, these are the same people who accused me of allowing my feelings about Michael to cloud my judgment as a writer.
Threatening my life because I wrote negatively about a favorite singer? Really!
I was accused of being a racist. I was accused of having no objectivity. I was accused of being jealous and envious of Michael Jackson.
Pulling the race card is absurd. The column had nothing to do with race. I don't care what color Michael Jackson was when he started out. He is, however, not the same color he was when he was younger. Many of you say it is his skin disease. If that is what you believe, so be it. If your neighbor went from white to green, you'd notice. You'd say something - maybe not to her or him, but to other neighbors or your friends. It's human nature.
I read and continue to read every email that comes in. I have responded to several of you, mostly those who e-mailed me with some sort of rational argument.
It is also worth noting that many people agreed with me and actually wrote things about Mr. Jackson that were far more "cruel." Some things they said were funny and some were just plain ugly, uglier than the ingrown toenail. I would like to share those with you as well, but to get people more incensed seems pointless. I, alone, am willing to take the heat.
So, in the spirit of freedom of expression, I offer you an array of excerpts from the e-mail I received. You can agree. You can disagree. It's your right!
The Wrath of Readers
- You know, it would be nice to not try to humiliate and degrade someone for a talent you obviously do not have.
- Your opinion much like your face, SUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!
- I HOPE YOU GET A LETTER OF ANTHRAX IN YOUR MAILBOX AND I SURELY HOPE THAT YOU DIE INSTANTLY.
- So sorry that you are so sad and feeling just so very bad about your life that you find pleasure in such sophomoric rantings about jacko.
- As far as the plastic surgery goes, how do you know it doesn't have something to do with the skin disorder?
- Sad. Sad. Sad. I can't believe what I just read. Who died and left you queen? Where do you come off attacking Michael Jackson on his appearance??? Maybe you should step back and take a look at your own picture (one attached to the article). Love the fake hair color. Enough said.
- Not only is Michael Jackson the biggest human oddity to take in visually, but his life as a performer, which spans decades of entertainment history, is a phenomenon in itself. Worldwide the man is practically more popular than Jesus Christ himself.
- Perhaps I will start writing stories about over-the-hill journalists that are pretty good writers but have nothing better to do than criticize others.
- How can you criticize Michael Jackson's appearance when you are no Cindy Crawford yourself?
- I had to laugh reading your article on Michael Jackson - what is the excuse for your face? That pic of you posted I found to be quite scary - at least use PhotoShop to remove the dark black half-moons under your eyes... But - on a bright note - you would make a good Drag Queen - you have a good look for that at least. I shudder to think what u look like from the waist down - ugh.
- Now you want his nose to fall off? Really why don't you just ask him for a jar of his blood? By the way your nose isn't that great either and lets take that fake blond hair of yours (your dark roots are giving you away!) and really green Isn't your color either (your shirt gave you away) See it aint easy being green!
- I hope your not fat, or ugly, or have bad hair, or your uncoordinated, or your shy, or you have any faults, because if you do have these traits, you obviously cannot be talented. Of course, your article doesn't really help your cause. ( Sorry, that comment was a shot that has to be taken!)
- You are one hell of a bitch. I bet your family hates you and you have no friends. I bet you were an ugly kid who was teased and hated by the other classmates, from kindergarten to college. A look at your ugly mug suggests you might need some massive surgery yourself?I hope you rot in hell, bitch.
- Your story on Michael Jackson is ignorant and a deception! First of all it is not for you to say anything about MJ's skin colour especially when you (White woman) can't deal with White supremecy/Racism not only in the entertainment industry but for all people of colour around the world!
- HE SHOULD BE ADMIRED FOR NOT JUST HIS TALENT, BUT THE LIFE THAT HE TRUELY LEADS, NOT THE LIFE THAT YOU RACIST MEDIA LIKE TO CONJURE UP IN YOUR WEAK, CARELESS, RACIST, IGNORANT MINDS. HOW IN THE WORLD DID YOU BECOME A JOURNALIST? I GUESS IT DOESN'T TAKE MUCH TO BECOME ONE, HUH? BECAUSE YOU ARE A COMPLETE IDIOT!!!! >:}
- And I look at your posted picture and feel exactly the way you do when you see Michael Jackson.
- The whole world knows Michael Jackson. He's been a successful pop celebrity for 30 years. Who the hell is Heidi what's her name? Well, anyway, sorry to disturb you. I'm certain you've quite a few more rear ends you'll need to kiss today.
- I was at the in-store and I loved seeing him. The man has a skin disease, which stripped him of his pigmentation. Also, he is not feeling well right now. He contracted a cold from his kids. Therefore, it was hard for him physically to be out and about. In addition, he is very shy and there were literally thousands of people coming at him. So, please excuse him if he did not smile for you. It's easy for small minded, insensitive jerks, such as you to bash him in articles.
- You are the ingrown toenail. Michael Jackson is a gentleman something you know nothing about.
- Well this is the end have a nice day and i hope you're happy with your article cause no one else is you're just a hater besides remember this he'll have more money than you'll ever have and sure enough more fans.
- Sure, he's gone overboard with the plastic surgeries, but judging from your picture, you can use it yourself! The truth of the matter is this: Michael Jackson's existence has influenced the world, and yours has done nothing, at best.
- He makes more than you... will be around longer than you... has a WAY larger fan base than you... and here's the kicker... HE LOOKS BETTER THAN YOU!!!! Now, that's funny!