Linda Sharp is an internationally recognized author and columnist. Her work appears across the Internet and wraps around the globe to appear in print publications from Maine to Malaysia. Linda's book, Stretchmarks On My Sanity - The Growing Pains of Raising a Child has earned her rave review and comparisons to the late Erma Bombeck.
Don't Get Me Started - Maybe I'm Wacko Too?
by Linda Sharp
February 8, 2002
Maybe it was all the publicity. Maybe it was an accidental switch of the channels after Will & Grace. Maybe it was just plain and simple curiosity. Whatever it was, I joined the millions of people in the United States who tuned into 20/20 to watch the highly, hotly, hugely hyped broadcast of British journalist Martin Bashir's documentary of Michael Jackson.
I like to think of myself as an open-minded, thinking individual and went into the viewing knowing that 8 months worth of interviews, footage and folly would be "packaged" into a mere 90 minutes. And that those 90 minutes would not be filled with him brushing his teeth or eating his breakfast or any of the other mundane rituals that fill anyone's average day, celebrity or not. I think we have seen enough interviews, exposes and "behind the scenes" shows to know that if there ain't sizzle, the steak ain't gonna sell.
That said, the televisions across the USA were pungent with the "sizzle" of Michael Jackson's life being first grilled to medium well, then well done, and finally to charcoal burnt.
Let me also state that I do not know the man personally. I have never attended his concerts, seen him in person or been invited to ride the Merry-go-round at Neverland Ranch. That does not prevent me from being compelled to play devil's advocate.
I will be the first to state that I do not believe anymore than anyone else watching that the man has only been under the plastic surgeon's knife twice. Yes, it is normal for a person's face to change as they age, but people do not spontaneously grow clefts in their chins, permanent eyeliner under their eyes, or noses that shrink to the size of a Barbie doll's. But, he is also not the only person in this world to make repeated visits to an aesthetician. I have lived in southern California and Dallas, Texas and can tell you that plastic surgeons are not hurting for business. I can also tell you that I have been a patient, and unless I choose to tell someone what I had done, it is none of their damned business. That same rule applies to Michael Jackson, or at least it should.
What about his lifestyle and spending habits? An amusement park ranch, millions spent on single shopping sprees, and security so tight that Peter Pan himself could not fly into his airspace unannounced? It is his money, he earned it, he has every right to spend it any way he sees fit. There have been enough trailer park lottery stories to see that average people can be just as extravagant, childish or just plain strange in their desires and purchases. So if Elmo Earlobe from Armpit, Arkansas wants to spend his lottery winnings by adding to his Star Trek memorabilia collection, buying new mopeds for all his buddies and one of Elvis' original Las Vegas jumpsuits, it is Elmo's money.
And as for the security? Quite frankly my dears, if I were that famous and had that much money, I would ensconce myself in the same way. How many celebrities do we need to see stalked, shot, killed before we understand that we force their seclusion. We do not allow them to have normal, go-to-WalMart-on-Saturday lives.
Finally, the issue of children, his and the ones he welcomes to his ranch and yes, gasp, into his bedroom.
Beginning with his own childhood, I don't think anyone would argue the fact that his childhood was nonexistent. Started in poverty and lived under the oppressive abuse of a father hell bent on making his children music icons, Michael Jackson was not a Boy Scout, he did not climb trees with other kids or hang at the Mall on Friday nights. His puberty was lived in the glare of a spotlight, and normalcy could never be experienced, let alone hoped for.
That does not make him dangerous. Eccentric maybe, emotionally different - yes, but dangerous? I do not consider his Neverland Ranch to be dangerous or warped. I believe it is the embodiment of everything he was never able to experience as a child, plain and simple. I was never allowed to experience concerts by my favorite performers when I was a child. As a parent, I have been known to fly my daughters across this country to sit in the front row of the Backstreet Boys and Nsync - as much for their enjoyment as for mine.
As to the characterization of his children and the ways in which they were conceived? Again, so what? Every single day, average people desperate for a child of their own, travel to other countries, employ technology, and yes, contract with surrogates to fulfill their wish to be a parent. If we consider it normal for Joe and JoBeth Schmoe, why do we look sideways at Michael Jackson? I'll tell you. Because he is Michael Jackson. And we have an impressive track record of loving to build up our celebrities, only to be able to revel in knocking them back down.
Oh, and in his case there is that nasty issue of the molestation allegations from the 90's. Bear in mind, I am again playing devil's advocate here, but how many times a year do people cave in and quietly settle lawsuits brought against them? Not because the charges have actual merit, but because the person does not want their life, family and reputation dragged through the filthy spotlight that would be shined on them? Everyday, doctors, companies and individuals throw money at unworthy plaintiffs, simply to shut them up and make them go away. Remember a little old lady and her hot coffee? Our society has a very unfortunate attitude that nothing is their fault, and if money can be made by pointing a finger, point, point, point till paid.
Michael Jackson was a very easy target at which to point. In his situation, I would have done the same thing. Get out the checkbook and get on with my life, subtracting both the millions and the friends who had traded a friendship for easy wealth. One need only look at the people who set up Space Shuttle Columbia debris auctions to be reminded that many in our society have no moral compass.
So his children wear masks in public? You don't think there are more than a few sick individuals who would love nothing better than to snap their unmasked photos for the Enquirer or worse, kidnap them for a huge ransom? There are numerous celebrities who guard their children' s privacy and identities, whether by blacked out car windows or blankets thrown over their heads, or full-time body guards. If this, or any other eccentricities, makes them suspect or criminal, then no celebrity should be allowed to procreate. Personally, I never take my eyes off my daughters when in public. And I thought the Mardi Gras masks worn by Michael's children were cute. For the record, one of my daughters wore a crown, taffeta dress and sparkly shoes for a solid month when she was three. Did I get strange looks? Sure. Only from people who have no children.
To the issue of him dangling his baby over that balcony? Bad decision. No doubt about that, he has admitted it. But he did not intentionally endanger that baby any more than you or I intentionally set out to hurt our children by tossing them into the air as babies, swinging them around like airplanes, or buying them a bike that they fall off of and break their arm. I have yet to meet the "perfect parent", and highly doubt that I ever will.
Finally, the issue of the "other" children in his life. He surrounds himself with them. He welcomes them - sick, impoverished, challenged or healthy to his Ranch. He rides the Merry- go-round with them, climbs trees with them, watches Disney movies with them. Everything he never got to experience as a child. I believe he is more comfortable with them than with adults. I have news for you, so am I. Children are innocent, honest, they enjoy simple things, they are not contrived and they do not have hidden agendas. I like children far more than adults.
If that makes me warped or "Wacko", then make some room at the ranch for me, Michael.
And I totally agree with his assessment of what is missing in so many children's lives: love, compassion, attention, and parents. Yes, parents. I spend time every week in my daughters' school and have seen it for years - children who desperately want only to be hugged, listened to, wanted. It is shameful to know these children have parents who don't give a damn about the children they brought into this world. Whether outright physical abuse, or the more subtle abuse of emotionally ignoring their child, I see it first hand every single day.
And while it is not condoned or politically correct, I hug them, I get on the floor at their level and talk to them. I ask about their interests, I joke with them, I touch them, I hold their hands, when they sleep over at my house, I kiss them good night. I make them feel special.
That does not make me a pedophile.
No, I do not think it sounds right to have him say they sleep in his bedroom, or in his bed. But that is because I also agree with him that it is a sad fact every thought and notion we have somehow manages to filter through SEX. And yes, there are thousands of people who have no business being on the same planet with a child, let alone in a bedroom, but I do not believe Michael Jackson is one of them.
If anything, he strikes me as asexual, nonsexual in every respect. I do not believe these children are in danger of being molested. Perhaps in danger of being cared for, coddled and doted on, but if that is the definition of danger, than all children should be put in such peril.
Again, 8 months were edited, angled and spun into a minuscule 90 minutes of footage. I daresay that if you or I were filmed for almost a year, it would be extremely easy to show only the outbursts, tantrums, nose picking and farting. And no one would be any closer to knowing the real us, than we are closer to knowing the real Michael Jackson. So until that invitation to Neverland Ranch shows up in our mailboxes, maybe we need to stop judging him and begin judging ourselves.
As my mother always told me, "Sweep your own doorstep". You'll have to excuse me now, I need to go get the broom and dustpan.