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Michael Jackson – The Promise of Neverland

“A measure of any society is the way in which it treats its young people…. The nurturing of children – providing them with food, security, love and education – should never be viewed as an altruistic act.” Pat Lancaster

He’s really gone…and now all we can do is haltingly flashback to a kaleidoscope of memories. We are left with memories that bookends the innocence of “ABC” to the idealism of “We are the World” and the introspection of “Man in the Mirror”. Looking back we can’t help but realize that he has always been with us…and somehow we thought he always would. Losing him is like returning to our old neighborhood and finding our favorite places gone. We struggle to get our minds around this; but ultimately we recognize that this is a vacancy that can never be filled.

For many of us-loyal fans included, we could not have dreamed that there was such a deep reservoir of love for him around the world. For the past 13 years he has become perennial tabloid fodder…more superfreak then superstar. “Wacko Jacko”, possible child molester, financially distressed has-been, Peter Pan, a misfit are just a few of the labels the media bestowed on him over the last 20 years. The more charitable observers thought of him as a lost tormented soul at best, who desperately needed therapeutic intervention.

Bubbles the chimp, self-mutilation, Neverland Ranch, Elephant Man’s bones and his hyperbaric oxygen chamber are just a few of the bizarre behaviors linked to him. Many of the stories were blatant fabrications; however, Michael’s publicist sometimes chose not to refute them as they kept people talking.

Of course, dangling his child out of a hotel window and sleeping with children certainly contributed to the idea that he had become undone. Still somehow now, none of this controversy is important. All the concerted efforts of the media to reduce him to a sideshow freak have failed spectacularly as we examine the facts. The London O2 concerts give us an idea of the ferocious loyalty of his fans. 800,000 tickets were sold out in 5 hours and this is nearly twice the sales of his hay day performances back in 1988. The Staple Center Memorial site reports receiving a half billion hits. Amazon reported that 60% of all CD sales were fans buying anything with his name on it. Barnes and Nobles actually sold out of his CDs, DVDs and books.

Even China, a country known for rejecting American excesses, gave him full page coverage on the country’s largest Website, Sina.com. Predictably–Japanese media gave massive coverage to the death of “Michael-san,” as did CNN in Asia. The three biggest cable news networks – CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC – averaged 8.2 million viewers in prime-time a figure nearly doubled their normal viewers. BBC reported an increase in viewers second only to the night when Barack Obama was elected President. Russian, South American, Canadian, Australian and African media reaction was equally massive.

It has been 13 years since Michael has toured and many wondered could he really deliver anything close to a smooth moonwalk or the youthful energy of his “Thriller” or “Bad” performances or would this just be another misadventure tailor-made for tabloid consumption. Even the promoters admitted being anxious but could not resist the possibilities and profitability of a Michael Jackson reemergence. The press voiced serious doubts that at 50 he could pull off the grueling 50-date O2 concert. However, video footage of his final days showed that his was poised to give the world one more thriller.

You could not help but wonder was this comeback story more about overly optimistic promoters trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Stories of him having skin cancer and a host of other chronic health problems have always persisted. He reportedly began his descent into prescription drug addiction shortly after his hair caught fire during the filming of a Pepsi commercial in 1984. The 1993 child molestation charges finally pushed him over the edge. Those close to the singer stated that by 1990 he had undergone about 10 plastic surgery procedures prompting some mental health experts to declare that Michael suffered from body dysmorphic disorder. This is a psychological illness that causes one to feel physically repulsive. In 1993 he shared that he had vitiligo in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. In December 2008, Michael Jackson biographer Ian Halperin, stated that he suffered from Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a potentially fatal genetic illness, as well as emphysema and gastrointestinal bleeding. His management vehemently denied most of this. However, we all wondered as images of him in a wheelchair and his zombie-like gaze during his last molestation trial were circulated.

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Despite all the speculation about his mental/physical health status, he passed his physical for Tour Insurance “with flying colors,” according to AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips. The photographer Kevin Mazur who had been following Michael for the past 30 years and was documenting the rehearsals for the tour book stated “Michael was back – that’s all I could say,” Everyone close to Michael from his choreographer to the shows producers agree about this. He looked energized and ready to give the performance that would bring him back to his former glory and maybe beyond. His O2 concert series was to begin in July and be followed by a world tour.

True to form… MJ’s death can not be neatly explained. It seems the King of Pop will remain the King of Tabloid long after he is laid to rest. He has now undergone two autopsies and the cause of death is still inconclusive. Toxicology reports due back in 3 to 4 weeks may shed some light on the cause of death. Police reportedly removed the powerful drug Propofol, marketed under the brand name Diprivan from his Holmby Hills rented home. How this drug came to be in his possession is certain to be pursued by LA police and the DEA.

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