In the last week or so, a couple of interesting MJ-related projects have come to light. One appears to be a definite go; the other is (as far as I know) merely a rumor at this time, but with the potential of being HUGE if, in fact, it is the real deal. But that remains to be seen.
Let’s start, however, with the project that looks for certain: Joe Jackson’s movie “The Architect: The Life and Death of an Empire.” Although this documentary was first announced back in 2011 (going then by the subtitle title “Confessions of a Father”) the promised 2012 release date was evidently pushed back to 2013. At any rate, this trailer is new to me and it looks as though this will indeed be a theatrical release.
description=”Joe’s new movie”
Hmm. I wonder what happened to the original title, which at the very least hinted that we might finally get some insight into how Joe felt about all those years of accusations as a horrible, abusive father? Perhaps it was decided this was a too salacious title (it did sound kind of tabloid-y). So now we have “The Architect: The Life and Death of an Empire.” Which means, in typical Joe Jackson fashion, the emphasis has been placed squarely back on the image of him-not as a father-but as the head of an empire; as its architect and builder.
Nevertheless, judging from the clips, it looks as though a lot of in-depth topics are going to be addressed. I don’t suspect this is going to be a fluff piece,so who knows? It could contain some revealing new insights. However, knowing Joe Jackson, don’t suspect any breakdown confessions. The man is never going to own up that he had issues. Joe, as I’ve said here many times before, is what he is. Just as Michael had to learn to do, we either accept him and forgive Joe for what he is-or we don’t.
I have also said before that there are many things I admire about Joe Jackson. He was a hard working man, and a good provider who kept his kids off the streets. He was a perfectionist who taught Michael and his brothers to never settle for being second best-at anything. The things I admire about him do not, of course, cancel out the many things he did wrong. Rather, it serves as a reminder to me that there are always many sides to a story, and that no individual can be entirely summed up by what this person or that person says. Human beings have many dimensions. Michael himself admitted that he did not hate his father, but that he simply didn’t understand him. That, for me, was one of the saddest legacies of Michael’s entire life.
Also interesting that Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails should be chosen as the background song for this trailer. In fact, that was downright spooky, since I had just done a presentation of that video to my English 102 class as part of a discussion of theme, and just that morning, Shane and I had been discussing how this was a song that Michael should have covered. Then I happen to see this trailer. Whoa (chills!).
I don’t know if this song choice was Joe’s idea. Who knows? But it’s an interesting choice for a number of reasons. Originally, the Nine Inch Nails version was simply a very dark and depressing song about drug addiction, depression and self-mutilation. It is a young man whose life has gone into a “downward spiral” (hence the album title from which it came) and who has lost most of his friends to heroin (“everyone I know goes away in the end.”). When Johnny Cash asked permission from Trent Reznor to cover the song in 2002, Reznor reportedly gave his consent with some reluctance, fearing the end result would be “too gimmicky.” However, the power and stark beauty of Cash’s version (especially after Reznor saw the video) won him over. Reznor said he wept when he saw it. The Johnny Cash version of this song-and its video-was acclaimed by many critics as a brilliant example of how different artists can bring an entirely different interpretation to the same song, while still maintaining the integrity of the original. Recorded literally just weeks before his death, Johnny Cash’s version of this song stands as a powerful testament to an elderly man facing the end of his own life; coming to terms with his mortality, and questioning what his life has amounted to. Does he have regrets? If he had it do over, would he change anything? Or would he gladly do it all again? The most powerful symbolic element of the entire video shows a frail and aged Cash sitting on a throne at the head of a Thanksgiving feast, a table filled with bounty. But he sits alone, lamenting all that has been sacrificed for this “empire of dirt.”
I suppose there are some parallels here, which weren’t lost on Joe. He, too, is an elderly man who must surely-at eighty-four years of age and having recently suffered a stroke-must be coming to terms with his mortality, and perhaps facing the question of how his own life and legacy will be remembered.
The question is: Will anyone else care? Joe is, for sure, a polarizing figure among fans, and I don’t imagine this latest venture will exactly endear him to those who already have their minds made up that he is Satan incarnate. Nor do I imagine that the public at large will be storming down theatre doors to get to this. Joe isn’t his famous son Michael Jackson, no matter how hard he tries to take credit for that particular creation.
But as another piece to the puzzle of understanding Michael’s complex life, this documentary may well have some value. If we choose to invalidate Joe’s side of the story, or refuse to acknowledge it, we are only denying ourselves an important piece of understanding the dynamics of this father-son relationship; a relationship that I suspect was much more complex, and much more multi-faceted, than we will ever know. I will probably go to see this, provided it plays anywhere close by and doesn’t end up going straight to DVD.
I will see it, but not without some misgivings. It’s not that I fault Joe for perhaps wanting to finally tell his own story, before he dies. I don’t fault him for wanting us to understand him better.
The only problem is that it was never us whose understanding he needed. Rather, it was the one person for whom it is already too late.
Which brings me to Project #2. Although nothing has been confirmed or authenticated at this time, a story that first broke in the Daily Express on January 27th has caused some stirring. Whether truth or hearsay, perhaps it was no coincidence that this news broke just when more heated controversy over the Sullivan book was reaching its peak. After all, when it comes to the story of Michael’s life, no one could be a greater authority than Michael himself. Could he, in fact, end up having the last-and ultimate-word after all?
It seems this could be the case if there is any truth to the rumor of a 600-page manuscript that is believed to be a “tell-all memoir” Michael was working on, a memoir that allegedly chronicles his life from the late 80’s (picking up, we can assume, where “Moonwalk” left off) through all of the trials and tribulations of the Chandler allegations, the LMP marriage and divorce, fatherhood, on up to the Arvizo case, the trial, his life in exile, and finally, the return to the U.S. in 2007. Here is the Daily Express article (just ignore the rather sensationalistic paragraph describing the allegations):
Michael Jackson’s new tell-all memoir
MICHAEL Jackson secretly began writing an autobiography about his lowest moments in the last years of his life.
Jackson, who died in 2009, wrote 600 pages of notes about his struggles during the late Eighties through to 2007.He also accumulated sketches and documents in an attempt to correct how history was written about him.During those two decades, Jackson was rarely out of the headlines, not least for paying off Jordie Chandler £12million amid child-sex allegations. His admission he shared his bed with children led Jackson to be accused but acquitted in 2005 of molesting Gavin Arvizo.Anguished then Jackson flew to the Middle East where he began writing the manuscripts, where a former business contact has locked them away.The wealthy associate is in two minds over releasing the book, which is not complete and would need to be fleshed out to make a full autobiography.Jackson wrote one biography, Moonwalk, which had to be heavily edited because of attacks on family members.A source from Los Angeles said: “The manuscript covers a raft of Michael’s adventures and business dealings. He makes it clear that he is the father of Prince and Paris.“Michael wrote the book because he never got a chance to tell his story and at some stage needed to express his feelings on everything.“The book addresses the child molestation at Neverland, insisting how he felt sickened that he was accused of doing that. “Michael also talks about Jordie even though both parties agreed a gagging order when they settled in 1993.
“One of the key aspects of Michael’s book is his thoughts on his family.
“He talks about how he had been let down by all of them for many years. He accused most of them of wanting his money and being jealous of his fame.
“The only person who doesn’t get his venom is his mother Katherine.
“Michael says he felt that his mum was the only one, who understood him and his delicate nature.”
Jackson died after his doctor, Conrad Murray, pumped him with anaesthetic Propofol days before his comeback tour in June 2009.
In short, we’re talking some explosive stuff here. If there is any truth to it. And if it ever sees light of day. Casting aside for a moment those two big “ifs” this would certainly be a potential gold mine if true! As a fan, I’ve often lamented the fact that the only autobiography we have of Michael-his only attempt to tell his own story in his own words-is the rather tepid “Moonwalk.” Granted, while “Moonwalk” is hardly the fluff read that some have tried to pigeonhole it as (and the unreleased tapes, as I’ve discovered, are even more revealing!), I’ve said all along that it would be wonderful if we could have been left with an account of Michael’s last years from his own perpsective. After all, no Hollywood script writer-not even Shakespeare himself-could have written a greater tragedy. And I would suspect that, just as all of the dark rage and angst of his personal troubles that began in the 90’s resulted in some of the most profound music of his career, so, too, would we have no doubt seen a much more mature,stripped down, brutally honest and perhaps emotionally raw memoir. Who knows, perhaps we might have finally seen the book that many wished “Moonwalk” had been! For sure, the Michael Jackson of 2005-2007 (the time in which he was allegedly working on this manuscript) was in a much darker and angrier place than the idealistic young man of 1987 who was still on top of the world-and still innocent in so many ways. I always said that any autobiography Michael would have written post 2005 would have been a very different book indeed.
Now the burning question is…could this rumored 600 page manuscript be that book?
Hmm. I don’t know. But there are definitely some intriguing points here to consider:
“He also accumulated sketches and documents in an attempt to correct how history was written about him.”
What sketches and what documents? What, specifically, was he attempting to correct? Could these be important medical records and documents that might-once and for all-put some of the outlandish surgery and skin bleaching issues to rest? Or documents proving his innocence in the Chandler and Arvizo cases? Proof of his biological paternity of Prince and Paris (since apparently this a subect said to be addressed in the manuscript?). Who knows, but this, for sure, is one of those cases where inquiring minds would really like to know. I suppose it might be fantastical or wishful thinking to hope that somewhere in this world, having been kept locked and hidden away, was an MJ “Holy Grail” of sorts; a magic document that would be such irrefutable proof of every truth in his life that it would permanently shut up all of the haters, cynics and naysayers for good! Wishful thinking, perhaps, yes. But no doubt, it would be fascinating to know exactly what those alleged sketches and documents consist of.
“…Jackson flew to the Middle East, where he began writing the manuscripts…”
An autobiography is said to have been among the projects that were proposed as part of a business deal with Sheikh Abdullah:
“…Sheikh Abdullah said that as well as reneging on a contract to record a new album, write an autobiography and produce a stage play, Jackson also owed him $7 million.”-Italics are my emphasis.
Could those 600 pages of notes, documents and sketches have been this proposed autobiography, a work in-progress that was never completed following Michael’s legal problems with Sheikh Abdullah? It is certainly a possibility. After all, Abdullah’s claim was only that the autobiography, like the album and play, was never delivered. But who’s to say it was never started, or that Michael could not have well been over 600 pages into it when his relationship with Abdullah soured and things fell through? It would also make sense that if the unnamed “business associate” who is sitting on this manuscript is none other than Abdullah himself, he may well have confiscated the unfinished manuscript and locked it away as part of their settlement agreement.
I wouldn’t blame him for being “of two minds” about releasing the manuscript, given all of the controversy over recent projects and the fear “of those crazy, rabid MJ fans” (I say this tongue in cheek, of course, but there is no doubt that making this manuscript public will invite its share of controversy and heated disputes, depending in how it is handled). Even if the manucript proves to be authentic, and even if it should prove to be Michael’s greatest vindication, it still begs the ethical question: Should it be released, if Michael is not here to give his blessing? With such fiascos as the Michael album and the controversial Rabbi Schmuley book still fresh in mind, it is not an easy question to answer.
Like the “business associate” I am of “two minds.” But in this case, I think the potential value of this alleged manuscript-provided again, that it can be authenticated and proven genuine-outweighs those considerations. Obviously, if this was intended as a memoir, that would mean that Michael was writing it with the full intention of having it published. And even if he might have eventually changed his mind about some of the things he wrote, it would still stand as an invaluable testament to where he was-mentally, physically, and spiritually-at that particular moment in his life.
“…A source from Los Angeles said: “The manuscript covers a raft of Michael’s adventures and business dealings. He makes it clear that he is the father of Prince and Paris…”
I’m not quite sure how the book could prove that sort of thing definitively (not that I think Michael owed it to anyone to have to “prove” he was the parent of those kids) but it would be interesting to know. Remember, there were at least two independent sources, one from 1996 and one from 1997, that mentioned Michael having DNA testing to prove his paternity of Prince. I make no claims as to the validity of these sources; only that they do exist (if albeit are now very hard to find):
Michael Jackson agrees to pay off mother of his child
The Associated Press
LONDON – After DNA tests confirmed that he is the father, Michael Jackson signed a multimillion-dollar deal with his pregnant wife, a British newspaper said.
Under the headline “Jacko Buys His Baby,”The Daily Mirror reported Friday that Debbie Rowe would be paid $1.25 million when the child is born, and $280,000 a year after that for as long as the couple is together.
Citing an unidentified source, the newspaper said Jackson would pay Rowe $2.3 million if…
Published on 1996-12-22, Page A12, The Kansas City Star
And, from an article that appeared originally on psychologytoday.com:
Michael Jackson: The Performer Vs. the Person
Back in 1997 I published a newspaper editorial in San Diego’s North County Times (02/09/97) on the details of a postnuptial contract he ordered his attorneys to write up for him. It was to provide him with exclusive rights to his not-yet-born child should he split up with Debbie Rowe (his “nominal” wife at the time). My article wasn’t simply about Michael, but about the excesses of our capitalistic system, which seemed to permit traditional ethical values to simply be “bought out” at the right price.
JACKSON’S BABY DEAL AN EXAMPLE OF CAPITALIST VALUES RUN AMOK
I read in your paper recently that Michael Jackson had signed a multimillion-dollar deal to purchase outright (if need be) his own offspring. Assured through DNA testing that his wife-of-convenience, Debbie Rowe, is in fact carrying his baby, he has reportedly had his attorneys fashion a contract wherein should the marriage deteriorate and the two of them split up, he would obtain exclusive rights to the child. In this (not at all unlikely) event, his wife has allegedly agreed–for the tidy compensation of $2.3 million–”never to see the child again.”
It’s interesting that most references to this alleged DNA test have now been completely removed from the web. The article above, for example, was still online when I wrote a post on this alleged DNA test back in 2010 (I have since had to add a note that the link to the above article no longer works):
Luckily, I have the screencaps and the trace information to prove that both articles do/did exist. As I’ve stated, this information dates back to a time when the media was not so much concerned over whether Michael was the father as to what was then the more relevant burning question on their minds: How much did he pay Debbie?
It would be interesting to know if Michael had planned to set the record straight once and for all. Could his medical records of that rumored DNA test be among those charts and documents alleged to be contained in the manuscript? Again, we will never know unless Abdullah (whom I’m convinced is the said “business associate”) decides to release this or to continue to sit on it.
“…Michael also talks about Jordie even though both parties agreed a gagging order when they settled in 1993…”
Again, this could be truly bombshell info, or nothing at all. But it would certainly be interesting to hear-for the first time ever-Michael’s side to the Chandler story. (Even though we did get that story, albeit somewhat cryptically, on the HIStory album).
“…One of the key aspects of Michael’s book is his thoughts on his family.
“He talks about how he had been let down by all of them for many years. He accused most of them of wanting his money and being jealous of his fame…”
Well, none of this is exactly earth shattering news for those of us who have followed Michael. Though Michael never uttered a negative word about his family publicly, there is more than enough ample evidence that he had no qualms about confiding his feelings privately. But most of what we know of his feelings comes from just that-private sources, or at any rate, sources that were intended to remain private. I don’t know that he would have so readily dished family dirt in a book intended for publication, especially given that he had just endured a horrific trial in which we saw the Jacksons presenting such a united front of support for him. Would he have then turned around and pulled a Latoya, trashing them in a book?
My guess is that, just as the “Moonwalk” tapes contained a lot of info that never made it into the book, Michael would have probably eventually edited a lot of this material. Who knows, ultimately, what would have made it into the finshed book-or what was ever intende to be part of the finished book? I suspect that, just as Michael always over wrote for every album (with hundreds of songs always left in the can afterward) this proposed autobiography may have resulted in hundreds of pages that might never have been used. After all, writing for private, therapeutic reasons is one thing; writing for publication is quite another.
Therein lies another danger with ever releasing a project like this, especially an incomplete memoir. There is simply no way for any outsider to ever be able to fully gauge his intentions. Were all 600 pages intended as part of this memoir, or was there an understanding that eventually an editing process would take place?
Which brings me to the next bit of information of great concern to me:
“…The wealthy associate is in two minds over releasing the book, which is not complete and would need to be fleshed out to make a full autobiography…”
That last part gives me the heebie jeebies. No thanks! If this thing is ever released, leave it the hell alone! Either release it as is, warts and all (even if it is just incomplete notes and ramblings) or leave it alone. The last thing we need is another do-gooder journalist like Randy Sullivan, or another amateur psychoanalyst like Schmuley Boteach, writing Michael’s story for him and/or putting their own analytical spin on his words and ideas!
I think I can safely speak for every Michael Jackson fan out there when I say I would rather read his incomplete, unvarnished, unfinished notes any day-and have the joy of discovering for myself what he meant or intended-than to have one more book full of psychobabble about him. Let’s hope and pray that, for once, integrity will rule the day.
Of course, the big question that remains: Is this the real deal, or a phony? Or, for that matter, a phony story? That remains to be seen. Personally, I will remain skeptical until further confirmation.
But if this does turn out to be more than unfounded rumor, it is interesting that both of these projects hinge on one very important and crucial, similar element. In both cases, we have two men-a famous father and a famous son-who wanted their stories to be told.
Fortunately, Michael left us more than enough material to piece together that story-two books, and a legacy of music. His life is in his songs. Do we really need another tell-all memoir about Michael Jackson?
I would venture a very reserved “yes”-but only if this proves truly to be HIStory.
As he would have told it.