Category Archives: The Never-Ending Media War

Blogs and rants about the media and its relationship with MJ

In An Ideal World

The MJ estate has issued a letter to MSNBC. By now, I’m sure most of you have already seen it, but if not, you can read the letter in its entirety here:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/11/michael-jackson-conrad-murray-msnbc-documentary-.html

Just by doing a quick google search, one can assess how the media is reacting to this letter, using a plethora of colorfully descriptive adjectives: “Blistering” and “Scathing” have been the two most common. And, just like David Walgreen’s closing arguements, it is also brilliant in its uncompromising, brutal honesty. In fact, I think a lot of us these days are taking a cue from Mr. Walgreen, that the only way to fight this fight is head on.

But is it enough? So far, I haven’t seen any indication that MSNBC plans to pull the plug on Friday night’s broadcast of that hot mess for which they reportedly shelled out 300k:

http://www.radaronline.com/exclusives/2011/11/conrad-murray-documentary-paid-nbc-300k

The estate can express disgust all they want, and I’m glad they did speak out. But expressing disgust is unfortunately not enough to stop greed and exploitation. Legal action is the only language these people understand. The reality is that Murray very calculatedly and sneakily worked his way around every legal loophole here by lining all of his ducks up before the conviction. However, what I am even more incensed by than Murray’s manipulative sneakiness is NBC and MSNBC’s sneakiness. These people knew-the entire time that Michael Jackson’s family, children, and fans were sitting on pins and needles awaiting that verdict-that they were planning to bradcast this. But they kept a lid on it until the day after the verdict, thereby succesfully defusing any legal loopholes that might have still been an option had there been more time to work with. Murray knew it when he made the decision not to testify under oath. As the estate letter says, what MSNBC is now allowing Murray to do is to speak out “with no fear of cross examination.”  Again, Murray knew this the day he sat in court and answered that he would not testify on his behalf. While a lot of us felt relieved by his decision at the time, because we didn’t want to stomach hearing anymore of his lies, in hindsight I now wish he had. It would have been the best thing that could have happened, because by the time Walgreen would have gotten done tearing him down, this man would have had not an ounce, not a shred, of credibility left. And MSNBC would have been left looking like total idiots.

Honestly, some of the stuff Murray has cooked up for this doc sounds like the worst kind of hack horror story writing. That Michael literally looked like his “Thriller”-zombie self as he begged for his “milk?” Come on! I guess next, we will hear that Murray stood there screaming like Ola Ray as Michael Jackson morphed into some hybrid creature, growing fangs and snarling, “Give me my milk…now!”

 

Murray Wants Us To Believe He Was As Scared As Ola Ray...Yeah, Right!

Trust me, Murray wasn’t screaming like Ola Ray. Murray was on the damned phone with his cocktail waitress! Now does any of this really add up? Think about it for a minute. If Murray had really been dealing with such a distraught patient, he wouldn’t have even had the time and energy to be making phone calls to women. His hands would have been full dealing with and trying to calm his patient. No, the more likely truth-which the jury believed-was that Murray had Michael attached to a drip and out like a proverbial light so he could do what he wanted without having to be bothered by his “troublesome” patient.

But really, hashing out these details again is pointless because the jury made their decision, and Murray has been convicted. Which brings us back to MSNBC and this “Fatal Friendship” bs. (Oh yes, it was “fatal” all right; fatal for Michael Jackson!).

In an ideal world, what should happen in the event this broadcast cannot be stopped? While I’m still optimistic that it’s not too late, I have also been giving a lot of thought to how some lemonade might best be squeezed out of this rotten lemon. The worst case scenario is for Murray to be allowed to personally profit from this.

On HLN Tuesday night, they were interviewing that smirking defense analyst (I can’t think of her name, but she is one they interviewed periodically throughout the trial, who of course always sided with the defense) and she had the gall to defend this action by bringing Murray’s children into the mix. “Those children are innocent,” she said. “Why should they be made to suffer?” She went on to say how Murray’s children would need textbooks, clothes, medicine, ete, etc. And how were they supposed to have these things if their father is in jail, cannot practice medicine, and can no longer provide for them?

Well, Vinnie Politan had a good comeback, which is that Murray should have been thinking about his kids when he was on the phone with Sade Anding. But considering none of that can be undone, let’s consider her point for just a minute.

I have actually thought about Conrad Murray’s minor children a lot since all of this went down. Of course, I feel a lot more pity for Michael Jackson’s children, who have lost their father forever. But as far as their material well being, Prince, Paris, and Blanket will never want. And it wasn’t just because they had a rich daddy; it was because they had a father who worked hard his entire life to ensure his children would be well provided for. On the other hand, Murray’s reputation as a deadbeat dad is already well known. And no, I don’t think his children should be made to suffer to pay for his crime.

I’ve also heard that some of Murray’s debtors are already crawling out of the woodwork with hands out. Not to mention the hard hit he is going to take in legal fees once the civil suits start rolling in.

In an ideal world, then, this is what should happen: Every red cent of that $300k needs to be divided into a trust fund to provide for his children, and the rest garnished to compensate his deadbeat bills. I’m sure there must be some sort of court order that could ensure that the money goes directly to Murray’s children and his debtors, and not one cent into his pockets. While I am sickened at the thought of Murray receiving any monetary compensation at all for Michael Jackson’s death, at least I will feel better if I know he isn’t getting to use any of it to pay for frolics on the Riviera or expensive shopping sprees to buy himself fancy new ties, now or in the future.

Networks Refused To Promote OJ Simpson's Book Or To Grant Him Interviews To Promote It-And He Was Never Even Convicted! So Why Is It OK To Allow Conrad Murray To Profit From His Crime?

In an ideal world, television networks would not care what a convicted felon who took the life of another human being has to say. And before anyone says, look, even Charles Manson has been interviewed on TV, think again: Manson’s interviews took place YEARS after the fact, and with the gruesome details of his crime well know, there was no danger of misleading the public. Manson’s interviews were more about “let’s see what this nut actually has to say” than any real stab at insight or truth. Still exploitation, but exploitation of a different kind. And as one of my readers, Susan, so aptly pointed out in a recent comment, O.J. Simpson-who was not even convicted of his crime-was refused a network platform to promote his book If I Did It, even ten years after the fact!

This is different. As the estate letter says, it is an obvious attempt to “shift the blame post-conviction to Michael Jackson.” Murray already knew that a guilty verdict was likely. He had his Plan B mapped out, well in advance. And unfortunately, the potential of another high-rated “crock” that could be as damaging to Michael’s reputation and legacy as the Martin Bashir program could have far longer lasting repercussions than Murray’s guilty verdict. In fact, this is worse than the Martin Bashir crock. At least in that program, it was Michael jackson’s own words, however edited or manipulated by Bashir. He was alive and had the opportunity to rebut. Now he cannot speak for himself, and Murray knows this. So does MSNBC.

In an ideal world, the public will see this steaming pile for what it is; critics will slam it as opportunistic exploitation, sponsors will abandon the network in droves, and MSNBC will be forever shamed for having had any hand in it. In an ideal world, Murray will sit in a jail for four years, while meanwhile his minor children eat well, go to school, and hopefully grow up to be better men and women than this sorry excuse for a father.

In an ideal world, Conrad Murray’s fifteen minutes of fame as the Man Who Killed Michael Jackson will be forgotten, while Michael Jackson’s legacy lives forever.

It’s a sad twist of irony that this moning, as I was reading a CNN article about the estate’s reaction to MSNBC, I saw beneath that same article a link to a story about Chris Tucker losing his home, and a link to a story about the death of Heavy D. I couldn’t help but think how sad it is for these two people-one a loyal friend to Michael Jackson through the years who is now facing foreclosure on his home, and the other being the guy who provided the rap on “Jam” and is thus forever associated with one of our happier memories of MJ, who now has died far too young. Granted, Chris Tucker’s personal financial hardships have no bearing on any of this, except to say that it just seems sad to think that while all of this misfortune is befalling others positively associated with Michael, that here is Murray getting to profit from killing him.

But in an ideal world, greed and corruption do not exist. Reality is a different story.

ETA: This is the letter I sent to NBC president Phil Griffin this morning:

Dear Mr Griffin:

 

By now I am sure you are aware of what this letter is going to say. I am appalled that NBC/MSNBC plans to give Conrad Murray-now a convicted felon-a platform in which to give the “testimony” he refused to give under oath. His interview and documentary were both in clear violation of the court gag order in place prior to the verdict. Murray has been convicted of involuntary manslaughter in taking someone’s life-regardless of whether that life is Michael Jackson’s should be beside the point.

 

You have already heard from the estate of Michael Jackson and even from Jackson’s own family members. They have clearly expressed their feelings, yet NBC/MSNBC has chosen to ignore them. Many fans now feel that if the network has refused to listen to the Jackson family and even to the estate, what more can be done or said? Well, probaly not a lot. But that doesn’t mean we can’t speak what we feel. I could not rest with my conscience if I allowed this to pass without having said anything.

 

Since memories in this business tend to be short, let me remind you of something that occurred not so long ago. When OJ Simpson-who for the record was never even convicted of his crime-came out with his book “If I Did It” no one would even grant him an interview to promote it. Why? Because no one wanted to look like “the bad guys” who were supporting OJ Simpson, a “murderer” convicted in the court of public opinion, if not by the court.

 

But there seems to be no hestation whatsoever to give Conrad Murray a platform, post-conviction. As the estate letter clearly said, this is nothing but an attempt on Murray’s part to shift the blame to the victim, post-conviction, without fear of cross examination. The world knows that there were only two people in that room-and one cannot speak for himself because he isn’t here. A jury of Murray’s peers weighed the evidence, and voted in favor of a guilty verdict. That verdict should be allowed to stand, loud and clear. This is not the time, now, to allow the viewing public a chance to second guess that verdict, or to provide Murray an opportunity to undermine it. Murray had his opportunity to speak in court, under oath-and refused. I think we all know the reason for that.

 

If the public wants to know the truth about what happened the day Michael Jackson died, all they need do is consult the trial transcripts or videos. The entire procedure was covered for television, gavel to gavel. We heard what the jury heard. There is no big “untold story” here to be revealed, except for the one that exists in Conrad Murray’s vivid imagination. All MSNBC is doing is giving him a platform to spin more lies and deflect blame for his own actions. Of course, I don’t suppose NBC cares about that, as long as the end result is ratings.

 

However, you should know that I and many, many others will not be watching. We are not going to give Conrad Murray, convicted felon, nor MSNBC, the satisfaction of profitting from what we feel has been a very underhanded action on the part of this network and Murray himself. Nor will we purchase the products that sponsor this program.

 

At this juncture, we realize we probably cannot stop the airing of this documentary. But we will continue to voice our dissatisfaction and disgust, in such a way that the world will know that MSNBC/NBC played a hand in a very devious, underhanded scheme to manipulate and undermine the American justice system. Already your network is under much fire and media scrutiny for this action. I think the voice of disgust is going to grow louder, especially now with it being public knowledge that you ignored the pleas of a family still grieving their loved one-a family who has just undergone six weeks of hell, being made to u live through this tragedy all over again. Your decision to air this program smacks of the worst kind of insensitivity and opportunistic greed. I honestly feel this is something that is going to reflect poorly on MSNBC/NBC for a long time to come.

 

I would like to send out one last plea to you, before it is too late, to make the right decision and not air this program. But just know that whatever decision is made, this is not the last you will be hearing of this matter.

 

Sincerely,

Raven Woods

Huntsville, Al

 

 

 

Scratch The "Sense Of Closure," This Fight's Not Over!

MSNBC/NBC, Zodiac Media, October Films, The UK's Ch 4 and Nine Network Among Those Planning To Aid Murray In Further Exploitation and Profit of MJ's Death

 

What was I just saying earlier about feeling like I finally have some sense of closure today? That was before I saw this!

Looks as though Zodiak Media, along with a little help from Uk’s Channel 4, MSNBC/NBC in the US, and Nine Network in Australia are planning to help convicted felon Conrad Murray to further exploit and profit from killing Michael Jackson. Rumors of this “crockumentary” have been swirling for awhile, but today was the first that I’ve seen what looks like actual confirmation that it’s a “go.” Too sick for words.

Channel 4 To Screen Michael Jackson And The Doctor: A Fatal Friendship

Channel 4 is set to screen a documentary featuring an exclusive interview with Dr Conrad Murray, who was today found guilty of the involuntary manslaughter of pop legend Michael Jackson in 2009.

Produced by October Films, what’s it all about? productions and Zodiak Rights, Michael Jackson and The Doctor: A Fatal Friendship (working title) will be shown exclusively in the UK on Channel 4 in the next week (date and time tbc).

October Films, what’s it all about? productions and Zodiak Rights secured access to Dr Murray in November 2009, prior to him being charged. They have filmed with Dr Murray throughout the intervening two years and have continued to record with him during the trial.

The film, by multi-award-winning director Tom Roberts, explores the surreal world inhabited by Jackson in the last three months of his life and examines his fatal friendship with the doctor he handpicked to care for himself and his children.

It was a private world where the controversial use of powerful medication was a way of life, where a man adored by millions lived as a virtual recluse, and where an unknown cardiologist from Texas found himself the unexpected companion, confidante and intimate to one of the most famous men in the world.

When Michael Jackson died on June 25th, 2009 only two people were in the room: Jackson and Dr Conrad Murray. Now the documentary reveals Dr Murray’s accounts and testimony of those events for the first time.

Michael Jackson and The Doctor: A Fatal Friendship (working title) uncovers the fatal friendship behind the headlines and reveals the chain of events that led to one man dead and the other fighting for his reputation and freedom.

Adam Bullmore, Executive Producer for October Films, said: “Made with remarkable levels of access and complete editorial independence, we believe this film is the most complete and accurate story of what really happened to Michael Jackson and Conrad Murray on 25 June 2009; and why.”

Leon Lecash, Executive Producer for what’s it all about? productions, said: “When what’s it all about? productions secured access to Dr Murray in 2009, we knew that this would be an incredibly compelling film about 21st Century celebrity justice.”

Michael Jackson and The Doctor: A Fatal Friendship (working title) will be shown on Channel 4 in the next week (date and time tbc). The documentary is an October Films and what’s it all about? co-production. Jane Millichip is Executive Producer for Zodiak Rights.

UK international distributor Zodiak Rights have already secured pre-sales with major broadcasters around the world including MSNBC/NBC in the US, Nine Network in Australia and over ten other international broadcasters. (my emphasis).

http://www.channel4.com/info/press/news/channel-4-to-screen-documentary-about-doctor-in-michael-jackson-trial

All I can say is, we’d best limber up our typing fingers and dialing digits cause this is going to take a campaign every bit as intensive as the one launched against Discovery earlier this year! Where to begin?

Think Justice Has Prevailed? Think Again!

Here are most of the major contacts for MSNBC/NBC, courtesy of Positively Michael:

NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios
100 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, CA 91608
Phone: 818-777-1000
Fax: 818-866-1430

Marc Graboff
President, West Coast Business Operations,
Television Entertainment, NBC Universal
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/mgraboff

Rebecca Marks
Executive Vice President, Publicity

Charles Engel
Executive Vice President, Programming

Curt King
Senior Vice President,
Publicity, Marketing, and Corporate Communications

*******

MSNBC Cable, L.L.C.
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10112
Phone: 212-664-4444
Fax: 212-664-4085

MSNBC Public Relations
212-664-3720
NO Murray documentary
NO paying Michael Jackson’s killer

Phil Griffin
President, MSNBC
Email: phil.griffin@nbcuni.com

Sharon Otterman
Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer
Email: sharon.otterman@nbcuni.com

Jeremy Gaines
Vice President Media Relations
Email: jeremy.gaines@nbcuni.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/jeremymgaines

Bill Wolff
Vice President, Primetime Programming
Email: bill.wolff@nbcuni.com

These websites list contact info for Zodiak Media and Channel 4, respectively:

http://www.zodiakmedia.com/contact.php

http://www.mediauk.com/tv/28186/channel-4

ETA: Contact info for Network Nine in Australia, provided by Tania (thanks!)

Channel 9 (Australia)

Channel Nine Australia :
Channel 9 Sydney+61 2 9906 9999
Channel 9 Melbourne+61 3 9420 3111
Channel 9 Brisbane+61 7 3214 9999
Channel 9 Adelaide+61 8 8267 0111
Channel 9 Perth+61 8 9449 9999

General email : customer.service@ninemsn.com.au (this is the only email address listed on their website)

Twitter: @channel9

or by writing to:
NSW Viewers: PO Box 27 Willoughby, NSW 2068
Vic Viewers: PO Box 100 Richmond, Vic 3121
QLD Viewers: PO Box 72 Brisbane, QLD 4001
(no time for postal letters, it airs here too soon! In just two days)

 

I’m also going to add another bit of postscript here, while I’m at it. The more I learn now about this crockumentary and how it came together, the more outraged and repulsed I am by just how sneaky and calculatedly planned out this whole thing was on the part of Murray, MSNBC, and everyone involved. Both Murray and MSNBC KNEW ALL ALONG THAT THEY WERE SITTING ON THIS STINKING PILE UNTIL AFTER THE VERDICT!!! I can’t help now but get this sinking, sick feeling that Conrad Murray, sitting in his jail cell, is getting the last word-and last laugh-on all of us, after all. He knew, when he was sitting in court and made the decision not to testify, that he already had his own “testament” ready to unleash-not coincidentally, perhaps, just in time to influence his sentencing and his appeal. I personally think he was planning something like this all along-that explains the audio recordings he made of Michael. This man is beyond despicable. He killed Michael Jackson, he was convicted for it, and now he plans to profit from his actions! But you know what’s worse? That apparently there are those only too willing to aid and abet him in so doing.

ETA 11/09/11: This post keeps growing as more info is shared. I was thinking this morning that hitting  MSNBC sponsors would be more effective than hitting the network heads. After all, MSNBC probably paid a bunch of money for this doc, so they’re not likely to pull it unless they realize they stand to lose more than they put into it. Unfortunately, a few days isn’t really enough time to wage an effective product boycott (this is why I say the whole, planned timing of this thing was soooooooo deviously sneaky; they knew exactly what they were doing, and how fans would react!). But I think we can still send a strong message to these sponsors that we won’t be buying their products if they sponsor this crock. Anyway, this is one of the most complete MSNBC sponsor contact lists I’ve found; any thanks again to Positively Michael:

Alcatel mailto:%20press@alcatel-lucent.com
Anheuser-Busch http://contactus.anheuser-busch.com/…px?Site=CUSITE
Ann Taylor http://www.anntaylorstorescorp.com/contact/index.asp (call or fax)
Avon http://shop.avon.com/shop/assist_email_us.asp
Banco Nacional de Mexico https://portal.banamex.com.mx/esp/at…scucharte.html
Cambridge Technology Partners mailto:%20marketing@ctp-consulting.com
Catalyst http://www.catalyst.org/page/50/contact-us
Champion International http://support.crosspath.com/support…48.101.113.111
Chase Manhattan https://www.chase.com/index.jsp?pg_n…page/contactus
Choice-Point http://www.lexisnexis.com/risk/contact /
Chubb Corporation http://www.chubb.com/marketing/chubb2340.html
Coca-Cola http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/contactus /
Community Health Systems http://www.chs.net/company_overview/contact_us.html
Dell Computer http://support.dell.com/support/topi…gen&redirect=1
Delphi Automotive http://delphi.com/contact/other /
Fiat http://www.fiat.com/cgi-bin/pbrand.d…cejgdfkhdfjj.0
Home Depot http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/wcs/…atalogId=10053
Honeywell http://www51.honeywell.com/honeywell…ontact-us.html
Illinois Tool Works Illinois Tool Works
International Speedy http://www.speedyintl.com/contact_us.php
Internet Security Systems http://www.securitystoreusa.com/help.asp
Invemed http://www.manta.com/c/mm2gr8n/invemed-associates-llc
Morgan Chase & Co. http://www.jpmorganchase.com/corpora…a-contacts.htm
Kellogg mailto:%20media.hotline@kellogg.com
Kimberly-Clark http://www.kimberly-clark.com/ask/ki…rk/country.asp
Knight-Ridder http://www.mcclatchy.com/2006/06/12/380/contact-us.html
Microtune http://www.microtune.com/company/contact_us.shtml
Morgan Gauranty Trust http://www.jpmorganchase.com/corpora…a-contacts.htm
National Service Industries http://www.fundinguniverse.com/compa…y-History.html
New York Stock Exchange http://www.nyse.com/about/newsevents/1095581297695.html
Oglivy & Mather https://www.ogilvy.com/Contact.aspx
Penske http://www.penskeracing.com/about/contact.cfm
Planet Hollywood http://www.answers.com/topic/planet-…ernational-inc
State Street http://www.statestreet.com/wps/porta…D9gmxHRQDWNWSc /
Scientific Atlanta http://www.cisco.com/web/siteassets/contacts/index.html
Sun Microsystems http://www.sun.com/contact/office_locations.jsp
Texaco http://www.texaco.com/contactus.aspx
TIAA-CREF https://www3.tiaa-cref.org/ContactTIAA/ContactTIAA.php
Total Systems Services http://www.tsys.com/About/Contact/index.cfm
TRICON Global Restaurants http://www.yum.com/contact/default.asp
Unifi http://www.unificompanies.com/unifi_contact.htm
Unilever http://www.unilever.com/resource/Contactform/index.aspx
WinStar http://www.winstarworldcasino.com/about-us/contact-form

Sponsors Twitter:

Brita’s twitter: @BRITA_PPD
DeadSea2U’s twitter: @DeadSea2U
Walgreen’s twitter: @Walgreens
Clorox’s twitter: @Clorox
Welchs’s twitter: @Welchs
HTC’s twtitter: @htc
Lowe’s twitter: @Lowes
Smart car twitter: @smartCar
Columbia sportswear twitter: @Columbia1938
Mercedes-Benz USA twitter: @MBUSA
Yahoo Mail twitter: @yahoomail

A few helpful tips if you feel overwhelmed by these sort of campaigns, as I sometimes do: You need not contact every single person or sponsor on the list. Target those you feel will be most effective. If everyone is doing their part, it will be the collective effort that sends the message. If sending an email, it need not be an epic. Yes, I have seen some very beautiful and eloquent messages. But really, a few lines that get straight to the point and tell them exactly how you feel is all that’s necessary-and in the long run, is probably most effective. You can cut and paste the same message to send to multiple contacts. Use the CC function; it helps, trust me!

But here is something to also keep in mind. While we are focusing so heavily on MSNBC, it is Zodiak Media who owns the distribution rights, and ultimately, October Films who owns the footage.Which means even if MSNBC pulls the plug, they can still simply shop it elsewhere. So let’s not overlook their importance as targets of this campaign.
 

Thoughts On Seeing Michael In Death

An Image Of "The Last Night"...The Way We Prefer To Remember Michael

I never wanted to see Michael Jackson dead. I was one of those that always shuddered at the thought that there were autopsy and hospital post-mortem photos “out there.” Like many, I feared and dreaded the inevitable day those photos would be leaked. There were rumors of tabloids and other parties offering up to half a million for them. For over two years, an excellent job had been done at keeping those private and under seal, as they should be. But like the white elephant in the room, we always knew they existed, and that one day…

Of course, we now know that even the notorious “ambulance photo” was actually a post-mortem photo. None of us asked to see that, either, but it was splashed on magazine and tabloid covers all over the world. It was bad enough to think that this was the last photo ever taken of Michael alive . But now we know better. Michael was dead from the time Murray found him not breathing. He was dead long before the paramedics arrived. So in that sense, the world had already seen Michael Jackson in death. But maybe it’s just that a hastily snapped, paparazzi photo isn’t the same as looking at a graphic, coroner investigator photo of him lying on a hospital gurney-or worse yet, on the autopsy table.

I knew, of course, that the jury would probably see these photos. Like many, however, I wasn’t quite expecting that they would be displayed on TV. Chalk it up to the pros and cons of having live TV cameras in a court room. We can’t have our cake and eat it, too. Allowing cameras and a live broadcast feed from the court room means we see it all, just as the jury does. Warts and all.

I understand why the prosecution wanted the photos shown to the jury. What is inexcusable is how the media immediatly jumped the bandwagon; within minutes those photos were posted on TMZ, The LA Times, in fact, every media outlet I can think of. Haters tweeted the autopsy photo to Michael’s children. I have already seen many of the inevitable, horrid photoshops, the kind that sick individuals with apparently nothing better to do with their lives, like to create. Even in death, Michael has been allowed no dignity, no privacy. Even many of his closest family members refused to view him post-mortem. I know that both Katherine and Joe have stated they did not view him. I believe his brother Tito said he chose not to view him. As Latoya described in her book, this was one reason why she was elected as caretaker of her brother’s remains. Latoya, always the most giddy and seemingly “airheaded” of the Jackson family, proved surprisingly to be the strongest when it came to some of the most gruesome post-mortem tasks involving her brother’s remains. It was Latoya who took Michael’s children in to see their father one last time, so that they might have that closure. She was the one who picked out his burial outfit. In her latest book, one particularly gut-wrenching scene is her description of a few days before Michael’s entombment, when a lab tech, photographer, and police officer said they would need a palm print and more hair samples as part of the ongoing death investigation. Literally propping her dead brother’s body up in a chair, she describes going to great pains to make sure the body was draped with a sheet and covered at all times throughout the ordeal. Why? Because she didn’t trust the photographer; didn’t trust that any photo snapped in the name of “official business” might not somehow find its way to the front page of The National Enquirer!

So one can only imagine how painful it must be now, to know those post-mortem photos are out there for the world to ogle.

Celebrity autopsy photos are big business. In fact, all you have to do is a quick google search for autopsies, and you will find sites that link to the autopsy photos of Marilyn Monroe, Kennedy, and Tupac Shakur, among others. I will admit, I have looked at those photos. Like many humans, I am naturally curious. It’s the same instinctive compulsion that makes us look when we pass the scene of an accident, even though we know we shouldn’t. I will look, but then feel guilty, knowing such photos are the ultimate invasion of someone’s privacy. After all, we are never more vulnerable, more piteously exposed, than in death.

But there are two thoughts of mind on this. Death is also a very natural process. I have always had this sort of clinical ability to detach myself and be able to view a deceased body in, I suppose, the same way a person in the medical field would. Perhaps I’m one of those who would have made a good doctor or mortician, had I been so inclined. It doesn’t “freak me out” to see a dead body. I have seen many of my own loved ones in death, and it has always brought me closure. As some will say, it is only a body, after all. The person is no longer there.

However, I could never quite bring myself to apply that to Michael. Michael Jackson-the most vibrant, dancing, dynamic performer of our time-was not someone I wanted to see dead. I did not seek to see him in death. But the world splashed those photos all over the place, and left us with little choice. That day, when that photo was put before the jury and in front of the TV cameras, we were a captive audience-in the worst sense of that word. The true definition of a “captive audience” is akin to someone tied and roped to a chair, forced to look because they have no other alternative. In that sense, yes, we were a captive audience to something most of us never wanted to see.

No, I didn’t seek those images. But here I have to confess-once they were out there, I did look. But in this case, it was not the same kind of morbid curiosity with which I had looked at other dead images of celebrities. This was something else. It felt intensely personal somehow. Maybe, in a way, I felt like I was finally having my own sense of closure. I will never post or link to those photos, and really have no desire to look at them again. But having seen them, I want to try to describe some of the emotions they envoked-good and bad.

On many forums, I have seen discussions where fans confessed they looked at the photos, even studied them, but then admitted they felt overwhelmingly guilty. The guilt is understandable, because we all know how Michael felt about his privacy, and we do recognize that this is an invasion. But remember, we didn’t ask for these images to be thrust on us. Let’s not beat ourselves up. As I’ve already stated, curiosity is a natural human inclination. Michael himself was fascinated with such things. In Latoya’s first book, she described Michael one day bringing a human brain that he had managed to get from a lab, home to his bedroom. “Don’t tell mother!” he said. He was fascinated with it; wanted to study and dissect it, she said. There was nothing ‘strange” about that. He was a kid, and a boy’s nature is usually to be fascinated with “gross” things. If I know Michael, he would have gotten a laugh out of chasing Latoya and Janet around the house with that brain, giggling as they screeched and screamed.

As for the autopsy photo, I’m not even going there. That was just too much. The hospital gurney photo was sad, but to me, not gruesome or morbid. When I first saw it, I cried and had to gather myself for about five minutes. But the more I looked at it, the more I found a kind of peaceful beauty to it. Let me explain, because this is hard.

The Body of St. Clare

First of all, let me just say, there’s nothing beautiful about the fact that he was lying there dead, far too soon, and for reasons that are just too stupid for words. But it gave me great comfort to see that in death, he was not gross; he was as beautiful as he had always been. I have never been one of those fans who go around describing Michael in deified terms-he was not an angel, or a saint, or a god to me. He was a human being, with all the flaws and frailities of a human being. But when I saw that photo, I couldn’t help but compare it to some of the paintings I have seen of dead saints. There was an ethereal quality about it, but at the same time, something that was heartbreakingly vulnerable and sad. As I looked at his arms, so thin and stilled upon the bedsheet, gauzed with tape. I couldn’t help but think how those arms wanted to hug his children one last time; I thought of him having to go alone, to face the other side without them. I thought of how many hugs those arms had given. I thought of all the pain he had endured in his last years, and that now no one could hurt him, ever again. Call me crazy, if you want. But I just wanted to reach through that photo and stroke his hair and place a parting kiss on his cheek. I wanted to say, thank you for everything you gave us, and now, sleep well. Remember those final lines from Hamlet?

 

Good night, sweet prince

May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest

I guess, really, this is all just a long-winded way of saying, after two years of dread, I have now seen Michael in death. And really, it wasn’t so bad for me (I am speaking from purely personal experience, of course). It gave me peace and closure. Hopefully, no more photos will be leaked, but as many have said, the damage has already been done. Despite numerous complaints, TMZ has refused to remove the autopsy photo. I suspect it generates far too many hits for them to even consider taking it down. But we knew long ago that Harry Levin has no decency, so what else is new? I often go back and think about how hard most of us worked to get that Discovery channel reenactment of the autopsy cancelled. It almost seems in vain now. We instigated that campaign to preserve Michael’s dignity, only to have it violated anyway. The only saving grace, and only difference in this case, is the knowledge that at least-hopefully, this was done in the name of justice, rather than ratings. But however you slice it, the result is the same.

But at this point it doesn’t do much good to get our blood pressure worked up over what can’t be changed. The photos are “out there” now, and will be from here on out, no matter how hard we may work to avoid them. From my standpoint, I’ve simply decided to “own it,” as they say. I have seen the photos, I looked at them; I have made my peace with them. They are not gruesome. They are Michael. And yes, he was as beautiful in death as in life. Death could not take that away. As the old saying goes, once you’ve been faced with something you feared or dreaded, it no longer controls you. It’s like, okay, it’s happened, it’s over, take a deep breath. It wasn’t so bad. Much of this entire trail has been that way for me, to tell the truth. Thankfully, we’re almost to the light at the end of the tunnel.