With the Jolie-Pitts invading the city in their armored SUVs, we’re hardly surprised that other celebrity tidbits have been swept under the rug — clearly, by-the-hour updates of what Maddox is up to at the park would supersede news of what Tinsley has done with her hair, or which blast of hot air most recently burst from Trump’s blowhole. But for America’s First Family to eclipse even the dramatic return of deposed King of Pop Michael Jackson and his theatrically veiled kids does that mean we’re ready to forgive and forget with America’s most (in)famous man-child? Or is it that no one can be bothered to care?
That the be-robed Jackson could arrive in New York to little fanfare and slip off to The Lion King — like any regular father who hasn’t dangled his baby off a balcony — seems almost absurd. As hideous falls from grace go, the guy was a trailblazer, going from brilliant recording star to taut recluse dogged by wild tales of petting zoos and skin-bleaching and Jesus Juice. The pop star we once loved was already long gone; the creep who took his place we purposefully forgot, figuring he’d vanished to Bahrain never to be heard from again. Like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and a tolerable Dane Cook movie, Michael Jackson’s continued existence became to us a laughable myth. That sweet denial freed us from pondering just how entrenched in Nutballville he really might be, and whether we as his consumers somehow had a hand in his wildly distorted identity — not to mention what might happen to his children, who are being raised by a tortured, plasticized Peter Pan. Celebrity baby-naming insanity makes Prince Michael I and Blanket look fairly run-of-the-mill, but it might be awkward when these kids try to go to school and find out that not everyone wears masks to Disney World.
So now that he’s inching his way back around the country, you’d think Michael Jackson would present a fresh tabloid target after a summer in which nearly all the other regulars either went to jail, rehab, or jail and rehab. Yet he’s not being pap-attacked with the usual fanatic zeal. Why? Because to stalk and snap Jackson is to consider him a viable member of society again. Innocent until proven guilty is one thing, but is there a join-hands-and-sway fund-raising song he could write that would erase memories of allegations that he put booze in Diet Coke cans? If a face transplant landed him back in the Fun Michael days, could we forget the image of him massaging his crotch atop a car in the “Black or White” video? Would being a godparent to Madonna’s latest Malawian accessory make us more confident that he’s through hanging babies over railings?
We doubt it. It’s head-scrambling even contemplating a way in which Jackson wouldn’t somehow court controversy — a comeback would be cringe-worthy, a date with deranged Britney too predictable, an attempt at being Joe Q. Dad too ridiculous. So who can blame the paparazzi for letting Jackson pass quietly through the city? They don’t want to think about it either. In fact, and we never thought we’d say this, we probably owe them a debt of gratitude for their restraint. It’s been a long, scandal-ridden couple of months, and the section of our brains devoted to Wackadoo Celebrities With Serious Issues (located right between the area committed to solving the energy crisis and the part we use for differential equations) is all tuckered out right now. To paraphrase Scarlett O’Hara, we just can’t think about Michael Jackson today. We’ll think about him tomorrow. Maybe.