In retrospect, Michael Jackson and his people probably would have been well-advised to rent some prison movies, because it seems to me that in all the films and television shows I have seen that deal with the milieu of the maximum-security penitentiary, there are no stuffed animals, video games, swing sets, cotton candy machines or choo-choo trains. In the yard, they don’t play “Ring Around the Rosey,” they play “Garrote the Squealer.” In the shower, when somebody passes you the soap, it’s not just a gesture of courtesy, it’s the beginning of a relationship.
I bring this up because I sense that Michael doesn’t get it. I don’t think he believes he is destined to do hard time. My guess is that because he is childlike in so many ways, and because most of his playmates these days couldn’t pass the height requirement at most amusement park rides, he figures he’s headed to some sort of home for wayward children in a bucolic setting run by Bing Crosby.
Now I realize that a man is innocent until proven guilty, and the mere fact that Michael has been accused by a 12-year-old boy of sexual abuse, and that he had a previous incident in 1993 in which he bought off a similar accuser, and that he is a 45-year-old man who readily admits to having sleepovers with young boys — all of that is highly circumstantial. Still, you would think Michael might err on the side of abstinence and refrain from any contact with minors unless accompanied by a chaperone, if only to quell the gossip.
Alas, it’s starting to look like Michael is in danger of becoming the new fair-skinned androgynous inmate who can really hit a high note when prodded. One can only hope that if he moonwalks down the cell block, he looks where he’s going.
I realize I’m jumping the gun a little bit here. The 70-odd law enforcement officers who showed up Tuesday at Michael’s Neverland Ranch near Santa Barbara to execute a search warrant might simply have been eager fans who wanted to be the first ones to receive his new CD, “Number Ones,” a greatest hits collection that was released on that very same Tuesday. They may have simply floated the whole sexual abuse rumor as a ruse to keep the media distracted.
True, they did bring along a forensic evidence collection vehicle and an ambulance, but a lot of law enforcement people have tricked-up rigs with awesome sound systems, and that may be the situation here.
Takeout and toilet
Yet, there are two developments that disturb me the most and make me wonder if indeed Michael has a cavity search and a delousing in his immediate future.
First, Court TV reported that a portable toilet was brought to the scene. When the police bring their own toilet when serving a search warrant, it means one of two things: a) they’re going to be there for a while, or b) Michael Jackson’s bathroom is too disgusting to use. My guess is the former, not the latter, because people who have had 300 plastic surgeries tend to pay attention to detail. So that means the cops probably took the square footage of Neverland, divided it by the size of the average adolescent pubic hair, and then realized this was going to be a takeout food and porta-potty kind of day.
Second, there is one new single on Jackson’s recent CD, “One More Chance,” which was written by R. Kelly. It may be just a coincidence that Michael collaborated with another singer who has been the subject of a child pornography investigation, but in hindsight, it might have looked better had Michael teamed up with, say, Mick Jagger or Rod Stewart or The Rock. Michael having R. Kelly in his camp is a little like having Diana Ross vouching for Nick Nolte.
Borrow or steal
After “One More Chance,” Michael might want to do a new song entitled, “Millions More Dollars,” because that is probably what it will take to prevent him from someday being used as a wishbone by the Aryan Brotherhood and the Crips. In ’93, he paid off a 13-year-old boy and his family an undisclosed whopping sum — believed to be in the $15-20 million range — to settle a civil suit, and there was a strong indication at the time that the agreement also included a promise by the kid not to testify at any criminal trial. That allowed Michael to continue having nosejobs and sleepovers as a free man.
No doubt a similar payoff will be necessary with this latest incident, with a couple of new wrinkles. The price will go up, as prices do over 10 years of time. The savvy pedophile prepares for this, of course, by investing wisely. Yet by most accounts, Michael is in serious financial trouble. Since the days of “Thriller” in 1982, and later with the “Bad” and “Dangerous” albums, Michael has apparently blown his money on exotic animals and skin treatments.
He is deeply in debt, and has been reduced to putting out yet another greatest hits compilation for quick cash in order to maintain his image as a 45-year-old boy toy. His movie career is shot. His only legitimate hope is a run for governor of California, and he’ll have to wait a while for that.
This leaves two alternatives: Either borrow the money, or steal it. Who is going to let him borrow $30-50 million? Anybody in the music industry who has that kind of money to lend an artist in trouble with the law will probably give it to R. Kelly, because he has more of a career left.
If I were Michael, I would try and steal it, because if he’s going to jail anyway, he could use that extra street cred when they corner him in the prison laundry and ask to see his sequins. Remember, in the “Beat It” video, he mixed it up with some pretty rough customers.
I’d like to see him dance his way out of this one.
Michael Ventre is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.