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The waiting game

Throughout the the O.J. Simpson trial, we all kept asking: Is this thing ever gonna end? The question for the Michael Jackson trial is: Is this thing ever gonna

Throughout the O.J. Simpson trial, we kept asking: Is this thing ever gonna end?

The question for the Michael Jackson trial is: Is this thing ever gonna begin?

I don't doubt the Man With the Umbrellas came down with a serious bout of the flu sometime between Monday and Tuesday. Stress brings sickness, and Jackson is facing about as much stress as a pop star facing multiple counts of alleged child molestation expectably would be.

Anything that diverts you from court to the emergecy room is serious: the flu, a fainting spell, an extreme case of stomach butterflies, whatever. Even Hillary Clinton collapsed and needed medical attention, though she rebounded quickly to keep speechifying on the chicken-lunch circuit.

But Jackson's case has had about the most abortive start to a trial I can remember.  Last week, it was the death of defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr.'s sister, which pushed jury selection back a week. Now it's the star client himself.

Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville has been gracious, offering quiet jokes and putting a human face for prospective jurors on what's sure to be a grueling spectacle. But you've got to expect his patience to run out soon.  Another week of delays and Mesereau's paralegals will probably be called in to mount the defense.

Let's consider the "grueling spectacle" bit.  Love him or hate him, Jackson manages to create a frenzy better than almost anyone else in the celebrity realm, frequently without trying to.

Even if you accept the most charitable explanation of 2002's baby dangling -- he simply wanted to give devoted fans a glimpse of baby Prince Michael II -- it was a clear signal that this most scrutinized of celebrities really has a tin ear when it comes to how the rest of us see him.

And he undoubtedly understands what it means when a camera is rolling. So when you consider his attempt to defend his bed habits with children to journalist Martin Bashir a couple years ago as "very charming and very sweet," you've got to wonder how many cases of antacid his publicists need to make it through the week.

The witness lists unveiled Monday made clear we're about to descend into another grand spectacle.  We figured Liz Taylor and Quincy Jones might show up for moral support, and sure, they're as good character witnesses as any.  But Kobe Bryant?  Two Backstreet Boys?

Forget L.A.  E! can send all its camera crews north to Santa Maria, because the modest city of 77,000 is about to become as crowded with celebrities, onlookers and the usual scrum as the corner of Hollywood and Highland.

It's reasonable enough to assume that Jackson, facing the most unpleasant scrutiny ever in a stupendously colorful public life, would feel ill at the prospect. Most defendants aren't rushed to the hospital, the trial process is undoubtedly a draining experience. Even Ted Kaczynski tried hanging himself with his underwear to avoid another trip to the courtroom.

That said, admit it: There's just a hint of suspicion in the back of your mind that all these false starts are meant to delay the trial process, to keep Jackson from day after day of sitting in court, listening to both friends and longtime tormentors dissect his more private moments.

Here's hoping the trial gets back on track soon.  Every single person involved with this case needs some closure. It's naive to think any verdict will end the speculation about MJ and his puzzling relations with kids, but it will wrap a sad and seemingly endless chapter of all things Jackson.