Sunday, July 05, 2009

TV: Trash TV

We would have been just fine never commenting on Michael Jackson. As a general rule, the lives of pedophiles don't interest us, nor do their deaths. But in typical embarrassing fashion, various of the usual suspects on the faux left had to waste our time with their efforts to be correspondents for E! and TMZ.


Take Laura Flanders whose tired act fell apart around the time her looks did. You really can't go on Bill O'Reilly and other shows shoving your bra-less chest in a tight t-shirt out, and acting like a bigger cock tease than any of the female 'anchors' wearing plunging necklines on Fox Sports "en Espanol" once the looks have gone and damned if the looks didn't leave Flanders' sour puss as 2007 drew to a close. These days she resembles Marjorie Main in a Harpo Marx wig.

The self-loathing and semi-closeted Flanders showed up July 1st at The Nation's blog (The Notion) with "Trans Man." There's something especially disgusting about a lesbian who is forever sucking off some man's penis in print. But There's Always Something Disgusting About Laura. Little brain wanted to tell the world that there was an essay that was being ignored. IGNORED! And it captured her beloved Michael Jackson perfectly!


The day before Laura 'Columbus' Flanders discovered the essay, it had already been cited and quoted at length on Democracy Now! Despite seven paragraphs of blather, Flanders never managed to tell Nation readers that. But as Laura struggles with her own TV show, she's gotten far less eager to promote others -- possibly because Air America is her latest burned bridge and she doesn't have a great deal of options should the failing show close shop. Or maybe just because she's Minnie Pearl trying to live it up in an Angelina Jolie world.

Regardless, emigree Anjali Kamat thought she'd tell the world what's what on Democracy Now! despite the fact that she wasn't in the US during the time period she was speaking of and, like many a know-it-all, didn't know what the hell she was talking about. The fact-free zone was entered as soon as the segment began when Kamat lied, "He became the first African American artist on MTV, and his 1982 album Thriller remains the world’s bestselling album of all times."

Poor, dumb, stupid ass Anjali Kamat. As Betty explained last week, Donna Summer, Tina Turner and Eddy Grant were among the artists played on MTV long before Michael Jackson's Thriller. In 1983, when David Bowie raised the issue on air during an interview with vee jay Mark Goodman, the question wasn't, "Why are there no Black artists on the network?" The question was, "Why are there practically no Black artists on the network?" Along with the artists already cited, other African-American artists played prior to Michael Jackson included ("Why it took MTV so long to play black music videos," Jet, October 9, 2006) Joan Armatrading, Musical Youth, Bus Boys and Jon Butcher Axis. Not listed, but also played, was Diana Ross.

How do you miss that?

You miss that because you're not dealing in reality.

Last week was another round of Anna Nicole Smith, for any who missed it.

And it continues.

It's cheap to produce, it markets product that requires no real expense (Sony's not going to go bankrupt putting those Michael Jackson CDs on the shelves in Wal-Mart) and lets everyone be a gossip and ghoul.

Here's reality, there was no comeback for Michael Jackson.

Thriller hit with predominately young people (meaning thirteen and under). Others bought the music but it was the kids who went crazy. Within a few years, those kids didn't anymore because Michael Jackson was a freak. See when you get the hormonal urges on your own, you no longer think it's 'cute' that a grown man sleeps with boys. You no longer think it's understandable that a man pushing fifty is never able to have a significant relationship with a woman or man.

The pedophile issue (so well documented by Maureen Orth of Vanity Fair) was far from the only problem. It was actually the least problem he had due to our society's refusal to take issues of sexual abuse and assault seriously. What hurt him far more was looking like a freak which is why Mad TV could never resist the urge to work a Michael Jackson character into a skit so the freak could be the butt of the joke. So there's Wacko popping up in their skit of The Grudge, for example. There's also the fact that a gay Michael Jackson might have been embraced but the attempts to reduce women to pieces of meat (see especially the video for "The Way You Make Me Feel") only made people laugh and recall the SNL skit "Guy Talk" where Liberace and Michael Jackson talked about how they liked their women (Eddie Murphy played MJ).

Michael Jackson was a joke and no album release would have changed that. Even if he could alter his sound which was impossible. He was not Marvin Gaye and that's one of the things that NBC, CBS and, yes, Democracy Now! can't seem to grasp.

Outside of the world of dance, Jackson was no artist. It wasn't in his nature. He was no John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Marvin Gaye, Joni Mitchell or Stevie Wonder. He was unable to express anything with any depth. And he had no appreciation for those who could. The only thing he cared about was sales. He was the Monkees in singular form: A product foisting product on the public.

Though Anjali Kamat, Amy Goodman, Margo Jefferson and Mark Anthony Neal would blather on for nearly thirty minutes, if you paid attention, you saw that art was never one of the topics. There is no "Imagine" from the 'pen' of Michael Jackson. There is no "Isn't She Lovely." There are a lot of bad attempts to have hit records, a lot of bad songs that say nothing. With Lionel Richie, Michael penned "We Are The World" and some might point to that . . . some who forget how that song was called out in real time for its sanctimonious nature -- a bunch of Americans singing "We are the world, we are the children, we are the ones who make a better day . . . ." He produced a lot of songs that say nothing but bide time until the chorus. During the period when Jackson could chart, Lionel Richie was writing better love songs. Social commentary? Michael Jackson threw a nasty, bitchy fit when Bad was shut out at the Grammys. For those who have forgotten, that's the year the big winners were U2 and the album Joshua Tree. No, Michael Jackson wasn't a musical artist.

What was he? A forerunner of American Idol? No real talent but a pretty voice and an urge to use it for vocal gymnastics. It wasn't just that Thriller was followed with weaker product, it was that product was out, no longer viable. The eighties were drawing a close and real artists like U2 and Tracy Chapman were emerging.

Michael Jackson could not make an artistic statement because it was beyond him. The man, who didn't understand why Frank Sinatra had a following and thought Mick Jagger was a joke, didn't understand the first thing about art.

He was a child performer and had a child's notion of 'success' until he died.

Without his father, he wouldn't have gotten anywhere. Joe Jackson took his sons to a certain level. And after that?

Though both expert brought on by Democracy Now! could name check Berry Gordy, neither bothered to mention Suzanne de Passe. Berry Gordy had already begun his move to Los Angeles and his attempts to conquer films. He was no longer involved in the day to day events of Motown and, in fact, he turned the Jackson Five over to Suzanne as soon as the group was signed. Suzanne's the one who turned them into stars. (In the officially sanctioned -- by the Jacksons -- mini-series, Vanessa Williams plays de Passe. And disclosure, one of us -- C.I. -- has known de Passe for years, and Berry Gordy, and Diana Ross and most of the players in this story.) Suzanne's the one who took them to new heights, who rehearsed them. The process Berry Gordy invented for the Supremes in the sixties (and then attempted to put other groups through to varying degrees of success) had long been dropped. It was de Passe's job to recreate it and to do so not for a nostalgia act but for one that was very much a part of 1970.

It's really interesting how time and again women are stripped of their credit. It's especially interesting when a discussion featuring three women and one man manages to strip a woman of her credit.

But what do facts matter when liars are busy re-writing history? Here's bad liar Margo Jefferson:

-- his individual talent was always pushing at the boundaries of the group. And that isn't always the case. What Motown often specialized in was a lead singer with a distinctive voice -- Levi Stubbs, let us say, or Eddie Kendricks -- who nevertheless -- you know, he'd do his solo, then meld right back into the group. You could even see that in the choreography. Michael was in front of it all the time.

Really, Margo? Really, you damn liar?

That's a cute little fantasy, it's not reality.

First off, most Motown acts emphasized a lead singer: Diana Ross & the Supremes, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Gladys Knight and the Pips, etc. Second, "I Want You Back" was the first single by the Jackson Five and it was released in October of 1969. That same month, they were introduced on national TV by Diana Ross (hosting The Hollywood Palace) as "Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five." Joe Jackson hit the roof. Berry shrugged and Diana's introduction remained when the taping was broadcast. And, Margo Jefferson, that TV appearance? Took place before the Ed Sullivan one (Sullivan was December 14, 1969) that you couldn't stop blathering on about. Yet again, a woman's credit is stolen. Margo doesn't care but maybe she'll worry about credit being stolen from men?

Jermaine and Jackie Jackson was singing on those tracks as well. And Jermaine was getting solos in concert. In 1970, press reports of girls fainting when Jermaine soloed with "I Found That Girl" were not uncommon. It's apparently important to strip the brothers out of the equation to establish Michael as a trash TV deity.

It's also apparently important to lie about the Jackson Five's chart success. Eight of their first nine songs make it onto the top ten. "Sugar Daddy" makes it to number ten in 1971 and they only have one other top ten record after that. October 1969, their first hit is released, by April of 1971 ("Little Bitty Pretty One" is released then), their top ten hits are pretty much behind them. That story wasn't told on Democracy Now! where the Jackson Five were allegedly bigger than the Beatles -- reality, the Jackson Five weren't even as big as the Supremes -- who had five consecutive number ones in a row, the Jackson Five only had four. And those four are the number ones they had. (The Diana Ross-led Supremes would end up with twelve number one hits.)

Whereas the Supremes would enter the night clubs and Vegas while still a hit making group, the Jackson Five would go to Vegas when their hits were behind them (they debuted April 9, 1974 at the MGM Grand). The show is not The Michael Jackson Show, despite the lies of Margo Jefferson. It's the first time La Toya and Janet are part of the act. (Rebbie had sprained her ankle.) Joe Jackson wanted them in Vegas (over Berry Gordy's objections) because he knew how fickle the music industry was and that if they could go over in Vegas, they could have a career regardless of hit records. (Their Vegas triumph also saw their return to the top ten with their final top ten hit "Dancing Machine.")

The hits really ended in 1972. By the start of 1975, Michael as a solo act couldn't even chart (Forever Michael only made it to 101 on the Billboard album chart). In 1976, the Jackson Five would be over. They'd leave Motown (Jermaine would remain with Motown), sign with CBS' Epic and become the Jacksons. They'd release 17 singles starting in 1976 up through 1982. Two would go top ten ["Enjoy Yourself," number six, and "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)," number seven] the rest would largely fail to chart or barely make a dent in the top 100. No, that's not a super group.

"They have a -- suddenly, they're a cartoon show!" raves Margo Jefferson. "They have a variety show!" The cartoon series had no input from any Jackson. Berry Gordy made that deal and the Jacksons were paid Guild minimum. The Jacksons did not do the speaking voices of the characters and were only heard when one of their Motown songs was used in one of the twenty-three cartoons. Yes, the cartoon show that Margo couldn't stop raving over only lasted twenty-three episodes. The variety show? That was The Jacksons and it was a summer hit for four weeks on CBS starting June 16, 1976. Four weeks. Michael hated doing the show. His father and brothers wanted it to continue, as did CBS. He signed on for more episodes which was a mistake. The show returned in January 1977 and was a huge flop. By April, it was coming in at number seventy -- out of seventy shows.

We could continue to chart the reality of his career as opposed to the garbage offered by Democracy Now! last week but the variety show actually underscores an important point. CBS cancelled the low rated show. In his ghost-written Moonwalker, 'Michael' writes, "I was the one who refused to renew our contract with the network for another season" after the summer of 1976. An outright lie. Had that been true, the program wouldn't have returned in January of 1977. But Michael always lied to the press.

He started out lying about his age (Motown made him shave two years off his age) and he continued lying. He couldn't stop lying.

So we're back to b.s. claims about Michael and MTV. Democracy Now! played a clip of Michael saying:

He came outright and said it. It broke my heart. It broke my heart, but at the same time it put a real -- it lit something that was just, "Oh, my God!" It said -- I mean, I was like saying to myself, you know, I have to do something where they -- it's refused to be ignored, I mean. And I came with "Thriller," and every time I was trying to always outdo myself.
And "Billie Jean," they said, "We don't -- we won't play it." So Walter Yetnikoff, who was president of Sony at the time, he said, "OK, we're pulling Streisand, we're pulling Neil Diamond, we're pulling Chicago." And when they played it, it set the all-time record. And they were asking for everything we had. They said, "We're pulling Streisand, we're pulling Chicago, we're pulling Neil Diamond." That's what Walter Yetnikoff said. And after they played it, there were knocking our door down, because it brought in -- then Prince came -- it opened the door for Prince and all the other black artists, because it was twenty-four-hour heavy metal, which is a potpourri of crazy images. And they came to me so many times in the past, and they said, "Michael, if it wasn't for you, there would be no MTV." They told me that over and over, personally.

Non-stop lies from the man who used to leak photos of himself to the National Enquirer (including the infamous shot of him in the coffin). Now anyone listening to that garbage should have sensed Wacko was lying. First off, it wasn't "Sony" then, it was CBS Records. Second off, if MTV "was twenty-four-hour heavy metal" before Michael kicked down the wall, exactly why were they playing Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond?

Answer: They weren't. Barbra would make her first bid for MTV in the fall of 1984 with her video "Left In The Dark Again." So, in other words, not only was MTV not playing her, but there was no video for CBS to threaten they could pull. Neil Diamond? Which Vegas shlock number was MTV playing? None. They weren't playing "America" or any of his bad songs from the flop film The Jazz Singer. They weren't playing any of his videos. He was not MTV star.

And who knew Chicago were video stars or that they had any power in 1982 when they were just beginning their comeback?

More importantly, exactly why would Michael be present for such a meeting? Michael who always delegated all responsibilities is suddenly meeting with MTV to threaten to pull his videos? Oh, yeah, that plays believable. (Marcia calls it out here.)

The entire incident is a lie. Les Garland, MTV co-founder, explained to Jet about the "Billie Jean" video, "There was never any hesitation. No fret. I called Bob (Pittman, MTV co-founder) to tell him, 'I just saw the greatest video I've ever seen in my life. It is off the dial it's so good.' We added it that day. How (the myth) turned into a story literally blew our minds."

How did the myth take hold? Freddy DeMann got Rolling Stone to run a report of 'rumors' which the magazine was happy to do when an interview with Michael was dangled as bait (Geri Hirshey's article from that interview would run in February 1983). From unsourced rumors, it's turned into reality with dumb asses even going so far as to insist that, until Jackson, no African-American was played on MTV.

Though rumors were treated as fact on Democracy Now!, legal allegations, legal allegations that led to settlements, were treated as false rumors. "Mark Anthony Neal," declared Amy Goodman as the segment was winding down, "talk about the trajectory of Michael Jackson's life. Talk about the child abuse allegations, also Michael Jackson's own image as it transformed over time."

He will babble on for 262 words before briefly addressing the child abuse: "I think the child charges, you know, come at a time where it makes it very difficult, obviously, for him to sustain his professional career in any serious way. Michael Jackson is someone who never had a childhood." And that's really it. One sentence acknowledging the charges in vauge terms and then a rush to defend the pedophile because he didn't have a childhood. He will babble on for many more words -- about buying the publishing company that holds the copyrights to the Beatles songs, for example -- before suddenly turn around to these sinister and unnamed "kind of folks around" him who "enable him to really . . . make all kinds of bad decisions, both in terms of the amount of money that he's spending, the folks who are close to him, you know, actually having these children in his bedroom." In his bed, Mark Anthony, in his damn bed.

When Mark Anthony comes up for air, Amy Goodman interjects, "I think at least three kids charged him with child abuse, two in settlements." And poor, put-upon Margo insists, "Yes, it’s true. And the media and reportage brouhaha about all of this goes on. You know, you can marshal all sorts of evidence, you know, that seem to indict Michael on some level. There's also plenty of evidence that shows these kids and their parents manipulating, changing stories."

There's a word for Margo: WHORE.

It takes a real whore to accuse children -- who've already been the victims of a sexual predator -- of lying. It takes a real whore and Margo's one hell of an ugly whore. Notice how much emphasis she places on the victims of sexual abuse: "brouhaha." Let's see, the royal family in Monaco have never stopped talking about the way Michael Jackson ran his hands up and down Joey Randall, the child Jackson took with him for the World Music Awards where he was being awarded World's Best Selling Record Artist of the Era. Up and down the boy's legs, in the boy's shirt. And of course the Child Protective Services report would note Joey explaining how it was that trip to Monaco when Michael convinced him to bathe with him, when Michael jerked off in front of him and then jerked him off. Joey would explain that Michael then moved to "masturbating me with his mouth" (blow jobs).

Whores like Margo don't care about that. Whores like Margo have other things to focus on. Whores like Margo refuse to tell people that Jackson hired Anthony Pellicano to attempt to destroy the Randall family. If Pellicano is a familiar name to you, you may be recalling last year when he was found guilty of 76 counts of racketeering.

Margo didn't tell you that it wasn't just charges from children. She left out that Jackson's former employees Faye and Mark Quindoy announced publicly that they had seen Jackson molest boys and that they gave testimony to the authorities. And it was sister La Toya who broke it down so well for the press, "Forget about the superstar, forget about the icon. If he was any other thirty-five-year-old man who was sleeping with little boys, you wouldn't like the guy."

And people like Margo Jefferson don't want to face that. Elizabeth Taylor didn't have a childhood. Judy Garland didn't have a childhood. Natalie Wood didn't have a childhood. And yet none of them had a desire to sleep with young children. None of them had a desire to present themselves as asexual Peter Pans, skipping down the hall -- off to the bedroom -- with young children. Michael Jackson was always the text book example of a pedophile. Always.

But we don't honor children in this society and we don't take sexual abuse seriously in this culture.

It's so very interesting what we do take seriously. Contrast that garbage Democracy Now! served up last week with their fleeting moments devoted to Odetta's passing -- and grasp too that the guest was booked for another segment and, during the time remaining, Goodman decided to explore Odetta.

Odetta -- a true artistic genius. Someone who's influenced people with more than marketing. Someone who has left a mark and whom other singers still owe a debt too. Odetta gets hardly any coverage -- certainly no request from Amy to e-mail suggestions on the topic the day before the after-thought interview airs -- and that appears to be because Odetta wasn't a man.

Go through the archives. Find the woman honored by Democracy Now! or, for that matter, honored by anyone in Panhandle Media. Lots of luck searching. But James Brown, you may remember, Goodman also spent forever on and, of course, in painting him as a victim. She brought on guests to push this conspiracy theory that Brown was destroyed. When, reality check, Brown destroyed himself in that time frame by not only recording disco, but by issuing multiple albums each year. You can't do that. You can't flood the market and then whine that someone else ruined your career. But Goody was swallowing.

She always does. Facts never matter when Democracy Now! decides to 'explore' music.

A serious discussion about Michael Jackson and race could take place . . . if people were honest. It could include how the Jackson Five's first Texas tour was cancelled . . . because they refused to heed the demands that they hire an African-American promoter (and not Dick Clark). It could note Michael's refusal to have his photo taken with Rev. Jesse Jackson in 1984 (a point Rev Jackson himself raised to the press in real time). It could note any number of real events. But we don't get reality, we just get trash TV.

And while people pretend that Michael Jackson: Still Dead is news, it keeps real news off the radar. So it's especially disgusting when Pacifica's Free Speech Radio News and The (KPFA) Morning Show waste listeners time with this garbage. And flat out outrageous when Democracy Now! uses its radio and TV time to 'cover' bad gossip.

Michael Jackson wanted to be Diana Ross for years. Then he wanted to be a White woman. At last, in death, he is. He's Anna Nicole Smith for 2009. And all the ghouls and all the idiots -- who can't be bothered with following actual news -- rush to watch more and more infotainment and kid themselves that they're in any way informed or aware of what's going on in the world. Shame on anyone pretending to be a public affairs or news program that assists them in mistaking trash TV for news.
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