Friday, June 26, 2009

Understanding Michael Jackson

If you're having trouble grasping what went wrong in the life of Michael Jackson -- aside from an apparent prescription drug addiction -- there is this story in the LA Times written by its former pop music critic Robert Hilburn.

In the '80s, Hilburn was chosen by Jackson himself to help put together a book, but the deal fell through because the pop star wanted mostly a picture book and the publishing house's editor, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, wanted a full-scale biography.

During our time together, however, the conversations with Michael led -- once the tape recorder was off -- sometimes to darker moments from his past. One night when we were going through a stack of old photos, a picture of him at 17 served as a trigger for a sudden openness.

"Ohh, that's horrible," he said, recoiling from the picture.

Michael explained his face was so covered with acne and that his nose so large at the time the photo was taken that people wouldn't even recognize him -- a rejection so painful that it contributed to a personality change in him, he said. "They would come up, look me straight in the eye and ask if I know where that 'cute little Michael' was." It was, he added, like the "whole world was saying, 'How dare you grow up on us.' "

After repeated rejection, Michael said, he started looking down at the floor when people approached or would just stay in his room when visitors came to the family house in Encino.

Michael vowed after those wounds to do whatever it took to make people "love me again." The rejection fueled his ambition to be the biggest pop star in the world and to try to make his face beautiful. Unfortunately, Michael's need was so great that no amount of love seemed to be enough.

Parts of Hilburn's story are excerpted from his memoir, "Corn Flakes With John Lennon, and Other Tales From a Rock 'n' Roll Life," which will be published in October, according to an editor's note.

In light of Jackson's death, here's guessing the book publisher may want to tinker with the book title and flesh out what Hilburn had intended to publish about the late King of Pop.

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