Fans overlook Michael Jackson's dark side

Sat Jul 4, 2009 1:34pm EDT
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By Dean Goodman - Analysis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Just as people choose to forget that Elvis Presley was a bloated drug addict when he died, so Michael Jackson is now the subject of posthumous veneration that overlooks the dark side of his life.

Jackson's career was all but comatose four years ago when he stood trial for child molestation in California. Despite lurid testimony from a 13-year-old boy who said that Jackson conducted sexual acts with him, a jury decided he was not guilty. But damage had been done.

"It was all over after the trial," said veteran rock critic Dave Marsh, author of the 1985 book "Trapped: Michael Jackson and the Crossover Dream." "For me, I think he was dead as a celebrity before he was dead as a person. It was pretty pathetic, the last few years. He managed to whittle himself down to size. It's a shame, really."

In the days following the self-proclaimed king of pop's death on June 25 aged 50, reports of prescription-drug abuse have served as eerie reminders of the pharmaceutical cocktails that Presley was taking before he died in 1977.

As was also the case with Presley, Jackson's sales suddenly spiked after his death. Manufacturing plants struggled to keep up with demand as fans around the world snapped up his albums. And as fans fondly favor the "young Elvis," so they focus on "young Michael" before his face underwent startling changes.

Margo Jefferson, author of the 2006 book "On Michael Jackson," hoped people could separate their feelings about Jackson the artist from their attitude toward Jackson the man.

"I think we can multi-task when it comes to our cultural icons," said Jefferson. "We can live simultaneously with their enormous talent, be it a Michael Jackson, or a Marlon Brando or a Judy Garland or an Elvis. And we can live with the knowledge of the enormous damage that they did to themselves, that was done to them, and that they did to other people."

British music biographer Barney Hoskyns glumly predicted Jackson would become "a kind of martyr to fame."   Continued...

<p>Fans remember Michael Jackson during the Michael Jackson public memorial at Apollo Theater in New York June 30, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>