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Despite his immense talent, Michael Jackson is not a man who should be revered



I had the misfortune of landing at Los Angeles International Airport the day Michael Jackson died. I called a friend and told her I'd be there in an hour. She said, "I doubt that. Michael Jackson died. People are pouring into the streets."

When people in Los Angeles "pour" into the streets, they do it in cars. One poor chap, boogying to "Billy Jean," no doubt, overturned his Mazda on the 405. It did cause a slow-up.

I'm not someone who doesn't appreciate Michael Jackson's talent. I've got Thriller on vinyl, and back in the day, I listened to it dozens of times. As a little kid, he was cute, precocious and black. I don't doubt that he had a hard life, and I understand that his father was a brute, and his mother a knucklehead. (Calling your own son a "faggot" is pretty cold.) What I object to in this massive postmortem adulation is the eclipsing of the fact that whether he knew it or not—and regardless of his psychological denial being so thick that he seemed to have convinced loads of people that it wasn't the case—Michael Jackson was a pedophile.

He was accused of child molestation in 1993 and wound up paying his accuser $22 million so the case wouldn't go to trial; even though he was acquitted of charges of molesting another boy in 2005, he admitted to having young boys sleep in his bed, was known to have given them alcohol, scanned porn sites with them and even gave them lessons in masturbation.

The fact that this stuff came out strikes me as the tip of an iceberg that, even with all his money, must have been almost impossible to hide. If any noncelebrity had done these things, he would have been condemned, imprisoned and forced to register as a sex offender in any community he lived in afterward.

But we already know that the rich and famous don't have to go to prison.

What steams my biscuits is the general public's ability to overlook dastardly criminal behavior in individuals possessing a superior ability to entertain them—particularly when that criminal behavior is directed against women and/or children.

The Caesars were right: Give the populace bread and circuses, and they'll swallow anything.

I used to be a huge NBA fan. During the '90s, when the Chicago Bulls were winning everything that wasn't nailed down, basketball was pure pleasure. Yeah, Michael Jordan had personal flaws, but he was grace personified on the court, and there will never be another player like him. There were some hellishly good games back in those days, and I was able to ride the fever for a long while.

Then Kobe Bryant happened.

I never liked him. He was a snob, a brat, intolerably self-absorbed. Shaq couldn't stand him, and almost none of his teammates liked him, for reasons including his refusal to travel or socialize with them. Then one day, a hotel clerk in Denver made the mistake of going back to his hotel room with him. When it was over—and these facts are not in dispute—the front of his T-shirt had blood all over it, and the hotel clerk had a giant bruise on the back of her neck. It was exactly the size and shape of Kobe Bryant's hand.

It doesn't and never did sound like consensual sex to anyone who paid attention.

After that, whenever I saw the Los Angeles Lakers, I felt like puking. This year, when it became clear they were going to go all the way, I gave up on NBA ball altogether. One night, I simply realized that if I had to watch TNT's Kenny Smith cream himself about Kobe Bryant one more time, I was going to smash my TV screen with a baseball bat.

The news did deliver one nugget of positive news in the Michael Jackson death circus: Bubbles the chimp is alive and doing well in an ape sanctuary in Florida. At least Wacko Jacko got something right.

Regarding the rest ... well, maybe in his next life, he'll be reincarnated as a dirt-poor kid lost in a wonderland of carnival rides and all the candy he can eat. When he looks up, he'll see a snake in the tree staring down. It will have a face as white as death, and eyes like a fiend from his worst nightmare.

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