“Untouchable: The strange life and tragic death of Michael Jackson” (Randall Sullivan 2012)

Book Review:

“Untouchable: The strange life and tragic death of Michael Jackson” (Randall Sullivan 2012)

I never had the slightest past interest in Michael Jackson. I always thought he was made out of hype and glitz until I perused the latest crop of mediocre and non-talents whose lives are manufactured by marketing specialists and COMPLETELY made out of hype and glitz. Yes, that includes (but not limited to)  Justin, Nikki, Rhianna, Pink, Gaga and anything remotely resembling hip-hop or rap.

I noticed this book on Kindle and it sounded interesting. After I waded through all of 2688 pages of meticulous compulsive detail about the life and death of what now appears to be an absolutely fascinating creature. The data and conjecture is totally objective and beholds to no one involved. Meticulously referenced (600 pages). This volume is a masterpiece of investigative journalism and I will proceed to summarize it for your perusal, maybe to generate some interest in reading it for your general education.

As he emerges in this volume, a great deal becomes clearer about Jackson. Clearly he was the only talent in the entire family, part of a curse that essentially destroyed any possibility of having a normal life. The other curse was having too much money (mainly from acquiring the Beatle’s catalog), which draws his family into it as well.

Early on, his father figured he could make a buck or two and retire from his assembly line job in working class Gary, Indiana. As the Jackson 5 emerged, it became apparent that the focal point was Michael and his father worked it to the max, but ultimately, like all centerpieces of otherwise good bands, Michael went out on his own and put his non-talent siblings and manipulative father behind. They failed as performers immediately and started working the only source of income available, Michael.

Michael then became a major star with all the trimmings, but because of his abominable upbringing, his emotional and even intellectual level stalled at about ten years old and remained that way through the remainder of his life. Accordingly, he reacted like a kid with unlimited cash in a candy store (Neverland Ranch). His spending habits made Elvis look like Scrooge, and in his glory days, his fund of cash had no bottom. The glory days were impressive. 13 Grammies, 31 Guinness World Records, Elected to the R & R Hall of fame, and to this day, the biggest selling album of all time (Thriller, 1984).

The combination of his child-like naiveté and his certifiable weirdness made him a lead pipe cinch for leeches of all varieties, including family, friends and especially lawyers and “financial advisors”, all of whom sucked his blood for years with no seeming limit. The author makes the supposition that the turning point was Jackson’s acquisition of the entire Beatle’s music catalog, a collection of inestimable value, destined to increase yearly with no limit. Paul McCartney felt scammed and never spoke to Jackson again.

In terms of tangible assets this made Jackson arguably one of the richest men on the planet. The author then elucidates in excruciating detail how the rest of his no-talent family schemed to max out their meal ticket, with a special excoriation of his otherwise talentless sister LaToya who earned a special place in one of the seven circles of Hell for her activities and her ability to manipulate the media.

Michael loved children and related to them if for no other reason than he was one himself in his 30s. He much preferred the company of children to adults and made the mistake of very publicly adoring them. This, of course, set him up beautifully for a very specialized fauna of bloodsucker and it came to pass in 1993 when a meticulously orchestrated action by experts for child abuse and child endangerment surfaced. Even his own family joined the fray. La Toya Jackson offered proof her brother was a pedophile and she would disclose for a fee of $500,000 (never paid). The evidence was thin, but his attorneys told Jackson that his best course was to settle without assuming guilt to avoid the endless media circus and go on with his life. Following this settlement, however, Jackson’s career went into decline and he began to sell off assets to pay for his vast spending habits, his family’s upkeep and the endless supply of lawyers.

But the success of the 1993 lawsuit invariably bred more attempts. In 2003, another similar suit was filed on behalf of another young boy of Jackson’s acquaintance. Ultimately, after more millions spent for a media circus trial and celebrity lawyers, Jackson was found innocent, but the downward momentum continued. Ultimately the bottom of the financial barrel appeared, forcing Jackson to sign up for arduous personal appearance tours to maintain his lifestyle. By this time Jackson was nearing 50 years of age and was not in the same physical shape as when a youth. The amount of emotional and physical stress from his family, friends and lawyers was oppressive and he found himself consistently worried about everything possible to be worried about. He became an insomniac and took the Elvis route of doctor shopping for a huge pharmacopeia of relaxants, sedatives, uppers, downers and sleep aids.

Enter Dr. Conrad Murray, a cardiologist of somewhat dubious repute who had established a low-grade celebrity practice in two cities. The search for a “personal physician” ended with Murray who originally demanded five million dollars a year to be at Jackson’s beck & call but settled for US$150,000 per month. As with most celebrities, their personal physicians earned that fee my giving them whatever they wanted, which in Jackson’s case was anti-anxiety and sleep medication of all varieties.

Somehow Jackson got a taste of propofol, an extremely potent and titratable anesthetic ONLY used in highly monitored operating rooms and ICUs by trained and experienced personnel. Jackson demanded this drug as it was the only one that would facilitate sleep (after a fashion). Records showed that Dr. Murray ordered hedge quantities of propofol (four gallons at a time!) and used it frequently in Jackson’s bedroom with no monitoring other than the bedside judgment of the physician.

Accordingly, in the early morning of June 25, 2009, Jackson was under general anesthesia in his bed with Murray at the switch. The events that followed varied depending on who was relating them. What is known for sure is that Murray departed for the bedside for an undetermined period of time, and on his return, found Jackson apneic with a questionable pulse. There is much evidence presented thereafter, but apparently when the paramedics arrived they pronounced Jackson dead, but Murray insisted they continue CPR. Jackson was pronounced dead on arrival following transfer to a hospital. Also in evidence was the fact hat Murray attempted to collect all the bottles of propofol in the house, unsuccessfully. A search of the house later revealed a treasure trove of multiple drugs.

A no nonsense forensic autopsy was performed on June 26, 2009. It showed Jackson to be otherwise in reasonably good condition, but with interesting asides. He had close-cropped white hair (at age 51) and normally wore a black wig. His nose had collapsed down to cartilage and he wore prosthesis. There was evidence of multiple plastic surgical procedures and bleaching of his skin, with tattoos of black eyeliner and red lips. Direct cause of death was listed as respiratory failure secondary to acute propofol toxicity, and other sedatives (lorazepam) were also found in the blood work. Naturally, photos of Jackson dead in the autopsy suite made their way to the British tabloids.

Subsequently, Murray was tried and convicted of manslaughter. Of great interest is that the defense found a reputable physician willing to opine that Jackson may have himself turned up the propofol resulting in his death, a revelation met by a round of guffaws by the jury and a stern frown by the judge who sentenced Murray to the maximum jail term of four years. If the price is right, any expert can be found to opine anything in deadpan. Ever the showman, Murray continues to work the media today and is eagerly awaiting his release to find another state to obtain another medical license. The Jackson family rode the media circus till it finally dropped from exhaustion.

The author made some very convincing and exceptionally well-documented points in this extensive volume.

1). Jackson was an exceptionally talented performer who resonated with many fans throughout the world. He was severely damaged emotionally and intellectually in his formative years.

2) In business and in the performance arts, stragglers and the debilitated will be selectively killed and eaten by a wide variety of predators.

3. A love of children is a dangerous thing if you are a child yourself in a man’s body.

4. Absolute dominion breeds incapacity for control.

The author makes a very convincing case that Jackson was not a molester of children, and the events of the late 90s set the stage for his emotional debilitation, following which he was simply bled to death by predators. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The author makes very special reference to and singles out the upper echelon of vicious, manipulative predators here, led by his sister LaToya a masterful manipulator of self interest, followed by his father and several (not all) of his brothers and a special mention to the lawyers in his life who presented bills for millions of dollars with little or no evidence they did anything other than shuffle papers no one understood but them. His mother Katherine escapes criticism and remains the best deal Michael’s children have for a role model

Even if you have no interest in MJ, this is a totally engrossing book of meticulous investigative journalism, top of the heap. It will give you a new understanding of the art of investigation.

Best part: The mode and manner of Jackson’s death.

Not so best part: Too long at 2688 pages, but 600 pages of that are notes and references. Some parts can easily be skimmed.

I give it 4.5 of five moonwalks. Truly fascinating and easy

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