I swear. I wasn't gonna do it. It's not just that I'm a news junkie. Oh, no. For that in itself might be considered (somewhat) high-minded. The truth? The real and sordid facts, M'am? Somewhere along the line, I crossed a line and became a devoted train-wreck watcher.
It started innocently, enough. As these things often do. It was a Friday night after work, 1994 -- I turned on the news as I was making dinner. And there it was -- a white Bronco, slowly yet erratically, cruising across those endless ribbons of LA freeways. Inside the vehicle: OJ Simpson (according to the on-air schlub stuck with the Friday night dinner-hour reporting slot) who, following the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Simpson, was either taking his own life or making a break for the border.
Quelle horreur!! What fresh hell was this??
Until that moment, I had no idea that I really needed to know all this stuff. We were but a herd of innocent bystanders and end-of-day news-watchers, blindly poised on the slippery precipice of the next, immediate future of wall-to-wall (and sometimes Off the Wall) news coverage. Until that white Bronco pushed us over the edge.
Ignorant of this corruption, I remained glued to the tube that night as career-making talking heads taunted me to, Stay Tuned!, to this unfolding drama: "Oh, no -- we don't know what will happen or how this will end! So we're just going to keep the cameras rolling and the helicopters buzzing."
And before we knew it, we were suddenly enmeshed in it: The media's dawn of the People Magazine Era, which has since learned to deftly exploit our previously unknown (and now, insatiable) desire for all things celeb-related.
That said, there was nothing, NOTHING (well, actually there was -- it's just that NOTHING else news-wise, or more news-worthy, was covered today) more riveting than today's live, uninterrupted coverage of the Michael Jackson Memorial at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. A city which (as witnessed through the history of People Magazine will show), is the perfect city, the perfectly botoxed setting, for these kind of "We bring this to you LIVE from the Jackson Family COMPOUND in Encino"-type of coverage.
Personal disclaimer: Aside from my late-in-life penchant for train-wrecks, I did love the man's music. Well, maybe mostly the early stuff. Especially the Jackson 5 catalog -- that was my youth! One of my first ever "rock" albums. However after Thriller, and about the time Bubbles entered the picture, I'd blithely moved on.
But having digested the entire (urp, yes ENTIRE) Michael Jackson Memorial Service online (sans a gold souvenir entrance band BUT without ever having to leave the confines of my studio apartment), herewith, a round-up of the key players, performers and marginal outsiders at the Michael Jackson (henceforth referred to as MJ) Memorial in this special edition of The Bigelow Report (Card):
- Corey Feldman (dressed in MJ military garb): Too late; find another life.
- Mariah Carey (Mangling the beautiful MJ ballad, I'll Be There): It's called, "Practice" for a reason, sweetie.
- Jennifer Hudson (Nailing that other MJ ballad, Will You Be There?): 7-plus-months pregnant but practiced; blew Mariah outta the water.
- Lionel Ritchie (Singing Jesus is Love): Good stuff; where you been?
- Usher (attention-grabbing rendition of MJ's Gone Too Soon): See "Corey Feldman" above.
- Stevie Wonder (Soulful belting of his composition, Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer): Outta the ballpark! Er, basketball stadium? Whatever, it was amazing.
- Shaheen Jafargholi: poised 12-year-old singer from Britain's You've Got Talent. Wowed clueless American audience with his version of the Jackson 5's Who's Lovin' You, as cartoon-like thought bubbles formed over the heads of talent agents everywhere, "OMG: He's like MJ, reincarnated!"; back in England, producer Simon Cowell rubs his hands with glee.
- John Mayer (performs a fourth-tier guitar solo of MJ's Human Nature ): ho-hum; he should've just Tweeted it.
- Berry Gordy: class act; revival of Motown label near at hand.
- Martin Luther King III, and his sister, Bernice King (eulogizing MJ): MLK, Jr.=MJ? Eloquent, yes. But, um, having trouble doing that math.
- The Rev. Jesse Jackson (amazingly absent from cameras, onstage podium and the Jackson Family-filled front row): Gosh, is he ill?
- Al Sharpton: Comment redacted.
- Brooke Shields: Awww; heartfelt tribute to her pal, The Little Prince. (But ... do we really buy that she "dated" him?)
- Lou "The Hulk" Ferrigno: Arrives at the MJ Memorial in a well-worn, short-sleeved Polo shirt; OK, it's more than apparent he's got big guns -- but couldn't he have at least thrown on a sport coat?
- Liz Taylor: Career boosting opps abounded at Staples Center; perhaps she should've attended?
- Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (on just stopping short of declaring MJ a saint): Let the deification begin! Wonder if she's up for re-election?
- Prince Michael Jackson (throughout the memorial, MJ's oldest son appeared to be chewing a wad of cud): Kid, look, we're sorry for your loss. But you're being live-streamed, around-the-world. Lose the gum.
- Paris Jackson (heartfelt, heart-breaking emotional outburst from MJ's daughter): Honey? Oprah's on the phone for you.
- Jermaine Jackson (crooned a lovely version of his brother's favorite song, Smile, Tho' Your Heart is Aching): Has my agent called yet?
- Marlon Jackson (heartfelt, impromptu tribute to his younger brother): sad; a tortured family dynamic laid bare.
- Katherine Jackson: As the Jackson Family matriarch has seemingly maintained a lifetime stance of Grace under Pressure, perhaps she should be nominated for sainthood?
- Facebook: it may now be populated by too many "gray hairs" but survives MJ Memorial onslaught; doesn't crash.
- Favorite FB status update & comment call-and-response by my colleague, Matt Knudsen: Really? We care that much about Michael Jackson? Really? A comment to Knudsen's status announces, He's the king of pop my friend ... THE KING OF POP!. To which Knudsen deftly responds: Well, Orville Redenbacher was the KING OF POPCORN, and we never saw anything NEARLY like this when he passed. Orville Clarence Rdenbacher (July 16, 1907-September 19, 1995) RIP!
- Favorite news tidbit exchange between two titans of cable TV, Larry King (a guest of the Jackson family, seated in the 3rd row at Staples Center) describing the casket to hunky Anderson Cooper (back in the studio), who asked King what the casket looked like: "Very expensive, obviously. It looked like pure gold."
- TMZ.com (broke the story of MJ's death): Like it or not, now the MSM of new media.
- KFC (received a slogan-making shout-out from Magic Johnson who related an anecdote about one of MJ's favorite foods): Introducing the Colonel's new Bucket o' MJ Fried!
- President Obama: scores his first major international agreement with Russia as each super-power agrees to reduce its cache of nuclear weapons-- the world's largest; no one watches.
- AEG: Previously induced tears over cancelled Jacko London concerts now dry, as mad dash (resulting from future sales of AEG-sponsored MJ memorial programs and AEG concert dress rehearsal DVD) is made to the bank. Repeatedly.
- The Jackson 5 (plus Janet and LaToya, too): Get ready, the reunion tour is coming ... soon!