There's no doubt that everyone who had a TV watched Michael Jackson's three-hour self-detonation on ABC last night. The network paid $5 million for the interview conducted by British journalist Martin Bashir.
It's hard to say who fared worse over the course of the evening: Jackson himself; Office Depot for ripping off Monty Python in its commercials, or Barbara Walters for her clear impatience and lack of compassion for Jackson. (She looked like she was seething over not getting the interview herself.)
In the end, though, it was only Jackson that counted. Bashir did him some disservice in his editing and commentary, but mostly Jackson should thank him. Michael has never had psychotherapy as far as we know. This at least got him to confront some terrible demons.
One couldn't help feel something for Jackson. He alleges abuse at the hands of his father, and not just run of the mill stuff either.
Obviously there was psychological and physical torture now seared into his brain. It must have been awful. I have a source who worked for the Jacksons in the late 1960s who confirms Michael's accusations and more. I've written about it in this space.
"Joe Jackson used to lock Michael in a closet," my source says. "The abuse just goes on and on. Janet was also afraid of him. I once found her in the kitchen with a huge knife. She was going to use it on him."
We get that picture. But my source continues. "I hold Katherine responsible for what happened to the children," the source says of Michael's mother. "She knew what was happening and let it."
Of course, Katherine and Joseph Jackson deny abuse in their household. But Joseph Jackson is a complicated guy. On the day of Michael's famous 30th anniversary solo show, Joe Jackson called a news conference and invited select journalists. I was one of them. It was obvious Michael had no idea this was going on. Mr. Jackson told us he was going to start selling footage of the Jackson Five for profit. He was eager to be a star himself, clearly.
I asked him though about his parental philosophy. "You have to be strict with kids," he said. "There's nothing wrong with punishment as long as you know how to punish."
What would be a typical punishment? "Beat his back," Joe Jackson replied before I could even get the question out.
I thought Michael Jackson said something interesting toward the beginning of last night's interview. He said, voluntarily, "Just because you've been abused it doesn't make you an abuser." It was an early justification, I thought.
What we saw later in Bashir's film was frightening and surreal. In particular, the part in which Michael sat holding hands with a 12-year-old boy named Gavin, seemed to be off the charts. Michael and Gavin sleep in the same room, often in the same bed. Gavin is not related to him (although it would be just as alarming if he were). How can California authorities not investigate this situation?
Jackson has possibly opened himself to legal questions he obviously has never imagined.
Is he wacko? Yeah, he's strange. When he fed the inappropriately named "Blanket," it looked as though he were bottle-feeding a pet. In that scene and others Michael was dressed like Elizabeth Taylor or Audrey Hepburn, with Marlo Thomas' flip hair do from the '60s. Did he look like a 44-year-old man? No.
Regardless of color or plastic surgery, he did not seem real. And yet, he is real, and I think there's a fear that he has victimized others as much as he's been victimized. It's not funny and it's going to have to be addressed.
As far as finances go: the depicted $6 million shopping spree may not be what it seems. After all, Jackson is being sued by Sotheby's right now for not paying for two paintings. The cost is over a million dollars.
Last year I reported in this space that he had to borrow $2 million from a bank to cover the cost of a diamond encrusted watch he "borrowed" from a Rodeo Drive jeweler. And let us not forget his $200 million loan from Sony Music, his constant borrowing against Neverland, and his seemingly endless indebtedness. Right now he's being sued by one former associate for $20 million. And right behind that is another $14 million lawsuit from a former business manager.
But Jackson lives in denial. That much is clear. "My father has blue eyes," he told Bashir. Not true. Maybe he wears blue contact lenses when he's with Michael. But Joseph Jackson has green eyes. You saw them on TV. I've seen him from a foot away.
I think the most disturbing element of this, though, is that Michael thinks he's broken the cycle of abuse. He said that he never called his father "Daddy," but "Joseph." Now Michael's own children don't call Debbie Rowe "mother." She herself said this on Granada TV in England yesterday.
She also admitted that her participation in motherhood was contractual. "I didn't want to be a mother," she said. A cold chill runs up the spine hearing about all this. Joe Jackson criticized Michael's looks so harshly that Michael has become addicted to plastic surgery. His children wear masks and veils. Everything is covered up.
Inexplicably when this film was shown in Britian, sales of Michael's albums spiked for the day. Will it happen in the U.S.? I think not.
Michael Jackson is over. His career is over. And if he's not careful, he will wind up logging some jail time before his life is over.
First, Universal Music Group nixed its big Grammy party. Now Sony Music has done the same thing. It seems like the plan to return the Grammys to New York is going to be pretty subdued.
Here's the deal: Sony, which has the potential Best Album winner in Bruce Springsteen's The Rising, has decided to forego a blow-out celebration on Feb. 23. Instead the label, I am told, will have a smallish dinner at the Hammerstein Ballroom for "artists, their managers, key staff, the people who made the albums a success."
A Sony press person told me: "You won't be seeing the Hilton sisters, the four ladies from Sex and the City, or [TV actress] Katherine Helmond there. It's going to be quality, not quantity."
Indeed, last year's Sony Grammy party at Mortons in Los Angeles accommodated about 600 people. This gathering will be for around less than half that number.
One reason for Sony Music's cutback is the imminent announcement of...cutbacks. Yesterday, the New York Post suggested layoffs of possibly 1,000 people. I can tell you that the layoffs will be set either right before or after the Grammy's. In any event, they have to be made before March 31, which is the end of Sony's fiscal year.
"They're not coming before the Grammy's!" swears my Sony insider.
So now that leaves Warner Music, EMI and BMG for possible big Grammy parties, and those seem like dwindling possibilities. In the end, the one big bash post-Grammy may be just the official NARAS party -- quite a comedown from years past and a real signal that the record business is in terrible trouble.
At this rate, three events pre-Grammy will take on greater significance: Clive Davis' annual bash on Saturday night, the NARAS MusicCares Person of the Year dinner for Bono on Friday night, and of course, the Rhythm and Blues Pioneer Awards at the Hammerstein on Thursday, Feb. 20. The latter is usually the hot night of Grammy week anyway, with fantastic performances.
John Houston, the father of Whitney Houston, will be buried today from a church in Newark, N.J. starting around 11a.m. All of the Houstons will be there, as well as members of the Drinkard family, which is Cissy Houston's family. Expect to see pictures of Dionne Warwick and other family members. Of course, the biggest interest is in Bobby Brown -- will he behave himself or be erratic? Will there some terrible public embarrassment involving him, or will John Houston go peacefully? Let's hope it's the latter.
Thom Mount, head of RKO Pictures, called yesterday regarding the studio's film, Shade, starring Sylvester Stallone. "We've just locked our print," Mount said, "and we have high hopes of getting a distributor in the near future. We had a screening and the results were excellent. Please don't say this is a disaster. That really p----- me off."
Well, Thom Mount's a nice guy and selling movies is a tough business. I wish the Shade folks all the luck and success in the world. Maybe Stallone will have a huge comeback. He almost did with Copland. So let's hope for the best.
Scalp a ticket, do whatever you need: Tonight at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, Martin Scorsese is filming a massive blues concert for use as a feature film. This is an adjunct to the big six-part blues series which will air on PBS this fall. Blues greats like B.B. King and Clarence Gatemouth Brown will be joined by contemporary stars like Steven Tyler (he can sing, man!) and India Arie. It's a once in a lifetime event.