Sunday, November 29, 2009

Unmasked The Final Years of Michael Jackson by Ian Halperin

Sometimes I surprise myself. This wasn't a book I expected to read as I have never been much of a Michael Jackson fan, though I have liked the occasional song over the years, but when I found myself in a busy optometrist's waiting room waiting for my father to have his glasses adjusted, and me without a book to read, I nipped over to the nearest store, and this was the most enticing volume on the rack.

The stories that have swirled around Michael Jackson over the years have always reminded me of something straight out of a carnival sideshow. I can't say how much is fact and fiction, hyperbole and sensationalism dreamed up by journalists in need of a tabloid tall tale to sell more papers, and outright lies or muddied truths told by disgruntled employees, discarded friends, and extortionists, all I can say is that Michael Jackson was a man who marched to his own drum, even if that meant marching right off the edge of a cliff.

Although the truth is murky, the evidence, as presented by Ian Halperin, tends to suggest that Michael Jackson was innocent of the child molestation charges that have dogged him for so many years. Mr. Halperin makes a good case for this in his book, though in my personal opinion we will never know for sure; a disturbing niggling doubt will always cling to Mr. Jackson's reputation. However, even after putting these highly distressing episodes behind him, Michael Jackson continued to put himself in a position that both courted and supported the widespread suspicions of guilt; leading many to conclude that there is no smoke without fire. He may very well have been an innocent child-like man, a Peter Pan trapped in an adult male's body, but in a world peopled with predators and monsters who prey on children it is hard to see a middle-aged man having sleepovers with little boys as entirely innocent, pure, and wholesome; and that is the only genuine truth I fear that we can glean out of these murky waters.

Mr. Halperin's book also presents some interesting theories about the role the cult of Scientology may have played in the marriage between Lisa Marie Presley and Michael Jackson, and also offers some evidence, supposedly obtained from former lovers, of Jackson's alleged homosexuality. He also claims Jackson's health in his final years was worse than the general public suspected, and that he suffered from a debilitating genetic lung disease known as Alpha-1.

Although this book was updated after Michael Jackson's death, it went to press before the autopsy results became known, and there is no mention of the role the surgical sedative Diprivan may have played in his demise. Instead, Mr. Halperin makes a tantalizing claim that Jackson's death was tantamount to assisted suicide. Burdened by debts and failing health, and faced with a series of concerts he lacked the stamina for, Halperin proposes Michael Jackson simply gave up and went quietly into the night.

Mr. Halperin's book is a swift and intriguing read, but neither emotionally or factually earth-shaking or ground-breaking. I've read better biographies and I've read worse. For me, this was just a swift read to pass the time in a waiting room and it served its purpose.

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