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The Man, His Weird Ways PDF Print E-mail
Written by Demola Abimboye   
Sunday, 05 July 2009

Scandals and controversies dogged his path through life, largely because of his eccentric lifestyle

“Why not just tell people I’m an alien from Mars. Tell them I eat live chickens and do a voodoo dance at midnight. They’ll believe anything you say, because you’re a reporter. But if I, Michael Jackson, were to say, ‘I’m an alien from Mars and I eat live chickens and do a voodoo dance at midnight,’ people would say, ‘Oh! man, that Michael Jackson is nuts. He’s cracked up. You can’t believe a damn word that comes out of his mouth.”

That was Michael Jackson in an interview. The short but witty riposte clearly signposted the eccentric persona, the weird and                 stranger than fiction characteristics of the King of Pop. Throughout his lifetime, Jackson was dogged by scandals and controversies. In some cases, the matters ended in law suits, most of which he won.

Jackson’s romance with controversies began early in life. And much of his early encounters he revealed as he grew older. He once stated that he was physically and emotionally abused by his father at tender age, including persistent rehearsals, whippings and name-calling.

Even so, he commended his father’s strictness, saying it played a large part in his rise to stardom. Marlon, one of his siblings, recalled that Joseph, their father, once held Michael upside down by one leg and “pummelled him over and over again with his hand, hitting him on his back and buttocks.” He also tripped or pushed his male children into walls. In 1993, Jackson openly admitted that his father abused him. He told Oprah Winfrey, American talkshow host, how he often cried from loneliness and sometimes vomited anytime he saw his father. Ten years later, Joseph told the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, that he whipped Jackson when he was a child. 

Marlon recalled further that one night while Jackson was asleep, his father stole into his room through the window wearing a fright mask. He reportedly entered the room screaming and shouting. He said he wanted to teach his children not to leave the window open at night asleep. This, perhaps, was responsible for Jackson’s nightmares about being kidnapped from his bedroom in later years.

In another television interview in 2003, Jackson covered his face with his hand and cried when talking about his childhood abuse. He reminisced that his father would sit in a chair with a belt in his hand as he and his siblings rehearsed, and that “if you didn’t do it the right way, he would tear you up, really get you.”

The molestations Jackson suffered at childhood were responsible for the various child abuse cases he had in later life. For many years, he was accused of being a paedophile. In 1993, Jackson was accused of child sexual abuse by 13-year-old Jordan Chandler and his father, Evan. The boy told his father that Jackson had touched his penis. He told a psychiatrist and the police that he and Jackson engaged in kissing, masturbation and oral sex. He gave a detailed description of the singer’s genitals.

Investigators searched his 2,700, acre Neverland Ranch, but children and family members denied that he was a paedophile. But La Toya, his sister, accused him of being one, a statement she later retracted. Jackson agreed to a 25-minute strip search and doctors affirmed Jordan’s description of his genitals but that it was not a definitive match. Soon he began to take Xanax for panic attacks and stress stemming from the allegations made against him. He became addicted to the drugs.

 His health deteriorated fast that on January 1, 1994, Jackson settled with the Chandler family and their legal team out of court to evade further embarrassment. After the settlement, Jackson was not charged. The state closed its criminal investigation, citing lack of evidence.

The most celebrated child abuse case was in 2003 involving 13-year-old Garvin Arviso. That year, Granada Television had run a documentary titled: ‘Living with Michael Jackson.’ In it, Jackson reportedly held hands and discussed sleeping arrangements with the underaged. He was also seen to have spent huge sums in a frivolous manner, including as much as $6 million in a single store.

Shortly after the documentary was aired, the California police began investigating Jackson for child sexual abuse. On November 20, the singer, who had flown to Santa Barbara airport, was taken to the county jail in handcuffs. Thereafter, a 10 count charge was slammed against him. Seven of the counts were on molestation, two on administering an intoxicating agent in order to commit that felony, while the last was to hold Arviso and his family captive at his Ranch.

Jackson was arraigned on January 16, 2004. He pleaded not guilty and was granted bail in the sum of $3million. The trial proper lasted six months. Jackson called three of the five children the police said the singer molested. The trio – Macaulay Culkin, Wade Robson and Brett Barnes – testified that he did not molest them.

Jackson’s profile was examined by Stan Katz, mental health doctor. He spent several hours with the accuser too. Katz said that Jackson had become a regressed 10-year-old and did not fit the profile of a paedophile.  Mid June 2005, he was acquitted on all counts.

However, during this period, Jackson became dependent on morphine and deremol. He also suffered from stress-related illnesses and severe weight loss which altered his figure. Following his acquittal, the then 47-year-old man relocated to Bahrain as a guest of Sheikh Abdullah. Even there, Jackson was not immune to controversy. Abdulla bin Hamad Isa Al Khalifa, the Sheik’s son and a budding song writer, sued him for $7 million for allegedly breaching an album and autobiography deal. The case was settled out of court.

Jackson’s skin colour was another source of controversy. It was medium-brown at youth. But in the early 1980s, it gradually grew paler due to bleaching. In the mid1980s, Jackson was diagnosed of vitiligo and lupus. The treatments for these ailments lightened his skin. With pancake make-up to even out blotches, he often appeared very pale.

The facial structure also changed. His broad nose at birth became pointed after multiple nasal surgeries. He reportedly had a forehead lift, thinned lips and a cheekbone surgery. Some medical professionals publicly stated that he had body dysmorphic disorder, a psychological condition whereby the sufferer has no concept of how he is perceived by others.

In 1986, it was reported that Jackson slept in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to slow his aging process. He was pictured lying down in a glass box. Although the claim was untrue, Jackson spread the story himself to promote his upcoming film, ‘Captain EO.’ He allegedly wanted to promote a science fiction image of himself. Jackson had a fourth rhinoplasty and had a cleft put in his chin.

Then he starred in the Francis Ford Coppola-directed 3-D film. It was the most expensive film produced on a per-minute basis at the time, and was later hosted in Disney theme parks. Disneyland featured the film in its Tomorrowland area for nearly 11 years while Walt Disney World screened the film in its Epcot theme park from 1986 to 1994.

Jackson bought and befriended a pet chimpanzee called Bubbles, thereby further compounding his eccentric persona. In 2003, he claimed that Bubbles shared his toilet and cleaned his bedroom. Later, it was reported that Jackson bought the bones of The Elephant Man. Although false, the story was planted in the press by Jackson. The two stories earned him‘Wacko Jacko,’ his pejorative nickname, a year after. When he realised his folly, he eventually despised the nickname and stopped leaking untruths to the press.

Wacko Jacko’s marital life was nonetheless controversial. In May 1994, he married singer cum songwriter, Lisa Marie, daughter of Elvis Presley. They first met in 1975 at one of the Jackson’s family engagements at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino. A mutual friend reconnected them in early 1993. They stayed in contact everyday over the telephone.

As child molestation accusations became public, Jackson became dependent on Lisa Marie for emotional support. She was concerned about his faltering health and drug addiction. She explained: “I believed he didn’t do anything wrong and that he was wrongly accused and I started falling for him. I wanted to save him. I felt that I could do it.” Shortly afterwards, she tried to persuade Jackson to settle the allegations out of court and go into rehabilitation to recover. He obeyed.

Thereafter, Jackson proposed to Lisa Marie over the telephone later in 1993, saying, “If I asked you to marry me, would you do it?” The duo married secretly in the Dominican Republic, though they denied being married for two months. The woman described her marriage as “sexually active.” But they fell apart barely two years later and yet remained friendly.

During a tour of Australia, Jackson married Deborah Jeane Rowe, a nurse. She had two children - a son, Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr, also known as Prince, and a daughter, Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson. They first met in the mid-1980s when Jackson was diagnosed with vitiligo. While treating his illness, she also provided emotional support. Soon a strong friendship developed and they became romantically involved.

Initially, they did not plan to marry, but after Rowe’s first pregnancy, Jackson’s mother persuaded them to do so. The singer later claimed that he was in such a rush to leave the hospital with daughter, Paris, in 1998 that he cut the cord and left with the baby covered in blood, taking the placenta with him in his haste. As in the first marriage, the union crashed in 1999. Rowe gave full custody rights of the children to Jackson. They remained friends thereafter.

Prince Michael Jackson II, also known as Blanket, Jackson’s third child, was born in 2002. The mother’s identity was unknown till Jackson’s death on June 25, 2009. The singer said the child was the result of artificial insemination from a surrogate mother and his own sperm cells.

In November 2002, Jackson displayed his newborn son on the balcony of his hotel room in Berlin, Germany, as fans stood below. Holding him in his right arm, with a clothe loosely draped over the baby’s face, he briefly extended the baby over the balcony’s railing, four stories above ground level. The action caused widespread criticism, forcing Jackson to apologise later. He called the incident “a terrible mistake.”

Ben Murray Bruce, one of Nigeria’s entertainment promoters, did not see anything wrong with Jackson’s many oddities. He believed he was not involved in drugs and neither smoked nor drank. “He lived a good life,” he told Newswatch, adding: “He had irresponsible doctors who prescribed pain killers but never told him when to stop. He died because it was time and not that he lived a bad life.”

On his numerous skin-changing surgeries, Bruce said it was a common practice with artistes and showbiz personalities. “The women change their skin colours and blow up their breasts regularly. Every three or four years, the men also change their skin colours, faces and noses. The question is, did Michael have more plastic surgeries than others? Maybe, but you cannot argue that the folks in Hollywood were not involved in plastic surgery. They all do it to give them a greater appeal to the public. That is just a fact of life in the industry I once belonged to.” 

With Agency Reports


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