Michael Jackson: Never Can Say Goodbye

This was supposed to be a post about how I deleted all the Michael Jackson tunes from my music library. There’s not a shred of doubt that he was a deranged child molester. Keeping his music felt dirty. A purge was in order.

Then a bunch of Jackson tunes popped up on my dance playlist the other day as I jogged around Green Lake: ABC, I Want You Back, Shake Your Body, Blame It On The Boogie, Dancing Machine. 

Man, that child molester could get down! 

I just couldn’t stop listening. Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough, right?

It’s been clear for a few decades that Michael was probably a pederast, but if there was even a sliver of remaining doubt, it has been obliterated by “Leaving Neverland,” a new HBO documentary that offers a chilling exposition of his depravities. 

The film features two victims whose lives were shattered by Michael’s pathological need for sex with little boys. The men are all grown up and married now, with children of their own. But they still look depressed and traumatized some 30 years after their pop idol last asked them to remove their clothes, get down on all fours, and spread their pre-pubescent butt cheeks. (I won’t tell you what happens next.)

Michael’s accusers are utterly credible. Anyone who watches the show and fails to recognize the truth of their life-shattering tales has an egregious empathy deficit. After listening to their stories, I felt sick and sorrowful.

MJ has been one of my musical heroes since we were both about 5 years old. I saw him live once, during his “Bad” tour, on Aug. 7, 1988. Along with a Spanish girlfriend and 60,000 other people, I squeezed into the Vicente Calderon soccer stadium in Madrid for the show of a lifetime. He killed it. He really, truly killed it.

Little did I know that the King of Pop was diddling elementary schoolboys at the time. It wasn’t for another five years that the first public child molestation charges were lodged against him. We could enjoy the show without feeling slimy. 

It’s been clear for a long time now that Michael was a whack job — whitening his skin, getting god knows how many nose jobs, creating a children’s paradise complete with exotic animals and an amusement park at his Neverland Ranch.

I figured his eccentricities were the result of mind-warping fame and a tryrannical, abusive father. He spent every minute of his childhood working, working, working. I felt sorry for the guy, and I didn’t mind if he behaved like a fifth-grader well into his 40s.

I even let it go when he acknowledged that he routinely slept with little boys. They were just friends, he insisted. It was all innocent! 

The victims featured in “Leaving Neverland” have nothing to gain by telling their stories now,  except for the relief that comes from expelling a toxic secret. They’re not going to win any money from Jackson’s estate, but they will incur the wrath of Michael’s most die-hard fans, some of whom will pillory them, threaten them, and make their lives a living hell. 

Like our deranged president and his merry band of MAGAts, Michael’s most devoted partisans scream “witch hunt” whenever anyone levels accusations, however credible, against their hero. They will point out that the two victims featured in the documentary had previously denied that Jackson molested them. 

Of course they did.

They were little boys at the time, utterly in love with their pop star hero. They didn’t understand that what he did to them was wrong. And they believed Michael when he said they’d go to jail if they told anyone. 

So they didn’t — until 30 years passed and they realized how completely, utterly and irrevocably Michael had fucked up their lives.

(Full disclosure: My camp counselor molested me when I was 9. And you all know how screwed up I am.)

I understand the impulse to deny. Nobody wants to think their heroes are evil.

For years, we ignored the fact that Bill Cosby was a rapist even after dozens of women accused him of the same crime, with the same twisted MO. He promised them stardom, lured them to his hotel room, drugged them, and assaulted them while they were unconscious. Over and over gain, he performed this deranged ritual.

But he was America’s dad! He loved Jell-o pudding!

We gave R. Kelly a pass even though a widely circulated video showed him urinating on a pubescent girl. 

We believed he could fly!

If I were a better person, I’d have purged Michael from my music library already. Instead, I’m looking for excuses not to. 

I’ve settled on a compromise. I’ll let myself listen to Jackson 5 tunes — the ones he recorded before he morphed into a monster — but I’ll ban his post-pederast output.

I’ll probably stick to this pledge until I hear one of his later tunes again, and I can’t stop listening.

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