The other day I read that Agnetha Faltskog, the blond bombshell from Abba, confessed that fame had turned her into a virtual recluse. In 1987 Faltskog went off to live in a remote Swedish island. She threw out her stereo and stopped singing for 13 years. She developed multiple fears including a microphone phobia, fear of flying, and nightmares about the harm that fans might do to her. Paranoid? Not necessarily.
I raise the issue of Faltskog's anxieties and her reclusive state so that we can all think a little bit more carefully before we judge Michael Jackson. How many people reading this entry can say that they have been persecuted by the paparazzi or that they have feared for their lives in the midst of a frenzied crowd that wanted to devour them? Even Macaulay Culkin told Larry King that he developed tendencies toward agoraphobia after rising to stardom thanks to his "Home Alone" movies.
If Jackson were truly to be judged by a jury of his peers, that panel would be stacked with people like Jodie Foster, Brooke Shields, Shirley Temple Black and Liz Taylor. Those of us who have never been child stars can't understand the pressure or how grievous the loss of an ordinary childhood can be. Instead we focus on how odd it is that a 46-year-old man would want to spend all of his time with 10 and 12 year old boys, and how bizarre it is that such a man would build a utopia for children in his beloved Neverland. (I'm dying to find out who bought Neverland and I'm sad that Jackson felt that he had to give it up.)
Surprisingly, the defense has finished with its case. On Monday, a welfare worker said that the accuser's mother did not report that her family had just received a $152,000 lawsuit settlement 10 days before the mother filled out a welfare application. An accountant also spoke, stating that Jackson paid $7,000 in shopping, dining and other expenses for the accuser's family during their week of supposed captivity. This family completely lacks credibility. Shakedown! If I were on that jury and I had to vote today, there is no way in hell that I would find Jackson guilty of anything except being strange. Let's see what the real-life folks do.
Personally, I don't have a lot of faith in juries. They seem to make bizarre and inconsistent decisions. Back in the nineties, we had the appalling trials of O.J. Simpson, the Menendez brothers, and Lorena Bobbitt. O.J. was acquitted but Andrea Yates, who was as crazy as a bat -- through no fault whatsoever of her own -- was initially found guilty. Yet, sometimes the legal system can fix itself. O.J. was found liable in a civil suit and the Menendez brother's were found guilty after their mistrial. Thank God we can say the same for the absurd guilty sentence for poor Andrea. Predicting what a jury will do is like flipping a coin. I'm rooting for Jackson. I just don't see the evidence in this case and I think that it will be a terrible miscarriage of justice if he's convicted based on what we have heard.
The defense's last witness, comedian Chris Tucker, described the accuser on Wednesday as "cunning" and relentless in his pursuit of money, gifts and trips from Tucker and other celebrities, according to the Herald Tribune. Jackson faces 10 felony counts, including "child molesting, attempted child molesting, giving alcohol to aid in the commission of a felony and conspiracy to kidnap, imprison and threaten the accuser and his family." These charges carry a possible sentence of almost 20 years in prison. Closing arguments are expected next week.
While the Milgaard Inquiry is taking its break, I will continue to log my observations about the Jackson trial. Please add your own comments. I look forward to reading them, and for those who don't know me, let me assure you that I always respect other people's right to disagree.
Re pop music: It's ironic that upbeat, catchy songs like Waterloo and Billie Jean were composed by people who are now so tortured.