The circus continues...

2011-10-07 10:17

For a man whose life played out like a three-ring circus, it’s not surprising that Cirque Soleil threw a tribute for Michael Jackson.
In The Immortal World Tour, a six-year-old Michael sails in a hot-air balloon, a hefty impersonator in a red Beat It jacket dons bull horns and charges at a matador, and a dancer dressed as Bubbles – MJ’s famous pet chimpanzee – hovers in a giant, elephant-skull cradle and is spun gently by a mime.

Another star of the Jackson family circus, Janet, is set to jet into South Africa in a month as part of her Blackglama Tour. As the legal ringmasters call for our attention in the courtroom, Janet’s performance will be a reminder that this family is uber-famous first and foremost for their talent, which has by and large been the cause of their tragic tales of addiction to plastic surgery and prescription drugs.

Michael’s long-time, well-documented drug problems are at the centre of the court case everyone is watching. Beamed live from the Los Angeles Superior Court, things are procedural and tempers are kept in check while Dr Conrad Murray is in the hot seat.

He faces involuntary manslaughter charges for feeding the King of Pop an anaesthetic that’s supposed to be administered at a hospital only. Prosecutors argue that Jackson’s alleged misplaced trust in Murray led to his death while the defence says the superstar was the architect of his own doom.

Murray’s lawyer Ed Chernoff says that, desperate to sleep, Jackson swallowed a handful of sedatives and a bottle of Propofol – which has become a buzz word since Jackson’s death – while Murray wasn’t looking. It created a toxic “perfect storm” that killed him so quickly “he didn’t even have time to close his eyes”.

During his opening statement, Los Angeles District Attorney David Walgren brought out a photo of Michael lying in a green haze on a hospital stretcher with the label “Homicide” stamped above him.

His eyes are closed. He looks small and fragile, yet his hair and make-up are still striking.

Outside, the media circus and the die-hard fans’ vigil continues unabated. One of the scenes reported this week outside the court – among the “Justice for Michael” signs and impersonators – is of a fan holding up a placard of Michael’s legendary Thriller album, only with Murray’s face superimposed on it and “Thriller” replaced with “Killer” – clearly living up to their promise to “love MJ to death” and beyond.

Adding a little zombie-chic to the proceedings – which the Thriller creator would have appreciated – are the alleged sightings of the dead Michael.

It has been reported that the King of Pop himself was spotted walking behind his family at the courthouse. There are even those who believe that he is not dead but living on an island in the Caribbean or a suburb in New Jersey.

“He’s not dead. I’ve seen him about a dozen times in LA since 2009. He’s either a ghost or there’s something funny going on,” said fan Donnie McCreary of Bellflower, who was outside the courtroom.

We wonder if he’s perhaps mixing drug cocktails with the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, and screen queen Marilyn Monroe?

The crowd, as with all other trials involving “the gloved one”, turns up every day shouting that Murray should be charged with murder and calling him an animal.

And then there is the opposing camp supporting Murray.

Remarking on the trial, US lawyer and TV writer David Feige says it is a “very American trial”.

He adds: “It’s not really about drugs or manslaughter, but the power of the culture of celebrity and how even medicine becomes warped in the vortex of American celebrity.”

Much like OJ Simpson’s debacle of a trial, this one is likely to end up being about just that – the curse of fame.

Proving his celebrity pulling power, Fox TV in the US has launched the Michael Jackson Doctor Trial app.

It provides live video of the proceedings, documents submitted as evidence, news clips and photo galleries. There is also expert testimony and how the family react to developments in court.

Here at home, Janet will be entertaining her fans in an intimate setting during her three-date Up Close and Personal Tour, which is part of her Blackglama World Tour.

Janet said in a statement: “These concerts are different from anything I have ever done. I will be as up close and personal as possible.

These concerts are not about special effects. This is a love affair between me and those of you who have supported me and my work for all these years. I’ll be singing and dancing from my heart.”

The next generation – Michael’s children Prince, Paris and Blanket – are set to follow in the family’s footsteps, providing another generation with tabloid fodder.

Which means that as the trial comes to an end rather than this being Jackson’s final bow, it’s more likely that there will be more acts to follow in this tragi-comedy. – Additional reporting by Babalwa Shota and Gayle Edmunds

»?Janet Jackson’s Up Close and Personal tour, the South African leg of her world tour, is on at the Teatro at Montecasino, Joburg, on November 11 and 12; and GrandWest, Cape Town, on November 15

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