Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Michael Jackson: Happy Birthday, But Remember the Time Without Nostalgia


I just saw a Tweet saying Michael Jackson– remember what a good business man he was. Huh? The smartest thing Michael Jackson ever did was tell John Branca that the Beatles’ catalog was for sale. That was it. Michael lived on that catalog for 25 years, long after his own money had run out due to flagrant spending on stuff that was mostly crap: worthless expensive souvenirs from Las Vegas vendors, paintings of himself at the Last Supper. Jewelry for Elizabeth Taylor so she’d come to his 30th anniversary show. One million dollars cash to get Marlon Brando to appear on stage at the same concert.

Michael didn’t want to work. It took years to get the mediocre “Invincible” album together. It had already been 6 or 7 years since he’d put out a new record when “Invincible” was released in 2001. The album, you don’t want to remember this, was not a hit. “You Rock My World” was a modest success compared to Jackson’s previous efforts.

He wouldn’t tour. By 2001, he’d been off the circuit for some time. He didn’t tour for “Invincible.” He made one appearance–at the Apollo, for the Democratic National Committee–in 2002. I was there. I saw him live. http://www.foxnews.com/story/2002/04/25/jacko-plays-apollo/.

It was a so-so effort. It was also the last time he performed live. He knew he needed money. He burned through it day and night.  Rome was burning and Michael fiddled. Managers came and went with schemes, all of which wound up in lawsuits that cost more legal fees. He made terrible investments. Roll call: Hollywoodticket.com, Dieter Wiesner, Myung Ho Lee, Marcel Avram, Shumley Boteach.

Jackson lived like the money from “Thriller” was still coming in. It wasn’t. By the time he was arrested in 2003, and stood trial in 2005, the finances were vanishing. He called his friend Ron Burkle from the men’s room in the Santa Maria courthouse and offered to sell him everything, begged for help. Burkle, who was really a friend, declined.

I say all this because, let’s get real. Michael Jackson has only made money post-death because he was not an obstacle to prudent moves. With Michael out the way, his executors were able to right the ship. If Michael Jackson hadn’t died: he would have played the London shows, cancelled some feigning illness, and spent whatever money was made as quickly as it came in. That’s the truth. So let’s get a grip.


Of course, he was a musical genius. He was a dancing fool. He was lovely to his kids. His fans adored him. His death is a tragedy. But I can see the sepia tint washing over his portrait now. Remember: at one point, Neverland and the Encino house shut down, employees who need the money to live on were not being paid. And Michael Jackson did nothing, Nada. He was human. And he was not a good businessman.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedmanhttps://www.showbiz411.com
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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