Michael Jackson for president. We should dispense with the preliminaries—why spend millions on another exhausting, nasty political campaign?—and give the kid a fouryear White House fellowship. Let him run things for a while. Let him coo at Gromyko and invite Pentagon chiefs in for a few hours of video massage. Let him appear in zebra slacks and sequined socks for press conferences and when, incredulous, reporters ask if he really intends to appoint a life-size mannequin to the post of national security adviser, let Michael respond forthrightly with those immortal words from his Thriller tape: “I’m not like other guys.”
How happy life would be. The executive mansion on Pennsylvania Avenue would take on the gaudy aura of the carnival midway—a vast improvement over present conditions. Hasn’t it been reported endlessly that Michael so loves Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland that he bought a replica for his California home? Stodgy old Washington could use some of that élan and spirit of adventure. Outside the Oval Office the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could erect dipsy-doodles called Inflationary Spiral and Cost Overrun. Tourists would come by the busloads.
What else? Oh, perhaps a five-storey bandstand in the Rose Garden where the Jacksons could wail when the urge arrived and, let’s see, some kind of gadget that shoots red and green laser beams from the front portico. There would have to be plenty of artificial thunder and lightning in the Oval Office (Michael is crazy about special effects) and a herd of robotic spiders to perform duties usually carried out by the Secret Service.
Ah, but now we must get back to earth, mates, back through the billowing clouds and dazzle of fireworks. The truth is that we are not bold enough to undertake a program of radical presidential reform. Bored we may be with the electoral process and dangerously hung over from the excesses of an interminable primary season, but when a clear alternative presents itself how do we respond? We don’t. We stick with Ronald Reagan. With Walter Mondale. With individuals who cannot moonwalk—Michael is a master of the moonwalk—so much as a step, who do not comprehend the significance of One White Glove or the glistening “wet curl,” which surely would have become a
hallmark of the new administration.
No, it is almost certain that Michael will fail to attain his nation’s highest office this year. And yet Americans are right to wonder if the country has not been overtaken by a force greater than mere politics and constitutional imperative. To say the least, the major parties will have precious few of their adherents screaming in the aisles or howling for encores. The only communal sound expected between now and election day is that of a snore mighty enough to make redwoods tremble and send small creatures burrowing underground.
What is the meaning of Michael? It would appear that the lad, himself, has difficulty sorting out the complexities of his personality and a public appeal so astounding that even the mighty Beatles have been humbled by Jacksonian sales and profit margins. At 25, Michael is a recluse, living behind high gates with his mother and sisters while fol-
lowing a domestic routine that hardly is the sort of thing extolled by teachers of health education in blithesome courses like Marriage and the Family.
Michael, it is written, rarely sees people, eats little and directs his attention mostly to department-store dummies with whom he carries out earnest conversations. An assortment of creatures of the slithery persuasion also is in residence, among them a boa constrictor. He is celibate (so much for a career in politics) and, on the rare instance that he wanders into the street, does nothing more raucous than go door-todoor distributing literature for the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Quite naturally, common wisdom holds that Michael, while the sweetest of guys, is a genuine space cadet.
To be sure, Michael can claim an odd upbringing. At 5, he was on the way to becoming a celebrity and, according to his own account, seldom attended school. Ever on the road, the little fellow was isolated from contemporaries. When the other kids were playing stickball, Michael was toiling in the recording studio or wowing ’em on TV. Unlike
kiddie stars who rebounded from the rigors of a sudden ascendancy, Michael gives the impression he was permanently unstrung. Somewhere along the line, we are led to believe, the fellow replaced himself with a fictional character—a pretty boy/girl who crooned falsetto and convinced us that he would die of heartbreak if the audience did not shower him with attention.
Experts say the fragile quality of Michael counts importantly among those who cherish the performer most. “His vulnerability is especially appealing to young and preteens,” Robert Gould, a psychiatrist, told The New York Times. “When he makes an appearance in public, he’s so shy and inarticulate he looks like he needs someone to take care of him. He’s almost like a pet you want to adopt.” Michael, of course, is not available for adoption. In fact, the young man says he would prefer never to leave the confines of the theatre.
‘If he moves in with his boa constrictor, he could improve the White House by turning it into a carnival mid
Michael’s wounded nature may be irresistible to the faithful who happily have been paying $30 a pop to see his Victory concert, but let us not underestimate the mesmerizing effect of money, either. Exactly what kind of character Michael possesses we do not know. He is death on interviews and much about him is hearsay. Maybe he is not nearly so dizzy as has been suggested. Maybe he reads Joyce and attends night classes in paleontology. There are no maybes about one matter, however: the kid is loaded beyond imagination. He could fill a swimming pool with $100 bills and float forever. He could buy himself Mr. Toad and every other attraction Disney has to offer and still be flush enough to annex most of southern California.
Oh, yes, we love Michael because he dances superbly. Yes, because there is something heartwrenching in the teakettle register of his voice. Yes, because the iridescence of his clothes could jam radar screens throughout the hemisphere. Yes, because he utters nary a harsh word and seems arrested eternally in innocence and youth. But here in the land where nothing succeeds like success, we love Michael Jackson, too, because he has found a way to turn each neurosis into a blue-chip commodity. Talk about the American Dream! For everyone who has felt the urge to hide in the bathtub during a cocktail party or strike up a conversation with a squirrel, Michael is aces. Not like other guys? Don’t be so sure.
Fred Bruning is a writer with Newsday in New York.
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