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Saturday, June 27, 2009
As Michael's death sinks in
It's taken me a couple of days to become really, profoundly, and inexplicably depressed about Michael Jackson's death.

When it first happened, I was in absolute shock, but in the back of my mind, I couldn't help but think that it wasn't really that surprising -- not the way he had physically abused himself over the years (between the drugs and the plastic surgery.) I guess it was the timing -- he wasn't holed up in a rented mansion somewhere in Dubai, dressing in a woman's burqua and dragging his kids around the place in masks -- he was in L.A., preparing for a concert that was sold out to the tune of some 750,000 tickets. This was no time to die. And yet, he did. But for me, this death is becoming increasingly like a personal loss. I'm not one of those people who ever owned a glittery glove, or dressed in a general's jacket. I liked -- even loved -- Michael Jackson when I was in elementary and middle school, but had developed more eclectic musical tastes by the time "Bad" came out. And yet, I guess I am kind of a sap.

I cried like hell when John Lennon died, even though I was too young to have been a Beatles fan (they were out before I was born.) But he died on my birthday. And I loved the song "Imagine."

I cried when Princess Diana died, even though I'm not English. It was just so damned sad, especially for her kids. I could relate to them, losing a mother at a young age.

Those are about the only major deaths I remember. More recent shockers, like Bernie Mac, or Gerald Levert, were awful, but not tear-inducing; not for me, anyway.

But this? Wow. It's really hitting me now. Michael Jackson Is Dead. Fini. I think it might have been a bad idea for me to play my MJ master-mix this morning, especially one of my favorite of his songs, "You Are Not Alone," written for Michael's "HIStory: Past, Present and Future" album by one R. Kelly. The lyrics alone are devastating:

Another day has gone
I'm still all alone
How could this be
You're not here with me
You never said goodbye
Someone tell me why
Did you have to go
And leave my world so cold

Everyday I sit and ask myself
How did love slip away
Something whispers in my ear and says
That you are not alone
For I am here with you
Though you're far away
I am here to stay

But you are not alone
For I am here with you
Though we're far apart
You're always in my heart
But you are not alone

It's also a reminder that Michael, like other great singers such as Whitney Houston and Elvis Pressley, didn't actually write much music. He was a performer -- the consumate performer, of songs written and produced by others. He channeled the creativity of other people, but did so in a way that couldn't have been duplicated, probably not even by the songwriters themselves. Michael's greatness was in his ability to create cinematic drama in a song, even before he started practically inventing the music video (credit where credit is due, the Beatles beat him to the punch on music video moviemaking, with "Yellow Submarine," which I also remember watching, and marveling at, as a kid... ) Watch the music video for "You Are Not Alone"here, if you dare, but have some tissues handy. Then as a pick me up, watch Michael at his absolute finest, here. See a listing of all Michael's albums and their contents (with links to lyrics) here.

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posted by JReid @ 12:58 PM  
Friday, June 26, 2009
Burning questions: was Michael Jackson a Muslim?
His brother Jermaine, who converted to Islam some time ago, said to his brother, "may Allah be with you always" at the close of his press conference following Michael's death, and news reports last November did say Jackson made the conversion in Los Angeles at a friends house, which takes him a long way from being a Jehovah's Witness as a child. And if Michael was indeed a Muslim at the time of his death, what does that mean for his funeral arrangements? Islam has very specific rules for burial and for funerals, including a requirement that the body be interred within 24 hours. Obviously, with the coroner's inquest going on, that hasn't happened. And there are some disputes over whether his formal conversion took place at all, combined with what will surely be tremendous pressure to hold a traditional, public funeral. [Picture at left: Jackson seen walking with his youngest son Prince Michael II last year, wearing what looks like a Muslims woman's burqa...]

Among the global news reaction to Jackson's death was this tidbit from Russia:

The more sober state news agency RIA Novosti questioned, wrongly as it turned out, whether an autopsy would be allowed on Jackson — who had reportedly converted to Islam late last year.

Muslim cleric, Damir Gizatullin, vice president of the Russian Council of Muftis, told RIA Novosti that autopsies were forbidden on Muslims and, according to Islamic belief, Jackson should be buried within 24 hours of his death.

And some Muslims are indeed debating Jackson's religion online.

The plot continues to thicken.

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posted by JReid @ 4:51 PM  
Michael Jackson's death: what the doctor knew
It's increasingly clear that Michael Jackson's personal physician is going to face some questions in his death. From RS:
The audio of the 911 call placed from Michael Jackson’s Los Angeles home in the moments after the superstar reportedly suffered a cardiac arrest is currently streaming on TMZ. The audio reveals that Jackson was unresponsive and not breathing before paramedics were ever called to the scene. “He’s not breathing, we’re trying to pump him,” the unspecified caller told the operator, adding that Jackson was unconscious. The caller also tells the operator that Jackson’s personal physician — identified as Dr. Conrad Murray (shown at left)— was with Jackson at the time, however Jackson was “not responding to the CPR or anything.” While the caller told the paramedics a 50-year-old man was unresponsive, he never mentioned the name “Michael Jackson.”

The caller said Jackson was lying on the bed, but the paramedic on the line told the caller to put him on the floor. Later, the caller said Jackson was “slumped in a chair.” When asked if anyone witnessed what happened, the caller responded, “Only the doctor was here.” The next question, whether the doctor witnessed what happened, went unanswered as the caller pleaded for the paramedics to arrive quickly
The caller doesn't sound like Michael's brother Randy, who reportedly was in the house with him when he passed out, and it's not clear who he is -- perhaps a member of Jackson's staff? BTW TMZ is continuing to beat the "old media" to the punch on this story, and I just know the old media is hating it. Hear the 911 call here. TMA iz also livestreaming the coroner's press conference.

Meanwhile, guess who will likely get custody of -- along with hefty child support for -- Jackson's two older children (Prince and Paris...) The answer may surprise you.

Over at the times, a very British view of Michael, and his curious relationship to the truth.

UPDATE: Jackson's former video producer tells ABC News Michael Jackson was addicted to Demerol and Oxycontin, (and Xanax and the anti-depressant Zoloft, too...) and had been for decades. And there are still more questions about that 'doctor':

Primary death from cardiac arrest with this cocktail of drugs is highly unlikely unless Jackson was also using amphetamines or had a history of heart disease, according to Dr. Darin Correll, an anesthesiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

The 911 audio tapes revealed that a "personal doctor" was present when paramedics were called..

"This whole thing is a little bizarre," said Correll. "You'd think that person would have been able to adequately perform CPR and stop it. If it truly was from opioids, it's easily fixed."

An overdose can be "reversible," he said, by administering mouth-to-mouth rescusitation and then an antidote -- Naloxone.

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posted by JReid @ 4:21 PM  
Michael Jackson's death: the drama to come
It's not often that a 50-year-old man who isn't overweight, is a non-smoker and has no known history of heart problems dies of cardiac arrest ... especially when his personal physician just happens to be around to find him. Michael Jackson's death is about to go all Anna Nicole Smith on us. First, Entertainment Tonight claims to have the final photo of the fallen pop idol. And ET reports:

The Los Angeles County Coroner's office tells ET that Jackson was transported from his residence in full cardiac arrest on Thursday. They say life-saving efforts were made by paramedics throughout transport to the hospital and efforts in the hospital emergency room continued on unsuccessfully.

Jackson was pronounced dead at 2:26 p.m. at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.

And then there are the hints, from a Jackson's apokesman, that he had been abusing prescription drugs (watch as the CNN Lou Dobbs fill-in completely misses the headline, after Brian Oxman tries to drop a bombshell about Michael's apparent abuse of prescription drugs, which he says makes the Anna Nicole Smith case pale in comparison.)

And the Murdoch tabloid The Sun has even more eerie detail:
PARAMEDICS dashed to dying Michael Jackson’s side after a panic-stricken phone call from the superstar’s Los Angeles home.

The dramatic call was made by a member of staff last night at just after 8pm UK time.

Fire Department medics responded to the alert and arrived to find the 50-year-old singer collapsed and not breathing. He had suffered a cardiac arrest.

The emergency staff rushed him to hospital in their vehicle, where a computer screen revealed chilling details of his condition.

A record of the call-out read: “50 year old male Not breathing at all.” It gave the time of the call- out as 12.21pm local time.

Medics administered heart massage and oxygen along the route. But they could not revive the star.
And the possible culprit?
An Emergency Room source at UCLA hospital said Jackson aides told medics he had collapsed after an injection of potent Demerol — similar to morphine.

A Jacko source said: “Shortly after taking the Demerol he started to experience slow shallow breathing.

“His breathing gradually got slower and slower until it stopped.

“His staff started mouth-to-mouth and an ambulance was called which got there in eight minutes “But found he was in full respiratory arrest, no breathing and no pulse. They started full CPR and rushed him to hospital.

“When he arrived they started resuscitation, giving him heart shocks and inserted a breathing tube and other supportive measures to try and save his life.

“He never regained consciousness.The family was told that he had passed.”
According to Oxman, older brother Randy Jackson was present when the 911 call was made. And other stories say Michael's personal physician was there, too. We don't know who the "staff" were at the rented home.

The Sun claims Jackson has been rumored to have suffered from both early stage skin cancer and that he did have some form of "heart trouble," something I've never heard before, and which is questionable after Oxman's assertion that Michael was "in fine physical condition" but for the drugs he was allegedly being "enabled" to abuse. ... Expect a media frenzy over his children, whose faces we may see for the first time at what I assume will be a lavish funeral. Their names: "Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr, Paris Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince “Blanket” Michael Jackson II." Wow.

UPDATE: An expert named Dr. Nancy Sniderman (sp?) on MSNBC is throwing in the possibility that Jackson suffered from an eating disorder, which may have been complicated by the use of prescription drugs, or by excessive workouts in preparation for his sold out European tour. The autopsy is being done tomorrow.

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posted by JReid @ 12:36 AM  
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Shock and awe: Michael Jackson gone at 50
Just when I was getting used to Farrah Fawcett being dead, this just blew me away. Michael Jackosn is dead? Seriously??? It doesn't seem real in a way, even though the way he had abused himself physically, it wasn't uncommon for lots of us, myself included, to say "man, Michael's not gonna make it to 50 the way he's going." Well, he made it to 50.

TMZ broke the story, but the mainstream media wouldn't believe it until they heard it from a "credible source" -- namely the L.A. Times. Well, welcome to the new media order fellas. TMZ had it right. I got a text from a friend of mine at around 5:30, and forwarded it to a few other friends, one of whom called me back doubting the veracity of the story. Sure enough, by the time I got home, it was being confirmed on MSNBC. The circumstances strike me as odd -- what was his personal physician during there? What were they doing "working on him" for an hour??? Did he have heart problems? I suspect there's going to wind up being more to it than we're hearing tonight...)

*****UPDATE: Just as I thought. There's more to it. A family spokesman is indicating Michael may have been abusing prescription drugs. Something tells me we're looking at an Anna Nicole Smith scenario unfolding here...******

*****Crowds gather around the world, from Harlem to London and beyond, to mourn the King of Pop*****

What's really important right now is to remember Michael, and to be awed by all that he accomplished. He seemed to have lived through it all: troubled childhood, child stardom, crazy father, breaking up the "Jackson Five," making movies, pioneering music videos, and selling 25 million copies of "Thriller." Jackson made money, squandered money, surgically altered his face, turned white, sang "Black or white", got accused of having a prurient interest in children, beat the rap, lost his American star power, and kept the star power throughout the rest of the world. He veiled his kids, dangled his baby, outraged and excited and rivited a planet full of people, and withdrew from sight.

****Check out the changing faces of Michael Jackson****

In short, Michael Jackson is the most famous person in my lifetime. Muhammad Ali was an icon for me, and there have been lots of others, but Michael Jackson was literally THE central figure in entertainment from the time I was a little kid, all the way through college, when his musical fame had begun to recede, and he was increasingly famous for ... well ... other reasons. Michael Jackson practically built MTV. His music videos revolutionized the genre -- created it, really. He crossed racial and musical barriers that put him in rare company in the history of modern music. His death is shocking, sudden and jarring -- like John Lennon, Elvis Pressley, or Bob Marley were for people a decade or more older than me.

**** UPDATE: Michael's famous friends react.****

I really don't know quite what to even say, and I'm probably saying nothing at all... it's just so damned shocking. So instead, I've decided to post some images of Michael the way I prefer to remember him: fine as hell when I hung the double-truck "Off the Wall" album cover up over my bed, the baddest dancer in the world at the time he did "Thriller" and "Bad," and as the scarecrow in what is still my favorite musical: "The Wiz." Yes, Michael was a troubled guy. Very troubled. But he was also, arguably, the greatest entertainer of his generation. I hope that's what people choose to remember.

A couple of great Jackson songs:

"Don't Stop Till You Get Enough"

"You are not alone"

The Huffpo has a retrospective of great MJ videos.

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posted by JReid @ 11:15 PM  
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Smart move: Chris Brown cops a plea

He'll avoid a nasty trial, and Rihanna having to testify. Plus he won't go to jail.

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posted by JReid @ 8:48 AM  
Say goodnight, Ed

Sad news. Johnny Carson's sidekick, better known as Ed McMahon, has died.

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posted by JReid @ 8:44 AM  
Friday, March 13, 2009
Chris Brown and Rihanna doing what???
Recording a love song. Yep. Yes indeedy... feel the love:
The whole thing came together when they decided to reconcile shortly after the attack. Sources tell us music producer Polow Da Don convinced both Chris and Rihanna to get in the studio and record a love song stat, stressing that timing was important because the heightened emotions would translate powerfully into the music.

Both Rihanna and Chris agreed and snuck in a couple of "late night" sessions that we're told were "very, very emotional ... the feeling in the room was pure love." Clearly, love hurts.
The song had been written for Rihanna before "the incident," but the producer felt it was even better-er now.

Meanwhile, can we next expect a new single from "Bebe Brown" and his ex? Yeah, the gospel singer has been booked for domestic violence, too.

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posted by JReid @ 12:47 PM  
Monday, February 23, 2009
Sign of the times: Rapper arrested at Fatburger
Rapper N.O.R.E. gets pinched in Florida:

The 31-year-old performer was formerly known as Noreaga. His real name is Victor Santiago and he is known for songs ''Nothin''' and ''SuperThug.''

Santiago, of New York, was arrested early Sunday after police said he caused a disruption at a Fatburger by yelling at another customer, ripping up a bouquet of flowers and throwing a drink at a customer.

Authorities said the rapper punched a man in the face, and yelled ''Do you know who I am?''
I'm guessing the guy said "no."
Santiago was charged with misdemeanor battery and disorderly conduct. He was taken to the Miami-Dade county jail and released.
Sure hate it.

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posted by JReid @ 4:26 PM  
Friday, February 20, 2009
The Rihanna pics
TMZ unleashes the pictures that could end Chris Brown's career, at least for the forseeable future. E! News reports the LAPD has launched an internal investigation and somebody could be in big trouble over the photo, if it turns out to be the real deal. And there's this:

A law-enforcement source close to the Brown investigation tells E! News that the leaked photo was one taken by a detective when officers first arrived at the Hancock Park scene of the alleged attack.

"There was another set taken at the hospital where the swelling is even worse," the source said.

Per the source, the fight began when Rihanna intercepted an incoming text message to Brown's cell phone from another woman. She later told police that this wasn't the first time Brown had been physically abusive.

But this time, the source said, "she may have thrown the first punch."

The insider also tells us that, within 48 hours of Brown's arrest, "a tabloid" offered "over a hundred grand" for a police photo of Rihanna.

"Internal Affairs is up in their butts over the leaks," the source said, adding that, even earlier today, LAPD staffers were being warned about leaking info. "They're threatening to administer polygraphs."

Brown has apologized (without getting specific about what transpired,) but that hasn't stopped the endless media whupping, although per E!, the media may be the least of his troubles:

At the request of the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office, the R&B star is being investigated for a variety of felonies, including domestic violence, assault resulting in great bodily injury and—based on specific allegations made by Rihanna—even attempted murder, a source close to the L.A. Police Department's investigation tells E! News.

But as they build their case, the source says, prosecutors fear that making any serious felony charges stick could prove difficult in a case where there are no direct witnesses other than Rihanna and Brown.


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posted by JReid @ 8:03 AM  
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Things you never thought you'd hear a gay man say
"What's the matter with you ... you don't like women?"

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posted by JReid @ 8:27 PM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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