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The High Price of Fame: Why seek it out???

Our Opinion: The high price of fame

Posted Jun 30, 2009 @ 12:06 AM

IN 1977, it was Elvis Presley. Thirty years later, Anna Nicole Smith.We don’t know yet if Michael Jackson had a similarly enabling cadre of hangers-on who helped hasten his death last week at age 50, but there’s a common thread regardless. From Elvis to Anna Nicole, from Britney Spears to Jon and Kate Gosselin, we’ve seen countless times the power of fame to destroy lives.

EVEN IF JACKSON’S death turns out to be natural, his life was anything but. Though he was preparing for an amazing series of sold-out concerts in London that could have restored his show business credentials to a new generation, Michael Jackson was best known to those born after the mid-’80s for his freakish behavior and legal travails. If they knew his music at all, their introduction is as likely to have come from a “Weird Al” Yankovic song parody than from the Michael Jackson original.

Yet Jackson’s fame seemed to grow as his musical presence receded.

Unlike Elvis, whose death in August 1977 came as a sudden shock, Jackson’s bizarre decline had been painstakingly documented for years.

HE WAS A tabloid favorite — his chimpanzee, his Peter Pan fixation, his ever-changing appearance, his marriages and child molestation charges — whose descent into weirdness came just as we received the ability to follow every step of it. Many others have followed.

From the ever-more-aggressive corps of paparazzi to Web sites like to tabloid TV shows and instant news tools like Twitter, the new media have taken stardom to both new heights and new lows. The famous now can be more widely known than ever, enjoying more adulation than the stars of previous generations. They also can never hide, and examples of the wreckage caused by the ever-present spotlight litter the pop culture landscape.

On the reality show “Jon & Kate Plus 8,” America got to watch a marriage disintegrate as six 5-year-olds and twin 9-year-olds figured as bit players. The show scored its highest rating, drawing 10.6 million viewers, in the episode last week announcing Jon and Kate Gosselin’s separation. While damning the Gosselins for exploiting their situation for a paycheck, America couldn’t help but tune in. (Anna Nicole Smith, too, opened up the train wreck of her celebrity life on a reality series from 2002-04.)

IT’S HARD to advocate sympathy for those whose troubles derive from the kind of riches and public adoration none of us will ever know.

It’s even harder in Jackson’s case because of the child molestation allegations that hardly faded after his acquittal in court.

But there was something genuinely sad in the contrast between clips of the ebullient little boy belting out “ABC” and those of the freakish, pale, fragile figure we saw over and over last week. We may never know if Jackson’s untimely death was the price of his fame. If so, there is one question only Michael Jackson himself could ever answer: Was it worth it?



Two Kings: Was Michael Jackson the Elvis for a new generation?

by The Associated Press

Friday June 26, 2009, 7:19 AM

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

(AP) — NEW YORK – Michael Jackson didn’t want to be just a superstar. Like the Beatles, he wanted to be the biggest, the king. He wanted to topple the reigning man with the crown, Elvis.

In life and in death, there was Elvis.

“It’s just so weird. He even married Elvis’ daughter,” said author-music critic Greil Marcus, who wrote at length about Presley in his acclaimed cultural history, “Mystery Train.”

Elvis Presley overdosed-in his bathroom-on prescription drugs in 1977 at 42, his bloated, glazed middle age a cautionary tale to rock stars and other celebrities. Jackson died Thursday at 50, rushed from his Los Angeles home and pronounced dead at the UCLA Medical Center.

The death shocked more than surprised. While endless fame seemed to inflate Elvis like helium, Jackson’s fame seemed to scrub the flesh and wear into his bones until you could almost see him shiver.

Like Elvis, Jackson was once beautiful, outrageous, a revolutionary without politics who shook down the walls between black and white. He had the hits, the style, the ego, the talent. He was the King of Pop and he needed only to fill in the life: He married Elvis’ daughter. He bought the rights to some of Elvis’ songs. Elvis owned Graceland, its name a symbol for a deliverance the singer prayed for until the end of his life. Jackson had Neverland, a fantasy for a child-man for whom money meant the chance to live in a world of his own.

He did, and did not, want to be like Elvis.

In “Moon Walk,” a memoir published in 1988, Jackson insisted Elvis was not important to him growing up and that he was unhappy to learn a song he recorded with his brothers, “Heartbreak Hotel,” shared the name of Presley’s first national hit.

“I swear that was a phrase that came out of my head and I wasn’t thinking of any other song when I wrote it,” he wrote. “The record company printed it on the cover as ‘This Place Hotel,’ because of the Elvis Presley connection. As important as he was to music, black as well as white, he just wasn’t an influence on me. I guess he was too early for me. Maybe it was timing more than anything else.

“By the time our song had come out, people thought that if I kept living in seclusion the way I was, I might die the way he did. The parallels aren’t there as far as I’m concerned and I was never much for scare tactics. Still, the way Elvis destroyed himself interests me, because I don’t ever want to walk those grounds myself.”

June 30, 2009 - Posted by | Death, Fame, Gosselin, Gossip, Greed, Reality TV | , , ,

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