Κυριακή, 30 Αυγούστου 2009

Michael Jackson: The Magic, the Madness, the Whole Story, 1958-2009 by J. Randy Taraborrelli - Review

After the announcement of Jackson's death I began reseaching about his life and times. In my effort to create a holistic perception of this artist I bought Taraborrelli's biography of Jackson as it was reccommended as one of the most "objective" ones. After examining this book very thoroughly I was suprised by the vagueness, the inconsistencies, the half-truths and the omission of facts that permeate this biography. I have decided to evolve myself to a project of exposing this so-called biography in order for other readers not to be fooled by this author and create the wrong impression about Jackson.

1) The majority of the information provided in the book is attributed to people who are not named but presented under the vague terms of either "associates" or "friends". Descriptions of incidents about Jackson, crucial to the creation of an impression about him, are attributed to nameless "friends", "bystanders", and "witnesses". If Mr. Taraborrelli was not allowed to reveal names or be more specific about his sources due to privacy issues he should have not used information obtained by them at all. How do we know that he did not concoct this info about Jackson? One of the many examples is the description of a fight between Lisa Marie Presley and MJ (p. 565) where none information about the sources of the author was given. This is a sign of unprofessionalism which is evident throughout this biography.

2) The author describes Jackson's behavior as "odd" or "strange" while omitting facts that could justify Jackson's seemingly unusual behavior. One example is the reference of MJ wearing masks in public which is depicted as an eccentricity on Jackson's behalf without any further explanation given by the author. Jackson himself explained in an interview he gave to VH1 in 1996 that he was required to wear a mask by his doctors since his debilitating dermatological disease vitiligo rendered him allergic to the sun and susceptible to skin cancer.

3) The author devoted a mere paragrph about Jackson's diseases just saying that Jackson was diagnosed with vitiligo and lupus without mentioning how these two serious diseases affected his life. He even says that some doctors (again nameless genarilizations) support that vitiligo can be caused from the use of bleaching creams, something which is obviously not true. No dermatologists in their right mind would say that and even if someone did they should have been mentioned specifically. By saying "some doctors say" the wrong impression that MJ might have used bleaching creams and brought this upon himself can be created. After intensive reaseach in various accurate and legit medical boards I have found that the use of bleaching cream is improbable to cause vitiligo. It can only cause skin burns, wounds, and irritation and that only when it is chronically used. "The most common side effect of skin bleaching is skin irritation and a burning sensation. The ittching or stinging of the skin should be mild and temporary, with some reddening of skin where cream is applied" (http://www.ehow.com/about_5106404_side-effects-skin-bleaching-creams.html).
The only lasting treatment for vitiligo is depigmentation which is the removal of the rest of the pigmentation in order to make the colour of the skin look homogenous. This treatment makes the patient susceptible to skin cancer and the patient becomes allergic to the sun; completely avoiding the sun is usually recommended. The author fails to mention that vitiligo some times can be a variation or an effect of the lupus disease which is the first sign that someone has this autoimmune disease. Lupus is a chronic debilitating disease. In Jackson's case this disease was in remission. Nonetheless, even in remission it must be medically treated. Under stress or anxiety lupus can flare up and evolve to even its most deadly version. It targets all the joints and all the vital organs. http://femmenoir.net/2009/06/29/did-michael-jackson-have-discoid-or-systemic-lupus/systemic-lupus/
Jackson definitely appeared as having flare ups. The cast on his hands and kneecaps indicate the pains in his joints. In fact, on MTV's 10th Anniversary show in which MJ took part, his left leg seems not to be moving properly. Jackson's breakdown on the 6th of December 1995 which was considered as a panic attack could be an indication of his condition. At the time, it was officially stated that MJ was suffering from heart arrhythmia prompted by severe dehydration, gastroenteritis and a chemical imbalance affecting his liver and kidneys; a panic attack cannot cause all of these or affect vital organs as his doctors had stated. Another treatment for lupus is steroids. The author mentions this but what he fails to mention is that steroids can cause both psychological changes and physical ones. The face of the patient can look bloated and disfigured. Perhaps this could be the explanation for the many physical changes Taraborrelli saw in Jackson and not MJ's "countless plastic surgeries".

4) The author while giving an account regarding MJ's nose jobs he states: "The truth is that the structure of Michael's nose collapsed years ago; a consequence of extensive trauma from previous surgeries on it. One subsequent operation was to add cartilage into the tip to support and reshape it. However, the procedure was not competely successful. Therefore, when appearing in public and often in private, Michael wears a latex appliance, a prosthetic nose tip which he camouflages on stage with make-up" (p. 435). The question is where Mr. Taraborrelli acquired this information. It would have been impossible for him to access MJ's medical records and no "friend" or "associate" of Michael could have known all of these details concerning Jackson's nose "condition". By self-proclaiming that "this is the truth" without backing it up with evidence or sources reveals how much of an unreliable biographer Taraborrelli really is. Taraborrelli also mentions that "co-workers" of Jackson say that MJ had at least ten nose jobs. Again, the associates are not named while he does not give an explanation on how an associate of Michael could have known this. What I can say about MJ's nose, and this is strictly my opinion, is that after observing dozens of photos of Michael I have concluded that he had two nose jobs (which he admitted in his biography Moonwalk) and after 1984 he does not seem to have any additional changes nose-wise. I have seen the making of MJ's music video "Stranger in Moscow" where MJ had to get wet by an artificial rain. If there was something prosthetic on his nose that would be camouflaged with makeup it would definitely show since it would get wet. Something like that did not obviously happen.

5) Another major faux pas by Taraborrelli was the omission of many facts and evidence concerning the Jordie Chandler case. The father's shady past is not mentioned neither are his financial problems nor his legal ones (GQ magazine, "Was Michael JacksonFramed? The Untold Story", 1994 http://www.usnewslink.com/framedjackson.htm)
Taraborrelli provides a very positive picture of Evan Chandler by frequently mentioning his good relations with his son and his interest in him something that Michael Freeman - June Chandler's attorney - does not agree upon. Evan had no relationship with his son prior to Michael's involvement. He had had another family and two other children. (Side Note: Taraborrelli only mentions Chandler's one other child and not two). Furthermore, some disturbing descriptions concerning Michael's alleged obsession with the little boy reveal how biased against Jackson Taraborrelli really is. He says that MJ "stares and follows Jordie around intensely" (p. 447) while characterizing his relation with Jordie as "cosmic", a description undoubtedly used for sensationalism. Again, no evidence are mentioned concerning Jordie's and Michael's alleged relationship. Moreover, Taraborrelli mentions that Evan suggested to Michael to build an extra wing on Evan's house for MJ to live in. Apparently he was that pleased with MJ befriending his son. What Taraborrelli does not mention is that after Evan (and not MJ according to GQ magazine) found out that there were zone restrictions, suggested to MJ to buy him a new house. Traborrelli did not even mention the criminal past of the attorney Barry Rothman who took the Chandler case or his "familiarity" with child molestation cases or even the bankruptcy he filed in November 1992 (GQ magazine, p. 5-8). Also the alleged conversation between Evan and MJ does not seem to ring true; it is confirmed that they had a meeting but what went on at the meeting no one was able to find out in many details. Again, from where does Taraborrelli derive his information?

6) There were also gaps concerning MJ's strip-search by the police in the 1993 case. First, he mentions that the description of Jackson's genitals written on a napkin by Jordie was a match with the only difference being that MJ was not circumcised as Jordie had indicated. If that was the case and the markings on MJ's testicles matched Jordie's description the authorities would have pursued this case further. As Jackson said in his interview with Diane Sawyer, there was not an "iota of information" that could connect him to these charges. If the markings were a match then the press and the police reports of the time would not have stated that there was not a definite match up between the description and the photos.
Taraborrelli very conveniently fails to mention the role of MJ's insurance company in the Chandler case. It was MJ's insurance company that agreed to settle and paid up the money against MJ's and his attorney's wishes who wanted to fight this in court. Taraborrelli says that it was MJ that decided to settle the case on his own and that he paid the money. And what happened with the massive investigation on Jackson? "After millions of dollars spent by prosecutors and police departments in two jurisdictions and after two grand juries questioned close to 200 witnesses including 30 children who knew Jackson, not a single corroborating witness could be found (GQ magazine 1994, p. 20). "I found the case suspicious" says Dr. Underwager, the Minneapolis psychiatrist precisely because the only evidence came from one boy. "Actual pedophiles have an average of 240 victims in their lifetime. It's a progressive disorder, they're never satisfied", he added (GQ magazine 1994, p. 20). An additional fact Taraborrelli failed to mention is that after the civil suit was settled, Evan Chandler had every right to pursue a criminal trial if he wanted to. He did not. He just took the money and run.

7) Concerning the interview between MJ, Lisa Marie Presley, and Diane Sawyer, Taraborrelli states that Diane was "on Michael's side". Anyone who has watched the specific interview can see that this is clearly not the case. She was rude, pushy, intrusive and would not let her guests talk. She was constantly cutting off MJ without letting him finish his sentences. Her demeaning remarks on a 2003 interview with Lisa Marie Presley reveal quite clearly her feelings and her opinion of Michael. She mocked Lisa Marie Presley saying: "Lisa Marie Presley maries Michael Jackson? How weird can it get? Michael Jackson? Why did you marry Michael Jackson? What were you doing? You felt sexual attraction towards Michael Jackson? What about the way he looks?", she had said with disgust.

8) Throughout the text, Taraborrelli asserts that the media had no role whatsoever to the demise and ridicule of MJ saying that MJ brought it upon himself. Taraborrelli admitted to have mocked Lisa Marie Presley's and MJ's marriage on Good Morning America: "They have registered at Toys 'R Us", he said. Also, during the 2005 trial, he openly mocked MJ again and made sarcastic comments. Is this the stance that a seemingly objective reporter should maintain? It has been asserted by both MJ and various commentators on MJ's life that the media had an immense impact on MJ's image. MJ expressed his displeasure the way tabloids portrayed him and the hideous and disgusting lies that told about him, over and over again (VH1 interview, 1996). Can we really expect objectivity from a reporter that not only writes for Daily Mail (a tabloid) but who is even a close friend of Diane Dimond? (She was the "journalist" who unleashed a witch-hunt against MJ during the 1993 accusations).

9) Taraborrelli only mentions very briefly MJ's charity work which was a major part of MJ's life the last 25 years. MJ repeatedly had visited hospitals and orphanages bringing toys and joy to underprivileged children from around the world. His donations to charitable organizations were over 300 million dollars. He had sent seven tones of medicine to Serajevo in 1992 through the Heal the World Foundation which was founded by him. He has an entry on the Guinness World Records in 2001 as the only celebrity ever who supports more than thirty charitable organizations around the world. http://www.examiner.com/x-7230-Atlanta-Special-Needs-Kids-Examiner~y2009m6d25-Thank-You-Michael-Jackson-for-your-life-long-charity-work

10) Regarding the trial in 2005, Taraborrelli seemed to favor the prosecutors' case which based on the transcripts and evidence there was not one to begin with. He also went along with the reporters who mocked and ridiculed Jackson. He then had the audacity to write that the reason he had not been keeping up with Jackson's story was because he was mad at him due to MJ's irresponsibility concerning his debts. Is it not the first rule of journalism to stick with the facts and not express personal feelings or opinions?

11) The author claims a close friendship with many of the members of the Jackson family but at the same time he appears to be associated with several tabloids and journalists who smeared Jackson's reputation throughout the past 15 years and sadly they still do after his death. The author at times quotes psychiatrists that have never spoken to or met Michael who offer their theories about MJ. For example, one psychiatrist thought MJ's interest in mannequins suggests him being a narcissist. MJ himself told in an interview that the mannequinns were his way out of loneliness (The Michael Jackson Interview: The Footage You Were Never Meant to See, 2003). After all, the mannequins were not a replicate of him but represented poeple from many different ethnic groups. I personally believe that a person who was as generous, giving, sensitive, and humble and was concerned about the environment and the well-being of children (proven by his countless charities) as Michael could not have been a narcissist.

12) Many times the author describes incidents with many details (puzzling for someone who had no direct access to such info) and then passes on judgment by providing his own - mostly negative - opinion of Jackson while sometimes the incidents described are not related to the opinion leading up to it. Often the author portrays Jackson in a negative light based on incidents that are at best second-hand stories, embellishments and hearsay and at worst total fabrications. The portrayal of Jackson by the author is contradictory to the opinion of people who actually knew Jackson. Their accounts portray Jackson as a sweet, sensitive man who was generous to a fault and demonized by the media. David Nordahl who worked for Michael for more than 20 years is one of those people who present MJ in a very positive way. http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/MichaelJackson/story?id=8385630

13) Finally, the relationship between the author and MJ is at least unclear. He says they first met when they were children at a time when the author was too young to be a reporter. Also, from the self-proclaimed "long-time friendship" that the author and MJ supposedly shared, Taraborrelli manages to produce only one photo with MJ in the mid-seventies. If he was indeed such a "close friend" would not he have more photographic material of either exclusive pictures of MJ alone or with him? From reading this biography and from various other sources I have studied, I understand that MJ and the author had met only a handful of times. Moreover, if you take a look at Taraborrelli's sources (those he actually lists) you will find a long list of tabloid after tabloid. There are his souces. It all makes sense if you consider the fact that Jackson stopped talking to him back in 1994 when the first edition of The Magic and the Madness was set for publication and Taraborrelli declined Michael's and his lawyers' request to obtain advanced copies so as to check the book for accuracy.

I would definitely not recommend this book as it presents a negative and biased view of Michael Jackson and it is a waste of your time and money. Instead, if you want to know more about the man Jackson really was you could purchase Jackson's books written by him. The one is Moonwalk and the other is Dancing the Dream. After all, no one could know Michael better than himself. If you however want to read an objective book about MJ I would recommend the Michael Jackson Conspiracy by Aphrodite Jones. It is based on the transcripts of the 2005 trials and the evidence regarding the case.

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