What Ever Happened to Michael Jackson?


June 18, 2005 — -- Kids today just don't know. For as long as many of them have lived Michael Jackson has been viewed as a freak. Whacko Jacko.

What they see today is a gaunt middle-aged man with a ghostly white face, lips painted in garish red, big mournful eyes accented with black eyeliner, his nose surgically altered so much that it is near skeletal. His hair is straight, black and down to his shoulders. His painfully thin body is bedecked in expensive but outlandish clothing. So delicate is he, that bodyguards must shield him from the sun by a huge umbrella.

Now we all know Michael Jackson has been found not guilty of 10 counts of criminal behavior, including sexually molesting a 13-year-old boy, giving him alcohol and keeping his family in captivity at his fabled Neverland ranch in California. A jury concluded there was not sufficient evidence to find Jackson guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The acquittal came as a shock to some legal experts, although others said the prosecution failed to make a strong case.

After the verdict, his devoted fans were elated, but other people were shocked that he "walked," that he walked away from a guilty verdict that might have sent him to jail for as long as 18 years. These are people who had heard from Jackson's own mouth in an ABC television interview that sharing a bed with children is one of the most loving things anyone could do. People had also heard that in 1993 Jackson -- fearing he would be charged with child molestation -- gave one boy and his family $20 million, and the son of one of his employees $2 million.

It didn't start out like this. In the 1970s, Michael Jackson, a cute little black boy from Gary, Ind., splashed onto the national scene as the lead singer of the Jackson Five, a group that included his older singing and dancing brothers. The group was signed by Motown Records and produced a string of hit records.

Michael was phenomenal. He was only 11, 12 years old, and his voice was clear and pure, his body elastic, his stage personality winning.

When he was a teenager he went solo and became the biggest pop star in the world. He toured to sold-out crowds from Japan to South Africa, from the Soviet Union to Australia. But it seemed the bigger he became, the stranger he became. At one point, he said "Bubbles," his pet chimp, was his best friend.

Jackson's appearance began to change.. His nose, which was broad, became pointed. His skin, which was dark brown, became snow white. His full lips became thinner. His cheek bones were higher and he had a cleft in his chin. Plastic surgeons have speculated that he has probably had 40 surgical procedures on his face.

Jackson explained the white skin as the result of suffering vitiligo, a real skin condition that turns dark skin white. But that disease takes years to change the skin and it is characterized by patches on the skin. Plastic surgeons say there is a chemical which can be injected into the skin to lighten it as light as anybody wants to make it.

This is when Michael Jackson had a falling-out with many African-Americans. They couldn't understand why -- after becoming one of the biggest entertainers of all time -- he would alter his appearance, changing his negroid features to white. Was he ashamed of his heritage? Did he think he could be even more popular if he looked like a white woman?

If you recall, most of his supporters outside the Santa Maria courthouse were white. Not many people of color.

Nobody knows for sure what has been going on Jackson's mind. He claims he never had a real childhood and that's why he so enjoys being with children now. But it does strike most people as odd that a man in his mid-40s, with three children of his own, would take into his bed adolescent boys.

Michael Jackson is said to be running out of money, especially in light of his hefty legal fees. Everybody wonders if he will return to his musical career because he could use the cash. The question is, will there be an audience for an accused pedophile, even one who was exonerated?

He was the ultimate performer. I will never forget his show-stopping performance at the televised 25th anniversary of Motown. He was in silver sequins and white socks, but he looked like a handsome, young African-American male. He was magical doing his "Moonwalk" across the stage. Michael, what happened?

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