Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Triumph and Tragedy of Michael Jackson: 1958-2008


This is an outstanding personal essay by Detroit-based writer and cultural critic Patricia Calloway on the heinous nexus of money, fame, drugs, exploitation, and "entertainment" in the gigantic corporate matrix that tragically became known to the rest of us as the global commodity called "Michael Jackson, Inc."--which predictably destroyed and dismembered the brilliant human being of the same name (without the quote marks and incorporated copyright sign of course). My wife and I saw the man and artist Jackson this past weekend in "This Is It", the new tribute documentary film now playing in over 18,000 theatres nationwide, and it is a wonderful and thoroughly inspiring examination/celebration of a genuine musical genius and extraordinary dedicated artist of the highest caliber. What the film proves conclusively is that Michael Jackson was an absolute master of his musical idiom who truly deserved the encomium "King of Pop." I enthusiastically recommend that everyone see the film. I guarantee you won't be disappointed. It really is that good...



Losing Michael Jackson was like losing a brother in more ways than one.

By Patricia Calloway

There once was a king of pop
Who took milk going back to the top
His doctor was wit' it
But he overdid it
The milk, and the king of pop stopped.

On August 29, 2009--which would have been his 51st birthday-- Michael Jackson was finally interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery, his body committed to the ground by his family after weeks of lying in a freezer being chipped at, drained and sampled in the search for the cause of his death. Two culprits have emerged; one, Dr. Conrad Murray, who caused the death proper, and the anesthetic drug propofol, his weapon of choice. Accomplices include the tranquilizers midazolam and diazepam, with lidocaine and ephedrine acting as lookout and getaway driver, respectively.

That week in class we studied the action of the drug propofol as part of a course lecture in veterinary anesthesia; I am a second year veterinary nursing student who has recently completed an Associates degree in General Science. Our instructor talked about Michael and the drug in the most offhanded and disinterested manner. During our class break I went to a stall in the ladies' room and inexplicably burst into tears. I was quite surprised by that.

Michael's Milk of Amnesia

Propofol is a central nervous system drug used for anesthetic induction. It works very fast; it is highly lipid soluble, so it goes in and runs through the body, is metabolized then dissipates within five minutes. Its action produces unconsciousness and is painful when administered to humans.

The drug is suspended in a soybean oil and egg lecithin emulsion, hence its milky whiteness. It must be used quickly and completely because of its poor storage characteristics; any remainder must be discarded within six hours of opening because the proteinous emulsion supports bacterial growth and could become contaminated.

Dogs and cats do very well under propofol. Onset is usually less than 60 seconds and the duration of anesthesia is 5 to 10 minutes. Dogs recover quickly and smoothly from propofol with no hangovers even after multiple injections. Cats, while their recovery is a little longer, recover quickly as well. Humans are supposed to recover from propofol with a minimum of problems, except when your doctor is Conrad Murray; in that case, you've got a world of problems.

A Brother From Another Mother

My brother Rodney JoWayne Young was born in the same month as my brother Michael Joseph Jackson and they would have been the same age. My brother was a Detroit Police officer, a sergeant with over 20 years on the force. He had wanted to join the police force since high school; he graduated then worked at the Ford factory while taking classes at a local college. When the police academy called him he threw down his work gloves and apron and never looked back.

June 20, 2006 my brother was out after work riding his motorcycle with three other off-duty officers when he lost control of his bike on a freeway entry ramp. The bike went under an eighteen wheeler truck; he was crushed beneath its wheels. The driver drove another five miles before he knew he had even hit my brother.

When I visited his body in the hospital morgue the first thing I noticed was his peace vibration. I touched him; he was cold, of course, but there was no hint of last moment angst, no residual fear. I knew he hadn't been afraid in his final moments. How could that be?

For months I was tormented by the thought of the eighteen wheeler crushing the life from my brother's chest. An autopsy was scheduled to determine cause of death. He was a police officer; they had to make sure no foul play was involved (he worked in fugitive apprehension). The state police conducted the autopsy but the results weren't final for another sixty days. In the meantime he was laid to rest in a funeral fit for a head of state.

Then came the questions: How did Rodney, an experienced rider, end up under the wheels of an eighteen wheeled truck? How did Michael, a seemingly healthy man, end up in cardiac arrest under the nose of a licensed physician?

These were million dollar questions and it dawned on me as I watched Michael's memorial service, along with millions of others, that his family was on that same road toward to discovering exactly what happened to their loved one because things just weren't adding up.

Dr. Dootoomuch

When I first read the list of drugs administered to brother Michael in the early hours of June 25, 2009, I couldn't believe it. What the hell......? Who gives an entire family of drugs to a patient within hours of each dose? Who gives CPR on a soft bed instead of a hard surface? Why were there needle marks in his neck and what was injected into him? Why was he in the doctor's room and not his own? None of it made sense.

This doctor was clearly the most inept, negligent and downright stupid practitioner to ever hold a license if he gave Michael CPR on a soft bed. People Magazine reports that not only was Michael given cardiopulmonary resuscitation on a soft surface, but that the doctor used one hand to massage his heart.

In veterinary emergency CPR, we wouldn't dream of using one hand on a dog. In canine CPR, the chest is compressed between both hands, one under the chest, one over the heart, while the patient lies on its side; or, when chest up, one hand over its heart, the other under its back. The patient is always, always on a hard surface. In human CPR both hands are placed over the heart and compress the chest while the patient lies on his back.

According to his own attorney, Conrad Murray administered CPR to Michael Jackson the way I would give chest compressions to a dog in cardiac arrest. A dog. The King of Pop got substandard emergency care even by family pet standards.

The family pet would have received flumazenil, a benzodiazepine antagonist which would have reversed the effects of the Valium, Versed, and Ativan that Conrad Murray (for I refuse to call him “Doctor”) administered to him damned near every hour on the hour from one o'clock to seven thirty a.m. CNN.com reports that Murray allegedly told emergency personnel at the hospital that he had given Michael flumazenil, but I don't buy that. I don't buy it because Michael is dead; I am of the opinion that Murray threw that in to cover himself only after he finally remembered he should have used it.

The family pet also would also have been immediately ventilated, put on an ECG and given IV fluids. Not one report states Michael Jackson got any of this from Conrad Murray; that's why I'll never call him “Doctor”. When sister LaToya demanded to see Michael's doctor to “ask what the hell happened” to her brother, he didn't identify himself. Paris-Michael, Michael's daughter, had to point him out to her; after that he disappeared from the hospital. That's why I call him....well, you know, other names.

And AEG Makes Three

Who books a man for three months running in 2009 and another two months in 2010 for a total of 50 dates at an outdoor entertainment venue? Anschutz Entertainment Group, that's who.

AEG is a global sports and entertainment promotion outfit; it is the world's largest owner of sports teams and venues and the world's second largest concert promoter behind LiveNation. AEG makes its money by promoting concerts and live shows in the sports venues they own. The Staples Center is just one example of the strategy that has propelled them to the top of live entertainment.

It was AEG who held the $4 million dollar memorial service for Michael Jackson, stiffing Los Angeles taxpayers for the bill while at the same time garnering international attention for the Staples Center. Angelenos weren't the only ones left holding the bag, however.

It was AEG who pulled a fast one on its advance ticketholders when it announced that any of the 750,000 tickets sold for the “This Is It” concerts could either be refunded upon request or ticketholders could receive souvenir tickets instead. The souvenir tickets, which AEG has carefully pointed out will become collector's items, have a holographic 3D face, kind of like those Topps baseball cards of the 1970's that moved when you moved them. The tickets sold for from £50-£75; 750,000 refunds would cost AEG about $85 million dollars in tickets and booking fees.

AEG was looking to save $40 million dollars by running this “All 750,000 tickets will be valuable, just wait and see” scam. Never mind that since AEG prints the limited edition tickets they control the market for and the value of the souvenirs. Luckily, Brits aren't stupid and many of them went for the refund. Good for them.

Quick, where's the remaining piece of the historic Berlin Wall? Don't know? Me, either. AEG had it removed because it blocked the view from one of their stadiums. Ask them where it is; they had it last.

The Jackson family suspects that several of the people surrounding Michael before his death were put there by AEG and looking at this Berlin Wall and ticket thing, I can't put it past them. Their biggest concern right now is how to best “monetize their asset”; that's “make money” to me and you.

These are the people Michael agreed to work for.

“G” Is For Greed

Published reports say Michael didn't want to do fifty dates, he only wanted to do ten. AEG sold and sold and sold until he relented. Michael loved his fans and didn't want to disappoint. According to LaToya Jackson, AEG exploited his love by planting people within his camp to monitor him. She feels that Conrad Murray helped others to control him with drugs. According to AEG, a “significant amount of money” was to be advanced to Murray by them and he would be with Michael in England for the concerts. Murray had given up two cardiology practices to work with Michael. If AEG was going to advance him “substantial amounts” of money, then Murray's ship had finally come in; millions of dollars and several baby mamas in debt, he was determined to sail.

Michael passed AEG's physical like a champ and the latest coroner's report backs up their findings; he was a little thin but he was healthy for a 50 year old man. Was the reason Michael couldn't sleep because Murray had him on stimulants so he could dance and sing for hours on end in preparation for the concerts? Sedative cocktails were used to put him down at night. Sam Goldwyn used and abused Judy Garland in the same way.

There's a “g” in his name, too.

The Light Of Day

When I had you, I treated you bad and wrong, my dear

And since you've been away

Don't you know I hang around with my head hanging down

And I wonder what I'm gonna do

The Los Angeles Coroner's Office has ruled Michael's death a homicide. In his official statement, the coroner found that Michael was a healthy 50 year old man whose weight was within normal range for his height, and though he had a few tics here and there, namely a little arthritis, a little chronic lung inflammation (probably from his lupus) and no skin cancer (it had cleared up!), he was in good general health. No, he was not bald, emaciated or covered in scar tissue and puncture marks, although there were some on his arms (fresh, obviously) and one on his ankle. Now that the wait is over we all know that Conrad Murray killed our brother.

“Acute Propofol Intoxication” is another way of saying Michael was overdosed on anesthetic. In veterinary nursing what Murray did to Michael is called euthanasia; he lost consciousness then, aloft, floated away peacefully and never knew a thing.

The Michigan State Police ruled Rodney's death an accident. In their official statement, they found that my brother had suffered cardiac arrest on the freeway ramp. He lost consciousness, then control of the motorcycle which crashed into the rear side of the truck; he went under the wheels from there.

That's why he had a peace vibration; he never saw his death coming and for this I am grateful.

The driver of the truck was from the state of Wisconsin, just a family man who was on his job. He did not know he had run over my brother until the officers my brother was riding with arrested him. When he learned what happened he became hysterical. He cooperated fully with police and after the autopsy findings all charges were dropped; it wasn't his fault, it was nobody's fault.

I was never angry at him; somehow I knew he hadn't hurt my brother willfully. I prayed for his peace of mind, something so scarce during that time. It was hard for us all, the family, the officers, everybody. We held no ill feelings toward him; it was just one of those things, one of those sad, tragic events that test us and our strength in times of crisis.

I will not be praying for Conrad Murray. It's just not in me. Conrad had better pray for himself; between the Jackson family, the states of California, Nevada, and Texas plus AEG, there won't be a scrap of meat left on his bones when he goes to prison. And he will go to prison. The only thing that can save him right now is the hand of God and I don't think he will get even that.

AEG had a $40 million dollar insurance policy riding on the outcome of the autopsy; now that the death has been ruled a homicide, they can collect. A pre-existing condition would have knocked them out of the money, so I'm sure they're relieved for their bottom line that Conrad Murray poisoned Michael with propofol instead of some unseen ailment suddenly rearing its head. They sold their rights to “This Is It” to Columbia Pictures for $60 million dollars and ten percent of the film's box office. The remaining ninety percent will go to Michael's estate, as it should.

However, AEG made a side deal with worldwide merchandiser Bravada for ring tones, trading cards and apparel which the Jackson estate is seriously frowning upon. This is going to be good, so strap yourselves in. In the meantime Michael's will designates twenty percent of all income generated after his death for various charities; he will be healing the world long after you and I have gone away from this place.

My Blue Heaven

I see Rodney in dreams. He has that same peace vibration about him and I'm never sad or scared when he comes to me. He is always dressed to the nines. Gianni Versace is obviously on the other side still making clothes, fabulous, fabulous clothes.

I hope Omar, Prince, Paris and Blanket aren't afraid when their daddy comes to them. They shouldn't be; he loved them more than life itself. It's the love that brings them to us, it's called a soul tie and it lasts forever. For as long as he loves his children and they love him the King shall remain.

Long live the King.

“Michael Jackson's This Is It” opens in theaters October 28, 2009. Patricia Calloway lives and blogs in Detroit, Michigan and will be in attendance with bells (and a sequined glove) on.