Friday, 26 June 2009

The Curious Case of Michael Jackson

Everyone has something to say about Jacko. Whether you thought he was a bit past it, or chose to cling to his 70s and 80s talent explosion, no one is staying silent after hearing of his death. It is sad, in the way that only a Hollywood death can be. He has been compared to Judy Garland, Anna Nicole Smith and Heath Ledger. Judy I'll accept, there are those 'too much too young' stars who seem to both love and loathe their fame, they can't live with or without it. Heath Ledger's death was shocking because of the surprise element; he seemed together, artistic, just embarking on a successful roll of brilliant, dark movies. I am less shocked by Michael Jackson's death, because it seems a miracle he's held on to life this long - certainly the last ten years or so he appeared to be almost in a parallel universe: socially inept, fragile, erratic. Whatever jokes have been made about the surgery, the chimps, the oxygen tent and the sleepovers, Jackson is a very serious case study about the effects of childhood - or a lack thereof - on the adult mind.

I chose this heading because Michael Jackson does seem to me a sort of Benjamin Button figure; In several biographies and obituaries those who met him as a child have remarked on his mature behaviour and adult energy and discipline - Smokey Robinson described young Michael as "a strange and lovely child, an old soul in the body of a boy", while his own mother had remarked that his singing and dancing talents were "like an older person". Funny, then, that this man would eventually become best known for his childlike voice, his apparent naivety, and the Peter Pan comparisons were unavoidable when he created a dream playground of a home and called it Neverland.

"I never had the chance to do the fun things kids do," Jackson once explained. "There was no Christmas, no holiday celebrating. So now you try to compensate for some of that loss."

Usually a decline into madness or depression is mapped by the face of a star; Judy Garland looked haunted, overly made-up and drug-addled in her last months, and Heath Ledger's sudden ageing and insomnia before his death is well documented. But Michael Jackson had carefully turned his face into a macabre mask of pale impishness, and his expressions lived behind layers of cosmetic surgery, sunglasses and long hair. He had smiles for all his fans at the right times, when making foreign visits and with his children, but no one could have seen him physically circling the drain from his TV and magazine appearances.

His death isn't really what saddens me - I don't really mourn people I never knew - it is that he has become a joke and a piece of public property, when he probably should have died a happy old man with a legendary career behind him. The Jackson family lawyer (who made an odd appearance on GMTV, a bizarre display of awkward emotion that just continues the circus of Jacko's image) has hinted that the case is darker than people know, with the people around him heavily implicated in his demise. I feel sort of a relief that the poor guy wont live to see his life dragged through the mud more than it has been. Hopefully we can go back to loving the music and remembering that bright young showman who gave us so many killer tunes.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

So little time...

I've been wanting to update this blog for well over a week now, and consequently have way too many topics to choose from. So I'll do sub-headlines for each to avoid the contents of my headspace spilling over you like a molten stream of consciousness.

Best bar Nun
Last week I went to see the newly-opened Sister Act musical with my two own lovely sisters. It was the younger one's birthday, and we all had a delicious meal at a little cafe/bar called Libre around the corner - highly recommended. After the nicest Thai red curry I've ever tasted and a passionfruit-champagne cocktail, I was very much ready for some singing nuns. The production was, in the words of its main character, Fabulous. You can tell it has Whoopi's Goldberg touch (I'm sorry, in an awful pun mood today), and effervescent lead Patina Miller has all of her attitude and comic timing, with the added bonus of being a lot more Beyonce-licious. There were hardly any filler songs at all in my opinion (I know some of my musical theatrey friends disagree) as they were all lyrically slick, often hilarious, with a strong theme of 70s disco, soul and funk. There were lots of genius close-to-the-mark rip offs (one VERY Dancing in the Street, one very Barry White, one very Marvin Gaye) but Alan Menken's astonishingly good score also has a few classically Disney moments, which might grate on less of a Disney-lover than myself. Katie Rowley Jones, previously a fab Nessarose in Wicked, does a great job of being the 'straight' character, and her voice lives up to the contradiction of little meek nun/huge voice, which notably had to be dubbed in the film. Overall it was a wonderful night out, with heartfelt, funny, poignant and downright camp moments, and everyone should treat themselves to it this year! In these crunchy times, you never know how long even the greatest West End show will run.

Deal Breakers
Another interesting quirk of humanity that came up over dinner on Monday night, and was in the London paper the following day, as well as popping up in July's Cosmo - those little niggles that can make or break a new romance. Various anecdotes revealed how we (not just men) find those irritations that we just can't live with in the other sex. Some were physical - who can forget Chandler's issues with oversized nostrils: 'When she leaned back, I could SEE HER BRAIN' - some etiquette-related (talking too much about themselves, name-dropping, poor hygiene) and many far more random reasons. Cosmo's Tracy Ramsden has a beady eye for bad accessorizing, citing "dodgy man jewellery" and "a friendship band screaming 'I spent my gap year in Thailand'" as bad omens on a second date. I do despise this kind of walking stereotype, the surfy haired, stoner-voiced, quite-rich-really-but-desperate-not-to-look-it guy, so that would probably be a deal-breaker for me. My own personal ones? Hardcore Daily Mail reading, rudeness to waiters, excessive vanity, drug-addled brain masquerading as 'chilled out', anyone described by their friends as a 'legend' or addicted to the word 'banter' (translation: loud, drunk exhibitionist with an inflated sense of their own brilliance), and fussiness with food. That's not such a colossal list, is it? But I am less tolerant than some; I truly believe I know in the first five minutes of the first date if the guy is a keeper.

The Glad Game
I mentioned in this post that I was coveting some gorgeous gladiator sandals for summery days. After extensive searching (and only one purchase-and-return error) I have found my perfect ancient-history-chic sandals. They're not actually classic glads, more Grecian-goddessy than Spartan-studded, but I love them. Yes, they murder my feet - all sandals do, I have oddly angular feet and ankles - but I'm determined to wear them in and enjoy my summer footwear romance.
And finally...
Funny story of the week: New Yorkers are getting a system of STI identity cards. The idea is that men register with the site, which synchs up to their sexual health history, and by acquiring their STI-dentity code (I really will stop soon), women can access their man's last two STI tests and make sure they're getting a clean slate, as it were.This is responsible, clever, and a little weird - a brilliant reflection on savvy New Yorkers. In one of the early series of Sex and the City, back in the days of the surreal vox-pops-style sequences, a guy remarks that women want a blood test before they'll even have dinner with you (or words to this effect). It seems SATC were way ahead of their time, and in the cynical, 'wise-up-and-get-a-grip' world of the Big Apple, falling in love really can be as practical as checking a bank statement.

Do comment on any or all of the above... I love comments.