The Popcorn Reel

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Special Report On Location In Westwood and Beverly Hills, California
Michael Jackson, The King Of Pop, Is Dead At Age 50
By Omar P.L. Moore/       SHARE
Thursday, June 25, 2009

WESTWOOD, Los Angeles --
Updated with additions at 11:59 p.m. Pacific U.S. Time

In all his purity and innocence he lived life as a child, oblivious and naive to the adulterated and cynical ways of human beings.  An extraordinary figure, a supremely intelligent, talented and sensitive man, an eccentric and ultimately misunderstood genius who electrified and entertained hearts around the world.  Michael Jackson passed away at 2:26 p.m. Pacific U.S. time today after suffering what has been reported as a "massive cardiac arrest."  He had apparently collapsed while at his rented home on Sunset Boulevard about a mile or two from Beverly Hills.  Michael Jackson was then rushed to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center here in Westwood during which time he had not been breathing, according to published reports.  Efforts to revive him failed. 

An official autopsy will be conducted tomorrow on the body of Mr. Jackson, who was born in Gary, Indiana.  He was just 50 years of age.

Michael Jackson was a phenomenal artist.  Ironically, in March he had had a four and a half hour battery of medical tests, including a detailed physical, with intensive workouts at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and other venues in preparation for July 13, the start of the world tour of over 80 shows, with 50 shows alone in London, where it took just four hours to sell out the 50 shows scheduled for the 02 Arena in England's capital city.  The tour was announced by Mr. Jackson as his final bow.  "This is it," he declared to a throng of screaming fans in London back in March. 

Mr. Jackson had had a series of health problems over the past ten years or so and had been treated for addiction to painkillers as well in recent years. 

News of Michael Jackson's passing was received with profound shock and disbelief around the world, with personalities from Quincy Jones, with whom Mr. Jackson worked producing the albums "Off The Wall", "Thriller" and "Bad", to the Reverend Al Sharpton, to whom Mr. Jackson was a close personal friend for more than three decades, lauding him for his heart, his contributions to music entertainment and his devoting to noble and honorable cause particularly in the aid of children.

Michael Jackson had been born into the spotlight of the world's stage almost from day one, performing with his four brothers as part of The Jackson Five as early as age ten but appearing in public at age four.  "I did not get to have a cherished childhood," Mr. Jackson had said in 2005 to one California-based television news reporter during his circus-like trial in Santa Maria, Southern California on charges of sexual molestation of a child at his Neverland Ranch.  (He sang about his lack of childhood in "Childhood", which was also the theme song from the film "Free Willy 2".)  Mr. Jackson was acquitted of all charges despite a storm of intensely negative media coverage, and had charges of child molestation lobbed at him about ten years before.  Those charges were tossed out of court.  He had a fairly common skin disease called vitiligo, which lightens the pigmentation of the skin in blotches all over the body.  Mr. Jackson was accused of deliberately whitening his skin.  Mr. Jackson's skin progressively lightened after the "Off The Wall" album in the late seventies, so that by the time that the "Dangerous" album arrived in 1991 his skin looked almost chalk white.  The American and British media repeatedly harangued Mr. Jackson for his appearance, as well as some of the more unusual aspects of the soul-rock-pop megastar's behavior in the public eye.

But it was the amazing and storied career of Mr. Jackson, either self-dubbed as the King Of Pop or by his dear friend Elizabeth Taylor, which fans and casual followers will never forget, as well as Mr. Jackson's magnetism and compelling presence as the world's greatest, most influential entertainer of all time.  Inspired and influenced by R&B legend Jackie Wilson and the late Godfather Of Soul James Brown, Mr. Jackson's moonwalk and other signature dance moves energized , influenced and galvanized the billions who loved him.  He had already been a world figure in his debut in 1969 and the early 1970s during the days of "Ben", "I'll Be There", "Stop! The Love You Save May Be Your Own", "Rockin' Robin", "I Want You Back", "Who's Lovin' You" and "ABC" as a cute, adorable pre-teen sensation. 

A decade later Mr. Jackson transformed himself as a handsome man who had women throwing themselves at him, his motorcade or at any impersonator who looked precisely like him, starting with the album "Off The Wall" in 1979 and 1980.  In 1978 he had starred as the scarecrow in the motion picture feature "The Wiz", with Diana Ross.  In 1982 the release of "Thriller" catapulted to Mr. Jackson to mega stardom, and when the album sold well over 100 million copies worldwide, he could do no wrong, and with iconic smash hits like "Billie Jean", "Beat It", "The Girl Is Mine", "Wanna Be Startin' Something" and the multi-platinum album's title track "Thriller", he transcended all-time great sainthood in popular culture.  In 1983 Michael Jackson single-handedly created the long-form music video with "Thriller", the 14-minute short film directed by John Landis.  In the early 1980s MTV would not play his music videos.  "Thriller", however changed that forever, and soon after MTV became a household name for millions of Americans thanks solely to Mr. Jackson.  He went on to do other short film music videos including "Bad", directed by Michael Scorsese, "The Way You Make Me Feel", "Smooth Criminal", "Remember The Time", "Black Or White" and "You Rock My World".  In 1984 Mr. Jackson won eight Grammys, an unprecedented number, for "Thriller".  A year later he had co-written "We Are The World", the song that raised millions for famine relief for the African continent.

His next album, "Bad", amassed more than 50 million copies in sales worldwide, spawning at least five number one hits, including the title track.  Concert tours the world over also drew billions to see the man dubbed as the Gloved One.  He had next recorded "Dangerous", released in 1991, which sold between 18 and 30 million worldwide.  Ten years later came what would be his next and ultimately last album of new recordings with "Invincible".  A devout humanitarian, Mr. Jackson dedicated much of his life to bettering the lives of children the world over with his Heal The World Foundation.  Several songs of his conveyed the plight and need to care for the most vulnerable of innocents -- a strong rebuke to those who believed that the megastar engaged in illicit activities with children even though it had been proved that it was not true.  Mr. Jackson wrote his autobiography Moon Walk in the early 1980s, a book in which he mentioned the abuse he suffered as a child at the hands of his father Joseph Jackson.

Michael Jackson's 1995 compilation double album "HIStory: Greatest Hits Past, Present And Future Book I", which also included a full CD of new songs about half of which took to task a gullible public ("Tabloid Junkie") and condemned the extreme negative treatment and assault on his character by the U.S. but especially the U.K. press, some of whom dubbed him "Wacko Jacko".  "What is a 'Jacko'?", Mr. Jackson wondered out loud to British journalist Martin Bashir in a live television special during the early 2000s.  Mr. Bashir had suggested that Mr. Jackson was not innocent in the child molestation and abuse case against him during a documentary.  Mr. Jackson was so disgusted with the slanted journalism from Mr. Bashir that he and his supporters had released a countermanding documentary with footage that was either unseen or wholly excised from Mr. Bashir's original interview of the legend, whom the questioner told during commercial breaks that he thought very highly of Mr. Jackson and believed that he was a "good man". 

When Mr. Jackson faced the backlash from some segments of his base of white fans from whom there had previously been ironclad support he had returned to the black community that had stood by him through thick and thin, visiting the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York and the National Action Network, Reverend Sharpton's political organization headquartered in Harlem declaring his innocence from the charges against him in the early 2000s.  In the 1995 song "They Don't Care About Us", Mr. Jackson, perhaps alluding to himself, sang: "I'm tired of being a victim of hate . . . black men/blackmail/throw the brother in jail . . . all I wanna say is that they don't really care about us . . . You're throwing me in a class with a bad name/I can't believe this is the land from whence I came."  In the United States Mr. Jackson's fan base and album sales had declined steadily while remaining solid in Europe, Asia (particularly in Japan) and the African continent. 
In 2001 Mr. Jackson was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame as a solo artist, four years after being inducted as a member of The Jackson Five.  He had performed duets with his sister Janet Jackson, Eddie Murphy, Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger,, Usher and Siedah Garrett, among many others.

During his March press conference this year in London, Michael Jackson said that his tour was "the final curtain call". 

And today that curtain call became tragically premature.

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