Book Review: 'Michael Jackson: Unauthorized'
Upon waking in the master bedroom, adjacent to the Shirley Temple Room, the king seldom varied in his routine. First he applied the false eyelashes. Then he completed his face with a cornucopia of cosmetics — Fashion Fair Honey Glo, and Lancome eye shadow, mascara, and eyeliner. At times he conversed with the mannequin in his room that he had dressed up as Princess Diana — gown, tiara, blond wig, and all. As befits royalty, he never went to the door to greet his frequent, prepubescent male houseguests. Instead he waited while their parents left them at the front gate and they rode grandly to the main house in a carriage pulled by a Clydesdale. After lunching on Goofy Salads, Minnie Mouse Milkshakes, and Pluto Pies, the king and his ”special friend” of the moment usually retired to the bedroom, a place where the king sometimes performed his ”special” dance in his ”special” underwear.
Poor Christopher Andersen. With this kind of killer material just five years ago, the author of the new Michael Jackson: Unauthorized (Simon & Schuster, $23) probably could have retired from the celebrity-bio grind for good. As it happens, Andersen’s relentless evisceration of the King of Pop’s saintly megastar image comes when the fallen-idol field is pretty crowded. When bulimic, suicidal princesses, sitcom stars with multiple personalities, vengeful ice-skating champions, and show-tune-trilling footballers-turned- murder suspects are your competition, even a riveting investigation into Jackson’s creepy double life may not hold the nation’s attention much past the next Hard Copy.
Still, Andersen soldiers on gamely in this strange hybrid of a biography. It is part hard-hitting original reporting. (Andersen is a former contributing editor of Time and former senior editor at People, and he gained access to unreleased depositions and other court documents in the sex-abuse case against Jackson.) It is also part warmed-over clip job. Andersen cites dozens of magazines in his footnotes, and sometimes relies on National Enquirerese when using sources like the handy but always anonymous ”longtime friend.” Coming from a legit pro like Andersen, this Seymour Hersh-meets-Geraldo Rivera effect is as jarring as hearing that Deborah Norville is jumping to Inside Edition.
Still, Andersen never deviates from his thesis: The emperor has no clothes, and furthermore, he often has no clothes while in the company of young boys. The sex scandal overshadows Andersen’s often gripping account of Jackson’s early years, when he performed with his brothers in strip joints, and was often beaten and verbally abused by his father (allegations Joe Jackson has denied). Andersen quotes one longtime friend, who explains that the family’s ”only way out of Gary (Indiana) was through Michael.”
Even for a jaded populace, many of the details about Jackson’s relationships with boys, some provided by on-the-record sources, are shocking. It’s hard to figure out which stuff you already read about in the Star and which stuff is new. But Andersen paints a horrifying portrait: He cites such reports as Jackson groping Macaulay Culkin. Jackson kissing and cuddling Emmanuel Lewis. Jackson showering with one of the boys Andersen says were called his ”special friends.” Jackson naked in a Jacuzzi with a special friend. Jackson in a sleeping bag with a special friend. Jackson sleeping with his eventual accuser nearly every night for three months. The saddest note? His accuser drawing an image of himself committing suicide by jumping off a building.
Given that no criminal charges were ever brought against Jackson, Unauthorized, with its strong allegations that Jackson is a pedophile, acts as a public rebuke to a celebrity-mad society that, by implication, let him get away with it. In another time, Andersen’s revelations about Jackson would be almost impossible to digest. Today, this chilling book could prove to be no more potent than a Minnie Mouse Milkshake. B