Michael Jackson – 30 –

For those of you without a journalism or printing background, – 30 – is what a writer typed at the end of a story, a fancy way of saying "THE END" or "FINIS."  (I think it originated because the old way of ending a story was to write XXX in big letters at the end, and XXX is the Roman numeral for 30.)

There is still plenty of debate about whether his cardiac arrest was caused by drugs.  If it was, I’m wondering whether it was an intentional or accidental overdose.

Some interviewee (I’ve lost track of them, there’s been so much on the news about Jackson since he died Thursday) took his "enablers" to task, the ones who always made sure he was well supplied with drugs and little boys, and who did nothing while he was racking up millions of dollars in debt buying artwork and antiques he would take home and never look at again.

I am not a fan of the 12-Step movement, and the word enabler has always raised red flags with me.  The classic enabler is the spouse who calls an employer to say that the wife/husband has the flu and won’t be in, when in reality he/she is sleeping off a hangover or still hasn’t come home from a binge the night before.

A friend of mine was once wringing her hands because her friends weren’t helping her raise money to pay off her credit card debts–debts which resembled the GNP of some small Central American nations.  I explained to her that would definitely be enabling her out-of-control spending.  If she needed chemotherapy, or a kidney transplant, or a ramp built on her house, yes, her friends would definitely take up the cause.

After his first brush with the law regarding possible sexual abuse charges, Jackson’s family and entourage should have explained to him that no, even if you never touched the kids, you cannot sleep in the same bed with pubescent boys.  (He could only continue to do so because he was Michael Jackson.  What if a CPA or a file clerk said, "Yes, underage boys sleep in my bed with me, but I don’t have sex with them?")

Jackson’s estate wouldn’t be seriously in the red if his friends hadn’t put the brakes on his enormous spending.  I bite my nails when I go to ABE Books and buy an out-of-print book–and my tastes don’t run to first editions and autographed books, usually!  I keep thinking of that video showing him in a London antique store, where any one of the pieces he bought cost more than what I earned last year.

A celebrity who was truly destroyed by enablers was Howard Hughes.  At the root of his craziness was probably obsessive-compulsive disorder.  Many people have it, but they usually can suck it up and overcome it out of sheer necessity.  (There was one writer–it may have been Cornell Woolrich–whose career was affected because of OCD.  When he sat down to write, his stack of paper had to be exactly parallel to the typewriter, his cigarettes had to be just diagonal to his desk lamp, he had to touch the platen of his typewriter number of times before putting in the first page, etc.)  Hughes, being the richest man in the world, could take the extra steps necessary to avoid contact.

 He was also a hoarder, to the extent that he was unable to part with anything of himself–including his hair and nails.  This is the cover of Time when he died:

What is most horrible was his band of flunkies who stayed with him (the Mormon Mafia), let him go for days barely eating, making sure he received all the prescription drugs he wanted, etc.  They were paid to do that, but when Hughes began to take baby steps toward re-emerging back into the world, what they did was truly reprehensible.

When he was in Nicaragua, Somoza, the president of Nicaragua, wanted to meet him.  Reluctantly, he agreed, and it took all day the day before the meeting to make Hughes presentable.  They had to cut his hair and beard, which hadn’t been touched for two years, chop his grossly long finger- and toenails, and finally get him to shower.

His meeting with Somoza went smoothly.  He shook hands with him, talked for hours, and was a good host all around.  Shortly afterwards, Hughes and his entourage moved to another hotel, I think in the Bahamas.  Usually, he was strapped to a stretcher and carried up the freight elevator to his new penthouse, but when they arrived, Hughes insisted on walking in the front door.  He strolled through the hotel lobby in his bathrobe, shook hands with an old lady who recognized him, and chatted with the desk clerks.  When he got to the room, he stood at the window to watch a helicopter land on the roof of a building across the way.  The Mormon Mafia wasn’t having any of that–they made sure he was soon back in a blacked-out room with his dope.  Since the TV reception there was bad, he couldn’t even keep up with the news, so they brought him movies which he watched round the clock.

So, if you ever become rich, watch out for enablers.  They killed Hughes, Elvis, and may have had a hand in the death of Michael Jackson.


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