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I love Michael Jackson.

But his performance on stage last night at the World Music


Awards in London (and his offstage performance as well) was pathetic. Why? Because
his stellar success and unreasonable expectations of the world have made it
impossible for him to live a happy life and to perform to his potential. His
performance was nothing more than a photo op - he sang a few lines of "We are the
World" against a playback of the original recording. His greatest currency now is
not his talent, but his celebrity. As one reviewer said, he is more of a celebrity
now than an artist. When that happens, only bad things follow: the stage is set
for him to be used and discarded by hangers-on just as he has used and discarded
the long list of benefactors and business associates and plain old sugar daddies
he seduced with his fame: billionaire supermarket magnate Ron Burkle, Prince
Alwaleed, the Bahraini royal family, Chuck Sullivan, promoter of the Victory tour,
and scads of others. I felt sad when he seemed to need to prop himself up and
remind us of his achievements when he stopped by the Guiness Book of World Records
to have his picture taken with his world record certificates. (See! Look at all
the records I broke!) I was embarrassed for him when he dragged his three children
into yet another fury of publicity generated for no other reason than to make
himself feel better about his waning stature. He has lived for so long in a world
cut off from reality that he is incapable of living a fulfilling life. You can see
it in his appearance and his demeanor across the past 20 years - he becomes more
and more remote and less capable of sustaining any meaningful interaction with
others. The true superstars of the moment do not need meaningless "Diamond" awards
to validate their achievements. Michael Jackson is scarred by years of self-abuse
and abuse at the hands of others, his family, friends, and employees. So I feel
bad for him, but I also feel embarrassed for him and sad that his talent and
energy seems to have been overcome by celebrity so great that it became a black
hole, into which everything has been subsumed: his fortune, his family, his
artistry, his identity. If you look closely, you will see. And if not today, in a
few years, as the inevitable slide into desperate obscurity continues.