By: Harold Michael Harvey
Wow, what a week the last one was. In the span of seventy-two hours we saw the transition of three iconic figures from the 1960's and the political demise of a rising Republican star. While pondering what to make of the rapid changes taking place, a young writer, Osei Kwadjoe, living in Accra, Ghana wrote seeking advice on his writing career.
“Do you know of my first president,” Osei asked? His query brought to mind the legendary leader, Kwame Nukrumah, who once penned a primer entitled Money, Power, and Sex. It was Nukrumah’s attempt to spell out the pitfalls to black leaders in emerging African nation-states. His premise seemed an appropriate metaphor for the topsy turvy events last week.
This week the world has much to say about a huge volume of work left in the wake of Michael Jackson’s unexpected transition. Certainly much of what has been said and will be said this week would never have been said last week. Jackson, the enigmatic leader of the Jackson clan, stole his way into the hearts of the American people in the late 1960's as a child entertainer.
At a time when child stars began to fade, Jackson created an international persona which made him the most recognized entertainer in the world. Then his troubles began. There were lawsuits, threats of lawsuits, and criminal charges for child molestation.
It is important to note, Michael Jackson accused twice was never convicted by a jury of his peers of child molestation. Yet his seemingly weird explanation in a television documentary aired days before he was to stand trial on the molestation charges five years ago seemed to suggest Mr. Jackson had an unhealthy appreciation for young boys sleeping in his bed.
But was this explanation so strange? Jackson believed that young people, as a matter of course, sought comfort in the bed of adult parents or in his case, adult figures. He said that kids had a right to be comforted in bed.
The world was aghast! For five years, so was I, until a conversation last week with Terrence Moore, former sports columnist, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, brought to mind how innocent certain jesters were in our youth.
Moore told a story of receiving a pat on the rump from baseball great Billy Martin during a celebrity softball game in Oakland following the Raiders Super Bowl victory in 1980. Moore had made a catch in left field and threw a perfect strike to home plate nabbing the fleet Lester Hayes who had tagged up at third base.
Managers do not pat players on the rump these days. It’s far too easy to be labeled a sexual predator. Billy Martin’s pat didn’t have any sexual overtones. It was his way of saying, “That was a heck of a play young man.”
Such contact is impermissible today. I don’t know when I’ve seen Bobby Cox pat an Atlanta Brave on the rump. Such shows of support became less popular with the MTV generation.
While Mr. Moore told his baseball story, my mind drifted to Michael Jackson, to kids in his bed, to the patter of little feet rushing to get in bed with my wife and me.
Each Sunday morning I heard this patter from the time my son was old enough to get himself out of his bed and race across the hallway into our room until he was about six years old. We would lay there and talk, and laugh and play until it was time to get ready for church.
I thought about my own childhood and falling to sleep nestled between by grandmother and grandfather. I thought about how comforted I felt, how secure it was to be in their bed. I thought, perhaps, Michael Jackson was giving these children an experience my son (and I before him) had taken for granted.
In death Mr. Jackson will likely earn more money than anyone else in a similar state. Surely more than he has earned since 1993 when his record company, on the heels of the first molestation allegations, found cause not to aggressively promote his albums. Perhaps, only in death can we come full-circle and appreciate the genius and gentle spirit reflected from the man in the mirror.
Of the blond haired delight, Farrah Fawcett, not much could be heard of her transition over the buzz of Jackson’s departure. She was Hollywood sexy and a classic bombshell, but not in the Marilyn Monroe fashion.
Farrah had a brain and she used it in business. A simple photo shoot produced a pin up poster of Farrah sitting in a red bathing suit with the flowing blond hair which sold 12 million copies. She had planned a public transition. She agreed to permit her family to video her battle with cancer. I could not bare to watch the Entertainment Tonight episodes as her health began to decline. Like an aging athlete, she could not give up the spotlight. Only the passing of Michael Jackson spared her fans the public spectacle of seeing her travel into eternity. Beauty after all is a passing thing.
Mark Sanford, Governor, South Carolina, and a piped piper for moral virtue, fell head over heels for his Argentine lover. He left the comfort of his martial bed for the arms of his lover in South America. He told his wife and staff he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail. Neither knew how to get in touch with him. Sanford’s southern bred wife quickly dropped him like a hot potato. She made it crystal clear she would not be standing by her former man. He was on his own.
Stanford argues it is appropriate for him to maintain his office in spite of his moral lapse and dereliction of duty. “King David did not leave his office after his tryst with the wife of his General.”
I once heard former Heavy Weight Boxing Champion Evander Holyfield make this same argument. It didn’t sit well with me then and it doesn’t sit well with me to hear Mark Sanford say it now.
Oh, the arrogance of power, coupled with money and sex.
© June 28, 2009