News services were buzzing. Phones were ringing. By now, everyone knew. The “King of Pop” was dead. On June 25, 2009, Michael Jackson died at the age of 50. Immediately, cable stations started dissecting Michael’s life. In fact, in less than 24 hours, his so-called “friends” were coming out and releasing innuendos about him. CNN analyst Jeff Todbin noted, “He was surrounded by thieves and jackals.” As Michael rests in peace, many news commentators continue to sensationalize his life, hoping for another media circus. This article examines Michael’s life as it relates to his corrosive friendships so that readers can gain valuable lessons from his story.
Michael lived a life most people could only fantasize about. Born in 1958 in Gary, Indiana, Michael emerged from simple beginnings to become a mega Superstar. He and his four brothers became a Motown Records icon and a landmark for teens across the world. Michael’s lifetime record sales are estimated to be over 750 million. Michael had become the King of Pop. He was also one of the most generous Hollywood celebrities to charities.
Yet, the storyline of the King of Pop is disturbing. His eccentric ways, transformational looks, spending sprees, and financial troubles gave fuel to his critics. Additionally, his continual battles regarding child sexual abuse severely damaged his public image. To individuals concerned with this image, Michael was an individual to keep away from, even if you were supposed to be his friend. His brother Jermaine Jackson stated, “Michael became the victim of his own success.” Michael understood better than anyone the isolation of being a child superstar.
The Friendship Definition
Many people have not developed the instinct to know true friends. According to the Urban Dictionary, a fair weather friend is someone who is only a friend when circumstances are pleasant or profitable. An enabler is someone who allows another person to persist in self-destructive behavior by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences.
Within minutes of Michael’s death, individuals seized this opportunity to attract media attention based on their past relationships with him. For example, Michael’s mother Katherine Jackson and his family are fighting for control of his estate. On July 6th, a Los Angeles judge gave temporary control of this estate to Michael’s long time associates, John Branca and John McClain. This action was done contrary to Michael’s family wishes. Katherine’s attorney argued, “To award unfettered control to the other side wouldn’t serve justice.” Therefore, the greater the media hype, the greater the financial gain.
Furthermore, enablers were also a part of Michael’s life. According to varying reports, Michael took a host of prescription drugs to ease his pain and anxiety. Several former friends and employees spoke out that Michael was surrounded by medical staff that enabled him. Lisa Marie Presley, Michael’s first wife, acknowledged the reality of Michael’s corrosive friendships: “I became very ill and emotionally/spiritually exhausted in my quest to save him from certain destructive behavior and from the awful vampires and leeches he would always manage to magnetize around him.” Many superstars surround themselves with “yes” people. Who wants to hear opinions that may contradict his or her own? In this regard, celebrities are not alone.
Few people can deny the talents of Michael Jackson. Surprisingly, even in death, Michael manages to break records. Just a few weeks after his death, Michael became the first artist to hold 8 of the top 10 slots on a Billboard chart. Michael sold a combined 422,000 albums (241,000 were downloads). Therefore, his star power has proven immortal. Like so many stars, Michael was surrounded with wealth and fame. Yet, there is something that even the most common of people can understand. A person must surround themselves with true friends. This darker side of Michael’s reality places him alongside other high-profile celebrities such as Anna Nicole Smith. In spite of this fact, Michael remains a music genius. However, he is also an example of what can happen when an individual surrounds himself with corrosive friendships. Let’s hope we can heed this lesson from the King of Pop.