I would have written sooner, but I was busy watching the 102nd hour of continuous live coverage on the death of Michael Jackson.
I am now taking meals in front of CNN and am thinking of installing a TV in the shower so I can still maintain some semblance of personal hygiene while all of this is playing out.
I am not proud of this facet of my personality. But I figure if I wasn’t addicted to lurid and gross over-exposure of news events, it might be something even worse, like mah jong.
I believe it all began with the 1991 trial of William Kennedy Smith. I was fortunate to have been miserably sick with a long flu of some kind during that one, which allowed me a convenient excuse if anyone asked why an otherwise normal woman would find this so compelling.
I’m not sure what my excuse was during the Menendez brothers’ murder trial in ’93, but I know I was pregnant during the O.J. Simpson trial in ’95.
I was also gainfully employed during these years, so it wasn’t like I could watch all the time, but I think that’s actually what got me hooked. With the advent of televised trials and continuous coverage of events like these really heating up, that was the intent. Keep repeating the same news loop over and over, but with EXCLUSIVE and BREAKING NEWS over the headlines, so that your viewers always felt in danger of missing something if they walked away or turned the TV off.
As a seasoned, veteran journalist by that time, I fell for all of it and still do.
As my husband Rick reminded me last night when he walked into the bedroom, saw me still glued to the Michael Jackson coverage and asked sarcastically, “Is he still dead?” I have a problem. Of course, I don’t see it that way.
When Princess Diana was killed in 1997, yes, I did watch the coverage into the wee hours of the morning, the next day, the day after and the day after that. But I loved Princess Diana. When I covered Wimbledon through much of the 1980’s and most of the 90’s, the press section was situated next to the Royal Box, so we would get an up-close view of Diana and sometimes even the kids.
Often, a match would be in a fifth-set tiebreaker or Boris Becker would dive across the court with a shot for the ages, and I would have to ask what happened because I was watching Diana adjust her binoculars.
It sounds a lot more disturbing than it really is and trust me, I was the source to go to for any breaking Diana news at the time.
And just so I don’t sound like I am simply obsessed with celebrity deaths, I was also addicted to the 1987 continuing coverage of little Jessica McClure, when she fell down a well in Midland, Texas, and that had a good ending.
I should also point out here, just for clarification, that I do not slow down and rubber-neck when I pass accidents on the side of a highway. I am also disgusted at the practice of gathering in person on the scene of tragedies, like those who stood around the outside of the hospital where Michael Jackson died or actually got in their cars and drove to his rented mansion. You’ve seen these people, the ones standing behind police barricades at midnight with small children clinging to their legs.
“I thought it was important for her to see history,” said one woman the other night, pointing to her dazed and half-asleep child holding a “We Love Michael” sign.
Now, that’s sick.
Me? I kept watching last night because they promised BREAKING NEWS and I always trust Anderson Cooper, even when he knows there is not going to be any actual breaking news but still another interview with Deepak Chopra, who, I swear, at one point was live on two cable shows at the same time.
I also kept watching because every time they’d play a snippet of a Michael Jackson performance, I somehow held out hope that they would return from commercial and just run a full-blown concert, beginning with the Jackson 5 days.
Eventually, I gave up and my son and I put in the Michael Jackson History on Film Vol. II DVD the kids loved when they were little, and then Alec slipped out of the room and I found him watching some You Tube performances of the Jackson 5.
And finally, something beat out the continuous live coverage.
One Response to “LIVE from in Front of my Television”
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Good piece. We all (I think) have our must-watch events that are farther down the ladder of importance from, say, the assassination of JFK or Martin Luther King.
Growing up with Elvis, and not being particularly music inclined, certainly in terms of popular music, I never connected with Michael Jackson, although our daughters did to one degree or another. I came to see him as I saw Elvis, someone who was talented, displayed that great talent in the early years, and then sank into a dangerous isolation supported by hangers-on and people who manipulated both, Michael and Elvis, for their own gain.
In the past week, I have come to appreciate Jackson’s talent more than I had. Especially his dancing, but his musical talent, too. That makes his slide into strangeness and alleged (to be legally fair about it) sexual abuse of one or more boys all the sadder and terrible. His early life (despite various denials by family and people who benefited from his early success) clearly was traumatic. He was abused. Later, with his millions upon millions, he could indulge every whim and desire. As more than one person has written, surely, no one was around to say “no,” or urge him to say “no.”
All that talent, all of that sadness. The story is legitimate as a human story. Maybe even in the form of a cosmic tragedy — i.e., Greek, Shakespearean. But of course, our culture will run it into the ground.
I am waiting for the tabloid headline that tells us of Nostradamus’ prediction of Jackson’s death.