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Los Angeles in shock, grief and acceptance over Jackson’s
by Simone Kussatz
When the news came out that Michael Jackson (50) had died on Thursday June 25th, 2009 in Los Angeles, a Hispanic sales clerk in a grocery store in Culver City shed tears. “It’s so sad,” she said. “He was just one year younger than me, “one of her customers replied. About an hour after Jackson’s death was confirmed, news reporters from Eyewitness News, Fox and NBC among others were waiting for details from the press conference in front of the Medical Plaza at UCLA. Meanwhile, throngs of people were standing next to them in a daze, some were singing Michael Jackson songs, others were pushing themselves into the spotlight of the media. Not even the summer heat could prevent people, mostly tourists, from lining up on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to see the side walk “star” of Michael Jackson, to put down flowers and to speak a few words into surrounding cameras. A Jackson impersonator gave his usual moonwalk performance. This was not only filmed from the obvious cameras in front of the Chinese Theater, but also from a secret place on top of the Roosevelt Hotel across the street. Five days after the legend of pop music died, police officers are still guarding Jackson’s former mansion, which is blocked off with police tape, located, just a bit off Sunset Boulevard, close to UCLA Medical Center in
Westwood. Paparazzi and reporters are still eagerly waiting to see relatives and others getting in and out of Jackson's house. Unless VIP, people can only get to a memorial site on the corner of Carolwood and Sunset, where his fans left flowers, cards and candles for their beloved idol.
Yet is this collective grief appropriate, and did Jackson’s death deserve so much media attention?
Opinions diverted. Stefanie Sneed, a UCLA undergraduate student of Psychobiology and African American Studies thought that the media attention about Jackson was well deserved. “He was an icon, positive and theatrical,” she said. “Being a black person, I felt empowered by him, but I feel angry that the media is looking for the negative things in his life.” Javier Arteaga, a UCLA undergraduate student of Psychology, however, felt different about this. Arteaga was only a block away from the hospital on his way towards his friend’s apartment, when he received a text message, saying “they just brought in Michael Jackson in an ambulance.” Instead of staying with a crowd in front of the Medical Plaza that had built up from 10 to 20 to a 100, Arteaga hurried home to gather information via CNN. “I feel sad about Michael Jackson’s death, especially since he died at a young age, but I also feel that the media didn’t respect his family’s privacy. I was upset how people were bragging as to who was the first to set the traffic cone on the entrance to the hospital. It was unimportant. I feel Michael Jackson deserved more respect than this.” Lindsay Guzman, a hairstylist from Colorado who is currently visiting L.A. was not surprised about Jackson’s death “I thought he was actually sick for a while, but when he died, they had to say something.”
From the perspective of the people working for UCLA Medical Center, Jackson’s death seemed not so much a matter of grief as it was a matter of inconvenience in their daily lives. For one thing, their integrity was tested. A nurse at the Ronald Reagan Medical Center said “I can’t give you any information. Journalists are escorted out, if they’re found here.” Another nurse claimed it was too hard for her to get into the hospital. “For me, every patient is a VIP,” she said. A staff at Patient Services pointed out that employees of UCLA Medical Plaza are not allowed to give out any information about Jackson’s death, other than referring to Media Relations at 924 Westwood Plaza, a department that seems overwhelmed by the requests of reporters.
People who have been working in the Hollywood industry for a long time and achieved considerable success, stressed Michael Jackson’s great talent, and put the incidence in the context of current politics. Film-maker Henry Jaglom, known for “Hollywood Dreams” a film about a fame-obsessed person who becomes a tragic victim in a fame obsessed culture, said “Like everyone in Hollywood I was stunned by the news, but then with the flood of old videos on Television and the Internet I was grateful to be reminded how truly extraordinary he was, how profoundly talented a dancer, as no less an authority than Fred Astaire pointed out, how significant and influential an artist in developing a generation of children who would grow up so free of race prejudice as to vote Obama in as president 25 years later. Many of us had forgotten all that in recent years after being endlessly told about his eccentricities, his weirdness, his countless cosmetic surgeries and all the distorted sex stories, according to everyone I know who knew him well he was the sweetest creature who ever lived, good-hearted and naive to a fault, never having had a childhood so being obsessed with being with children and staying a child forever.” Composer, William Goldstein, who had scored all the episodes of NBC’s FAME and was brought under contract to Motown, as Michael Jackson, said “His death was tragic. He was a brilliant artist, very gifted, but a troubled soul. Yet, there seems to be a budding revolution in Iran and it was wiped out by the media.” Therefore, Michael Jackson’s death has been perceived as a great loss by most Americans. The media coverage about his death will still go on to a great extent, especially with the upcoming funeral, for which reporters have already driven up North to Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, according to an ABC news reporter.
Written by Simone Kussatz. Freelance journalist. Los Angeles.
June 29th, 2009
Yesterday, Friday July 3, 2009, African American pianist Larry Nash of the Larry Nash and The Jazz Symphonics, played a tribute to Michael Jackson during the free Friday Night Jazz Concerts at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Nash gave a beautiful and sensitive performance of Jackson's "She's out of my mind." The concert was held outdoors underneath palm trees and a gradual sinking sun in front of LACMA's permanent outdoor installation of a large number of Los Angeles street lights, facing Wilshire Boulevard.
Written by Simone Kussatz. Freelance journalist. Los Angeles.
July 4, 2009