Michael Jackson and other “Riddles of Rock”

I try not to treat the same subject two days in a row, as a general principle. But I violate that today – it’s Michael Jackson time again!

What convinced me to bend the “rules” this way was what I found in cruising through today’s Danish press: a great piece in Berlingske Tidende entitled Rock’s Cabinet of Riddles. Writer Poul Høi has taken an inspired approach to the Michael Jackson controversy: yes, his case is certainly strange, but it isn’t the only oddity that has cropped up through the years from the world of rock music.

Getting by with a little help from his friends at Rolling Stone’s archives, Høi comes up with a list of seven other such “riddles.”

The total number of entries stands at eight, though, because he would be remiss not to lead off with a treatment of his leading inspiration:

1. Michael Jackson: Take your pick why he heads the list: his friendship with Bubbles the chimpanzee; his marriage with Lisa (though Høi spells it “Liza”) Marie Presley; the nose, which is about to fall off; babies who get swung off the edge of a high balcony in Berlin; 13-year-old boys who have proven themselves able to describe to prosecutors in detail what Høi terms Jackson’s “vital parts” (ædlere dele); etc. “Maybe he is more strange than the police will allow,” he hypothesizes.

(Important update: Michael Jackson has now seen the light and started to pump iron – so reports the Weekly World News. Well, I would hope so: Jacko has my same height – 5’11” – and, at 120 lb., almost half my weight!)

2. Elvis visits Nixon. The year: 1970. Elvis, in the nation’s capital, decides to visit the President. It’s quickly arranged, and Nixon even bestows on the King of Rock ‘n Roll an FBI badge naming him “special narcotics agent.” The problem – as is clear from the Oval Office picture, and confirmed after the fact – is that Elvis is stoned out of his mind throughout.

3. Madonna and “Sex”: She may be writing and publishing children’s books these days, but back in 1992 Madonna had an entirely different sort of literary output. This was namely the photography-book “Sex,” made up of portrayals of the singer, nude, in various curious scenarios and situations. And her rationale: “My [something rude] is my temple.”

(I’m sorry I can’t do any better here; that quote is in Danish, and the “something rude” word is given only as “f…..” I’m not familiar enough with Danish scatology – I know, I’m supposed to be the expert – to know what that refers to. To my Scandinavian readers: Let me do without your help on this one, please.)

4. George Michael Caught in the Toilet: This was apparently when the singer, so to speak, “came out of the closet” – namely after the occasion of his arrest (in 1998, although Høi’s article neglects to give the year) in Los Angeles for perpetrating an “obscene deed” with an attendant at a public restroom. Unfortunately, that “attendant” happened to be an undercover policeman. (My other sources on the Net tell me that he went ahead and used a re-enactment of the scene to open his next music video.)

5. Whitney Houston’s Wedding: With Bobby Brown, naturally, which in Høi’s view led her downhill all the way ever since: to cocaine, arrests, scandals, and an apparent disinclination to eat anymore.

6. Jim Morrison as Exhibitionist: We’re back to ædlere dele here again. The Doors’ Jim Morrison did more than just lay his heart and soul out on the line during a concert in Miami on March 2, 1969. His willingness to “let it all hang out” led not only to a riot in the concert hall, but also to various charges relating to violation of public morals.

7. Thirteen as Lucky Number: Two rock ‘n roll greats get mentioned here: Jerry Lee Lewis (“the Killer”) and Stones’ bassist Bill Wyman, both of whom fell for thirteen-year-olds. (Whoa – shades of Jacko!) But wait, these were thirteen-year-old girls, and both gentlemen did the “decent” thing and married them. (At least eventually: Wyman waited until his sweetheart was actually nineteen to tie the knot; and that “knot” lasted a full 17 months further.)

8. Keith Moon’s Limo: Finally, Keith Moon of The Who, well-known as a wild man (during his life, that is, which ended in 1978). Of course, for him celebrating his 21st birthday was sure to be something extra-special (hey – from that day he could drink most places in the US!), and it was. On tour in Flint, Michigan in 1969, says Høi, he started drinking that day at 10:00 AM, and when his behavior resulted in the local sheriff being called, he commandeered a Lincoln Continental and drove it into the Holiday Inn’s swimming pool, resulting in a permanent ban of The Who from that hotel chain.

In point of fact, that was just one of many stories Høi could have chosen about The Who demolishing hotel rooms (just as they tended to demolish their drum sets and guitars on-stage at the end of appearances). Led Zeppelin were supposedly even worse, although they were kinder towards their musical instruments; where are they on this list? What’s more, my other Internet sources have Keith Moon born in London in 1947, meaning that he would have turned 22 in 1969, not 21.

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