Drug Me: The WWE and The Death of Michael Jackson

Well, fuck.  Am I REALLY going to have to write something about this? Apparently I am, because two things that should have stayed the hell out of the way of each other due to obvious mutual concerns have come up.

So I was on the Internet this morning, because I heard that, yes, once again, ANOTHER celeb had kicked the bucket. What the hell, guys? This week is just NO GOOD to be famous, right? Sky Saxon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, and now Billy Mays? Really? Jeez Louise. At any rate, there was yet ANOTHER Internet RUMOR that someone (this time Louie Anderson) had died, and I was looking into that because, well, we had gone past the whole “they go in threes” thing, and frankly? At this juncture? After Michael? ANYTHING was believable. So, I found a REALLY interesting article. And of course, because it was related to wrestling, I totally clicked on it.

Rick Rockwell of the Pro-Wrestling Examiner wrote a very short, but sweet, treatise on the internet hoax of the death of Louie Anderson and how hurtful death hoaxes on the internet were. He made a very incisive statement when he said that “A hoax and false rumors are hurtful and disgusting. Although, WWE tends to create storylines that are hurtful and disgusting, the Trump story was only stupid in the end but didn’t really hurt anyone; unless you count the WWE stockholders who sold their stocks,” referring to the current Donald Trump storyline. HOWEVER, to make Mr. Rockwell’s point even more significant and have even more weight, the WWE has a its own history of death hoaxes as well. It is a company that thrives upon soap opera antics (for more on this, email me- I got a nice long paper for ya to read- I’m a huge wrestling fan) Yet, to be sure, like the current Donald Trump storyline, they hurt no one but possibly the audience whose loyalties and fanships ran, perhaps, a bit too deep and that is only temporarily. As most people know- hoaxes are just that- they always get uncovered at *some* point. That is their point.

The explosive "death" of the head of the WWE...

The explosive "death" of the head of the WWE...

Even the most recent and the most bombastic death “hoax,” that of WWE head honcho Vince McMahon in June 2007 was eclipsed by a real LIVE death, the epically tragic Chris Benoit murder-suicide, which actually cancelled what was going to be a long running storyline regarding McMahon’s “death.”  The death hoax in this case was a major plot point, and would probably have lasted a good long time. However, out of respect for the tragedy of one of their major performers, the WWE had some taste in this situation and cut this storyline way short. However, my point is proven. Large scale company, famous figure, DEATH HOAX. But fictional, so as not to hurt anyone.

In a week like we have had, where people’s childhoods have had the door closed upon them, and steamy adolescent dreamings have been laid to rest, do we REALLY need to hear that Jeff Goldblum might be sharing Vibes on a higher plane right now? Or Louie Anderson, for that matter?

No, we really don’t. I’m sorry guys, but not this week. Take your “funny” elsewhere, it just ain’t “haha.” I don’t feel like I wanna be checking Snopes.com 80 times a day nor do I want to have a flipout everytime I check my Twitter or Facebook and SOMEONE ELSE’S name pops up, k? Can we have some GOOD news, please? And look, celebrity ain’t everything, in fact it just happens to be a big area of academic study for me, but…..HELL. If it ain’t that important, why don’t we go back to looking at the children dying in Iran and not some poor shlemiel comedian who died and didn’t fuckin’ know it, eh?

So on to my next point, and where the title comes in. So I keep reading Rockwell’s piece. It’s cool. Whatever. I’m thinking about wrestling, the veritable plethora of hoaxes that get pulled all the time that, in real life, would be really really bad, hurtful and painful…when I see this headline: Ultimate Warrior Rips on the Death of Michael Jackson

Oh hell no. Really? C’mon guys, for reals? So I make with the *clicky*

For those of you who are not wrestling fans, this is the Ultimate Warrior:

Ultimate Warrior- cuz all guys can get that buff naturally! Check out that vein! Ooo!

Ultimate Warrior- cuz all guys can get that buff naturally! Check out that vein! Ooo!

Yeah, so that’s the guy. He didn’t have very many nice things to say either on his blog, no sirreebob. And, y’know, in general, I’m fine with people having and voicing their opinions. Absolutely. That’s what this whole blogosphere thing is all about. And I’m fine with him having his. But I’m going to come out on the record and say that he’s a total hypocrite for the things that he’s saying and, while he doesn’t hold much weight in the wrestling community anymore, he holds weight with people and fans and sometimes (most times) that is even more powerful that holding sway in the company itself.

In his blog, where he (I fear) was attempting to be as righteous as he was humorous,  the self-proclaimed “Founding Father of Intense Sarcasm” discusses how all the celebrities are probably quite upset now that they have nowhere to drop off their children for playtime. He calls all of them “drug-soused entertainment freaks.” Oh Warrior. Really? Didja have to go there? Cuz NOW I have to write about this. NOW I have to rip into you. Now I can’t just leave you alone to your poor, pathetic, paranoid has-been existence. I mean, honestly, I have a great amount of sympathy A GREAT AMOUNT for ex-wrestlers or ex-WWE-wrestlers, but from the bit of research I’ve done on you and your blog today, um, well??? I think I can confidently say that you are not one of them.

If any of you have seen The Wrestler, then you know its really tough to go from the 80’s and the highest highs to…well, what the WWE is now. Which is not exactly what is *was,* per se. Not that its not still one of the largest and most economically viable companies in the nation, but…it sure isn’t what it was back in the day. And many casualties have fallen to the wayside as a result, mentally, physically, emotionally. It’s like a war- only there really is no support group for former wrestlers, there is no WWE “Vet” group…there’s just shattered kneecaps, shattered souls, and most likely a lifetime addiction to painkillers and assorted other *fun* substances! Hurray for entertainment!!

Aaronofsky's film is a great look into what the reality of wrestling truly is. You can only get thrown through a table so many times.

Aronofsky's film is a great look into what the reality of wrestling truly is. You can only get thrown through a table so many times.

The interesting thing to note is that wrestling, while indeed following a fictionalized storyline, is also choreographed, like a dance number on broadway or a fight scene in a film. When people take on the condescending tone with me about wrestling (which happens right after the “OMG, you’re a girl and you like wrestling” face- it’s pretty similar to the “OMG you’re a girl and know something reasonable about comics” face, but we can discuss facial antics at a later date), they generally say “You know its all fake, right?”

Sure. Sure, it’s fake. Tell that to Owen Hart, who died when he fell to his death at a WWE (then WWF) event in Kansas City Missouri. Or tell it to Plum Mariko, the Japanese female wrestler who died from injuries received inside the ring that reinjured former ring injuries. Tell THEM its fake. Or tell the innumerable men and women who have passed away in the last few years due to the high levels of physical stress that they have suffered due to extreme conditions of travel, and years of drug abuse and physical conditioning and sheer performance on a nightly basis. Tell their families that it was all fake. The surgeries? ALLLLL fake. Yup, indeed. An elaborate game of pretend.

So what? What does all this have to do with the Warrior’s rant?

Well, first off, I recognize that the Warrior is a bit of a nutter, and his rant on Michael Jackson as a drug-addict holds no water, coming from a man who was released unceremoniously from the WWE for testing positive for steroids. I think, however, that this issue goes beyond the Ultimate Warrior’s blog, and I think that his readers recognized that as well. Some of the comments made were quite acute as to the Warrior’s own position in the world and I found them to be quite entertaining.

On the other hand, this is a larger issue. It is very likely that Michael’s death resulted from a highly toxic cocktail mix of drugs administered and recommended to him by a “doctor.” Not dissimilar to the doctors that wrestlers regularly depend on. The choreography of a dance is not unlike the choreography of a wrestling move, and a tour is a tour, no matter who you are performing to or when. Sure, wrestling is more physically demanding than what Jackson did, but the parallels are there, the fame issues are there, and, more importantly, the access and opportunity is there.

Michael’s history with drugs was just as unfortunate as many wrestlers. Starting just after the Pepsi commercial, he had a very big problem with pain killers and was in and out of rehab multiple times. Being a performer, a star and a major physical talent, he had to be at the top of his game at all times. ALL times, not just on occasion. And that’s practically impossible to do, especially without the use of synthetic assistance. Michael’s body became racked with addiction and substances until it became a shell of the gorgeous and rubber-like dancer’s skin that we saw back in the day. On June 25, 2009 we saw what can happen when you try to continue to use that system to make your flesh provide.

Your body is not made to do that. Chinese medicine teaches that the body is one whole organ, and that if you are sick, the body as a whole must be treated- that there is blockage in one location which is preventing your system, as a whole, from working correctly. By plugging up your body with painkillers and a whole cornucopia of drugs that make it so that the natural ingredients in your body will not work with each other in tandem, you’re basically just clogging up your own pipes. It may feel better for the moment, but it’s a temporary satisfaction. Tragically, if you’ve fucked your body up as bad as a wrestler has, sometimes it seems like there’s no other way. On the other hand, there are a good amount of wrestlers who have been able to know how to handle their bodies now and know how to balance more today than before (I hope). As for Michael, well? I don’t think he has had anyone there to advocate for him since he was a kid. I think the only people he has ever had in his life who have provided any kind of positivity for him were maybe his sisters or his mom, but were they strong advocates for him?

NO WAY.

What I hope is not to see anymore blogs or anything come out from the wrestling community about the Michael Jackson death. If I do, I’m going to be really pissed. It’s going to be more than any pot meeting kettle or glass house with boulders, man. It’s just a sad situation and in times like this we should be combining forces *not* dividing them.

In a situation like this, we should and could be recognizing the similarities between the parties, seeing the ways in which the entertainment industry in all of its Glorious Intelligence has decided to go the Alfred Hitchcock way and treat its performers like cattle. Well, guys, if you treat your performers like cattle, GUESS WHAT? You are not allowed to be shocked when the most talented, the most amazing and the most incredible ones get their own form of Industry Hoof and Mouth disease and die the fuck off. Nope, instead we, the audience/fans, get to suffer for your inability to treat your performers, be them wrestlers or pop singers, like human beings. Lucky us.

And I end this with a sincere letter from my heart:

Dear Entertainment Industry,

Try to treat your performers better. Keep ’em healthy and for fuck’s sake take oxycontin off the market for celebs. You’ll be doing all of us a huge favor.

Love always,

Ariel

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G’night, Sweet King…RIP Michael Jackson, King of Pop, 1958-2009

So Michael Jackson died today. He was 50 years old.

And a whole bunch of people are “not upset.”

That’s fine. I understand. I get it. There’s terrible things going on in the world. Iran, the economy…I mean who can blame them for not giving a shit about a pop star, right?

Well, I have a little bit of an issue because this guy’s life was sorta intertwined with mine, and I guess I never really thought about it until his death. When Michael Jackson died today, he pretty much took the remainder of my childhood with him. While that might sound hyperbolic,it’s kinda just how it feels.

michael_jacksonI was 5 years old when I bought Thriller. That means that I had just started all that walking, talking, reading stuff a few years earlier.  But I was musicking. Woah boy, was I musicking. I was tiny. And I danced around my room to Jackson & McCartney fighting over a girl (“The Girl Is Mine”), sang along to “PYT” and, most importantly, rented the movie. Yup, the movie that introduced me to John Landis, zombies & Vincent Price all in one fell swoop.  And I LOVED IT. And to be brutally honest, I just rewatched it tonight after I got home from work, and I dare you to watch this and not see something absolutely incredible. I was totally thrilled to see how amazing it was and, even more importantly, how talented Jackson was in it. I remembered it with fond affection, sure, but…I was not prepared to see a young Michael who was so full of grace, talent and charisma that he essentially truly DID become the King of Pop. I got it.

But I wasn’t alone. And that’s my point. Many kids were just like me. My housemate. Friends I know on Facebook. Kids all over the world. It was a huge part of our childhood, that album. And then his presence expanded for me. To Captain EO at Disneyland.

Skip ahead to 1986, Anaheim, CA. Disneyland puts in a new attraction starring…….Michael! It’s called Captain EO, and it’s in 3D. In many cases, it’s probably the very first 3D film most kids have ever seen. It was probably *mine.*

Coming shortly after the “Pepsi Incident”, Captain EO was written by James Horner, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and was, at the time, the most expensive film ever produced on a per-minute basis. Beyond that, it was chock full of Angelica Huston as the scaaaaary Supreme Leader, a total Giger-influenced villainess who rocks (and I *desperately* wish I could dress up like for Halloween!!), super awesome and adorable animals, and fantastic music. Again, during the dance scenes, we bear witness to the exquisitely sleek physicality of Jackson and his grace and dance finesse. The subtle movements of his body in unison and conjunction with the rest of his team are mind-blowing, to be sure.

Michael Jackson was like Dorian Gray in a way. Something happened to him, I think. There was a switch, some kind of fucked up something. Really, it seems to me, that he was intentionally trying to make himself disappear, become someone else. I am not excusing any kind of misbehavior that may have occurred. However, when it came to the mental disintegration that caused everyone to laugh and make fun of him, even at his death today, I think it was a bit more Wilde-like than anything. As his face changed, became more plastic and angular; as his pigment disappeared and his ethnicity was altered, he seemed to be trying to get away from that person that he way before.

And you could see it from the videos too. The ones that reacted to the ways that the media turned him into an item to be consumed and not a human, almost more than anyone else on earth. The first example was the video for “Leave Me Alone,” from the Bad album.

And if that doesn’t speak for itself, try the one he made with his sister, Janet, on for size…

He wasn’t happy at the way things turned out. Personally, I think something snapped inside him, and, not unlike Vivian Leigh or Howard Hughes with their own mental instabilities, he was unable to cope. Unfortunately for him, we live in a highly media-obsessed age. moreso than ever before, and it probably exacerbated everything. Many people think that he was never the same after the Pepsi Commercial. Who knows?

Does that part matter? Does any of that matter?

Does it matter to his family?

Does it matter to the people who hold his music dear to them?

I remember when I lived in Israel, moving into my adopted sister’s room on Moshe Dayan Street, in East Jerusalem. The first thing I noticed was wall to wall Michael Jackson. To this day, I remember, more than anything, that Bad poster- the one above my bed. Sneaking a boy in and making out with him, underneath that Bad poster. Falling asleep…underneath that Bad poster. And you know what? It wasn’t even a POSTER!! It was a TAPESTRY, for heavens’ sakes!! Yeah, Israel. 1994. Michael Jackson was a part of my life then, too.

Really, I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything.

And honestly, while I am not surprised at all the snark and hip apathy that has arisen over this, it saddens me.  Without Michael Jackson, we wouldn’t have a good amount of the modern dance routines in music we have now. Without Michael Jackson, we wouldn’t have a huge amount of the music we have period.

The internet blew up today with the news of his death.  And I think, to an extent, some people were reacting to people’s reactions, and simply being contrarian about it. Or maybe they honestly don’t care. But then others are being intentionally mean, and not in a “I’m an asshole and I recognize his talent, this is just how I joke” way.

It’s just not cool to be snarky. I’m over it. Really. I’m ok with sarcasm, but to be honest? I’m done with snark and especially snarkiness in order to be hip. I have seen too much of that today.

Look- Michael Jackson changed the music world, whether you like it or not. If you don’t think so, you’re either deaf, blind, vegetative, in a coma or lacking in a pulse as well. He also changed the dance world and he was talented as hell.

A friend of mine said it best today when she said this, in regards to the way that Jackson’s death was being handled by certain factions:

“I think everyone deserves more sympathy and respect than that. You don’t have to know someone to appreciate his contributions to the world. Before he became a strange and broken creature, Michael Jackson overcame outrageous hardships to create brilliant music.”

In any case, this isn’t my best blog, in fact I’m not even sure it’s that good. But I’m a little pissed that people can’t separate themselves enough to look at the exquisite talent of a man who shaped a section of the art & music world forever, not to mention a guy who definitely changed my life and that of many people in my generation.

Michael Jackson was integral to my development. As I sit here on my living room floor and MTV rattles on about Sheryl Crow’s quotes and JC Chasez’s dancing experiences with Michael, I have to think about how many offices were pumping MJ today and how his sales are gonna go up and how many people are gonna dust off that VHS copy of Thriller tonight. And I hope that maybe, just maybe, some people can be like me tonight & revisit the songs and items that they thought were simply nostalgia, and find that, perhaps, they are quite a bit more. I thank Jackson for that. I thank him for letting me be able to see him have that amazing physicality and be part of a generation where that was part of our culture, in a sense. Thriller was our album, and Michael Jackson was, without question, one of our cultural icons, like it or not. And of course I have to thank him for introducing me to horror film stuff at a young age…

So, with that, I bid you adieu. I think I’m overwhelmed by all this right now. I planned on this being much better written, but I hope that maybe the dancing that is in the clips I have provided above might be enough to make you consider the way that you consider Michael Jackson, on the whole. I’m not certain that I actually believe all the allegations against him anyways. But who knows. Not sure if it matters anymore.

So talk to me. What do you think?