Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

No dirt, just inside story of Jacko's life

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If you're looking for a juicy tabloid version of Michael Jackson's life, this door-stopper isn't it. But if you're looking for an inside story of what made the pop star tick, this could be it.

Untouchable is for people who are interested in the most minute details of Michael Jackson's life, particularly in the few years leading up to his shocking death on June 25, 2009, and the court case that followed (not to mention the previous court cases in regards to accusations of child molestation).

The book is written studiously, like the sum total of a reporter's exhaustive notes or a jazzed-up master's thesis, by Randall Sullivan, who had been a contributing editor for Rolling Stone magazine for more than two decades.

The book is almost 800 pages -- 586 pages of biography, and another 200-plus of timelines and backup sources. It looks as if Sullivan came to the table prepared not to be sued.

Unfortunately, few people other than fans will want to wade through this tome to find out for themselves. The style is not reader-friendly -- it is dense and difficult for even the brightest of readers.

Students taking a course on Jackson's life would need to read it with a yellow highlighter to keep track of all the strands. Untouchable is a detailed study of a very complicated human being's life.

The coverage of what was said in the courtrooms is most fascinating, since readers were not there. The coverage of everything else that happened in the man's life is more familiar, as Jackson's every move outside his hiding places was documented in tabloids and other news media.

The book's title works on many levels. Untouchable is the name given to the lowest castes in India who do the dirtiest jobs and are considered unclean, even toxic, to anyone who comes in contact with them.

They are shunned; upper castes do not even speak to them. Michael Jackson was tainted by scandal from 1993, with the first accusation of child molestation, and the shadow followed him ever after, even after he was acquitted at the second case in 2005.

He was also untouchable by choice, in that he used a high-pitched child's voice and meek appearance in public, and adults (other than a handful of close friends and producers of his music) could not communicate with him.

Finally, he was an extremely lonely boy/man who could trust no one except the children in his life -- his own and others. Sullivan says he was most hunted by his own family, who demanded $500,000 for appearing in the audience at a comeback show and came to his home to demand he sign a contract to that effect.

Jackson hid with his children in a secret room and cried to a friend over the phone about the way his family hurt him the most and how he feared them.

The question of whether Jackson molested any child is not clearly answered by Sullivan, as it was never answered clearly in Jackson's life, or in the courts. If the answer to that mystery is what you're really looking for, then this book will disappoint you.

"Proof beyond a reasonable doubt about what Michael had or had not done would never be possible," Sullivan writes.

"Questions would remain. He didn't have to live with them anymore, but those left behind him did."

If you are a student of pop music culture, or a diehard Michael Jackson fan, this book may hold your interest. But for most people, it will be daunting and over-detailed.


Maureen Scurfield is a Winnipeg columnist and former entertainment writer.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 12, 2013 J9


Updated on Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 1:34 PM CST: adds fact box

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