Jessica, though there were plenty of things to be creeped out by during the Michael Jackson memorial service yesterday, for me Paris Jackson’s short and tearful tribute to her father didn’t number among them. In fact (along with Brooke Shields’ speech and Jermaine Jackson ’s vocally unsure but heartbreaking performance of "Smile"), Paris' appearance struck me as one of the day’s few uncreepy moments. Given that Paris and her brothers have been made to wear Halloween masks in public for most of their lives, I can understand why it might have been meaningful for her to step forward in public with her own face on.
Far ickier was the whitewashing of Jackson family dysfunction in the speech of Al Sharpton (has he ever said anything more demonstrably untrue than "wasn’t nothing strange about your daddy"?) and in that horrid occasional poem by Maya Angelou, read by Queen Latifah. In addition to being just an atrocious piece of doggerel ("now that our bright and shining star could slip away from our fingertips like a puff of summer wind …"), Angelou’s poem was awash in pious falsehoods: "Despite the anguish of life, he was sheathed in mother love and family love …" Obviously a funeral is not the place to probe old wounds, but give me a break. Joe Jackson’s ruthless careerism, and the allegations of abuse leveled by several of his children, are well known, and if Katherine Jackson really let all that happen, she must be a world-class enabler. (Joe’s self-defense is chillingly clueless: "I never beat him … I whipped him with a stick and a belt." ) In the looming custody battle between the Jacksons and her biological mother Debbie Rowe, Paris will need all the poise and courage she showed at the podium yesterday.
Photograph of Al Sharpton by Mario Anzuoni-Pool/Getty Images.