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Janet Jackson and the Frog: Has our culture gone iredeemably to pot, or can we jump for our lives?

Peggy Noonan

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On Saturday night Sept. 8, 2001, I did something unusual. I went to Madison Square Garden to watch the taping of a Michael Jackson special that was soon to be aired on CBS. A friend had come to town with tickets and we decided to meet for dinner and go together. We thought it would be fun because we thought it would be strange.

We had no idea.

The special was aimed at celebrating Michael Jackson's career. He was newly under the heavy cloud of scandal, and his advisors had cooked up a new story--a reunion of the Jackson family--to replace the scandal story.

Thousands of young people showed up, and some people who were not so young. Top tickets went for thousands of dollars. Michael Jackson, dressed in his black glitter suit, came out and danced with his brothers and sang and grabbed his crotch. The crowd screamed and cheered. Liz Taylor came out in a stiff gown, looking like a statue in Madame Tussaud's that had been designed to retain water. She sat silently in a sort of little balcony overseeing the action, saying nothing but waving like the queen mother. Marlon Brando too was a guest star. He sat at the center of the stage with a mike in his hand and spoke for about 10 minutes in a kind of deranged if harmless free association. People booed. They couldn't tell what he was saying, but they didn't spend this kind of money to see a fat man in a chair say things that might be serious. Liza Minnelli came out and did a number that was either an homage to or a wan imitation of her mother. And then Witney Houston came out.

This part you may remember, for photos of her made their way across the newspapers of the world. She was emaciated, like a person in a terrible famine. Just a few years before she had been America's sweetheart, singing with perfect poise and pitch. Now there were repeated reports in the tabloids of drug abuse, and her appearance seemed to buttress them. "Skeletonism," I said to my friend. "I think it's a disease now. You get famous and then turn into a skeleton."

Read the entire article on the Wall Street Opinion Journal website.

Posted: 1/7/04



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