On the red carpet at the BET Awards, as CNN’s Don Lemon interviewed him, Joe Jackson was contemptuous and put-off, willing to give only terse, perfunctory answers to complicated questions. Jackson, resembling a baked potato in a pair of cheap sunglasses, came off more as a gold miner eager to stake a claim than the grieving father of his world-famous son.
I have friends who have lost parakeets, dogs, guinea pigs and wino uncles, and they’ve spent more time in mourning than Michael Jackson's father. I've been more distraught over bad sushi. He struck me as someone with a hurried agenda—in a hurry to cash a check—more than a man who has lost a son. What kind of grieving father pulls in publicists to give a statement about their grief, or a lawyer/yes-man, or some kind of micro-pimp huckster in a wide-brimmed hat to talk up some bootleg Blu-ray disk scheme?
At the BET Awards, Joe Jackson seemed far less interested in his son’s legacy, the lingering questions surrounding his death and the children he left behind. Instead, he took the opportunity to try to market some new brand of pop-music smack on the world. It was a bad look.
Later Jackson held a press conference—with Rev. Al Sharpton at his side—to offer some clarification on his red carpet demeanor. The press conference stank like cheap cigars and old malt liquor. It seems that he just wanted people to know that he and the family name will go on. But who needs spin at a time like this? I can’t think of anyone less qualified than Sharpton to be a Jackson family representative. Maybe bin Laden? Mike Tyson?
The Jackson family circus doesn’t need any more attractions right now. Sharpton’s appearance stokes the media madness and taints the solemnity of the moment. At the press conference, Jackson also talked about how he and his wife were taking responsibility for MJ’s children, but the couple have been estranged for years—they live in separate homes. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but in my way of thinking, they probably aren’t the ideal couple to take on the responsibility of raising young children.
It’s notable that only Katherine Jackson has been granted temporary custody. He recently joined the petition, but all of it is quite sketchy.
In so many ways, there seems to be two Joe Jacksons. Rock-and-roll folklore gives us the portrait of the hard-working, blue-collar dad who looked into the eyes of his children and saw the flame that became The Jackson 5 and the force that was his uber-talented son, Michael. Then there is the other Joe Jackson, the one Michael remembered as hard-driving and abusive, the taskmaster hanging his dreams on the backs of his boys. The other Jackson children tell similar stories about their dad “motivating” them to perform with emotional and physical abuse.
So what will Joe do for his granchildren? “We gonna take care of them and give them the education they supposed to have,” he said at his press conference. The idea of this man trying to grandfather children who are probably already traumatized is, as Sharpton might say, "troubling" at best.
Under no circumstance should Joe Jackson be involved in raising these kids. We know how that turns out. And at 79, Katherine Jackson is not the ideal person to take custody of the children either. It may be time for mother Debbie Rowe to re-assume a role in her children’s life; there is too much at stake. I don’t know what kind of woman sells her children, but I feel better about her parenting skills than the Jacksons'.
But it’s one of those choices between the evil you know versus the one you don’t. Someone needs to protect these children, and I don’t think Joe Jackson is cut out for that. I don’t doubt that Joe Jackson loved his son. But I doubt he is the best person to tend to his legacy.
Jimi Izrael's blog on The Root is The Hardline.
Read Martin Johnson's piece on the album that saved pop music.
Read Teresa Wiltz's article on how the press covered Michael Jackson.
Single Father, Author, Screenwriter, Award-Winning Journalist, NPR Moderator, Lecturer and College Professor. Habitual Line-Stepper