Emma Cowing: Not a god, nor a king, just a sad, weird man

DID YOU watch the conclusion of the Jackson trial on Monday evening? Personally I kept flipping between the verdict, which was being broadcast live on Sky News, and a Channel 4 documentary about a hippo being eaten, although after a while it was difficult to differentiate between the two.

If you did however, you will have watched a jury in Los Angeles unanimously convict Dr Conrad Murray of involuntary manslaughter. And a moment later you will have heard the strangled cries of a woman screaming out when the guilty verdict was delivered. The woman was LaToya Jackson, sister of Michael, and perhaps one of the most vocal members of the Jackson clan. Leaving the courtroom shortly afterwards she wiped away tears and told the assembled press corps: “Thank you America, thank you everyone. Everybody was wonderful. Michael loves everybody. He was in that courtroom with us – that’s why justice was served.”

I’ve never quite known what to make of LaToya Jackson. This is, after all, a woman who once dressed up as Tommy Sheridan and stomped about the Big Brother house calling everyone “brother and sister” in the worst Scottish accent known to man. Drama queen doesn’t even begin to cover it. Since the death of her brother in June 2009, she has become an impassioned campaigner against Dr Murray, as well as a vocal presence in perpetuating the memory of her brother “the king”.

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Of all Jackson’s women – the handful of females he allowed to get close to him during his life – LaToya is the one who mythologises him the most. She speaks of him as if he were a deity, a being to be worshipped rather than a flawed, sad and seemingly lonely man.

Jackson’s mother Katherine, on the other hand, now 81 and finding herself, at a time in life when she could reasonably expect to be taking it a little easier, raising Jackson’s children, Prince, Paris and “Blanket”, appears somewhat more practical. Since taking over custody of the trio, she has installed them in a mainstream school rather than educating them at home in isolation, got rid of those ridiculous veils Jackson made them wear in public, and done her best to turn them into grounded young people with some idea of what real life entails.

The trial of Dr Murray has exposed a number of unpalatable truths about Jackson and the strange world he inhabited. His enormous prescription drug habit; his tendency to refer to his drugs as “milk”; his fragile mental state and inability to sleep for any amount of time. His death itself, not to mention his child molestation trial before it, also helped lift the lid on a man with deep psychological issues who lived in a weird fantasy world.

And yet despite the evidence that has now surfaced on multiple occasions, the Jackson myth persists. That he was a God. A King. An untouchable being who could do no wrong. That somehow his music, and the fact that he could bust a few moves on the dance floor, made it OK that he was a warped individual with some deeply suspect views on life. Backing up LaToya in this view was the group of pitiful protesters who gathered outside Murray’s trial each day, their blinkered view epitomised by posters describing Murray as a “murderer” and Jackson as a “hero”. Neither is true.

But of all the Jackson women – and there are others, such as his sister Janet – it is his daughter Paris who I fear for. Now aged 13 and heartbreakingly beautiful, she has a difficult path ahead as she attempts to differentiate fact from fiction in her own father’s life, while attempting to make her own way in the world.

Latest reports say that Debbie Rowe, Jackson’s wife and believed to be the mother of both Prince and Paris, has had regular supervised visits with her children and is said to be building a relationship with them, no mean feat given that she had been banished from their lives.

With the trial over and the hoopla dying away, let’s hope that Jackson – the man and the myth, can finally be laid to rest.