This Friday, the body of Michael Jackson will be on public display at Neverland Ranch in Santa Barbara County, California. Gary, Indiana, would like the body, or would like to be next in line to receive the body. Gary Mayor Rudy Clay thinks the corpse would be a great addition to a mass public memorial to be held on July 10th at the U. S. Steel Yard that is home to the Gary Southshore Railcats.
Gary, one of the most tragically blighted urban areas in the U. S., is Jackson's hometown. Mayor Clay said that he "believed the body would lie in state here." He sounds quite optimistic about Jackson's final tour, yet one wonders if Mayor Clay realizes that Jackson cannot technically lie in state unless Barack Obama designates (strictly, a Capitol Rotunda viewing), because he is not the current President nor was he the former President. But this is a petty semantic quibble and, obviously, the term is elastic when a popular figure of Jackson's fame is the body in question.
Popes lie in state in the Vatican.
Jackson will also not lie in honor, a designation reserved for non-Presidents who are distinguished Americans, unless Congress deems it so. Lying in honor is also conducted at the Rotunda. Rosa Parks lay in honor, as did two Capitol police officers who were killed in the line of duty in 1998.
Jackson can, theoretically, lie in repose, "repose" meaning "death." Anyone dead can and does, although the term as used in the United States is often interchangeable with lying in state.
This is very confusing.
Ronald Reagan made a final lap around the U. S. upon his death, appearing both in California and in Washington. Ronald Reagan, however, wasn't drawn as a cartoon character.
There is a Disney-esque, freak-show vibe surrounding the planned viewings. Jackson in a glass coffin, the glass Prince of American Pop, broken into a million tiny pieces by opiates, an asshole of a father, allegations of molestation, and a secretive, self-protective lifestyle now said to have involved a fake relationship with a chimpanzee. His death has the feeling of a dream sequence done up in gaudy Technicolor: Here lies Tinkerbell.
If we clap long and loud enough, will he awake?
Jackson still had millions of fans, as evinced worldwide by the innumerable makeshift memorials, tear-streaked faces, and panicked "tweets." These were the people--or some of them--who would have clapped for Jackson as, at age 50, he threw himself back onto the concert stage. He would have whipped his 112 pounds around like a dervish, frantically summoning the Big Eighties all over again, that nightmare time of intensely synthesized pop and bad fashion circumstance.
We weren't ever going to get to know Michael Jackson. The man was a recluse, and, in death, has reclaimed the public stage on which he had shortly intended to perform. The fans get their closure even if the performer is inanimate; denied the right to see him sing "Beat It" live, they get to see his body dead.
This type of memorial is in a class of its own, and even more so when you consider that Mayor Clay is jockeying for the remains as if they were something that belonged, de facto, to the City of Gary. It has all the makings of a spectacle (or, more crudely, a clusterfuck) and you can bet that should the spectacle get to Gary that it will be seen as something by which the city is glorified; you can almost feel Mayor Clay at work, writing his tribute speech. Gary also wants the body under home turf and has politely argued for its local burial. There, finally, is the reinvigoration of Gary...as a tourist attraction.
Think about it: Perhaps a theme park could spring up around the gravesite. This is only fitting, since Jackson kitted out his Neverland as an eternal playground. In the center, the body molding à la Lenin. A formal, although whimsical, mausoleum to be etched with bluebirds and happy lyrics from "I Won't Grow Up." Around this edifice, a 24-hour detachment guards against grave robbers (mandatory villains). A whopping 500 acres (bigger than Disneyland!) provide the lucky visitor all manner of attractions and 60 thrill rides. All major international cuisines and crafts are represented at various colorful pavilions. There is a magnificent light show--wait for it--preceded by a montage that projects images of the American flag, Coca-Cola, Kentucky Grilled Chicken and Jackson as Cinderella, the local ragamuffin who made good, very good.
So it isn't the most innovative theme park around. It doesn't have to be. It's in Gary.
It's a sponsor's dream come true. Any suspicion that Jackson might have been guilty of pedophilia will be forgotten when there are millions to be made on branding. Who is going to opt out of that?
There is ample parking for all.
What a happy and unexpected ending. Northwestern Indiana has been hit hard by the economic fallout. Furnaces have been shut down at the steel mills and men who once worked as engineers are now shift janitors. The auto industry is in deep doo-dah, not zippity. All of these good, solid citizens will now have jobs and they won't have to wait for Barack Obama to get them jobs riveting bridges or fiddling about with windmills.
Welcome to Michael-Land!
God Bless the USA!