February 03, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Jermaine Jackson's 'You are Not Alone' , Part 1

Since Michael Jackson's death, opportunists have been flocking out of 
the woodworks in a steady stream. The Jackson family, friends, associates and hired-help alike are rummaging through their dusty basements in search of finding anything that the Gloved One may have touched, looked at or even breathed on.

Gluttonous charlatans professing exclusive access to the man behind the mask race to publishers—all citing noble intentions.

Michael Jackson’s death was one cloud with a silver lining for Jermaine Jackson. “
You are Not Alone Michael” his book is titled. Jermaine waited until his brother died to tell him that he is not alone. Michael Jackson was very much alone. He lived & died alone.

Unconvincing Family Act

The Jackson Family is a very dysfunctional Family—to say the least—which should be their private issue but they have aired their private issues voluntarily for so long — often in exchange for monetary gain — that they have foreclosed on their right to be dysfunctional in the privacy of their home. But beyond their dysfunction—to which, over time, we got used to—what’s utterly maddening is the unconvincing tight-knit Family act and the constant accusations of outsiders for their woes!

The Family’s lame excuses as to why they weren’t included in Michael’s life vary.

Sometimes they cite Michael’s busy schedule yet Michael was never busy for the people
he wanted in his life. Jermaine wrote in his book that “Michael didn’t carry a cell phone” but this wasn’t an issue with the people Michael wanted in his life. Chandler Family, Robson Family, Malnik Family, Cascio Family, Arvizo Family, Bhatti Family and other honorary families were part of Michael’s life irrespective of his busy schedule or chaotic life. Michael befriended surrogate families to fill the void in his life in the shape of a Family that he never had. Michael had people he grew up with under the same roof, people who leaned on him to a degree of burden but he didn't have a Family to lean on.

Other times, the Jacksons reason they were blocked out of Michael’s life unbeknownst to Michael by his handlers. Since the 1980s, the Jacksons blamed Bill Bray, Frank Dileo, John Branca, Evvy Tavasci, Bob Jones, Grace Rwaramba, Raymone Bain, Tohme Tohme and ever-changing security staff for deliberately alienating them out of Michael’s life. Yet when the handlers advised Michael against befriending youngsters, Michael told them to beat it. The Jacksons weren't included in Michael's life because Michael didn't want to include them in his life. Notice that throughout his life, the handlers around Mr. Jackson changes but the exclusion of the Jackson Family out of Mr. Jackson's life remains constant.

Michael Jackson wasn’t built to face his family—or anyone, for that purpose—to personally inform them that they weren’t welcome into his life. Michael wasn't confrontational. Instead, he delegated his staff to do HIS bidding.His staff was always instructed to keep the Jacksons at a comfortable distance.

Jermaine wrote “between our last tour ending in Dec 1984 and 1992, the family saw Michael sporadically, say three to four times a year in those eight years. His move to the Santa Ynez Valley only made matters worse: We grew used to this foreigner called distance moving between us and making itself at home.” (Page 279)

Michael moved out of the Family’s Encino Home in 1988. Even when he resided under the same roof, “this foreigner called distance” was ever-present between Michael and his Family. This is the period Michael felt so lonely that he literally asked strangers on the street to be his friend. For those times, Jermaine cites “artistic need for space.” If Michael needed space then why would he ask strangers for camaraderie?

It is always some lame excuse to explain away why the self professed tight-knit Family wasn’t in fact tight-knit with Michael Jackson. It is exasperating to watch them either feign ignorance about Michael's detachment or to blame outsiders for it.

There were various reasons why Mr. Jackson had to disconnect with his family. Chief among them was that the Jackson Family viewed Michael Jackson as a human commodity—they still do. Every time a Jackson reached out to Michael, it was to ask something of him. Receiving the same treatment from his own family as he did from outsiders who always regarded him as a human commodity deeply saddened Michael. 

In a world in which the details of his private life garnered lucrative going rate, his Family was a liability for Michael Jackson. He felt that some Family members were selling stories to tabloids—and they were—stipulating anonymity. He was also paranoid that they would write tell-alls. Practically strangers to Michael Jackson, Jermaine and Latoya filled books with what little they were privy to. Can you fathom the contents of their books if they were privy to more?

But nothing was more emotionally taxing to Michael than being coerced into business endeavors. This started in 1977 and it continued until he died. Right before he died, the Jacksons were in the process of coercing Michael into a Family Reunion show in Texas. 

Michael met his parents at Beverly Hills Hotel on March 15, 2009 to tell them one last time that he won't perform with his brothers. Starting February 2009, his parents were coercing Michael into performing with his brothers in Texas. Katherine and Joe very well knew of Michael's declining health and his obligation to perform 50 shows at London. Katherine even expressed concern that Michael isn't healthy to do 50 shows. Instead of getting him help, Katherine and Joe who made their entire living on Michael's back were busy putting on more burden on their son's shoulders. 

Even after Michael moved out of the Family home, the one person he welcomed into his life—Katherine—abused her influence over Michael by cajoling him to perform with his siblings. Michael’s star shone so bright that Papa Greed and Mama Greed sacrificed Michael’s wants & needs for the greater good of the struggling siblings and their own. Michael was already taking care of his Family out of the goodness of his heart but he resented that the Jackson Family felt entitled and expected him to always give them handouts because, as Jermaine pointed out repeatedly, dammit, they contributed to Michael’s success and it’s their God given right to reap its benefits—whether Michael Jackson liked it or not!

Book Description

Jermaine promises the reader all access into “the private Michael Jackson”.

The problem with this promise is two-fold:
(1) Jermaine doesn’t know “the private Michael Jackson”
(2) ALL Michael Jackson wanted was his privacy!

The book is described: “Jermaine knows the real Michael. In this raw, honest and poignant account, he reveals Michael the private person, not Michael the King of Pop.”

The book description continues: “he provides a rare glimpse into the complex heart, mind, and soul of a brilliant but sometimes troubled entertainer.”

The next paragraph goes “You Are Not Alone is the book for anyone trying to make sense of the artist whose death was so premature.”

Is this book about “Michael the private person” or “Michael the King of Pop”?

Identity Crises

The identity conflict of Jermaine’s book is dual: class and content.

On the back of the book, it is classified as “biography & autobiography” yet it is advertised as a “tribute memoir.” The content of the tome only adds to the confusion. Whilst Jermaine conveniently skips monumental events of his life for this book to be an autobiography, he includes trivial events from his life with no value to a tribute memoir.

The book suffers from a chronic identity crisis—accurately reflecting Jermaine’s duplicity. 

Before & After ‘Word to the Badd’

Jermaine tried to publish an autobiography in 2001 with ghost-writer Stacy Brown.

January 9, 2003- Jermaine Jackson is a guest on Larry King Live

Larry King: Are you working on a book?

Jermaine Jackson: Yes. ‘Legacy: Surviving the Best and Worst.’ Meeting with publishers seeing can we go that extra mile. Seeing who's willing to support a book tour worldwide and things like that. It's about growing up growing up in Gary and our childhood and things that...

Jermaine was turned down by publishers because the book didn’t have dirt in it so he fixed this marketing hiccup by adding scandalous dirt about Michael Jackson. Jermaine’s first literary attempt to ride on Michael’s coattails came to a screeching halt when Michael found out about it. Jermaine assigned the blame squarely on his ghost writer—the same cowardly route he now takes, blaming LA Reid & Babyface for ‘Word to the Badd’. Although Jermaine Jackson’s first book—titled Legacy—was aborted before it saw the daylight, he retained the manuscript and the interview tapes where Stacy Brown interviewed Jermaine for the book. 

Margaret Maldonado—Jermaine’s then live in girlfriend and mother of his 2 children—
is the brains behind 1992 TV Program “the Jacksons: an American Dream” for which the Family members gave intimate interviews to be used for the script. Jermaine was the producer of the program and he has, under his hands, transcripts of these interviews.

Due to these two resources, in the first segment of Jermaine’s book—which is until
‘Word to the Badd’ era—the narrative of events is intimate and rather detailed.

The early years of the Jacksons that Jermaine admits to not recalling comes mainly from Katherine, Joe and Randy Taraborrelli’s books—only embellished and rephrased.

Chapter 16 onward—post ‘Word to the Badd era—Jermaine had to improvise since he was no longer included in Michael’s life and couldn’t tell-all based on personal experience. He had to rely on people like Karen Faye, Harrison Funk and Bob Livingstone to fill in the blanks. It is evident that he also relied immensely on books by others—Michael, Katherine, Joe, Randy Taraborelli, Aphrodite Jones etc—on selected subjects. Steve Dennis appears to have relied on Internet regarding Mr. Jackson’s business affairs, love life and events surrounding his death. So much is pilfered from other resources but presented as personal experiences that the reader comes to question the source of particular information.

Style & Content

The “tribute memoir” doesn’t have a dedication page; it wasn’t dedicated to Michael Jackson or his children. At the end of the book, in “acknowledgments” section, Jermaine acknowledges his own children but NONE of Michael Jackson’s children.

The narrative wasn’t visually descriptive. Even in the beginning segment with the first-hand account of events, the narrative doesn’t give the reader visceral depiction. Although I am not a supporter of Frank Cascio or Latoya Jackson books—because Michael’s private life should remain private—the penmanship of these books is such that the reader becomes a fly on the wall and sees the story. I read Jermaine’s story but I did not see it.

A good writer captures the reader’s attention from the get-go and sustains it till the end. I found Jermaine’s book to be painfully dull. It is rather a book for the fans than for the general public. You have to be an ardent Michael Jackson fan to want to plough through it in pursuit of finding diamond in the rough. I confess that I couldn’t even read this book in the traditional sense—from start to finish—I had to leaf through the pages.

If you are a gullible type, you may buy into seemingly "good" things written about Michael, when in fact, Jermaine is underhandedly taking jabs at his dead brother. 

The editing was poorly done; too many spelling and grammar errors—unforgivable for a book of this magnitude. Latoya’s boyfriend and ghost writer—JeffrĂ© Phillips—isn’t even a writer and there isn’t one spelling error in her book. One of the misspellings—Prologue xii & Page 296—was Katherine’s name—as in the author’s own mother. I will provide a detailed list of mistakes in Part 2

I found the use of most quotation marks extremely annoying and unnecessary. I am not referring to direct quotes from people. Single words not attributed to any people/source were in quotation marks—why? I couldn’t tell you. There was not a single source quote so even if a quote was meant to be attributed to a source, we have no way of knowing.

Throughout the book, Steve Dennis critiques Randy Taraborelli’s research skills when the ghost writer seemingly relied on Randy Taraborelli’s book which has a whole chapter—28 pages, to be exact—devoted to source quotes. In comparison, Jermaine Jackson’s book has NO source quote whatsoever. 


Jermaine didn’t even care about this book enough to go through his own album for never seen before pictures of Michael or the two of them together. I have seen more intimate pictures of Michael with his fans than a handful of pictures of him with Jermaine from select Tours light years ago. These pictures come from the “memory room” at the family’s Hayvenhurst home— Michael had adorned the walls and ceilings of two adjoining rooms with the pictures. If you carefully look at the photo in which the brothers meet Queen Elizabeth, you will notice a light socket.

The pictures from the 2005 Trial were unwarranted in a tribute memoir—as was the topic. Jermaine wearing Michael’s sequined Glove at the memorial was the zenith of his career.
I am surprised that picture merely made it to the back cover and not the front.

Gossip and wild interpretation

Jermaine writes “the guesswork about his health summed up the theme of Michael’s life: gossip and wild interpretation warped the true picture. People point to a particular photograph taken in July 2008 of my brother being pushed in a wheelchair, with captions “looking frail and in no condition to perform”. That was exactly what Michael wanted the media to write. It was an act. He was aware that everyone doubted he still had it. So imagine—just imagine—if he bounced back and surprised the world. Gotcha.”

To support his ridiculous theory, Jermaine asserts “he never, ever turned out in public unless pristine and immaculately dressed. Yet in Las Vegas that private man chose to go shopping in a wheelchair, wearing pajama bottoms? Remember how mortified he was when forced to show up in court wearing pajamas?”

The picture of Michael in a wheelchair in a so-called tribute memoir was uncalled for.  Jermaine’s speculation regarding the picture is ludicrous. For one, it was NOT atypical—
as Jermaine would have you believe—for Michael to step out in pajamas or in wheelchair.

As for the sighting in wheelchair in July 2008, Michael’s lung and arthritis issues are well documented in his autopsy. He suffered from degenerative osteoarthritis in his spine and his hands. His lung pathology reveals a long list of problems that made it difficult to exert himself physically, thus, causing him to fatigue easily.

Tohme Tohme said “when I first met him in Las Vegas, Michael was secluded and retreating from everybody. It was just him and his kids. He used to use a wheelchair. I said, let’s get rid of this. I wanted people to see him as a healthy human being.”

(1) Michael was using wheelchair before AEG deal was struck. The wheelchair was not some marketing gimmick. Michael had legitimate ailments noted in his autopsy.

(2) When news of Michael’s deteriorating health emerged, Randy Phillips of AEG tried to dispel them. “I would trade my body for his tomorrow. He is in fantastic shape” he said in March 2009. If this was a marketing gimmick to drive ticket sales, Randy Phillips wouldn’t have been hell bent on portraying Michael as healthy. For both the insurance purposes and the ticket sales, it was imperative that Michael appeared healthy and capable.

Jermaine’s argument that the wheelchair was a publicity prop isn't a compelling one. It is confabulated to make it seem AS IF Jermaine is in the know when he was merely an outsider. And it is rich that Jermaine starts his “gossip and wild speculation” by admonishing the media for warping the true picture by “gossip and wild speculation”. Pot, meet kettle.

Whitewashing sinners to be saints

Jermaine used his book as a platform to rewrite history by offering half baked truths &
out-and-out lies. In his version of the history, the villains are acclaimed as heroes. 

Jermaine wrote "Michael never used the word abuse." But he is wrong.

"I would get beat bad, to a point I would say abused." ~Michael Jackson

There is definitely a concerted effort to portray Joe as a non-abusive father yet throughout the book, the author unwittingly reveals instances of abuse. At one point, Jermaine even refers to Joe as a “tyrant.”

To dismiss Michael’s sentiments about his childhood is disrespectful, especially in a “tribute memoir.” Michael’s childhood isn’t Jermaine story to tell. If Jermaine feels that HE didn’t feel abused then he should say so and leave it at that and not speak on behalf of his siblings!

Michael Jackson did a public service by speaking out about the abuse he endured. As private as he was, Michael chose to share with the public about his childhood trauma in order to bring awareness to a problem. He used his misfortune to heal others. In his 2001 Oxford Speech, Michael said “by forgiving our parents, we are not denying that they wronged us. We are not whitewashing their sins or creating saints of sinners.” Whitewashing and creating saints out of sinners is exactly what Jermaine tries to do. This dishonors Michael’s TRUE history. Also saying "my father beat us to motivate us to succeed" sends an irresponsible public message to fathers who wants their children to succeed.

Bashing disguised as defending 

I didn’t expect to read about the unsavory allegations against Michael Jackson in a tribute memoir. Neither did I expect to read about the sensationalized subjects we are accustomed to reading in the tabloids. Not only did Jermaine’s “tribute memoir” went there, he either failed to successfully dispel the rumors or he inflamed the existing rumors.

An anecdote about Michael’s use of hydroquinone *before* he was diagnosed with Vitilago, starts with an idiotic disclaimer “As I write this I am fully aware that this one fact—if taken out of context—is in danger of fanning the myth that Michael bleached his skin.”

The incident where Michael dangled Blanket from the balcony is fanned by this anecdote. “Eventually the media interest is faded and I told him ‘just be happy that the press don’t know how forgetful you are’.” Then Jermaine recounts an occasion when Michael left Hayvenhurst after a visit but forgot Blanket. Then he returns, saying “Oh. I forgot Blanket.” How are these two events related?  How does the forgetting incident relate to the dangling incident? They are NOT! This is only one of the many instances Jermaine underhandedly takes a jab at Michael. The anecdote about Michael forgetting Blanket is meant to supplement the dangling incident to portray Michael as an unfit parent. 

Jermaine then stirs up the talks of Michael’s addiction by detailing his drug use—but the narrative is such that if you are naive, you may think that Jermaine is defending Michael. He goes as far as to state that Michael used Propofol during the HIStory Tour—the same unfounded garbage purged by the tabloids. This allegation comes from a man who stated that he didn’t even know what Propofol was until Michael’s death!!

I have always said that Jermaine is ignorant about the events surrounding 1993 allegations, 2005 Trial and the Conrad Murray Trial. Jermaine's ghost writer Steve Dennis was left to his own device in having to research what Jermaine hasn’t bothered to examine. The lack of knowledge and the inferiority of the research by the ghost writer is glaringly evident. 

Jermaine’s book was rushed deliberately to debut concurrent with the Conrad Murray Trial—to use the media frenzy as an advertising tool. Throughout the many interviews Jermaine granted after Michel’s death, he kept saying that he couldn’t say much and that it would all come out in the Conrad Murray Trial. He could’ve waited until after the Trial to include what came out in the Trial. You have a book prompted by Michael’s death but the book includes so little about the events surrounding his death. Fans who turn to this book for inside information will be disappointed. Most of everything in the book is stuff you can google.

“I Need My Privacy…Get Away From Me”

Michael Jackson regarded his public image as an extension of his artistic image, thus, he wanted to command the same meticulous control over his public image as he did with his music. He was arguably the most famous in the world. At Thriller’s heights, the control over his public image got a life of its own; Michael had a little say, if any, about the 'Wacko Jacko' persona the world was creating for him.

Michael offered to pay for Latoya Jackson and Randy Taraborelli books not to publish—albeit the aforementioned books didn’t have damaging information in them about him. It is safe to presume that what disturbed him was his private life marketed as a product. His scandal-free autobiography centers around his music. And he vetted Katherine’s book which centers around the Jackson Five’s life and music. Pause to take notice that NONE of the Jackson siblings or those he considered his friend published a book while Michael was alive. 

The price of fame can be a heavy one. Consider that you really have no privacy. I’ve been accused of being obsessed with my privacy and it’s true that I am. If you were to ask me why I wear sunglasses as often as I do, I’d tell you, it’s a way of concealing just a bit of myself. There is so little privacy in my life that concealing a little bit of me is a way to give myself a break from all that. I like my privacy." ~Michael Jackson

The line between the artist and the man is blurred with Michael Jackson. His megastardom was a double edged sword. Because of his success, he is known around the globe; because of his fame, the public feels they are entitled to pry into his private life. And a greedy coterie of Family and friends are happy to grant access for a fee—knowing that they wouldn’t have revealed what they are now revealing if Michael was alive because he would have considered it a betrayal and swiftly severed ties.

By all means, write about the artist and his spell bounding art—he left behind a valued repertoire waiting to be documented but must we know about his pimple bursting ritual, his breakdowns, his drug use, private family matters, and dialogs in confidence? There is NOTHING noble about publicizing them. It serves no purpose other than feeding onto the public obsession about Michael & adding onto the caricature.

By bringing Michael's private life into focus, his art is pushed to the back burner. Between the fake, lackluster songs released with Michael Jackson name and phalanx of tabloid smut disguised as tribute memoirs, the future generations will know him for his “Wacko” persona than for the merits of his unrivaled music, liquid gold dance & altruistic philanthropy.

On the inside jacket of the front cover, Jermaine Jackson wrote “Michael wanted his music to speak for him and transcend all the misconceptions.”

On page 308, Jermaine Jackson wrote “As most people are aware, my brother was eager on preserving his privacy as he was his memories.”

On paper, Jermaine Jackson is an artist in his own right yet every time he opens his mouth, it is something about Michael Jackson. Jermaine Jackson, tempting fate, should stop living in Michael Jackson’s shadow and produce something to call his own! This is his first book and it is listed an autobiography. This literary offering would've been a better read if it was indeed an autobiography about Jermaine or if it was indeed a tribute memoir about the Michael's musical and humanitarian legacy.

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