This is Getting Ghoulish (Michael Jackson)

By Jack Engelhard


Jonas Salk was never mourned like this – and he cured the world of polio.


No disrespect to Michael Jackson the pop star, pay him whatever tributes you wish, but I wonder how many other Jacksons live and die good ordinary lives and yet we do not call out their names. I wonder how many Michael Jacksons there are in our military, in harms way right this minute in Iraq and Afghanistan, who serve without recognition.


This wall to wall coverage, these mobs grieving over an entertainer, all of it, in such excess, approaches ghoulishness. The last time this happened was when silent screen idol Valentino died young and, as H.L. Mencken tells it, Valentino was startled by his fame and uncomfortable in his skin as a sex symbol — so surely he would have been horrified by the multitudes who grieved his death.


Obviously many of us lead lives of “quiet desperation” (Thoreau), so we live vicariously, through the lives of others, mostly entertainers and athletes. Nathanael West covered this in his Hollywood novel “The Day of the Locust,” about those lonely people who have turned fetish in their adoration of celebrities, alive or dead. Their sorrow becomes dangerous when it marches as a mob.