For months, the Michael Jackson trial has fed the late night comedy shows with opening lines for the monologues. With the verdict came the last laugh, maybe.
"The verdict is in," David Letterman said Monday night to his audience. "Michael Jackson is not guilty. Not guilty. However, his plastic surgeon, guilty on all counts."
But now, after months of mockery like this, can the king of pop come back to the stage?
Jackson biographer and CBS News consultant Randy Taraborrelli tells The Early Show he is afraid Jackson has been beaten up so much that he may not even have the desire to perform again.
The author of "Michael Jackson: The Magic and the Madness" says, "I was watching him yesterday and wondering whether all this litigation has extinguished that fire in his belly that he's always had for performing, for being an artist. I'd like to think that after some time away, Michael can come back and be, maybe not what he was in the past, but at least some version of a future Michael Jackson. Certainly, overseas he still has great potential. He has a great audience. In this country, he needs to take some time away before he can come back with any kind of music."
And even before the trial, his career was not in wonderful shape. He has been trying to make a successful comeback for close to 25 years, says Rolling Stone contributing editor Anthony DeCurtis.
"Michael has been stuck with this 'Thriller' fixation," DeCurtis says. "There's been so much concentration on this trial, understandably. But even before that, Michael's career was in a kind of free fall. Those issues remain. I think that for him to come up with the energy to re-energize his career, it will be very, very difficult – essentially his audience is confounded by him."
The good news is that his fans have remained loyal. Us Weekly magazine editor Katrina Szish says people who have been touched by his music range in ages from 13 to 60. And in Europe in particular, he has kept a strong following.
Taraborrelli believes it would be good for Jackson to go on tour with his brothers overseas and perhaps even in this country.
"I think that a tour with the brothers would take the emphasis off of Michael Jackson, put it back on the group," Taraborrelli says. "It has been about 25 years since the Jacksons have toured together. The brothers have been here every day in one form or the other. Even some of the sisters have been here. It will be fascinating to see the family back together again. It will take the focus off of Michael Jackson. He needs to slip into the background a little bit and not be as visible as he's been. The scandal here from Santa Maria is so great, it has tarnished his legacy. We think of him now as sort of this freak show. And it's so unfortunate because this man is so important to our culture."
Szish, however, believes it would be best for Jackson to take a hiatus and re-evaluate his life.
She says, "I think Michael needs to take this as a wake-up call and take some time off. He needs to lay low for a while. He can't come exploding back on the scene, trying to make another hit album, because people will say this guy is not taking those serious allegations seriously enough. He needs to use this time, try to get his personal life back on track. That's only when he will be ready and strong enough to come back on the music scene."
In term of his finances, if he were to liquidate everything, DeCurtis says Jackson probably would have more than $250 million in the bank, and would not need to work. And having been exonerated, probably there are many who would like to help him restructure his debt and go into business with him.
He says, "Michael is not untouchable anymore. But he still has great assets. His own songs are assets. The Beatles songs are important assets."
But going away to Paris to make money, for example, would not be the answer, Szish says. "I wouldn't advise him right now to do anything but take a break. And sure, when he is ready, feeling strong enough. When he has gotten his own affairs together, sure, start in Europe. I don't think he should do that now because it might seem like he's running away from his American fans, and he is just looking for a quick way to make money. He has to reinvent himself as a stronger Michael Jackson. We need to see more of the enthusiasm and the energy that we knew him as having."
As for Jackson going to Vegas, Taraborrelli says it is very hard for him to even imagine it.
"He's not a Vegas act. He's not a lounge singer. He's a pop phenomenon, " Taraborrelli says. "I'm just really curious to see if Michael Jackson has it in him, because this has been devastating out here. I've seen Michael come into this courtroom every day in worse shape than the day before. It's hard to imagine him moon walking right now when he can hardly walk. I hope he pulls it together. There are a lot of fans who are interested and curious. They'd be fascinated to see what his next step is."
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