What's Next In Jackson Saga?

The court clerk had barely finished rattling off "not guilty" verdicts in Michael Jackson's child molestation trial when speculation turned to what the pop star's next move might be.

The stunning acquittal on all counts means that the pop star is free to try to rebuild his blighted musical career, but his legal victory came at a terrible price to his image.

Jackson biographer and CBS Consultant J. Randy Taraborelli said on CBS News' The Early Show that the first question is whether Jackson has the energy to try a comeback.

"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," Taraborelli told Early Show co-anchor Russ Mitchell

According to his family, a weary Jackson's first step was going straight to bed after he arrived at Neverland after the verdict was read. The entertainer, who appeared exhausted as he shuffled out of court, is "trying to get back his strength," said his father, Joe Jackson.

"He has to spend some time healing," said Jackson's attorney, Thomas Mesereau Jr., on The Early Show. "You know, it's taken a toll on him. He's had trouble sleeping and eating, but he is looking forward to the future."

"I'd like to think that after some time away, Michael can come back and be, you know, maybe not what he was in the past, but at least some version of a future Michael Jackson," said Taraborelli.

"I've seen Michael come into this courtroom every day in worse shape than the day before. It's hard to imagine him moonwalking right now when he can hardly walk," Taraborelli added.

However, Anthony DeCurtis of "Rolling Stone" magazine also notes that even before the trial, Jackson's career was in a kind of free fall and that those issues remain.

"I think that for him to come up with the energy to reenergize his career, it will be very, very difficult," DeCurtis said on The Early Show. "Essentially his audience is confounded by him."

"Michael has been stuck with this "Thriller" fixation," DeCurtis added. "He will have to do something pretty substantially different to generate attention."

CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reports that Jackson does plan to take some time to recuperate with his family. But eventually his famous brothers would like him to join them in a worldwide victory tour to celebrate his acquittal.

Taraborelli said that he thinks a tour with his family would be a good idea because it would let him slip into the background a bit and not be as visible as he's been.

"I think that a tour with the brothers would take the emphasis off of Michael Jackson, put it back on the group," he said.

CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod reports that Jackson is about to test the limits of the theory that everyone's supposed to get a second act in American life.

"Child molestation is just the harshest thing one can be accused of," public relations specialist Ronn Torrosian said. Torrosian's PR firm represents stars like P. Diddy and Mary K. Blige, who've needed his skills after brushes with the law.

Torrosian told Axelrod he thinks there can be no second act. "The Michael Jackson brand is effectively dead."


However, some note that Jackson's career has been declared dead before.

When his success as a child wunderkind fronting The Jackson Five was waning, some doubted whether he could make it as an adult star and were proven wrong. And when he had hits again with his brothers as part of The Jacksons, others questioned whether he could become a solo success — and they were wrong.

After Jackson became one of the most popular entertainers in history — and saw his image tarnished by a 1993 allegation of child molestation — many doubted that he would have a No. 1 hit again. But he did.

However, the public hasn't concentrated on Jackson as a musical figure for a long time. His last album, a greatest hits project, was released the day of his arrest on child molestation charges in 2003. For the past year and a half, news around Jackson has centered on allegations of sex with children, giving them alcohol, and other questionable behavior at Neverland Ranch.

"He can have success," said Antonio "L.A" Reid, chairman and CEO of Island Def Jam. "I would say that he has to just make great music and concentrate on nothing else but making great music and making great live performances."

Yet, there is a considerable "ick" factor when it comes to Michael Jackson. Though acquitted of child molestation, most people have been repulsed by his admission to sleeping in the same bed with children, even if it was non-sexual. He also carries plenty of baggage given his eccentric behavior over the years and plastic surgery that has reduced him to a disturbing visual image.

But negative publicity — no matter how unseemly — doesn't necessarily mean the end of a career anymore.

"I think that his acquittal will be enormously helpful to his career. Now he has the David and Goliath (parallel) on his side," said Paul Levinson, Chairman of Media and Communications at Fordham University. "He stood up to the government... He proved almost all the pundits wrong."

However, his career will be not the only problem on Jackson's plate in the future. He faces financial problems and possibly a civil trial from accuser and his family.

Mesereau said he hasn't talked much about the future with Jackson.

"We really didn't talk much about the trial at all yesterday," he said. "But if somebody takes a civil case and tries to go for it, we'll defend and they'll lose again."

DeCurtis also notes that Jackson has many assets, including his own songs and rights to the Beatles collection, and that this verdict will help him solve some of those money issues.

"The fact that he was so clearly exonerated I think really helps him, as far as people wanting to restructure his debt," DeCurtis said.

"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," Taraborelli said.