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A Recap Of The Rock n Roll Hall Of…

Yesterday I went to the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame & Museum in Cleveland.  If you have not gone I strongly recommend it.  Perhaps if your favorite team is playing the Cavaliers, Indians or Browns one day/weekend build a trip around that, but the museum was awesome.  It is also geared as an all day experience (I spent about 5 hours there, which is a record for me at a non-school trip museum visit).  It was also relatively empty, which made for a pleasant visit (but it was weird watching all of the various movies and exhibits in empty theaters, except for the 45 minute recap montage of all the inductees – that was too amazing to feel weird in solitude).

And there is a special Bruce Springsteen exhibit on the top floor featuring tons of memorabilia.  Most interesting, at least from my perspective, was seeing items from the late 60s when he was promoting shows with handmade signs  saying “Come see The Bruce Springsteen Band – $3.”  With today’s technology, any as-hole (this as-hole included) can make impressive looking promo materials, but it must be especially gratifying for Springsteen to be able to see exactly how far he has come in every way.

I also had a black light with me to scan the exhibit for any body fluids of my housemates from Williams College.  Nothing was found, but the exhibit is supposed to be there through 2010.  Now I will give you a detailed recap of my favorite things in the museum, in case you never make it to Cleveland.

Best Hall of Fame Classes (in my opinion)

1) Gold Medal – 1989 – Rolling Stones, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding, Phil Spector (for producer and street cred).  This must have been an absolutely incredible induction ceremony.

2) Silver Medal – 1988 – The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Supremes, Bob Dylan, Les Paul.  Many would claim that this has to be number one, but I like the Stones way more than the Beatles, The Temptations win the Motown battle with The Supremes.  I do like the Beach Boys a lot, but they are cancelled out by Dylan’s mumbling. I did learn a lot about Les Paul at the Museum – they have a great exhibit dedicated to his evolution towards the electric guitar.  It was just great to learn about the guy who invented my Guitar Hero guitar.

3) Bronze Medal – 2001 – Michael Jackson, Queen, Aerosmith, Paul Simon.  MJ is like the LeBron James of the Hall of Fame classes – he could not have the supporting casts of the earlier classes (though Queen and Aerosmith are definitely better than the musical equivalents of Mo Williams and Anderson Verajao), but he alone makes this one of the greats.

4) To Be Determined – 2012.  This is when Guns N Roses is eligible and if the Hall of Fame can get them to reunite then all bets are off. (I was happy to see Welcome to the Jungle as one of the 500 songs that defined Rock according to the Hall of Fame).

5) Honorable Mention – 1999 – Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen.  No need to argue the better 70s/80s/90s singer-song writer when they are both on the bill.

Most Awkward Hall Of Fame Moments

1) 1992 induction of Ike and Tina Turner.  Nothing else needs to be said.

2) 2004 Induction of George Harrison as a solo artist.  Not sure he merited it, but it was the Hall of Fame’s way of telling Ringo Starr, “We really think you are the useless member of the Beatles, which is why the rest of them have been inducted twice.”

3) There is an exhibit of a photographer who has captured major musical moments at Madison Square Garden.  The last two photos in the exhibit are from a 2008 Holiday Concert.  The top photo is of Rihanna.  The bottom photo is of Chris Brown.  Did the Hall of Fame not hear about them or did they figure leave it – perhaps we’ll induct them together in 20 years.

4) 1998 Induction of the Mamas and the Papas.  Did nobody think it weird when one of the inductees was grinding his daughter on the dance floor?

Other than personal goals in comedy and seeing a Utah Jazz title, seeing a reunited GNR in concert would top my list of things I want to see

5) 1997 Induction of the Bee Gees.  Have you ever looked at the 4 Gibb brothers?  Clearly Mom fu-ked someone else when she had the ugly twins.  Andy, who died young, looked like a more handsome Heath Ledger and Barry Gibb looked like him.  The twins looked like anorexic Paul Giamattis.  But I will cut them slack since one of them passed on and their music was excellent.

Members That I think Are Overrated

1) Elvis Costello – don’t get him, don’t care for him

2) The Police – Every Breath You Take – great.  The rest of their songs – repetitive and annoying. 

Other Thoughts/Observations from the Hall of Fame

  • Based on sheer volume how is Phil Collins not in the Hall of Fame – he seems to meet their criteria.  Then I saw Genesis on the 2010 list of inductees.
  • Frank Zappa – has a musician ever looked more like a porn star?
  • No one has ever rocked a beard better than Marvin Gaye. Except maybe for early 90s Tom Cruise.
  • I used to not get why David Bowie got so much respect in the music world (you mean the guy from Labyrinth that slept with Mick Jagger?).  I wonder no longer – that guy’s catalogue is pretty sick.  And so diverse.  He’s like a whiter, more feminine Prince, but 10-15 years earlier.
  • Tom Petty has the deepest speaking voice and the whiniest singing voice.
  • Even though I usually roll my eyes at “spiritual” people (they generally believe enough to make themselves seem worldly, but really just hate judgment), Jim Morrison seemed pretty cool, at least the way they write him up.  Val Kilmer was a good choice to play him, but if Will Ferrell got in shape when he was younger and wore his Chazz Michael Michaels hair from Blades of Glory I think he could have pulled it off.

 See what I mean?

  • Good God a lot of rock stars died early.  How are Motley Crue and the Rolling Stones still alive given all the drug and plane crash deaths that seem to strike musicians.
  • I don’t want to meet James Hetfield of Metallica. TO me he seems like he’s 7’0″ tall and 350 lbs.  He looks like a monster bad ass on stage and it would be disappointing to stand next to him and dwarf him.
  • Steve Winwood was a member of Traffic, who got inducted in 2004.  Between his solo work, The Spencer Davis Group and Traffic this guy is like the Robert Horry of music.  Good work Steve.

Ok, that is it for the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame & Museum.  Now tonight it’s off to see LeBron in person (19 rows from the court).  And then it’s a good thing shows start up again at the Cleveland Improv tomorrow night because I think I will be out of activities to do in Cleveland.

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The Top Ten Movies of 2009 (and the decade)

I thought this year was a really good year for movies, despite the garbage that was listed on this site yesterday.  Before getting to the top 10 movies of 2009 (and the decade) here are some special (mostly positive) awards for movies in 2009.

SPECIAL AWARDS

Most Surprisingly Good Movies (in no particular order)

1) This Is it– Thoroughly enjoyed the concert (rehearsal) documentary about Michael Jackson.  Great music and a worthy tribute to the fallen icon and aficionado of play dates with tweens.

2) Taken– The Liam Neeson film is a perfect example of how a movie that has no ambition, only one star and a simple plot can still deliver if it just tries to do the simple things well.  And the scene where he shoots his friend’s wife to show that he means business was one of the best this year.

3) Crank 2– Either the most ingenious quasi-spoof of action movies ever or just a ridiculously entertaining goof.  Either way I had no idea that I would enjoy this movie as much as I did.  It now validates Jason Statham’s work visa to me, though his films have only grossed slightly more than my YouTube videos.

4) Drag Me To Hell – This Movie almost made the top 10.  Funny, creepy, gross, and all on purpose.  A good, but not great movie.  However, there were very few movies I enjoyed more than this one.

Take My Wife, please.
Take My Wife, please.

The Any Given Sunday Award For Most Disappointing Movie Based On Awesome Trailer

Watchmen.  Blue genitals and a waste of time is all I remember from this movie.  The trailer, however, was perfection.

The Two Towers Award For Great Trailer That Delivered Great Movie

Nothing.  But The Men Who Stare At Goats was my favorite trailer of the year and the movie was solid, but still did not meet expectations. 

2009 Honorable Mention (A/K/A The Unpaid Guestspot of Movie Awards)

Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Two Lovers, Food Inc., State of Play

2009 Top Ten Movies

10) (tie) Sugar, The Messenger

Sugar is the story of a Dominican immigrant seeking to become a baseball star.  Came out early this year to rave reviews, but has long been forgotten.  Anyone who is a baseball fan or interested in the immigrant experience should see this.  Or just hang out by Yankee Stadium.

The Messenger is the best war movie this year.  It is about two soldiers who report to next of kin of the loss of loved ones.  The things people do for work in this economy.  Really strong and simple movie.

9)Capitalism: A Love Story. 

This movie is a reminder that America used to be a place where a middle class person could thrive (middle class meaning one blue collar job with could salary and benefits, not $5 million dollars or less like John McCain seemed to think).  Now thanks to a selfish, never too rich mindset the wealth is more concentrated at the top than ever before.  Sadly for working Americans and Michael Moore, America is one big casino and the house always wins.

Michael Moore was right America - these guys are stealing your pensions, your country and your daughters - actually if you live In NYC you know that the daughters are mostly willing participants in the, "profiting off the misery of most Americans is such a turn on" industry, like less forthright versions of Ashley Dupre
Michael Moore was right America - these guys are stealing your pensions, your country and your daughters - actually if you live In NYC you know that the daughters are mostly willing participants in the, "profiting off the misery of most Americans is such a turn on" industry, like less forthright versions of Ashley Dupre

8) 500 Days of Summer

The fact that Music and Lyrics was my favorite romantic comedy before this movie came out (yes I have seen Love Actually, but have not seen When Harry Met Sally yet – gasp!) may diminish my credibility in this genre,  but I am probably not the only person telling you how great this movie is.  Funny, heartfelt and thoroughly enjoyable.  And the lesson of the film couldn’t be more optimistic: if you find yourself in a relationship with a cu-t, don’t worry because eventually you may go out with Derek Jeter’s girlfriend.

7) Bruno

The selection most likely to anger people.  First, yes I thought it was funnier than Borat.  Second, the best opening of any film since The Dark Knight.  As the techno music began blaring and the words “black guys” and “taint” flashed on screen I could not stop laughing.  For many the film was too crude.  Other complaints I heard was that Borat had a point in showing some ignorance in funny ways, whereas this just went for cheap laughs.  Probably true.  Perhaps it was easier to embrace a character who was exposing racism and sexism and, most flagrantly, anti-Semitism in Borat and feel good about laughing than in Bruno, where you are just laughing at the absurdity of a gay character’s libido on steroids.  My advice to the self-righteous – take the champagne bottle out of your ass and watch Bruno pour some champagne out of his boyfriend’s.

"Throw your shoulders back, this is a fashion show, not a slave auction!"
"Throw your shoulders back, this is a fashion show, not a slave auction!"

6) Precious Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire

Fat, pregnant by her father (again – fool me once shame on him, fool you twice… shame on him again in this rare exception to that saying), illiterate and Mariah Carey as your social worker.  And I thought being a comedian was tough.  This movie is a powerhouse and Mo’nique’s performance is one of my three favorite this year (Christopher Waltz in Inglorious Basterds and Paul Rudd in I Love You Man being the other two).  And I would like this movie to win Best Adapted Screenplay so that Sapphire, who probably negotiated the self-indulgent title has to hear the dumbest phrase ever uttered at an awards show: The winner is Precious Based on The Novel Push By Sapphire Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire.

You look like my career.
You look like my career.

5) Up

The opening to this movie may be the most touching sequence in movies this year.  It is just another great movie from Pixar.  Normally stories of old men hanging out with young fat kids is awkward (think Herbert the Pervert and Chris Griffin from Family Guy as one such pairing), but this movie is nothing of the sort.  Plus it has a talking golden retriever, which will always get support from me.

This is not the plot of Up, but I bet even Pixar could make it work.  MMMMMMMMMM
This is not the plot of Up, but I bet even Pixar could make it work. MMMMMMMMMM

4) Inglorious Basterds

Christopher Waltz was amazing, but surprising to me was how good Brad Pitt was.  A funny, intense, enjoyable movie about Nazis and the Jews that hunted them.  It was also a welcome relief from the usual parade of mediocre, maudlin films about the Holocaust that are raised to critical praise because of the subject matter.  After Schindler’s List I think Hollywood could have just waited for this one .  After all slavery has had what, Roots and Amistad?  I think 6 Holocaust movies come out last year alone.  But I digress.  Basterds is awesome (and my favorite Tarantino film – that is what I think, but I am also writing it because I want to anger those who worship at the altar of Pulp Fiction).

3) Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs

Even more than Bruno, this choice is likely to bring on some WTFs.  I did not even want to see this movie, but then reviews kept talking about how much fun it was.  The biggest shock of the year for me was this movie.  It was hysterical from start to finish.  It was like the humor of Family Guy, but not as crude or easy.  I flirted with putting this #1, but the last two choices, upon reflection, were the two best movies of the year.

2) Up In The Air

 I am tired of the “this is the movie that defines our times” type quotes, but besides that this is a great movie.  George Clooney’s best (unlike his win for Syriana, no complaints if he gets Best Actor) and a movie that is so good that I cannot exactly explain why it is so good.  Perhaps it is because it is a movie that defines our times… oops.

1) District 9

The most original movie I have seen in a long time.  The biggest crime of the Oscars could be if Avatar gets a best picture nomination and this does not (if they only feel like honoring once sci-fi-ish film).  Since it is #1 I don’t think it needs any explaining, other than the fact that it comes out on DVD today so you should rent it if you have not seen it.

After thinking again about the 4,558 movies I saw this year, District 9 is #1.
After thinking again about the 4,558 movies I saw this year, District 9 is #1.

TOP TEN MOVIES OF THE DECADE

10) School Of Rock – Along with The Wrestler, no movie has matched an actor better this decade than Jack Black and SOR.

9) The Departed – I hate the Boston accent, but that was the only thing I hated about this movie.

8) Eastern Promises– Russian mob in London and the best fight scene in any movie ever.  Sorry Bourne Ultimatum.  You were second.

7) Million Dollar Baby – The only movie that made me cry this decade (joining E.T., Glory and Dead Poets’ Society on the career list).  Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank all at their best.

6) Traffic – A decade later the violence in Mexico is worse and the liberal pot smokers who abhor the violence of war or the treatment of chickens that are not free-range, but still help fund the cartels that propagate massive bloodshed in and around the border.  This movie would go under the category of wake up calls unheeded.  Great movie.

5) Finding Nemo– My favorite movie from the most consistently great movie studio.

4) 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days – I am not a big foreign film guy, but this was so intense and so good I regretted not speaking (Romanian if my recollection is correct) the language because even checking the subtitles was too much attention away from the acting.

3) The Dark Knight – I have never seen a movie in the theaters more than this one.  And it’s not even close.  Die Hard, The Matrix and The Dark Knight are the three films that changed and elevated action movies higher than any others in the last 20 years.  To me, it was even more impressive to take action, the way Christopher Nolan and Heath Ledger did, and turn it into art.

2) The Lord Of The Rings – Because of The Godfather III’s mediocrity this is the greatest trilogy of all time.  Shut up Star Wars people. (and if I had to pick just one – The Two Towers).

1) United 93 – I have only seen two perfect movies in my lifetime.  One was Amadeus, my favorite movie of all time.  The other was United 93.  I am not saying it is my favorite movie of all time; it would be hard to make that claim about a film focused on 9/11.  But the realism, the intensity, the respectful rendering of an incredibly sensitive subject and the overall product was second to none this decade for me.  In a sad way I guess it is fitting that the decade’s defining event yielded the decade’s best movie. Besides, a movie about our collective self-indulgence and self absorption called Twitter v. 3.05 would not be nearly as riveting.

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Weekend Recommendations

Taking a break from what one comic has deemed my “Erin Brockovitch” phase of comedy (the movement to boycott open calls and bringer shows has not gained any traction, but I am sure a Facebook group would gain thousands of apathetic members) I have decided to offer some recommendations to people that waste their time reading this  .

1) Go see This Is It.  if you like great music, concert films, Michael Jackson and/or molesting children all of you can find something enjoyable in this movie.  It really is outstanding and fun. 

A scene from This Is It.
A scene from This Is It.

2) Root for the Yankees.  The Phillies represent a city that could not even medal at the “Best Cities in the Northeast” Olympics.  I can’t wait for the Yankees to buy Cliff Lee.

3) Go get Greg Giraldo’s CD “Midlife Vices.” In the spirit of the forthcoming A Christmas Carol, it is like a look at the Ghost of J-L’s Christmas Future.  It is a powerhouse of comedy.

4) Go see me if you are in Boston.  I am headlining Tommy’s Comedy Lounge Friday at 830 pm and Saturday (Halloween) at 730 pm.  I will be delivering the best sets of my life, which when I find out I can no longer perform at most NY Comedy Clubs I will release the Boston performances on a special DVD entitled “This Is It,” which fans of great comedy, comedy films, J-L Cauvin and molesting children will appreciate.

Have a nice weekend.

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Aging Gracelessly

Brett Favre has become a big joke to many sports fans with his inability to stop playing football and pronounce his name correctly.  This is often the case with great athletes, unable to hang up the cleats or sneakers or skates because their lives have had no other real goal or purpose other than excelling at sports.  But that is excusable in a sense because to attain the level of excellence they have achieved they had to be single minded from a young age and dedicated beyond reason to get where they are.  Sort of like Michael Jackson minus the all the abuse.
Brett Favre warming up for another season.
Brett Favre warming up for another season.

But it seems to me that from Facebook and fantasy sports to Harry Potter and plastic surgery our culture is obsessed with staying in our teens and twenties no matter what.  And to compensate for this, we’ve begun to add the words “classic” and “historic” to things that have not really obtained classic or historic status in any objective sense of the word.  Harry Potter is not a “classic” as is printed on the book covers.  And unlike its true classic predecessors, The Lord of The Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, which have withstood a test of time, Potter has no deeper meaning or societal commentary that is usually necessary for something to gain elevation beyond pop relevance.  But to justify our culture’s unwarranted obsession with things puerile and fleeting we tag them with words like classic so that instead of feeling vapid we feel like part of something important.  And boy do we live in a golden age of importance!

Ipod now refers to the regular iPod as “iPod classic” – how many decades was Coca Cola in business before they threw classic on their beverage.  Watching the E! channel against my will yesterday I heard Ryan Seacrest make a bold proclamation that the cast of Dancing With The Stars this Fall was the largest in the show’s “History! ” It just seemed to cheapen the word History.  I think of History in terms decades and centuries, not in terms of a few television seasons.  To say nothing of the fact that the word “star” is still a misnomer for this show.  

At this age I was already "classic" in today's terms.  As opposed to the bow tie look, which was and is classic in the more traditional sense.
At this age I was already "classic" in today's terms. As opposed to the bow tie look, which was and is classic in the more traditional sense.

Fame has always been fleeting and cheap, but even by that low standard it feels like we are actually living through a time where the value of celebrity is being downgraded.  If he had known what we know now Andy Warhol might have re-stated, everyone will get their 2-3 seasons of fame.  Like the Kardashians. 

But to quote DeNiro from Heat, there is a flip side to this coin.  While older people are trying to resist maturity, their kids, left under the watchful and protective eyes of cell phones and the Internet, are in a hurry to leave childhood.  I watched Big yesterday, the film with Tom Hanks.  And in it he plays a 12 year old boy who likes playing with toys and does not know much about girls, etc.  It was a fun, humorous film and completely unrelatable to kids today.  Nowadays to get a kid to act like that and have the audience believe it, it would have to be a 7 year old, because by 12 Josh Baskins c. 2009 would be sexting on his iPhone and encouraging Elizabeth Perkins to do that thing he saw in a porno. 

Josh Baskin 2009: I want to be big.  Then I want to bang Elizabeth Perkins and put it on YouPorn.
Josh Baskin 2009: I want to be big. Then I want to bang Elizabeth Perkins and put it on YouPorn.

If I were to make a satirical film about the future it would just feature a society filled with people who looked 24 – some would be 13 year olds trying to look and act older, neglecting the fun and innocence of youth; others would be 58 trying through surgery and fashion to look younger and neglecting the wisdom and quality that can come from a long and fulfilling life.  Then there would be a group of 24 year olds going, “What the fu-k is going on?”  And it will star Seth Rogan playing all three since he is the only actor in his 20s who acts like a teenager, but looks much older than he actually is.

Seth Rogan, The Embodiment of America: Act 17, Real Age 47, Claim To Be 27
Seth Rogan, The Embodiment of America: Act 17, Real Age 47, Claim To Be 27

The Empire State Building was built around 80 years ago in 14 months.  I look around Manhattan and see buildings one-fifth the size taking five times as long to build.  Technology serves a legitimate function, but I feel like our culture in general is taking major steps backwards, while the bells and whistles of technology give us the appearance of progress.  As my Uncle is fond of saying, “Don’t confuse movement with action.”  Right now it feels like our culture is making a lot of movement, but not much action. 

Now back to my Nintendo Wii.

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Midwest

“Skinny models you can keep those, I like big corn-fed Midwestern hos” – Kid Rock

This has nothing to do with my most recent trip, but it is my second favorite rap lyric and it is relevant since I just returned from two shows in Columbus, Ohio.  (my favorite rap lyric is a Notorious B.I.G. lyric from the contemporary classic “Big Booty Hos” – “Biggie bang bitches from bar-b-ques to bar mitzvahs” … Interesting bar mitzvah, “hey what’s Estelle doing over there with the 300 pound cock-eyed hip hopper?”

Anyway I digress.

I returned today from Columbus, Ohio (the C-Bus as my law school classmate told me it was referred to) from two kick ass shows at the Columbus Funny Bone.  Having been in a long distance relationship involving C-Bus for 3 years I am very familiar with the Easton Shopping Mall (30 screen theater and a rumored target of terrorists, conveniently right before the 2004 Presidential Election – because the terrorists hate movies and jail bait teenagers) where the club is located.

Well two and a half years ago I went to the club and had a very mediocre set.  Perhaps it was because before my set I went to see Norbit as a way to kill time.  Nothing kills funny like that movie.  This year I went to see Michael Mann’s Public Enemies, a very good movie, which perhaps made the difference.  I had a very strong set on my audition and even made a few fans (including the woman I sat next to on my flight to C-Bus, who brought herself and her mother to the show).  The message: J-L’s Comedy – Fun for the Whole Family.

We love J-L's humor. Good clean family fun.
We love J-L's humor. Good clean family fun.

My set went well (in front of a 96% white crowd) and I got good news from the club manager.  Then he offered me a set on the next show – the urban show.  In comedy parlance urban is a club’s tactful way of saying Black and Latino people will find this show on average more to their liking.  Without hesitating I told the manager yes (when a comedy manager asks you if you want to do a set at his club you say yes, says Winston Zeddmore).  Then I thought through my routine and realized most of my jokes should work for most crowds.  However two of the crowds they don’t work on are conservative, low third of the IQ scale whites and Mike Epps fan blacks.  And having just performed for some of the former I was afraid my bad streak might continue with the latter.

When a club owner asks you if you want to do a spot you say YES!
When a club owner asks you if you want to do a spot you say YES!

They began the urban show with a 5 comic tribute to Michael Jackson, with five black guys doing dance moves, etc. to Jackson 5 tunes.  Then there was a montage of earnest MJ clips and I thought, great now I get to follow that.  But the crowd (96% black) gave me an even better response than the white crowd (perhaps inspired by the death of Michael Jackson they were more open to ignore whiter features in favor of whoever would have been considered black for Jim Crow purposes).  I even got away with my Stevie Wonder-is-the-next-to-go joke.  What I learned is as a half white, half black guy you cannot go wrong talking about Asian and Latin women to a crowd full of black women.  And I think some patrons had religious moments during my Obama impression.  I think if comedy doesn’t stat paying I might be able to be the first impressionist-escort.

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Another Michael Jackson Is Impossible

Muhammad Ali, Barack Obama, The Pope, Michael Jordan, Bill Clinton.  This is the group of people’s whose deaths could rival or exceed Michael Jackson’s in terms of worldwide newsworthiness and cultural impact (and Jordan is very iffy).  That is really it in my opinion.  (And it happened a few hours after I was complaining that Farrah Fawcett’s death, though sad for her family and friends of course, did not warrant huge media attention.  Jackson’s did and does. )  And notice there are no music people on the list.  Sorry Justin Timberlake, Usher, Ne-Yo and any other people who they are already trying to figure out who could take the mantle.  That sounds like a bad joke. 

Talent? Absolutely.  About 25% of MJ combined.
Talent? Absolutely. About 25% of MJ combined.

There is no “next” Michael Jackson.  There are a few reasons for this:

The Cultural Gap

Michael Jackson had an incredible talent and an abusive parent willing to beat it out of him (I had parents willing to do the latter, but quickly persuaded them against hitting me a lot with my “I don’t have much talent” defense).   Acrucible this toxic, but which generates such prodigious, one-of-a-kind genius could never occur in today’s over-exposed culture, where every other as-hole can actually become a star.  He’d either be scooped up by a reality show or taken away from his parents (unlikely if he’s famous since we revel in the exploitation of children every day on shows like Jon and Kate plus 8).  So there’s no sense talking about a “next” MJ because it is not really possible given our cultural landscape of low standards and quick fix need for new celebs.

The Innovation Gap

There is nobody with his talent for innovation in the music business.  His closest musical counterpart is Madonna and she’s not really close.  Today there is more imitation than anything else.  Not to draw a comparison, but that is one of the reasons Adam Lambert was so good on American Idol – he seemed to be somewhat original, but still he lived in the shadow of men like Steven Tyler and Freddie Mercury.  The best analogy I can come up with is sports related. The shadow Michael Jordan cast on basketball is so great that players like Kobe and LeBron are trying to be free of it today and cast their own legacy.  Now imagine Michael Jordan were put in a time machine and played in the 1960s instead of the 1980s and 90s.  Now imagine how much more incredible and awe-inspiring he would have been if he was in that era.  That is what Michael Jackson did for music.  And his breaking of major racial barriers goes without saying.

King of Pop
King of Pop

The Class Gap

As ironic as it may sound Michael Jackson is lucky to have lived until 50 with the media pressure and voyeuristic celebrity hunting that now goes on.  He was fortunate enough to be a fully grown man by the time people were really going psycho for him.  Nowadays with this exponentially growing blood lust we have for celebrities wouldn’t he be more likely to suffer a fate like Britney Spears?  Breaking down right before or after Thriller, thus denying the public of several years of quality music afterwards?  I even like You Rock My World, which he released 19 years after Thriller.

The child molestation charges and odd behavior of Michael Jackson will forever be linked to his legacy.  I have a friend who believes child molesters should be castrated.  I am one of those people that hopes that Michael was just strange and never did anything sexual to the children, but that feels unlikely.  But I look at a guy who was abused by his father, and lived a public life for 40 years that no one besides Obama over the last 2 years can even relate to I think.  I feel bad for him.  People feel bad for victims of abuse when it occurs, but when they turn into monsters themselves, no one cares anymore.  This is not a defense for his actions, if he did abuse children, but just maybe a moment of compassion is warranted, even if you do find him despicable.  When you look at pictures of this cute talented kid and then at the recluse alien he became you have to know this was a deeply troubled person not in full control of what he became – his family exploited him and society smothered him.

So I am happy to own a bunch of Michael Jackson records and in a show of class I only told one Michael Jackson joke (it was the entertainment elephant in the room) last night (at one of the most difficult shows of my career – nothing compared to the massacre at Medgar Evers College a few years ago, but bad):

With Ray Charles, James Brown and Michael Jackson dead I’d be scared sh-tless if I was Stevie Wonder.  If diabetes doesn’t get his chubby ass, then apparently the ghost from Final Destination will.

The good money in your legendary black musical figures death pool.
The good money in your legendary black musical figures death pool.

I will write some funnier stuff on Sunday or Monday about my Florida trip (let’s hope the worst is behind me), but I wanted to write something about the biggest entertainer in the world.   And at least “kids these days” can see that there was something just a tad bigger than The Jonas Brothers and Lady Gaga.  After all, even I had a Michael Jackson figure – I believe it was the Billie Jean one (modeled on the 1983 Motown Special).  Music didn’t just lose a giant.  It lost THE giant.

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Adam Lambert vs. Kris Allen or as Don King…

Last night America added insult to widowery when they voted off the soulful sound of recent widower Dany Gokey.  On pure talent the finals should have been Dany Gokey versus Adam Lambert.  But like many elections, especially those involving reality shows, women flex their pop culture suffrage in greater numbers than men and Gokey could not measure up.  See, Adam Lambert is the talented gay friend that every girl, not from the Bible belt (and maybe secretly in the Bible belt – “Daddy, it ain’t a sin if I just watch him sing his songs!”) wants (think Sex and the City or Rupert Everett) .

Option 1 for ladies - Shopping and Endless Compliments from Adam Lambert
Option 1 for ladies - Shopping and Endless Compliments from Adam Lambert

Kris Allen is the cute boy next door that will sing a girl an acoustic song on a beach somewhere (think Owen Wilson’s take on Hutch in Starsky and Hutch). 

Otion 2 - Kris Allen - Remember The Time I sang to you you ungrateful bit*h!  Why don't you have sex with your best friend - oh that's right - he doesn't want to.
Option 2 - Kris Allen - Remember The Time I sang to you you ungrateful bit*h! Why don't you have sex with your best friend - oh that's right - he doesn't want to.

But what category did Dany Gokey bring to the table – soulful white man on the worst rebound imaginable (think Michael Bolton or C. Thomas Howell for the 20 years in between Soul Man and Southland).  So the women have spoken and they now have to choose between The Birdcage and The Notebook.

It's not going to get any easier Dany.
It's not going to get any easier Dany.

On pure talent, Adam Lambert should run away with it.  His voice is so powerful he basically sounds like he is showing off every time he sings.  Although I think the judges are now under some hypnotic Prince-like spell with Adam where they are incapableof criticizing him, his performances of Mad World and Satisfaction this season have been the two best performances of the season.  But things that are not in his control could hurt him (Katy Perry wearing an “Adam Lambert cape before her performance?).   Sidenote: my tweets during the show got Katy Perry to follow me on Twitter.

But Kris Allen emerged as a contender with his first performance in the Top 13 when he did a great version of Do You Remember The Time by Michael Jackson.   Since then he has been the competition’s John Mayer (minus strange tattoos and complete douche-bagginess) on “Your Body Is A Wonderland” overdrive, with ooooo-ing and ahhh-ing at his awww shucks charm (which does seem genuine).   Two things may hurt him.  One is that he does not have the pure talent and showmanship of Lambert and two is that he is from what I have heard is that he is a married Christian, which will lose him the vote of physicists and alternative NYC comedians.

So who will win?  It should be Lambert and I think it will be.   If he does win I hope his album is some sort of melding of Sebastian Bach and Freddie Mercury and not some trite pop, which would not really fit him anyway. 

My two funniest moments from last night’s show:

  1. A female fan in San Diego rushing Adam Lambert while removing her shirt – either she was from a Bible-based re-orientation program or she got some very bad information.
  2. The Real Sex moment.  Seeing Jordin Sparks looking quite nice singing her song and then flashingback to Adam and Kris was the equivalent of Real Sex on HBO when one minute it is the “Female Porn Stars HavingLesbian Encounters” segment followed quickly and inappropriately by “Old Men Masturbating” segment.  Not cool American Idol.