Okay, so Michael Jackson is dead. I believe you, already. When Elvis died in 1977 I heard a good line from a friend who was still attending the school which I had recently left. A teacher, who was renowned for his vicious humour, had called my friend's class to order and announced in a mock-solemn tone: "Elvis Presley has died...and now we are all going to go through Purgatory."
Nor was he wrong. And after the post-mortem eruption of Elvis-mania he stayed at a higher level of public profile than he had experienced before death. The impersonators came out in their white jumpsuits and the legend of his non-death began. I can't remember how soon the Elvis sightings began after his death (alright, alleged death - you happy now?) but I do recollect that they coincided in their early phase with the reports of a character called "Lizard Man". In the 70s all sorts of weird apparitions were being reported from the southern USA and this reptilian pedestrian was seen promenading along several highways. (This isn't the more recent Lizard Man of the late 80s, this is an earlier Lizard Man.) Elvis and Lizard man were reported (probably not by a person expecting to be believed) to be walking along the roadside together on one occasion.
I doubt that Michael Jackson will generate a resurrection mythology, although it was suggested by the rumour-mill that his death would prove to be a publicity stunt for his tour. It's a conspiracy which would require so many conspirators by now that the idea is untenable. If he did leap from the coffin at the wake, (singing "Thriller" of course) he'd probably regret it. The suckers would not be happy, to say the least.
Way back when he really was revered a commentator said that he feared that one day Jackson would "awake to a terrible silence". Well, that never happened. When his music faded the scandals and weirdness kept him in the public eye. Now that he is safely dead the reconstruction of his legacy is being pushed along. I heard a speech being made by someone over the radio who was insisting; "He belonged to us - this blaaack maaan!!! We shared him with everybody else." The audience shrieked their approval.
This is really the limit; if Jackson is famous for anything it is the renunciation of his racial identity by mutilation and poisoning of his body. Elvis also carved out a niche in history for his self-destructive behaviour. The Channel 10 TV network has recently been using the excruciating Elvis movies as a filler before their Sunday evening news and I was amazed to see Elvis looking healthy and slim in a 1968 production. I hadn't realised how quickly he had gone downhill and I'm curious about how recently before his death he had become the bloated, dissipated mess of 1977.
I didn't feel devastated when either of them died. I was very sad when Pavarotti went and gutted by the demise of Steve Irwin...but Elvis and Michael didn't bring me grief when they left us. I wondered what I really thought of either of them and concluded that my response was simply pity. All that money, all that hullabaloo and a miserable untimely death. Both had obviously been surrounded by a coterie of people who said "yes" to them. What a powerful and poisonous evil sycophancy is.