I hope that Michael Jackson will find the peace that so eluded him in life, but so far his mortal remains have spent more time commuting on Southern California’s freeways than communing in the afterlife. Yesterday he fought heavy traffic to travel from a morning family meeting at Forest Lawn to a mid-day gathering with a few close friends at Staples Center. Assuming Jacko didn’t slip off for dinner in Hollywood before heading back to Forest Lawn, he still spent more time on the road than the average Los Angeleno spends in two days commuting.
I can’t help but wonder if Jackson’s recent commuter history foreshadows his future. The bean counters picking over his financial remains tell us that Jackson is even more valuable in death than when he was alive. Jackson’s soul is freed from his mortal coil, and now beyond the reach of his quirky spendthrift whims, Jackson’s vast assets are being marshaled by professional managers bent on monetizing memories of the Gloved One into the biggest entertainment gold mine since Elvis.
Turning Neverland Ranch into a Jacksonian Graceland cash machine was an obvious part of the plan, but the ranch’s geographic undesirability makes this option unlikely in the extreme. It now is rumored that Jackson will find his final rest at Forest Lawn, LA’s celestial suburb housing Hollywood’s dead from Gene Autry to Liberace and Ozzie and Harriet Nelson.
But Forest Lawn is no Graceland. It is the ultimate gated California community, famous for obsessively protecting the privacy of its slumbering residents. Should Jackson find his final rest there, the only way tourists will be able to visit is via Google Earth. This might please the famously reclusive Jackson, but he is no longer calling the shots. After yesterday’s memorial extravaganza, I suspect that the estate has no plans to put Jackson to his final rest any time soon. There is just too much cold cash in that cold corpse to lower it into the ground just yet.
I see more freeways in Jackson’s future. Noting the sell-out crowd at the Staples Center, the obvious Hollywood gambit would be to produce “Michael’s Memorial, the series!” Load Jacko’s casket in an 18-wheeler and take the show on the road, visiting grief-stricken fans across America. Bringing the masses to Graceland is so 20th Century! Now Neverland can travel to the faithful in a stadium near you, accompanied by convoys of Rolls Royces, Range Rovers and attending newscopters.
Jackson may yet be laid to rest in California’s soil, but there would be something fitting, and oh so Los Angeles, if Jacko’s remains passed on to a commuter afterlife. Imagine a whole new kind of celebrity burial, a moving mausoleum, an internal combustion Lenin’s Tomb cruising the Interstate like some nightmare version of a Winnebago retiree caravan. Jackson’s mother has publicly worried that if her son’s funeral were delayed for long, his soul might end up wandering the earth, as lost in death as he was lost in life. Here’s hoping she gets her wish, not for fear his soul will wander but because it might get stuck in LA’s freeway traffic jam for all eternity.