There's no telling the characteristics around these parts

MIKE LITTWIN

November 19, 1993|By MIKE LITTWIN

Talk about irony. It's national geography awareness week, and nobody can locate the most famous person in the world.

I'm referring to Michael Jackson, of course.

He should be easy to find. I don't mean because Liz Taylor -- who was recently spotted by the Hubble telescope -- is always standing beside him, either.

It's because of the, uh, "telling characteristic."

The "telling characteristic" (A mole? A tattoo? A Jackson Pollock print?) is the talk of the legal/gossip/medical community.

As you must have heard, Michael faces a warrant for a strip-search if and when he returns to the United States. The 13-year-old boy who has accused Jackson of sexually molesting him has apparently given police what is being called a detailed description of Michael's genitalia, including the so-called "telling characteristic" (which looks, in profile, exactly like Ross Perot?).

This is an extremely disturbing, not to mention undignified, trend that may make "Court TV" a ratings sensation. The way it works these days, you basically can't solve a case without resorting to a strip-search.

If you'll recall, that's how they nailed Joey Buttafuoco. One minute, Amy Fisher is saying Pal Joey has a mole on his inner thigh, and the next he's confessing to everything except the Lindbergh kidnapping.

Now, how much do they have to pay a guy before he agrees to strip-search Joey Buttafuoco? I don't know about you, but I generally make it a rule not to be within 50 miles of Joey's inner thigh.

With Michael, of course, it would be different. You could sell tickets to that strip-search.

A picture of Michael's alleged "telling characteristic" (his plastic surgeon's phone number?) would go for millions. It would be the most valuable picture since Princess Di was caught, on camera, sweating in a health club.

(By the way, the Princess Di picture is one more telling argument against exercise. Can you afford to have a picture of yourself in a leotard splashed worldwide? I know I couldn't. I may occasionally wear a leotard in the privacy of my own home, but where would I be if everyone saw it?)

Actually, the tabloids have abandoned Di for Michael. One of the British tabloids recently featured this headline: "Jack-o Is a Junkie."

The headline referred, of course, to Michael's assertion that he is hooked on painkillers. Though it's true that in America, and probably wherever Michael is hiding, a man is innocent until proven guilty, you start to wonder once the drug-abuse revelation kicks in.

If strip-search is the new prosecutorial weapon, then drug/alcohol/sex addiction is the new defense.

We can still remember, I think, Senator Packwood. As soon as it hit the papers that dozens of women were accusing him of sexual harassment, Packwood checked into an alcohol rehab unit. It turns out he was addicted either to booze or to Love Potion Number 9.

Michael's case is a bit more complex. He got hooked on painkillers, he says, after plastic surgery (this much we can believe), in this case to repair burn scars on his scalp. He needed scalp surgery because his hair caught on fire while doing a Pepsi commercial, uh huh.

And now, Pepsi drops him. Is there any justice?

Anyway, Michael's people say he has checked into a clinic because he is "barely able to function adequately on an intellectual level." Are you going to argue with that? I don't think so.

The skeptics say Michael quit his tour because it was going to Puerto Rico, where he could be served the search warrant. They say he's hiding somewhere in Europe, where he might be hanging out with Roman Polanski.

Those defending Michael say the entire matter is merely an extortion attempt. And, besides, didn't you catch Monday's "Geraldo," on which there was a mock trial of Jackson? It doesn't matter, apparently, that Michael hasn't actually been charged with any crime. It especially doesn't matter since the "Geraldo" jury acquitted Michael.

Of course, this was before the "telling characteristic" (the lyrics to "Ben"?) came to light.

It turns out, though, that according to one police source, the "telling characteristic" is nothing more than skin discoloration. You don't have to strip-search Michael to know that much.

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