Many believe settlement works in Jackson's favor

January 26, 1994|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

Now that the Michael Jackson child molestation civil suit has been settled without any admission of guilt on Jackson's part, will the singer finally be able to put this nastiness behind him and get on with his career?

That certainly seems to be what the Jackson camp is hoping. A statement issued yesterday by his lawyers, Johnnie Cochran and Howard Weitzman, insisted that "The resolution of this case is in no way an admission of guilt by Michael Jackson." It added that the singer "is an innocent man who does not intend to have his career and his life destroyed by rumors and innuendo."

Many industry observers agree that the settlement is definitely to Jackson's advantage.

"He's still a viable act," says Rolling Stone senior features editor Anthony DeCurtis. "There's still an audience there for him, and barring the possibility of a criminal proceeding -- which now seems unlikely -- he will have a career."

DeCurtis adds that the cash settlement will probably work to Jackson's advantage, since it does cast doubt on the motives of the 14-year-old boy whose parents brought the suit.

"If somebody really molested your child, would you take a cash settlement?" he asks. "Wouldn't you want to follow through on bringing this person to justice, if only to prevent some future occurrence of this kind of thing?

"I think that this suggests the possibility that these people were interested in the money."

"It makes the kid look bad," agrees rock critic Robert Christgau, a senior editor at The Village Voice. "It makes him look bad to me, and I basically thought his story was credible. This makes it substantially less credible in my opinion."

"I suppose that some cynics will say that it proves that, in the United States, everything's for sale," says Bill Flanagan, editor of Musician magazine. "But some other cynics might say that this whole thing might only have been about money in the first place, and that if big money were not an issue, no one ever would have made the allegations against Jackson."

In any event, it does seem likely that the pop star's career will suffer on some fronts.

"I suspect that his career as Michael Jordan is over," says Christgau, referring to Jackson's status as a celebrity pitchman. For example, the singer's endorsement deal with Pepsi, which dated back to 1983, ended shortly after he canceled his most recent tour, and there has been no sign that the company is interested in renewing the relationship.

"There may even be no more tour sponsorships," adds DeCurtis. "And probably no more highly visible events involving children."

As for his popularity with the music-buying public, Jackson has been in decline ever since his 1982 release, "Thriller," became the biggest-selling album in history. "Dangerous," his most recent album, did sell well internationally, but it was considered a commercial disappointment in the U.S.

Nonetheless, Jackson maintains a large and loyal following, and Flanagan believes that his overall popularity will be unaffected by the settlement. "People who like Michael Jackson's music will continue to like it, and they can choose to believe that he was horribly wronged and slandered," he says. "People who want to believe otherwise about him will believe it no matter what."

On the other hand, says Christgau, Jackson "was viewed as a weirdo before, and he's certain to be viewed as much more of a weirdo now. Given his talent, one wishes that his psyche would be in better shape. But at the fannish distance that I'm happy to maintain from him, he does seem to be the rock and roll version of E.T."

If nothing else, though, the end of this court case means that the publiclikely will be spared additional evidence of Jackson's weirdness.

"Like every parent whose kids love Michael Jackson, I'm very, very glad that I don't have to turn on the TV every night and see some court TV film of Michael Jackson being asked all these horribly embarrassing questions," says Flanagan. "I'm glad for my kids that this thing is going away."

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