Is he still the king?

Michael Jackson rehearses for his This Is It tour, which became the highest-grossing concert film of all time after his death.

Handout photo

Michael Jackson rehearses for his This Is It tour, which became the highest-grossing concert film of all time after his death.

LOS ANGELES — The private world of Michael Jackson, fiercely shielded by the superstar in life, was exposed in the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray. But rather than suffering harm from revelations of drug use, experts say Jackson's legacy and posthumous earning power will survive any damage done and could actually grow after he was portrayed as a victim of a money-hungry doctor.

Jackson died before he could launch a series of highly anticipated comeback concerts in London as he tried to regain the towering status he enjoyed when he released the Thriller album in 1982.

But his death did breathe new life into record sales and boosted other projects to generate hundreds of millions of dollars for his estate, even as his already tarnished personal life took another hit by revelations about his drug use.

A Cirque du Soleil extravaganza, "Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour" opened in Las Vegas over the weekend, a precursor to a permanent installation at the Mandalay Bay Hotel, and fans are expected to flock there for a "Fan Fest" exhibit of Jackson memorabilia.

After the trial, a judge made it clear that the defense effort to cast Jackson as the villain in the case had been a miserable failure. Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, called a reckless opportunist and sentenced to the maximum four years in prison.

Judge Michael Pastor also blasted Murray for experimenting on the pop star with the operating-room anesthetic propofol to help him battle debilitating insomnia, even though the drug was never meant to be used in a private home.

Some experts say the revelations made the King of Pop look more like a regular person coping with a difficult challenge.

"In the final analysis, not a lot of damage was done," Jackson biographer J. Randy Taraborelli said. "I think the trial humanized Michael Jackson. It presented him as a human being with problems."

Taraborelli said the entertainer's family, fans and estate executors were concerned before the trial that testimony would paint Jackson as responsible for his own death while resurrecting past accusations of child molestation and bizarre behavior by the King of Pop.

But the judge limited testimony and evidence to Jackson's final months and specifically ruled out any mention of the 2005 molestation trial.

Thomas Mesereau Jr., the attorney who won Jackson's acquittal in that case, believes the Murray trial did damage Jackson's reputation but said the impact would likely be short term.

"It certainly didn't help to have all this testimony about drug use," Mesereau said. "But as time passes, people will focus more on his music and the negatives will fade."

A leading expert on the licensing and branding of dead celebrities believes the trial engendered so much sympathy for Jackson that in the long run it will eclipse negative fallout from his past.

"I don't think any tawdry revelations that may have come out of the trial will have any impact on his lasting legacy," said Martin Cribbs, who is based in New York. "We as a society tend to give everyone a second chance. Michael's legacy will be like Elvis and the Beatles. It will be his music, his genius and his charitable works."

Is he still the king? 12/05/11 [Last modified: Monday, December 5, 2011 9:49pm]

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...