- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 4, 2004

An X-rated federal investigation is under way to determine the appropriateness of Janet Jackson’s breast before 89 million viewers of the Super Bowl.

America went to a football game and a strip show broke out at halftime.

The breast in question was equipped with a sun-shaped nipple shield that altered the partying mood of a football-mad nation.

Jackson, sister of Wacko Jacko, has apologized for the slip-up that resulted in massive coughing fits, bugged-out eyes and copious amounts of drool among the masses.

Justin Timberlake, who performed the honor of removing part of Jackson’s bustier, chalked it up to a “wardrobe malfunction,” which beats claiming it was a manufacturer’s error. It almost sounds as if Timberlake forgot to put the bustier through a 60,000-mile checkup.

“Hey, man, we love giving you all something to talk about,” Timberlake said on “Access Hollywood.”

We love it, too, behind our sense of shock and outrage.

The number-crunching Nielsen folks could not have been happier, assuming word of Jackson’s breast contributed to the increase of viewers in the fourth quarter.

Seriously, Jackson is a gifted artist who let a good concept get out of Timberlake’s hand.

Their timing was impeccable, unintentional or not.

Jackson’s breast tumbled into view just as Timberlake was singing, “I’m gonna have you naked by the end of this song.”

That was everyone’s cue to press their faces even tighter against the boob tube.

The NFL is not treating Jackson’s breast lightly.

Yet this is not to suggest the NFL is mistreating it in any fashion.

Paul Tagliabue, head of the breast police, says, “We will change our policies.”

Tagliabue believes there is a time and place for a breast, even two breasts, just not at halftime of the biggest game of the year.

President George Bush claimed he went to sleep before the display.

That is almost as good as: “The dog ate my homework.”

Jackson’s breast goes down as one of those searing images forever burned in America. That quality must run in the family, considering the eerie facade of Wacko Jacko, who celebrates Halloween on a daily basis.

The latest cheesy attempt of a Hollywood type to create buzz confirms it is no easy assignment in these enlightened times.

Nothing much shocks an audience these days, certainly not the swiveling of hips that once jarred in the initial days of Elvis.

Britney Spears and Madonna, in a passing of the vamp torch, set tongues wagging after locking lips during the MTV Awards last August, a maneuver that would have prompted a yawn if undertaken by Jackson and Timberlake.

The NFL probably is expressing more dismay with Jackson’s breast than necessary.

The NFL managed to reach the entertainment nirvana of sex, beer commercials and Adam Vinatieri’s game-deciding, 41-yard field goal with four seconds left.

MTV, producer of the halftime show, was the first to be trotted out to take the fall, as if the NFL was unaware of the channel’s tendency to be over the top.

“Unrehearsed, unplanned, completely unintentional,” MTV says.

Jackson and Timberlake have hardly run from what they consider a burst of creativity. The blame or credit is not as important as the quantity of the reaction. The latter is what pushes their next ventures.

Jackson, no amateur to baring herself, claims the stunt was a last-second idea that went too far.

Michael Powell, the Federal Communication Commission chief, counted up the apologies of Jackson, Timberlake, CBS, MTV and NFL and recognized it as the first step in the cleansing process.

“I’m glad everybody is sorry,” he says. “I’m sorry, too. It was a sorry incident.”

Sorry as it was, there was a certain symmetry to it after the NFL opened its season with the bellybutton-obsessed Spears in Washington, D.C.

Skin always sells, the line increasingly negotiable.

By her account, almost by conditioned response, Jackson felt compelled to go up to the line following the last rehearsal.

America knows what happened next.

There was a “wardrobe malfunction” of some kind, a blown gasket in the bustier or something, and Jackson was way over the line, looking like the loneliest person in America.

A sad, lonely picture of confusion who never saw it coming.

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