- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Michael Jackson fatigue has set in among Americans inundated with titillating media coverage of the pop star’s celebrated life and unexpected death almost three weeks ago.

The singer himself is not annoying the public. It’s the invasive press.

Two-thirds of the nation think Mr. Jackson will be remembered for his music rather than his assorted legal travails. But 70 percent faulted the ongoing media coverage of his demise, according to a Rasmussen Reports survey released Tuesday.

Seven out of 10 deemed the coverage — which included death photos, conspiracy theories and handwringing — “too much.” Just 2 percent of the 1,000 respondents said press reaction was appropriate and less than a quarter said it was “about right.”

But certain cultural dynamics are also at work.

The famous dead have a morbid cachet that fascinates the public, which is willing to pay for it. Elvis Presley, for example, earned $54 million last year, according to Forbes magazine — eclipsing a very much alive Madonna, who earned $40 million. Mr. Presley tops the current list of “Top Earning Dead Celebrities,” according to the publication.

Mr. Jackson is also famous in death.

Sales of his music soared; 800,000 albums sold on the day he was laid to rest and his music collections occupied eight of the top 10 slots on Billboard’s charts until this week. Mr. Jackson’s “likability” rating is predicted to rapidly rise from a previous “very low nine” on a 100-point scale, according to Q Scores Co., a New York-based marketing company that tracks public reaction to celebrities.

“Based on the results weve seen for famous musical personalities whose talents overshadowed their sullied personal lives prior to their deaths, such as Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, we expect to see significant improvement in Michael Jacksons consumer appeal in death. This should result in a brighter future for his marketability,” spokesman Henry Schafer said.

Mr. Jackson went from come-back hopeful to legend with a legacy — hailed by serious arts critics, politicians, the famous and infamous. Arty analysts pointed to the tragic irony of his end. He died like “a pauper,” noted one British newspaper, with an empty belly and overwhelming money troubles.

The King of Pop also remains unburied. His body remained in a private crypt at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills area only for a few hours before it was moved over the weekend to an undisclosed location at the facility for security reasons.

Worldwide, 1 billion people tuned in to collectively mourn for Mr. Jackson during his funeral last week — including 31 million in the U.S., according to Nielsen Media Research. Jackson coverage bested news of the economy, President Obama and the resignation of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, according to the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism.

“His death has resulted in us ignoring most of the world for the past couple of weeks,” said talk-radio host Randi Rhodes.

Those weary of Jackson mania should brace themselves, meanwhile. Spin-offs have only just begun.

Already, two Jackson siblings are considering major book offers. The family itself hopes to stage a reunion concert in London on Aug. 29, which would have been Mr. Jackson 51st birthday.

“What we’re thinking about is one massive tribute that’s broadcast around the globe,” Randy Phillips of AEG, a British production company, told reporters Tuesday.

A Jackson family reality show is also in the works at the A&E cable network, gleaned from several months worth of unrelated video footage. MJJ Productions, Mr. Jackson’s personal production company, will have a Michael Jackson theme game in stores by Christmas.

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