Facebook statuses are being constantly updated, people are Twitter-ing furiously, left, right and centre, messageboards are flooded -- the Internet is jammed with the outpouring of news and grief now that Michael Jackson [ Images ] is dead.
But what of the time when he was alive?
Child molester. Freak. Delusional loon. Unfit parent.
So we have a short memory, do we?
Nothing new there. The world has a penchant for crucifying the famous and then elevating them to demi-God status when their lives are tragically cut short.
From child star to international celebrity, the cameras tracked Michael Jackson's moves from the time he was 5 years old. It's hardly any wonder then, that he wasn't quite 'normal' in any sense of the word.
From a handsome young popstar in his 20s, he metamorphosed into an eccentric recluse by the time he was 35. He was painfully shy, soft-spoken, cosmetic surgery nearly took his nose off and his rich chocolate complexion faded to an uneasy pale -- he said it was a skin condition, we speculated that it was the result of skin-whitening treatments.
There were rumours that his hair was fake, that he was deranged, that his kids were not really his and that they were in unsafe hands, that he was a paedophile. Two high-profile child molestation cases were registered against him in 1993 and 2004 and many predicted that his career was finished. 'Innocent until proven guilty'? Nope. He was a celebrity. Guilty as charged.
Then there was the Living With Michael documentary (2003) by Martin Bashir that stirred up a hornet's nest. The British television reporter lived and travelled with the pop star over the course of eight months and at the end of it all, his sensational editing of the footage, along with manipulative personal inputs and views, distorted any genuine insights a viewer might have gained into MJ's life.
It was indirectly implied in the documentary that Michael had mental problems, that he was a child molester and an unfit father.
There are clips of a self-satisfied Bashir laughing and kidding around with the King of Pop as he tries to learn the moonwalk and gets familiar. And then in his overlying commentary, he turned around and stuck a fork in his butt.
So what does he have to say now that Michael is dead? Here's a bit from his Nightline interview -- '...whilst his lifestyle may have been a bit unorthodox, I don't believe he was a criminal. I think the world has now lost the greatest entertainer it's probably ever known.' Yeah, right.
Anyway, here's the thing. Personally, I never could bring myself to believe this eccentric but misunderstood man was a sex offender. And there are those who will believe anything except that he was not. But whatever your opinion, one thing is undeniable -- he was a legend. His music, his performances and his energy entertained us for over three decades.
My mother taught me Jackson 5 favourites like ABC and I'll Be There when I was barely 4 years old and I loved them. This morning I found her weeping as they flashed clips of a smiling young Jackson on the news, singing and dancing his heart out.
Weirdo, criminal, say what you will. On stage, he was sheer poetry in motion. The recluse disappeared and the performer surfaced, driving audiences wild with an inimitable style, gliding across the floor effortlessly as young girls swooned and cried, caught up in the mania of it all. An MJ concert wasn't just a concert -- it was a theatrical production.
I remember trying to ape Michael's effortless moonwalk when I was a child, Thriller blaring in the background as I shuffled ludicrously around the living room. I remember holding on to the back of a friend's shirt as he tried to lean forward like Michael did in the music video for Smooth Criminal. Millions of fans around the world share similar memories. And as we're browsing the Web for more news on his untimely death, those memories are playing in our minds; those songs are playing in our minds.
He was one of a kind, the real deal. Michael Jackson was a star performer. And never forget it.