The King of Pop a dweeby book lovin’ geek?
Apparently so, and hooray. He was an avid reader who had an appropriately majestic library at Neverland that held 10,000 volumes on its shelves, according to two recent Los Angeles newspaper articles.
In the midst of a lengthy interview in the L.A. Weekly, Jackson attorney Bob Sanger revealed the following as his last of three golden attributes that defined the Gloved One.
“Michael was extremely well-read…I knew Michael, but I got to know him a lot better at the trial. The judge was doing jury selection, and it was time for break. Judge Melville said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I want you to know that jury service is very, Tvery important.’ He’s trying to convince people not to have stupid excuses to get out of jury service. All judges do this. He says, ‘The jury system is a very time-honored system. It’s been around for 200 years. We’re going to take a break and come back in 15 minutes.’
“We stand up and the judge leaves, and Michael turns to me and says, ‘Bob, the jury system is much older than 200 years, isn’t it?’ I said, ‘Well, yeah, it goes back to the Greeks.’ He says, ‘Oh yeah, Socrates had a jury trial, didn’t he?’ I said, ‘Yeah, well, you know how it turned out for him.’ Michael says, ‘Yeah, he had to drink the hemlock.’ That’s just one little tidbit. We talked about psychology, Freud and Jung, Hawthorne, sociology, black history and sociology dealing with race issues. But he was very well read in the classics of psychology and history and literature.
“He loved to read. He had over 10,000 books at his house. And I know that because – and I hate to keep referring to the case, because I don’t want the case – the case should not define him. But one of the things that we learned – the DA went through his entire library and found, for instance, a German art book from 1930-something. And it turned out that the guy who was the artist behind the book had been prosecuted by the Nazis. Nobody knew that, but then the cops get up there and say, ‘We found this book with pictures of nude people in it.’ But it was art, with a lot of text. It was art. And they found some other things, a briefcase that didn’t belong to him that had some Playboys in it or something. But they went through the guy’s entire house, 10,000 books. And it caused us to do the same thing, and look at it.”
“And there were places that he liked to sit, and you could see the books with his bookmarks in it, with notes and everything in it where he liked to sit and read. And I can tell you from talking to him that he had a very – especially for someone who was self-taught, as it were, and had his own reading list – he was very well-read. And I don’t want to say that I’m well-read, but I’ve certainly read a lot, let’s put it that way, and I enjoy philosophy and history and everything myself, and it was very nice to talk to him, because he was very intellectual, and he liked to talk about those things. But he didn’t flaunt it, and it was very seldom that he would initiate the conversation like that, but if you got into a conversation like that with him, he was there.”
I’ll Be There
As reported in the L.A. Times. Doug Dutton, proprietor of the legendary and now, alas, defunct, Dutton’s Books in Brentwood, was at a dinner with people from Book Soup, Skylight and other L.A. bookstores.
“Someone mentioned that Michael Jackson had been in their store,” Dutton recalled. “Everybody said he’d shopped in their store too.”
Doug first met Jackson in the early 1980s when the icon came in his shop wearing “very large sunglasses” and a suit of bodyguards. MJ was solitary and quiet. “There was no display of ‘I’m Michael Jackson,’” he recalled. “I don’t remember him actually saying anything.” Jackson bought four-five books during visits.
Doug’s brother, Dave, remembers getting a call in the late ’80s – early ’90s from an MJ minion, who requested that the shop be closed early so Jackson could privately shop. “We did close early,” Dave said. Then, “about a quarter to nine he showed up in a big van. Once you got over the initial caution because of those burly guys with him, he was very nice. He loved the poetry section,” Dave’s son Dirk asserts that Ralph Waldo Emerson was Jackson’s favorite author. “I think you would find a great deal of the transcendental, all-accepting philosophy in his lyrics.”
I would have bet the farm that, considering his obsession, Michael Jackson would have been a compulsive collector of all things Peter Pan, the collecting completist’s completist, acquiring every single edition of the book, every scrap of paper associated with it, and everything from the story’s subsequent incarnations.
“He was a longtime and valued customer,” a spokesperson for Hennessey + Ingalls, the renowned art and architecture bookstore in Santa Monica, said in the L.A. Times piece.
It turns out that Michael Jackson was a sort of Johnny Appleseed of reading, spreading books to all children. Former Los Angeles resident Cynde Moya remembers that “back when I worked at the Bookstar in Culver City, his people would have us keep the store open after hours, and he’d come in with a vanload of kids, who could buy whatever books they wanted.”
As MJ’s life got stranger over time, so did his book buying habits. He would wear a surgical mask during his book shop visits, and in a video of him from New Year’s Eve 2008, he’s at Hennessey + Ingalls browsing for books, a black umbrella, held by an assistant, shielding him from the unflattering glare of florescent lighting.
Or, maybe to prevent his love for books from being exposed.
This is a problem that will never threaten the unread, book-hating and proud singing star Kanye West. It is a fact that intellect and pop entertainment values do not mix well in American culture: A pop star could never mysteriously disappear for a few days, drive family, friends, and the nation crazy with anxiety, then resurface with the rambling confession that he was incognito in Buenos Aires visiting the sultry, irresistible National Library of Argentina, full of hot-blooded Latin-American tomes, because he needed a change of scenery.
Completely unbelievable. There must have been something else, something seamy, going on, perhaps with La Biblioteca Nacional de la Republica Argentina’s head of special collections, right? I mean, really, is nothing sacred?