The verdict, as you know, is in. Jacko is completely free to drink Jesus juice, fondle 'tween cancer victims, and pop all the sedatives he pleases. Tonight, Michael Jackson returns to Neverland, perpetually young playmates, and exotic animals. If you're reading this, you're probably not one of the crazed fans who staked out territory beside the Santa Barbara County courthouse; then again, if you are, be sure to check out nearby Char West after you decamp and head out.
Attempting to understand the beginnings of Mr. Jackson's predilection for pint-sized playmates, filmmaker Dave Greene created Michael Jackson's Secret Childhood, a documentary that aired January 29 on VH1. A major topic of the film is the questionable friendship between Webster star Emmanuel Lewis and Mr. Jackson during their respective heights of fame in the 1980s. In the film, Mr. Lewis's mother told a telling tale in which Jacko pulled a seriously twisted Lolitaesque move and checked into a hotel with Mr. Lewis, claiming the two were father and son. Needless to say, she pretty much put an end to all future playdates.
But Lewis wasn't the only 5-year-old "kin" of Jacko's back then. Former friend and TV-spot burger boy Rodney Allen Rippy also chilled with MJ quite a bit when Rippy wasn't singing his "make life a little easier" song.
If you didn't grow up on the West Coast and so don't know who Rippy is, all I really need to say is that he was the cutest damn kid on television in the '70s (that's him in the photo at right). And, he spent a good 14 years of his life joyously eating Jack in the Box burgers in front of the American public. Strangely enough, when he wasn't playing his part, he was busy dodging a teenage Mr. Jackson.
"Michael used to call my house every single Saturday and talk to me on the phone," Rippy says in the film. "My mom wondered and said, 'You know, I wonder why he doesn't have any friends his own age.' "
Sadly, Rippy, some things never change. Except, of course, those fast food burgers. A few weeks ago Jack in the Box debuted the Ciabatta Burger. Check out the Italian-inspired sandwich and let us know what you think.