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Michael Jackson Descends

Nearly everyone loves the idea of fame and fortune, but at what cost? As the news headlines tell us almost every day, that some of the richest and most famous people turn out to be the unhappiest, most demented people in the world.

Legendary but erratic music producer Phil Spector has been largely out of sight since the early 1970s. He's back in the headlines, a la O.J. Simpson and Robert Blake, as the only suspect in the slaying of a Hollywood actress killed inside his home. In another La La Land mansion, another legendary musical has-been, Michael Jackson, has granted eight months of interviews to British TV interviewer Martin Bashir, which aired first in Britain and then on ABC's "20/20." Consider it another in a series of Jackson's acts of slow professional suicide.

Consider the series of career-crumbling bombshells gleaned from this interview. First and foremost, Jackson said he still hosts sleepovers for kids at his Neverland Ranch, where he serves them milk and cookies and shares his bed with them. ''It's not sexual," explains this facial freak show. "We're going to sleep. I tuck them in. It's very charming, it's very sweet.''

Jackson's image went from eccentric man-child to potential pedophile in 1993, when he was sued over allegations of fondling in his bed, and he settled out of court. If he actually cared about his image and his career, why on Earth would he ever parade around the world's largest media outlets showing he hasn't learned a thing from the lurid spectacle ten years ago?

Then there's Jackson's "family." Jackson says his two older children - Prince Michael I, 5, and Paris, 4 - have no contact with their mother, the singer's ex-wife, Debbie Rowe. ''She can't handle it,'' he said. ''She'd prefer them to be with me than with her.'' The 5-year-old believes that "I haven't got a mother." Jackson says Rowe gave him the babies as a "gift" because he was so desperate to be a dad, he carried around dolls pretending they were his babies.

Jackson also claims that when his daughter was born, ''I snatched her and just went home with all the placenta and everything all over her. I'm not kidding. Got her in a towel and ran. They said it was fine...And I got her home and washed it all off.'' His latest son, Prince Michael II, who Jackson nicknamed "Blanket," is said to have sprung from a surrogate mother he'll never know.

Any notion that Jackson is running something just like the average American family is easily washed away by all these revelations. When Jackson complains that he didn't get a normal childhood and that his father was cruel to him, he's not seeing that his difficult childhood doesn't look much worse than the strange, motherless fairyland his children are suffering through now.

It's also hard to believe anything he says when he makes ridiculous claims like he's only had two plastic surgeries, only on his nose, and only so he could hit high notes. I'll believe there were only two procedures if someone can give me evidence that at least one was called the "Hiroshima Survivor" look.

With stunts like this, it's amazing Jackson could have the chutzpah to claim that the comparative failure of his 2001 album "Invincible" is not due to his freakish behavior. Last year, he went on the attack against his label, Sony Music, describing company executives as racists out to sabotage him. Jackson fanatics picketed Sony offices claiming "we, the fans, have been helpless spectators of an unprecedented smear campaign." Lost on this sorry lot: Whatever Sony could have ever done to damage its own profits is minuscule compared to what Jackson has done to himself.

It's not like he's a total flop. It's hard to define his last effort as a failure as sales of more than five million albums worldwide. But when his biggest album holds the world record at 45 million, in relative terms, he's crashing. When its debut sells tens of thousands less than the rapper DMX the week before, he's not the "king" of anything musical. He's no longer the toast of teen culture. The Peter Pan routine might have been cute at 24. It's creepy at 44.

Maybe Jackson is marching in this pathetic parade just to keep himself in the public eye in any way he can. Why can't he just go away? All he's telling us now is that Hollywood is a place where sanity goes to die, and that for some, being infamous is perfectly acceptable when you can no longer simply be famous.