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Michael Jackson, the little boy who married celebrity as a cherub-faced dancing machine in 1970, is now a pallid, imploded-faced middle-aged man. The union, it seems, has been kinder to celebrity than it has to Jackson.

Nevertheless, he threw himself a 30th anniversary bash, televised last week on CBS, to, if nothing else, reunite with his former Jackson 5 band mates (i.e. his brothers) and give us all reason to pause for nostalgia’s sake (if not to play a quick game of “one of these things is not like the other”).

It was an apocalyptic celebrity circle jerk of the burned-out, wannabe and overexposed variety: Britney, Whitney, Luther, Usher, Liz, Liza, Macaulay, Marlon and on and on. But the garish, post-Vegas excess of it all wasn’t the headlining car crash for all those gawkers clogging up the television turnpike. Nope. It was The Face. Despite what must have been painstaking planning of lights, makeup, camera angles and two months of editing (Jackson’s anniversary special was taped just days before Sept. 11 — remember?), there was no disguising the grotesque, fully transfigured Jackson visage. We were treated to unending, unblinking shots of Jackson’s flopping black locks, his perfect, painted-on lips (not lipstick, folks, but textbook-shaped lips of a shade one with his skin tone shouldn’t be caught dead wearing) and deathly pallor (a gray I didn’t think they sold to living folks). The gloved one’s teeth can almost be seen through the skin of his upper lip, which only leads us nosy, voyeuristic busybodies to, er, the “nose,” a pinch of flesh with a septum into which the rest of The Face caves.

The pomp and circumstance of His Pop Majesty’s 30-year self-congratulation may have been impressive, but the real work on display that night was the unparalleled, groundbreaking work of body modification Jacko has performed on himself.

His face is his Xanadu, his Graceland, his true Neverland.

Chris Handyside is a freelance writer for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com

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