This article originally appeared in the October 30, 1998 issue of the Boston Phoenix
What with allegations of plastic-surgery addiction, anti-Semitic lyrics, and child molestation, it's been hard to remain a fan of the former pop-music golden boy turned magic freakshow that is Michael Jackson. Bucking the tide of popular opinion is the Boston-based indie-rock-centric 'zine Mommy and I Are One, which has dedicated its sixth issue to the man, the myth, and the legend of the self-proclaimed King of Pop.
Although most of us prefer to remember Michael from the Thriller era, Mommy and I publisher and editor Jessica Hundley admits that the MJ-themed issue sprouted from an obsession with his most recent work. "After I got HIStory, I played it incessantly. It was the greatest, strangest, angriest, most bizarre thing I ever heard. Michael Jackson is this iconic persona, he is totally outrageous and ostentatious, and he indulges himself in these incredibly bizarre fantasies. Everyone young and old, in the entire world, knows who he is. But in the States we take him for granted. This issue is an open forum to discuss issues surrounding MJ with artists who don't usually talk about Michael but all grew up on him."
Hundley and co-editor J. Davis dug deep into the world of trashy celebrity novels, Jehovah's Witness literature, and Internet gossip to produce an issue that deals with every aspect of the Jackson aura. Is he an alien? Does he wear a butt plug? Is he the messiah? Or a sign of an impending apocalypse? These questions, along with his rumored interest in young boys, are investigated in depth and with the utmost seriousness in essays (including one drawing creepy parallels to that other King, Elvis), artwork, and interviews wit a wide array of popular musicians whose attitudes range from the deeply sarcastic (Ween) to the seriously perverse (Mudhoney and the Kent 3). And whether Mommy is interviewing former metal gods Mötley Crüe or ska-core heroes the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, the editors maintain an unfailing belief in the historical weight of their subject – not an easy task considering the number of crude jokes, slanderous rumors, and tongue-in-cheek conspiracy theories that pop up when the conversation turns to Michael. Efforts to conduct an interview with Michael himself were denied; the closest the editors came was a conversation with Jackson's teenage buddy, Sean Lennon (son of John and Yoko), who chips in with a reverential and sentimental remembrance of his childhood escapades with the megastar. But Lennon is one of the few faithful among a sea of detractors.
Although my own Michael Jackson fixation centers on the Quincy Jones years (from The Wiz through Bad), Davis is eager to argue the point. "I think that HIStory is like [the Beastie Boys'] Paul's Boutique, a neglected masterpiece that will [eventually] be recognized for its genius. You really should listen to HIStory constantly, make it the soundtrack to your life, and you'll begin to get closer and closer to Michael and you'll start to appreciate it."
The Mommy and I Are One staff is now at work on the next issue – and Davis acknowledges that finding another person as fascinating, puzzling, and enigmatic as MJ for a theme issue would be impossible. "Except for maybe Jesus."