Michael Jackson and the Road to Nana
Among the tribute items to Michael Jackson left on Hollywood’s Walk of Stars, there was a newspaper cutting that read “He Had it All”. The news cameras lingered over that headline as though telling us we needed to learn something from the tragic events that surrounded the King of Pop.
A more telling banner would have read, “He could have anything he wanted”. And such is the lure of fame and wealth that yes, it seems as though you can have anything you want. If you’re rich enough or famous enough all you have to do is click your fingers, and some flunkey will come running and appease whatever it is that you desire. And why not? Isn’t that the sort of lifestyle we all dream about?
There was a time, a couple of decades back, when farangs deplaning into Bangkok were a rare sight and there was something of an aura, if not that of fame at least a sense of being something special and unique. Coupled with the relative wealth of the foreigner over the local, it would have been possible for the visitor to Thailand to feel something of the celebrity status that attaches itself to real movie and pop stars.
Today, farangs in Thailand are two-a-penny and are barely worth a second glance to the average local, but there still remains the wealth gap between visitor and the Thai citizen. And this difference in consuming power still gives the farang an enormous sense of power in a country which knows little of the value of anything but understands the price of everything.
In Thailand everything is for sale. It is just a matter of price. So what do you want; Friendship, Love, Revenge, Someone’s son or daughter? It’s all bargainable. For a fee you can have it.
So it’s hardly surprising that when you are able to get anything you want and when the normal signposts have been removed from view, there’s nothing to stop you going beyond the limits and into the danger zone. How many times have we read the expression “the guy must have left his brains behind at the airport”? And in how many submissions has the author failed to see the red flags flying and the alarm bells ringing as he races on towards self-destruction?
Michael Jackson’s demise has been described as “death by show business”, and now he’s gone the questions are being asked, ‘who allowed it to happen?’ Where were his friends and family and why didn’t they stop him from getting into such a bad state in the first place? Bruce Springsteen was quoted on the nature of fame back in 1987, and how he survives it.
“Once you’re inside that dream room, things about you that are important and relevant in the real world to your friends – the people who will hear your music – will just strangle and die. And so will you. But it’s very difficult because that room is always very comfortable and there’s an illusion of safety. It’s really a very dangerous place. There’s no real security there and there’s no life there.”
Springsteen could quite easily be describing the twilight world of lower Sukhumwit. Once you’re in that zone, who’s going to point out that it’s all just fantasy, just a make-believe, that it exists for as long as you can meet the going rate? The people you come across in this dream room are as caught up in the fantasy as you are.
Springsteen again: “I realized that you can’t live within that rock and roll dream that I had in my head. If you do, then you’re really betraying its very promise. You’re bullshitting. If you try to, then you become some self-indulgent decadent asshole. It’s not a worthwhile thing for a man to be involved in…"
Well the Boss got it figured out, the King of Pop didn’t, and paid the consequences. So the question remains, how about you? How long can you survive when you can have it all? Maybe having it all is not what it’s cracked up to be.
“Who's gonna tell you when,
It's too late,
Who's gonna tell you things,
Aren't so great.”
I’ve been in Thailand seven years and it took me about seven minutes to figure out what was happening. I never went back, never looked back. Never had any interest to take another look. It upsets a few people, mind. When visitors and overseas colleagues appear on the doorstep, they all want to go and check out the action. I don’t go. I tell them where to find what they’re looking for, but it’s all a fantasy in their head and they’ve been carrying it around with them long before they arrived within the kingdom. It’s their gig. Not mine.
“It’s close to midnight and something evils lurking in the dark
Under the moonlight you see a sight that almost stops your heart
You try to scream but terror takes the sound before you make it
You start to freeze as horror looks you right between the eyes,
You learned quickly, well done. 11 years on and I am still in Sukhumvit every other night. Shame on me. I should have moved on long ago. And no, I am not being sarcastic here. Every so often, it is great, but as often as I go, well, it raises questions about me that I don't want answered! Or maybe it is just that Bangkok really does not have much for the average Westerner once you've done all of the tourist stuff which takes all of, well, a few days…