Michael's not the only freaky Jackson brother
Considering Michael Jackson has spent a quarter-century proving himself pop music's most pitiful lunatic, it's almost insane that he suddenly has competition for the title of the most wacko of the Jackos.
Amazingly, no one is suggesting that Marlon Jackson is suddenly as out-there as his walking plastic-surgery disaster of a brother. For that, the older Jackson can thank the King of Pop. No sooner did word leak of Marlon's quite frankly fucking nuts theme park in Nigeria than Michael surfaced to steal his thunder.
Funnily enough, MJ's news a couple of weeks back ranked pretty low on the crazy meter. When you're famous for hanging infants off balconies, stockpiling the bones of the Elephant Man, and treating surgical masks as fashion accessories, old-fashioned auctions seem anticlimactic. But the announcement that a cash-strapped Michael would be selling off some of his most prized possessions—life-size Spider-Man statues, vintage X-Men arcade games, and his iconic white glove—was still enough to distract the world from the tacky atrocity Marlon is hoping to build in the former slave port that is Badagry, Nigeria.
As one would hope from a member of the Jackson clan, it's so far out there, you have to admire the bizarreness of it all. In a story that was big news in the U.K. but somehow didn't get much play stateside, Marlon is part of a bid to set up a $3.4-billion luxury resort and slave-history theme park. For added entertainment value, the Badagry Historical Resort will also serve as a shrine to the career of the Jackson 5. Planned attractions include a memorabilia collection, animatronic versions of the siblings during the fabulously Afroed glory years, glitzy casinos, and the kind of golf courses that require a month's salary just to reserve a spot on the driving range.
On paper, it sounds like something so hilariously tasteless that it could only have been dreamed up by the editors at the Onion. Before whipping up a thirst for happy hour, visitors will be able to walk the route where their fellow human beings were shackled and whipped “to the point of no return”. After visiting a replica slave ship, where they'll get a look at the conditions under which millions of Africans were transported to the U.S., they can shake a tail feather to “Blame It on the Boogie” at the Jackson 5 museum. What better way to prepare for the enraging hell that is a game of golf than with a stroll through the mass grave where tens of thousands died while waiting to be shipped to the States? Yes, playing six degrees of separation between Kunta Kinte and Tito Jackson has suddenly become possible.
The main motivation behind Marlon's dream is, naturally, benjamins. Over the past few years the African-American slave trail has turned into big business, drawing thousands of tourists to sites in Senegal and Ghana. The big difference is that in these cases, visitors don't find themselves contemplating the fate of those ripped from their homeland while the admittedly catchy “ABC” blares over a PA system.
As bad ideas go, the Badagry Historical Resort ranks right up there on the tasteless meter with Courtney Love opening up a Kurt Cobain Shrine and Shotgun Emporium. Or Leonard Cohen launching an Auschwitz-themed boutique hotel where “Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye” is piped into every shower stall. Or the continued existence of Bono.
Proving that someone out there hasn't completely lost sight of what's appropriate and what's not, African officials have condemned the proposed project, despite the resort's claims that it will “enhance the quality of life for millions of people across Nigeria”. That contention is probably true: the African country isn't exactly a major tourist destination, drawing fewer than 300,000 visitors a year.
But if you're going to set up a park re-creating a truly heinous chapter in human history, do you need Jackson 5 robots gyrating through “The Life of the Party”? Somewhere, MJ is shaking what's left of his head at the insanity of it all, no doubt thinking about how opening a chain of Wacko Jacko plastic-surgery outlets might not be as crazy-sounding as he once feared.