A tale of two Michaels.
A remarkable NBC documentary airs at 9 tonight on Channels 4, 36 and 39. Academy Award winner Barbara Kopple's "Fallen Champ: The Untold Story of Mike Tyson" is brawny, roundhouse filmmaking, tapping many emotions while significantly adding to the lore about its controversial and perplexing subject. It deserves a vast audience.
But it was Wednesday night's Michael-Tells-All-to-Oprah spectacular that transfixed much of the nation and had ABC, and everyone else associated with this cash cow, moonwalking all the way to the bank.
It was at his exotic Santa Ynez estate where Michael Jackson--a giggly, emotional, bizarre-looking phantom of a figure--danced and sang for Oprah Winfrey and, like a chalky apparition fleetingly brought to life, gave the world some of the scoop it was dying to know.
No, he doesn't spend his leisure time reclining in an oxygen chamber.
No, he doesn't want to buy the Elephant Man's bones.
No, he didn't want a little white boy to play him in a Pepsi commercial.
Such weird tales about him living a life in falsetto were merely "God-awful, horrifying stories" perpetuated by tabloids.
"I'm a black American," Michael protested. "I'm proud of being a black American."
But wait a minute. Winfrey, whose own company produced this event, wasn't just a piece of furniture here. If he was so proud of being black, she wondered, then why was his skin getting, well, you know, whiter and whiter?
Not from skin bleaching, the King of Pop insisted, emotionally, almost in tears. Instead, he said his pale makeup was required to control a serious "skin disorder." If Oprah was wondering why dark makeup wouldn't work just as well, she didn't give a clue.
And on other pressing matters:
* His Face. He said he'd had "very, very little" cosmetic surgery, and in only two areas, one being his putty of a nose, which now resembles the one he wore as the Scarecrow in "The Wiz."
* His Crotch Grabbing. He has been criticized for making what some regard as lewd gestures during his dance routines. Michael Jackson Crotch Watchers reported six sightings during his celebrated 13-minute Super Bowl halftime show, whose estimated worldwide audience of 133 million obviously included many impressionable children. "I think it happens subliminally," Michael told a skeptical-looking Winfrey, adding that the music "compels" him do it.
* His Social Life. He said he dates. Who? "Right now, it's Brooke Shields."
* His Marriage Proposal to Elizabeth Taylor. Not true, Michael said. And emerging from the wings to validate his story was Taylor herself, adding as a bonus that Michael "is the least weird man I've ever known." Always the diplomat, Oprah let that straight line pass.
Proving she could be savage, though, Oprah ultimately got around to the question that the globe was waiting to hear, the excruciating but necessary question that had to be asked of 34-year-old Michael. Gradually building up to the moment like someone having a few stiff drinks to gather her courage, she finally blew it out:
"ARE YOU A VIRGIN?"
He was taken aback, utterly shocked, giggly. "How could you ask me that question? . . . I'm a gentleman. . . . To me, that's very personal."
MICHAEL JACKSON TIMELINE
A One-Two Punch From Two Mikes
HOWARD ROSENBERG ON TELEVISION: Mike Tyson documentary is a knockout, but the Michael Jackson interview doesn't hit hard enough.
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