Michael Jackson, Larry King, and me

July 7, 2009

Gaping slack-jawed at the torrent of Michael Jackson grief porn that has supplanted the flow of news on CNN today, I was reminded of my own (almost) experience with the King of Pop and the King of Talk. It was 1993. My book The Trouble with Christmas had just come out, attracting a minor media firestorm. To no one’s amazement more than mine, a producer called from CNN’s Larry King Live called to book me for an on-air interview a couple of days in the future. Earnestly I spread the word that I would be on Larry King. The day of the interview, I had just pushed away from my desk to drive to the Buffalo airport and fly to CNN’s Atlanta studios. It was King’s producer, all mock-sorrowful. Don’t bother boarding that plane, she told me. I’d been bumped—just as I’d been warned might happen—by “breaking news.”

Disappointed but curious, I tuned in that night to see what urgent development had shouldered my interview aside. I’d been replaced by ... Michael Jackson’s lawyers.

This was the time of one of the child sex abuse charges against Jackson. Apparently a putative victim had recounted supposed details about his private parts, and Jackson had been ordered to have them photographed so his genitals could be compared to the alleged eyewitness testimony. The lawyers who went on Larry King had been present at the shoot.

Which is as close as I ever got to either Larry King or Michael Jackson. And that, in the words of Paul Harvey (also deceased), is the rest of the story.