August 12, 2010
Michael was certainly onto something when he came up with the
concept for the Dangerous cover art. Im not sure exactly
what he was trying to say, and cant presume to know. But
along about the time of Dangerous, it became all about the eyes,
whether it be that soul-penetrating gaze from behind the mask,
or the single sleeve for Black or White, or the many, varied
publicity stills that all emphasized the smoldering, glaring
eyes (and often with his other facial features covered so that
his eyes would be the only feature seen).
Now, for sure, there must have been an artistic statement at
work here. This was coming from a man who, at least from the
time of the 1984 Grammys, had been seen more and more
in his iconic shades, refusing to let the world see into his
eyes because he did not like the vulnerability of it; the exposure
of it. He supposedly said at one point that the reason for the
shades was because he did not like people gazing into
his soul. (But there may have been more practical,
medical reasons as well, which well explore here in a
Ive often said that Dangerous was Michaels sexiest
and (at that time) most honest and vulnerable album. (HIStory
would supplant it, but that was still four years down the road).
The cover art seemed to say it all: I am going to let
you see through my mask, he seemed to be saying.
I am going to allow you to gaze into my soul. I am going to
allow you to HAVE my soul. And I, in turn, will have yours
at least 76 minutes and 58 seconds!
I never met Michael. My closest opportunity-at least to have
had a glimpse-would have been when he was staying in Birmingham
rehearsing for the Victory tour. But at the time, they were
putting out advisors for people to stay away from the city because
they were trying to keep the crowds down, and back then I was
still married to my ex, a rather uptight little guy (if I do
say so myself) who wasnt about to risk the crowds and
traffic, let alone spending the money for gas, just on the off-chance
of catching a glimpse of Michael. Perhaps if my level of devotion
then had been what it is now, I would have found a way come
hell or high water-hubbie be damned. But back then I still couldnt
drive, and had to be a good girl and do as I was told. But in
my imagination, I played out the scene many times. I always
imagined that if one ever met Michael, it would be impossible
to get past the eyes. I could imagine those big, dark eyes piercing
your very soul; looking through you and beyond you. Ive
had the experience of being in the room with people like that.
Its actually a very uncomfortable feeling because it leaves
you feeling exposed. You almost feel as if this person could
tell you what your underwear looked like. I know, just from
looking at photos, how mesmerizing Michaels eyes could
be. Imagine in person!
This has been confirmed by the stories of several fans who did
meet him, and over the course of the past year, Ive heard
many of those stories shared on various forums and fansites.
Of course, sometimes you have to take the stories of fan meetings
with a grain of salt. After all, how do you verify a story like
that? Even a photo isnt 100% proof, unless you know what
the person looks like. But there was one story I did believe.
It came from a fan who stood, along with many hundreds of others,
outside his hotel room in Auckland, New Zealand prior to his
concert there. I dont remember every detail of the story,
not that it matters for our purposes here. But she said there
was a moment when he came to the window, and gazed down at the
crowd below. For just a second, they made eye contact. She said
those were the deepest, blackest eyes and the most soul-penetrating
she ever looked into.
If I had been in her shoes, I dont think it would have
even mattered if I ever spoke to him or not. That gaze would
have lasted me a lifetime.
Perhaps Michael knew his eyes had that affect on people. Maybe
that was another reason for the shades. Perhaps it was as much
about protecting the vulnerability of their souls as his own.
One of my favorite stories is the one about Madonna getting
him to take off his shades. Depending on which side of the story
you hear (hers or his) she either asked and he complied and
tossed them out the car window (the her version)
or else she demanded and flung them off herself (the his
version) but whichever version you believe, Madonna laid down
the law: If youre going to be MY date and MY man for the
night, I wanna see your eyes! It was all about stripping away
the shield; the protection. Exposing the naked and vulnerable
Now, if you believe Madonnas version, he gave it up willingly.
If you believe Michaels version, he was practically raped!
Which is true? Well, since only those two would know, its
impossible to say, and Madonna is still telling only her version
of events, Michael having took his to his grave. But it was
clear that they both knew the power of the eyes (the window
to the soul) to either make or break a relationship.
If you dont believe me about Michaels eyes being
one of his most iconic features, just try doing a quick google
of Michael Jacksons Eyes. Youll get
literally thousands of images of those piercing orbs, in as
many artistic incarnations as you can imagine, from album covers
to tattoos to paintings. Clearly, if Michaels dancing
feet was his most celebrated and recognizable feature, his eyes
werent far behind!
So what exactly was it about them that captivated
us so? From the time he was born, his big, dark eyes were among
his most recognizable features. His mother Katherine said it
was the first thing she noticed when she held him for the first
time: I noticed his big, dark eyes and long fingers..
The Girls Convince Michael To Take Off His Shades And Show His
Eyes At The 1984 Grammys:
As a performer with a keen fashion sense, he would learn later
in life how to play them up to his full advantage. By 1987,
he had already had permanent eyeliner applied, and by the early
90's, false lashes were also a staple. But while I do think
Michael embraced androgyony to some extent, there was nothing
effeminate in those decisions. Karen Faye (who, despite all
the controversy in recent months, still knew him better than
anyone when it came to his personal makeup and grooming habits)
has said many times that Michael never thought it was fair that
women got to have all the good stuff-the perfumes, the makeup,
the ability to change their appearace at will with just a few
tricks of a wand. Judging from what I see in the entertainment
world today, male actors and singers wearing makeup is more
the norm than not. And why not? If God gave you a beautiful
face, why not make it a canvas? Michael wasnt gay or effiminate,
but he was definitely metro even years before it was the fashionable
thing to be.
Now, of course, no discussion of Michael and his eyes would
be complete without acknowledging the fashion statement he made
of eyewear, particularly with his signature Aviator Ray-Bans
and Wayfarers. In fact, Michael made the look so famous that
hes often featured as the poster boy for such spectacle
websites as Selectspecs and blogsites devoted to the subject
of eyewear. Here were two such such sites that I ran across.
The first one, especially, is a very detailed and informative
pictorial of the many different styles of shades that Michael
But did the glasses serve another function other than just as
a fashion statement or to protect his soul? In the 90's and
2000's, we also began seeing him quite frequently in prescription
glasses and bifocals, though usually only at formal affairs
such as trials and depositions that required lots of close-up
reading of eyestraining documents. Unfortunately, since trials
and depositions would become an almost permant fixture of his
life throughout his last two decades, we had quite a bit of
ample opportunity to see him in prescription specs. Fortunately
for Michael, he looked hot in glasses (not every guy can pull
off the geek look nearly so well!). But what was
the nature of his vision problem?
Thats a good question, and one Ive researched for
months with no satisfactory or conclusive answer. Since he only
appeared to wear prescription glasses for reading, its
probably safe to say that he may have simply had a mild case
of myopia or hyperopia. He may have possibly also had astigmatism,
which would explain why he wore glasses (since we would assume
that for someone whose vanity was as important to him as Michaels
was, he would have opted for contacs had that been an option.
Persons with astigmatism generally cannot wear contacs). This
is just guessing. But its interesting to note that his
daughter Paris has also been wearing prescription glasses for
the past year. Myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism are all conditions
that can be genetically inherited from ones parents (an
interesting argument for those who still refuse to believe the
kids are biologically Michaels). I did read on one website
that Paris is near sighted, but I am not going to bother linking
to it since it was only one of those Wiki Answers
type sites which, of course, can be answered by anybody, regardless
of whether they know what theyre talking about or not.
However, I would be willing to bet that Paris probably does
have astigmatism, and for one very obvious reason: You know
good and well that with the money the family has, and with her
being a girl and at that age where girls are most self-conscious
about their appearance, she would be wearing contacs if it were
an option. But just as with her dad, we see her only in glasses.
Now, could it be just possible that a genetically shared vision
impairment is the reason for that? Its certainly something
to think about, even if we dont (and may never know) the
Theres also another possible explanation. As a sufferer
of lupus, Michael was also subject to the vision problems that
can be brought on, if not directly by the disease, then certainly
by the medications used to treat it. This comes from The Lupus
"How can the eyes be affected in lupus?
One of the conditions that can occur along with lupus is Sjögrens
syndrome. This occurs in about 1 in 5 to 1 in 10 people with
lupus. In Sjögrens syndrome the immune system attacks
the glands that produce fluids to lubricate different parts
of the body. This most commonly produces dry eyes and dry mouth
(xerostomia). It is usually milder in people who also have lupus.
Artificial tears or saliva will often help. There are also some
special pastilles that can be sucked to help the production
of saliva. It is important however that these are sugar-free
as the lack of saliva increases the risk of tooth decay. There
is a blood test for a specific antibody that is often found
in people with Sjögrens (anti-Ro and anti-La antibodies).
Sometimes a tiny piece of tissue can be removed form inside
the lower lip to detect the condition (a salivary gland lip
biopsy). Sjögrens syndrome can also cause dryness
of the vagina (which can make sexual intercourse sore), or dryness
of the skin. Gels and creams are available to help these symptoms.
At some time about 1 in 10 people with lupus develop conjunctivitis.
This usually presents with slightly gritty red eyes which can
be sore and itchy. Depending on the cause this may require steroid
or antibiotic eyedrops.
Use of long term steroids, particularly at higher doses increases
the risk of getting cataracts. It may also increase the likelihood
of getting glaucoma. On the whole it must be stressed that this
is uncommon, but If there is a family history then regular eye
checks by an optician may well be advised. Occasionally people
report slight blurring of vision when the steroid dose goes
up or down as a result of fluid changes in the eye or when the
steroid dose is changed. If you are on hydroxychloroquine (plaquenil)
or chloroquine there is a theoretical risk of developing inflammation
at the back of the eye. Over recent years however it has become
clear that this risk is incredibly small at the doses that we
use these drugs at, if indeed there is any risk at all. Nevertheless
as a precautionary measure it important to mention any changes
in your ability to read or changes in colour vision to your
doctor, and from time to time your doctor may recommend an eye
check at your opticians. If you have been on this medication
for a few years it may be sensible to do this about once a year.
Lupus can, rarely, affect the blood vessels in the eye which
may lead to pain and reduced vision. If this happens then you
should phone your doctor straight away as it may be important
to treat you with steroids and other drugs, whether as drops,
or tablets, or injections, quickly to prevent permanent damage
occurring. Inflammation inside the eye (iritis or scleritis)
can also produce a painful red eye and again urgent treatment
may be needed.
Sometimes conditions such as shingles can affect the eye and
people who are on steroids or immunosuppressants such as azathioprine
or cyclophosphamide or whose spleen is not working well are
more prone to infection or reactivation of an infection they
have had many years ago. This may require antibiotic or anti-viral
treatments. In these circumstances steroids may actually make
this type of problem worse. Clearly if there is something very
wrong and out of the ordinary, it is important not to waste
time but to seek medical advice quickly and get the right treatment
There is a range of other problems that can affect the eye.
Some people with lupus may get an overactive thyroid gland that
can occasionally cause prominence of the eyeballs. If there
is inflammation of the nerves that supply one or more of the
muscles to the eye (optic neuropathy) this may cause double
vision when you look in a particular direction or directions.
This again is uncommon."
Granted, most of the above applies to those with systemic lupus,
and from all accounts, Michael suffered from discoid lupus.
In an article I found on Michael and discoid lupus, there is
a paragraph that mentions the circulated rumor that Michael
was possibly losing vision in one or both eyes. Of course, I
believe for the most part this rumor was just more Ian Halperin
rubbish (the man who has probably done more damage to Michaels
legacy by playing doctor with his ailments and conditions
than anyone else I can think of) but Ill go ahead and
quote the excerpt here since it does offer up some telling facts
about discoid lupus and vision (keep in mind this article was
written before the official autposy release and even before
the official coroner report; it was during a time when people
were still speculating if his death could have been lupus related):
I dont know if MJ was prescribed this drug or
not but anti-malarial drugs like Placquenil are typically prescribed
to keep discoid lupus at bay. Patients on this drug can have
successful results from plastic surgery but, there is no guarantee.
If he was on an antimalarial drug he needed to protect his eyes
and skin from sunlight and, unfortunately, these drugs can cause
damage to your retinas and blindness which coincides with a
more recent rumor that MJ was losing vision in either one or
According to at least a couple of other sites, the vision problems
that can be associated with lupus are many and varied. These
are some listed by Healing Well.com; Ive bolded the symptoms
that Michael was known to have had:
Vision problems: Changes in vision can be a result of
lupus or because of the corticosteroids and antimalarials used
to treat lupus. Problems can include inflammation of the eye,
glaucoma, cataracts, general changes in vision, and blocked
tear ducts. On very rare occasions, blindness can result. Warning
development of a rash over the eyelids;
mucus discharge from the eye;
sensitivity to light;
a sore, red eye;
lack of tears, and eyes that hurt and are dry; and
episodes of flashing lights and partial blindness.
Of course, any of these could be attributed to other factors
and conditions as well. But I think we can safely say that theres
at least a good possibility that Michael may have been suffering
from impaired vision brought on by lupus in his last years.
At the risk of playing Ian Halperin, however, Ill just
leave it at that-a possibility, albeit an inconclusive one.
But whatever may have been going on behind the famous, penetrating
gaze, one things for certain. At age fifty, those eyes
were still just as striking and beautiful as when Mama Katherine
first gazed into them on a hot August night in 1958.
Back to Michael Jackson Mystery