The Michael Jackson Effect
Yes, the King of Pop has ruled iTunes since his death three weeks ago, but what about the rise in blanket sales, lupus diagnoses, and children named Diprivan?
A phenomenon has taken place in the weeks after the death of Michael Jackson that has not gone unnoticed by statisticians. It is well-known that, according to SoundScan figures, postmortem sales of the King of Pop’s albums have accounted for extraordinary numbers—but other, more unexpected repercussions have been noticed as well. For example, after the memorial at Los Angeles’ Staples Center, Staples Office and Supply stores reported that not only had the sales of actual staples spiked but so had that of related materials, such as staplers, staple guns, and even smaller hot-pink mini-staplers favored at preschools. “We are seeing an overall boom in staplers, staples, and for that matter, even rubber bands and laser printer copy paper,” said Walter Regent, of the regional Office Supplies Mart. “His death, untimely as it was, has definitely had a ripple effect on the home and office supply industry.” Other unusual trends noticed in the wake of Mr. Jackson’s death have been a surge in sales of blankets—the late singer’s son is named Blanket—and a renewed, almost “rabid” interest in all things Paris. “We sold more blankets, coverlets and duvets in July than we did in the first two quarters of the year,” said manager Ramon Peres, of Bed, Bath & Beyond. “Many of our customers said they felt compelled to buy something that represented something close to their idol, Michael Jackson.” And few were closer to him, or at least in constant proximity, than his son.
“Paris Hilton represented the tawdrier side of American celebrity; heirs and heiresses who are born to privilege, and become famous for being famous. Paris Jackson is ‘next generation’: she is the new face for those of indeterminate wealth and origin.”
The French ministry reports a dramatic upswing in visits to the country, in what grief counselors call a “reverse pilgrimage syndrome.” The appearance of Mr. Jackson’s charismatic daughter Paris, and her emotional eulogy at the Staples memorial event, touched a worldwide chord in children and adults alike. “We now have a new, more savory Paris,” said cultural observer Trent Treetosh, PhD. “Paris Hilton represented the tawdrier side of American celebrity; heirs and heiresses who are born to privilege, and become famous for being famous. Paris Jackson is ‘next generation’: she is the new face for those of indeterminate wealth and origin.”
Teachers in the United States have also said that since the spotlight has been on Mr. Jackson’s children, their students have become purposely vague concerning parentage and birth origins. “I have a 7th-grader named Portia [name changed] who was terribly shaken by the death. She told me that she was uncertain who her parents are; of course, I’ve known [her parents] since [she was in] kindergarten.
Portia also breaks down once or twice a day now—I’ll find her crying on the playground, in a quiet corner. When I approach, she’ll say, trance-like, ‘Ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine—‘ before trailing off and staring into space. When I lead her back to Homeroom, she cleaves to me just like Paris did to Janet Jackson.” Tabloid speculation has been rife that the true father of the King of Pop’s children might be his longtime friend and dermatologist, Dr. Arnie Klein. Psychotherapists and couples counselors have said that in the wake of these “revelations,” it has become chic for disaffected housewives to drop fictive yet destructive bombshells during arguments with their husbands in which they imply their mutual offspring was the product of the mother’s egg and the sperm of the family internist, dentist, or even optician. “We have also seen a massive uptick not only in the number of patients walking in off the street who believe they have lupus,” said Public Health Commissioner Andrea ReGout, “but what is even more strange is that we are also seeing an actual surge in diagnoses.”
Dr. Klein revealed on Larry King that years ago he had diagnosed Mr. Jackson as having an auto-immune disease. Increases in the following have also been noted: the number of newborns named “Klein,” “5,” and “Diprivan”; chin implants for single women seeking to resemble the their role model Debbie Rowe, mother of Mr. Jackson’s children; and the new status symbol of PFPs, or “personal family physicians,” usually medical students, who travel along with families to vacation spots such as Disney World or the Grand Canyon for a flat fee that starts at $2,000. “We had a wonderful doctor come with us to Sea World,” said Melissa Dailey, of Scarborough, just outside Riverside County. “He never handed out anything stronger than allergy pills, but it was such a comfort having him close by.”
Ms. Dailey began to softly weep. “You know,” she continued, weepily. “Ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father I could imagine.” Her husband tucked her into his chest and quietly led her from the interview site.
Bruce Wagner is novelist and screenwriter who lives in Los Angeles. He is a PEN/Faulkner Award nominee.