It seems fitting, ironic and ultimately tragic that Michael Jackson's best-known ad moment involved a freak accident. In 1984, at the height of his mega-fame in the wake of Thriller, Jacko's hair caught on fire while he was filming a Pepsi commercial for BBDO. Even in the pre-Internet age, and though he wasn't that badly hurt, the story was everywhere, all the time, for months. It became a media obsession. (It eventually inspired the title of Phil Dusenberry's book.) Such was MJ's blessing and curse. For a time, his celebrity rivaled that of Sinatra, Elvis or the Beatles. Far lesser celebrities have had their psyches crushed by the intensity and demand of the unclosing public eye. The biggest star of his generation, Michael Jackson cracked up in direct proportion to his fame. Cast as a god, the man embraced the role, seeking to remake himself in a pale, childlike image only he could understand. The endless cosmetic surgeries, the reclusive years at the Neverland Ranch and the bizarre pronouncements and behaviors are the stuff of legend. Of course, being reborn was something he could never achieve in life. The mighty, moon-walking King of Pop, largely a media construct himself, lost sight of the fact that we're simply not our own creations. Perhaps by now, an ever greater power has reminded him of that. Michael Jackson died on Thursday in Los Angeles at age 50.
—Posted by David Gianatasio