Sometimes knowing from the outset what to expect helps you through the process of reading and reviewing a book. I purchased ‘Elizabeth and Michael’ out of curiosity, as well as love of Michael Jackson and fondness for Elizabeth Taylor, who was one of Hollywood’s most iconic stars. Admittedly I wasn’t expecting to learn much I didn’t already know, nor was I expecting David Bogle’s 2016 publication to be especially reliable as a source on their friendship.
But it was difficult not to get caught up in the spotlight of show biz’s most beautiful glamour couple; and it was interesting to read of the events I had viewed innumerable times on YouTube in the context of the timeline of their respective careers. Not that I was by any means satisfied with Bogle’s coverage of some of these events.
I began by dipping into the narrative at the point when Michael and Elizabeth’s paths crossed, and then entwined off and on through the years. Because I knew most of the public events described, and had read the original sources of some other stories, I could be critical of some of the observations the author makes. Although occasionally he makes an astute observation that resonates with truth, such as when, on page 332, he states: “Clearly, Joseph Jackson – even at this late date – was still unable to accept Michael as anything other than part of a family affair.”
It’s hardly reassuring when a writer quotes from hostile or discredited (at least in the eyes of the fans) individuals, one or two having been known to admit under oath that they embroidered the truth for financial gain.
Quoting Bob Jones (1) and Stacy Brown (2) was never going to convince me Bogle really came to grips with or understood his subjects. And readers of Boteach’s book ‘The Michael Jackson Tapes’, and Cascio’s ‘My Friend Michael’, could be forgiven for thinking they’d read parts of Bogle’s book already.
This is the thing about ‘Elizabeth and Michael’ – at least the portion covering matters I know most about – that is, the parts involving Michael Jackson: it has been compiled from other sources, some of which have published their own accounts (like the bodyguards’ book) and Bogle has nothing new to reveal.
Moreover, as with most who attempt a biography of Michael Jackson (and possibly also Elizabeth Taylor) they are so indebted to second-hand stories or tabloid tales that their assessment of situations and scenarios is of less value than those of many fans, some of whom really DO know better than what is written by most journalists and who were often closer to and more in tune with some events described in the book.
‘Elizabeth and Michael’ while reaffirming the great friendship between the pair that endured over so many years and through personal pain and hardships, has little that is new to offer the reader who already knows their stories. And occasionally, it drops a tell-tale ‘clanger’ such as when it quotes supposed dialogue from Michael Jackson in which he refers to his friend as ‘Liz’. To my knowledge, he never used this derivative of Elizabeth’s name.
On such a small, but glaring mistake, an entire book can lose credibility, if referencing Jones and Brown and some of the others hadn’t done that already.
Review by Kerry Hennigan
1 September 2017