LaToya stayed away.
Darn darn darn.
When you hunker down to watch two interminably tacky hours featuring the American equivalent of the dysfunctional British Royal Family, you pray for a payoff. A gate-crashing sibling would have been a beautiful thing.
But it was not to be.
Not that the scissor-happy producers of last week's "The Jackson Family Honors" would have let us see it anyhow. They denied us the evening's only deliciously nasty moment--Elizabeth Taylor drawing catcalls after mentioning that Michael would not perform. "Don't boo," she snipped. "That's an ugly sound." (We only know this from published accounts by reporters who attended the taping of the show at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas.)
Well, what did she expect? It was Taylor, after all, who ignored the fact that \o7 she\f7 was being honored for her humanitarian pursuits, turning her acceptance speech into a treacly love testimonial about Michael: "Your recent torture is not going to change your compassion toward children," she gushed, only whetting the crowd's appetite more.
And furthermore, she declared in defense of her friend, "Enough of tabloid media! Enough of tabloid television. Only \o7 you \f7 can put them out of business and wouldn't that be great!"
You were tempted to yell at your television set: "Enough yourself, Liz! Enough manipulation of an audience who wants only to see a beloved performer sing and strut. Enough pretending that accusations of child sex abuse and multimillion-dollar payoffs aren't big news."
Oh, where is LaToya when you need her?
I am not kidding when I compare the Jacksons to the Windsors. The parallels are striking:
The Windsors have two queens of England (Elizabeth II and the Queen Mother).
The Jacksons have one King of Pop.
Topless photos of the outcast Duchess of York appeared in newspapers in 1992.
Nude photos of the outcast LaToya appeared in Playboy in 1989.
During an address to her decreasingly loyal subjects, the Queen of England pronounced 1992 her "\o7 annus horribilus\f7 ."
Last week, in a news conference preceding "The Jackson Family Honors," the King Mother, Katherine Jackson, was asked if her family has lived the American dream.
"It's been an American nightmare in the last six months," she replied.
Some Jackson-related questions that occur to me:
* In the title, "Jackson Family Honors," is \o7 Honors\f7 a verb or a noun?
* How could a family that has produced dancers the caliber of Michael and Janet end up on the same stage as the Michael Peters Dancers, who, frankly, were a worst-case Las Vegas scenario?
* Did LaToya actually think she could sneak in to the MGM Grand Hotel unnoticed, especially if she donned what her husband called her "Arabic woman" disguise, veil and all?
* Is it just me, or was anyone else grossed out by Taylor's description of Michael as "bruised but magically untouched by the tongues and opinions of the world"?
* If you stood the extremely underanimated Joe Jackson next a wax statue of himself, could anyone tell them apart?
* Is it really fair to call the Jacksons dysfunctional, when--except for gobs of money, accusations of child sex abuse against one son, weird feuds and extensive cosmetic surgery--they are really just like you and me?
Actually, I give credit to the Jacksons for pulling off something at which most American families would be utter failures: getting the entire brood (with one disappointing exception) under the same roof.
The only way my family could replicate such a feat would be if the room were as big as an airplane hangar--or maybe a concert venue--and they were paying us millions of dollars to be there.
And the, on top of that, if we all had lawyers, agents and managers--well, you can just forget it.
My heart really went out to Gary Smith, the man who produced "The Jackson Family Honors." He told a reporter for NBC's "Dateline" that "probably one of the most challenging parts of the show" was the negotiating that went on with representatives for Michael and Janet.
What those representatives wanted, he wasn't saying.
I noticed however, that Janet, who performed a song near the beginning of the program, had disappeared by the end, failing to join her siblings and their families on stage in the big, silly finale.
"Enough!" she probably said. "Enough of this ridiculous, overscripted attempt to look like a normal, loving family when all the world knows we can barely stand each other."
Somewhere, I bet, LaToya was smiling.