Saturday, March 13, 2010

Michael Jackson and Six Degrees of Separation

So I got to thinking about the 'six degrees of deparation' idea, which of course leads to musing about Kevin Bacon. If you don't know, the concept is that any two people on earth are linked by a chain of acquaintances of a maximum six links (probability researchers now say seven). In other words, person A living in, say, rural China and person B living in, say, Somalia don't know each other. But a chain exists (if it can be found) where, at a maximum, person A knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows person B. Neat theory.

Anyway, that leads to the Oracle of Bacon, where any movie actor is shown to connect to Kevin Bacon in a similar way - not mutual acquaintances but co-stars. Two people who have appeared in the same movie connect just as, in the original theory, two acquaintances connect. It doesn't have to be Kevin Bacon, but the project started with him, and revolves around him. I thought I'd reorganise it to put Michael Jackson, who doesn't have the richest filmography, at the centre.

I tried twelve friends of his, and was amazed to find that only one had a first-degree filmic relationship and only one had a third-degree relationship. But fully ten in twelve of those friends had 'Michael Jackson numbers' of two.

First-degree relationship:

Diana Ross, one of Michael Jackson's closest friends, co-starred with him in "The Wiz".

Second-degree relationship:

Macaulay Culkin and Michael Jackson were good friends in the 1990s. They have a second-degree filmic relationship, joined by Seth Smith, who was in the long-form video "Ghosts" with Michael Jackson and in "Getting Even with Dad" with Culkin.

Corey Feldman was one of the child actors who had a close friendship with Michael Jackson at Neverland. Marvin Miller joins them, having co-starred with Jackson in "The Wiz" and with Feldman in "Gremlins".

Janet Jackson is, of course, Michael's sister. They co-starred in the video of "Scream", but considering big-screen efforts only, they connect through Nikki Cox, who was in "Moonwalker" with big brother and in "Nutty Professor II: the Klumps" with little sister.

Emmanuel Lewis was the first child actor to form a high-profile friendship with Jackson. They connect through Kevin Grevioux, who was in "Men in Black II", where Jackson made a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo. Grevioux co-starred with Lewis in, aptly, "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star".

Madonna made such a beautiful eulogy for Michael Jackson at the Staples Center that their brief friendship still seems noteworthy. They are connected by Will Smith, the star of "Men in Black II", where Jackson appeared, and also of the short film "Torrance Rises" alongside Madonna.

Paul McCartney was hardly a friend for the last two decades of Jackson's life, but they were at one point. They connect through Ben Lokey, who played a bit part with Paul McCartney, also playing a bit part, in "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (the Bee Gees film). Lokey was in "Captain EO" with Jackson.

Liza Minnelli, a long term friend of Jackson's, connects to him through Ted Ross, who was in "The Wiz" with Michael and in "Arthur 2: On the Rocks" with Liza.

Ronald Reagan had a controversial relationship with Michael Jackson. Friends? Perhaps not. Acquaintances? Certainly. Movie actors? You betcha. Even they have a second-degree relationship, joined by Marvin Miller (the same person who joins Jackson to Corey Feldman), who starred with Reagan in "Hong Kong" in 1952, and with Jackson in "The Wiz".

Brooke Shields was, at one time, romantically linked with Michael Jackson. They never acted together, but Tony Fields has acted with both of them - in "Captain EO" with Jackson and in "Backstreet Dreams" with Shields, whose name rhymes with his.

Elizabeth Taylor had an unlikely but incredibly loyal friendship with Michael Jackson. They are linked by Bill Walker, who starred with Taylor in "Raintree County" in 1957 and who starred with Jackson in "The Wiz".

Third-degree relationship:

Lisa Marie Presley, Michael Jackson's ex-wife, of course co-starred semi-naked with him in the video for "You Are Not Alone". But a video not being cinematic, we find our only third-degree relationship here: Stanley Greene was in  "The Wiz" with Jackson. Greene was also in the no-doubt-memorable "W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings" with Furry Lewis. Lewis was in "This is Elvis" with Elvis's daughter Lisa Marie. Whew.

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