Yo Zushi in New Statesman:
Diamond Joe Esposito was once plain Joseph Carmine Esposito, an Italian-American mechanic’s son growing up in Chicago during the Second World War. In the paranoid 1950s, he was drafted into service and sent to West Germany, where he met and befriended Elvis Presley. After their discharge, the singer employed him as his road manager and they remained close until the end – at least, the premature, undignified end of Presley’s life on 16 August 1977. Esposito was among the first to see his still-young body sprawled on the floor of his bathroom, beside some vomit and a book about the Turin shroud. Ten years later, Esposito was in the service of another king – this time the king of pop, Michael Jackson, for whom he was overseeing the logistics of the Bad tour. Jackson was another kind of pop star altogether, and big on a scale that would surely have been unimaginable even for Presley. But his confounding descent from great American icon to lonely, seedy, delusional butt of lazy comedians’ jokes would follow – with considerably more darkness – the template established by the first rock ’n’ roll icon. Neverland substituted for Graceland, the powerful sedative propofol for sundry uppers and downers, yet the grand narratives rhymed. When Esposito encountered Jackson at the peak of his powers, did he think, “Here we go again”?
After Elvis’s drug-related death at the age of 42, his cash-money manager Tom Parker said, “This changes nothing.” In a way, he was right. Presley’s music has continued to sell; a couple of years ago an Elvis album debuted at number one in the British charts. And since Jackson’s drug-related death at the age of 50, on 25 June 2009, his work has earned his estate more than $2bn. Yet death is the moment when a star loses control of his image once and for all, if he ever truly had control of it in the first place. And where the afterlife has been relatively kind to Elvis, who remains loved despite the fat jokes, I’m not so sure that Jackson the superstar will survive his.