“MICHAEL JACKSON speaks to and for the monstrous child in us all.” So goes the summation by Pulitzer Prize winner Margo Jefferson in her relatively short but effective treatise about the pop star. This slim volume, “On Michael Jackson.” comes from Pantheon and runs 138 pages. … In quick, cut-to-the-bone strokes, Jefferson examines Michael’s bizarre, brutal working childhood and adolescence, and how that formed and deformed his own and the public’s image of him. Nobody comes off well, certainly not Michael’s parents, Joe the brutal taskmaster and Katharine the religious “pacifier.” This book is a serious work. And Michael Jackson’s rise and fall deserves examination. His trial was the most significant “celebrity happening” of 2005. You’d have to go back to silent films, to the destruction of Fatty Arbuckle on rape charges, to find even a slight comparison. … That the curtain seems to have fallen with such finality for Michael — for whom fame and “love” was everything — this is the grandest of show biz Grand Guigol. Not to dismiss the pain of his alleged victims, but I find Michael, his story, it’s outcome, all desperately tragic and unhappy. There’s not a winner to be found.

WHILE MUSING on music icons, I suppose we’d be remiss in not mentioning the massive new book, “The Beatles” by Bob Spitz. At 860 pages this is an impressively exhaustive work. Everything you ever — and possibly never — wanted to know about the Fab Four is here for general delectation. Do we end up knowing any more than we have always assumed about the Beatles — especially John Lennon and Paul McCartney? Paul was the big schmoozer, the slick flashy showman and not-so-deep egomaniac. John was the bitter, brooding, tortured, angry, jealous egomaniac. George and Ringo (especially Ringo) are dealt with in a somewhat condescending manner. There’s detail piled upon detail and it might be best — if you know at least some Beatle lore — to dip into this book piecemeal. The book does bring back the frenzy and influence of the Beatles — and their transformation from silly mop tops to accredited geniuses by the time they parted after only seven years as a group.

“WICKED,” which currently has the biggest advance on any show on Broadway ($33 million!), welcomes three new stars beginning Jan 10. Eden Espinosa, who knocked our socks off in “Brooklyn, The Musical,” will take on the “green girl,” the Wicked Witch. Derrick Williams takes over the love interest for the two gal leads, and Carol Kane, of TV’s “Taxi” and many movies fame, joins as Madame Morrible … A TRUE Christmas story proving there are no people like show people. Maureen McGovern and the company of the National Tour of “Little Women” via the Hummel Project, have adopted a Katrina survivor family who have relocated in Detroit. Maureen and the company donated money, linens, blankets, clothes and most of all, a Christmas tree and toys for the kids. Top it all with dinner for 12, which was delivered on Christmas Eve. Brava! …Three heavyweight producers, Margo Lion, Daryl Roth and Hal Luftig have joined forces and are currently in workshop with “Indoor/Outdoor” a comedy by first-time playwright Kenny Finkle. Previews start Feb. 2 and Off Broadway at the DR2 Theater on Union Square. The trio first saw the show at the hot new SPF (Summer Play Festival) on Theater Row.

ENDQUOTE: “Awards Season: Roughly mid-November through late February. In the film biz, this is equivalent to Lent, Advent, the High Holidays and Ramadan rolled into one: a period of agony and celebration. See also Kudos season.” This is from the amusing and indispensable “The Hollywood Dictionary” put out by Variety and written by Timothy M. Gray (with J.C. Suares illustrations.) I like this one too: “Showbiz: What we live for. What makes the world go ’round. What lights up our life. What puts the wind beneath our wings. The business we call show. The show we call business. You get the picture.”

E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com

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