May 3, 2005 | 1:28 p.m. ET

And they will do anything for love... (Dan Abrams)

I think Pat Benatar said it best when she said “Love is a battlefield.”

That's often reflected in how much people are willing to endure for love.  

The latest “love hero” is John Mason, the fiance of runaway bride, Jennifer Wilbanks. His fiancee runs out on him. He has to take a lie-detector test, becomes a suspect in her murder, and he frantically worries for days.  She calls and concocts some story about being abducted.  And he's still eager to put that ring right back on her finger. 

How about Rusty Yates? His wife, Andrea, drowned their five children one-by-one, stood by her throughout her trial, and only now, four years later— she's behind bars— is he finally filing for divorce. 

Remember Mary Joe Buttafuoco? She got shot in the face by her husband's lover, Amy Fischer.  She welcomed him back after his four-month jail sentence for statutory rape in '91, then again in 1995 after he served two months for trying to pay an undercover cop for sex. She finally divorced him  in 2003. 

Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown have equally fought on the love battlefield. In 2003, Whitney called the police after Bobby allegedly slapped her during an altercation. Still Whitney showed up to court, holding Bobby's hand, saying, “We are still together.”  I guess what comes around goes around, as Bobby had to stand by Whitney through bouts of drug abuse, including the time Whitney allegedly tried to smuggle pot onto  an airplane at a Hawaii airport. 

But you know what?  While many of us may not be able to understand why these people would stick around, maybe in the words of Janet Jackson, “That's just the way love goes.”

E-mail DAbrams@MSNBC.com.

May 2, 2005 | 3:21 p.m. ET

Jackson team begins defense of one strange dude (Stacy Brown, MSNBC contributor and Jackson family friend)

MSNBC
As prosecutors wrap up their case this week against Michael Jackson, the interminable question of "How did the King of Pop get here?" remains.

Many of us know Jackson’s story: From the great to the weird, details of his life have worked their way into the consciousness of music and non-music fans everywhere. The Jackson Five were a loveable bubble-gum pop music group out of Gary, Indiana. With little Michael Jackson taking the lead, millions adored them. A tougher-than-nails father wanted perfection. He teased little Michael about his nose and the terrible acne he’d developed as a young teen.

Michael Jackson hid under his bed from his rambunctious father and removed rat-traps to preserve and play with rodents that infiltrated their two-car garage sized home. On road trips, the group played in places that were filled with loose women, gawking men, and alcoholics.

His siblings teased him about his virginity. Rumors that made tabloids included a young Michael Jackson undergoing a sex change operation and changing his name to Michelle. Partygoers at New York’s famed Studio 54 would later recount tales of how Jackson and sister Latoya would sometimes visit the hangout and how Jackson would often express his distaste for the goings-on at the club.

Even before this, according to Latoya Jackson’s 1992 memoirs, Joseph Jackson’s alleged molestation of Latoya and other members of the family largely affected Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson by all accounts, including his own, became a recluse. He often locked himself into the studio of the family’s Hayvenhurst estate in Encino, Calif., cutting records and making unforgettable hits.

With all of this going on, Jackson often leaned on his faith as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He had a purpose, other than music. But as the demands of his career became greater, Jackson— a perfectionist— delved deeper into his creative being.

On March 25, 1983 the Motown 25th anniversary bash brought all the titans of Berry Gordy’s dynasty to one California stage. Nobody knew that Michael Jackson’s fiery “Billie Jean” was about to moonwalk into history.

On May 16, 1983, millions watched the televised version of the Motown bash and saw Jackson dominate the crème de la crème of popular music performers. With that, his album “Thriller,” shot into a different stratosphere. Jackson began making plans to top “Thriller” and find Neverland. He disassociated himself from the Jehovah’s Witnesses and, in some people’s opinions, made a deal with the devil.

A deal that led to unrelenting tales of weirdness.

It was between the 1992 release of “Thriller” and the 1987 release of “Bad” that tabloids began to notice the weirdness of Michael Jackson. He attended the 1984 Grammy Awards with Brooke Shields on his arm and the diminutive child actor Emmanuel Lewis in his lap. He and Lewis were later photographed sucking on baby bottles.

Jackson befriended equally tabloid-worthy star Elizabeth Taylor and sought to purchase the Elephant Man’s bones. He instructed his manager to sell photos of Jackson sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber allegedly to show that he could livefor hundreds of years.

Jackson then inexplicably added crotch-grabbing to his otherwise unique, smooth and unbelievably talented dance moves. The color of his skin dramatically changed and his alliances with young boys became an open secret.

He told Oprah Winfrey in 1993 that he regurgitated at the sight of Joseph Jackson and that he had vitiligo, a skin disease. However, Jackson managed to contradict the vitiligo statement as a reason for his appearance when interviewer Diane Sawyer asked him about the color of his skin in a 1995 interview.

Sawyer asked Jackson whether or not it was his decision... “on your part in some way, the way you look, where does it come from?”

Jackson responded "It's nature. I’m a performer, I’m an artist.” Jackson’s then-wife Lisa Marie Presley, added “And he is constantly remodifying something or changing it or reconstructing it or…you know, working on some imperfection that he thinks needs to be worked on." More telling from Presley about Jackson’s skin-color was when she said, “If he sees something he doesn’t like, he changes it. He re-sculpted himself, he’s an artist.” And Jackson concluded by adding “I want to put a red dot right here one day (pointing to his forehead)...”

There was no talk of vitiligo by Jackson in response to Sawyer’s prodding.

Whether Jackson is innocent or guilty of the charges he’s facing in Santa Maria, the weirdness is the main obstacle he must now overcome as his high-powered lawyers begin their defense.

As unfair as it may sound, these are the demons that may plague Jackson with this Santa Maria jury. The very diluted version of Jackson’s strangeness, which I have just recounted, will certainly play in the minds of those who now sit in judgment of him. Because they are human, they will probably take the entire picture into account.

The biggest challenge is getting around the reality of one of the biggest understatements of all time... and that is that Michael Jackson is one strange dude.

E-mail Sidebar@MSNBC.com

May 2, 2005 | 2:47 p.m. ET

Why the Runaway Bride ran away (Clint Van Zandt, former FBI profiler)

MSNBC TV's Clint Van Zandt
From a Profiler's Perspective, it seemed the timing was too good to be a real abduction. Everyone who knew Jennifer Wilbanks said she'd never just run away, but it just didn't feel right— it didn't track like a legitimate kidnapping. The police and the FBI, to their credit, ran a two-track investigation with track (1) she's a legitimate missing person – reason unknown; and track (2) she's a victim of herself, a true “run away bride.” 

No matter the reason for her change of heart and her subsequent cross-country odyssey, it was still her call. We might all have hoped that she would have found another way to call a time out in her apparent plunge into matrimony other than by staging her own kidnapping, but it sure gave cable TV something to talk about last week.

Should Jennifer Wilbanks' family donate the reward money to pay for the search? Click here to answer today's Question of the Day .

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