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And now for something completely different

NBC News’ bureau chief in Los Angeles reports on the vagaries of covering news in "The Golden State."
Media scramble to grab copies of formal felony charges filed against entertainer Michael Jackson at the superior courthouse in Santa Maria on Dec. 18.Robert Galbraith / Reuters file
/ Source: NBC News

This week I’ve been waking up to perfect days. Blue skies, and temperatures in the 70’s. Groundhog day weather. The same beautiful thing day in, and day out.

I know the rest of the country never wants to hear about the lovely weather from Californians, but that’s the way it is. We might not have Iowa, or New Hampshire, and we certainly don’t have to wear winter woolies, but we get to shovel it, just the same as the rest of you.

Voting on Oscars, not Democrats
While the Democrats fiddle in Iowa, and spend their money on ads appealing to no-one in particular; it’s award season here, and the Hollywood Studios are spending money like drunken sailors, pushing their various movies. The Golden Globes and the Oscars are all just around the corner.

Half the people I work with are knee deep in awards. It’s a world that floats in a bubble of nothingness. I can’t get enthralled with it, even though this is my 15th year here. 

Faxes fly through the air regarding places to stand on the red carpet, accreditations required, parties to be held afterwards. (The news folks never get invited to the parties. We get to beg for the honor to stand on public pavements to film the famous and the rich coming and going). Beats me, but year after year we go crazy over the awards.

Jackson court debut
And then, there’s the main show. Michael Jackson’s first court appearance for his arraignment on child molestation charges in Santa Maria on Friday.

Jackson is charged with seven counts of performing lewd or lascivious acts on a child under 14 and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent, reportedly wine. Jackson, who has maintained his innocence, has been free on $3 million bail pending arraignment.

The Jackson case is a media frenzy in the making. A perfect storm, in this case, descending on the unsuspecting small town of Santa Maria.

NBC News has a staff of about 30 or so in Santa Maria, waiting for The Gloved One to show up for an appearance that will probably last all of 30 minutes.

Neverland by candlelight
Busloads of Jackson fans are en route from Los Angeles and Las Vegas to the rural Santa Maria Valley on a "Caravan of Love" to show their support for Jackson. A candlelight vigil is planned at Neverland. District Attorney offices are being picketed in Santa Barbara.

After his court session we are told by Jackson’s mighty PR machine, that he will return to his Ranch for a luncheon with his fans. I wonder how many of his ‘fans’ will have camcorders, ready to sell to the highest bidder by Friday night?

I wonder about these people. Don’t they have a life? Don’t they work?

Can you imagine going to your boss saying, “Can I have the day off, I need to go to Neverland and stand there with a candle for Michael?”

The day before the arraignment we were suckered into covering a protest in Santa Barbara. We moved mountains to get it covered. It was going to be akin to the million man march.

Of course, as is usually the case, there were more press than protesters.

Earthquake preps
The 10th Anniversary of the 1994 Northridge earthquake that registered 6.7 on the Ricter scale also falls on Friday. The quake killed 60 people and the mass destruction of buildings and highways resulted in property damage estimated at $20 billion. 

Note to self: better make sure we have our earthquake preps up to date. We haven’t had a trembler here in Los Angeles for some time now. We’re probably due. Not that I’m wishing it on us, it will probably just happen.

So I will be checking the status of our quake supplies. A nice reality check from the trials and tribulations of hollyweird.

It’s been an interesting year here so far. The plucky little Mars Rover is inching around the Red Planet. It’s an election year even though the candidates have decided the rest of the country is more important than California. We’re still knee deep in Iraq.

But we have AWARDS, and we have MICHAEL.