Jackson, apparently, was deeply moved by the reception he got in Warsaw when he pitched up there to play a gig last year. He plans to reward the country by tarmacking over some 800,000 square metres of it. On Tuesday, he emerged, dressed in the usual casuals - gold-braided jacket, dark glasses, hat - to watch a children's dance troupe perform a mazurka in traditional court outfits. Bet that gave him a few ideas for next year's Brit awards. "At present, we are talking about emotions rather than business," says Jerzy Guz, head of Warsaw Central District's development. The park will, however, have a "special flavour imparted by the star to draw fans".
Jacko may be nuts, but he's no fool. He is, after all, all about branding. In the West, the brand is showing signs that it may need updating - new logo, perhaps, maybe a more benign corporate image - but as our marketing- weary society turns toward shinier new brands such as the Spice Girls, new markets open up in the old totalitarian regimes. To us, Jackson may seem like a cartoon character whose belief in his own image has gone way too far, but to people who have been deprived of advertising as we know it, he really is a bit of a Messiah. You see it all over: Chinese queueing to have their picture taken with the 8ft-tall plastic Colonel Sanders in the Peking outlet of KFC; the subtle flash of the letters CK on the shalwar-covered; Ray-Ban knock-offs absolutely everywhere. Two years ago, 25 per cent of Nike's sales world-wide had the word "Jordan" associated with them.
I used to knock about with an Iranian who had spent his formative years under the mullahs. People were always looking for signs of the cultural difference between us, but to me the most obvious one, apart from his table manners, was the fact that to him, McDonald's, Coca-Cola and Marlboro were almost iconic (although not, given that he was a Muslim, in a figurative sense), in their representation of all the freedom the West had to offer. His face would light up every time we passed the golden arches, and he was emotionally incapable of resisting popping in for a quick Big Mac. The one time I suggested we try a flame-grilled Whopper for a change, storm clouds gathered on that fine-knit brow; he glared down the full length of the aquiline Persian nose and uttered two words only: "No. McDonald." Now, there's branding for you.
The problem, with branding, is maintaining secrecy before the campaign starts. Corporate secrecy is a real problem in an era when cash is king. By the judicious use of a couple of phone calls and a brown paper envelope, this column has found itself in possession of a confidential document outlining suggested attractions for the putative park. We reproduce highlights in the hope that the Disney corporation, which must be threatened by this turn of events, will be suitably grateful.
Warning: JacksonWorld will have a height restriction of 4ft 6in. Any taller than that, and Michael won't want you.
The park will be divided into three areas: Educational, Comical and HIStorical. Rides planned for the Educational section include:
The Parthenogenesis Experience (working title: The Billie-Jean is Not My Lover Experience). A hands-off tour in which visitors can discover the joys of reproduction without viscosities. Free designer surgical mask with every go.
The Mathematical Phenomenon. Juggle numbers. First there are Five. Then there are Seven. Whoops. There's only one.
Chimpanzee Eco-Ride. Jungle life: wear nappies and tailored suits, enjoy trips on carousels. Warning: participants may be donated to a zoo after 18 months.
The We Are The World 3-D Encounter. Throw your arms around the children, while miraculously reversing the felling of the rain forests. Learn to intone the phrase "I-love-you-all" with breathy intensity.
The Jarvis Cocker Revenge Ride. Hit moving images of the evil gatecrasher with handfuls of writs. Direct strikes on the waggling posterior guarantee entry to the:
Hall of Mirrors. A classic fairground attraction updated for the new millennium. Scream with laughter as you see what you'd look like after extensive plastic surgery to nose, chin, hairline, cheekbones, brain etc.
The Elizabeth Taylor Nuptial Roller-Coaster Extravaganza: dress as a photographer from the National Enquirer and parachute through a yellow- striped canopy at the moment when robot Michael hands over the blushing bride. Ride may get a little repetitive.
Flowing Brooke. Watch her walk. Watch her talk. Watch her Shield the celebrity reputation.
The Moonwalk: gasp in admiration as our courageous explorer slides his feet backwards across the Sea of Tranquillity.
A fabulous day out, I think you'll agree, for any 12-year-old boy and his best friendn
Thomas Sutcliffe returns next week.Reuse content