IX DANGEROUS Michael Jackson, P.T. Barnum and The Greatest Show on Earth

Meet His Majesty Prince Humbug

Michael Jackson is known as the Greatest Entertainer of all time; P.T. Barnum is known as the Greatest Showman of all time. It is said that Phineas Taylor Barnum, born in 1810, invented show business. In 1991, entertainer Michael Jackson featured P. T. Barnum in the show of his album cover called DANGEROUS.

Dangerous Album Cover 1991. Painted by Mark Ryden

P. T. Barnum on the 1991 DANGEROUS album cover by Michael Jackson. SONY Music Entertainment. Painter of the artwork is named „King of Pop“ (Acryl on wood 82” x 74”) is Mark Ryden. The original of the painting is exhibited in Paul Kasmin Gallery, 293 Tenth Ave., New York, NY 10001. source

Michael Jackson Dangerous Cover 1991 P.T. Barnum

picture: P. T. Barnum on the 1991 DANGEROUS album cover by Michael Jackson and on a photograph taken in 1865.

P.T. Barnum is immortal on the DANGEROUS cover by Michael Jackson

Phineas Taylor Barnum is legendary, a „Mr. BIG“ in the industry and the most serious object of the DANGEROUS cover by Michael Jackson. Barnum is the very business looking man in the suit in the symbolically dark area of the painting. Michael Jackson granted showman and manager Barnum a special place on his album cover DANGEROUS: in the EXITUS area on DANGEROUS.
Michael Jackson’s DANGEROUS album cover seems divided into a vibrant, sunny left side marked ENTRARE (beginning/entrance) and a dark side described EXITUS (exit/death)

Dangerous Cover Jackson LIcht Finsternis Entrare Exitus
Michael Jackson’s DANGEROUS cover is divided into a vibrant, sunny side on the left marked ENTRARE (entrance/beginning) and a dark side described as EXITUS (departure, maybe even death).

In 1891, Barnum had died. In 1991, exactly 100 years later, Michael Jackson immortalized P.T. Barnum, the genius of show business, in the area of EXITUS on the DANGEROUS cover.

Michael Jackson Dangerous Cover 1991 P.T. Barnum

picture: 1891 is the year when P.T. Barnum died.1991, exactly 100 years later, Michael Jackson made Barnum immortal in the „EXITUS“ area on the DANGEROUS cover.

Michael Jackson and P. T. Barnum, manager of the „Greatest Show on Earth“

Barnum was the mastermind behind the most famous circus company in history. Barnum was a publicity genius and a Master of Marketing. The exploitation of humans and animals was as much part of his philosophy as his illusions and hoaxes to entertain his audience. The press was already instrumental in Barnum’s circus.
In the course of his career, Phineas earned himself the title „Prince Humbug“. This makes Barnum on the DANGEROUS album cover aristocrat number three alongside the King of Pop in the figure of the dog and the Queen in the figure of the bird.

king dog queen bird on MJ Dangerous Cover 1991 with P.T. Barnum

picture: Three royalties on the DANGEROUS cover such as the King of Pop in the image of the dog and Queen Elizabeth I and II in the image of the bird and aristocrat number three: P. T. Barnum as „Prince Humbug“ …

P. T. Barnum and the circus around „Living Curiosities“

In his circus arena P. T. Barnum commercialized everything to the „Greatest sensation on Earth“. In his show he presented white elephants as well as people who were different from the others. The „Normals“ called them „Freaks“ and outsiders of society. Barnum sold people as „living curiosities.“ Giant and short people, women with beards, the heaviest people in the world, men with two heads, dark-skinned people with the skin disease vitiligo. Also exhibited by Barnum were a mermaid and George Washington’s 161-year-old Amme. Barnum created a kind of Guinness Book of World Records in the circus arena. Barnum made a lot of money from it because he gave the people what they wanted. And the crowds came.

Dangerous cover 1991 white elephant with clown on it

picture: White elephants in the circus of the DANGEROUS cover around Michael Jackson 1991. source

Michael Jacksons DANGEROUS album cover becomes via circus director P.T. Barnum a circus poster with dogs that don’t look like other dogs and birds that are different from other birds. Due to Barnum, DANGEROUS becomes somehow a circus with Michael Jackson as the main attraction in the „Greatest Show on Earth“.

Dangerous Cover 1991 Mark Ryden

picture: The public life of Michael Jackson as „The Greatest Show on Earth“?
Michael Jacksons DANGEROUS Cover 1991. (Painter Mark Ryden/SONY Music)

Michael Jackson Dangerous Cover Painter Mark Ryden Sketches Entwürfe 1991_2021
Sony’s art director Nancy Donald had recommended the painter Mark Ryden to Michael Jackson. Five similar designs were submitted by Ryden to Jackson in the recording studio during the DANGEROUS session. One design featured a circus poster with a skeleton popping out of a clown, another design by Ryden had focused on the child with the skull, in another one Michael’s eyes floated in the clouds above Bubbles. 1

P. T. Barnum and Michael Jackson and marketing

P. T. Barnum understood marketing, he knew how to create a hype around his show, in which he offered a different kind of entertainment. It is reported, Michael Jackson, who never denied the reputation of being the Greatest Entertainer of all time, took Barnum as his role model. It is said that Michael Jackson encouraged his employees to read P. T. Barnum’s philosophies:

„This will be my Bible, and I want it to be yours as well. I want my whole career to be the greatest show on earth.“

Michael Jackson, reportedly to his employees. 2

P. T. Barnum and Minstrel and the „art of moneymaking“

Barnum entertained the mass audience not only with circus attractions, but also with white actors pretending to be black. Minstrel was the name of this „entertainment“ with blackface masks. Those masks with painted black faces. Minstrel humor ridicules African Americans and has its roots in the fear of whites toward blacks. Not only Barnum’s audience wanted to be entertained by minstrelsy. This kind of entertainment was popular for a long time and made it into modern day films. 3
Barnum’s true focus was on the „art of making money“. He was a man of principle. And because the public demanded it, humbug for him was part of the business.

„There’s a customer born every minute.“

were P.T. Barnum’s words of wisdom.

How were the receipts today at the Garden.“

These were the alleged last words of the businessman P.T. Barnum.

Barnum had the greatest successes with his circus, but he longed for recognition from society’s upper classes. At one point he even managed very successfully a Swedish opera singer, who definitely belonged in the area of „higher art“, but nevertheless Barnum was denied recognition. Today, the biggest attraction of his own show is considered the man P. T. Barnum himself.

Public judgement towards Michael Jackson and the „Barnum – Effect“: Accepting allegations as fact without critically questioning them

P. T. Barnum’s was successful with his methods of making the audience believe his hoaxes of exhibiting mermaids and fossilized giants were the truth. Barnum’s methods have gone down in the history of psychology as the „Barnum effect.“ The „Barnum effect“ describes our tendency to accept assertions as facts without questioning them critically and objectively. The „Barnum effect“ in the public condemnation of Michael Jackson is particularly interesting here, since there is a tendency among the public not to question obscure statements about Michael Jackson in the first place.

The effect is a specific example of the so-called „acceptance phenomenon“, which describes the general tendency of humans „to accept almost any bogus personality feedback.“ […] „The moral of the Barnum demonstration […] is that „self-validation is no validation. Do not be fooled by a psychic, quack psychotherapist, or a phony faith healer who uses this trick on you! Be skeptical and ask for proof. Keep your money in your wallet, your wallet in your pocket, and your hand on your wallet.“

The „Barnum effect“ explained in Wikipedia.

Peter Pan the hair of P. T. Barnum on the DANGEROUS cover by Michael Jackson

Barnum was cheeky, calculating. And entertaining. So, it’s no wonder that the cheeky, calculating and entertaining Peter Pan, of all people, is hiding in his hair. Peter Pan in Barnum’s hair. That’s magic. And Michael Jackson stands completely behind it. Not only on his DANGEROUS cover from 1991.

Peter Pan in the hair of P. T. Barnum on the DANGEROUS cover by Michael Jackson 1991. (In the bottom right corner of the last picture only here is the version from the Disney film inserted for the purpose of making a comparison.) Source YouTube Disney Peter Pan)

A short introduction: Peter Pan

The cheeky Peter Pan entered the world in 1901, when the Scottish author James Mathew Barrie created him. Peter Pan is the boy who never grows up. in 1956 Walt Disney turned him into a cartoon character and once again made him famous round the world.
J. M. Barrie’s creation of Peter Pan manipulates people as he pleases. He even makes them fly, but only to make them follow him wherever he wants. Because Pan is a leader. Pan is a fighter. If necessary, he kills and once he has destroyed his victims, he forgets about them. The necessary „magic dust“ for his purposes he gets from his ancient buddy, the fairy named Tinkerbell. Sometimes in a violent way. Where Pan appears, entertainment is assured. Author James Mathew Barrie produced plays with Peter Pan and became a superstar as a result. The mixture of P.T. Barnum and Peter Pan is therefore highly explosive: Both don’t always take the truth too seriously, they are first-class showmen, ambitious leaders and illusionists.
And they are all part of the personality profile of the man Michael Jackson, who is called the Greatest Entertainer of all time.

Tinkerbell on Michael Jackson DANGEROUS 1991

picture: Could this be the Peter Pan character Tinkerbell that Mark Ryden depicted on the DANGEROUS album cover by Michael Jackson in 1991?

Michael Jackson and P. T. Barnum over the years

1972: „You’ll be a part of the world of make believe“

Michael Jackson, as the greatest entertainer to come, recorded a song called THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH at Motown Studio as early as 1971 when he was just thirteen years old. The boy Michael Joe sang prophetically at the top of his lungs:

„You’ll be a part of the world of make believe

Michael Jackson, 1972 in the song GREATES SHOW ON EARTH. 4

The song is part of the album called BEN. BEN is the song by Michael Jackson in which he sings about a real friendship with a rat of the same name.

Ben the rat in gondola on Michael Jackson Dangerous cover 1991

picture: This rat named Ben was a milestone in the history of Michael Jackson and seems to be pictured in the gondola on the DANGEROUS cover.

1978: Barnum and Michael Jackson in „The Wiz“

In 1978, twenty-year-old African American Michael Jackson played the minstrel character „Scarecrow“ in the musical THE WIZ. Scarecrow is a young man who wants to free himself from the cross of Southern racism and has to realize that politics in the promised land of the north is nothing but a show that promises illusions. And not reality.

Barnum said there’s a sucker born every minute.

sums up Michael Jackson in 1978 in the role of the Scarecrow in the film „The Wiz“. 5

1991: Michael Jackson immortalized Barnum in EXITUS on DANGEROUS

In 1991, on DANGEROUS, Michael Jackson once again made Showmaster P. T. Barnum the focus of a gigantic circus event exactly 100 years after his death in 1891. Perhaps as his student Michael Jackson stands on this occasion closely behind him. In any case, Barnum received something like eternal life through Michael Jackson by the release on DANGEROUS. (see above on this page) And also the immortal, eternal boy Peter Pan is very close to Barnum in the EXITUS on DANGEROUS.

Michael Jackson Dangerous Cover 1991 P.T. Barnum

picture: P. T. Barnum and the magic illusion of Peter Pan in his hair on the 1991 DANGEROUS album cover by Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson and P. T. Barnum and „General Tom Thumb“

Among Barnum’s exhibits was a short-statured man named Charles Stratton who went by the stage name „General Tom Thumb“. Barnum made him a star and his audience included Queen Victoria. His tours took him all over the world. The „General’s“ marriage to a woman who was also of small stature became the cover story of the American gossip press in 1863. 6 On Michael Jackson’s DANGEROUS album cover, „General Tom Thumb“ stands on Barnums head. Charles Stratton, the man who had been gawked at as a curiosity since he was a child being sold as a freak by Barnum.


„Freak“ is also the term used by the tabloid press to describe Michael Jackson. Journalists with Pulitzer Prizes are on the same level. 7 As „inhuman“ do imaginative authors describe Jackson or also as a „monster“. They sit at their desks and ponder journalistic masterpieces like „creature of absolute soullessness“ or „genuine beast of the apocalypse“ or „auto-castrated asexual“. 8, 9
The „thumb-sized“ man on DANGEROUS, who had been described as a „freak“ in the entertainment industry, is holding a magic wand. His hand is wearing a white glove. The white glove is Michael Jackson’s trademark.
The painter of the DANGEROUS cover Mark Ryden remembered that he had talked with Michael Jackson about mutual interests. The 1932 movie „Freaks“ about the „otherness“ of some people was one of them. 10

Michael Jackson Dangerous Cover 1991 P.T. Barnum and General "Tom Thumb" standing on his head

picture: The character of „General Tom Thumb“ on P. T. Barnum’s head in the DANGEROUS album cover by Michael Jackson.

1992. P.T. Barnum in Michael Jackson’s „Dreams“: The Pepsi Commercial

In 1992, Michael Jackson made a Pepsi commercial called DREAMS and in it he devoted a large amount of space to General „Tom Thumb“ and his manager P. T. Barnum. In the Pepsi commercial, Michael Jackson himself is seduced and becomes the center of this „world of make believe“. This make-believe world for which Michael Jackson made commercials full of magic.

P. T. Barnum and General Tom Thumb in 1992 Pepsi commercial Dreams Michael Jackson Dangerous Album Promotion

picture: „General Tom Thumb“ and „P. T. Barnum“ in Michael Jackson’s DREAMS from 1991, the advertising for the DANGEROUS Album and Pepsi commercial.

1995. Barnum, General „Tom Thumb“ und HIStory

In 1995, Jackson wrote HIStory and the Barnum story becomes even more magical: „General Tom Thumb“ is back in real live. 11 Live. Side by side with the greatest entertainer of all time. Here: Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson Dangerous cover 1991 P.T. Barnum with Charles Stratton and 1995 in costume of General Tom Thumb is Meszaros Mhaly

picture: The character of „General Tom Thumb“ on Michael Jackson’s DANGEROUS album cover 1991, Charles Stratton next to P. T. Barnum and the actor Mihaly Meszaros 1995 in the role of „General Tom Thumb“ at Michael Jackson’s side on the way to a children’s hospital.

„1998“: Michael Jackson’s announcement about the ending of the „Michael Jackson Show“ on Barnum? HIStory was written

Michael Jacksons DANGEROUS cover shows a pin on P. T. Barnum’s jacket. The pin resembles a medal and is part of Michael Jackson’s signature, with which he has adorned his autographs since the 1980s: the number „1998“, underlined with an arrow pointing upwards. Below that, three dots. The whole thing reminds of a comet. Did the number „1998“ on Barnum’s reverse somehow signify the end of the „Michael-Jackson-Show“?

Michael Jackson Dangerous Cover 1991 P.T. Barnum with the 1998 on the lapel like Jackson Autograph

picture: Michael Jackson and the number „1998“ on Barnum’s jacket on the 1991 DANGEROUS album cover.

A comet, a star, the number 1998. The number was part of the symbols that Michael Jackson used again and again from the beginning of his career. Michael Jackson explained them never to his audience …

Michael Jackson Autographs with the number 1998

pictures: The symbols of a comet, a star and the number 1998 were used by Michael Jackson again and again during his career. With no explanations.

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  1. michaeljacksonmasterworks.com/michael-issues-12/
  2. Taraborrelli, J. Randy, Michael Jackson Die ultimative Biografie, 2010, Heel Verlag, Königswinter
  3. Taylor; Austen, Yuval; Jake, Darkest America – Black Minstrelsy from Slavery to HIP-HOP, 2012, W.W. NORTON & COMPANY, New York, London
  4. Jackson, Michael, Album BEN, Song GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, 1972.02, song written by: Mel Larson, Jerry Marcellino, Motown Record Company https://youtu.be/SM_iiEqv3n0 
  5. THE WIZ, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, 1978, Universal, DVD. Scarecrow: „Barnum said there’s a sucker born every minute.“ However, Barnum is more commonly believed to have said: „There’s a customer born every minute.“
  6. Website Son Of The South, Civil War Harper’s Weekly, February 21, 1863 – General Tom Thumb Wedding, 1863, https://www.sonofthesouth.net
  7. Jefferson, Margo, Über Michael Jackson, 2009: „At the same time, we express our lack of understanding of how anyone can voluntarily choose to mutate into a lonely freak.„, BvT Berliner Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH, Berlin, page 171
  8. Website Dancing with the elephant, Conversation about Michael Jackson, his art, and social change, Michael Jackson’s Otherness and Power, Dr. Willa Stillwater, Joie Collins with Susan Woodward. 11.12.2014, dancingwiththeelephant.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/michael-jacksons-otherness-and-power
  9. Woodward, Susan, Otherness and Power: Michael Jackson and His Media Critics, 01.05.2014, Blackmore Books
  10. Ryden, Mark, Interview „One DANGEROUS Artist“ with MJFC, MJFC. 2001, https://www.michaeljacksonmasterworks.com , Interview with the Michael Jackson Fan Club Magazine, https://www.michaeljacksonmasterworks.com/michael-issues-12/
  11. Meszaros, Mihaly „Michu“, https://www.tagesspiegel.de/kultur/kino/kino-schauspieler-in-kostuemen-e-t-s-wahres-gesicht/6684742.html; https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0582361/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm born 20.09.1939, Budapest. Hungarian actor who played the role of the alien „Alf“ in the TV series of the same name. With a height of 84 cm he was considered the smallest man in the world. In this role, Meszaros was a member of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michu_Meszaros

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