To those of us who have been around Michael Jackson any length of time lately, we’ve know something was affecting his health, but beyond speculation, no one knew for sure what. Michael has been understandably protective of his privacy and naturally everyone around him has respected that desire to keep his private life just that. I have just learned that Michael Jackson will be announcing through his Real Beer Club that he is and has been suffering for at least a decade from Parkinson’s Disease. An old girlfriend of mine’s mother has it, as more famously does another Michael, in this case Michael J. Fox, who has helped bring awareness of it to the forefront. At present there is no cure but much has been learned about managing the disease through the use of specialized drugs, such as L-dopa. Many are also hopeful that stem cell research may offer an opportunity to learn more about Parkinson’s that could ultimately lead to a cure.
Michael will likely make a full press release available after the holidays with additional details. For now, let’s send positive thoughts Michael’s way and give him the love and support he so richly deserves. Michael Jackson has done more to support and nourish the craft beer industry, especially in its early days, than any other single person. I, for one, first learned about better beer from the first edition of his World Guide to Beer while living in New York City in 1978. Having first met him almost fifteen years ago, I feel very fortunate to know him. Though it may sound cliched, he is one of the most generous, gifted people I have ever known. The fact that he has written so much so wonderfully while at the same time he’s been battling the effects of Parkinson’s disease quite frankly makes his accomplishments all the more remarkable and laudable. Please join me in wishing Michael Jackson all the best this holiday and throughout the coming year as his private battle becomes a public one, with all the difficulties that will add to his daily life.
The following letter is being sent to Michael Jackson’s Rare Beer Club members today:
I have been asked to write to you by Michael Jackson — who is currently traveling and researching on behalf of the Rare Beer Club.
Michael is notorious among his friends for his passionate commitment to his work, and for the fearsome schedule he sets himself. What he has kept from us is the fact that he has been suffering from Parkinson’s disease for at least a decade and perhaps twice as long.
During that time he has written several thousand tasting notes and several hundred articles and has also presented scores of tutored tastings, speeches and book-signings around the world. Further, Michael has produced new books such as Ultimate Beer, The Great Beer Guide, Scotland and its Whiskies, and Whisky — The Definitive World Guide which, incidentally, was named best drinks book of 2006 in the James Beard Award and also the recipient of three other international honors. He has this fall compiled an anthology of his writing for Slow Food and completed a further revision of the fifth edition of The Great Beers of Belgium; his Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch is also in its fifth edition.
Michael has great praise for the work of the medical profession in the development of treatments to combat Parkinson’s. He has recently been prescribed some new medication, and the calibration of doses has caused some problems, which are gradually being ironed out.
He tells us: “When everything is in place, I can run almost as well as I did when I played Rugby League. The problems arise when I become absorbed in writing, or in a conversation, and forget my medication. Even the slightest delay can make me very unsteady on my feet — unable to walk at times — and slurred in my speech. Understandably, people think I am drunk, especially given my profession. I am not. My wild days were long ago. My writing has always fostered the notion of tasting more and drinking less, and I am true to that philosophy. The Gods have a sense of irony in making me look drunk when at my intake of alcohol is at its most modest.”
As you can tell, Michael is in excellent spirits and very much looks forward to the next chapter of his life which he obviously expects to be productive. In addition to being a great example by the way he has lived with this disease, Michael is already talking about projects that will benefit others with Parkinson’s disease and you can be assured that we will be hearing a lot more from him in that regard in the future.
I know that you will all join us in wishing Michael the best during this holiday season and into 2007 and beyond as he continues to lead the discovery of exciting new beers!
Robert Imeson, President
The Michael Jackson Rare Beer Club
To learn more about donating to the National Parkinson Foundation, visit their website.