Some people, although revered in some respects, are more inconvenient alive. For example, when the mightily inconvenient Orson Welles returned to the U.S. to receive an honorary Academy Award in 1971, he hectored the audience for funding for his current work (Wells was persona non grata in Hollywood). One member of the audience was heard to murmur, "We should have waited until he was dead to give him an award."
After Jackson's death, the tributes poured in from his legion of friends and fans - Liza Minnelli, Elizabeth Taylor (too choked up to comment), Quincy Jones ("I've lost my little brother"), Governor Schwarzenegger, President Obama - who even knew Jackson and Deepak Chopra were friends? Released of their conflicted feelings over his corporeal presence, fans flocked into the streets, created shrines, and wrote love notes.
Yet Jackson was terribly alone - despite his three small children. He seemed uncomfortable in his skin, in the presence of others, in adult relationships, on screen when he was doing anything but dancing. His whole life was a series of secrets and cover-ups - the medications, the relationships with children, the money, the abuse from his father, his sexuality, his marriages, the plastic surgery - as though the truth of Jackson was unbearable.
Jackson was alienated from his large family. Predictably, at his death, family members grumbled loudly about Jackson's caretakers, who they deemed had been insufficiently attentive to their brother and son. And how would his children have dealt with the reality of their father as they matured?
Let's face it - Jackson had become an eyesore, an embarrassment, a cause for concern - even (or especially) for those who claimed to care about him. Only when he was safely dead could they express their affection and admiration for a person who existed primarily in their minds, as a memory and a media creation.
P.S. (July 9, 2009): So many people described their love for Michael Jackson as their friend (or relation), yet he was so alone. Gail Collins: "it was a little peculiar hearing Brooke Shields's weepy testimony about her deep friendship with Jackson given the fact that she told reporters that the last time she saw him was at Elizabeth Taylor's eighth wedding in 1991."