…and my brother, Stephen after Stevie Nicks. 😛
Okay. So, I feel like I should take some time to at least get a few thoughts out beyond Facebook status updates. Something that is a little longer lasting.
I heard the news Thursday on NPR. I turned it on in the middle of the story and thought the piece was about his rehearsing for the tour. Then I heard about the coma. And shortly thereafter that he was dead. My Facebook home page was already flooding. I’ve added my words. And this WordPress post will feed into my Facebook so it’s all one big pot, really.
And of course I was like What the Fuck?
It begins: Fall 1982. Arthur Johnson, a schoolmate from Mrs. Cox’s 3rd Grade classroom brings his Thriller album (on vinyl of course) to my 3rd Grade classroom, Mrs. Brady’s room. I don’t remember the occasion—was it a party, special day, or just a bit of show and tell? Mrs. Brady put on the record and Arthur starts dancing. I don’t know if he moon walked per se, as according the sources, the above video from May 1983 was the moon walk’s debut. Either way, I, a white boy in an ever increasingly racially mixed school, am enthralled, and want more. I must own this. This was the moment I transitioned from storybook records whose chimes told me to turn the page. Beyond Sesame Street records and the Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music soundtracks. This was it.
I went home that day and asked my parents if we had any Michael Jackson records. One of them—not sure if was Mom or Dad—handed me our copy of Off the Wall, and I said, “This isn’t Michael Jackson!” I’d taken in the cover of Arthur’s Thriller album, and this was NOT the same guy! In my world, anyway.
For my 8th birthday, I received my very own copy of Thriller. Along with the my copy of the Better Homes and Gardens New Junior Cookbook, which I still use today, and in fact just finished a couple batches of Snickerdoodles for the weekend’s Pride festivities.
From here, I unleash a bit of a brainstorm of MJ moments….
Family gatherings will undoubtedly include a Michael Jackson number or two, lip synced and danced by myself. My version of “You Wanna Be Startin’ Something” involved gym shorts and sweatbands and exercise-esque choreography that put Olivia Newton John to shame. No track from the Thriller album was safe. My production of the song “Thriller” was carefully planned, involved turning off all the lights, my little brothers, and a dagger-esque letter opener that is still at arm’s reach from my computer.
I invited some of my friends over one day because we were going to make our OWN “Thriller” video with my dad’s film home movie camera. If only I’d had a digital recorder then! Chris, AJ (then maybe still Andy), and Michelle came over and my grand vision of multi locations—the corner at the end of the block, my garage, etc. was slightly rehearsed, never filmed, but Mom still made lunch.
One of our former babysitters and neighborhood friends, Katie, would teach me the choreography to “PYT” she learned in her dance class. Katie died suddenly this past May.
I watched the Making of Thriller video many many times with Michelle and her mom, Pattie. That’s when I saw the above “Billie Jean” clip. The penultimate viewing was a party where she invited several of our classmates and we made our own pizzas (because Pattie was a lunch mother at school and she had the hookup to the place that provided our pizza lunches). Talk about Awesome. We marveled at the special effects and made fun of the Jackson 5’s “Can you Feel It?” video. We kept shouting “No!” At least Michelle and I would every time we watched.
Before Detroit had cable—and therefore MTV, my main source to see his videos was Channel 4’s (our NBC station) music video show that came on a 4:00 after school. Many of my 80’s video memories come from that show. Madonna, Cindy Lauper, Lionel Ritchie, “Ghostbusters,” etc.
My bedroom was covered in Michael Jackson posters, whether my little brother liked it or not! My jacket was covered in MJ buttons, many of which were purchased at this little shop in the middle of Livonia Mall. I learned about sales tax when my 99 cent button cost me $1.03. I think this store had the coveted “Human Nature” tapestry. Some buttons I bought at the pro shop of Riverside Roller Rink. They had an MJ night once and I entered their lookalike contest. I did the “Human Nature” cover—I wore white pants, white shirt, and yellow sweater vest. I wore my homemade glove—one of my mother’s old evening gloves glue-sticked and glittered. I made my own socks, too. I was jealous of any friend who had the official gear—gloves, socks, jackets. I was deprived of these things as a child. Heh. So I made due. I believe this was the night I acquired my MJ sunglasses—my fold up knock-off Ferraris with his signature etched into the glass.
I did all the moves as best I could.
I scowled, and probably laughed at people who called him Michael Jackass and Michael Jerkson (Michelle’s father and grandfather respectively).
I told my Aunt Nellie I loved Michael Jackson and she told me that boys couldn’t love other boys. That moment made it into my play, The Melted Lampshade. But this was before I knew anything about anything and way before MJ’s scandals. I loved this music, his dancing, his soul, his everything, even if I didn’t understand it all. He was my first obsession. Before Madonna, Heart, Bon Jovi, The Monkees, Sarah McLachlan, Dar Williams, The Cure.
We were maybe going to see the Jacksons on the Victory tour for my 10th birthday, but that fell through. I had a big ol’ party at Chuck E. Cheese’s instead. Which was awesome and many Transformers were acquired. But the concert woulda been sweet.
My brother, Mark, posted on Facebook about how my mother met him once, when she worked at Detroit Children’s Hospital, and MJ was in town working some business deal that eventually fell through. Mom was a tutor and was with the kids when he came to visit. She asked me to help give some insight into him. By this time, he had fallen into scandal and parody and songs I didn’t really know. She told me how, she held onto one little boy, and Michael went up to him and said, Hello. The boy was quiet and Mom said, “He’s shy.” Michael smiled, slipped down his sunglasses, revealing his eyes, and said something like, “I can tell,” or “I know,” but not in a sarcastic way or anything. J Mark posted on his FB “R.I.P. Mom, Michael Jackson, and Farah Fawcett.” And I was like “What do YOU know about Farah?” and he said, “Nothing!” 😛
I know there are MJ-themed photos of me in various photo albums at my dad’s. I’ll have to find get my hands on them.
I never picked up Bad or any subsequent albums, but followed along on the radio and MTV and all that, up to a point until some of the clips MTV has been showing these past few days I barely or don’t remember at all. I moved on, but still have what I have and can look beyond all the crazy (and the Amy Pohler sketches on SNL) to all the goodness. Oh, and I saw the “We are the World” video for the first time in a million years. What a trip! And what was Dan Ackeroyd doing there by the way? 😛
I was at Roscoe’s the other night and they closed the dance floor with a remix of “Thriller.” That was pretty darn cool.
My FB quiz “What Hit MJ song are You?” resulted in this:
You are “Stranger In Moscow” – Michael Jackson’s song about feeling lonely in a different city, in a different culture and within yourself. You are a poetic soul. You are very sensitive. You prefer a book to a film. If you choose a film, it’s a film which will make you think. Small things can bring lots of joy and lots of pain into your life. Sometimes you like walking alone in the rain. You like the feeling on the raindrops on your face. You wish the rain could take away all your bad thoughts. You are a good person. Try to enjoy little good things more than the bad things.
Didn’t know it, but the description pretty much fits. Caught the video on MTV (btw, it takes Michael Jackson DYING for MTV to play music videos again it would seem!) I’ll end with it (click on the screen to watch it on Youtube as embedding’s been squished):
Thank you, Michael. For real. 🙂