I’m sure there are a million and one websites reporting, mocking, mourning him and I really hate jumping on bandwagons but in this case, I’d like to share my memories of the King of Pop. I know most people are tired of all the coverage and I've seen some comments about people wondering why his death is getting so much attention. To them I have to say, the man's career spanned decades. If you're surprised the media is going bananas we obviously haven't been living on the same planet.
I wasn't around when Elvis died... wait. Was I? Hold on. Wiki says he died in 1977 so I was about 4ish almost 5 so I don't remember if there was a pilgrimage to Graceland but I'm sure he had about the same amount of coverage as MJ. Well, it was 1977 so people had to settle for news via the pony express. Maybe I should warn you now that when Madonna goes to the big whorehouse in the sky we will be talking about it for weeks. Prepare yourselves, m'mkay?
Like a typical preteen, I had my crushes on famous people or fictional characters. You know, Luke Skywalker, Templeton Peck AKA Face, Bugs Bunny but my first real crush was on Michael Jackson.
My family never had much money. We lived in a 2 bedroom apartment and only had what was necessary and sometimes even less but, every once in a while, my mom would use some of the money she had squirreled away so she could buy us a special treat. In my case, it was my very first cassette tape.
I loved every single song on that tape. My love of MJ infected my little brother, Rick, who was only 2 at the time but he learned every song and imitated his dance moves better than Alfonso Riberio himself (Carlton for us Fresh Prince fans). Little guy could moon walk and Ahh-hee-hee! with the best of ‘em!
I remember when the video for Thriller was set to debut. I put in all necessary requisition forms to have the one TV we owned to myself that night. I sat Rick on my lap and we waited for our idol to take the stage. Rick sat quietly while the video was on and as soon as it was over, I went to put him down but he turned around and wrapped his arms around me, terrified. Awww so cute! Okay, in hindsight, it probably wasn’t a good idea to let a 2 year old watch a video about zombies or werewolves or monsters but I was 12 so give me a break!
I wasn’t one of those kids who collected every little thing that had MJs picture on it but only because we were broke. I did, however, have 2 giant posters and a couple of flea market t-shirts that were worn to the point of being threadbare. Oh! I also had a white vinyl jacket that resembled the one he wore in the Thriller video. Don't ask me why I didn't get a red one. Maybe they only had that color at the flea market. Maybe my mom thought white was better to sweat in in the hot California sun? Another mystery of the universe.
I have this one clear memory of being in my friend Nurselizy’s room* while PYT played and both of us singing at the top of our lungs.
♪♫ I want to love you! PYT! pretty young thing! ♪♫
Of course now people will read more into those lyrics than our innocent minds could have predicted.
As my life changed and music changed and Madonna hit the scene (Shout out to Angel Darling with Borderline!), my MJ tape didn’t get much play but to this day, I hear Beat It, Billy Jean and, going back some, Rock with you and I can’t help but sing along. I still remember all the words to the spoken part of Thriller and often imitate the laugh at the end when I want to scare the dogs. Strangely, they don’t seem to care.
I admit to judging him and ridiculing some of his decisions, ummm once your nose starts looking life a pimple maybe you want to stop with the surgeries, but as Rick and I were talking about him yesterday, I realized I felt pity for him too. I'm not one of those weirdos who was standing outside his home and swaying with my eyes closed because I didn't really know the dude and even if I had, I'm really not much of a swayer but I enjoyed going down memory lane to a more innocent time in my life.
All the Michael talk got my niece Natalia (6) wondering who the heck this Michael Jackson was so she decided to listen to the songs that were being played on TV (she scolded my mom when she wanted to change the channel so she may watch her novelas). Her favorite one so far? Jellybean. Yup. Jellybean or as we know it, Billy Jean.
When I came home from work, she had a special drawing she made of Mr. Jackson himself:
Out of the mouths of babes. (out of the mouth of babes?)
*(I also remember us singing to “Up Side Down” by Diana Ross ♪♫ Up Side Down! boy you turn me, inside out and round n’ round♪♫ )(those were the jams!)