Thriller was one of the first things I ever saw on television – EVER. I would watch it, scream with fear and delight, then rewind it and watch the whole thing all over again.
Fast forward ten years or so and I was completely Jacko-ified. My friend Sophie and I would spend unhealthy amounts of time singing Jackson 5 tunes, watching the biopic, reading, re-enacting, talking…I even at one point could perform the entire Billy Jean choreography (albeit, with a pretty lame-ass moonwalk) and did so at every public opportunity, whether appropriate or not.
Then the first molestation case came to light – Sophie and I were adamant that this was a farce, a lame attempt to extract money from one of the richest and most talented people in the world. Together we even penned a song which we were sure deserved to be a top 40 hit, aptly titled Innocent Til Proven Guilty. From memory, the chorus went something like this:
Innocent til proven guilty
I knew I was right,
Knew the truth would come to light.
Innocent til proven gui-il-ty,
I knew I was right and now…
THEY. KNOW. TOO.
I know. Profound.
Then there was the Heal the World competition. When I first saw it advertised I all but wet myself with the excitement at the prospect of meeting my idol. The deal was you had to come up with an idea to heal the world, send it in and the best entries would be flown over to Neverland to meet Michael and hang out with him on his amusement rides, white gloves and all. I spent WEEKS working on my project, the details of which are now more than fuzzy, but I do remember it being quite a sizeable (and expensive) packet to post to the US of A. But I put in so much effort, I thought I was definitely in with a chance. Imagine my bitter, weeping disappointment when the comp was won not by me, not by some imaginative academic but by….two 7-year-old boys.
Then there was the concert. Soph and I lined up for hours to get tix, only to find that by the time we got near the front, the sellers could not sell us tickets on her mother’s credit card without her mum present. Then Sophie did something I have only ever seen her do twice in her entire life: she cried. Boy did she cry. She went up the front of the line, bawled her eyes out explaining what lengths we’d gone to just to be there, how Michael was all we really lived for and so on…all the while I’m standing back in our place in line wondering what the heck we’re going to do. All of a sudden Soph rocks back to me, tears down her cheeks but a smile on her face, grabs my hand and pulls me out of the line.
“But, our place! I don’t want to lose it…” I protested.
“Come with me. Just come with me,” she whispered.
“Jen…we’ve got GOLDEN CIRCLE TICKETS!”
Somehow she’d managed to talk, cry and navigate her way into not only tickets full-stop, but tickets that were six…that’s right…SIX rows from the front! We all but caught his sweat – we made a sign saying “THROW US YOUR SHIRT!” which he didn’t, but the cameras caught us and so, I’m proud to say that for three seconds of my silly little life, I was on the big screen at a Michael Jackson concert.
The concert was a magnifique moment to be sure, though I do recall more than a few disappointments, for one just how completely choreographed it was (I guess I should have expected that) but with no really unique genuine ‘wow, you should have been there the night when…’ kinda moments. He yelled out “I love you!” a few times but it just seemed I dunno…planned. Then there was the routine to “Earth Song” (still one of my fave tunes), which involved a huge army tank rolling onto the stage, and a soldier coming out waving his gun at a ton of kids on the stage, until Michael stepped forward in the line of fire and put his hand up to the barrel of the gun, at which point the soldier realised the error of his ways, broke down on his knees and began crying.
So ironically, it was just after this landmark concert viewing experience that my passion for all things Michael began to fade. This may well have been around the point as molestation case number 2 came to light, I’m not sure. Either way, my obsession got transferred to other areas of my life, probably healthily so. So while I’ve still always loved the music and will never let “Billy Jean” go played without at least boogying part of the way along, I usually haven’t even so much as bothered with following him at all really.
So it was with very mixed feelings that I read of his death yesterday. Really, really detached on the one part, but really, really sad on the other – knowing that there was a time when he was, to my teenage self, a whole lotta something. As my hubby put it last night:”I guess everybody’s been grieving for Michael for a long time.”
When I asked him to clarify, he said (bearing in mind he is a complete chess fanatic): “Well it seems a bit like when Bobby Fischer died. There’s a certain level of real sadness there for what a talent has been lost. But then all the personal stuff that came with that talent became so kinda thwarted in a bad way that you can’t help but feel a bit weird about it.”
And in a strange way, that pretty much sums up my entire feeling. I feel really sad for the talent, the music, the artist, the Michael who gave me so much in the way of amazing music and entertainment, but I also feel like that person began crumbling an awfully long time ago. RIP.