Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson 1958 - 2009

There are plenty of important things to worry about in the world right now. North Korea is making aggressive militaristic threats against the United States. In Iran, the misguided authorities in power are shooting innocent people in the streets. The United States economy is still melting down and the "stimulus" concept of the federal government appears to be nothing more than wishful thinking. However.....ALL of these things will be ignored for a few days due to the death of pop music superstar Michael Jackson. No offense to the families of Ed McMahon or Farrah Fawcett, because I'm sure they were nice people, but their deaths will go largely unnoticed this week... simply because they were NOT Michael Jackson.

It is easy for those of us who live here in Los Angeles to get a little casual about meeting celebrities. My brother met Marlon Brando in a camera shop. I chatted with Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton for a few minutes at Rocket Video one time. Neither meeting caused a great deal of excitement. I mention this because Michael Jackson still had the power to drive normal people into a frenzy over seeing him. I last saw Michael Jackson a few weeks ago on Rodeo Drive. He was shopping in a store and left in a blue SUV. People were sprinting at high speeds towards his vehicle and screaming hysterically. They were running from several blocks away to get to Rodeo... that is how big Michael still was. They were running for a simple reason. In the 1980's, Michael Jackson's "Thriller" became the best selling record album of all time, and along with accomplishing that feat, Michael Jackson became the biggest star in the world.

That is not something that goes away... ever. Ask Mickey Rooney. You can occasionally see him at the Farmers Market, where he is always happy to tell people that he was the "biggest star in the world"...and he was...back in 1939-41. He is still alive and telling people about it over 65 years later. It is a rarified status that only a few people in the world will ever achieve. Kobe Bryant could win 10 NBA titles in a row, and he still wouldn't be anywhere close to Michael Jackson. Only a few people in the history of the world have ever known what it was like to be Michael Jackson, and even then, they had to do some guessing. Elvis Presley knew what it was like to be Michael Jackson. The Beatles knew what it was like to be Michael Jackson. But none of them knew what it was like to sign a record contract with Motown records when they were only 10 years old.

I had been somewhat of a fan of his after seeing him do his "moonwalk" on a Motown TV special in 1983. It was one of those moments you never forget. People still talk about it to this day. In 1992 I was living in London, England and heard that Michael Jackson was performing at Wembley Stadium. On a whim, I decided to go and see if I could get in, even though I did not have a ticket. Some fast talking and quick bargaining with some exiting reporters ended up with me wearing their press passes and making my way to the front row of the show. The show was amazing and Jackson left the crowd overjoyed. I thought about that show when I heard that he had died today. I felt very bad thinking that other people would never get to experience that again.

This video shows Michael at the peak of his skills, performing at the Rose Bowl during the halftime show of Super Bowl 27. Hundreds of millions of people around the globe watched his performance that day. There is a good chance that you were one of them.