<– Little Ange with my first love on the wall.
The first short story I ever wrote, and read aloud, was called ‘Michael Jackson and the Magic Hat’. I was in Year 3. Besides the magic hat, there was mystery, romance and intrigue. My best friends in Year 3 – Genna and Rebecca – both messaged me first thing yesterday morning. As did my sister, and many other people who shared MJ with me throughout my childhood.
I remember my MJ love being sparked by the ‘Remember the Time‘ film clip. I’d heard about him before this – little Robbie in kindergarten used to sing ‘Bad’, grab his crotch and do the moonwalk – but the love clicked in watching a cheeky, golden, beautiful, mysterious man running away from Eddie Murphy’s Egyptian king in the ‘Remember the Time’ film clip.
From then on, all my childhood memories are tied in with Michael. My sister, my friends and I would watch Moonwalker and Thriller on VHS. We would sing ‘Man in the Mirror’ and ‘Heal the World’ into hairbrushes and onto cassette tapes (still have them). We would also film ourselves singing all sorts of songs – I remember particularly when my sister and I put on backwards caps and drew on moustaches and beards to act out ‘The Girl is Mine’. That video is still in existence too, and it’s hilarious. I remember the intense feeling of jealousy I had for the one little girl who sings at the end of ‘Heal the World’. In fact, I was so in love with Michael I was jealous of the children who got to spend time at Neverland (yes, the sick kids).
I was heartbroken both times Michael was accused of child abuse. The first time, I was still pretty young, and I just knew he wouldn’t do something like that. I could already see he was strange and sad – complex, with a dark past, making up for his childhood. He was playful and silly, perhaps. Children slept in his bed, I’m sure. But he would never hurt anyone. I still believe this. And it helped that Macauley Culkin stuck up for him. I believe his heart was pure and good, and he was also vulnerable. He crumbled, both physically and emotionally, in the years after those accusations. I also remember truly feeling jealous when he married, both Lisa Marie, and the Australian woman. I was completely astounded to see his milky, soft-looking body in the ‘You Are Not Alone’ film clip, with Lisa Marie.
There are things I always believed about him. I learnt through reading books on him, watching documentaries, interviews (oh, the Oprah one, such memories), and through that TV movie about his whole family. I believe he had his first nose job because he looked in the mirror and saw his father. After that, he did become addicted. He was running from some part of himself and of the past. I believe his skin began to turn white due to a pigment disease. But he chose to go the whole way. The song ‘Black or White’I love for the way it intentionally says ‘who cares? Black or white, we’re all people’. I heard the bandaids and gloves etc. were because of patches of black skin he still had. I believe much of this was aesthetics too, though – he had his own individual ideas of beauty: vaudeville and early silent movies, female movie stars (like Judy Garland, Elizabeth Taylor – a lifelong friend), the noir/gangster aesthetic, and others. He constructed himself to a degree, but some things went askew. It’s funny – I found the black Michael after the white one. And I found all ‘Michaels’ attractive. I still do. Through many of his songs, and through his charity work, generosity, and admissions about his own vulnerabilities etc. Michael also taught me so much about compassion and empathy. He could be this funny, sexy rebellious star and at the same time an open and kind-hearted person.
In 1995 my family went on a trip to the USA. The memories of this are a culmination of so many things that shaped my life back then. I saw the killer whales at Seaworld in Florida (after falling in love with Keiko, the star of Free Willy). We went to Disneyworld. I saw one of the real shoes Judy Garland wore in The Wizard of Oz, a movie I watched every day when I was very young. And in Las Vegas, I laid eyes on one of Michael’s sparkly gloves. Years later I got up close to one of his jackets at a Hard Rock Cafe. This is the closest I ever came to him. I would literally cry sometimes when I watched live footage, because I wanted to be there. When he toured, I was too young to go. I have been hoping for many years I would still get my chance…
I have always defended him to people. That role will continue in his death, I suppose. It’s just going to be a whole lot sadder now as rumours fly, and people are nasty, and he can no longer speak for himself. I think about his children, and how hard it is going to be for them. In my teens, after another obsession (which I’m not ready to speak of!), I had a heavy metal/rap phase, and then slowly found my tastes in 70s rock and other stuff 60s-80s – the stuff I generally listen to now. But throughout it all, Michael was still my man. At parties everyone would get pissed off at me because I’d try and put on ‘Thriller’ or ‘Beat It’ or ‘Billie Jean’ when they wanted Britney Spears, Eminem, Korn, trance music… anything else!
My sister and I made up a dance to ‘Ghosts’ when we were about 12 and 10, maybe a bit older. Years later, after a lot of drinks and a very green-tasting cake, we looked at each other and decided we must see if we could remember it. In front of the horrified faces of our partners at the time, we proceeded to do the full dance! And next weekend, when I head away for a small break and will be seeing my sister, I think we should do it again, in his honour. Sh’mon!
Another thing I noticed is the unconscious influence my childhood obsession with Michael has had on other aspects of my life. These aspects include my taste in men (and women), and fashions that I’m drawn to. I am always drawn to people who are thin and have long dark hair. I love to wear black and white outfits (like all through the Bad/Dangerous era). I am always drawn to pants, jackets and boots with buckles. I like to have dark hair and wear eyeliner. I find this fascinating because for quite a few years I didn’t notice where these tastes had come from – until I watched the ‘Bad’ film clip again, and realised just how much effect he’d had on me.
Besides everything I’ve mentioned, I will always love his smile. His smile and eyes always looked the same, no matter how much the face around them changed. The right word for his smile is sweet. He was complex – both shy and small, and a superhuman performer – far larger than life. His career is phenomenal – the songs are fun, powerful, sad, meaningful, memorable. My favourites include (but are not limited to) ‘Remember the Time’ (as mentioned), ‘Stranger in Moscow’, ‘Earth Song’, ‘Human Nature’ (I once had a dream with this song in it and the feeeling of it was so powerful I’ll never forget it), ‘History’ (and the fantastic remix from the Blood on the Dance Floor album), ‘Speed Demon’ (which I blogged so recently), ‘Bad’, ‘Beat It’, ‘Thriller’, ‘Dirty Diana’, ‘Dangerous’, ‘Smooth Criminal’, ‘Black or White’, ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ and ‘Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough’. And here’s a clip of one of the best performances he ever did (and the one where he has to pull the plug on Slash) at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards:
So, I am deeply saddened by his death. It is the death of a brilliant, eccentric, sweet man and artist, and also the death of one of my childhood dreams – a very potent one. I’m so grateful to have his music. RIP Michael Joseph Jackson. King of Pop forever! Hee hee! Ow!