Archive for the ‘Michael Jackson’ Category

GOODBYE MICHAEL

June 26, 2009

You know that legend about how celebrities die in threes? Well, when I woke up this morning and found out Farrah Fawcett had passed away, I said to myself, “I wonder who will be the third after Ed McMahon and Farrah?” I would never have suspected it would be Michael Jackson, although after hearing many stories over the years about how Michael barely eats anything, it certainly fits.

I first became a big fan of Michael Jackson in college, when songs like “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” and “Rock With You” were some of the most popular songs at the school dances I attended. I moved to Los Angeles around the time “Thriller” came out, so I was here for the advent of Michael’s superstardom. I remember enjoying the videos for “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” in the dance clubs I frequented back then, and even went to see Disney’s re-release of “Fantasia” in 1983 just to be one of the first to see the video for “Thriller.” I attended the shooting of the Pepsi commercial where Michael’s hair caught on fire and I even went to the Victory Tour’s stop at Dodger Stadium.

But I was able to I got a little closer to Michael Jackson than seeing him from the upper reaches of Dodger Stadium. My roommate from college, Tom Stepanchak, had just moved out to L.A. and gotten a job as a runner at dick clark productions. A few weeks after he started, he was given the job of taking the eight American Music Awards Michael won in January of 1984 to his home in Encino. Tom got a late start and was forced to bring the awards to our apartment for safekeeping overnight, planning to deliver them the next day. While we were protecting the awards, we took the liberty of getting some photographs of them… in our refrigerator, sitting beside a spare glove and with us holding the awards (while wearing sunglasses of course)!

The next day, Tom and I set out for Encino. We easily found the Jackson compound, which was just a block or two off of Ventura Boulevard. The gates opened and we drove a few yards to a parking area with the Tudor-styled house on one side and a second building in front of us.

At first, we had no idea where to find Michael until La Toya Jackson pulled up behind us in her convertible and told us we should go into the office in the building in front of us. Naturally we went in the wrong door, going up a short stairway into a rehearsal room where aside from a few mirrors, every inch of wall and ceiling space was covered by posters and photos from the Jacksons’ career.

We quickly retreated back outside and went through the correct door to find Michael’s assistant sitting at a desk at the front of the room… and Michael himself dancing around a few feet behind her, singing to himself while holding up his famous band/military styled outfits in front of a mirror. Wanting Tom to keep his job, we pretended not to notice him.

Unfortunately, Michael became caught up in trying to outdo his success with “Thriller” every time he released a new album. He became a parody of himself and his legal problems certainly didn’t help. I always thought he could make a comeback if he would just put the emphasis back on his music, but that is not to be.

The last time I saw Michael appear live was at the taping of “American Bandstand’s 50th Anniversary.” As a favor to Dick Clark, he sang “Dangerous” in a truly breathtaking performance. It was exciting to be there, as it always was when Michael let his music and dancing do the talking for him.

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