I grew up with Michael Jackson. I remember watching the Jackson 5 cartoon on Sunday morning, singing Rockin’ Robin and ABC with my cousins. One of the first albums I ever bought was Off the Wall. And, of course, there is Thriller.
A few months ago, my friend Cindy stopped and the movie 13 Going on 30 was on. Jennifer Garner’s character, who went from 13 to 30 overnight, needed to get a boring party started. In the movie’s most memorable scene, she gets the DJ to play Thriller and then stands in the middle of the dance floor by herself and begins to do those legendary zombie moves. The whole crowd joins in.
Cindy (who’s about 6 years younger than me) balked. She said, “Like all of those people would remember that dance.” Without saying a word, I got up and did it with them, that is how influential that dance, that video and that album are to people my age. Yes, Cindy, we do know it. We still know it!!
I remember loving MTV but never seeing any black artist’s videos. It was Michael Jackson who broke that color barrier with the iconic Billie Jean video. I could go on — the Motown 25 performance (that introduced the moonwalk), the Bad and Beat It videos, the one glove, the fact that boys with jheri curls and Thriller jackets were once thought to be good catches, all part of my best memories.
I still love the Jackson 5, Off the Wall, Thriller and even most of the work he did through the 90’s (Man in the Mirror, Remember the Time, Keep it in the Closet to name a few). Unfortunately, I had to watch with horror as his golden image was tarnished by an eerie physical transformation; increasingly bizarre behaviors (remember the oxygen chamber, Bubbles the Chimp and the shear nuttiness that was Neverland), and worse of all, the allegations of sexual abuse and unsettling sleeping arrangements with young boys.
When I was 15, my mother died. As she succumbed to a multitude of diabetic complications, I watched her become weak and frail, a shadow of the dynamic woman who raised me. Yet I choose to remember her as the strong, intelligent and vibrant force that she was for the majority of her life. And so it will be with Michael. I will remember the wonderful memories that he will always be a part of and when I think of him, I will smile.
Farrah Fawcett also died yesterday. As a child of the 70’s almost every boy I knew had that poster of her in the red swimsuit. But she really came to life for me, as Jill one of the original Charlie’s Angels. She will always be a part of one of my fondest Christmas memories. I will never forget running down the stairs and seeing my Charlie’s Angels action figures. LOL!
Farrah reinvented herself in the 80’s courtesy of the television movie, The Burning Bed. She showed that she was more than a pretty face (and incredible hair), she could act too. In this last year of her life, she reinvented herself again as one of the many courageous faces of cancer. She gave us all a gritty and unflinching glimpse into her fight against this disease. Beautiful, bold and brave is how I will remember her.