The first pop star to ever really register in my little world (well, okay, the VERY first was Kenny Rogers, but that’s only because I thought he looked like Santa Claus, which doesn’t really count) is gone.
I honestly remember first hearing the song “Billie Jean.” (and apologies, as this is not even remotely an interesting story). So I was freebasing with the Rolling Stones…
No, actually, I was in the J.C. Penney with my friend Jeannie and her mother, and we were playing by the mannequins and the song came on, and Jeannie – who was always impossibly hip despite the fact that we were only nine years old – apparently had an early release copy of the album and knew all the words and was maybe dating a tuned-in dj or something, explained to me what the lyrics meant, and I felt scandalized.
However, as would eventually become a theme in my life, what was first obscene and repugnant quickly became compelling.
Soon thereafter, I had the tape AND had erected a poster on the wall AND developed a shameful habit of kissing it goodnight. Always one to outdo myself, I added six additional men to the mix in no time – Simon, John, Nick, Roger, Andy, and Prince. The first five were Duran Duran, if you didn’t already know that.
But back to Michael Jackson, this afternoon I was driving home from an overly long OB/GYN appointment (why on earth does a man go into that business? To me, looking at anyone’s goods all day long is super gross. Is there a job where I can sniff armpits? If so, put it on the list with gynecologist, dentist, and Turkish Bath employee; a.k.a. Jobs I will live on the street in a cardboard box before I will do them.). Anyway, I was in the freezing cold exam room for over an hour (after a half hour in the waiting room – until I started complaining and they moved me into the coldest exam room in the building to shut me up) with more than enough time to read the latest ‘Real Simple’ and ‘People’s 100 Most Beautiful People’ (once again, I did not make the list).
Eventually, my doctor came in and registered exactly no memory of my face or hoohah, and the exam was the typical fare of ‘who the hell are you?’ and generic, mindless babble while he feverishly pawed through the notes and tried to remember my (not particularly interesting) background story. At least in a gynecological sense.
Why am I talking about this?
Only to set the scene that while Michael Jackson was in cardiac arrest and being raced to the hospital and pronounced dead, I was comparing myself to the other ‘most beautifuls’ in my age range (me being the clear loser. Although, in my own defense, it wasn’t the best day for me with the harsh flourescent overhead lighting, the irritiated ‘I’ve been waiting over an hour, and I’m freezing my @ss off’ scowl, and the harsh ballerina bun necessitated by my dirty hair), and trying to figure out who Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato are, and learning that my cervix looks good.
And then, as I was driving home, I managed to dial into a radio station with an actual human being disc jockey (so rare these days, especially at 3:30 in the afternoon, as it falls outside the valuable rush hour drive time windows) who announced that ‘bad things come in threes. First Ed McMahon, then Farrah Fawcett, and now Michael….[honest to god, my mind went to Jordan. I don't know why. Nothing against you Michael Jordan. Long may you run) Jackson.
And then they played Rock with You and - and I am not entirely embarassed to admit this - I cried.
I don’t know. It’s kind of that he’s an icon, and I would say the most important one of the 1980s (suck on that, Madonna). It’s kind of that he struck me as someone who got both the long end of the stick (talent and fame) and the short end of the stick (bad father + related abuse and possibly some tendencies toward pedophilia) at the same time.
In short, he struck me as someone who could have used a little more time with his young children and to find a way to work his shit out.
So then I went into the store to get some cucumbers, and the mid 20-something girl giving away (I think she said) Juicy Juice samples caught my eye. And I stopped to tell her that I was okay and didn’t want any Juicy Juice, and she locked eyes and said to me (and I am totally not making this up), “It’s been a really weird day. And ****something I don’t remember because my brain was partly checked out in ‘is she talking to me!?’ mode**** and Michael Jackson is dead.”
And I told her, “I know. I heard it on the radio on the way here.”
“My boyfriend called me and told me.”
“I think maybe it’s just that everyone dies.”
“Yeah. But he wasn’t that old. And it’s still really sad.”
And she just looked at me and nodded and teared up and then we both teared up and – THANK GOD – we did not embrace and bawl like girls (strangers, but still girls), but we did have a moment nonetheless, and it really hit me how much the man – despite all the immense insanity that seemed to surround him in the last decade – touched people. Which is in and of itself pretty amazing.
And the girl wished me a blessed day, and I went off to find some egg noodles.
So there you go.
RIP, Michael Jackson.
You were my first pop star crush. And now that you are in the great beyond, you may get a kick out of the following (true) story: In the fall of 1982, I wrote impassioned (for me. I was basically Amish in my own mind and had a Catholic altar in the closet, so I’m sure there was nothing either ‘im’ or ‘passioned’ about it) letters to both you and Prince (your alleged arch-enemy, yet with really weird coincidental overlap in your lives, but that’s a story for another day) and approached my mother with them.
Sadly, due to her own extensive personal issues (which we will not discuss further in this blog. Wait for the book.), my mother took one look at the addressees and chewed me out extensively for ‘writing letters to black men.’
Then, not surprisingly, she refused me stamps.
And, perhaps also not surprisingly, she brought up my ‘letters to black men’ for years to come.
But I never felt guilty, because you, Michael Jackson, were freaking awesome and a rare one in six billion, and the rest of us could only stand in awe and admire it.