Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Death of my Childhood Icon

   When I was a kid, I was fascinated with the Thriller music video. So was my Aunt Francis. "I just looove Michael," she'd say, in her very drawn-out southern accent. I would watch her VHS copy over and over again at her house. I could not understand how Michael Jackson got his eyes to look yellow when he was changing into the werewolf. I had never seen anything like that before!
At the local skating rink, they sold Michael Jackson hologram stickers and other memorabilia behind a glass-enclosed case. I got a sticker for myself and one for my Aunt Francis.

   No one else in our family cared about Michael like we did. In fact, I proudly announced that I wanted to marry Michael Jackson someday, and one of my other aunts quickly scolded me and assured me that I would be disowned from the family if I ever married a black man.
   A black man? Michael Jackson wasn't a black man to me, even in the days before his horrific plastic surgeries and skin bleaching. He was an artist. He was the ultimate artist, with his incredible voice, his sequined military uniforms, his one glove, and the way he danced. How many hours did the neighborhood kids and I try to moonwalk like Michael? How many times did we listen to the Thriller cassette tape in our family's Suburban? Every time we drove past a graveyard, my siblings and I would squeal for our mother to play that creepy sounding song.

   I clearly remember my grandfather's spirited reaction to Michael and Lisa Marie Presley's marriage. "You know Elvis is rolling over in his grave!" he chuckled heartily, his big eyes sparkling. At the time, I wasn't sure what he meant. I thought Michael Jackson was great! Why wouldn't Elvis think the same thing?

   I was sitting at Hastings today with some of my friends when we saw people gathering around the coffee shop TV. The news was unclear at first, but Michael's condition sounded very serious, regardless of which news source was reporting.
And then everyone began reporting that he was gone. Michael Jackson, with his unmatched vocal skills, with his glittering military-inspired clothing, with his strange and exotic collection of animals, with his awesome dance moves and cutting-edge music videos....thank you. I will forever be a fan.

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