So there was Johnny Carson doing his nightly show up in heaven. He was particularly giddy to have been recently reunited with longtime sidekick Ed McMahon. Then they were joined by the incomparable Farrah Fawcett. She was the hottest woman on the planet back when that title was only held by one person. Back before the internet and Maxim magazine plastered half-naked chicks all over the walls of society to the point that we stopped noticing. No, back then, it was just Farrah and that over-the-top white-tooth smile shining down from the infamous poster of her in that now-modest one-piece bathing suit.
Johnny was cracking jokes about yet another disgraced and disgraceful politician who’d cheated on his wife. This time another Republican who’d previously railed against gay marriage and how it would allegedly “destroy the sanctity of marriage.” Ha. Well that South Carolina Governor was soon the happiest man in the world: he was quickly pushed off the front pages. They say things come in 3’s, and sure enough right after Farrah and Ed had joined Johnny…the surprise musical guest showed up: Michael Jackson was dead at the age of 50.
I’ll never forget watching that Motown 25th Anniversary TV show when MJ and the Jacksons rocked the house and Michael in particular was off the hook, performing “Billie Jean” with that moonwalk and the other dance sequences. It was amazing.
Watching it now, he’s obviously lip synching. I can’t remember if I knew that then or even cared. His stage presence, the buzz from the crowd, the fact that he was basically just dancing and pretending to sing along with a pre-recorded track, and yet he connected with both the live audience and the TV viewers. That just doesn’t seem to happen like that anymore. People are spoiled. They DVR it or wait to catch it on youtube or they read on the internet ahead of time what songs will be performed. But that night we were all glued to the TV “live,” and the actual live audience was on their feet, clapping along, screaming at the very beginning like “holy shit we’re about to watch a dude who does what he does better than anyone does anything!” like Michael Jordan was about to hit the game winning shot or Joe Montana was gonna drive the 49ers down the field to win the Super Bowl.
And then, toward the end, he goes into some dance moves and all of a sudden he’s just inexplicably gliding backwards in that moonwalk. At the time it was like “WHAT? I didn’t know humans could do that!” It was like someone had just levitated on the street before our eyes. He even hit the moonwalk again a minute later. As if to confirm, yea, you saw that right…. I’m magically gliding backwards. And then eventually the track starts fading and he’s still sorta lip-synching along. Like they didn’t even need to try to pretend that it wasn’t a lip synch. Why bother. It didn’t matter. He’d nailed it.
I was never a big MJ fan per se…. certainly appreciated the hits from Off The Wall and Thriller (and of course the timeless Jackson 5 hits) as an impressionable young music fan at the time. So I’m not terribly sad or shocked today. I’ve made plenty of Jacko jokes in the past and perhaps will again in the future… but this isn’t really the time for that. It’s nice to reflect a bit on the talent that made him such a big deal before all the weirdness happened and the Thriller went from Bad to worse…
I recently saw the bust of O.J. Simpson at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was an amazing football player, but then he became O.J. from the movies and Hertz commercials, then the O.J. we all know and loathe now. Like different people. Similar type thing with Michael Jackson.
The Michael Jackson that everyone is remembering and celebrating today has actually already been gone for a long time.