Friday, July 10, 2009
My favorite overblown, absurdist Canadian chanteuse is BAD. You know it.
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
As CNN's morbidathon has raged on over the past two weeks, it took a little girl to make me cry for the first time about losing one of my childhood heroes. The memorial service for Michael was as outsized as his career, with some nice moments (Stevie Wonder) and some horribly fake, cheesy overblown drama class pieces (Usher, I'm looking at you). Little Paris Jackson's touching statement at the memorial service was the tipping point. She made Michael real, and human again. Cutting through all the stories of chimps and allegations, and bizarre behaviors, Paris gave Michael back his humanity. Yes, he was odd, yes he was the most supremely talented human being we've ever experienced. But when you take that away, MJ was at his core a father, a brother, a son, and friend to so many.
It's surprising how easy it is for icons to lose that human side. We see them in the tabloids and they become like characters in a bad TV show to us. Being the most famous person on the planet has a ton of drawbacks, and one of those is surrendering who you are to the world. They use you up and spit you out, just as happy to condemn as to cheer. And MJ's last years were so strange, that I suppose a part of me imagined that he was already dead. Paris and her powerful statement cut through all of that noise.
I found myself crying. Not just because of Anderson Cooper's touching remembrance of losing his dad that introduced the clip. Or the fact that any dead father story makes me remember and miss my own Dad. It was just her words. Simple, heartfelt, and maddeningly necessary. The press has had their way with her father his entire life. And his family had controlled him in many ways too, creating the eccentricities that would make him a target later on. The fact that this brave little girl felt the need to make statement that was basically a plea for people to recognize that she loved her father and felt that he was a good man is heartbreaking.
I hope that the Jackson children are well-cared for by Michael's family. I sincerely pray that they are left alone to grow up beyond the glare of flashbulbs, helicopters and the 24-hour news cycle.
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
I'm still in shock that Michael Jackson is no longer with us. He left us with so much great music. In his personal life, he was a mystery. I'm not going to spend time prosecuting or defending him for his controversies over the years. I think this abused boy was so screwed up by his father, that he never had a chance of being normal. No one knows what really happened, and he was acquitted the one time he was charged, so I won't even touch on that. I'll remember Michael as I loved him: an amazing talent, whose music was electrifying and touched pretty much everyone I knew. Here are my favorite Michael-related memories:
- In the third grade Thriller came out, and my friend Amy G. had a VCR, so her parents rented the movie and hosted a weekend-long slumber party. We must have watched that video three hundred times, never getting bored of it once. Trying out the dances and learning all the dialogue so we could perform along with it. We had such a blast doing that. Of course one unintended side effect: I dreamt constantly of zombies showing up at our sliding glass door so the night became a little sinister.
- I was a very involved sticker collector, and I'll never forget my most prized possession: a sticker of MJ in a yellow sweater vest and bow tie. He was so dreamy then. And then in the fourth grade, Prince came along and ruined me forever, but I still look back fondly on my innocent crush on Michael.
- I'll never forget the buzz surrounding that Motown 25 event. Every kid in the neighborhood knew it was coming on and wanted to watch, so when it was time, we all took off running for our respective homes to watch. It seemed so important and big, and Michael's now iconic performance that night was certainly worth us cutting our playtime short.
- When the Bad music video came out, I was so confused by it. Even in my youth, before having seen The Warriors and other tough-guy type movies, I knew that poor little Michael was not actually Bad like he was saying. That being said, I completely loved the video anyway.
- In college, my friend Becca and I discovered our shared love for Michael. We would play his music from time to time. When we sublet an apartment for summer school, we rented the Moonwalker video, something I don't think we would ever do in the dorms. We had so much fun, laughing at the dumb movie parts with Joe Pesci and being amazed by Smooth Criminal's great look and choreography. Was our devotion a little ironic? Sure, everything was in college, but it came from a place of pure joy for Michael's best years.
- When I first saw the video for 'Scream' I was pretty happy. First off, I really loved Janet too. But their interaction was hoot, plus the space setting made his concerning appearance look like it was a plan from the start. Well worth the $7 million.
- After college, I got a copy of Off the Wall. I had never heard the album, and considered that it was probably like other pre-hit albums like Bobby Brown's King of Stage (verdict: not). What an amazing treat it turned out to be. Not a bad song on the entire disk, and you can't help but dance joyously when "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" comes on.
- Watching The Jacksons: An American Dream was one of the most supremely satisying TV movie events of all time. And coming from me, that means something. If the world wanted to know why MJ was so inscrutable and confusing at times, this movie provides the answers. Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington made for a menacing Joe Jackson, and with that kind of malevolent presence in a house, those kids are lucky they survived.
Rest in peace Michael, and thank you for many years of entertainment.