Monday, June 28, 2010


In life, we have many defining moments. Things we remember. Even as we sleep.

I was about 14 and in the basement at a performing arts school in my hometown. We were all practicing for a production of "Grease" and decided to take a break because "he" would be on soon.

We all huddled around around a small black-and-white TV perched on a folding chair and watched "Motown 25."

Little did we know that history was being made. I suspect by now you all know what I mean...

In terms of mania, there were perhaps only a few only times in modern history where the country -- as a whole -- was in sheer awe of the same pop culture figure. Rudolph Valentino was the first followed by Sinatra, that hillbilly from Memphis (who happened to marry me) and those moptops from across the pond that changed music forever.

But there I was. It was March 25, 1983. He snapped his fedora on his head and struck that famous stance — his right hand on his hat and his left leg bent. The crowd went nuts and a few moments later, he threw the hat aside.

But it was the during that musical interlude, however, that MJ executed a move that sealed his status as a pop culture icon. That night he became a legend.

It was the first time we saw him moonwalk and I got chills. The screams from the audience only solidified my awe. There I was, staring at the 14-inch screen huddled with the others. We never saw anything like it and, while I've seen it since hundreds of times, it never never fails to get me. He was the man.

When the telecast reran a few months later, I videotaped it and studied every move he made. Every twitch. Every step. The pause button was my best friend and. I mastered it. While kids in the neighborhood were busy popping and break dancing, I was the little white kid who danced like MJ at the roller rink every Friday night.

And it made me popular.

I delved into the man even more. All the the old records, the live performances -- I ate it all up and the moves came natural. Well, with LOTS of practice, of course.

For one of my performances, I remember paying a kid at the local high school 10 beans to let me wear his band jacket because it looked like the militray jacket MJ wore. On Monday morning, I heard he got into trouble for loaning it out but I didn't care.

# # #

Last year on June 25, I was knee-deep in putting our weekend section to bed at the newspaper when one of the managing editors strolled over to us.

"Uh, we just heard that Michael Jackson was rushed to the hospital," he said matter of factly with a mouth full of potato chips.

At this point, we were well aware of Jackson's ongoing health problems and we pretty much chalked it up to exhuastion. After all, he was embarking on the comeback tour of his life. This was the calm before the storm.

A few minutes passed. A colleague sent me an e-mail that gave me chills. It read:

"TMZ is reporting that Michael Jackson" is unresponsive at the ER.

Holy shit, I thought. I stopped what I was doing and prepped an entry to go online.

No sooner did I post something quick when TMZ reported that Jackson was dead. Fuck... My childhood idol had just died. No time to think about this now, Ant... I kept saying to myself. You have work to do.

I had to prep a new post to go up ASAP. My problem was that every time I tried to get information, I got an error message from Google that I never saw before. It was kind of as if the nation's cyber infrastructure was under attack. Then it hit me.

Michael Jackson just broke the fucking internet.

As the hour progressed more reports started to flood in and when the Los Angeles Times confirmed his death, I knew it was no longer a rumor. It was true. My head hung low.

Our front page was ripped to shreds and like every paper in the waking world, it was an all-Michael Jackson cover. Poor Farrah Fawcett, who succumbed to cancer that day, was taken off of page 1. Red swimsuit nipple pic and all. Like she never existed.

Driving home was surreal. Every station on the radio was blaring their MJ hits. On TV it was no different. MTV went into a virtual state of mourning. To them, it was akin to the JFK assassination. After all, in 1983, MJ helped build their house.

The text messages and e-mails from friends long ago, started to blast my inbox. They all wanted to know how I was... The little guy who danced like MJ...

So on this first second year anniversary of his death, I find myself thinking about Jackson all over again.

Elephant man bones and oxygen chambers aside, the charisma of his performing still takes me places even after all these years.

One Two years later, MJ's death doesn't hurt any less. In fact, considering most fans have gone back to the music, it may just hurt a little more.


  1. Great tribute. Actually it gave me the chills. I have these same kinds of memories, things that defined an 80s childhood. I remember Thriller's first broadcast, and one of the first coffee-table style books I owned was a Michael Jackson fan book. Heh! Thanks for the reminder.

  2. I was never a huge fan of MJ but appreciate that the mid-80's was his era. I think the world was stunned by the news of his death the same way as when John Lennon was killed in front of the Dakota.

    Excellent post and a great tribute, Ant.

  3. Thanks for reading, you guys... Has anyone picked up the fact that it's little ol' me in the second video clip?

  4. At the end, I too had chills.

    Wow. Terrific post. I remember watching the Motown Special, mostly because I knew MJ was going to be on. I was in radio at the time and was believing the little kid that I used to watch on the variety show and the Saturday morning cartoon was actually making a comeback. Then, he did that MOVE! I was so thrilled that I saw history happen--I think that's all radio talked about for the next few days. I tried my hardest to learn it (managed a passable moonwalk, but never mastered it) and then played hit after hit off the Thriller album for the following couple years.

    Since then, we forgot how mesmerized we were by a star, and witnessing his growth into a legend.

  5. Great tribute and awesome clip of you! Where's the rest of it, Ant??! ;)

  6. Lovely tribute, Ant. I wasn't a huge fan of MJ's, but I thoroughly respect the man's talent and felt sorry for his troubles. I'm glad people are going back to his music now, too, because that's what mattered, after all. Lovingly done, sir.

    And nice moves. You nailed it. :)

  7. I hadn't noticed it was you in the second clip! You're amazing.

  8. Ant ... I played the YOU-Vid 3'times -- you're hell on the spins ... only exceeded by the wonder you got zinging from those hand motions.

    Smokin' magic, boy!

    Loved your tribute as it fell from your heartstrings with your head all wrapped up in it - the "fucking broke the internet" was cool ... the Farrah Fawcett in retrospect page 1 bump was tender'sweet.

    You're putting all these Famed-Vignettes into a boxed set, aren't you? I'm ordering several.

    Wasn't into the white gloved wonder as much as what John, Paul, George, Ringo and then Clapton did for me, but you bring "following a hero" right onto the dance floor, smooth-mover. ~ Absolutely*Kate

  9. It didn't jump out at me that that was little ol you in the seconde vid. I watched it, thought it scintillating cool and then read that you said it was you. WOW.

  10. OK seriously, Anthony, is there anything you cannot do? Nobody mentioned you could DANCE.
    *shaking head*
    Love your description of the newspaper when the guy eating chips told you the news.
    The whole story was so well written, so emotionally perfect, that I felt wrapped up in it and sad about Jackson, even though, like Alan, I'm kinda too old to be as crazy about him as you were.
    I completely remember where I was when I heard John Lennon was killed, though.
    Funny thing is, my 13 year old son has become a huge fan of Jackson's. He paid no attention to him whatsoever until his death; now Angus listens to him all the time. When we were at a dance recently he requested some MJ from the disc jockey and did an admirable job of the Moonwalk.
    Not as good as you, though.

  11. A very touching tribute, Anthony. As a child of the eighties I grew up listening to MJ. His death was certainly one of those "do you remember where you were when..." moments.

    On another note, that is a super cool vid! Do you still have those moves?

  12. My dancing days are looonnnng behind me...


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