You want to know about obsession? I’ll tell you about obsession. I clearly remember being a little kid, maybe 6? 7?, sitting in my room, looking in a mirror (why? that’s probably a question for a therapist), and bawling my eyes out because I wanted to marry Michael Jackson and I didn’t know how I could meet him to make it happen. My first cassette tape was Thriller. My first CD was Off The Wall. I used to choreograph dances to the Dangerous album, teach them to girls on my block, and we’d perform them on the sidewalk in the summer. The dance to “Why You Wanna Trip On Me” involved all of us tripping over each other, because I did not understand slang yet. I remember being at Ted’s Fish Fry in Watervliet with my parents when his Dangerous tour concert in Bucharest aired for the first time on TV and I forced them to drop everything and take me home so I could record it. I remember parking myself in front of my TV for the premieres of Black or White and Remember The Time, which were fucking EVENTS by the way. They’d interrupt primetime TV to broadcast those videos. I had a recurring dream throughout my childhood of Michael carrying me on his shoulders in an amusement park, then bringing me in a limo where we drank soda and ate candy. Michael was happiness for this kid.
Then the allegations of child molestation broke, he started hacking at his face and his skin changed, and soon Michael was a walking freak show who everyone couldn’t wait to watch fall down and crumple into a million pieces. I used to think about how sad he must be and cry, wishing I could do something to help him. I got older, things got worse, Michael sort of went into seclusion, and he was a running joke for the general public. Wacko Jacko’s best friend is a monkey! Crazy Michael sleeps with kids! Mike the Looney Bird has white kids and he’s covering their faces with masks all the time! I always felt the need to defend him when people would talk shit about him, but I couldn’t blame people who weren’t slobbering fans like me for writing him off as a mess. He was a complicated dude with obvious problems, and I could sit there and lay out all the reasons why I thought he wasn’t molesting kids, and why I thought he was drastically changing his appearance, and why he was so far removed from the rest of the world, but the fact is – I didn’t know. It’s not like we were buddies and I had a personal window into his world. I have plenty of theories, but I got tired of arguing with people and so eventually I just kept my mouth shut and hoped that he had some good people around him and that he could find some sort of internal peace somehow. It was obvious he needed it.
When he planned his “This Is It” concerts in London, people kept asking me if I was going to go. Nope, I’d say, I don’t think it’s going to happen. He seemed so sickly and out of it — I figured it would fall through at the last minute for one reason or another. I did not expect for that reason to be his death.
Everyone remembers where they were when Michael Jackson died. On that day, I saw something on TMZ that said he went into cardiac arrest and my stomach turned. I sat there reloading the screen over and over waiting for any sort of update. Eventually I went over to talk to a coworker about it and she pulled up TMZ just as the headline changed from “Michael Jackson In Cardiac Arrest” to “Michael Jackson Has Died.” I started choking, scaring the bejesus out of her, then my eyes flooded and, sensing an imminent full on psychotic break, I fucking ran to the bathroom as fast as I could. Then I exploded into a sobbing, hyperventilating mess in the bathroom stall. I obviously knew that he’d die at some point in my lifetime, but I never really thought about how mindfucked I’d be when it happened. In those moments, I felt a piece of my childhood being wiped off the map, and the sense of loss was overwhelming. I reacted more strongly to his death than to some people that I knew personally, and yeah, that’s pretty fucked up, but it also kind of makes sense. Since I never knew the man, I had this idealized piece of him throughout my whole life, and he could never change my opinions one way or another by letting me develop a truly informed opinion on anything about him. People I knew could show me their humanity. Michael’s I could only color with my own imagination. I felt a suffocating sense that we all failed him.
I worked at a TV network so I had a television at my desk. I sat there and watched coverage, sobbing quietly at my desk. People tiptoed by, avoiding looking straight at me. My boss tried to send me home after a couple hours of this, but I had no TV at home at the time, so I couldn’t leave. Family and friends called to check in on me to see if I was still breathing or if I had checked myself into a mental hospital. When I finally left work, I rolled down my car windows and blared his music as loud as it could go, and I just drove with tears streaming down my face. Seeing other people on the streets doing the exact same thing was both comforting, because it really was affecting everyone and making them realize how wonderful he was, and infuriating, because no one showed him any love whatsoever until he was dead. He was probably the most lonely, misunderstood motherfucker in the universe.
That dude touched my life in a really profound way. It’s strange to say, but I truly believe he helped shape the person I am now. Michael was an escape for myself and millions of other people around the world. He entertained, he delighted, he mystified, he exceeded expectations, he broke barriers, he shocked, he paved the way, he was a fucking enigma, and there will never be another person to walk this earth who did for the entertainment industry at large what he did. Michael made himself ours, for better or for worse.
Say what you will about his personal life, his obvious body dysmorphia, and his Peter Pan complex (all likely results of him being completely robbed of a normal human experience practically from the time he was able to walk, mind you) and all the other oddities and straight up mysteries surrounding him, but he gave everything he could throughout his whole entire life for the purpose of entertaining the world. Michael Jackson was magic. Michael Jackson was a G.
Man, I miss him.