I can remember as an adolescent, pulling the vinyl out of its
sleeve and placing it in my mother’s record player, being careful
not to put the needle on the third track because at, 9 years old,
“Thriller” was too scary. I remember growing up, singing every
lyric and trying my hardest to do that silly Moonwalk dance.
Thursday’s arrest warrant for Michael Jackson for child
molestation was a devastating blow for this lifelong fan of the
superstar. In recent years, I have had to settle for being a closet
M.J. fan because the guy makes it hard for people to like him.
Growing up, you would have been hard-pressed to find more than a
handful of households that did not own a copy of Jackson’s
“Thriller” LP. The 1982 album would go on to sell more than 25
million copies, competing with “The Eagles’ Greatest Hits” as the
largest-selling album in history.
I’m not sure what exactly it was about M.J. that separated him
from my staple of favorite artists growing up. Maybe it was the
mystery behind the single white glove or the hiked up pants that
showed off the sparkling socks. It could have been the
breathtaking, gravity-defying moves on the dance stage or his Gene
Kelly-like innovation of music on screen. Whatever it was, it was
showcased by his music. Before the excessive plastic surgery and
the non-sequitur lifestyle, there was a Michael Jackson that people
weren’t embarrassed to be fan of. There was a time when posters of
the former Jackson 5’er that adorned bedroom walls of adolescents
without drawing a worrisome look from parents. There was once a
Michael Jackson who sold 25 million records and lived a lavish
private-jet type of lifestyle that was typical of your superstar
who was one of the most recognized people on the face of the Earth.
Before the media proclaim of “Wacko Jacko” there was the
self-proclaimed “King of Pop”.
Long after he was selling Pepsi to America, Jackson became an
all too common punch line to jokes from molesting children to
changing from an African American man into a Caucasian woman.
When allegations of child molestation came in 1993, I refused to
believe them. Like a child who doesn’t want to listen to something,
I covered my ears and sang out loud, hoping for it to go away, but
it didn’t. Years after the allegations that didn’t result in any
criminal charges, this national treasure became a national joke. It
is ironic that when the announcement for Jackson’s recent arrest
came out, he was shooting a video for his new single, “One More
Seeing footage of Jackson being taken to jail handcuffed was the
final blow to destroying that innocence in me – the innocence of a
young fan seeing his favorite star shot down to Earth in a crashing
blaze. What is going to happen to Kobe Bryant’s young fans if he is
found guilty of rape?
Despite what the verdict is (Santa Barbara police said this case
will go to court and a civil settlement is unlikely), Michael
Jackson the star is no more. This column might seem a bit selfish
as I talk about myself and how much I have lost because of this,
but I do feel for the families and people involved. As much as I
hope for Jackson’s innocence, if it ends up with Jackson being
found guilty for molesting a child or multiple children, he needs
to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of California’s law (which
is eight years in prison).
I know people are going to tell me to separate the artist from
the person but in situations as ardent as this, it is hard to. For
me, the Michael Jackson I’ll always remember will be the man who
captured my attention when I was younger. The pop star who always
seemed bigger than life will be the King of Pop I’ll always
remember. I’ll still listen to “Billie Jean” and still practice
that silly Moonwalk dance.