Never before and never again.
Once I snuck through a service door in an over-21 club to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers back in the late-1980s. That was a few weeks after I saw Fugazi do a show in a parking garage in West Philly. Another time I saw a group called The Nation of Ulysses play and I was convinced they were going to take hostages. I saw Richie Havens play in a public park – he was just hanging out playing – and snuck off to Madison Square Garden during my college orientation to see The Who. Pete Townsend windmilled like a dervish that night.
If only he did the moonwalk like Michael Jackson, who died Thursday at 50. For a lot of us children of the '80s, that really was our Moon Walk. It was a where-were-you-when moment, almost like it was Thursday afternoon when the news first started to trickle out through the Internet.
And yet the end came like the beginning for Jackson – with lots of fans and lots of media jockeying for space. He was a star when he was just a child, and the attention never stopped. It was a gift and a curse. Especially over the past two decades during the creepy and not-so smooth criminal stage of his life.
So it’s hard not to think about that night we saw the moonwalk for the very first time. Granted, my sister and I were not even teenagers yet. I suppose I was in sixth grade at James Buchanan Elementary, but that simple dance step was a galvanizing force at school. We all practiced it and tried to nail it as perfectly as Michael did. In fact, we were in awe of the kids who could do it smoothly and somewhat effortless. Hell, sometimes those '80s kids break it out just because.
As the years wore on Michael Jackson and his music/moves became part of the cultural wallpaper. Again, this was before the disturbing "Jesus juice" crap. Us Gen-Xers tend to move on quickly. We know the reality and can see the strings that control everything so we try to get lost in the innocence of the moment for a short time.
Nevertheless, the kids from the 1980s were too young to remember when Elvis died, and we never got to see the Beatles together. We were too young to understand the punk rock scene coming from London and New York and were shielded from the psychedelic sounds of our parents’ era.
Those were things we’d have to learn about on our own.
But in the 1980s, at the end of radio and the beginning of MTV, Michael Jackson was The King. He provided the soundtrack for kids from the city, the ‘burbs, and beyond. Even if we couldn’t agree on much, in 1982 and 1983, we all knew that “Thriller” was something unique. If you were of that time and missed it, you must have been sick or in a coma or sipping too much of that new Coke.
Of course massive fame does things to people. Even the most grounded and together person with the most stable upbringing and genuine family and friends would be affected by the zealotry of fandom that Michael Jackson dealt with even when he was a little kid. Unfortunately Michael Jackson didn’t seem to have that stability in his life. Instead of being a kid from Gary, Ind. that made it big with his brothers, Jackson’s life descended into a screaming tabloid headline and crass commercialism. Certainly his eccentricities did nothing to sway folks’ opinions of him, and the lawsuits and court cases further exasperated the headlines, but man, what a talent.
Look at these kids... too bad it could always be like that:
Was there anything better than watching Michael Jackson and his four brothers perform together on some grainy TV highlight from the early ‘70s?
Perhaps Dave Chappelle said it best in describing all the surgeries and changes in appearance that Michael Jackson underwent through the years:
Maybe he did that for you somehow. Somehow maybe he thought it would help him, “Maybe people will like me more…” But he did it for you…
Sure, it sounds funny, but in some odd sense it seems as if Michael Jackson did everything he did for his fans, and God knows he had a lot of them.
Hopefully, and this is not to belittle the serious crimes he allegedly committed, Michael Jackson is remembered as the “King of Pop” moonwalking across a stage or as that kid from Gary, Ind. belting out those great tunes with his brothers.
Apparently, Thursday was the day the icons died. Early in the day, Farrah Fawcett was claimed by cancer at 60. Certainly Farrah was not the international superstar that Jackson was, but for a few years in the 1970s she probably wasn’t too far off.
Unlike with Jackson, I missed Farrah Fawcett at the top of her stardom. However, I can remember seeing that poster of her in a one-piece bathing suit nearly everywhere. Some say she was the last link from pin-up model to super model, which makes sense. After all, Farrah came from a time where the models and bathing beauties actually had to have a skill or a talent. It couldn’t just be smiling at a camera like the latter day super models.
So Farrah did “Charlie’s Angels” and became part of the cultural wallpaper – literally. But as time wore on – after “The Cannonball Run” and a relatively quiet period, Fawcett seemed to be more famous for being famous.
That is until the remade “Charlie’s Angels” and those posters reappeared as part of the ‘70s kitsch. Still, make no doubt about it, a lot of models and actresses owe part of their success, or at least a flip of a Farrah ‘do to the last of the originals.
We’ll be back with some baseball stuff tomorrow night from Rehoboth Beach. Gotta get out of town with the kids before the grind of the second half of the season.show