Friday, July 3, 2009

Remembering Michael Jackson

It's been a busy week, so I haven't had time to weigh in here on Jackson's passing. I was glued to the TV last Thursday from the early afternoon when I first heard the news to late in the evening. I was very saddened to discover another great entertainer was taken from us way too early. The next day, I listened to "Off the Wall," "Thriller" and "Bad" in order and remembered various MJ milestones like when the landmark video to "Thriller" and "We Are the World" debuted on MTV.

Anyway, here is my MJ anecdote, which originally appeared in the OC Register Soundcheck blog on June 26:

My brief encounter with Michael Jackson happened unexpectedly.

It was March 1992. I had gone to West Hollywood to see the British band James perform at the Roxy. Living in Riverside, I tended to head down to the Sunset Strip solely for concerts, and that was usually paired with a trip to the infamous Tower Records on Sunset, where I could pore over the wide selection of CDs — especially import singles.

Being an early Monday evening, the store was fairly empty. I had been browsing awhile when suddenly there was a commotion. Jackson had entered Tower with a bodyguard and a young disabled boy, maybe 9 or 10 years old. A few people watched them from around the corner of an aisle.I did the same, and heard Jackson say, “Go ahead and pick out whatever you want” to the child.

Meanwhile, several employees — no strangers to celeb sightings at the retail establishment where musicians often worked and routinely made in-store appearances — went a little crazy. They made a beeline for the ‘J’ section of rock/pop/soul and ripped open the cardboard long boxes for Jackson CDs so he could sign them. (I wondered what their manager would say.)

Since I already owned every album Jackson had released since Off the Wall and didn’t feel like re-purchasing one, I quickly looked around to find an item he could sign for me. I saw an issue of Tower Pulse magazine that happened to feature Jackson on the cover (a fantastic beach shot by photographer Herb Ritts). I hurried over to where he was signing stuff, squeezed my way in and asked for an autograph.

Michael was very gracious. I mentioned how much I liked the “Black or White” single from the current Dangerous album. He smiled and softly said “thank you.” I also asked whether he was going to play Los Angeles on the upcoming tour and he replied something like “I hope so.”A few minutes later, Jackson, his bodyguard and the boy left.

Although I’ve met many amazing artists while writing about music over the past 19 years, a few minutes with the King of Pop is something I’ll never forget.

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