In Her Words
Michael, Thanks for the Memories
I will remember the music, the dancing, the man
Today I lost a piece of my childhood. As a kid who grew up in the ’70s, Michael Jackson was part of the fabric of my life.
In truth, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know who he was. From watching the Jackson 5ive cartoon on Saturday mornings, to trying to copy his Moonwalk (and failing), to seeing him in concert twice, to wearing out my copy of Thriller, Michael Jackson was always there.
The first time he toured Australia, I had a friend whose sister was working as a maid at Michael’s hotel. She and some of her co-workers went to clean Michael’s suite and found the carpet had been pulled up and Michael in the center of the room working up a sweat, dancing. “Come and dance with me,” he said softly, smiling, “Come on.” They giggled and shook their heads, worried they would get into trouble if they did, but a voice in their heads was also saying, “Only a fool would try to dance with Michael Jackson.” It would have been like trying to take on Michael Phelps in the pool. But that image is one that has always stayed with me. A lonely guy isolated by his awe-inspiring talent.
He was a man who brought so much happiness to the world, and exhibited such exuberance and joy, but I don’t think Michael Jackson was a happy person. Robbed of his childhood and subjected to abuse by his father, it’s not surprising to me that when Michael grew up, he loved to spend time in the company of children. But that came at a cost. He paid a multimillion-dollar settlement in 1993 to a 13-year-old boy he allegedly abused (charged were never filed), but was acquitted of similar accusations in 2003. I think people tend to forget that he was found not guilty.
Michael began taking painkillers and sedatives like Valium and Xanax in the wake of the child abuse charges. And while he is said to have died of a cardiac arrest today, I fear that (like Elvis Presley) an autopsy will find that Michael died of complications from prescription drug abuse.
It’s hard not to draw comparisons between Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. The King of Pop and King of Rock and Roll had so many similarities beyond their talent. And their connections were solidified when Michael married Elvis’ daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, in 1994, when Michael was reeling from the child abuse allegations and turning to drugs. “I didn’t believe he did it,” Lisa Marie said. “I wanted to save him. I felt like I could do it.”
But two years later they split and Michael Jackson’s downhill spiral continued. The following years saw the man who broke a record as “the first entertainer to earn 100 million dollars in one year” teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. (Coincidentally, Elvis reportedly had less than $1,000,000 when he died.)
In the same way that people of a certain age can tell you where they were when John F. Kennedy and Elvis died, in years to come, we’ll all remember where we were when Michael Jackson died. But rather than recall June 25, 2009, I will remember the music, the dancing, the man. Thanks for the memories, Michael Jackson.