I grew up in Brentwood, California. How I ended up there, and my life in L.A. is another story. I did live there long enough to have developed a huge aversion to acting like stars mattered in the oggly, goggly way.
After all, had I chosen to adopt that stance as a kid growing up and living there so many years, I never would have lasted the daily star sightings, and eventual meeting, of actors and famous people. In fact, former President Reagan’s motorcades up and down Sunset Boulevard on his way back and forth to the White House via California became so commonplace that, after awhile, people on the streets barely managed a wave.
My interest in journalism rather than acting, despite appearances in several different friend’s films in college at USC, was an even stronger motivation to not act like a gawking school girl around people I met in my neighborhood. Still, as someone who felt the rush of breaking news pretty early on, I was always curious and interested in meeting people who impacted the news.
From tenth grade through the end of high school, I dated a young man who also lived in the same neighborhood. I came to know his parents and brother’s and sisters well over the years, over dinner and at many family gatherings. Their family was large, the house filled with activity, always something going on, they had many interesting friends, many in the entertainment industry. When his mom started working with Michael Jackson, it was pretty thrilling, even though Thriller had still not been released.
One night, his mother, a professional nurse, and his stepfather, a doctor, were deep in conversation when we all got to the dinner table. My boyfriend asked what was wrong when he saw his mom’s concern. She had explained that she had just come from visiting Michael. Never one to gossip, she said she could not speak with us about the details of her work. She kindly asked if we’d change the subject, and we did, but his mom was still visibly worried.
As the plates were cleared, my boyfriend’s mother stood by the living room window. Her husband went over to invite her to sit down for dessert and coffee. She obliged. Digging into the ice cream gallon to serve everyone a scoop, I remember, she looked at us and said, ‘imagine what life would be like if you never felt safe in the world, if there was no one you could trust, and you feared people you came in contact, never sure of their motives. You’d be a pretty lonely person.’ She got up, excusing herself and went upstairs.
I think back to that moment today.
I feel a certain embarrassment to be so deeply focused on Michael Jackson, especially at this very private time for his family and children. Forgive my star gazing today. Like many, watching Michael perform was life changing, a moment never to be forgotten. There was nothing like him performing. Yet, I never met him personally, let alone know of anything of his life, or who he was as a person. I add just one more voice to many who say that Michael Jackson, his music and his life, had a profound place in our lives. His music came with a message at a certain time in the world.
I feel that in great part Michael Jackson left this world in the way he existed on this planet, deeply penetrating the global psyche.
From the time of the Jackson Five, Michael had moved me to his beat, the sensation of listening to Jackson had a magic quality to it, a hope, an addicting hope and belief that anything was possible, a sweet and sour that could be neither put down, nor consumed entirely. From then on, it seemed as if each album brought an even greater and greater dose of this magic known as Michael Jackson.
I feel a sadness tonight that I can’t explain, like something unsaid that should have been said. I have a feeling of wanting to say Michael was owed a deep apology, for all he gave and perhaps, how little life gave back of love to him, for how he gave so much creatively, he moved people deeply in his music, dance and songwriting and yet, perhaps never arrived where he most wished to go.
May you have a good crossing over, and thank you for all you gave of yourself for our sins of consuming people.
‘We are the World’ is the tune that rings in my ears tonight. Michael, you showed us that is true. Rest in Peace.
My friend Lalo Alvarez’s cartoon captures Michael’s spirit… thank you for letting me share it…