Four years ago, Michael Jackson died and like most people my age I don’t remember a world without him performing, singing, recording in it, knowing and appreciating him as the biggest star, recording artist and performer in the world. And to this day whenever I see footage from either his youth or when he was at the height of his fame in the 80s I get chills. There’s something fascinating and ominous of the shot of him coming down the steps, glittery military-style outfit, flanked by tons of police officers and security like he’s a head-of-state about to invade Poland. He had an awesome, fearsome power. An incredible magnetism that was almost primal. If you had told me at eight that Michael Jackson could shoot lasers from his eyes and had Santa Claus on speed dial I would have believed you. He could do the “moonwalk.” You just naturally assumed he could do any and everything else too.
Growing up my sisters and I LOVED Michael Jackson, especially myself and my little sister Deidre. Our big sister Denise*, I assume, was probably just as rabid a fan as us, but being as she was 13 by the mid-80s she rarely wanted to hang out with us. We were “babies.” She was into Prince** and didn’t participate in our little MJ games. I’m assuming she was having “adult-like” discussions about MJ that Deidre and I, being elementary school age, could never understand. Besides, she could watch the “Thriller” video, the whole video, without having nightmares like myself and Deidre.
That yellow eye thing? Terrifying.
Like many kids of that era, we could name every member of the Jackson family and consumed whatever we could get our hands on about them. I read his autobiography. I owned a Thriller belt, Thriller suspenders, two Michael Jackson dolls (both which met gruesome fates) and a poster of Michael hung in our bedroom at the old house on Landseer. (The one with him in the brown leather jacket.) Deidre (aka Baby Snob) could do ALL the dance moves and ran around the house with one of our mother’s white church gloves on, shamon’in and shimmying all over the place. (No surprise, Deidre would go on to major in theater and dance in school.***) And Deidre and I watched the film “Moonwalker” a million times in a matter of a few weeks during the summer when we borrowed a VHS copy of the film from our mother’s friend Olivia. Deidre and I had a tendency to exhaust ANY video. The Disney animated version of “Robin Hood.” Garfield’s Christmas Special. The Hollywood musical version of “Annie.” So I can safely say that I have the whole film “Moonwalker” tattooed somewhere in my brain from watching it so much in such a short span of time. I think our favorite parts were the montage, the little kids doing the “Bad” video (sooo jealous), the claymation/puppet stuff and all of “Smooth Criminal.” Yeah, the anti-drugs stuff with those orphans and Michael turning into an ass-kicking Japanese mecha didn’t make a lick of sense (and still kind of doesn’t), but we liked that too. The video was especially made for the attention span of someone who grew up on Sesame Street.
When I watch Michael Jackson perform I not only think of my youth, but the insane amount of time I spent with my baby sister. Of back when we were a team, doing our own little sketch comedies into tape recorders, keeping each other’s secrets and giggling about inside jokes you had to be either me or Deidre to understand. I’m extremely close to both of my sisters, but Deidre and I, despite the fact that we had other friends and school, were insanely close to the point that we both drove each other crazy, yet could not function without each other. I, back then, was weepy, temperamental and woefully uncool, yet, in typical sisterly fashion, Deidre looked up to me while simultaneously busting my chops. Deidre often got labeled as “the cute one” which never gave her full personality justice. She always had such a mean, wicked sense of humor and was much quicker with a comeback than me. You never knew what she would say or do.
To this day, even though Deidre and I don’t spend as much time together, (being an adult really takes away all your free time) when we are together we settle back into a rhythm that would make absolutely no sense to any outsiders. And I have to say, I am a certain person with her who I am not with anyone else in the world. So writing about Michael Jackson and posting to the video Moonwalker takes me back to a time and place that has such an incredible magic and specialness to me, that I can barely explain it. It’s a place of safety and love and sisterly bonds that don’t, won’t and will never die. I don’t remember a world without Michael Jackson or my sisters in it and I wouldn’t want it any other way.