I’m not sure if I ever attended a slumber party where somebody didn’t play at least one 45 of Michael Jackson songs.
Farrah, while not my favorite Angel (that would be Jaclyn), inspired me to cut “wings” in my hair and yell “Freeze!” while pulling a pretend gun on an imaginary bad guy.
When the world lost Michael and Farrah nearly simultaneously last week, radio, television and newspapers churned out countless retrospectives, interviews and specials. Farrah’s battle with cancer had made her demise inevitable, but Michael’s premature death shocked the planet. It quickly overshadowed everything, everywhere.
Cable news continuously provided updates on his death and pictures of vigils and tributes from around the globe. From Thursday until Monday morning, every time I got in the car his music was flooding the airwaves on several stations. Michael’s greatest hits were the background music while I shopped at two different malls Saturday.
And at some point something odd happened. For the first time in at least a decade, I started to like Michael Jackson again. His music, the very same that in recent years would make me immediately change a radio station, not only held me but led me to daydream. I put aside “Wacko Jacko,” the personal and financial train wreck whose plastic surgeries, marriages, children and criminal trial alleging pedophilia ran me off years ago, filling me with pity at the same time as disgust.
Instead, I sang along and remembered the magnetic Michael, the cute little boy with his brothers, the single-gloved, moonwalking, “We Are The World” Michael, whose style, dancing, costumes and creative genius mesmerized so many of us.
I even went to an ’80s bar. With a patient old friend, I watched video after music video dating back to the birth of MTV, through the John Hughes Brat Pack age into the “Footloose,” “Flashdance” and “Dirty Dancing” epoch. Over several hysterical hours, we swapped stories of our younger days according to their specific musical accompaniment. I described the exact outfit I wore the night a boy named Chris asked me to dance to “Super Freak” and later gave me my first real kiss. John recalled whipping it good in a talent show routine set to the musical stylings of Devo.
Pat Benatar almost got it right. When “Beat It” and “Thriller” were hits, we were young. Heartache to teenage heartache, we would stand, no promises, no demands.
Until we grew up, that is — then life, not just love, became our battlefield.
Back in the day we weren’t jaded. We weren’t hardened. We hadn’t been laid off, divorced or lost friends, parents or, God forbid, children. We hadn’t yet witnessed space shuttles exploding, presidents cheating with interns, children killing children in a Colorado high school, or the hurricanes that nearly wiped out entire parts of our nation. We hadn’t learned the hard way that money and power all too frequently corrupt, and that not only do the good guys not always win, but the really bad guys with really good legal teams often skate.
We hadn’t yet experienced the resentment that develops when, after years of being responsible, paying bills and building a comfortable retirement, we got kicked in the teeth and the pocketbook as words like “TARP” and “bailout” became part of America’s vocabulary.
We weren’t yet privy to a myriad of leadership disgraces, the most recent involving South Carolina, the Appalachian Trail, Argentina and a marriage forever changed by e-mails between a governor and the mistress he believes to be his soul mate (a fact he gleaned while on the taxpayers’ dime).
It is a wonder anyone can stay positive while watching Kentucky universities wear fiscal handcuffs and slog through scandals as they aspire to achieve national rankings in academics as well as sports. I don’t know how progressive Louisvillians aren’t permanently vexed as they valiantly try to restore the commonwealth’s leading economic engine to a level where it isn’t outclassed by other cities of our size. I know that I and so many others remain bewildered by the 2009 Senate’s unforgivable dereliction of duty in not aiding Kentucky’s equine industry, a decision that will generate a serious statewide regression on several fronts.
It’s impossible to retain our youthful enthusiasm. Those who do are often criticized, labeled as naive or crazy. Friends of Michael Jackson say he was forever trying to recreate the splendor of a youth he never had but always longed for. Maybe, in moderation, that’s not such a crazy desire after all.