On the occasion of the first anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death, I offer the following remembrance:
This is a picture of me from 3rd grade, performing to Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean at my elementary school’s annual talent show. At the time, I was approximately 2 years into my die-hard fandom of the King of Pop. I know that the ensemble looks like it was professionally done, but I actually handled all the costuming personally. I glued each of those sequins on one by one, spelling out ‘Jackson 5’ on the front of the shirt, and making perfect rows up and down the trademark glove. Yes, I know the glove is blue. It was all I could find.
After auditioning and making it into the talent show, my mom asked me good naturedly, “Ryan, aren’t you worried that people are going to laugh at you?” I responded simply, “Why would they do that?” I had no idea what she meant, why someone would find it amusing that a little white boy in big glasses was impersonating Michael Jackson. When I was home last week, my mom told me that she was so scared for me, but her fears were quickly assuaged when I began my performance.
I marched to center stage, and when that well known bass began to thump in the acoustically challenged auditorium, I planted a black fedora on my head and began to move to the beat just as Michael had during the famous Motown 25 performance. When I threw my hat into the crowd, the kids erupted and soon began clapping to the rhythm. It was glorious, even if I did run out of moves halfway through and had to improvise. My moonwalk wasn’t aided by the high-top Chuck’s I was wearing, but no matter. Everyone loved it, and told me so afterward. In the video, you can see the P.E. teacher, Mr. Murphy (who sported a similar MJ-circa-1985 Jheri curl mullet) with a huge smile on his face, moving to the tempo from his chair. I can still hear the applause and the cheers.