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Online readers comment on "Tell Us Your Thoughts and Memories of Michael Jackson," Rocks Off blog, by Chris Gray, June 26:
Thrilling: The Michael Jackson memory I have is about the song "Thriller" or, more specifically, the video to the song. I must've been about ten, and this was when cable TV was just getting popular — and back when MTV still showed videos. However, we did not have cable and we were explicitly not allowed to watch MTV. Anyway, so the "Thriller" video was coming out. And if you were paying attention at all back then, you knew this. People were pumped. Lucky for me, a friend with more liberal parents had MTV and offered to host a sleepover.
I remember that night well — the anticipation the most. It seems MTV was going to show the video at midnight, and we kids could barely contain ourselves. It seems also that MTV played promos for it about every three minutes, in case you had forgotten it was coming. Finally, at midnight, it played. And the wait was worth it. It was the craziest-cool video we had ever seen. It was not just dudes playing music — there was a story. And it was a scary story. And zombies! While at ten years old we were still not sure what we thought about dancing, we knew that in this case, it kicked all kinds of ass.
We all felt we had seen something special, and it was confirmed at school Monday. If you hadn't seen the video, you were a nobody. If you had, for that one day you were part of something bigger — not just the cool kids at your school, but the cool kids everywhere. Thank you, Michael Jackson, for that moment.
He's "Bad": The premiere of "Bad" was possibly even bigger. Like with "Thriller," MTV was happy to remind you at the end of every other video played that "Bad" would premiere soon.
My family all sat down together downstairs to watch the video. He was that big of a celebrity and musician. Ours wasn't the only family, either, to cozy up with one another and spend family time watching the world premiere of a Michael Jackson video. As I toasted last night: If he was a criminal, he was not very smooth at it. As a musician and dancer and performer, he was great.
Play it again: When I was a kid in the early '90s, we used to go to Fun Time Pizza in Dallas (one of those kids' places that eventually got bought out by Chuck E. Cheese's). There was a jukebox at the front of a stage that controlled the animatronic "band" with a kid-friendly song selection of maybe five choices.
I have really vivid memories of running as fast as I could toward the stage to hit the big button that played Michael Jackson's "Black or White," and then as soon as the song was winding to a close, running down to press the button again. And again and again. It's still one of my favorite songs. For both message and melody.
Charges dropped: I remember how as soon as he died, everyone glossed over the child-abuse charges and chose to remember only the good things.
Dangers of fame: I see MJ as a cautionary tale and a very sad figure. He had such great talent, but fame and all that it entails, especially becoming famous so young, can do horrible things to people. I see a similar story with Britney Spears. It has to be hard never to have been treated like a normal person. Our psyches just can't handle it.
Whatever his personal demons, whether he was really a child molester or not, he created amazing art that changed the face of music. Some of his music will go down in history as some of the best ever.
Moonwalking: Once upon a time, a very young Rex downloaded a Sega Genesis emulator and a bunch of ROM files over AOL dial-up Internet. I was probably in elementary school at the time. One of these ROM files was Michael Jackson's Moonwalker, an early Genesis game based on the film of the same name. It blew my young, impressionable mind as to how some guy I had grown up knowing as a washed-up child molester (remember, I'm a young one) had once been revered as a cultural icon.
I never finished the game, but a friend of mine bought the actual cartridge for me over the Internet as soon as he heard Michael Jackson had passed away, knowing that the game's value would skyrocket as soon as the world at large found out about his death. I plan on devoting a day or two to beat it, as it perfectly represents how I want to remember Michael — as an eccentric genius who had his fair share of personal demons, but taught us all that you can never be too old to throw pixie dust at mobsters and dogs who run across the bottom of the screen and rescue children from closets to the tune of his greatest hits, lovingly rendered with the Genesis sound chip.