Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Scene

Thriller was the first album I ever bought. I listened to it over and over again like a lovestruck teenager.

Except I was five.

I'd stare dreamily at the cover and on more than one occasion informed my mom that when I married Michael Jackson he'd wear that glowing white suit. I also prayed he'd bring along that cute little tiger on the inside album jacket.

 This picture of a pretty boy, who could sing and dance like no other, cuddling up to a baby kitty was like CRACK to my little five year old eyes. Don't stop til you get enough, it whispered.

When I was 12, my best friend Wendy and I were at an uppity grocery store in Beverly Hills with the unfortunate name Mrs. Gooch's. I realize now it was a precursor to Whole Foods. We were following my mom around as she bought gross, healthy things like kale and carob cookies when all of a sudden, we spotted Michael Jackson in the store. He was in the full surgical mask-sunglasses-hat getup with a plain clothes bodyguard in tow. I recall wishing I was wearing anything except my dumb Catholic school uniform.

By the time we were practically next to Michael in the check out line, Wendy, ever the extrovert to my painfully shy introvert, asked my mom if she could go up to him for an autograph. My mom said: DUH, yes you can try! I think Wendy was secretly the daughter my mom had always wanted.

I remember Wendy marching straight over to Michael as I trailed awkwardly behind her, wondering if my hair was as blond as her and my eyes as blue, if I'd have all her plucky confidence too. I remember Michael asking us not to attract too much attention as he signed an autograph quickly.

And Wendy doing the exact opposite. She started crying hysterically. Ugh. I was MORTIFIED since I was an exceptinal rule follower back in the day. 

I will never forget how soft his voice sounded. And how fragile he looked. And how odd it was that I'd known him all my life but he had no idea who I was.

I remained a fan even as his choice in companions became increasingly odd.

I remember my stepdad - who didn't live to see the Lisa Marie marriage - once comparing Michael to Elvis. I remember him saying something about great gifts turning into great tragedies in Hollywood.

By the time all the plastic surgery turned him into a white version of his sister, I thought things couldn't possible get any weirder.

But they did.

And yet, in college and through my twenties, he provided the soundtrack to my coming of age. He was there with me at the frat parties and intoxicatingly fun dance clubs.  He was there on all the formative road trips I took and the first wave of weddings I attended.

So with every year and every scandal, my heart would break just a little as I witnessed my first crush, the most gifted performer of our generation, systematically tarnish such a magnificent legacy. In the second half of my life, he became little more than a cautionary tale, the punchline of a crude joke, the subject of suspicion. He became a stranger.

In the end, I cling to the genius of the music not the fallibility of the man. I figure I will never live someone else's life so who am I to judge? I am no longer immature enough to sit in judgment of any other person...especially one I will never truly know. I figure we'll all have to face the music someday.

Sadly, today it was Michael's turn to do just that. Today at the age of 31, I felt a small part of me died when I heard about Michael's death. I felt a part of my childhood die right along with him. And it felt devastating.

I hope his family and his children - the people who actually knew him and loved him in all his complexities - are allowed to mourn in peace. We have to remember that in the end he didn't belong to us. We were just along for the thrilling ride.

The Outfit/Accessories/Grade


The Commentary

So um, today the theme of my last birthday party - My Madonna & Michael Jackson Masquerade - got creepily poignant. I'm so happy my friends and I were able to honor his influence on music and fashion and us.

 Glad we did it while he was still alive, before it was tinged with the sadness of loss.

Don't think there's ever been such a prolific artist. One who influenced and paved the way for a generation of not only musicians but fashion stars.

Sigh. Sure he was wearing women's clothing in recent months. But at least it was menswear inspired Givenchy

And Balmain

Lots and lots of Balmain.

Better than the PJ look from a few years ago.

I hope they bury him in a crisp white fitted suit. It's how the Michael I loved - the sensitive, beautiful black man who changed a generation and lit up the planet with his otherworldly talent - will live in my memory for always.


ShoeZQ said...

Wow. So beautiful and poignant. You brought tears to my eyes. We are the same generation, my dear. My husband and I were so saddened by this loss. Thank you for your lovely words. As always, you nailed it.

WendyB said...

I love that you have amazing adventures with friends named WENDY. Ha! Great story.

Sable Crow said...

A very elegant tribute! As I kid, I always wondered who Michael Jackson's designers were. I love the insight you gave into what he was wearing recently.

Style is genderless, and I love that the man was pioneering unisex clothing. Like Chanel's "mens'" collection.

Big kiss to you,

Liz said...

Absolutely beautifully written. You have a true gift, Diabolina.


Milly said...

"Felt a part of my childhood die right along with him"....exactly how i feel!!!!
RIP MJ...forever in our hearts!

Michelle said...

I know exactly what you mean about feeling a part of your childhood died. Me, my brother & sister loved Thriller when we were kids. My bro & sis would re-enact the dances and I begged my mom to find me the red jacket in the Beat It video.

But I associate MJ with my late uncle/godfather. He bought me the album, the tshirt, the folders for school. He would tape all the videos on MTV & live performances for us to watch.

While I was really sad about MJ's passing, it made me grieve for my uncle all over again. May my uncle and MJ rest in peace.

JCH said...

I was 4 years old when MJ was at his prime, but just like you, I can associate a time, place, moment, event in my life with each of his songs.

You hit it right on the gold button on one of his military suits...

Mar5195 said...

Great tribute to him. Love the fashion commentary. He changed the way we dressed, we danced & gave us a social conscience.

I wanted to move to Africa and save all the starving kids. Still do.

I loved Thriller but Off The Wall is my all time favorite album. I wanted to be MJ's Tender Roni. We share the same birthday. Every year without missing a beat I rock out to some MJ and toast our birthday.

JillFantastic said...

Very well written piece. And how special that you actually met him! Like the others, loved the fashion commentary.

tam pham said...


Kani said...

Beautifully said.

Catherine said...

I've been meaning to express my feelings for MJ and you nailed it. Thanks for that.

amber said...

Nice tribute. Jim and I were shocked when we heard the news.

deb said...

Very well written.. I was 6 around the time Bad was at its peak.. I loved MJ so much

What an impact he has had through his music and the hundreds of millions of dollars he gave to charity.. we have truly lost a special soul and your post was well-written..

Jessica said...

Nostalgic, sincere, funny, yet sad - this is one the best pieces I have read about MJ since his death. This comment is riding on CPT a little too much but it's never too late for praise.


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