Friday, June 26, 2009

Tribute to a Childhood Idol - Updated

Updated with a comment from my daddy ... (scroll down; it's in italics and it is so sweet!)


It makes me sad that I haven't thought of Michael Jackson in probably years. He was such an important part of my childhood. Yet he's been pretty much forgotten (by me) in the last two decades. But there are still memories of the time in my life when I idolized this amazingly talented performer ... memories that today are making me smile through a few tears.

I had the posters ... many, many posters. When I close my eyes, I can still see the lavender vinyl purse with a photograph of his gorgeous face displayed on the side. I coveted that purse; it was my priced possession for what seems like a very long time. Oh, and The album. You know, the album. The most phenomenal album of all time. Yes, I must've played that Thriller album on my tiny portable record player about a zillion times. So many memories of roller skating in my basement ... Billie Jean, Wanna be Startin' Something, P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing), ... I knew every song by heart. There were times that my heart ached from liking him so much and not being able to meet him.

My childhood memories are filled with images and sounds of Michael Jackson. The soundtrack of my life would be incomplete without including his music.

One of the strongest memories I have of my younger brother Randy is his reaction to the Thriller video. He was absolutely, unequivocally petrified. At the tender age of just five, and through the fault of a not-so-smart babysitter, Randy was exposed to those images and then haunted by them for the next five years. On the nights that he just couldn't get those zombies and werewolf out of his little head, he would beg to sleep in my room. If I wouldn't allow it, he would resort to sleeping on the floor in my parents' bedroom.

I think it was the year I turned 9. My dad worked for an insurance company ... and I didn't really know what that meant. He convinced me that one of his clients knew Michael Jackson and arranged for me to have a phone conversation with Michael. I can remember everything about that day. Wishing away every minute of the school day. Brimming over with anticipation. Hoping that I would know what to say. Hoping he would like me as much as I liked him.

After dinner my dad took me to his home office, a little corner of our unfinished basement with filing cabinets and half of a ping-pong table used as a desk. It always seemed so very official to me. The fact that we went to his office made this phone call seem that much more special and important and official. My cheeks hurt from smiling. My dad dialed the number - it was written on a little scrap of paper - and waited while it connected. I can even see the phone, a beige old-fashioned kind with a springy cord. My dad spoke - very officially - with one of Michael's assistants, and I danced around with excitement. Finally, I was handed the phone and had a brief conversation with my idol, my crush, my Michael. The words are a blur but I remember the sound of his soft voice. I remember that our conversation ended when his assistant got back on the phone and said that Michael needed his rest. You see, the Pepsi incident had happened just a few weeks before, and Michael was still healing. I, of course, understood that his health was a priority and graciously bid him farewell ... there was probably a squeal and a juvenile, "I love you" involved.

The next day at school, I told everyone - and I do mean everyone - about my very special phone conversation with Michael Jackson. I am fairly certain my news was met with mixed reactions, and most people probably thought I was either a little crazy of a big fat liar. But it didn't matter to me. I had talked to Michael Jackson.

Flash forward to a birthday celebration about 5 or 6 years later. As my family sat around the table enjoying slices of cake, my favorite Uncle Steve started telling stories and reminiscing. Between bites, he said, "Hey, favorite niece Dana, remember that time when I pretended to be Michael Jackson and your dad called me and we talked on the phone?"

Squeaking brake sound. Cricket filled silence.

What?!? Everyone else seemed quite amused by this little story. I was devastated. I can see the humor in it now, but to have such a vivid, pivotal childhood memory revealed as a fraud was pretty upsetting. For several years after that, my Uncle Steve would call to sing Happy Birthday to me while impersonate Michael Jackson. His attempt at an apology and humor.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Dana, your story brings tears to my eyes yet today. The only reason you got to talk to Michael Jackson that day was because your parents loved you so much they wanted to make the impossible happen- even if it was only for the moment. Your eyes lighting up and that wide smile was all I needed to know that it was not a joke on you, but a moment to be cherished forever. I would go back and do the same thing again if I thought it would make you smile like that again. Yes, I'm the Dad that wanted everything for his little girl- even the impossible. Love, Dad
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Wow! I didn't expect to have this much to say about a man I haven't thought about in quite a long time. This little stroll down memory lane is just a simple tribute to a childhood idol, a talented performer, and an important part of my early years. Michael Jackson, you had an impact on my life and you will be missed.

7 comments:

stevie24fan said...

I can still do his voice !! This is Uncle Steve (the bad guy)...hehehe ! And yes,after all of these years I am still ridden with guilt for putting you through that.It did however make you very happy for many years so I guess it was worth it.It was a bad day when you learned "the truth" but it did not take you long to get over it.Just so you know,I am now working on my Justin Timberlake impression because he is now the king of pop.I do indeed have great memories of MJ.I think he was the greatest performer of our lifetim and his music will live on forever.He lost alot of luster with the unproven kid thing but I think that was all about people wanting money from him.I hope anyway.Thanks for posting favorite niece Dana,it brought back alot of memories

Love ya,Uncle Steve

rwick7 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rwick7 said...

Great story Dana! I of course shed a few tears reading the story but none were for MJ, they were for some great childhood memories running through my head. I've always meant to tell you this but me acting scared was actually a farce much like the phone call, I just wanted to be near and protect my older sister. The bag lady zombie of course lived right next door, I couldn't be too careful. Or atleast 25 years later thats how I remember it. :) Love ya sis

mrs.alderman said...

OMG, I love this story and your sweet gullibility...please tell me the one about Santa again!! :)

Dan said...

Dana, your story brings tears to my eyes yet today. The only reason you got to talk to Michael Jackson that day was because your parents loved you so much they wanted to make the impossible happen- even if it was only for the moment. Your eyes lighting up and that wide smile was all I needed to know that it was not a joke on you, but a moment to be cherished forever. I would go back and do the same thing again if I thought it would make you smile like that again. Yes- I'm the Dad that wanted everything for his little girl- even the impossible.

Love Dad

Chi-town momma said...

Ah, your dad's comment (along with the rest of your famiy's comments) bring a tear to MY eye! I just love you my dear friend Dana. I see where you get your amazing parenting love for your little girl!

supah ~d said...

i am weeeeping damn you dana 's dad. damn you...

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