ANYONE who knows my music taste will consider me and unlikely chronicler of michael jackson. and indeed, for my money, there's not much post-"billie jean" (that song in specific a masterpiece i think) that lives up to his soul years.
but i'm reeling like the rest of the world from the sudden death of the man known for decades as the King of Pop. Here is the NYT story of his (as of now) mysterious passing at age 50.
i'm shocked and confused partly because of the suddenness of it -- this was, after all, going to be the season for a massive comeback.
but also it's because of my somewhat accidental meeting with him a few years back.
this was at a party at producer robert evans' house, maybe 2003, thrown for the smarmy director brett ratner, who was loudly chewing gum and running around his own party like a bar mitzvah boy on a sugar high.
in any case, sara (my then-girlfriend/now wife) pointed out to me as we were hanging out talking that we were standing right over jackson himself, who was sitting in a couch quietly flipping through a book of photographs. (sara was a huge fan of "off the wall" and that era so was really excited in spite of her own gen X jadedness.)
we did everything we could to avoid invading his space, and since i was covering the party i spoke to a serpentine, but friendly, paris hilton, who told me (perhaps because i was wearing glasses and a bookish expression) that her party days were over, that she just liked hanging out with friends like "bob" and having good conversations. and i found joel gray, jeff bridges, evans himself and other luminaries to talk to.
when i walked back to sara and our friend, i saw a guy on the couch look up and me and kind of motion me over. may've been bc i was carrying a notebook. in any case, this was jacko, who was as friendly and sweet as could be. he asked me if a knew LAT pop critic robert hilburn ("such a nice man") and discussed his love for movies (esp ratner's which he compared to the work of capra).
overall, i was struck by a) how southern and easy his accent and manner were, b) how much more normal (for want of a better word) he seemed.
he seemed to want to go on talking about film all night, but i excused myself and thanked him for talking. i think there were enormous bodyguards standing around us, but the sense i got was that there was a real person here who earnestly wanted to break out of the bubble.
(i actually have a poster of a michael jackson statue from the budapest marzipan museum.)
may he rest in peace!
Photo credit: Wikipedia