6.16.2005

My Michael Memories

After all the Michael Jackson hoopla this week, I started to wonder if maybe he should escape to Thailand for some much needed R & R. He can rest assured that the welcome mat will always be open. After all, Thai people are a tolerant, kind-hearted bunch, and wouldn't think his sleeping with boys in the least bit perverted. Actually, MJ has already visited Bangkok on two other occasions, but I'm not privy as to whether or not any slumber parties were held during his stays. If there were any sleepovers, I certainly wasn't invited!

Back in August of 1993 I came in Bangkok for about two months in order to take a Thai language course. That same month Michael Jackson scheduled two concert dates in Bangkok. A Thai friend invited me to go to the first show and I eagerly accepted the offer. I wasn't much of a Michael fan - I didn't even own any of his albums - but the thought of seeing the "King of Pop" in Thailand appealed to my sense of the absurd.

There was no opening act that night, only Beatles music playing over the sound system. The show was your typical stadium extravaganza with all sorts of sound and light tomfoolery. Huge video screens were erected at strategic points around the venue. Which was a good thing: our seats were so far back that if weren't for the video we wouldn't have seen much of any detail. Not that it really mattered. The sound mix was muddy and the performance fairly uninspired. The only songs that lifted the show above mediocrity were "Billie Jean" and the moving "Heal the World." I had hoped that Michael would have learned a few words in Thai - just a simple greeting would have been nice - to bond with the audience, but that didn't happen. Instead we were bombarded with banality such as "How ya doing" and "I love you!" Nevertheless, the crowd loved him, their screams reverberating through the stadium. The next night's show was postponed, Michael pleading exhaustion and dehydration. The day after that cancellation, a full-page ad appeared in local newspapers that said: Feeling Dehydrated? Drink Coca-Cola! It was not lost on most everyone that Pepsi was a major sponsor of the Michael Jackson tour!

But was it really dehydration? Coincidentally - or maybe not - the day after that initial Bangkok show, the first of the young boy sex accusations broke in the media. Michael ended up performing the second Bangkok show a few days later, but it signaled the start of the new MJ era, one in which he would continuously be looked upon - with raised eyebrows - not as the King of Pop, but as a possible pedophile.

Four years later, I was living in Bangkok and MJ was back in town for another concert on his 1997 World Tour. This time, I skipped the show - but Michael found me. I was managing a branch of Tower Records in Bangkok and MJ's manager had contacted us, wanting to arrange a special shopping spree for Michael. My boss agreed (and even gave in to their request for a discount!) and Michael and entourage showed up one afternoon at my store in Siam Center. Before they entered the building, however, we had to close the store and kick out the regular customers. Michael wanted his privacy, obviously, and judging from the surgical mask that he was wearing, he didn't want anyone giving him any infectious diseases either.

Once inside the store, MJ walked around silently, intently perusing the bins. When he saw a CD that he coveted, he would point to the disc, whereupon an assistant would pluck the album from the bins. Michael never touched anything. And yes, he wore gloves the whole time. He chose nearly a hundred CDs, a half-dozen of them Sarah Vaughan titles. I just stood around, like all the other employees, and watched the spectacle. I would have loved to chat with the guy, but his manager had forbidden any such interaction. The only people Michael talked to were a few token children that had been brought in for the occasion. He left the building flanked by his bodyguards, waving robotically, as delighted fans screamed their adoration.

Sadly, it'll never be the same again. Even before the recent trial, the magical Michael appeal had evaporated beyond repair. HIStory indeed.

4 comments:

Jimbob said...

WOW, you got to stand that close to the Kink of Pop? --- lucky for you weirdness isn't contagious! Because as we all know by now, MJ's got some serious Freaky-Deaky going on! A shame really, to see an artist that gifted become a national punchline! I still say " Thriller " is one of the all-time brilliant albums ( though I prefer " Off The Wall " ) Christ, he owns the Beatles catalog---it's not like he can't afford therapy!

John in Atlanta said...

It's apparent to me that MJ will never enjoy the same level of fame he experienced up through the 80s. jimbob is right. Thriller is still one of the most imaginative albums ever conceived. The video, directed by John Landis, was groundbreaking. If you never got to see MJ in the EPCOT 3D movie Captain Eo you really missed a great experience. As BB said, HIStory indeed.

Tom said...

I've never been a big fan of pop music, but MJ did do it well for a while. He did some amazing things in his day...

It's unfortunate that he's completely insane. It rather reminds me of The Aviator, that I saw a few weeks ago. Yet another gifted person gone crazy, and protected by an entourage of people, shielding his true craziness from the world.

MJ had those short years as the king of pop, but he will never be the same. He has destroyed his body through cosmetic surgery, and that can never be undone.

He'll never live down the child abuse allegations. Normal people simple do NOT share a bed with kids as a matter of routine.

It's interesting how often genious and insantity go hand in hand. MJ may not have been a true genious, but he was probably close..

Jimbob said...

A guy I work with told me a story similar to Bangkok Berthas. He was working at a Barnes & Nobles in West Palm some years ago and Michael came in for a shopping spree. He spent the whole time in the childrens section purchasing childrens books--- or as they're known in MJs world, " fresh bait "! >;-)