Moonwalk A Mile in His Shoes: Examining Michael Jackson Impersonators and ‘Dangerous’

Sources: NY Times – By Jon Caramanica | Edited By – All Things Michael

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Think of what it took to be Michael Jackson, pop star chameleon forever mutating in the spotlight: the outrageous level of talent, the unbearable amount of scrutiny, to say nothing of the constant revising around race and gender and more.

“This prosthetic idea of the human,” is how Susan Fast describes it in “Michael Jackson’s Dangerous,” her new book about the 1991 album that announced Jackson’s break from his polished pop mega-idol past into a more polyvalent present.

“Dangerous” is, for many, the beginning of the end for Jackson, even though it sold many millions of copies and generated several hits. It followed ” Thriller” and “Bad,” two of the most important and widely loved albums in pop history, and ones that, comparatively, barely courted controversy.

But Ms. Fast, a professor in the English and cultural studies department at McMaster University in Ontario, thinks “Dangerous” is important, too, and sets out to rehabilitate it both as an album and as a site of Jackson’s engagement with cultural politics.

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Susan Fast

That task can’t be done without touching on his body, which Ms. Fast calls “a work in progress, fully open to and trusting in limitless experimentation.” For someone so squarely at the center of pop culture, Jackson was far ahead of his time in terms of how he negotiated and altered his identity on the fly — a subverter in the pop spotlight.

Virtually all of his creative moments were moments of transition, and Ms. Fast makes a strong argument that “Dangerous” was among his most disruptive. In this book, the 100th entry in Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 series, each one devoted to a single album, Ms. Fast employs close readings of lyrics, musical production choices and video presentations to underscore little discussed aspects of Jackson’s creative output.

Ms. Fast contends that, at around this time, lurid media interest in Jackson’s perceived oddity began to eclipse formal appreciation of his work. So she breaks “Dangerous” into thematically rich sections: Jackson breaking with his old self, then switching to familiar modes to make bold political statements and then coming full circle. She praises his use of nonmusical sounds as narrative devices, and contends that Jackson, often painted as resisting the cutting edge, was in fact borrowing some of hip-hop’s angst and reformatting it on his terms.

She’s also interested in the normative aspects of Jackson’s masculinity, an area of his identity that she says is often outright ignored, noting that Jackson’s “sexualized performances” were, for many, “too stylized to be believed.” But talking about the video for In the Closet,” in which he cavorts with model Naomi Campbell, Ms. Fast notes: “It seems, perhaps too oddly for some to contemplate, that he knows his way around a woman. Failure? I don’t think so. Threatening? Probably.”

There are brief pocket-history digressions into postmodernism, art history and other subjects in this taut book, but mainly Ms. Fast — an academic writing for a general audience — sticks close to what Jackson did on record, stage and screen, making himself up as he went.

Ms. Fast’s book has an unwitting partner in “The Michael Jacksons,” a photo and essay collection by Lorena Turner devoted to those who make impersonating Jackson their job.

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Lorena Turner and an impersonator

This is an eclectic, centerless group — Ms. Turner found her subjects on the street and through online solicitations — leading perhaps to unavoidably to imprecise ethnography. With someone as fluid as Jackson, the avenues for interpretation are wide open. Ms. Turner’s subjects are men and women, black and white and beyond; heavily made up or merely playing dress-up, capable dance mimics or those who prefer just to whisper sweetly.

The photos are striking. How could they not be? No two Jacksons look quite the same. Many are in thrift-store finery. Some use makeup to lighten their skin, some to accentuate or de-emphasize certain features. One man’s hands are about a dozen shades darker than his face.

This is a photo book that should be a movie, or at minimum a YouTube series. The detail in the photos is revealing, but the motivations behind each person’s choices would most likely be even more so. It would have been especially revealing to pair each of the photos with interview excerpts or detailed narratives. Ms. Turner did extensive interviews with her subjects, but apart from a few case studies at the end of the book, she does not include them, hampered perhaps by the varying degrees of self-awareness among her study group.

She does develop a loose taxonomy, breaking her subjects down into categories — look-alikes, impersonators, tribute artists — but doesn’t drill deeper to unpack affinities within and across categories. And she notes that most of the subjects choose the lighter-skinned Jackson of the late 1980s and early 1990s as their visual guide, but doesn’t explore why. (One scene in which an observer spits at the feet of one of the darker-skinned impersonators is striking but underexplored.)

For most of these performers, she writes, Jackson’s “skin color does not suggest a failed allegiance to blackness, as it did for many people of earlier generations, and his altered features do not signal self-hatred. In fact, many performers celebrate those transformations in their representations of Michael. They are not race, or gender-obsessed; their Michael Jackson is neither black nor white, male nor female, but a hybrid, uniracial person like themselves.”

In some of the interviews it’s clear that the subjects see themselves as custodians of Jackson’s legacy, responsible for upholding his image among everyday fans. Jackson is, to them, a costume, a set of rules for performance, a way to collect tips. But he is not a divisive figure — only a departed hero who needs new flesh. So they put on the outfit, the makeup, the dance moves, and give his complexity a breather.

THE MICHAEL JACKSONS

By Lorena Turner

Illustrated. 167 pages. Little Moth. $34.95.

MICHAEL JACKSON’S DANGEROUS

By Susan Fast

151 pages. Bloomsbury. $14.95.

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Anti Bullying Campaign – “We Are the World 2014.”

Sources: Lock Port Journal – By Michael Canfield | Edited By – All Things Michael

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MIDDLEPORT — John Wragg knows about the scars left on a victim of bullying, literally.

When Wragg was 14, he decided he’d had enough of the bullying he experienced in school. Unable to talk to anyone about the abuse he suffered regularly at the hands of his peers, one day the English-born boy went home, into the bathroom and slit his wrist with his father’s razor. He wears the scar to this day.

“I was bullied unmercifully as a kid,” he said. “I’m a survivor. I’m lucky.”

As an adult, motivated by his own experiences, and the near constant stream of stories involving kids and teenagers who have been bullied, Wragg decided to do something about the problem.

With the help of Lyndonville resident and bullying survivor Deborah Loke, Wragg, the CEO of Carmen Road-based Torquil Studios, created a video remake of Michael Jackson’s “We Are the World” titled “Anti Bullying — We Are the World 2014.”

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Twenty-one local musicians appear in the video, as well as Medina Central’s Wise Middle School Choir. The video starts off with testimonials from several bullying survivors, and includes a plea from the family of Jamey Rodemeyer, the 14-year-old from Amherst who committed suicide as a result of the bullying he experienced.

Rodemeyer’s suicide brought national attention to the matter of bullying.

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“I’m looking for the kid, like myself, that maybe will see this and see that there are people who care,” Wragg said. “If it helps one kid who’s being bullied from going home and slitting his wrist or taking his mum’s sleeping pills or hanging himself … then everything I’ve done and everything everyone has helped me do is all worth it.”

Despite receiving positive feedback on the video, Wragg is disappointed in the response he’s received from area school districts when it comes to bullying. He says his efforts to work with districts in Niagara and Orleans counties have fallen on deaf ears.

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“I’m surprised by the lack of acknowledgement,” he said, noting that numerous phone calls to principals, school board members and superintendents have gone unreturned.

Released to the public on Oct. 6 to coincide with National Bullying Prevention Month, the video has been viewed all over the world, from Italy to Bulgaria to Hong Kong.

“It’s gone worldwide,” Loke said.

Several disc jockeys from 97 Rock in Buffalo have also posted the video, Wragg said.

While the video is meant to inspire bullying victims to seek help, it’s also aimed at dispelling the belief that bullying is part of growing up, according to Loke.

“Bullying is not a rite of passage,” she said. “That needs to stop.”

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The video ends with Wragg imploring viewers to “prove” they’re anti-bullying by helping take his message viral.

“Take a video of yourself on your smart phone giving your name and saying, ‘I’m taking a stand against bullying. How about you?’,” he says on the video. “Post it to your Facebook page and challenge three of your friends to do the same.”

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Learn more at www.hateisugly.com

 

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Chicago’s Largest ‘Thriller’ Flash Mob Ever Being Planned For Halloween

Sources: Chicagoist |The Local Tourist Chicago |All Things Michael

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Flash mobs may seem beyond passé at this point, yet not even the most jaded flash mobster can resist the siren call of the Thriller dance. And so, I|O Urban Roofscape at The Godfrey Hotel hosts what they are dubbing Chicago’s largest “Thriller Flash Mob on October 31 to celebrate their first Halloween.

Here’s how it goes down:

Don’t worry if you don’t know all the creepy, crawly moves, because instructors at Flirty Girl Fitness will be happy to teach them to both men and women that night. Thriller classes will be held at their studio located at 2215 N Halsted Street at 6:00pm, 7:00pm and 8:00pm. Come in costume or bring it with you. Either way, Flirty Girl’s staff can help transform you into the living dead with nail, hair and make-up services for $5 – $15.

To complete the party atmosphere, alcoholic drinks will be available for purchase from Flirty Girl’s bar. Take adult beverages into the disco-lit, fog machine enhanced studio while learning when to clap your hands over your head and slide to the right. (That’s the only move I remember from the video.)

After the Thriller choreography is perfected, or at least sort of learned, the mob will head to the Halloween party at I|O Urban Roofscape beginning at 9:00pm. Then, at 10:31pm and again at midnight, all the preparation will pay off as the dance floor will be invaded by ghouls and zombies breaking out into coordinated dance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

You’re nobody if you haven’t tried to do the Thriller dance at least once in your lifetime. But whether or not you want to try to do so amongst a group of perfect strangers in Halloween costumes is an entirely different matter. Tickets to this macabre soirée can be bought here.

Just remember to have someone do the Vincent Price narration as well.

Flirty Girl Fitness is located at 2215 N. Halsted Street in Lincoln Park; I|O Urban Roofscape is located at 127 W. Huron St. 

 

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3T On The Big Reunion Tour: “It’s Like A High School Reunion”

Source: Reveal.co.uk – Olivia Heath| Edited By – All Things Michael

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TJ, Taryll and Taj Jackson, better known as 3T, arrived back in the UK this week to kickstart rehearsals for the ‘Big Reunion Boy Band Tour.’

The group will be joining Blue, A1, Damage, 911, 5ive and 5th Story for the 13-date arena tour and they can’t wait to be back on stage.

3T, the nephews of the late Michael Jackson, can’t wait to catch up with the bands from series one and two. Taryll tells Reveal: “It’s almost like a high school reunion, only we didn’t go to school with these bands!”

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3T and Damage

3T tell us that rehearsals are “going good” and they say they’re most looking forward to performing their 1996 hit ‘Anything’. “It means so much to us because it was our first single and it was an introduction to the world,” says Taryll.

While the trio can’t wait to get back on stage, TJ tells us that he’s most looking forward to spending time with his brothers.

“Back home, my life is so crazy and hectic that I don’t get as much downtime with my brothers,” says TJ. “This is a good opportunity for us to be back and be on stage having fun together. Being on the tour bus will help with that as well.”

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So what’s next after the tour?

“We’ve been working on the album and we’re more than half way through with it,” explains Taryll. “It’ll be ready by 2015 and then we’ll do another tour. Our style has grown. It’ll be more organic and more live instrumentation.”

Tickets for ‘The Big Reunion Boy Band Tour’ are now on sale via www.livenation.co.uk,www.ticketmaster.co.uk. Meet and greet packages from www.vipnation.eu. For tour details visititv.com/bigreunion.

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Massive Zombie Thriller Dance Coming To City Hall (Toronto)

Sources: Blog To – By Aubrey Jax| All Things Michael

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Those sleepovers where you danced the zombie dance while your friends’ parents begged you to go to sleep and stop making noise up there are about to pay off. Next weekend a spooky cast of dancers are calling on Toronto to rattle its gross, brain eating (costumed) bodies in an attempt to set a new world record for the most people sashaying the zombie dance from Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. Toronto held claim to the first such record in 2006, in case you dance best under pressure.

If you’d like to take part, bring a donation for the Prostate Cancer Canada to Nathan Phillips Square, specifically “the washroom, at the skate rental area” (sketchy), at 4:30pm Saturday, October 25th – it’s the same day as Zombie Walk, so you don’t have to worry about over-zombie-ing your pores this year – and join the hour long rehearsal before the 6pm showdown. If you just want to watch, look out for the bitey ones.

 

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The Michael Jackson “Dittmar Collection” Exhibit Ends Tomorrow

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Gronau – Anyone looking for a cozy place away from the fresh autumnal temperatures can still quickly take advantage of the last opportunity to visit the Michael Jackson exhibition in the rock’n’ popmuseum. The exhibition will be on display until Sunday, October 19, before it goes back in private.

In recent months, many fans of the King of Pop have came to rock’n’popmuseum. In addition to the interested museum visitors, fans clubs traveled in buses and even went in costumes through the exhibition.

Visitors get to see an extract from the “Dittmar Collection,” the private collection of Chris Dittmar Julian, one of the largest and most valuable Michael Jackson collections worldwide. The collector has complied hundreds of exhibits from his possession with the aim to bring visitors closer to both the private individual as well as the world famous Mega Star, who held the breath of the world for decades.

Its artifacts include garments of the singer, including an original Billie Jean jacket that he wore in Pensacola during rehearsals for his “BAD World Tour” in 1988 and also a worn shoe signed by the artist.

The exhibit includes several original awards, such as the eye-catching Platinum Award presented to Michael Jackson for 7 million records, CDs and cassettes sold of the album “Dangerous.”

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The skurrileren exhibits includes an original invitation to the private funeral and burial of Michael Jackson, which was held in Glendale on September 3, 2009 at Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

Video clips and audio round off the varied appearances of the exhibition.  The audio guide gives the visitor detailed information about the objects that lift the veil of legend.

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Edited By – All Things Michael

 

Photographer Christopher Makos Shares Photos of Michael Jackson And More In New Book

Sources: Mail Online | All Things Michael

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American photographer Christopher Makos has released a new book featuring stunning celebrity photographs taken over the past three decades.

Among those featured are Brooke Shields,Michael Jackson and Calvin Klein at a 1983 party at the American Museum of Natural History in 1983, Queen Elizabeth out at Ascot back in 1991, and photos of actors Rob Lowe and Matt Dillon taking in 1983 and 1980 respectively.

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Matt Dillon in 1980

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Rob Lowe in 1983

The book, Everything: The Black and White Monograph by Christopher Makos, which is published by Glitterati Incorporated,is available to purchase now.

Queen Elizabeth at Ascot in 1991

Other photos include OJ Simpson, John Lennon hanging with Liza Minelli, and a gaunt looking Mick Jagger taken out in Montauk, New York, back in 1977.

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Mick Jagger in Montauk, New York in 1977  

Makos, who was born in Massachusetts in 1948 has worked with many of the greats in his lifetime, apprenticing with Man Ray in Paris and collaborating with Andy Warhol.

He is also the man who introduced Warhol to the work of two of the biggest artists of the eighties, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring.

His photos have appeared in magazines including Interview, Rolling Stone and New York, and he is displayed in over 100 galleries.

Ivana Trump at her apartment in the Trump Tower in 1990

Ivana Trump at her apartment in the Trump Tower in 1990

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“No Mortal Can Resist The Thriller!” – A Cute Story About A Woman’s Mild Obsession

Sources: Connect Statesboro – By Brittani Howell | All Things Michael

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I was deeply saddened to hear that “Thriller” practice would be cancelled this week due to rehearsals for the upcoming Dracula ballet (page 15, in case you’re interested). This is going to sound completely dorky, but I have to admit it: dancing in a “Thriller” zombie parade has been on my bucket list since I realized that was a widespread tradition.

My first encounter with the “Thriller” was back in my senior year of high school. My AP Calculus class was an odd bunch to the man, right down to our teacher. At some point during the semester we decided that learning “Thriller” would be a better use of our class time than preparing for the AP Calculus test. We performed the dance at the Halloween pep rally, and it was fantastic — almost worth the fact that we all pretty much bombed the AP Calc test later in the year.

Ever since then, though, I get mildly obsessed with the cult classic every time Halloween rolls around. Macon used to do a “Thriller” parade every year and I always, without fail, managed to be out of town when it happened. One year I happened to be walking through the park when I saw the zombie mob out practicing. I jumped in just for kicks, even though I didn’t know anybody and wouldn’t be there for the performance. That’s how weird my obsession with this dance is.

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So my course of action seemed pretty clear last year when, as a teacher in Thailand, I had to come up with something to do with my class of rowdy little Thai seventh-graders for their Halloween English lesson. My other English co-teachers did Halloween vocabulary Bingo or had them create their own monsters. Really good, smart, academic activities — and, of course, not what I was going to do at all.

On Oct. 31, all of my classes walked into our classrooms throughout the day to find the desks pushed up against the walls, the Michael Jackson video projected on the white board, and Teacher Brittani standing at the front of the class wearing a witch costume and a mildly manic grin.

Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that no mortal can resist the evil of the Thriller, but I will assure you that not one of my little Thai students could. Despite the looks of absolute horror that spread throughout the room when they figured out we were learning a dance for the day’s lesson, every single one of them had mastered the zombie hands and the Michael Jackson shimmy by the end of class, counting out the steps in Thai and dissolving with laughter at how stupid we all (okay, mostly me) looked trying to learn the dance. Even my rowdiest, naughtiest kids threw themselves into the activity, and by the day’s end, I had set loose a horde of little zombies on the town.

My classes were taught on a rotating schedule, so I only had half of my 360 students on Oct. 31. The next day I came into class in normal clothes with lessons prepared, and as I wrote up the exercises my kids all came rushing into class, wildly excited — and then confused, when they saw a distinct lack of Michael Jackson in the room.

“Teacher,” one of them called out, his hand in the air. “Teacher, play game?”

“No, bud, not today,” I answered, wondering what had made him think that was on the day’s agenda. I looked around the classroom. The kids looked at best crestfallen ­­— at worst, devastated. The boy who’d spoken first put his hand in the air again, looking earnest and confused. “Teacher, Halloween?”

And that’s how 40 Thai children guilted me into a full class of playing Bingo to make up for not teaching them a Michael Jackson dance.

And that’s a long, meandering way of saying: If you aren’t planning on dancing the “Thriller” at the Oct. 25 Scare on the Square, you’re missing out.

Brittani Howell is the editor of Connect Statesboro. When she signed up for “Thriller” practice, she was the first adult. The second-oldest person was, like, six. If you want to get in touch, shoot her a message at bhowell@connectstatesboro.com!

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