Discovering Pop Legend Michael Jackson’s Popularity In Rural India

Sources: Time of Oman – BY Pradeep Govind  | All Things Michael

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It was my first trip to Vijaywada. I was on official duty on my first job. My assignment was daunting and challenging yet exciting nonetheless.

To get specific, I was given the target of increasing the sale of prerecorded cassettes in the international music genre for my company across South India by at least 200% in the next twelve months. My company was a license affiliate of EMI London that boasted of arguably the world’s most comprehensive and exhaustive catalogue across all genres of international music. The artistes included The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, and many more.

Those were the early days of the invasion of satellite channels in India. It was too early to determine what the impact of MTV would be on the cultural metamorphosis of modern India.  Sure, the metropolitans in the south had their share of decent exposure to the Beatles and Pink Floyds of the world. But once we went beyond the metros to the satellite cities and smaller towns, the only noteworthy album in our catalogue that received any recognition was “Man Machine” by Kraft work, which owed its success primarily to the fact that it somehow found its way to be played during the interval breaks in most cinema halls thanks to its “then” innovative use of the synthesizer.

So when I was asked by my boss to make a market prospecting visit to Vijaywada during my next trip to Hyderabad, I was not too sure if it was worth it.  When I checked with our territory representative in coastal Andhra, he encouraged me to make the visit as he felt that I would enjoy the ‘company paid holiday’ in Vijayawada, as there was only one outlet that sold international music there and they purchased only “Man Machine” from us and anything else would be accepted only on consignment basis i.e. payment on sale basis from our authorized distributor. This meant that I had no significant work in Vijayawada. When I mentioned this to my boss who came from a hardcore FMCG background, he gave me that age old spiel of the Bata salesman who went to Africa and reported a huge potential for shoes since no one there wore shoes.

With no further scope for argument, I headed to Vijayawada. I checked into a lodge and at around nine in the morning, took a rickshaw to our local distributor’s office. Our distributor was also the authorized dealer for a host of other labels…a common concept in the economics of nodal distribution that you will find as you go to smaller towns. In the few minutes of my interaction with him, I realized that I was just an unavoidable distraction and source of nuisance to him. ‘Unavoidable’ because I represented his principal and ‘nuisance’ because both of us knew that there was no way that the genre of music I represented could add value to his business.

After some initial pleasantries and a cup of tea, he suggested that I do a round of the local wholesale and retail music shops just to get an idea of the market before meeting him for lunch when we could discuss further proliferation strategies for international music in Vijayawada. I knew that it was his ploy to get rid of me during his busy morning hours. I was also happy to oblige since I could keep myself occupied instead of just watching him ramble over phone to someone or the other in Telegu which I understood not.

My market visit began at about 11 AM and as the sun got hotter, my spirits got damper. The only types of music that mattered in these markets were devotional and film music. M.S. Subhalaksmi’s Venketasha Suprabatham was a hot favorite for obvious reasons. Religion would always be a safe segment to be in as long as man’s insecurities grew exponentially. There was also a brand new audio release of a Chiranjeevi film which dominated the shelf space in all the shops.

Finally I came to the shop that sold international music. And all that I saw there in international music was 2 copies of Man Machine and 5 copies of a pirated compilation of that year’s Grammy winners.

As I spoke to the shop owner, I understood that the rich catalogue that I had to offer held absolutely no bearing in his shop. As I reached back to my distributor’s office thoroughly demoralized, there was a call for me on his phone. It was my boss. He enquired about my visit and I told him that I managed to get orders for just 15 cassettes from a rooster of over 5000 titles and out of these, 10 were for ‘Man Machine’, three for the original sound track of “Pretty Woman” (Since the movie was playing in one of the theatres…probably more for the bath tub scene with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere) and the other two were for any instrumental album of my choice and at my risk. (with heavy drum beats as a must!!)

“Boss, the trip was just not worth it. It would not even cover my train fare.” I told my boss.

“Well at least you know that first hand.” he replied as he hung up.

Just then the phone rang again. My distributor answered. He spoke in Telegu interlaced with broken English. He seemed excited.

“Give me 3000 copies. I will courier the Demand Draft tomorrow. But one condition… I want the stocks to reach me on the same day, otherwise the material will flow into my territory from Hyderabad.” he said over phone. He hung up and looked at me and said, “Babu, your presence has brought in good news. Today I will take you to some nice restaurant. Come…let’s go fast. I have to get back as I have work to do. There is a new release and I have to take advance orders from the market. “

Before I could ask him further, he was already outside starting his scooter. I hopped on behind and we drove into a restaurant. The air condition was a great relief from the merciless sun outside. He offered me a beer which I refused since I was on duty. He seemed to be in a mood to celebrate. I asked him what the ‘good news’ was? I guessed it must be the release of some new Chiranjeevi film sound track.

He looked at me with an expression that suggested excitement with a tinge of guilt.

He said, “Babu, we are getting dangerous!”

I did not understand. I asked “Why..are you planning to join the Naxalites?”

I knew that Andhra Pradesh has had its share of Naxalism.

He laughed. He said, “No Babu, I meant we are going to get the stocks of Michael Jackson’s new album ‘Dangerous’ anytime. The release is this week. I just got a call from the CBS office.”

It took me a few seconds for the matter to sink in.

“So is that what its all about? “

“Yes, of course.”

“You ordered 3000 copies of Dangerous????” I asked with my mouth open.

“Only for the first lot” he said with no mercy to my feelings.

“But where will you distribute these. You have only one shop in your area that sells English music and I don’t think he would take more than 20 cassettes at a time.”

“That is only for English music. But my territory covers around 1000 shops and each of them can sell Michael Jackson’s music.”

Suddenly I felt like the representative of a downtrodden lot.

“But Michael Jackson’s songs are also in English…”I argued. “On one hand I’m told that this market doesn’t take more than 20-25 cassettes of international music in a month and on the other hand you order 3000 tapes of ‘Dangerous’?”

He gave me a benevolent smile as an old man of wisdom would give to a young rebel with a sense of denial.

“Babu…” he said, “How can you compare….you should know better…Jacksongaaru is different!”

I tried to argue but held back. I reflected on the Bata salesman’s story. No. That story would not apply here at all…for this was not the endorsement of any management or distribution theory.

This was just the endorsement of a ‘phenomenon’. An endorsement of God’s mysterious designs.

Here I was taking an early lesson in life. A lesson that not everything in the world can be formulated or empirically defined, a lesson that not everything needs to be explained. Some things in the world, like the shining of stars, are meant to fascinate and not be analyzed. That’s the way they are and that’s the way God meant them to be and we need to be thankful to Him for sending one such star to shine in our lives and shine abundantly in a way that only it could. Thank you God for sending us ‘Jacksongaaru.’

And then he asked me with a smile, “Babu…shall I order some spicy Andhra meals for you?”

Read more at Time of Oman

 

Dance Off: Fik-Shun vs. Michael Jackson (A SoulTrain.com Original Short Story)

Sources: Soul Train – By Joe Walker | All Things Michael

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“Mom, come quick, come quick!” Manny yells from the living room. He is perched excitedly on the floor in front of their 70” wall-mounted television watching his favorite show, So You Think You Can Dance. “Zack is about to dance with Fik-Shun!”

Both Manny’s grandpa George and older brother Louis are sitting on the couch behind him. “Can you please not yell?” Grandpa asks sternly, looking up from his newspaper. “It’s bad enough you’ve got the TV blaring so dang loud! I’m trying to read.”

Louis, his face highlighted blue from the screen light of his tablet computer, emphasizes their grandfather’s request with a simple, emphatic interjection of, “Yeah.”

Manny twists around, mouth gaping with surprise. “Come on, Grandpa, you haveto watch too,” he says. “Fik-Shun is the most-awesome dancer, ever! He won this whole show last year. Mom, you’re missing it!”

On the television, Zack and Fik-Shun are in sync. Choreographed by Phillip Chbeeb, the Season 11 semi-finalist and season 10 champion are flexing and contorting their hip-hop routine in time with the music. Grandpa George springs forward with his finger pointed stiffly at the TV. “You call this dancing?” he asks. “And you think this Fik-Shun guy is the best dancer ever?” Grandpa gives a disagreeing chuckle, fold his arms, then retreats back into the cushions. Louis looks surprised by his grandfather’s reaction. “I think Fik-Shun is dope,” he says, now staring into the green hue of his cell phone, “but Michael Jackson was better.”

“No way!” Manny exclaims in response. “Are you blind?” he asks his brother, directing a hand gesture toward Fik-Shun on screen. “Are you seeing what he’s doing right now?”

Louis sets his phone down so as to not be distracted. He watches the remainder of the routine, then mutes the television before Dance’s three judges weigh in on the performance.  He scooches forward as though he needs a better view of his younger brother before he speaks. “Listen, little bro,” he begins, “I honestly can’t expect you to appreciate MJ like I do right away. You’re 10, you didn’t grow up on him like I did. Mike’s, like, the greatest dancer who ever lived! Mom didn’t introduce you to him until after he died. I’ll pull up some of his stuff online so you can study him like you study the dancers on this show.”

Manny frowns, turning his head in the direction of their basement door. “Hey, Mom,” he yells, “you missed it!” He looks back at Louis then shakes his head no. “I don’t need to study Michael Jackson,” he says, “because I already know Fik-Shun is better! I’ve seen Michael Jackson dance enough already; so what if he can stand on his toes! Big deal! Cousin Lauren can stand on her toes too!”

“Yeah, because she’s a ballerina,” Louis reacts, laughing so hard he clutches his stomach.

“Well…well…” Manny stammers. “So can Michelangelo! I’ve seen him stand on his toes too! And Fik-Shun can stand on one hand!”

This makes Louis laugh harder yet. “Michelangelo?” he asks, sarcastically, practically rolling around from laughter. “He’s a Ninja Turtle, he’s not even real! You’re so 10!”

Now angry and embarrassed, Manny quickly jolts to his feet like a sitting soldier when a commanding officer enters the room. He salutes his older brother with a clenched, shaking fist. “If they had a dance off I’d bet anything Fik-Shun would own Michael Jackson!”

Louis stops laughing before straightening his posture. For a few seconds the room is silent. Manny is eyeing his brother while huffing repetitiously, looking as though he’s ready to fight. Louis, realizing how passionate Manny was on this subject, reaches for video game controller in hopes to defuse the situation. “Little bro, no matter who won that would be an awesome dance off,” he says. “But let’s see if you can beat me in Michael Jackson: The Experience.”

The angry look disfiguring Manny’s pouty mouth and face suddenly turns into a competitive smile. “You’re on,” he says, showing his teeth.

Grandpa George has seen and heard enough. He storms to his feet, snatches his newspaper, and begins tromping toward the basement door. He looks back, giving his two cents before leaving the room for good. “This Fik-Shun boy and Michael Jackson don’t have nothing on Rerun and Jeffrey Daniel; now those two, that would be one heck of a dance off!” he says, turning to enter the basement. “Nicki,” Grandpa yells into the dwelling below, “come up here and teach your boys about the Soul Train dancers!”

—Mr. Joe Walker

Known as “The Word Heavyweight Champion”, Mr. Joe Walker is a biographer, author, and columnist, currently a senior writer for SoulTrain.com, staff writer for Muskegon Tribune Newspaper, and writer for Concrete Magazine. Also co-creator of TheGrooveSpot.com, Walker’s acclaimed, award-winning work has been published thousands of times regionally, nationally, internationally, and online. Follow him on Twitter @mrjoewalker, connect with him on Facebook, and also visit his blog ByMrJoeWalker.blogspot.com.

 

Read more here

When Michael Met Isao Tomita

Source: Sample Face – Luke Davis| All Things Michael

Michael and Isao Tomita - Tokyo, September 24, 1987

Michael and Isao Tomita – Tokyo, September 24, 1987

It would have been Michael Jackson’s 56th birthday this year, it’s already 5 years since his passing in June and yet there is still so much we don’t know about the King of Pop or we’ve forgotten because the media have forwarded their own agenda (let me rein in my fan mode feelings for a minute). One particular story that missed the radar was the tale of Mike visiting Japanese composer Isao Tomita, a familiar name to J Dilla fans.

According to this story via a MJ forum, when Michael toured Japan in 1987, he was invited to dinner at the composer’s house and offered a cup of Sake. The translator told Mike beforehand the Japanese tradition of eating and drinking until your plate and glass was empty. The cup being so small, MJ knowing the purity of the rice wine and not wanting to offend, he knocked back glass after glass until he couldn’t take anymore and subsequently passed his receptacle under the table to the translator, who drank the wine and passed it back to look like Michael had drunk it. Politeness and intelligence while intoxicated on Japanese rice wine. Unfathomable.

Below is a video of The King of Pop in Tomita’s studio playing around with one of his synths. It was rumoured they had arranged to collaborate but this unfortunately never came to be, which is a mighty shame as that would have been sampling gold at the very least.

 

Read more at Sample Face

Read more here about Japanese etiquette under the “Dining and Entertainment” section 

 

Someone In The Dark

Source: In The Studio With Michael Jackson

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For most of 1991 we were working on the Dangerous album at Record One in Sherman Oaks, CA., among a few other studios in town. I go into great detail about my time and three production teams involved in Dangerous in my seminars, as you may already know. It remains one of my favorite projects, and it is so much fun to look back and see how Michael was “growing up” and trying new things on this record.

We had amazing production teams, top-shelf musicians, great food, killer songs; even the special guest list was jaw-dropping (Nancy Reagan, Princess Stephanie, my daughter Amanda, and so on). The music had also moved into a new era for Michael, but I’ll save those stories for next month, so for now let’s talk about the studio “Black-out.”

It was not uncommon for LA residents to have something we would refer to as “brown-outs”, meaning the power might dip for a little while, or sometimes shut off completely. I don’t pretend to know why this would happen, but it had something to do with too many air conditioners, blow dryers, Marshall amplifiers, deep fryers, car washes, etc., all being used at once across the city. The city officials would plead with people to ease back on the their electricity usage, but this was LA – you HAD to look good and feel comfortable at all times. So… the power would sometimes just shut off.

On this particular day we were cranking away on songs like “Keep The Faith” and “For All Time” when the lights start to flicker and dim. Brown out time.

Now let me explain something: The thing with many recording studios is they don’t have windows. Windows let sound from the street disrupt recordings, and they encourage fans to cup their hands around their heads and try to peer in at what we are doing. So… no windows. This means when the power goes off, it is pitch black inside.

So, the power goes out, and we all fumble around for flashlights. There is a bit of yelling and laughter, but everyone is calm. We always had flashlights handy, because studios are notoriously dark to begin with, so we doled out flashlights to Michael and his security team. (That’s Marcus and one of Michael’s drivers checking out the fridge, in case you don’t know). 

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Michael took a spot against one of the living room walls and found the whole thing amusing. I seem to remember him laughing pretty hard about it at first, then we just settled in and enjoyed each other’s company and had blinding flashlight wars in the dark. It was a nice, unexpected break. I happen to bring my camera that day and grabbed a few shots (with flash, which is why the “black out” isn’t so obvious).

it is said that a picture can tell a thousand words, but for me they capture a moment in time… and they do tell a few stories. Check out the giant coat on Michael. He was always cold. Always. I clearly remember that when the power went out the studio very quickly got stuffy and warm, but I’m sure that was a treat for him, as he was able to thaw out. There are maybe zero days a year when you need a coat like that in LA, but Michael was always bundled up.

Then there’s the book. You have heard before that he loved books about art, history, nature, etc. Yep, all true. He would always have stacks of books in his lounge… he was always watching, asking and learning.

What is harder to see is something that is harder to explain. I have worked with artists who can be… difficult. I have seen fistfights in the studio, watched producers storm out, and temper tantrums that would make a grown man cringe. But never with Michael. He was a pro’s pro, and a class act. Does reading a book with a flashlight mean anything in itself? Of course not, but it represents how he could handle the unexpected. He didn’t panic or make impossible demands… he laughed and made himself (and us) comfortable.

In just over three weeks I want to introduce you to someone who made a lasting impact on me through his talent, his dedication, his trust and his friendship: Michael Jackson. I’m going to be bringing some of my friends including his personal chefs the Slam Dunk Sisters to cook for you, and I have booked the world famous Westlake Studios to host “The Homecoming.” I have a very special guest (trust me, this person has some stories for you!) lined up to join us all four days (June 23 – June 26). There are still a few tickets available so please don’t wait until the last minute – you will want to be there for this one-of-a-kind event.

On June 27 I have arranged to have the one and only Brad Buxer join me for a very rare evening of music, laughter, stories and a celebration of Michael’s music. Brad Buxer has spent countless hours with Michael in the studio, on tour and at Neverland working with him on songwriting, arranging and producing. He truly is one of the kindest and most creative men I have ever had the privilege to call a friend. Bradx2 will be an evening you will not want to miss.

June can be a bittersweet time for a lot of MJ fans, but I choose to celebrate his music, his humor, his un-matched talent and his friendship by hanging out with his friends, swapping stories and mixes, and meeting and getting to know his fans. From stage to studio to ranch to black-outs, there was no one like Michael, and I would love to introduce him to you. I hope you can join us next month.

Note: Guys, we just had five seats open up for June 23rd at Westlake. This has been sold out for weeks, and I have had many requests. If you are interested, please don’t delay – I think they will move fast. Plenty of seats still available for June 26th. I will have an announcement early next week (trust me, it is exciting news!) about all four seminars. Also, don’t forget Bradx2 on June 27th with my good friend Mr. Brad Buxer!

http://inthestudiowithmj.com/events/

Read more: https://www.facebook.com/inthestudiowithmj

When Michael Jackson Loved Matzo Ball Soup

Source: The Jewish Daily –  By Devra Ferst

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Musicians’s food cravings are legendary. Elvis famously flew from Graceland to Denver for his favorite sandwich: An entire loaf of bread stuffed with a jar of peanut butter, another of jelly and a pound of bacon.

Michael Jackson never hopped on a plane for his cravings. He had his personal chef Akasha Richmond to whip up his favorites: Spicy enchiladas, fresh tortillas and matzo ball soup.

In the mid-90’s MJ was living in the penthouse of the Manhattan Trump tower, sharing a floor with Donald Trump. He was in town finishing up his epic HIStory album.

Richmond was living a few blocks south at what was then the glamorous Helmsley Palace (now the New York Palace), often picking up bagels on her short walk up to Jackson’s apartment.

“One day Michael asked for lox and bagel for breakfast,” Richmond told me. She was a bit surprised by the request but went with it. A few days later, he asked her to make matzo ball soup.

“What do you know from matzo ball soup?” Richmond recalls retorting.

“I grew up with a Jewish nanny. I love matzo ball soup,” Jackson replied.

Richmond met Jackson back in the 1980’s when she was cooking at The Golden Temple, one of L.A.’s first vegetarian spots known for playing host to celebrities like Bob Dylan and Demi Moore. “He used to come there everyday. He was really sweet and I used to take care of him,” Richmond recalls.

Courtesy of Akasha Richmond   MJ with Akasha Richmond and her daughter

Courtesy of Akasha Richmond
MJ with Akasha Richmond and her daughter.

Soon she and another chef from The Golden Temple started cooking at Jackson’s house. “He would have these epic dinner parties. He loved old Hollywood so Elizabeth Taylor, Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren might be there. You never knew who would come over,” she says.

Over the next 14 years Richmond traveled with Jackson on his private plane to 30 countries, cooking for him on his HIStory and Bad tours. The crew built her a six foot portable pantry stocked with his favorites — ingredients for Mexican food and matzo meal. “I think for him [matzo ball soup] was comfort food,” she explained.

Richmond never had a family matzo ball recipe so “I would make chicken stock and then follow the recipe on the package…and add a good pinch of cayenne pepper or minced jalapeño — he loved spicy food,” she said.

“I used to joke that I was Michael’s Jewish mother. I was supposed to keep him healthy. When your on those tours it’s really grueling. I did whatever it took: matzo ball soup, green juice, chai tea.”

A decade or so later, Richmond left the tour life to spend more time with her daughter, but on the weekends she would trek out to Neverland Ranch to cook for Jackson. “My daughter had her bat mitzvah party on the ranch…It was about the best bat mitzvah you could have.”

Richmond went on to work as a personal chef for Barbra Streisand — cooking meals from the vegetables grown in the Funny Girl’s backyard. And she continued to experiment with Jewish food.

In 2008 Richmond opened Akasha, a new American restaurant in the Culver City neighborhood of Los Angeles shortly before Passover. She closed the restaurant for the night of Seder and invited friends, family and investors for dinner, serving the same matzo ball soup — replacing the cayenne for a dash of nutmeg. In September, she tried out the idea of hosting a Rosh Hashanah dinner for her customers. It was a hit. “We had 200 covers ever night. We were slammed,” she says. Jewish holidays at Akasha have become a tradition. “There are so many levels of being Jewish. For a lot of people it comes down to the food — that’s what they remember,” says Richmond.

Most of Richmond’s kitchen staff isn’t Jewish, so when she makes matzo ball soup “I tell my chefs — this is the food of my grandmother. Don’t f*** with it.”

Personally, she prefers hers matzo ball soup flavored with Thai ingredients like lemongrass, turmeric and ginger. But for her restaurant’s annual Seders she sticks with tradition — and prays. “I say a prayer over the matzo balls. I…ask the god of matzo balls to make them light and fluffy. They make me so nervous.”

Michael Jackson’s Favorite Matzo Ball Soup Recipe

2½ quarts homemade chicken stock
1 leek, white part only, cleaned, and cut into thin matchsticks
1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup matzo meal
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons seltzer water
2 tablespoons olive oil or chicken fat
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Fresh chopped parsley and dill
Optional: A dash of cayenne pepper or minced jalepeno pepper

1) Add leeks and carrots to broth and simmer for 10 minutes (or until tender) and turn off heat.

2) Meanwhile, in a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, olive oil, nutmeg, salt and black pepper (and spice, if adding). Fold in the matzo meal and seltzer water. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3) Bring a large stockpot of salted water to a boil. Wet your hands with cold water and form the matzo mixture into 12 balls. Drop the matzo balls into boiling water. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover tightly, and cook for 30 minutes – don’t open the lid. Remove with a slotted spoon and serve with the hot chicken stock and vegetables. Garnish with lots of chopped parsley and dill. Makes 6-8 servings.

 
Read more: http://blogs.forward.com/the-jew-and-the-carrot/196495/when-michael-jackson-loved-matzo-ball-soup/#ixzz2yrhuaRG7

Dr. Patrick Treacy, Michael Jackson And Nelson Mandela

Source: New 24.com – By Patrick Treacy

That’s Mandiba – Grandfather

patrik treacy michael jackson

I was with Michael Jackson one day in my clinic in Dublin discussing a future concert we were arranging in Africa when Nelson came talking on the cell phone.

At first I thought it was a South African concert promoter and blandly spoke to him about how life was in the Cape for about five to ten minutes minutes before idly giving the phone back.

Michael then just laughed and said, “Hey, Patrick I’m really surprised you had so little to say to my grandfather ‘Mandiba’ when you had the chance to talk to him. You talk about him enough!”

http://www.news24.com/MyNews24/Thats-Mandiba-grandfather-20131206

The Time David Blaine And Michael Jackson Snuck Into Parliament (VIDEO)

Source: Huffington Post Live

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Known for mystifying all with his signature brand of street magic, David Blaine is wowing celebrities from Katy Perry to Will Smith. He joined HuffPost Live to discuss his return to primetime TV with his ABC special, “David Blaine: Real or Magic,” his relationship with Michael Jackson, and some of his craziest experiences.

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Hear the whole story at HuffPost Live

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/18/david-blaine-michael-jackson_n_4297783.html

The Day I Met Michael Jackson

Source: Brian Seltzer – Published (July 8, 2009/ Updated September 1, 2011)

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I just finished watching the Michael Jackson memorial on television, and I decided as soon as it was over that I wanted to write about the day I met Michael Jackson.

I have told this story to many friends and family members, but I never actually wrote it down. I might as well do it right here, right now, as Michael is on my mind, and the memory of my encounter with him will only fade over time.

It was in 1983 when I met Michael Jackson. He was on top of the world as “The King of Pop.” His album “Thriller” was tearing up the charts. I think he was on his third or fourth #1 song from that album, and everybody in the world seemed to own it. I experienced this frenzy of album sales first hand, as I was working at a record store at the time. It was there, at the record store that Michael Jackson came strolling into my world.

Licorice Pizza was in the Sherman Oaks Galleria, located in the San Fernando Valley. This is the same record store that was used as a location in the movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” The name of the store referred to the vinyl records we sold in those days. We also sold a lot of cassette tapes.

The day Michael walked into my store was a very slow day. It was as if he knew when the mall would have the least amount of people, and decided that was the best day to do a bit of music shopping. I could not tell you what day or time it was exactly, but it was likely mid-week, while most people are at work.

I was managing the store and working the cash register, which was near the front entrance of the store and looked out into the mall. There was nobody in the store other than myself and a co-worker, who was in the backroom. When I first spotted Michael I did not recognize him. And this is why…

I saw a man approaching the store in a Halloween mask. The mask was semi-translucent. I could almost see his face behind the mask, but not quite. The mask had sort of a white colored tint to it, but was mostly clear. The mask was shaped like a human face, as if its purpose was to simply distort the face of the wearer. The only marking on the mask was a black painted mustache. It was very odd to say the least… mainly, because it was nowhere near Halloween time.

I could tell the man behind the mask was African American. He was dressed extremely casual, and even his clothing was sort of a non-costume costume. He was wearing jeans and tennis shoes, and a red plaid button up shirt, with a t-shirt under that. He almost looked like a farmer. It was not a style that would have been considered fashionable at the time. It just seemed strange.

Today, if a man walked into a retail shop in July wearing a Halloween mask, most people would think they were about to be robbed. This thought did not occur to me though. One reason was that a young boy accompanied the masked man. Michael’s companion was a young boy, who looking back had an appearance similar to Macaulay Culkin. The boy was blonde, with pale skin, and he was dressed like Michaels twin (only instead of a red plaid shirt, he was wearing green plaid). This boy was not Macaulay though, as I think this was even earlier than their friendship.

So, there I see an African American man wearing a Halloween mask, dressed like a farmer, with his young blonde haired friend who was dressed the same (but with no mask). They walked right up to me when the man behind the mask spoke — “Hello, can you help me to find some Stevie Wonder tapes?”

As soon as I heard the voice, I knew it was Michael. It was high-pitched, rather quiet and gentle. The face behind the mask came into focus more. The hair. The mannerisms. It was him. Talk about a Thriller! Michael Jackson was standing right in front of me. I could not help but try to make out his features more from behind the translucent mask. I was stunned to say the least.

Over the years, we had lots of musicians come through that Licorice Pizza. I remember meeting members of REO Speedwagon, ABC, Bananarama, Spandau Ballet, Mr. Mister, and even Billy Idol.. but nobody comes close to Michael Jackson.

I could tell by the mask he wore and his body language that he really did not want people to know it was him (Duh!). He was trying not to attract attention. Yes, he was wearing a Halloween mask in July! Hello?! Still, his strategy was working. He and his pal came in alone, and nobody else was in the store with us. I felt it was my duty not to freak out, but to simply help him find the music he was looking for.

So I took Michael over to the Stevie Wonder tapes against the wall, and left him to browse with his friend. Micheal and his friend were squated down going through the tapes together, and I can only imagine Michael was giving the boy a bit of a musical education on Stevie Wonder. Two minutes later they were back at the register with me placing every single Stevie Wonder cassette we had in stock on the counter to be purchased. Obviously he was a fan.

I rang up the purchase, and Michael took out a credit card to pay. Sure enough, right there printed on the Master Card it said “Michael J. Jackson.” I knew it! The King of Pop was in my store. So what do you think I said next to Michael? I said, “Mr. Jackson, may I see your drivers license or a picture ID?” Checking ID was standard credit card protocol, and the man was wearing a mask after all.

He took out his driver’s license and handed it over. Yep, it was Michael alright. There, the Michael Jackson we all know and love (the face on his Thriller album) was smiling back at me. When I gave the ID back to him, I looked up and the real Michael Jackson was smiling too. In that moment, we both knew I was just doing my job by asking for his ID, and his smile was sort of saying “we are cool, right?”

As I finished the transaction, I then felt comfortable enough, or compelled perhaps to murmur “Huge fan, Michael.” Short, and to the point. He said “Thank you!” That was our conversation. Lame, but remarkable.

Now, I wish I could say that I had kept the conversation going, and that I had asked him to autograph an album, but that’s not how it played out. As he was signing his credit card receipt, my co-worker came out from the back room. Having another person walking towards us changed the dynamic right away. I was almost fearful for Michael that his secret would be discovered, and then all hell would break loose. There were a few random people walking past the front entrance of the store, and I felt the right thing to do was let the man go in peace.

Michael left the store with his bag of Stevie Wonder tapes, and I watched him as he continued through the mall and out of sight. He passed by some people who turned their heads, but not because it was Michael, because it was some man wearing a Halloween mask. Michael’s secret was safe.

I remember saying rather casually to my co-worker, “You just missed Michael Jackson. Yeah, he just bought up all our Stevie Wonder tapes. We better order more. Yeah, he was wearing a mask. Yeah, I’m certain it was him.”

Sure, it would be nice to have an autographed “Thriller” album made out to Michael’s pal Brian. I’m sure he would have signed one for me had I asked. There was something so odd about the whole experience though. At the time, I felt that the best way to show him I was a fan was to just play it cool, and treat him like any other customer. In my mind the fact that he knew I knew, and I calmly and quietly told him I was a fan, but did not make a fuss or draw attention to him was the right way to go.

For all his strangeness, I can only say that his kind spirit shined through from behind that mask. When he spoke, the tone of his voice was rather shy and like a child.

It was bizarre. It was a thrill. It was a day I will never forget.

RIP Michael.

http://brianselzer.com/2009/07/08/the-day-i-met-michael-jackson/