While washing dishes earlier this afternoon, I heard on a Los Angeles talk radio news station that Michael Jackson was hospitalized after suffering cardiac arrest. I immediately thought that celebrity deaths happen in threes – first there was Ed McMahon, second there was Farrah Fawcett (who died early this morning), and now Michael Jackson. But I quickly put the thought out of my head – no way the King of Pop would die. An onslaught of memories flashed through my mind – Jackson as a music pioneer and innovator; his songs making me sing and dance throughout elementary, high school, and college. And of course, one of the most exciting moments of my life – the time I met him back in the early-90s when I was an entertainment reporter. Then, I thought, oh no – he’s a child molester.
About an hour later, I received a text from another local Los Angeles radio station that the famed musician had indeed died. I didn‘t believe my eyes. I rushed to turn on the television where all the major news stations were still reporting that he was in the hospital. So, there was hope that the text was actually wrong. But, soon it all became terribly clear – major news was finally reporting that Jackson was dead. I felt numb. “No, not Michael Jackson, the King of Pop,” I thought in horror. The man who thrilled us with his unbelievable singing and dancing. The man who revealed the famed moonwalk dance on the Motown Records’ 25th Anniversary show. The man who brought us the phenomenal “Thriller” and “Bad” albums, and later in his career, the songs “Black and White” and “Remember The Time” was dead. This could not be happening.
I met Michael Jackson while he was shooting the 1992 video for “Remember The Time.” My roommate, who was working with the video’s director, John Singleton, was able to get me on the closed set at Universal Studios. She promised that I could interview Singleton (I was a reporter at the time for RadioScope, an internationally syndicated radio show) but of course not Jackson. When I got on the set, I met one of Jackson’s bodyguards, who was conveniently from New Orleans. Feeling comfortable with the homeboy, I asked if I could meet the star. But, I wasn’t holding my breath because I had heard rumors that he had an unpleasant disposition on the set; he walked around wearing a mask and wouldn’t shake hands with anyone. However, there was one chance – the bodyguard told me that Jackson may come out of his trailer to greet some guests and the bodyguard would call me over. So, I waited patiently and finally Jackson emerged from his trailer. As he was greeting some folks, the bodyguard gestured for me to join in.
I was introduced to Jackson as, “ Desi from New Orleans.” “It’s nice to meet you,” I said, careful not to shake his hand. He actually spoke to me and asked, “Are you really from New Orleans?” I answered back, surprisingly calm, “Yes.” He then asked, “Do you cook gumbo?” And I answered, “Of course.” Then I got the nod that he was going back in his trailer and I said bye to one of the greatest pop stars the world has ever seen.
I was so excited. As a writer/reporter for a small outfit, I had the opportunity to meet and interview several famous people, but this was tops – a coup! No, it wasn’t an interview, but how many people in the world could actually say that not only did they meet the King of Pop but that they also spoke with him? WOW!!! I was smiling from ear-to-ear for the rest of the day (and the week). I would remember this day for the rest of my life.
That was my time with the King of Pop. I realize that many of you may be waiting for one of my biting commentaries about Jackson’s very troubled last years, but I will just leave it like this for now. Once it sinks in that he is actually dead, I may be back for a more critical look at him, but for now I would like to remember the good times.
BTW, I did get the John Singleton interview:)