We used to go to visit my grandparents pretty much every Sunday. While it was nice to see them, I usually went right next door to my Uncle Kelly’s house. You see, Kelly had two things at his place: an Atari…and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” record. At 10 years old I was very impressionable, and the first time I heard the title track on that album I was totally blown away. Michael instantly became my idol. I got the Glove, and I remember when I got a Michael poster for my birthday (the all white one where Michael was wearing a yellow sweater). You know what? This is the internet. Let’s see if I can find it.
Found. We live in an amazing age.
Anyway, sometimes when I look back I wonder about what my Dad must have been thinking. When I got this poster I just sat looking at it in amazement for a good half an hour or so.
OK, back on track; I had the Glove, the poster, and an unhealthy envy of a neighbor friend who HAD A MICHAEL JACKSON THRILLER JACKET!
There’s the style and mystique that surrounded him, and then there is the actual MUSIC. The whole Thriller album was amazing and I had begun listening to Off the Wall. I was so into Michael that my least favorite song on Thriller for a while was “The Girl is Mine”, because there was some other dude fighting for the affection of some girl. Who was this other guy? Michael was MICHAEL JACKSON! You’ve got no chance, guy! (Sorry, Paul, I was ten years old).
And the DANCING. That guy slid across the stage like he never touched the ground – and THEN there was the Moon Walk. People who know me now may find this hard to believe, but as a result of Thriller I became a dancing MACHINE! One day in Fourth Grade I didn’t do my homework. Instead of going to recess, I had to stay in the classroom with other people who didn’t do theirs, either. So, the teacher went outside to supervise recess while we were to do our mathematics and I promptly turned it into a dance show. Mrs. Feaster came back with the class a half an hour later and checked our work. I had done roughly one math problem.
She wasn’t happy.
Also – the VIDEOS! Thriller was the first video I saw where there was a story. Plus – a story about zombies! And we all know the iconic dance number in that video. Beat It! Fuckin’ BILLIE JEAN!
Furthermore – the love I have for “Weird Al” Yankovic was clearly jump-started by “Eat It”. I CRYSTAL-clearly remember hearing “Eat It” for the first time at home. I thought it was hilarious! I still do, by the way.
I very much want to just remember all of this and finish the book with the love I had for that man.
However, I’m pretty sure he sexually abused a bunch of kids. Granted, I wasn’t ever in a courtroom to hear all the evidence. I do remember hearing things coming out of the trial that was on TV all day long and there was just too much disturbing info. I may be wrong, but the viewpoint I am taking is that he was guilty.
So how does all of this reconcile?
As most know, I am a huge professional wrestling fan, in particular that of Chris Benoit.
In the main event of Wrestlemania 20, Chris won the World Heavyweight Championship. While celebrating, his good friend (and holder of the WWE Championship) Eddie Guerrero came out to celebrate with him. This is significant because these two friends had been told basically their whole careers that they would never get to that level. [breaking news - wrestling is predetermined, but this is all true]. They had been mocked due to their size (shorter than average wrestlers). Benoit was referred to by Kevin Nash as a “vanilla midget” backstage. But seeing these two men at the top of their profession, hugging as brothers and crying real tears, if there weren’t other guys in the room I would have started crying as well. Truth be told, I did have tears in my eyes and fought real hard to hold them back.
Three years later, Benoit kills his wife, his son, and himself. On June 25th. As much as I respected him before that, it all went out the window. Was it brain damage? Was it “roid rage”? Did he just flip out? Was this guy who everybody considered one of the nicest guys around just hiding behind a mask? I couldn’t even think about it. I threw out my Benoit DVD. And not in the inside garbage, I brought it straight out to the garbage can. I didn’t even try to sell it. I wanted it gone. I’m done with Benoit.
Decades of amazing musical input and inspiration vs. likely sexually abusing kids. Can I like the Thriller album if it was probably before he crossed the line? I think so. However, I have absolutely no interest in watching a Benoit match ever again.
Something that cannot go ignored is that I’m not sure Michael ever really had a chance. He was eleven years old when he started in the Jackson Five. There was no childhood after that. He recounted how his dad used to beat the hell out of them. A lot. His dad nicknamed him, “Big Nose”. As fun as it has been for everybody to poke fun at his plastic surgery over the years, when your physically abusive father makes fun of the way you look…well, things happen for a reason.
For me I think it boils down to this: Thank you, Michael, for your contribution to my childhood. I hope you find peace.