I know practically ‘zero’ about Michael Jackson, besides what I've seen on Headline News in the past five years. I've danced to his songs at awkward wedding parties and watched the Jen Garner chick flicks where an entire office in cocktail attire breaks into synchronized "Thriller" choreography. Just last month I was rocking out to "Man in the Mirror" in the JONAS makeup room as the cast and our crew of rambunctious make-up ladies serenaded our reflections with “microphone” curling irons and hair brushes.
My first encounter with Michael Jackson was at Disneyland when I was about 5. There used to be this fantastic 3-D attraction where the updated "Honey I Shrunk the Audience" movie now hunkers down in Tomorrowland. It starred the King of Pop and a cool small-winged chihuahua named "Fuzzball" and the movie was called "Captain EO." It was directed by Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather) and produced by George Lucas (Star Wars), plus Anjelica Huston played the Evil Ruler... so there was pretty much no way it could suck. It was a loud and exhilarating space opera that made me forget about my churro-induced stomach ache for a little while.
This week The Collection of Michael Jackson was on display for auction... and being a product of the 80's and a fan of Captain EO, I decided to check it out.
Soon after walking through the gothic Neverland gates, I was surrounded by statues of kids playing leap frog and ring around the rosy. Images from the 1999 film "The Haunting" were running through my head and it made me really anxious. However, I kept going because Peter Gallagher was right in front of me and I loved "While You Were Sleeping."
Once inside, it was like being in the best Smithsonian museum of all time. I was mesmerized by old concert footage of teenagers bawling his name and clawing at his legs to get a piece of him. He had so much emotion onstage and I was transfixed; an indication of why he became so renowned. He could dance. He could sing. He could write. He was brilliant. And his original rhinestoned glove was right next to me.
People’s Choice Awards, Platinum cassette tapes and portraits that looked like they were taken straight from the Getty were everywhere. It was overwhelming. How was this all in someone's house at one point? Seeing a framed personalized letter from Ronald Reagan made me hate the wall art in my apartment.
There was a room with all of his furniture, which to my surprise was very uncomplicated. Rocking chairs, antiques and wooden dresser drawers that I imagined bedazzled socks being shoved into. It was just like being at Grandma's house. Okay, a really wealthy grandma with a $20,000 chess set, but none the less... homey. Keeping with the "Into the Woods" theme, he possessed several wax figures... all made in the likeness of white, elderly men and women. There were butlers with funny expressions holding wine bottles and a little old lady with pin curls and a bathrobe. It made me wonder if he either had: A) No grandma, or B) One that made him feel very safe.
You know that song that plays in FAO Schwartz over and over again... where little children laugh and welcome you to their wonderful world of toys? It should be playing in this next room. There were thousands of toys! Michael Jackson is like a modern day Willie Wonka. Yes, the computerized arcade games were all there, as if he bought out every Fiddlesticks in the country, but looking at his collection... it was obvious he has been hoarding away toys his entire life. Walking through these rooms was like walking through time... starting with original movie posters from "The Sound of Music" to Star Wars costumes worn by the cast... even a California Raisins collection! You know the glass window displays on Disneyland's Main Street? Where animatronic characters move and tell the story of different Disney movie scenes? He had them ALL recreated: Peter Pan, Cinderella, and at the end of the Pinocchio display... it is Michael who turns into the "real boy."
He became a superstar at eleven years old, so I guess this was the stuff he missed out on. If at 20, I had already been under the intense pressure of this business for the past decade, missing out on bike rides and state fairs, who knows what kind of mood I'd be in. I believe when you miss an important part of life, you spend the rest of your time trying to recreate it. You're stuck.
At the end of the visit, I was moved and kind of... sad. Here is a man who gave his entire life to being an entertainer...for me...for you.... and now, his personal, most intimate belongings... stuff that is HIS... I am PAYING to see. It seems so unfair to him. Fortunately, the auction has been called off and he is getting his stuff back. And you know what? I'm glad. His memories... the things that make him comfortable, even if it is a life size play castle... deserve to be back where they belong. With him.
So this image I've had in my head of a pale, skinny man in a surgical mask enveloped by flashbulbs as he rushes out of a building isn’t the image I want to define him for me anymore. I'm going back to Captain EO. I'm going to say it’s none of my business, because at the end of the day, the only thing that affects me is when "Black or White" comes on the radio while I'm driving with the windows down. And I really like that song.