Celebrities and death

Last night while dining out with the girls, I heard about the death of Michael Jackson. And after dinner, I went home and watched channel after channel of coverage about the shock and grief and confusion that always happens when someone famous dies – especially when it is totally unexpected and the person is relatively young.

I was a fan of Michael Jackson back in the day. I remember getting the Thriller album (yes an LP) for my 10th birthday – in fact it is still in my mom’s basement I think. I couldn’t get enough. And to this day, I can listen to just about anything that he did with his brothers in the 70’s. And there are a few more gems that I hold dear (Ben and She’s Out Of My Life – which can still make me cry).

I was not, however, a fan of the older, stranger, and sometimes tragic figure that was the adult Michael Jackson. After Thriller, it was a rare song of his that I could listen to and only a few made it into my music collection. And the news stories were more and more bizarre. It was one thing to see MJ in a glass encased tank, it was quite another to see him dangle a baby off a balcony.

And while we may never know the entire truth about his relationships with the young boys who spent time with him at his ranch, I am convinced that it was not appropriate for a grown man to spend that much time with them.

Facebook has been full of remarks – good bad and ugly – about what MJ meant and how we should mourn and how some people just don’t care. And I find all of the commentary (even my own to some extent) sad. Not because I think he was the greatest man, or the greatest artist, or the greatest anything. But he was a man who lived his whole life in our spotlight and in whom we found fodder for our scorn, ridicule, contempt, and laughter at times and our adoration and admiration at other times.

I don’t really care if you liked him or not. Or if you think he was at all talented. Or if you think he died in a prison of his own making. Or if you think of him at all. But for me, there was a time, when I had the Michael Jackson buttons on my jean jacket, the Thriller album blasting on the stereo, and a poster of him hung above my bed.

So today I mourn the MJ that I remember from 5th grade. The uber-talented singer, songwriter, and dancer who had the coolest Penny Loafers and the most singable songs. And I mourn for his family who lost one of their youngest members. And for the little boy who sang about Rockin Robins and ABC’s and a rat named Ben.


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