Jun 28, 2009

Influence and Influenza

As many of you are aware, legendary icon known to many as the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, died at 50. Hours afterwards, people were obsessed with coverage and any celebrity who was anyone pretty much said the same thing about his awesomeness and how the music influences them. If you were driving with the radio on, there was no doubt you heard "Billie Jean".

And me? I was just as shocked as you were. Not only had "Transformers: Rise of the Fallen" set box office records, but another tragedy happened. I was not too familiar with his work. In fact, I only own "Thriller" and have listened to it once. Sure, the video is a staple in my head and I have seen it performed by Long Beach Community College Dance students, but I don't think he himself held much of an impact on my life. Sure, I played him once in a 7th Grade version of "Taming of the Shrew", to which I danced everything from the Running Man to the Chicken Dance... Neither of which I think he actually invented.

Of course, I still occasionally pull off the moon walk, though not as smoothly.

Even if he wasn't my favorite guy, I think I couldn't deny that other people liked him. You couldn't tell by constant pedophile jokes, but when it came to classic cinema, it wasn't just him in "The Wiz" that you saw him shaking his hips.

Turn on "13 Going on 30" and you get probably one of the only scenes worth remembering from the 21st Century take on "Big" where Jennifer Garner is dancing with a packed house to "Thriller". There are other numbers, but it would be too long winded to name any more. What was weird is I didn't care too much when I heard the news that he died. I also hated that it had to come from TMZ, one of my least favorite tabloids. But sure enough, he was dead at 50 and the world was shocked. He was about to do a comeback tour and possibly his first album since "Invincible".

I suppose his death most reminds me of George Carlin, another entertainer who stayed true to himself for over 40 years despite lawsuits and media. But unlike Carlin, Jackson sold 127 million worldwide and probably invented more moves than "Seven Words You Can't Say on TV". I mean, I understood he was iconic, but I didn't know how he was iconic. I was born in 1989, so I missed a lot of his heyday and didn't understand the appeal of the only album I remember him releasing when I was into pop culture, "Invincible". Sure, my classmates were into him, but I simply saw him as an exceptional performer.

So that is probably why when he died, I didn't understand the media coverage. I mean, Farrah Fawcett died less than a day before and the coverage seemed unfair. I didn't know her or her work, but I am assured that she deserved more screen time than she got. I probably was more bitter about his death than anything.

Briefly following his death, I was on myspace talking about other deaths, including an infamous fake by a punk band called the Dwarves that eventually threw them off of their label. Maybe I was uncomfortable or ignorant, but I was just wanting people to not talk about Michael Jackson's death.

I suppose that's why rumors of Jeff Goldblum's death started arising. But sadly if I was told to write a Goldblum memoir, it wouldn't extend beyond this scene from 2008's "Pineapple Express":

Dale Denton: "I go to visit her at school and all the guys she goes to school with are like strong and handsome and, really, like funny, and do good impersonations of Jeff Goldblum and shit like that. And, like, I just feel like a fat, dumb, fucking stinky-ass turd when I'm there." 

Saul Silvers: "What?"
Dale Denton: "It sucks for my ego."
Saul Silvers: "Fuck Jeff Goldblum, man."

But I was stuck with plenty of Jackson coverage, a lot of which I felt to be premature. I felt there should have been a better editing job and time to put it together. Sure, it's not every day he dies, but don't blow all of your love on the first day, either. I feel if anything, whatever you do come up with may take away from the dramatic appeal of an actual tribute.

On myspace, there were plenty of tears. I remember actually talking to one Maricruz Sanchez the day "Thriller: 25th Anniversary" came out. We were in the newspaper room and I was just reading the article and we got talking about his awesomeness. I think that is to the extent I remember talking to people about why Jackson was a good guy, though deep down I always defended him, even again pedophilia. But then on Facebook, the story was different. My main man, Alex, was over there making jokes about Jackson. I was actually amused with them and participated in the discussion. A lot had to do with them being scams and he just took the money and ran. I kept going because I believe in time of despair, we need to laugh a little to stay sane.

Of course, I stayed a little sane by watching the American premiere of "Bruno" on myspace that night. He was also on "Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" that night, so I got plenty from him and I felt the day wasn't a total downer.

But it wasn't until the next day that I felt something bizarre. I hadn't felt it in awhile. I was feeling sick. I hadn't quite figured it out yet, but it carried on as I woke up and moved around with a blurred head. It made the five and a half hours of work miserable and the heat really didn't add anything. I ended up going to bed early.

The following day, it was beginning to clear up, but I still had some sickness in me. I wasn't sneezing as much, but every now and then an attack would happen, so I had to keep a careful eye on that.

But then something odd happened. When I got off, I sat down with a TV dinner and began flipping through the channels until I landed on VH1. They were playing a video retrospective of all of Jackson's music. It was immediately followed by a tribute called "King of Videos" in which they detailed his life in the form of music videos, starting with Jackson 5 up until "Free Willy" (then they for some reason replayed that same segment and went to another program).

During that time, I began to see the appeal of Jackson as a whole. I mean, before we even got to "Thriller", I was beginning to think that he was very much so iconic. He had soul as a five year old singing:

"ABC/ Easy as 1,2,3/I'm talking about do, re, mi/ABC/1,2,3/Baby you and me, Girl"

That, and I didn't know he sang "Rocking Robbin"... which if you were anyone who owned "Kid Sing-A-Longs", you would know all of the words to that catchy little tune.

Then the videos became innovative. I saw "Billie Jean" three times today, and I have to say, it makes me wonder what has happened to current music videos. The stop-action triple screen on that is probably one of the greatest accomplishments I have seen in a 1980's pop video that no one seems to do anymore.

But then, all of the sudden, midway through the "Bad" years, I began to feel something I hadn't felt in awhile. I was feeling better. The cold was pretty much gone and everything else seemed to be going in ship shape.

I just realized that my cold was not from the fact I was dehydrated but because I was bad-mouthing Michael Jackson. I mean, why else would it occur simultaneously with my insults to him?

So basically, I have learned that even in death, Jackson cares about his reputation enough to haunt you with sickness if you don't respect him. His legacy will live on and his haters will surely die of the common cold, like I may have been victim to had I kept going on about him as a pedophile or his nose problems.

Though let the record show it was in good intentions amongst the company of Alex, whom considers his humor to be "satirical".

So we say goodbye to Michael Jackson as well as my cold, knowing that surely psychic phenomena exists somewhere in the world. And at the same time, I want to welcome you to "Optigrab", my new blog on this website. Enjoy your time and I hope to keep you almost as entertained as the people I talk about.

Oh, and by the way, check out this movie on Wednesday:

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