Jason (my oldest) is turning 33 today. He’d picked up a rental car last night and was anticipating a trip to LA this afternoon to celebrate with friends. I talked him into spending some time with me before he left and going to Los Olivos to check out the inaugural Farmers’ Market that was supposed to begin this morning. It was a no show because they didn’t get their permits in order or something to that affect. So after checking out a couple of galleries and shops, we headed over to Neverland Ranch which is only about eight miles east of Los Olivos. As we traveled down the winding country road based on the brief directions of an ‘interesting’ passerby we met in Los Olivos, we wondered if we were even on the right road. There were some hints along the way as we started to see the county barricades cautioning ‘no parking’ along the road. But sure enough, there it was –Neverland Ranch- at least the front gates to it. (Jason took these photos with his iPhone and I swiped them off of his FaceBook post.)
We got there around 11 a.m., there were only about 20 people and plenty of parking. There were fading flowers, posters, drawings, and flags adorning the gates and entrance fence at MJ’s Neverland Ranch from around the world. When we left, there were buses and limo taxi’s arriving with fans. We figured our timing was perfect because it looked as though it was going to get very crowded very soon. I guess it’s still undecided if Michael will be buried here. Here is a video http://bit.ly/UhOM0 by local KSBY news reporter & friend Melissa Mecija’s story on Neverland.
In 1982 when Thriller was released, Jason was just seven years old but he remembers hearing me play the cassette tape (over and over) like everybody else in the world at that time –it was the hottest thing on the radio back then. Michael Jackson was two years younger than me. I grew up listening to the Jackson 5 and the rest of the Motown Sound. Then Michael just sorta disappeared during the early 70’s until he came back with a vengeance with Off The Wall in 1979 then Thriller in 1982. I remember him then – he was hot! Then the high-water pants, the glove (and should I say it) the crotch grabbing thing (my mom nearly had a coronary). Dare I say… Moonwalking, the fedora hat, penny loafers and wearing one glittering glove did not survive the ‘90’s but crotch grabbing in hip-hop music videos is alive and well –what a legacy!
Then there was the ever-changing face and the lightening skin (vitiligo disorder? –I’m still not convinced.) http://www.anomalies-unlimited.com/Jackson.html. I think a lot of us felt that he was a victim of his own success and easy prey to those who would sway him to make some truly bad choices and do the things that he had surgically done to his body. It was easy to poke fun at his ill conceived choices and while quietly acknowledging that he had become a sad and somewhat demented clown who appeared to become a recluse not unlike Howard Hughes. So much so that he created this place called Neverland that was supposed to be like his own private Disneyland. Hell, he even had a zoo. But hey, didn’t they say he’d bought the Elephant Man’s bones… nobody was too surprised that he owned his own amusement park. Then there were the sex abuse allegations… Though he was acquitted on both counts, the stigma survived. Who can blame him for leaving the Santa Ynez Valley and going somewhere that he felt welcome and that he felt he could protect his kids from the likes of the Santa Barbara County officials that had humiliated him and violated the thing he cherished the most –his privacy. This is the image that the press had painted for us that we so easily bought into ‘cause we weren’t buyin’ any of his music by then.
Add insult to injury, there was the failed marriages to Lisa Marie Presley and that other mysterious person Deborah Jeanne Rowe who, upon their divorce, had given full custody of their two children to Michael (and was curiously and pointedly left out of his will and the children’s custody assigned to his mother or friend Diana Ross –but not her). Out of site –out of mind- he was just gone: off to Europe and the Middle East somewhere where (he claimed) he had a huge fan base and was going to make millions of dollars to pay off the millions in debt he had accumulated. Then he sold off Neverland Ranch (we didn’t know he was a stockholder in the company that bought it) and that was that –he was off the radar.
Then on June 25th, the same day we’d heard the news that Farrah Fawcett had at last lost her long battle with cancer, Michael Jackson had also passed away inexplicably. We began to see the outpouring of sadness and grief from around the world. We began to hear about the many GOOD things that MJ had done in his life – the charities he supported and the lives of sick children that he helped to enrich. On July 7th the memorial service at the Staples Center in Los Angeles was held and those locals who won a free ticket by lottery (or paid 5K on ebay) were able to attend. http://www.ksby.com/Global/story.asp?S=10657360 I for one was totally stunned by the national response as the mourners watched on big-screen TV’s in cities large and small around the world the memorial tribute that aired on every network as the King of Pop as he was crowned and eulogized at once. I sat a bit teary-eyed (and feeling a bit guilty too) as I watched and listened to the likes of Barry Gordy and others that knew him well talk about the Michael they knew. But it was the final comments by his child Paris that really did me in. It was that moment that made his humanity real. He had truly become a citizen of the world, but it was just then that he was also somebody’s dad who’d died. I lost my mom a couple of years ago, so I know what it’s like to lose a parent… I can’t imagine being so young and having to deal with such a loss.
So I leave you with http://www.eternalmoonwalk.com/ The Eternal Moonwalk (posted my Mashable on Twitter a bit ago)… Come on now –I KNOW you all tried it back then (or maybe you’re doing it right now!). The next time there’s a full moon… look up into the night sky at that smiling face and imagine who it is smiling back at you.