Tom Gregory

Michael Jackson's Last Laugh

Saturday, June 27, 2009 permalink

Michael Jackson's death will be a JFK-Elvis-Diana memory for decades. "I remember where I was, who I was with, and how I found out Michael Jackson died," will become part of the vernacular into the 22nd century. Modern technology allowed us to be intimate with Michael from afar, and now he is gone. Michael Jackson is dead. It's hard to grasp, like yellow not being a bright color.

Celebrity death is tough on the public. Instinctively we want to run to help those we know and love, but with a famous person, all we can do is run to a television. It's a connected disconnected with emotional strings tied into a knot. When I heard Jackson was dead, I was knocked off center by the switch that occurred among millions of neurons in my brain. I just can't imagine Michael Jackson - dead. Like Diana's death twelve years ago, the cultural getting-used-to will take some time.

I met Jackson twice, most recently at a Carousel of Hope Ball in Beverly Hills. He was timid and gracious but still bigger than life. We hugged the hug he probably had given to hundreds of thousands of fans. I told him I missed his performing, but he told me he was performing every time he stepped out of the house. As he stood there in his spangles and epaulets, it was easy to understood what he meant.

Last December when I heard Jackson moved yards from my home, I was hopeful he might be reigniting his career. Surprisingly the infamous recluse had chosen the corner of Sunset Boulevard that most screams "I'm back!" I'd drive by his home daily, consistently amazed by the legions of die-hard fans camped across from his gate. Just days after Christmas I remember how simply normal I thought it was so see empty toy boxes poking out of his recycle bin - an ordinary holiday for an extraordinary American.

By very late January Michael Jackson still had his Christmas wreaths hanging on his gates. It was slightly odd, so I made a video about it. Michael Jackson was in a neighborhood - I was not about to let him think that he wasn't part of our tribe. About three weeks after I put the video on, a blocked call rang on my cell phone. "Hello, this is Tom," I said. All I heard in the receiver was the sound of my own voice playing from the video and a soft giggle. Then the voice said, "man, you're crazy." I laughed and asked who it was but all I heard was more giggling until the end of the video when I heard "thanks...crazy" and then the phone went dead.

I made videos two and three, expecting I would tape number four on the pivotal Fourth of July date. I had planned to bring a reindeer and/or Santa along to help me plead my case for Jackson's Christmas wreaths coming down. I suspect Michael would have tuned in to see the fiasco I had invented. As it is, the Christmas wreaths that Michael might have left up for my silly videos got their real claim to fame by overtly hanging on his gates the day he died.

As we fight the war on economic meltdown, terrorizing attacks, and common household germs, Jackson's shocking death reminds us to live life fully now. Time seemingly moves faster and faster ever year. Death is the end of the tracks. What will you do with your life if this is your last day?

In Michael Jackson's case, he lived life out loud his own way, not because had the money, but because he knew none of us have time to waste.

The painting below is by my pal, soap star Thom Bierdz. It seems more real to me today.