I really must apologize to those of you waiting to cast your vote on whether or not I am a douche – I imagine it must feel like the old days when we used to wait for like a year between half-seasons of Battlestar Galactica. That is, until they gave us the worst series finale in television history. Unfortunately, things keep cropping up which are just more important than my score on the Massengality scale. Take the Sentry, for instance:
His thighs look like they’re both about to have an embolism, just like Dr. House! That’s just what we need; a schizophrenic with the power of a gazillion suns, who is also addicted to Vicodin. Who says this isn’t the Marvel Age of terrifying superheroes?
And the Polar Bear on Lost – how the hell did he end up on that Island? You think maybe he was stowed away in the baggage compartment?
And I don’t even know what to say about this: Mother Pleads Guilty to Drunken Breast Feeding – other than that I would have loved to see that collar. That’s the kind of thing they don’t teach you in police academy. “Ma’am, put your hands up and slowly remove your boobies from the child.” The poor kid, who’s gonna pay for pre-hab?
Anyway, the time has come for me to tell the tale I’ve been keeping private since 1994 (or possibly ’95 – it’s all blending together in my old age): the time I met Michael Jackson, for reals, like.
Ah, the ’90s – a more innocent time; the Simpsons were still funny, Scott Lobdell was earning six figures for writing the worst X-Men comics in history (but damned if they didn’t have a lot of variant covers), and we were blissfully unaware that
Dick Cheney Tony Stark was secretly controlling the world, leading to a terrifying future controlled by a lunatic who at the time owned a baseball team wore a goblin mask.
I was working for a company with whom I would have a long, tumultuous, love/hate/extra-special-hate relationship, although with all the mergers of those heady days, it was like, one day they were my bosses, than for a month they weren’t , then they were again, but they were now a sub-division of some other company or something. I just kept my head down, and although Mephisto has retroactively erased this part of my past, when things got extra tough I would reach for my sweet, sweet Mary Jane to take the pain away.
Let’s just say this company rhymed with “Myacom”. And one of their assets, a cable channel of some renown, would annually reward musical performers at a ceremony that was broadcast “live” (but carefully scripted to the last “ad-libbed” word and movement, and on a 90-second delay in case someone accidentally said “anus” and all the viewers at home spontaneously turned into pillars of salt).
The weeks leading up to this event were a great time to hide your head at Radio City Music Hall if you worked for this company – you had a pass that suggested you belonged there, it took me away from my scummy actual workplace (I told them I was “gathering news”), and you could kick back and relax with the union guys who spend the first six days of the week-long setup sitting around eating, smoking and drinking coffee. Outside, there’s cops and screaming kids and like the national guard, and inside it’s like the skankiest frat house you’ve ever imagined. Paradise.
One day I showed up when there had actually been a rehearsal by one of the artists performing at said ceremony, so my union buddies were nowhere to be found – they were backstage, putting props away. The stage was empty, since rehearsal was over, so I leaned against the back wall of an empty Radio City and lit a cigarette (yes, I quit a long time ago). I sat there in the slightly eerie quiet, then started to enjoy it – at a particularly stressful time in my life, there I was in luxurious, peaceful, solitary silence. I put my head back against the wall and closed my eyes, when suddenly I heard, in the softest voice ever, “‘sup?”
It was so quiet I honestly didn’t think it was a voice – I thought it was like an air vent or a shoe squeaking or something. Then, about 30 seconds later “‘sup?”
I looked up from my squatting position and saw the scariest f**king think I will see in this world until the day I die, even if we have Zombies and Fallout 3 and who knows what else. I looked up and to my left, where the sound had come from, and gazed directly into the nostril of Michael Jackson.
I’ve never told this story to anyone before, except my sister. Mostly, because the opportunity just never presented itself. I spent a couple of weeks waiting for an appropriate time in conversations to tell the story, until I finally said to myself “there is never going to be an appropriate moment in any conversation to tell this weird-ass story. Save it for when he’s dead, which should be any day now by the looks of him.”
Looking up Michael Jackson’s nostril was unlike anything I had ever seen: I mean, it was unfortunate that I was sitting at an angle that made the insides of his faux-nose my POV, but it said so much about the man. They don’t resemble nostrils like you and I have, they’ve been so carefully carved and shaved they look like action figure nostrils – way too straight, with sharp angles like some kind of geometry triangle. More importantly, there was not a single hair. Not even a follicle. For that matter, what I saw in there didn’t even look like skin, more like Sculpy covered with a thin layer of extra-slippery Saran Wrap. And the creepiest part of all: pins. Lots and lots of pins, surrounding the edge of the nostril, apparently holding it up and in place.
I was shaking like a leaf. Not so much out of meeting a famous guy – (I’m just not wired to freak out and scream when I meet famous people, they’re just human beings who may very well earn less money than your plumber and in any case have more issues than Action Comics) – but I was really creeped out. Even as I stood up and looked waaaay down to make face to face contact, every new detail I noticed was more horrific. When I got my first look at the puppet from Saw, the first thing I thought of was MJ: that is what his skin looks like. And the hair – to be honest, in my mind, I was already halfway down the block, I have no new observations on the hair. “How’s it g-g-goin’?” I said.
He gave me a wink, and a super-quiet “‘salright, ‘salright”.
And that’s how Groovy Superhero met Michael Jackson. There’s not much else to say, other than billions of us (including me) had our lives enriched by his music at some point in our lives, hundreds of us (including me) were scarred for life by our real-life encounters with him, he was a talented and troubled dude, and the embalmer probably barely had to touch him – the Michael I met only needed a tux and he was ready to either climb into the grave or start chowing down on some brains.