LAmag.com, June 30, 2009
I didn’t wear the glove, but I did practice the Moonwalk for a solid month every day at lunch and bought Capezio jazz shoes with those slick leather soles so I could glide across the auditorium stage as effortlessly as he did. That didn’t happen. My classmate, Dante, was a spectacular dancer, tall and slender and handsome. Dante choreographed Hollywood High’s homage to Thriller—I managed the soundboard—and we charged our fellow students 25 cents a head to attend. One night at Dodger Stadium in December 1984, on the last stop of the Jackson brothers’ Victory tour, I cheered among the 60,000 in attendance. It was only a couple of years ago that I finally donated the black-and-red jersey concert T-shirt I’d bought that evening.
I was in a meeting when the iChat came across from a colleague: heart attack. It seemed like a hoax—just five hours after Farrah had died across town in Santa Monica. Could two of Los Angeles’s biggest pop culture icons have fallen in such lockstep? How many of us aspiring angels feathered our hair to emulate Farrah? (I did, with blow-drying assistance from my sister, for my 1978 fourth-grade school picture.) How many of our brothers and husbands (mine admitted it Friday) taped her bombshell poster to the wall? How many of us, no matter our gender, prayed to God that for five seconds in our lives we could move like Michael Jackson and it would make all the difference? Within moments of TMZ reporting his death, my phone rang: It was the BBC World News Service looking for comment. I had no time to process it—who has any time to process anything in this How-are-you-feeling-right-this-moment-about-this-horrible-news? age—but there I was, not 10 minutes after hearing about it, waxing live on the BBC about his demise.
Had I had a week or a month or a year, I would have probably said the same thing: entombed beneath the freaky plastic surgery and wigs and SARS masks, beyond the sleepovers and the scandals and the horrible father, was an enormous talent that the world had already lost many years ago. Michael Jackson was a son of Gary, Indiana, but a child of Los Angeles. He may have lived in a theme-park called Neverland and fled to Dubai for a spell—but gifted and wounded and delusional and in so many ways alone, he could only have met his end here. His is a Los Angeles story.
This week I take over as editor of Los Angeles. I have grown to love the magazine these last nine years under the aegis of my mentor, Kit Rachlis—almost as much as I’ve always loved my city. It is an odd week for new beginnings when the streets overflow with loss (this morning I counted seven news vans when I passed Jackson’s Hollywood Boulevard star).
Here at Editor’s Buzz I’ll be checking in with you every week, to chat about what’s on our minds and maybe yours, to fill you in on what’s new on the site, in our pages, and in our town. Each of us has a Los Angeles story. Every month the magazine tells them—some past, some present, some future. On this web site we expand on those stories and tell a few new ones, too. I don’t want to speak for you, but I have a feeling we’ve all got a lot to say.