The year I was in 7th grade, I was so bad, and my grades were so awful, my mother refused to get me anything for Christmas. And true to her word, I woke up Christmas morning that year and there was nothing for me.
It's a horrible thing to do to a child of any age. My aunt & uncle, who hadn't gotten me a gift since I was a small child, took pity on me and later that afternoon, brought me a gift. They had somehow managed to get me one of the hardest to get gifts that Christmas for anyone anywhere: Michael Jackson's latest album Thriller. I didn't need anything else! When I went back to middle school and kid's posed the inevitable question - "What'dya get?" I could say as casually and offhandedly as possible, "Thriller." And the eye popping response and all the questions and the best words you could hear back in 1984 "Cool beans!" more than made up for not getting anything else.
I remember watching the making of the Thriller video in science class. I remember wearing a single white glove to school anytime I wore my parachute pants with a million zippers and penny loafers with the pennies carefully tucked in. It was the ultimate middle school fashion statement. A sign of the times that everyone got it and no one laughed. I was cool.
To this day I know every single word and note of that album and so many more. There has never been a world for me without Michael Jackson in it. Listening to the ABC album on 8 track. Watching the Jackson 5 cartoon on Saturday mornings. Learning to never blame it on the sunshine or the moonlight or the goodtimes, but to always blame the boogie. Through all his 80's super stardom that saw him injured during the filming of the Pepsi commercial and on into the 90's where, while I was in basic training, the camp stopped for the evening to be allowed to watch Michael put on the best half time show and we saw the entire stadium converted to children of the world holding hands while he sang "Heal the World."
For someone up so high, the only direction left was down. And despite allegations of child molestation and many trials, ill health and financial troubles, Michael Jackson could never quite be dragged down completely into the mire. It is a testament to his talent and humanitarian efforts that these gifts are what he will be remembered for.
The King is dead. Long live the King.
Farah Fawcett - She was pretty. She fought her battle with cancer long and hard and is now at peace.
David Carradine - Damn. Helluva career, messed up way to die - hope he found what he was looking for. Just damn
Ed McMahon - Goodnight funny man.
Billy Mays - His death was a shock to me more than any of the others. Reports of Michael Jackson's ill health had been circulating for months. Farah Fawcett's battle had been widely publicized, Ed McMahaon was just old and Davaid Carradine wasn't exactly known for living easy.
But Billy Mays death, that was startling. He is fondly known around our house as "The Oxy Clean Guy" despite how many other products he went on to promote. Last summer, I wrote a piece called As Seen on TV about his influence on our household that ushered in an era of us buying things for the low, low price of 19.95. And like Michael Jackson, he was only 50 years old. A relatively young man who probably had a lot of infomercial items left to conquer. If Billy was selling, America was buying. He had a face you could trust and an undeniable energy that sent us running to telephones or at least the As Seen on TV aisle at Walgreens.
Billy Mays gave us more than just infomercial gadgets. He brought back that old-fashioned belief in Yankee ingenuity. Along with Ron Popeil he made us believe that the answers to some of life's knackiest little problems could be solved for 19.95 and the rest would be easy.