but dead? Seriously? Come on.
It was bad enough when I heard this morning that Farrah Fawcett was dead. I was 10-12 during the Charlie's Angels years, so in my mind she'll always be frozen in time, racing after a bad guy in high heels and a bikini with a gun in her hand and sharing significant looks with other beautiful women.
But Michael Jackson--he wasn't just an icon of our youth: he was young with us. We watched him grow up. We watched him gradually turn white and his nose shrink and change shape. We listened to his music nearly as religiously as we voiced our denials.
33 million people bought Thriller in the initial rush, but no one I ever met in my teen years would admit to having purchased it. A few admitted to owning it, but always with a roll of the eyes--they'd gotten it for Christmas from an aunt or their sister had wanted it or they'd found a copy laying on the street and taken it home just because it seemed a shame.
But lie as we might, Thriller didn't rack up a record 7 top-ten songs because nobody was listening to it--and it isn't still making pop-culture appearances in current movies because everyone cringes when they remember it.
"Rock With You" was the skating song of the early 80s--the one where the lights dimmed and swashes of gold swept across the floor. There are certain teenage boys I can still clearly see gliding around the floor to that song. I sang "Billie Jean" in Pizza Hut the night my best friend got me drunk in high school (though it would be 18 years before I found out there had been vodka in the 7-Up and understood why I'd been singing). And, of course, even those of us who couldn't dance to save our lives could recreate the entire "Thriller" video--and did so at the drop of a hat.
I haven't followed Michael Jackson's career as we've both aged, and I wasn't planning to head out for the new tour. But somehow, he was part of the landscape. The "Thriller" scene in 13 Going on 30 made me smile, just like it did when I'd see a clip of "ABC" and a tiny Jackson with his improbable hair on television. And his death came as a shock--so much of a shock, in fact, that I initially thought it was the opening of one of the many Michael Jackson jokes I've heard over the years.
It's strange how you can feel the absence of someone you weren't paying any attention to.