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MICHAEL JACKSON 1958-2009
Reactions To Michael
Jackson's Sudden Death Vary From Sadness To Anger
By Monica Hesse
Los Angeles, June 27, 2009 – In the weeks before his death, we might have said we didn't know how we felt about Michael Jackson. He'd become so bizarre, so pale, so foreign and different from the musical genius some of us once worshipped. We thought that we hardly thought about him, except perhaps as a punch line. We felt that we felt nothing. But when news of Jackson's death broke yesterday, it turned out that we were wrong. Fans and unfans alike, all around the world, all felt something, and sometimes very deeply.
"He was my first love," said Alesia Crawford, 48, a dentist who lives in Wheaton. "I used to sleep with his album covers." She had come to the FYE music store in Wheaton Mall to buy his music, as had many other fans. By 7 p.m. all that was left in the Jackson section was a black music divider reading "Top Selling Artists of All Time."
"I'm crushed," said Jordan Lloyd, 18, also shopping at FYE. "I watched all his videos: 'Thriller,' 'Beat It.' 'Dangerous' was the best."
The music types always respected him, always appreciated what he'd brought to their world. "You know, in a generation of completely, almost 100 percent disposable music and disposable artists, he definitely defines the true artist in the music industry," said John Sproul, who works for CD Warehouse in Georgetown.
"I have played a Michael Jackson song every day for the last 20 years," said Memphis radio announcer Leon Gray. "He leaves behind the best music ever recorded in the industry."
On the other side of the world, in Japan, Iran and South Korea, people woke up to the news that Jackson was gone and immediately shared their feelings. Chatters on one popular Japanese Web site called him "the greatest entertainer in the 20th century." One user called his reign as the King of Pop "a page in our youth filled with shine and hope."
At traditional Friday lunches in Tehran, the stress of a post-election crackdown was forgotten for some minutes as young fans reminisced over plates of rice and ground meat. Western music is officially illegal in Iran, but it remains widely available, and Jackson is a particular favorite.
"People in Iran get really happy when I danced on songs off albums like 'Off the Wall' and 'Bad,' " said 29-year-old Ali, who did not want his family name to be published but frequently uses the moniker Ali Jackson because of his spot-on imitations of his idol. "It would give them energy and show that we are also a part of the world, in our isolated country."
Former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung, whose inauguration Jackson attended in 1998, said that with the singer's death, "the world has lost a hero . . . and Korea also lost a beloved friend, who showed continued interest and supported unification of Korean peninsula. Korean people are sad."
Jackson visited South Korea four times, performing on stage during two of the visits, and reportedly wanted to travel to communist North Korea as well. He is being mourned in Seoul by citizens as well as pop stars, who lamented what many called his "addiction to cosmetic surgery" even as they praised his talents.
"I started dancing because of Michael Jackson," star Koo Jung-yeop told the Korean press. "It is not only I, but he was the motivation point for so many South Korean singers. I cannot believe that he is dead. It feels like that he is still dancing."
In New York City, a crowd of people assembled in Times Square last night to watch news unfold on large screens, audibly reacting when his death was announced. The ABC news ticker at Times Square repeated the shocking news in a continuous loop; "Michael Jackson, King of Pop, Dead at 50." And tourists took photos of the announcement with cellphones and digital cameras.
A small crowd gathered outside Harlem's famed Apollo Theater, where the Jackson 5 used to perform.
In Los Angeles, where Jackson died, a horde stood outside the UCLA Medical Center, where he was brought by ambulance, and watched as a helicopter lifted his body into the air, bound for a medical facility and, this morning, an autopsy.
At daybreak, people converged at Jackson's star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, laying flowers, stuffed animals and portraits in a reverential tribute.
Sam Mujica, a musician from Glendale, Calif., bought $10 bouquets of roses after hearing about Jackson's death from a friend via text message. "I moved out to California a year ago because I was inspired by him. He was a huge inspiration so we came out here to pay our respects. It feels a lot more personal than it should, like a family member died. I'm more upset now than when my grandmother died."
"People love Michael Jackson," said Seth Casteel of California. "He touched so many people over the years. He's an icon, not just in our culture, but all over the world."
Touched so many people. It's the kind of Jackson remark we would have giggled at a few days ago. Jackson's bizarreness means that his death doesn't prompt simple emotions. He was not loved easily even by those who loved him unconditionally.
"Never has one soared so high and yet dived so low," British foreign minister David Miliband tweeted.
The Twitterverse exploded with reactions of ambivalence, if not outright anger: "Hopefully there are child rape survivors out there shouting down this worship of Michael Jackson," wrote a Twitterer known as ConservativeLA. "Infuriating. Unacceptable!"
But others people, the type of people who believe that death absolves everything, or at least smooths it over, saw Jackson's passing as a time to make peace with the man's troubled legacy.
"I think people should remember him not from the years 2004 and 2005 but for selling almost a billion records, for giving money to charities, for being an international icon," said Washington-based publicist Raymone Bain, who represented Jackson for years but ended up suing him for millions in fees that she said he owed her.
Bain said that despite her difference with Jackson, she still loved him and considered him family. "I can't imagine a world without Michael Jackson . . . I'm hoping I'll wake up and it will be like the old days when I had to send out a press release saying Michael Jackson isn't dead, please stop disseminating these vicious rumors, it's not true."
Ronlyn Dandy, 42, began her fandom as a 5-year-old who carried a portable record player and a 45 single of "I Want You Back."
She loved him "when he was black. When he had a 'fro and a nose like mine," the teacher said, as she, too, hunted for discs at a College Park record store.
"He was a genius. Maybe strange to some, but most geniuses are a little strange," Dandy said.
In the end, sometimes our reactions were divorced from reason and rationale, and had nothing to do with how we felt about him. They were reactions born of the raw emotion that comes when a seam in the fabric of our culture unravels, when someone as undeniably monumental as Michael Jackson dies.
"When I heard the news, " Dana Bullitt of Silver Spring says, "I cried and cried and cried."
Staff writers Ashley Surdin in Los Angeles, Blaine Harden in Tokyo, Karla Adam in London, Thomas Erdbrink in Tehran, Stella Kim in Seoul and DeNeen L. Brown, Clarence Williams, Debbi Wilgoren and Catherine Cheney in Washington contributed to this report.
Source: Washington Post