Arts & Entertainment

One Spring Night In 1983, I Saw Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson performs at 'Motown 25' in 1983.

Michael Jackson performs at 'Motown 25' in 1983. Paul Drinkwater/AP/NBCU Photo Bank hide caption

itoggle caption Paul Drinkwater/AP/NBCU Photo Bank

Michael Jackson is really more my children's generation than mine.

He was a cute kid whose talent I always admired and continued to admire as he morphed into the glove wielding, moon walking phenom that he became.

But I'll say this for MJ:   

He was the star of the best concert I ever saw in my entire life. And that's saying something.  

It was lucky for me that a pair of tickets landed in my boss' hands for the taping of Motown 25 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on March 25, 1983.  And my boss couldn't go.

He gave them to me and just like that, me and my girlfriend (now wife) wound up on the 4th or 5th row, dead-center orchestra level for what was the greatest collection of Motown royalty ever assembled in one show.

The line up included Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, a battle between The Temptations and The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and The Supremes, Ashford and Simpson, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson 5 reunion and, of course, Michael himself, who brought the house down with his "Billie Jean" inspired Moonwalk and tossing his hat across stage.  

It was electrifying to see, especially that close up.  

There was no looking back for Michael Jackson, or for us, after that still indescribable performance. The TV show that aired 2 months later cut a few moments from the actual taping here and there (like the fight between Diana Ross and Mary Wilson over the microphone), but no matter, Michael the superstar was born that night.

On Friday's program, I asked Shaye Areheart, co-editor of Michael Jackson's autobiography Moon Walk, if she thinks the public has forgiven him or just turned a blind eye to his alleged dark side, opting instead to celebrate Michael's life and music.

"He was found innocent," she said matter-of-factly.

Yes, he was vindicated in a court of law.  But in the court of public opinion, it never really mattered.

In the year since his death, MJ's music, memorabilia, and films have generated a billion dollars in revenue according to Billboard. That's incredible.

I don't own a Michael Jackson poster and I have some, though not a lot, of his music. And yet, I owe him a debt of gratitude for the memory of that very special concert that spring night in Pasadena. It is still vivid, 27 years later.  I can hear it, feel it, see it.

And he was the star.

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