Spike Lee Celebrates Michael Jackson's Birthday

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Saturday would have been Michael Jackson's 51st birthday. After weeks spent mourning the loss of the King of Pop, it's time to celebrate his life. If you're in New York, you should head to Prospect Park where filmmaker Spike Lee is throwing his childhood idol a birthday party — Brooklyn style. Host Scott Simon talks with the filmmaker about his birthday bash for the pop star.


Today would have been Michael Jackson's 51st birthday, and after weeks spent mourning the loss of the King of Pop, it's time to celebrate his life.

(Soundbite of song, "Enjoy Yourself")

Mr. MICHAEL JACKSON (Musician): (Singing) You sitting over there, staring into space while people are dancing, dancing all over the place. You shouldn't worry about things you can't control. Come on, girl, while the night is young, why don't you mix up the place, let go. Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself…

SIMON: And if you're anywhere near New York, got to head to Brooklyn, Prospect Park, where filmmaker Spike Lee is throwing his childhood idol a birthday party, Brooklyn style. Mr. Lee returns to our show. Thanks so much for being back with us.

Mr. SPIKE LEE (Filmmaker): How are you doing?

SIMON: I am fine, thank you, and it's so good to talk to you. What gave you the idea to have a party?

Mr. LEE: Well, when Michael died, I was devastated, like everyone else, most people on this planet. And I asked my wife, Tonya, when is his birthday, and she said it's August 29th. And I went to the calendar, and I saw it was a Saturday. I said, oh, we got to have a party, you know, because growing up in Brooklyn, that's just part of the culture, having a block party - hooking up the turntables to the street lamps and the speakers, and we was having a good time.

This has grown into a much bigger thing than I envisioned. So now it's in Prospect Park at the Nethermead Meadow. And we're going to go today from 12 noon to 5 p.m.

SIMON: Are you going to have enough cake for everybody?

Mr. LEE: Well, we're going to have music and fun. We're not going to have cake for everybody, but we're all going to sing happy birthday to Michael. We're going to do that for sure.

SIMON: That's going to be something. Who's on tap? What's the entertainment going to be?

Mr. LEE: Well, really, this is not really a celebrity-driven thing. This is just people - great citizens in the great borough of Brooklyn, New York, and everybody else coming out to celebrate Michael. So we're just going to dance and party to D.J. spinners on the wheels of steel, on the one and two, and just dance and sing along to Michael's hits.

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. LEE: And also not just Michael, but the Jackson 5 and also the Jacksons. So we're going to go through the whole legacy today.

SIMON: You grew up watching the Jackson 5 cartoon show, among other things?

Mr. LEE: Oh yeah. I mean, I'm a year older than Michael, so we're the same thing. And I'd wake up every Saturday morning to watch the Jackson 5 cartoon. In fact, we're going to show some of those cartoons on the Jumbotron screen we got. And you know, Michael was just a big, big influence…

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. LEE: on me as a young kid growing up in Brooklyn, New York.

SIMON: Well, what was it like to watch that show, watch that family growing up?

Mr. LEE: Well, it was great because you know, it's an American story: large, working-class family out of Gary, little town of Gary, Indiana, and they lived the American dream. So it would make a great movie one day.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Yeah, more than one, I expect, yeah. Except I don't know where they'd find a talented - a 6-year-old kid as talented as Michael Jackson was.

Mr. LEE: Well, here's the thing: Anytime you want to do a film like this where you have five sets of brothers, then you have to have a set for one age, a set for another age, a set - and then they have to all look alike and all look like brothers. That's crazy.

SIMON: I think I know why they did this as a cartoon show initially.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: That's it. Spike, I'm going to take a chance on something. Can I call you Spike?

Mr. LEE: Yes, you may.

SIMON: I'm going to take a chance on something, 'cause, of course, we have to know - we made time to talk to you about the birthday party for Michael Jackson, but of course on a different stage, a different legend is being celebrated as he is laid to rest today, and that's Senator Edward Kennedy. Did you ever meet?

Mr. LEE: Oh, I never did. And you know, we're going to have a moment of silence for Ted Kennedy here, and also we're going to have a moment of silence because four years ago, Hurricane Katrina hit, too.

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. LEE: So we're going to - a lot of things happening today. A lot of things, and we're going to take respectful note of all of them.

SIMON: Is there a Michael Jackson or Jackson 5 song you are going to make a point that's heard because it means a lot to you today?

Mr. LEE: We've got something planned for "Wanna Be Startin' Something." It's going to be bananas.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LEE: But the thing about it, though, everybody has their own favorite songs. So you can play anything and people just go crazy. So there's going to be a lot of love out here tonight - excuse me -today, 12 to 5 in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York.

And also, the borough president - if I may add…

SIMON: Sure.

Mr. LEE: …the borough president, Marty Markowitz, is going to read a proclamation saying that today is Michael Jackson Day in Brooklyn, New York.

SIMON: Well, Spike Lee, always a pleasure to talk to you. Thanks so much…

Mr. LEE: All right. Well, thank you very much for having me on the show.

SIMON: Our pleasure always, and happy birthday celebration to you today.

Mr. LEE: Thank you. Bye-bye.

SIMON: Spike Lee speaking with us in Brooklyn, where today he's going to be celebrating the life of Michael Jackson.

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