Monday, May 4, 2009

THE GRAND ILLUSION

Michael Jackson might be pulling a big one over on us.

A friend of mine recently had a business meeting with the King of Pop, who was not at all what my pal was expecting. Sure Michael does indeed look like someone from another planet (something the alien cat dragged in?), and for that reason alone, being in his presence is something of a surreal experience. But he's not exactly the man-child one might expect him to be.

His normal speaking voice, though by no means basso profundo, is several octaves lower than his public one. He's medium-masculine and incredibly sharp as well as a strict, attentive, quite normal dad. And by the way, for those who still care, according to my friend, Michael's new music is unbelievable.

That probably won't matter much in the U.S., where the singer's stock has fallen so low that he's no longer guaranteed platinum record sales. He's still beloved in Europe, but then Europeans always have been less puritanical and more forgiving than the Yanks. Last night, I went to my girlfriend Mica's birthday dinner. After I was introduced to her boyfriend's brother, one of the first things he said to me, for no apparent reason, was how much he loves Michael Jackson. He also thinks he (the brother) looks like Richard Gere, but that's between him and his mirror.

My reaction to his revelation about Michael was mild shock followed by laughter. I mean, how unhip could he be? Then I realized that it wasn't such an anachronism, that it wasn't really so strange that an Argentine would be enough of an MJ fan to mention it, apropos of nothing, in casual conversation. The musical sensibilities of Argentines tend to run closer to Europeans' than people from the U.S., so I'm sure he's not alone among porteños in his Michael mania.

When I visited Prague in 1996, Michael Jackson was there at the same time on his History tour, and it seems like everywhere I went, hordes of people were standing outside waiting for a Michael sighting. If the gloved one was looking for privacy, he probably shouldn't have arrived at a bookstore via limo in a pedestrian zone. The people in Prague, who had seen very few black people in real life, kept approaching my friend Andrew, who is also black, and me, asking us if we were Michael's dancers and requesting to pose with us for photos (something, incidentally, that happened three times while I was out on Friday night -- the photo part, not the MJ dancer part).

I suspect the reaction will be the same if Michael shows up in Buenos Aires on tour. If people here would make a big deal over Duran Duran walking through the arrivals lounge at Ezeiza, surely Michael would create pure bedlam. Remind me to be some place else.

In loosely related '80s news, Christopher Cross is coming to BA in concert. First Michael Bolton, now this? Sign of the apocalypse or just another example of porteños' incredibly twisted taste in tunes?
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