In 1987 a 15 year old version of myself screamed his lungs as Michael Jackson sizzled and popped his way, seemingly on thin air, accross the floor of the Brisbane Entertainment Centre. He wore a shiny silver stage costume with black buckles on the shoulder and I swear I was so close I can still remember his perfume.
It's 22 years later and today I woke up and dubbed it 'Michael Jackson Day'. I'd booked tickets to go see his 'This Is It' movie and visit the exhibition of his costumes and memorabilia at the 02 Arena in London.
I had mixed feelings about the film prior to going in. I'd heard all the hype from the advertising machine and I'd heard the conspiracy theories from those who felt the film was cashing in. But somewhere in the middle I guess the chance to see my childhood hero on the big screen and on the precipice of a triumphant return was the feeling that trumped them all. Truth be told, even when tickets went on sale for the original concert that never was to be, I was skeptical. I'd seen M.J live many times, but the last time was in NYC in 2001 and he was clearly struggling.
I didn't blame him - what was left after the trials and tribulations of the child abuse accusations was a frail man, unsure of himself and gun shy in a spot light of humiliation and degradation. He seemed as though his spirit had been broken, that he'd become overwhelmed by the vultures and the fame monster.
That was a few days before September 11 2001.
I remember the show so clearly, not only because of its proximity to such a tragic date in history - but because I had seen my hero fall to the ground. After the concert
I had the overwhelming feeling that something was wrong, and I changed my plans dramatically to leave NYC earlier than planned. I was supposed to come home on September 11 (on a flight that would eventually, sadly, perish) and instead I chose to come home a few days earlier.
When I woke up on September 11 the world would never be the same.
For Michael Jackson, I guess this was true in a way none of us could have imagined back then.
Fast forward to recent times, and Michael had survived round 2 of scandal and accusation.
Only this time, perhaps only barely. We all know the story so I don't have to repeat it here. But the memory is one of a man on the run. From us. From Them. From himself. Less than half the man he used to be, seemingly stripped of his accolades and certainly his dignity.
Let me back it up by saying, M.J is and was my hero growing up. I didn't have a positive male role model in my life - and when I was teased at school for being a 'faggot' or 'queer' I looked up to this man who seemed to be both male and female to me. Strength and sensitivity. Subtlety and electric shock force in one. And when the world called him strange, I just saw myself reflected back. I saw a spirit that could not be broken. When I first saw him in concert, I think I've mentioned before, I suddenly knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. This feeling was the polar opposite of how I'd felt in New York in 2001.
So the idea of seeing M.J on stage again in 2009 - in a show that many suggested was a 'have to' instead of a 'want to' situation - I wasn't eager to bear witness.
Not because I didn't love Michael or appreciate his talent. I think it's because (and I'm ashamed to admit) I didn't really really think he could pull it off. And I wanted to remember Michael as the hero who inspired me. And not as the man the world turned him in to.
2 months before the 'This Is It' tour was due to open I got into a major Michael phase. I was ravenous about the 'Bad' tour (the first one I ever saw) and his costumes back then. Especially that silver shirt. I began frantically seraching for rare concert footage and listening to his albums daily. So much so that my other half thought I was losing it.
At the last minute, like most people, I bought a golden ticket to his show.
And a few weeks later, Michael had died.
Tonight, I've seen the film which is essentially a document of the rehearsal and almost dress rehearsal of what Michael's farewell performances were going to be. And I was filled with awe and sadness.
Awe in the scale, scope and ambition of the stage show.
Awe of Michael's spirit and talent - still present even in rehearsal mode.
But incredibly sad that he was robbed the opportunity to do these shows that would have reclaimed his dignity once and for all.
Like most people, I guess I had underestimated him.
If you believe the hype, he was barely present at rehearsals. He was ill (he did seem dramatically under weight) and 'out of it'. But what I saw, was a 50 year old man remembering his magic. I saw glimpses of brilliance and the possibility of a reclamation of respect from his peers and critics alike.
Walking through the halls of memorabilia afterwards, I found myself again filled with sadness and gratitude. So glad that the positive things about him seem to be the ones that linger. So sad that the silver shirt that I had reached out for in hysteria, separated by a crash barrier and layers of security, lasers and fog - was now inches from my hands. Not even behind glass. There. Touchable. Real.
I don't know what the lesson in any of this is.
I know the shock for me was seeing something so untouchable, so superhuman, appear to tangiable and, dare I say it, mortal.
But perhaps the biggest thought I'm left with is the need to appreciate things in the moment - and celebrate the blessings we're given when we have them.
Becuase as I watched the film the thought that kept playing over in my head was 'if only we had him for a little while longer. If only more people could have seen this'.
But that's the thing with 'if only'....