Los Angeles (API) – Millions of shocked Michael Jackson fans today remembered him as an inspiration—namely as an inspiration not to become wealthy and famous. “I remember when I was little I wanted to be just like Michael Jackson and I took dancing and singing lessons,” said Wes Miles of nearby Riverside. “Then as he got stranger and stranger I realized, ‘Wow, who would ever want things to go so horribly horribly wrong?’”
Jackson’s surprise death on June 25 shocked millions of people all over the globe, throwing the world into both mourning and a tut-tutting disavowal of Jackson’s life and the surreal, alienating effects of his all-consuming celebrity.
“There but for the grace of God go I,” said 12-year-old Sheila Stevens of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“I always remember Michael Jackson saying follow your dreams. But I got something completely different from that: ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ You just might get it and start talking to monkeys and dating 12 year old boys.’”
Daniel Lewis, a 42-year-old accountant from Omaha, Nebraska, said that when he was younger he wanted to be a comedian, and tried to get jobs in the entertainment business. After watching Jackson turn into a muttering elfin recluse, however, he realized he really ought to just go back to college.
“My mother always said, ‘You’re good with numbers. Don’t be a schmuck.’ I told her, ‘Mom, I want to be a star like Michael Jackson. A person’s got to follow his dreams.’ But boy was my mother right. You look at Michael Jackson three years after Thriller and you start to think, ‘Why am I being such a putz?’”
Paige Norman, a psychologist from Austin, Texas, said that the worldwide mourning over Jackson’s death shows how people not only celebrate pop musicians, but also how they slavishly ape them and identify with them, almost to the point of neurosis.
“People need heroes in these troubled times,” said Norman, “Especially people without good role models, who tend to need affirmation of their value and goodness from agents outside themselves. They very often turn to celebrities to provide that reflection of their worth.
“Probably Michael Jackson’s biggest contribution to human progress—more than his historic music—was that maybe he got people to stop doing that. Because he got pretty weird, you have to admit.”
Dorothy Totterman, a waitress from Glasgow, Scotland, said she once met Michael Jackson when she was an aspiring dancer. He told her after seeing a bit of her steps that she had real talent, and she said her heart was bursting with joy.
“But then I realized: This guy is wearing a mask and his nose is falling off into his dinner. What in the hell would I listen to this guy for? And that instinct helped me avoid a life of unrealistic expectations and emotional pain.”
“Thank you, Michael Jackson,” Totterman added. “Thank you so much for giving me that.”