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June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson, Traveler

Michael Jackson meets Nelson Mandela
Michael Jackson hugs former
South African President Nelson
Mandela in Pretoria, South Africa
Saturday, July 20, 1996.

Photo: AP Photo / Adil Bradlow-File

by Beata Loyfman-Santora

Over the upcoming weeks, you'll undoubtedly be deluged with information about the death of Michael Jackson. Some of it will celebrate his life, much of it will pour over the last sad years (TMZ is already compiling the sordid details).

We at Boldface prefer to remember Michael's gifts above the gossip. His odd behavior may have overshadowed his talent and made him into an object of ridicule in the United States, but we mustn't forget that in his heyday, when Michael spoke (or danced), everyone listened. And we do mean everyone. During the 1980s, he made history not only for producing some of the biggest albums in music but also for plying the globe with his concerts. In fact, his Bad World Tour earned a spot among the Guinness Book of World Records for reaching the most audiences ever (4.4 million, give or take). During this tour, he visited countries that were considered far off the grid, such as Gabon and Egypt.

In this way, Michael was the consummate traveler, engaging with every corner of this planet through music, connecting us all.

As a kid growing up in the gray cocoon of Communist Russia in the 1980s, there was very little that I knew about the world outside. Yes, there was TV, but it showed happy farmers hoeing and Lenin's disciples calling for the proletariat to unite. Remember: We didn't have Twitter, the Internet, or even cable with which to disseminate information. What we did have was a VCR. My family was the first in our community (if not our city) to get this amazing machine. It was probably smuggled under someone's shirt, but regardless, it arrived at my house accompanied by only one tape: the 14-minute-long "Thriller" music video. I cannot overstate its impact on the six-year-old me. I was mesmerized, terrified, and wore the tape thin watching it. All I wanted to do was see more, learn more, be more. Luckily, I got the chance when we immigrated to America.

I will never forget the origins of that spark to see the world. And for that Michael, I thank you.


Great personal MJ story! I'm sure we all have one. Mine took place when I was about 8 or 9 years old. I threw a fit when I found out my aunt took my Jackson 5 album back to Ecuador with her. It got to travel before I did! I would love to hear more stories from other readers. You will be missed MJ. RIP.

Thanks bridog1.
We would love to hear other MJ memories. Please share your thoughts with us.
- Beata

What a beautifully written & heartfelt story! Thanks for sharing, Beata.

well done Beata!!!! I'll never forget the first time I saw Thriller. My family did not have cable (nor VCR, betamax or any other recording device), but I do remember that the Thriller video was broadcast in prime time on one of the major networks. It was unbelieveable, definitely the birth of the music video that we know and love today. IT was truly revolutionary!!

I always enjoy your posts, especially this one. Great to read such a personal and touching account of your childhood in Russia. I remember being totally mesmerized by MJ as a kid, especially the Thriller video. And of course I was an 11-y.o. MJ wannabe, with my little leather jacket and clumsy attempts at moonwalking. That same year my brother totally messed with me by saying that MJ was going to appear for my birthday party. The reasonable side of me didn't believe a word of it, but of course just the idea of it made me crazed with excitement. Needless to say it didn't happen. RIP Michael.

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