Brush with Fame 2 (or, I Don't Care If You Believe Me Or Not; It Really Happened)

It was about 10:00 one evening. It was late fall. I was sitting in my favorite recliner (in my underwear, as I recall) grading papers. I'm sure either the television was on or I had a CD playing. When I grade papers, I kind of zone out.

The phone rang. It was an acquaintance of mine in California. Without revealing too much, this person happens to have a legitimate and respectable career that includes a bevy of very famous clients in the entertainment industry. The reason I knew this person is that I used to write music reviews for an online indie magazine, and, as I had to include my email address, I got a lot of responses, both positive and negative (Ah, the life of a critic!). This fellow liked my taste in music, so our friendship grew from email to telephone conversations. He would often send me CDs--promo copies, he said, from clients. He would never, ever talk about his clients' personal lives -- a trait in him I found consummately professional -- but, as I said, he'd send me CDs from time to time. When Cher brought her tour to Chattanooga about five years ago, my friend secured me free front-row center seats. It was amazing.

Anyway . . . I asked my friend, "What's going on?"

"Oh, I'm just in the office," he replied. I quickly did the time zone math: 7:00 p.m. for him.

"What are you doing at work so late?" I queried.

"Michael's here," was the reply. Of course, I knew he meant Michael Jackson. This was back during the Lisa Marie marriage.

"Tell him I said 'hi," I said breezily, continuing to mark my papers.

"Tell him yourself," my friend returned, and he simply shoved the phone into Michael Jackson's hands with me on the other end.

You've probably had this happen before. Someone you know makes you talk to someone you don't know on a phone. It's awkward for one or both parties. I don't think Mr. Jackson was thrilled with the prospect of talking to a stranger.

"Hello?" MJ said softly. He sounded just like you'd think he would.

"Hi!" I boomed, perhaps too forcefully, "I'm a big fan! My name is Wayne, and I live in Tennessee!" Silence. I had to keep this moment alive. No one on Planet Earth was ever going to believe that little old me (actually, big old me) was sitting at home grading papers and talking to the King of Pop on the phone! "You signed a photograph for me last month! [my friend's name] got you sign it when you were in New York at the Four Seasons!" I was desperate to get more than just a "hello" out of Michael Jackson. Long pause.

"Oh, yes, I remember that! Ha ha ha ha ha! Here's [my friend's name] back!" and Mr. Moonwalk passed the phone back to our mutual acquaintence like a hot potato. Pshaw! Michael Jackson didn't remember signing a photograph for me! It was nice of him to pretend, though.

A number of things are probably going through your mind as you read this, not the least of which would be disbelief. That's okay. I know it happened. You might be looking at Michael Jackson through 21st century eyes and thinking, who would want to talk to that weird-o? Well, I guarantee you that, back then when the phone call took place – when MTV was playing that amazing-for-the-time video for "Black or White – YOU, my friend, might've been interested in talking to Michael Jackson, too.

I lost track of my friend in California. Things change. But when I look back on my life and how fortunate/cursed I've been to know so many people who know so many people, the past 51 years have been anything but ordinary. I'm going to keep running toward things with eyes wide open – okay, running's probably a bit of a stretch here – but there are more serendipities out there for me. I'll keep you posted.

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