I was a huge Michael Jackson fan as a kid, his posters adorned every part of my bedroom, I idolised him. I had bought the Bad album with some birthday money and I remember holding onto it for dear life on the way home, not daring to take it out of its sleeve in case it got a scratch before I got home and could listen to it for the first time. I ran upstairs and played it over and over again learning the words of by heart, I had never been happier.
Then the tour was announced for the following summer and my Mum, bless her, spent hour after hour hitting redial trying desperately to get me tickets for the show, but unfortunately to no avail. Disappointed I cried for a week. I poured over the pages of the newspaper reading every word of his first night at Wembley jealous of those lucky enough to have got tickets for the shows. Then a cunning plan was hatched, well it seemed like a good idea at the time. My mate and I decided to go to Wembley ticket less and see if we could buy one on the day. We set of with £30 each and we sat outside of Wembley for eight hours, hoping against hope that we would be able to get a ticket. The touts were way out of our price range so we took a chance and offered the bloke on the turnstile some money to let us in, to our amazement he did and it was the best concert Ive ever seen, Ive never forgot it.
This week Ive been away to a Haven caravan park with my wife and kids. Nothing special just a break to get away from it for a bit, the weather was great and the shows were your typical holiday camp show, all fake smiles and Britain's Got Talent rejects. Then it happened, on the Wednesday the over excited entertainment compare, imagine fake tan, fake grin, dead behind the eyes at the monotony of having to say the same thing again and again and you'll get the idea, said the words that struck fear into me.
"Tomorrow night we have the World Famous Jacksonville for you, yes that's right all the way from America its Michael Jackson's top impersonator"
Que cheers from the slightly tipsy middle aged mums and the kids looking at them saying who?. Me? I tried to hold back the utter despair that was working its way through my system at those words. I knew that I would have to go and watch this as I had bought my kids up listening to his music and they were getting all excited already.
As a veteran of holiday camps I knew what this would mean. It was going to be Barry the barman in an appalling wig and jacket, thrusting his pelvis and grabbing his crotch whilst signing out of tune as the mums got ever more tipsy and the kids danced down the front of the stage. Lets be honest kids on holiday dance to a talking bear and tiger and do as they tell them to do so some bloke pretending to be Michael Jackson would send them over the edge like the sugar full drinks they had been supping all week.
Ive seen it all down the years, the wrestlers who walked out pretending to be big stars who later served your dinner, the magician with the world famous reputation who was later to be seen doing his lifeguard duty, the beauty queen who cleaned your chalet, there is something very British about a Holiday camp and I love every minute of them.
So I took my seat last night, the kids all hyped up after listening to his music all day down at the front of the stage, me trying not to show my utter contempt for the whole thing and playing along as is my duty as their father. The fake tan over excited compare bounded onto the stage microphone stuck to her gloss red lips and smiling only the way a holiday compare can.
"Are you ready for the one, the only Michael Jackson" She yelled punching the air
"Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhh" went the cry
"Noooooooooo" My soul screamed quietly inside, my wife taking my hand and squeezing it knowing how personally I was taking this.
The strains of Bad started and the lights dimmed, women fanned themselves overcome with excitement, well cheap wine mostly but Ill give them the benefit of the doubt, the kids looked at each other excitedly and then there he was Barry the Barman, sorry all the way from America Michael Jackson's top impersonator, and I died inside, a huge lump of my childhood was about to be stripped away and I couldn't get it back. He looked nothing like him, in fact the statue at Fulham Football Club looked more like Michael Jackson than he did.
He bounded across the stage flicking his fingers and yelping, grabbing his crotch and signing out of tune, the women went mad for it, the kids danced around in their seats and me? I burst out laughing, I couldn't help it. It was right up there with the 'its so bad its good catergory'. To be fair to him 90% of the ballroom was going nuts and he was lapping it up, the other 10% had tears rolling down their faces at how bad he was.
It lurched from one bad dance routine, one out of tune song to another, getting worse and worse as it did so until the song that topped the lot for me, Thriller. My eldest daughter became very agitated and excited at this, as this was her all time favourite Michael Jackson song. Smoke billowed across the stage and his 'dancer' well he didn't do anything else apart from prance around the stage all night, pulled on a zombie mask with a Mohican's hair cut on top. By now my sides were starting to hurt, my jaw ached and my eyes were stung with tears. Smoke billowed across the stage trying to give the affect of a foggy night when joy of joys the fire alarm went off.
I could just about here it at first then all the lights came on and everyone was being evacuated, the true performer that he wasn't though carried on when everyone was walking out the fire exits. I assumed he was used to this reaction, all it needed was three large crosses above his head and it would have been the complete evening. We congregated in the car park laughing and joking at what we had seen with others sat around us. I wandered over to the corner for a ciggie when another door flung open and out he stepped. He had tears in his eyes and his band mates were trying to calm him down. Michael Jackson was devastated at his performance being interrupted and suddenly I felt guilty, very very guilty.
No matter how bad he was, no matter how bad I or others thought he was, this bloke had got up on stage and given it a go and there was I laughing at him. I wandered back to my wife and told her what Id seen and she said I should feel bad, even though he wasn't the real thing what did I expect on a Thursday night in Weymouth. I smiled and hatched a cunning plan, but first I had to go back to the caravan.
When I returned the place was half empty, what had been full of mums and kids dancing wildly before the alarm had gone off was now a selection of people dragged back in by their kids and wife's as the more sensible families made their escape back to the safety of their caravans. The tables around the stage, were sparsely full and there was the wife and kids dancing away at the front, Michael Jackson giving it his all to a now obvious half empty room. I went and sat next to the stage and making sure he could see me I took of my jacket and showed him the t-shirt I was now wearing.
"You ain't Michael Jackson but you ain't that crap either" was written on a white t-shirt with black felt tip pen.
He looked at me for a second then smiled and I knew I had done the right thing. I then carried on the night enjoying the music and remembering the legend and what it went to me as a fan. Whatever the accusations, which I might add were never proven, whatever you thought of him as a man, believe me even I am not sure what I believe even now. Michael Jackson's music has touched us all at some stage or another and that should never be forgotten.
Just don't expect to see him at Weymouth Haven Holiday site and you'll be fine.