I was a fan

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life46 Comments


I've been looking since last night to see if I could find my high school yearbook from 1984, the year I graduated. For some reason it has gone missing so I can't quite recall what I wrote in the short paragraph seniors were each given in the back of the book. I'm 99 percent sure I wrote that I wanted to do something with Sting, and to also be Michael Jackson's personal secretary.

I grew up with Michael Jackson's music. One of my first records, other than Bob McGrath Sings Sesame Street and The Partridge Family, was the Jackson 5's first album, that blue one, that looked like it had a frame on it? Remember? The five of them we're on it, and the tracks were "I Want You Back" and "ABC" and "I'll Be There"?

I was a fan.

Do you remember when he performed on Motown 25? How freaking COOL it was? I remember going to people's houses who had VCRs and had taped it. And we watched it over and over and over again. Bad lip synching damned. It was magic.

We all know in the latter part of his life he seemed, for all intents and purposes, a little bit bat shit crazy. And then the courts of law found him innocent of all those horrific charges. Still… his contribution to music is undeniable.

His story is so American, and so amazing, and so bizarre, and so tragic, all at once. I for one do hope he rests in peace.

This is such a great vocal on one of my favorite songs…bear with Bill Cosby.

Cathy ZielskeI was a fan

46 Comments on “I was a fan”

  1. #1

    What a fantastic post Cathy… you have the most amazing way with words. And seriously… I had forgotten about the sleeves… priceless, innocent, sweet, tragic, bizarre… and a huge lost.

  2. #2

    Cathy, sometimes you make me laugh so hard I cry. Like this sentence:
    “We all know in the latter part of his life he seemed, for all intents and purposes, a little bit bat shit crazy.” Only you could phrase something like that. Rock on.

  3. #3
    Rhonda H

    I remember watching the Jackson 5 on Ed Sullivan! Off the Wall was one of the first albums I purchased. I mean drooled over, saved for and purchased with hard-earned babysitting money. I also got the cassette tape so I could play it in the car…CONSTANTLY. THEN there was Billie Jean and THRILLER. I took and taught dance lessons, so I knew the whole thriller routine. And I can (could) moon walk, too. Before the arthritis in that big toe flared up. We stayed up for hours when MTV came to our area just WAITING to see a Michael Jackson video…Bad, Billie Jean, Thriller, etc…so many stars going this way too soon. Anna Nicole, River Phoenix, the Joker dude (can’t remember his name right now). I think living a “normal” life can be hard enough. Apparently, stardom is terminal.

  4. #4

    Thank you for this. The past few years my heart has ached for what he had become, but I was a fan too, long ago, and used to sneak over to the neighbor’s house to peak through the window to watch the Thriller video because we were too poor to have cable and my mom said it was not appropriate for kids anyway. He has now had to answer for whatever he did or did not do. I’m with you…I hope he rests in peace, wherever he has landed.

  5. #6

    I loved MJ! He was brilliant! I hope his whole family finds peace. He should be remember for what he did, not for what he might have done.

  6. #7

    Thanks Cathy I could NOT get enough of MJ when I was in my “tween” years. I remember saving my $$ to buy Thriller LP (yes LP)…I had posters all over my half of the room I shared with my sister…and cut out every article I could find about him to put in my “sticker book” (do you remember when sticker “trading” was in).

    I completely agree with you that while his life in the past 20 of so years was questionable at best, the mark he left in the music world is undeniable! Thriller was iconic for its time–remember the video…OMG–and yes I do remember the performace on Motown 25–amazing!

    Thanks for taking me on the little trip down memory lane!

  7. #8

    Sitting at work listening to Michael on satellite radio and remembering the first time I saw the Thriller video. I was at a party in Princeton. And my sister reminded me of the days we danced in our basement to the Jackson 5 singles on 45s. Dems the days bay-bee. (Just to clarify, he was not found “innocent”, he was acquitted – the jury had reasonable doubt).

  8. #9
    Kris Van Allen

    I’m right there with you. I graduated in 82. I think my roommate and I wore out my On the Wall LP my sophomore year. Thriller was groundbreaking, not only musically, but the video itself opened new doors of creativity to artists in storytelling. So many of his videos were, really. I remember waiting impatiently for the Thriller video to premiere, on MTv was it? And yeah, that Motown 25…what a dancer. He will be missed, and hopefully remembered for the mark he made on music only.

  9. #10
    Kim K

    I’m an ’85 grad so I’m feelin’ it too. Motown 25 WAS awesome…I remember Googling it for my kids last year so they could see it.
    I also remember my dad waking me up to watch the Jackson 5 on late night TV (I always thought it was the Ed Sullivan show, but I would have only been 3 or 4…is it possible to remember that? Maybe it was some other show).
    Did you buy Thriller 25? I didn’t, but will consider it.
    Very sad day for music.

  10. #12
    TerriB in Oregon

    So sad, so incredibly talented, it is hard to grasp all that he wrote and performed. So very, very tragic.

  11. #14

    Great post Cathy, loved this video clip it totally gave me chills and reminded me why I went crazy for the Jackson 5 in Jr High and still love MJ’s music today.It is truly sad that his life is cut short, such a talented person, he will be missed.

  12. #15
    Joy M.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Cathy. I graduated from HS 10 years before you, and I well remember the Jackson 5 on various shows in the seventies. He was an incredible performer with such talent we all saw wasted in his latter years. Like most of you, I longed for the Michael Jackson we once knew and hoped that it was still buried underneath all that freakishness that he became. The real tragedy was that those closest to him either didn’t see the problems, couldn’t do anything to help him or were unwilling to try. Sad…..

  13. #16

    My 5 year old son just came over to check it out and said “That guy sure can sing!” Amen to that! Thanks for sharing – that album was one of my faves too.

  14. #18
    Judy in huntsville [al]

    I, too, had to put a little post about the J-5 on my blog today- Michael’s music will be missed. I was lucky enough to have a dad who was willing to take this little white girl to see them LIVE – while we were completely unaware of racial tension in the south [still, in the early 70s] – we were so happy to see him in person! Michael and I are almost the same age so I feel like I grew up with him [and yes, the Osmonds too] – but he grew to be a super star, even if he was a bit bat shit crazy [and i think that’s a MILD description of his kind-of-crazy…] hoping you’re all taking alittlesomething for the piggy virus! Stay well!

  15. #19

    I, like many posting above me, LOVE “a little bit bat shit crazy”. I think that may very well be my next anklet tattoo, next to “Well ya can’t can ya So you don’t, do ya”. <3

  16. #20
    debbi h.

    i didn’t think my 9 year old would have a clue when I said Michael Jackson died but he knew “beat it” and that floored me. I grew up with michael jackson (i am only 2 years younger than him) and i still have the 45 of “ABC”.. it is a tragic loss in many ways– most of all its an example of all that can go wrong when children become celebrities and don’t have a childhood.

  17. #21

    Hey Cathy,
    this is a commercial for an insurance company here in my part of the states (I’m in Kentucky — and I love that they show the U of L marching band in the commercial). Anyway, every time I see it, especially those opening vocals, it brings this big lump to my throat and my eyes get all misty. Every time. Thought you might enjoy it — just another way that MJ’s music lives on.

  18. #23
    Wendy in ND

    hey Cathy- I am right there with ya on the whole MJ era…..I can totally remember when Thriller was on MTV for the first time! Wow, that was amazing! I am sad…what a musical talent and totally part of an American music revolution!
    Class of 86 baby…..I was there….with my big album and all…..

  19. #24

    I am a fan too. I grew up with Micheal Jackson and the Jackson 5. Watching them on Ed Sullivan, watching their variety show and their cartoon on Saturday Morning. I saw the Jackson 5 in Columbus, Ohio and their opening act was the Commodores. I will remember him for the great music he put out!

  20. #25

    I’m right there with you Cathy. I wore out my copy of Off the Wall and was a freshman in college when Thriller came out. I still think of it as one of the all-time greatest videos. I may have lost all respect for him personally, but I still think he was a brilliant performer. A very tragic end to a very tragic life.

  21. #26

    Another ’84 HS grad here that grew up with the original MJ!(although I admire Michael Jordan I don’t think too much of him as a person either.)

    Love MJ’s creativity, talent and moves. As a white girl testing her wings in the 80’s learning his moves was “Nasty” to quote Janet. 🙂

  22. #27

    You could just see what an amazing entertainer he was even as a child. His life really was a paradox, professionally rejoiced, personally scorned. I sometimes wonder how much people close to him took advantage of him, even unknowingly. How can you stay normal in that business? Would he still have been nuts if he was an accountant? I would not have wanted his life for all the talent and money in the world. This was interesting to read:

  23. #28

    very well put Cathy – thanks so much for this tribute – makes me sad to hear about his passing, but I too hope that he truly rests in peace – what an amazing performer!

  24. #29

    Great words Cathy, I also was a fan.
    I’m still sad he ended up as Wacko Jacko.
    But for Michael: thank you for the music, the clips and my memories

  25. #30
    April Gratteau

    Thank you for blogging about this. I read you blog, and have for a few years. And I was happy to see that you are one of the few that mentioned MJ’s passing. And the clip is amazing!

  26. #31

    So well put, Cathy, and thanks for the clip! Those outfits were CRAZY, but I gotta say that I enjoyed the way that Jermaine (I think) rocked the fringe.

  27. #32
    Tonja Trump

    Yep, those were the days! That boy had talent even back then..such an amazing talent taken too soon. He should have been allowed to WOW the future generations!

  28. #33

    Michael was a genius and he left us a legacy of wonderful music. I loved “Off the Wall” and remember how cool the “Thriller” video was – and still is. The choreography was superb. I hope that Michael is finally at peace.

  29. #34

    Yes, Cathy…you were truly a fan. I’ve been a fan of MJ for over 40 years and I have never seen that album cover in my life!!! Thanks for sharing the love we all share for MJ. Your words are well spoken.

  30. #37
    Sharon F.

    Great post. Perfect memorial words. I, too am the same age as Michael and watched him go from absolutely cute little boy to a man searching and wanting to be loved. He definitely could sing and I am enjoying the videos of his youth. Getting to watch color tv for the first time was so exciting. Interesting costuming back then, huh? Looks like Michael was the “sun” – in more ways than one to so many. I do hope he is in peace and his family will also find peace as well. Michael will definitely be remembered for his music and immense contribution to our culture.

  31. #39
    Sonja Chandler

    Awesome post Cathy! Thank you for it.

    The talent emitting from that child is surreal. A ridiculiously amazing talent. When I was 13 I would lay on my bedroom floor listening to Thriller for hours while plotting ways I could run off, find him and marry the man. I was obsessed to put it very mildly. (much to my fathers huge disapproval)
    I love, adored and (in the later years of his life) prayed for him ceasley.

    I am grateful for his life, his songs, his talent, his energy, his spirit and the definate impact he made on my life which cannot be explained in simple words. Grateful, grateful, grateful.

    Gratitude is the heart’s memory. – French Proverb

  32. #40
    Kary in Colorado

    That clip was probably from the Smothers Brothers show–that was Tommy Smothers who was talking to Bill Cosby. As I graduated from high school 15 years before you did, I remember Michael Jackson mostly as that little kid singing with his brothers. I probably even saw that show when it originally aired as my families were huge fans of the Smothers Brothers and their counterculture show.

    What a sad end for such a talented person. How lucky we are to still have all his music and video to remember him by.

  33. #41
    karin c

    stellar, that’s what his music was. i’ve got the first album (with the multi frames on the cover) but the best thing i’ve got is my BEN album, yeah, i do, and i’m not ashamed to admit it….

  34. #42
    Heidi P.

    I still have the albums, trading cards, gloves, keychains, concert programs, etcetc…couldn’t bring myself to part with them as I grew up. I even have The Wiz. Agreed he was batshit at the end. But I always felt sad for him. I so hope there is something better after this, and he is happy where he is-and all better. And I hope he sees how much people love him.

  35. #43

    I’m a little younger, and grew up at the Bad and Moonwalker stage of his career. I was obsessed with the Moonwalker video and must have watched it every day for a year!

    The end of the video, when he sings “Come Together” still sends shivers down my spine to this day.

    As a side note: you’ve tweeted about Aidan’s scrapbooking. When do we get to see some of her designs? It’s about time we heard from little Miss A again!

  36. #44
    Tamie Spears

    Class of ’84 here, too. Thank you for your post on Michael. I’ve been glued to the TV non-stop since the news came last Thursday. Though his life over the last 10 years or so has saddened me, I will always love his music and his amazing dancing. I remember when MTV first came out, but I haven’t seen any videos of his in a long time. I DVR’d about 12 hours of VH1 Classic this weekend because they ran all of his videos over and over. Can’t wait to share them with my kids.

  37. #45
    Susan D

    same sentiments here!! my first album when i got my record player was thriller (and hall and oates) in 5th grade. i can remember being hulled up in my bedroom listening to each song over and over until i knew every word. i still have that album, that was the mj that i loved. definitely a whackadoodle his later years. i hope nothing but the best for his children and peace for him.

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