Friday, June 26, 2009

Wacko For Jacko: How A City Reacts To A Pop Icon's Death

It was hard to escape the news of the death of pop star Michael Jackson on Thursday. After all, it happened right here in Los Angeles. From Twitter tweets to Facebook updates to web sites to TV news coverage, what people heard from all corners of the world unfolded right here in our backyard.

The Militant even caught sight of the Sheriff's Department helicopter that carried Jackson's corpse from UCLA Medical Center in the Westside to the Coroner's Office in the Eastside. He even snapped a picture of it (pictured left) from the Militant Compound as it flew in the skies over Koreatown at about 6:45 p.m.

Prior to that, a crowd gathered in Westwood, outside the Medical Center to either stand vigil, find out news, pay their tributes or offer prayers (The Militant was also at that point praying that there would be no Michael Jackson-related rioting...hey, prayers answered).

Then later in the evening, fans gathered on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where a sidewalk star bearing Michael Jackson's name was found on Vine Street between Sunset and Selma, and soon flowers, cards and candles found their place there.

Unfortunately, it was for the other Michael Jackson. Oops.

The recently deceased pop icon's star is on Hollywood Boulevard, right by the equally iconic Mann's Chinese Theatre, which was cordoned off for the already-planned premiere festivities of the Sacha Baron Cohen movie, Bruno.

But that didn't stop fans from gathering there, and the media from flocking there to cover the gathering. The Militant, en route to a planned activity elsewhere in Hollywood, dropped by to see what was going on. There were reporters, cameras, bright lights, and crowds with people offering quotes. There was even one dude in an '80s zipper jacket, with a "Bad" tour t-shirt underneath.

The Militant also had a chat with KTTV Channel 11 reporter Hal Eisner and another onlooker regarding the "wrong star" fiasco. Eisner said "It doesn't really matter where people want to show their feelings [for Michael Jackson], as long as the personal emotion is there." He also said that the fans who built the makeshift memorial "Probably just saw his name and decided to make a memorial there." But he noted that it probably didn't really matter to the fans whether it was the correct star or not.

The Militant made a comment about people having the need for some symbolic location with a connection to the deceased, but Eisner recalled that when John Lennon died in 1980, there was no such gathering at the Beatles' star in front of the Capitol Records building up the street (The Militant will not specify whether this exchange with Eisner was made on- or off- camera).

The Militant also asked Eisner whether the living Michael Jackson could be asked to comment on the "wrong star" issue. He said "That might be a touchy subject."

Fortunately, the living Jackson, on his website today, offered a heartfelt tribute to the deceased Jackson, from one MJ to another, and said of the "wrong star" fiasco: "The fans have gathered and placed mounds of flowers to pay respects to him at my star. I am willingly loan [sic] it to him and, if it would bring him back, he can have it. He was a real star."

As we have seen in the past few weeks, the people of Los Angeles are hungry for proper gathering spaces, whether it's to celebrate a sports championship or to mourn the passing of a celebrity icon. Whether to share elation or sadness, it's for the purpose of connecting with each other. By not having proper public gathering spaces, people will either take them over by brute force, or naive misunderstanding.

1 comment:

brainylagirl said...

I heard "the other" Michael Jackson talking to Pat Morrison on KPCC yesterday about this very thing, where for most of the interview he sounded slightly perturbed about the Walk of Fame Star mix-up (but then he's got one of those voices that always sounds slightly perturbed -- think Baby Stewie on "Family Guy"). At the end of the exchange, though, he did say something along the lines of the quotation you have here, which was super classy of the guy, I thought.