Because I’m Bad. I’m Bad. You Know it.

Years ago, when it was already way uncool to like Michael Jackson in the U.S., I spent an evening at the friend of a friend’s place in a little town in France. The only phrase the girl knew in English was, “I love Michael Jackson,” which, honestly, didn’t need to be said. Every inch of her bedroom walls were plastered with wrinkled posters of Michael Jackson moonwalking, and of him singing on stage with his arms wide (a la “Man in the Mirror”) and, from different perspectives, of the gloved hand.

A good four years before the France incident, in dance class (yes, dance class), my group had performed to “The Way You Make Me Feel,” from the Bad album. When one is as uncoordinated as I was as a child, the preparation for such a routine is extensive, and I listened to the song (and so did my family—sorry again about that) approximately 43 billion times. Then there was the stuff with McCauley Culkin and all, which was depressing, so I kind of put Michael Jackson out of my mind. I’ll drunk shuffle to him at weddings, but that’s about it.

For a long time, Michael Jackson was pretty much the only celebrity from the U.S. that got any play outside of the continent. As popular as Michael Jackson was in America when I was a kid, it’s hard to realize that overseas, he was even bigger. He was f-ing huge. And the difference is, he stayed that way, despite the (alleged?) pedophilia and all.


Yesterday in class, oddly, we learned to conjugate the word for “die.”

This morning, the Italian (with the diamond-studded tooth) said in Spanish, “Good morning. How are you? Michael Jackson died.” It’s getting exciting now that we can really communicate deeply like this, what with me not speaking Italian and him not speaking English.

“Yes,” I said. “Sad. It’s sad. Did you cry?” I’m working hard on mocking in Spanish, apparently.

“A little, yes,” he said, completely deadpan.

“Oh,” I said. “Really? [in English now] Did I use the right word for ‘cry’? Shit, okay. [and back in Spanish] I’m sorry. Wow, it is sad. It’s true. It is sad that Michael Jackson died.”

“I love Michael Jackson,” he told me, and opened his workbook.


Note: For another look at the King of Pop, please see the fantastic blog post written by my friend Matt at The Norman Nation:

4 Comment

  1. It seems all the Spanish you speak in class is about being sad and or crying. I love it. I love that every sentence ends with, “I am sad” or “Did you cry”. Just as God intended, I think.

  2. haha, I love that you’re working on your mocking skills. It can be so difficult to sound insincere in a different language. I also love that he said yes. You’re right it’s hard to realize the magnitude of world wide love for him outside of the states. I remember when I was in Cuba my friend who spoke little English and I would just sit around singing the few Bon Jovi lyrics we both knew. Thank goodness for the global nature of American culture so that we all have something to mime/talk about.

  3. I remember that recital like it was yesterday,Michael would have been proud.

  4. The Way You Make Me Feel — I remember that video sooo well. My dad used to sing that song all the time. It was a Zulli household favorite. “Yeh knock me offa my feet, now, babe — h-EEE!!”

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