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Local response to Michael Jackson’s death

Post by Ernest Jasmin on June 25, 2009 at 7:21 pm with No Comments
June 25, 2009 7:21 pm

By now, you probably know that Michael Jackson has died. Here’s a local reaction story I’m working on for tomorrow’s paper.

Puget Sound’s music fans and local media reacted to the death of pop trailblazer Michael Jackson Thursday afternoon.

News that the 50-year-old performer had gone into cardiac arrest spread virally, with many receiving the news from Twitter or text message.

Others tuned into local music stations KUBE-FM (93.3) and KBKS-FM (Kiss, 106.1), which kept the King of Pop’s hits in heavy rotation. And over on KPTK-AM (1090), even Seattle pundit Ron Reagan shifted from talk of universal health care to take calls about the pop star’s demise.

In recent years, Seattle’s Experience Music Project had featured the sequined glove and black jacket that Jackson wore during his groundbreaking performance at Motown’s 25th anniversary celebration in 1983. Senior curator Jacob McMurray expected both items to be back on display today in homage of Jackson.

"It was very much a surreal moment today," McMurray said, describing Jackson’s impact on popular culture as "multi-faceted."

"He changed what we thought of as the music video," he said. "If he did one thing and it was just the moonwalk, we would remember him for that."

Kelly Robinson, 27, of Kent was among a cluster of Tacoma Mall shoppers and workers paused at a TV display watching CNN talk show host Larry King discuss Jackson’s legacy at Tacoma Mall.

"He’s bigger than life," said Robinson, who planned to go home and listen to the fallen singer’s hits later. "You would never think Michael Jackson is dead at this young of an age. You don’t think Michael Jackson is touchable."

Kevin Leonor, 21, of Puyallup also watched the King broadcast. "I grew up with Michael Jackson, probably one of the greatest singers there ever was," he said. "’Thriller’ was my absolute favorite when I was younger. It just goes to show you’ve gotta watch your health. A heart attack at 50? He’s not even that big a person."

Jackson’s legacy had become tarnished during the latter part of his career thanks to media accounts of bizarre public behavior and allegations of child molestation.

Lorrie Brown, 43, of Tacoma was among those who had mixed feelings about the pop singer.

"I used to like his music," Brown said. "But then I got kind of ticked off when they started to have stories about him and children. I just think it happened too many times to be coincidence, and I didn’t like that. That was really a turnoff for me because I’ve got kids."

Heather Richter, 18 of University Place shrugged off Jackson’s death. She was more familiar with the King of Pop’s tabloid-worthy escapades than his actual hits (of which she could only name "Thriller.)

"He’s not of my generation," she said. "It’s a lost life. But I don’t know why people are blowing it out of proportion."

But despite Jackson’s controversies, McMurray felt his accomplishments would shine through.

"I think in a way it’s a testament to his popularity and his legacy that all of that stuff can happen, but what we really remember Michael Jackson for is all of these musical and pop cultural accomplishments," he said.

"He really does deserve that appellation, the King of Pop."