This is a true story, one I thought you all knew. Since the Grapefruit Gal didn’t know, maybe you don’t either.
When I was 12, Michael Jackson touched me in a Las Vegas hotel.
My family, in an attempt to one-up the Griswolds, takes a Christmas Vegas Vacation. I am 12, my brother is 10, and we are staying at the Excalibur hotel/casino, back when it wasn’t the (lovable) dump it is today. We arrive late, get dinner, and take a brief tour of the casino’s second-level entertainment & shopping area. We return back to the escalators when they stop with a heavy thud. (In other words, they transform into stairs.)
Immediately, a roar is apparent from the floor below us. Yes, every Las Vegas casino has a characteristic din, a combination of inhaled cigarettes, stacked chips, idle conversation, and slot machine bells. But this is different; this is, as I said, a roar. Not the kind that come from Sigfried and Roy’s white tigers, either, if they roar, which I don’t know if they do.
This is a roaring crowd.
Six burly, black-shirted, bald men storm up the steps, clearing a path for what comes behind them. Not that any path needs to be cleared; the escalator is empty and the shopping floor mostly so, given that it is after midnight on a weeknight in a family hotel. The only thing, living or otherwise, in their way is me, standing near the top of the escalator.
They don’t move me.
A glint catches my eye. Nowadays, these glints seem to be sourced by gaudy engagement rings. But on this night, the blue glare is being cast by the shoulder pads of a jacket — a head barely rising above which is covered in tight black curls, and the head turns, and big black sunglasses bend toward me.
Not rhinestones, but whatever the glittery blue material is, I follow it down the arms, where the right sleeve ends at a hand clad in a shiny silver glove.
The left hand is bare, and holds the right of a young black boy maybe half my age.
The figure, barely taller than myself, is looking at me. Or at least I think he is; the glasses are very dark. And there is no mistaking who this man is, and in fact I don’t need to see his face, sunglasses, jacket, or gloves to know.
I know because his presence announces it.
My right hand is extended due to my having been playing with the static escalator handrail just prior to his arrival. He grasps it with his gloved hand (and I should note here that it is not “the” glove, just ‘a’ glove) and peeps in a higher pitch than I expect,
“it’s nice to meet you.”
He turns, and another bald, black-shirted, burly man pushes me aside. The unlikely, to me, couple walks past us followed by another six burly, black-shirted, bald security guards.
And the roar swallows me. Hundreds of people, nearly all of them women, storm up the steps — most screaming, few comprehensible. Some are crying. The ones that I can understand are just yelling, “MICHAEL!!! MICHAEL!!!” over and over again.
I watch them rush past me. I am an island in their river of adoration, one destined to flow toward an ocean that does not exist. The crowd trickles down, and finally ends, and the escalators start back up.
The shopping floor is not that large, and when the ensemble returns to the escalators, I am still here, frozen. The escalators stop, the security guards walk down them, Jackson and his… friend… step gingerly down them, security guards follow, 250 screaming women follow, escalators chug back to life.