Where Is Michael Jackson’s Legacy 10 Years After His Death?


LOS ANGELES — There were fedoras and single white gloves and sequined military jackets. There was lots of moonwalking. Four people danced the choreography of “Smooth Criminal” in perfect sync.

Five dozen Michael Jackson superfans from around the world had come to a gaming arcade on Hollywood Boulevard on Monday, the beginning of two days of dancing, singing and prayers in honor of their hero.

Some remembered singing “A-B-C-1-2-3” as children; others listened to “Thriller” well into their 50s and 60s, but the one who stole the show was just an infant when Jackson died: a 10-year-old boy named Rudey Parra who glided across the arcade floor in his loafers and white glove, a flawless re-creation of moves he’d studied on YouTube. Another dancer, Gowardy Horton, 38, gave Rudey his fedora, crowning him the party’s reigning Michael.

On Tuesday, the 10th anniversary of his death, millions of Jackson’s fans and casual listeners recalled where they were when they heard or saw the news. Jackson’s death at age 50, from an overdose of drugs he had been administered to help him sleep, was a generational moment of shock. It also allowed a conflicted public to put off dealing with the uncomfortable rumors about his behavior with children.

In a small but telling referendum on Jackson’s reputation, a school in Hollywood that Jackson briefly attended as a child, Gardner Street Elementary, held a vote among parents and staff members this spring on whether to remove his name from the auditorium. They kept it.

Among many of the fans who gathered on Monday and Tuesday in the Los Angeles area, any mention of the documentary was met with reflexive dismissal. “To be honest, it’s made people more determined to celebrate,” said Rachel Gillard-Tew, 32, a pre-K teacher from New Zealand. “The fans have done the research and we’re quite convinced it’s rubbish.”

Ms. Gillard-Tew organized Monday’s dance party, which drew fans from Germany, Japan, Russia, Argentina, Israel, Australia and elsewhere. There was a 59-year-old woman from São Paulo, Brazil, who runs a Michael Jackson-themed hostel with a silhouette of his head at the bottom of its pool.

Another visitor, Peggy Wolf, 61, runs a Michael Jackson dance troupe, Dancing Dangerous, in Graz, Austria. Her entire wardrobe is inspired by Michael’s stage costumes and his everyday wear. She makes it all herself.

“When he died, I remember I was preparing lunch,” said Ms. Wolf, who was wearing a blue-sequined jacket. “I was broken. It doesn’t get better over the years.”

She even managed to put a positive spin on the release of “Leaving Neverland.” She said it brought his fans even closer together, and “a lot of people who were never interested in Michael Jackson are starting to look into him.”



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