Brooklyn Loves You, Michael Jackson
Published August 31, 2009
Photo by Eternal Polk
On Saturday afternoon, a woman in a short, red dress and flaunting a charm necklace with “M” and “J” in two-inch gold letters boarded the Q train heading from Union Square to Brooklyn. She gossiped with her friend, who wore a frayed shirt proclaiming “Mr. MJ = King of Pop,” as a couple of teenagers to their right practiced their pelvic thrusts to the tinny sound of “Billie Jean” emanating from a cell phone speaker. A few cars back, a six-year-old, be-froed Jackson impersonator clutched his mother’s hand. (“He’s going to win the moonwalking contest,” she told my friend.) With a zombie-like one-track mind (but far more flare), the crowd headed to Prospect Park for the Spike Lee-curated, Marty Markowitz-approved memorial dance party commemorating what would have been the King of Pop’s 51st birthday. Despite the damp weather, thousands of fans streamed through winding paths toward the middle of the park.
Ringleader Spike Lee, himself clad in a “Brooklyn Loves Michael Jackson” T-shirt, periodically surveyed the scene from the DJ stage. At one point, Reverend Al Sharpton took the stage to lead crowd in a moment of silence (“Let us remember how he rocked us,” he solemnly intoned). Comedian Tracy Morgan showed the crowd “karaoke Michael Jackson-style,” singing to “The Way You Make Me Feel” as the lyrics flashed up on an adjacent jumbotron– though, truth be told, it didn’t seem like anyone needed help with the words.
Vendors milled through the crowd, hawking homemade Thriller clocks, Bad umbrellas, and all manner of Jackson memorial shirts, buttons, and posters. Fans held aloft signs emblazoned with “Ma ma se, ma ma sa, ma ma coo sa!!!” and “Hee hee!” Parents hoisted their children on to their shoulders to get a better look at the crowd, and toddlers danced beside the steel barriers separating the crowd from a mostly bored-looking assembly of NYPD officers. Impersonators of every age and Jacko era milled about or moonwalked, including a boy dressed as a zombie from “Thriller” and an elderly woman in a Sergeant Pepper jacket and aviators. (PHOTO BY JA’NELL NEQUEVA)
As the party wound down, Spike and company brought out a cake and cued an R&B-inspired version of “Happy Birthday,” which prompted a few tears from fans. Before the last song played–appropriately enough, “Beat It”–DJ Spinna implored the crowd to throw up their hands “so Michael can see us.” A sea of fists, dotted with silver right-handed gloves, thrust towards the sky.