Michael Jackson dead: a remembrance from a critic and fan

Never has so much triumph dissolved into so much tragedy.

From kid star to King of Pop to punchline. And now dead. Michael Jackson was 50 when he died earlier today of a heart attack. A shock — but, then again, when it came to Michael Jackson, nothing was.

Some people will dismiss Jackson's death as a fitting end to a twisted caricature of a life. They might even get a chuckle out of it. I won't. I'm hit. This is one of those celebrity deaths that I'll remember where I was when I heard about it. (As it turned it, it was at Cirque de Soleil; I left soon after.)

I'm upset, more than I guess I thought I'd be. But I'm focusing on memories. I was there, watching, when he wowed the country with his pre-adolescent charm on Ed Sullivan, his skin the color of milk chocolate. I was there, watching, as he turned into a man, still with childlike charisma.

I was there in 1979, in an arena in Honolulu, when he performed with The Jacksons, but the most riveting material was from his new album, Off The Wall. I was there, in front of the TV, when he first did the moonwalk on Motown 25 and folks talked about it for days, months. I was there, a newly minted music critic, giving Thriller all of three stars.

And yes, I was there when he gradually sanded his skin to the color of chalk and remade his nose into a button.