Michael Jackson fans pay tribute by revisiting his music, videos

Michael Jackson fans will be allowed to visit the singer's burial site on Friday's (June 25) anniversary of his death. Forest Lawn cemetery will allow visitors to pay their respects and leave flowers on a an outdoor terrace near the mausoleum that holds Jackson's body.
By Avis Thomas-Lester
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 24, 2010; 6:28 PM

The pain is still sharp. They read the stories about how he died, why he died, who might have been responsible for him dying and it brings them more anguish.

They play his music over and over, as if one more turn of "I'll Be There" or "Billie Jean" will bring him back. They buy his posters, wear his T-shirts and remember. They are grown, they know they should get over it, but they still mourn.

"I always laughed at Elvis fans who swore that he was still alive, but now I understand because all of us Michael Jackson fans think he might be hanging out with Elvis," said Bridgette Cooper, 45, of Mitchellville. "Hopefully, we'll start having some Michael Jackson sightings."

Other fans accept that he's gone but still gather at makeshift celebrations to pay homage to his music and his genius. The gatherings end up like mini wakes, like at Coopers' house on Father's Day, when she and two relatives broke away from a party to listen to M.J. songs on her iPod. When "Maybe Tomorrow" came on, the mood went somber.

"They were both men and it was surprising to me how much they felt for him and how they had no problem expressing it," Cooper said. "We just listened to the music, sighed and shook our heads."

The hardest part, fans said, is the waste of it all. At 50, Jackson was still vital enough to hold his own with dancers half his age at rehearsals for his upcoming concert tour. The images they saw in "This Is It," the film of the tour rehearsals released after his death, showed that he was still their Mike.

"I learned so much about him from watching that movie that even I didn't know about him," said longtime fan Wendy Richardson, 46, of Bowie, who was among a group of friends who waxed nostalgic about Jackson one recent day at Cooper's home. "He turned me on in that movie. He was sexy. He was handsome. He moved well. It came across that he was still a smart businessman and creative genius."

Richardson, a medical sales rep, said she can't shake a sense of sadness. She's going to a party Friday night, the first anniversary of Jackson's death, but afterward, she's going to watch "This Is It." She first saw the film with friend Bonita Jones, 49, of Mitchellville. Jones said she has set her TiVo to record all the Michael Jackson programs scheduled Friday.

"Bonita is the one who bought me the ticket for 'This Is It' and we went to see it together at the movies on opening night," Richardson said.

Cooper and friends are gathering Friday at a friend's home for dinner. They'll dance and sing to Jackson records and watch his videos.

Marion Watkins, 71, of Upper Marlboro, a retired auditor, said she'll play his records, especially her favorites: "Earth Song," which still brings her to tears, and "Human Nature." She'll catch the interview with his mother, Katherine Jackson, on NBC's "Dateline."

"I was always so saddened by the criticism that was put upon him because that determined how his life was," she said. "I always thought about how difficult it was for him to cope when he was obviously someone who truly loved people."

Richardson said she is trying to remember the good times.

"My favorite thing about Michael Jackson was that every Saturday morning my brother and I used to get up early because his cartoon show came on," Richardson said. "We would stand in front of the television and do the turnabout, you know the dance. The little move where he put his foot behind him and did the little spin. We didn't eat breakfast, we didn't change out of our pajamas, we just looked at Mike and his brothers and did the turnabout!"

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