The year was 1984, and I was an 8 year old caught up in the Michael Jackson craze.
There was no escaping the mania. Thriller was *the* album. Kids of all ages were either wearing or begging for red leather jackets covered in zippers. Knowing how to execute the perfect moonwalk on the playground won you more accolades than owning the latest, greatest toy. My elementary school even piped in Weird Al's "Beat it" parody, the aptly titled "Eat it" in the cafeteria during lunch.
My mom even fell victim to the craze and I found myself wearing a red leather "Beat it" jacket that winter. I wore that jacket with pride, over my Michael Jackson Thriller cover iron-on T-shirt, my vending machine Michael Jackson pendant, while carrying my Michael Jackson loose leaf binder to school.
I thought I had it made, until I saw the commercial on TV for the LJN Michael Jackson 12 inch fashion dolls. Forget Ken. Barbie needed Michael Jackson!
I told my mom.
This wasn't something I wanted. This was something I needed! I needed this doll. Every kid I knew needed this doll.
My mom understood.
Christmas was coming up and she said I'd done extra well in school and that I earned the doll. I just had to choose which Michael I wanted.
He came in three styles if I remember correctly: Thriller, Grammy Awards, and Beat it.
I choose Beat it. I liked that particular jacket best, and I did already have a child sized one I wore every time the temperature dropped below 70.
I remember going to several stores with my mother looking for it. Seems I had been correct: everyone needed this doll. They were no where to be found. If you got lucky and found one, it was Michael wearing the sparkly military jacket he wore to the Grammys. No one wanted frilly Grammy Michael. You wanted cool Zombie Thriller Michael, or young street tough gang banger Beat it Michael.
I'm not quite sure how, but my mom managed to find a Beat it Michael with the help of her brother, my uncle Joe. Of course, I was unaware at the time. All I was told was that Santa brought me *a* Michael, but not which one.
To make thing worse, Santa dropped off the present in early December, where it sat under the Christmas tree... Taunting me nonstop for weeks on end. I do believe that was the longest wait of my young life. Every day I woke up I would go to the tree, pick up the wrapped box and look at the label with my name on it. Every day I had to force myself to put it back before my mom caught me.
Those endless days were absolutely nothing compared to Christmas Eve though. That was the epitome of a slow torture: 24 hours that would never end, that dragged on and on, no distractions since it was too cold to play outside, nothing on TV, and that brightly wrapped box with my name on it.
The night before, I had the most vivid dream. I dreamt I opened the box and played with my new Michael Jackson doll.
Michael went camping in Barbie's camper and hung out with John Travolta. We ate lunch together. We built a snow fort outside in our matching red zippered jackets. It was magnificent.
Then I woke up and I realized I had been dreaming. The sense of loss I felt was overwhelming. I had to go out and look at the box to remind myself that, yes it was a dream but that I still had a chance to live it.
When the time came to open presents, I grabbed the Michael box and set it aside. I was going to savor the moment. I was going to open all my other presents first to get the crud out of the way so that nothing would taint my Michael moment.
I remember getting a plush Gizmo from Gremlins that year, which I was pleasantly surprised by. I loved Gizmo. I also received a Cabbage Patch doll. Cabbage Patch dolls were the hot ticket item that year, and I fear what my uncle must have had to do to get me one... only to have me set it aside, unimpressed. Xavier Roberts' golden goose was nothing compared to the power of "The Thriller," as Vincent Price was fond of telling me.
Finally I ripped open Michael. He had the Beat it outfit on. I was overjoyed.
I don't think I came out of my room for the rest if Christmas break, as Michael and I were busy. Michael enjoyed wearing Ken's fashions and traveling by Barbie camper. Sometimes Barbie wore his jacket.
That was an awesome Christmas vacation.