The Michael Jackson Raiford Bush knew just wanted to be a kid.
The Michael Jackson I remember is the 21-year-old I met while I was a news anchor for the ABC affiliate in High Point, North Carolina. He and his brothers, “The Jacksons,” were scheduled in 1979 to tour the Piedmont region of North Carolina.
Prior to their performance at the Greensboro Coliseum, I had enjoyed many conversations with his father, Joe. After about three months of dialogue, Joe and I finally exchanged private numbers. I was in my kitchen baking brownies when Joe called, granting me an exclusive backstage interview with his sons — Michael, Randy, Tito and Marlon.
Hanging out with Michael and his brothers was an experience of a lifetime. They were all quite nervous, especially Michael. The sound was deafening. The excitement, unforgettable.
Following the concert, The Jacksons attended a party I co-hosted with the owner of the Cosmos Club in Greensboro. Michael and his younger brother, Randy, seemed starved for normal childhood. They started an innocent food-fight in front of their father and to my surprise. As their senior, I verbally scolded them not about wasting food, but over the possibility of creating grease stains on my aqua silk dress. Although Randy adjusted his behavior, Michael taunted me with a greasy chicken wing. “Michael, if you stain my dress, both you and I will headline the morning news!” I told him. He giggled, wiped his hands, then began tickling my knee. Each time I removed his hand, he would tickle the other one. This continued throughout the entire extended interview with him.
From a psychological viewpoint, I realized that Michael was merely showing me how to take advantage of a moment in time that might never happen again. In a therapeutic way, he re-awakened the child in me. He wanted me to stop being so serious and enjoy the simple things in life. That was my first and last personal encounter with Michael, who grew to become the most successful recording artist on the planet.
Thanks, Michael, for putting me in check that day. Shall we both remain forever young. Rest in peace.