Michael Jackson visits Recycled Records - by Andrew Rush
Last night after we closed the doors at the record store, three men came to the door. Two looked like rich gay guys dressed in dark clothes and moussed hair, but the third guy was dressed up like an Arab sheik, covered from head to toe. He had sunglasses on and he had a cotton veil pulled across his face. He was in all white. One of the guys was asking us to let them in. We began to brush him off, but then he insisted, "It's very hard for him (the sheik) to shop." Anyway, it was starting to seem weird, so Mike, my colleague, let them in. It almost felt like we were going to be robbed.
They wanted to know right away where the spoken word section was. I showed them to the back of the store and when the veil came away and the sunglasses came off and I saw that incredible face, I thought it was a gag. His facial hair looked like stage hair and he had a bandage on his incredibly thin nose. But, when I heard that voice ask, "Do you have any more Edgar Allen Poe," I knew that it was really and truly the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. When I returned to the front of the store, his companion said to us, "I think you know who it is by now." Anyway, that began an hour and a half of my night with Michael Jackson — a night in which I shared with him some of the songs which I love the best and he shared with us his inimitable sweet, boyish presence. I still feel really weird, but I assure you, I shit you not!
I'll just have to get to the memories randomly, as the magic really hasn't had time to coalesce in my mind. He kept singing that line from "The City of New Orleans" by Arlo Guthrie, "Good morning, America, how are you∑" He smelled kind of like a Catholic priest. They all were wearing cologne. But Michael had the scent of the super-rich, reclusive count. We played one of his favorite songs for him at his friend's request: "Lightning Strikes" by Lou Christie. We didn't have any records by the band that does his favorite song, The Cowsills. He asked for Free Design but we didn't have it. He also wanted 101 Strings. He bought a lot of Harry Belafonte, Sarah Vaughan, Shirley Temple, boys' choirs, Disney stuff, and a lot of 60's pop.
I asked him at one point if he wanted a Smurfs record and he said, "No, thank you." He said, "Do you have that song "Paper Cup" by the Fifth Dimension?" He also bought a bunch of old nude stuff-clipped out pictures from nudist magazines and old shots of posed nude women. I asked him if he wanted any of these old TV theme paperbacks we had and began to read off the titles. "I'll take the Brady Bunch!" he said. He also bought a big poster of Burt Bacharach. His friend wanted only sealed records, but Michael didn't seem to care about condition or which issue it was. In fact, he didn't seem like a record collector at all. He just seemed like he was buying a bunch of records on a lark. At one point when we had taken him down to the basement to look through all of the junk, he turned and asked me, "Do you like Diana Ross and the Supremes' music?" I said that I did and I asked him what his favorite song was by them. He said "Stop In the Name of Love", I think. I told him that mine was "I Hear A Symphony", and he said that he loved that one, too. He said he thought it was a shame that their reunion tour that was supposed to happen didn't because they couldn't get along.
At that point, he told me that he really wanted an old portable record player and I said that I had one at home that I would sell to him. He asked me, "Can you get it?" So, I ran home to get it and brought back a Wandering Stars CD to give him, as well. He asked me how much I wanted for the record player. I asked, "How much do you want to pay me for it?" He said, "Well, you have to name a price." I told him $15 and it was a deal. He paid with a $100 bill. All he had were $100 bills. Then he asked me, "Does it work?" I told him it did and he asked me, "Can you plug it in?" The crazy thing was that I had run most of the way home and it is practically a 90-degree angle straight uphill. So, when I got back to the store, I kept coughing and I thought to myself, "I gotta cool it, or Michael's not gonna want to be near me anymore!" Because at that point, I had touched him. I had gently held his arm as I had directed him toward the stairs when we were going down to the basement. But, he really didn't seem like a germ freak at all. He was really normal in that respect. In fact, he wasn't imposing at all. He was a guy who you just wanted to be nice to! I played him Bertha Tillman's "Oh My Angel" and Walter Jackson and "Can You Hear Me" off of David Bowie's "Young Americans." I called him Michael and he would avert his eyes and smile. When I gave him the WS Cd, he asked, "Is it copyrighted?" I said yeah and he said, "Good."
He autographed a record for each of us that worked there. Mine was "Thriller." When Mike, my colleague, held up a copy of the soundtrack to "The Wiz", one of Michael's companions (one who said they had been friends since they were 12 years old) said, "I know a very talented young man who was in that movie he played the scarecrow." At this, Michael smiled shyly. Another time, this same guy was showing Michael a CD by some female vocalist. I couldn't see who it was. Anyway, he was saying, "Remember, we were on stage and she was holding you and she wouldn't let go?" Michael didn't seem to remember and his friend continued, "Remember, we were there with Liz?" Michael then said, "I'll have to see the tape."
You know, his skin was very white. He was wearing makeup, like foundation. And, his eyes were really wide. He was wearing jeweled, woven black leather shoes. I couldn't really see his hair, but it looked pretty long and straight. The crazy thing was indeed, that we were hanging out with Michael Jackson, but even more, that he was dressed up like a sheik the whole time! Also, we were really hanging out with him. It wasn't like we just shook hands backstage or something. I was bugging him about whether he liked the songs that I wanted him to like just like I do my friends! Super. He was super sweet—hard to stress that enough. When they were getting ready to leave, they asked for wet paper towels with a little soap to wipe off their hands with. I said yes, I have to wash my hands about twenty times a day working in a dirty record store. Michael said, "You should get some HandiWipes; they're really great. Better yet, Baby Wipes." Anyway, I'll probably remember more, but I will say that after they left, they were going to a Mexican restaurant in Hayward.