While adoration was merited, the shameless commercialism was tasteless

By Gregory Moore


Fans of the King of Pop adorned the front door area of the Apollo Theatre with cards and letters

Fans of the King of Pop adorned the front door area of the Apollo Theatre with cards and letters

RICHMOND, VA — Greetings from Richmond, VA…former capital of the Confederacy. Home of some of the best jerk chicken outside of Jamaica (or Jamaica Queens for that matter), and of course my resting spot before I jump on the big bird tomorrow back to the Alamo City.


I decided to actually take a vacation this year and amidst the recession, spend some money and go to New York City.


In one word let me say that the trip was splendid.


I did enjoy seeing all the sights and hearing the sounds of the Big Apple.


I thoroughly enjoyed jumping on the subway and going uptown to the Museum of Natural History, walking along 42nd Street, down 5th Avenue and sitting in Bryant and Greeley Parks. I even enjoyed actually driving through the city the last couple of days to go across every major bridge in the city and hitting all five boroughs in some shape form or fashion.


But what was probably the highlight and low light of the vacation was my trip to Harlem USA; home of the famed Apollo Theatre and where a family friend had a street named after him.


It was there in Harlem that I got my oxtails in a soul food restaurant but it was also there where I got what I think was also one of the biggest disappointments in my 42 years of life.


For the first real time in my life, I saw my own ‘people’ shamelessly exploit a tragedy for their own need and good and it was sad.


It was also disgusting.


Here is a tragedy in which even I wanted to buy a t-shirt in commemoration but something told me not to do that.


Don’t ask me why but it didn’t happen.


And even as we walked away, one vendor was like, “C’mon man this is our era”.


And that’s the problem.


MJ was sort of my generation.


Yeah sure he was eight years older than me but I grew up on his music.


I remember the cartoon series that was on ABC.


I remember songs like “Ben”, “I’ll Be There” and “ABC”.


Hell I remember his appearance on the “Dating Game”.


I remember how the Jacksons had their “Victory” tour in Cincinnati and I went with friends and family.


And of course I had my copy of “Off the Wall” which is somewhere in my parents’ home or sitting on the baby grand in the restaurant.


The point is that I was a MJ fan; I’m still and MJ fan and to see African Americans actually be out there making money not just off of t-shirts but off of BOOTLEG copies of his music is just sickening to my stomach.


Maybe I’m being overly sensitive on the issue.


Maybe I’m not.


The t-shirt selling is one thing but to sell bootleg copies of the man’s music is something totally different.


It’s bad enough that nobody is paying royalties to MJJ Enterprises on the likeness images but there are artists who work hard for their product and to sell bootleg copies of their ‘masterpieces’ musically is just wrong.


But yet there i was, standing on West 125th in front of the Apollo Theatre admiring the many shows of love from adoring fans to MJ and behind me was brotha man and his sidekick selling a bootleg copy of Thriller, the 25th Anniversary.


yeah sickening is the only way to describe the feeling because while I didn’t tell anyone else I was with, I was just sick to my stomach about that incident.


I don’t know if I can say it was greed, necessity or just being opportunistic on these ‘entrepreneurs’ parts. 


Maybe a combination of all three.


However what I do know is that across the country, scenes like I just described has been happening from the moment Jackson passed away two Thursdays ago.


I can’t tell you that I’m shocked that it happened; the shameless hocking of merchandise that is.


but what I can tell you that my reverence for the Apollo Theatre, a place where little Michael Jackson and his brothers won an amateur night when he was nine years old, certainly has dimmed a bit.


Maybe what I’ll have to do is come back in a year without the kiddies, take the tour of the building next door like a friend suggested, call up some friends who live in Harlem, and get the real scoop on what Harlem is like.


Not what was etched in my brain on a two hour excursion while waiting to get back on the subway.


One response to “While adoration was merited, the shameless commercialism was tasteless

  1. Micheal Jackson had talent he could dance but the simple sad fact is before the world knew him he was exploited. The multiple accounts of Joe Jackson’s abuse to the whole family and how Joe focused on Michael. As a child Micheal was marketed and sold by his father. The whole family was. Crass marketing and flim flammery have been with the Jackson phenomina from start to finish. IE Don King and the victory tour. If Joe Jackson got slapped or decked for what he did to his kids which was no different then what you saw he would find a way to cash in on it like those vendors your saw.

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