Michael Jackson fans mourn from Sydney to Bogota
Associated Press Writer
SYDNEY (AP) – The news stunned nearly everyone, from the young man in Colombia who was named after the King of Pop, to Malaysians who named a soy drink for him, to a generation of people around the world who have tried to moonwalk.
Michael Jackson’s death Thursday in California prompted broadcasters from Sydney to Seoul – where the news came early Friday – to interrupt morning programs, while fans remembered a “tortured genius” whose squeals and sliding moves captivated a generation and who sparked global trends in music, dance and fashion.
Even world leaders weighed in. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called it “lamentable news,” though he criticized the media for giving it so much attention. Former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, who had met Jackson, said: “We lost a hero of the world.”
Within minutes of Jackson’s arrival by ambulance at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, people began arriving by the hundreds outside. As word spread that he was dead, people burst into tears. Others stood in disbelief.
At Times Square in New York, the crowd groaned as the news of his death flashed across a giant TV screen.
“My heart is heavy because my idol died,” said Byron Garcia, security consultant at a Philippine prison who organized the famous video of 1,500 inmates synchronized dancing to “Thriller.” The video has had 23.4 million hits on YouTube.
Garcia said the inmates in Cebu will hold a tribute for Jackson on Saturday with their “Thriller” dance and a minute of prayer.
In Bogota, Colombia, a 24-year-old tattoo artist named Michael Tarquino said his parents named him after Jackson. He recalled growing up with electricity rationing for hours at a time and waiting for the power to return.
“When the light came back on I would play my Michael Jackson LP, and I’d stand at the window and sing along,” he said.
Japanese fans were always among Jackson’s most passionate supporters, and news of his death came as a huge shock. Michiko Suzuki, a music critic who met Jackson several times in the 1980s, said the country was likely to be mourning for some time.
“Everyone was imitating his ‘moonwalk’ when it was a hit. He was a true superstar,” she said.
Jackson also had a huge fan base in Seoul, South Korea, where his style and dance moves were widely emulated by Korean pop stars.
“He was a star when I was little. Learning of his death, I felt like I had lost some of my own childhood memories,” said Kim Nam-kyu, 36.
In central Mexico City, Jackson impersonator Esteban Rubio, 30, organized an impromptu tribute to the musical star.
“I feel sad, as if a part of my life were torn away,” said Rubio, who wore a black fedora and aviator-style sunglasses and held a bouquet of sunflowers. “He changed the world. … His legend begins today.”
In Sydney, where Jackson married second wife Debbie Rowe in 1996, a celebrity publicist who was a wedding guest and worked on Jackson’s Australian tour that year described him as a “tortured genius.”
“He was very gentle, very quiet, very shy,” Di Rolle told Sky News television. “He was a very complicated, strange man, women loved him and men loved him too. It’s such a sad day, a very sad day.”
Online communities across the world posted tributes.
“I had tears in my eyes when I found out,” Charles Winter, 19, from Adelaide, Australia, told The Associated Press. He led a Facebook group of more than 60,000 members that was petitioning Jackson to add Australia to his concert tour planned for this year. “He was such an inspiration. It doesn’t matter if you’re 40, 60 or 20, his music appeals to everyone.”
In Malaysia, a drink mixing soy milk with strips of dark jelly is named after Jackson’s “Black or White” song, and locals just ask for “Michael Jackson” or “MJ” when they order. Yet the government nearly banned Jackson’s 1996 HIStory concert tour for being too raunchy for the conservative, predominantly Islamic nation.
“Hopefully he will always be remembered like Princess Diana,” said Noh Yusof, 29, a legal adviser in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s main city.
But IT specialist Ivan Ho, 48, said Jackson’s success went to his head.
“He is a weirdo,” he said. “With the kind of money he has, he could have done much more for charity” rather than have cosmetic surgery.
The international arts community mourned the loss of a unique performer.
Peter Kam, a prominent pop composer in Hong Kong, said he learned from Jackson the importance of a catchy melody.
“Every one of his songs is easy to remember. He was great at leaving a deep impression in a simple way,” Kam said.
In Brazil, movie director and musician Felipe Machado called Jackson “perhaps the best performer that ever existed.” Singer-composer and former Culture Minister Gilberto Gil also expressed his sorrow.
“It makes me very sad to see such a great and incredible talent leave us so soon – a talent that provided all of us with some wonderful moments,” he told Folha Online news service. “I’ll miss the King of Pop.”
Associated Press writers Rod McGuirk in Canberra; Peter Orsi in Mexico City; Stan Lehman in Sao Paolo; Jorge Rueda in Caracas; Madeleine Bair in Bogota; John Rogers in Los Angeles; Kim Yong-ho in Seoul; Min Lee in Hong Kong; Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo; and Teresa Cerojano in Manila contributed to this report.