Friday Filler- When MJ Came to Springfield

Thank Grog It’s Firday!!!!

In full disclosure, I am writing this before the actual Friday, as on this day (which is Friday, and isn’t Friday because I’m writing it early) I will be at Disneyland, with Debbie, the love of my life, Alissa, Riley, Andrew (the love of Alissa’s life) and most likely the Wookster (the love of many people’s lives)…and maybe even (he keeps saying 95% chance) Safi!  I love Disneyland. I mean…it IS the happiest place on earth! And let’s face it…we could all use some “happy” right now.

I love Disneyland almost as much as Katie (my recently married middle daughter) loved Michael Jackson when she was little.  I mean REALLY loved him. He came to play with her almost every day. She loved his teeth. She loved the way he chased her around the back yard… She loved the way he was there, whenever she wanted him to be there.

I admit it. I was a little jealous of Michael.

It was the winter of 1998, and Katie Miller was just barely 2 years old, but already a Michael Jackson fan. “Back in the day,” I worked with Will Vinton Claymation on a number of projects, and during the time that we were working on the Claymation Christmas album for Atlantic, part of the Vinton team was working on segments of the Michael Jackson short film “Moonwalker.”  Originally scheduled to be released for Christmas in 1988, it was delayed until Jan 1989…but as a surprise “gift,” many of us received advanced copies in time to offer up as surprise Christmas Gifts…and one landed in the Christmas stocking of one Katie Miller.

Big mistake.

In short order, Katie was obsessed with the video.  Perhaps as an indicator of her future in production in network TV, Katie had already mastered most of my electronic equipment by the age of two…including an early CD player, some of my studio tape transport controls, and the VHS tape player…especially the VHS tape player.

Compared to many, Katie was a late talker. Brilliant in her ability to grasp complex concepts and technical tools…it was as if her mouth just couldn’t keep up with her brain. But, she was prolific in both imagination, and mimicry…as we soon found out.

She would start every day with viewing of “Moonwalker”…skipping the opening sequences to get to the parts that featured “Katie” and some of the young co-stars in the fantasy and chase sequences. She wasn’t a fan of the gun-play (which featured a menacing Joe Pesci. What she loved was the “play scenes” with Michael chasing the kids through the fields and woods.

This is where we could “go dark” as to all of the rumored “games” that Michael was reported to have played with real kids at Neverland. But, I have always chosen to think that Michael was just a kid who never grew up…and that like kids at sleep-overs…his intentions were mostly innocent.

We’ve never talked to the grown up Katie about these revelations…because frankly, we didn’t want to spoil the memories of “her time with Michael.”

Every day…often two and three times a day, she could be found running down the hallway of our house…or  swinging on the swings by herself…talking loudly to Michael. “You push good Michael!”  “Oh Michael…you’re funny!”  And, “Look out! We have to run Michael!!” all spoken in her funny long-Rs fashion that was part fairy, and part Elmer Fudd. Run became “wrun”, Your became “yow” and phrases like “Michael’s teeth are like this when he smiles!” Phonetically became “Mikow teesh like dis when he smi-ows!”  You get it.

Her speech improved almost overnight when she started school and spent long days around other children. But, to this day…when we want a smile from Katie, we simply say, “Mikows teesh like dis!”

So…you can imagine which Simpsons episode is Katie’s favorite…and by association, mine.

It was the first episode of what was to become the most talked about season in Simpsons history…(even making its way into a Presidential primary election speech).

It was debated for years as to whether Michael actually did the singing of “It’s Your Birthday Lisa.” As it turns out, he did…and he didn’t…

He sang the song, but because of contractual obligations to Sony, was forbidden from actually using his track in the show. Instead, Jackson sound-alike, Kipp Lennon’s voice was used for the song that aired on the show. But, the dialogue is all Michael…under the assumed screen name of, John Jay Smith. (More on the details in this “Behind the Voice post).

The thing I love most about this episode, is the way in which we are constantly challenged into believing the unbelievable.  Like when Bart, on a phone call to “Michael” asks, “OK…so if you’re the real Michael Jackson, who were your last four dates to the Grammies?”  And without hesitation, Leon/Michael replies, “Brooke Shields, Diana Ross, Emanuel Lewis, and Bubbles.”  “Shiver me timbers! You ARE Michael Jackson!” Bart yells..”Can you stay on the line while I get all of my friends and relatives?”


The mental institution that Homer and Leon inhabit (and that we get if we buy Leon for our games) is rife with “Cuckoo’s Nest” homages…including a visit by a “McMurphy” type (not played by Jack Nicholson). But in the end, we are left wondering if Leon, is actually more Michael Jackson, than most of the mythology that surrounded the real Michael Jackson.

That’s the way I like to live my life. I don’t really want to know too much about my favorite stars, as they almost inevitably can’t live up to the hype and myths that have surrounded them.  I’ve had enough contacts with stars  and show business types in my life, to know that we are all a bit of Michael Jackson, and bit of Leon Kompowski…and frankly that’s the way I like it. There are some great people, who also happen to be famous…and there are  some famous people who mostly create hype, because they don’t have much substance to their actual personalities. I prefer the former…

For my money (and why I bought Leon immediately…with donuts and real money) it’s the memories created by our imaginations and fantasies that have the most power to shape who we are.

Just ask Katie. Oh…and her cat…”MJ.”

16 responses to “Friday Filler- When MJ Came to Springfield

  1. You worked for the great Wil Vinton??? Now I’m the jealous one. Moonwalked was a video I watched quite a lot, but Claymation Christmas Celebration was a yearly ritual in my house. I used to run an after school group where I taught students about animation. I made a point to show the special every year, and my students really enjoyed it. I’m not sure what your role was at the company, but thank you for being a part of something that was really impactful on my life.

  2. Patric, will you be home for the eclipse or are you escaping?

  3. Love all of this.😊

  4. It’s 6 AM, the day’s barely started, and I am amazed to say I just unlocked the third prize. Getting 3 prizes in 2 days is really something, if I can unlock the Plane by today that will really be something! 🙂

  5. Worked in a record store the day he went to the hospital
    I quickly grabbed all the LPs we had just in case
    They were marked from 2 to 5 dollars
    The next day after he died I changed the tags to$25-$35 each
    Made a killing
    People are SO predictable
    Knew tons of folks who couldn’t care less the day before would suddenly become his biggest fans and be in mourning
    Suckers LOL

  6. I have to admit, I was trying to puzzle out exactly who Katie was playing with, assuming you weren’t dropping a TMZ-level MJ story into a Simpson’s tapper blog post. I had settled on “imaginary friend” until I got to the kicker. Very well told.

    P.S. – anyone else catch the Easter Egg on the Classified Records building?

  7. Have a fantastic time together in Disneyland addicts ♡

    Send me a postcard xx

  8. Me: Hey Patric, Bannon is out, what are you going to do?
    Patric: I’m going to Disneyland!

  9. I’m the same way, Patric. I prefer my favorite actors, actresses, singers, writers, etc., to be their art to me. I don’t really care to whom they’re married, or if they’ve broken up with this person, etc.

    My Dad, since he knows that I like them, keeps trying to give me this information though. Since he does it out of love, & not understanding my desire to suspend belief seeing Jim Parsons as Sheldon 24/7, I can’t get upset about it. 🙂

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