It's one of those nights I'll never forget. Mike and I had been dreaming about it for years, through all the play-acting and the lip-syncing and the record-buying and the cartoons. We would hope and we would pray: What if one day we could see the Jackson 5?
Then it happened. The local radio station Y-100 announced that the Jackson 5 would be performing at the old Miami Beach Convention Center (now named the Jackie Gleason Theater). I heard the news first. And raced out my back door, through my backyard, jumped the fence and started banging on Mike's patio door.
"They're coming! They're coming! The Jackson 5 is coming!"
Mike was there in a flash.
"What?!? What?!? For real?"
"Yes!," I said. "I just heard it on the radio!"
Mike started jumping up and down; I started jumping up and down. Then we were jumping up and down together. Arms around each other and shrieking like madmen.
Well, we were shrieking like mad kids, anyway. See Mike and I were only 10-years-old then. And, truth be told, our shrieking could easily have been mistaken for that of young girls.
We didn't care. The Jackson 5 was coming to town and we were going to get to see them!
Then it hit us: Would our parents actually let us go to the show?
Mike and I looked at each other, then sat down on the ground and began to consider our options.
We could go with our folks, but our dads probably wouldn't want to. That would mean going with our moms. And no self-respecting ten-year-old wants to go to a concert with their mother. What if we got to meet Michael? We'd be mortified if he saw us there with our moms.
So Mike and I decided right then and there: we would convince our parents to let us go alone.
It took some doing. Whining and pleading and begging and, I believe, promising to be good, eat our vegetables and do every chore our parents could imagine for the rest of our lives. If I remember correctly, Mike's folks caved first, though he may just have made it to my side of the back fence before me. Whatever. We were going to the show and we were going solo!
Of course we needed new outfits. And there too our folks humored us, taking us to the mall for fancy bell bottom corduroys, bold-striped polyester shirts and short-platform heels. Man, we looked good enough for the stage ourselves.
We were dressed and ready to go at least four hours before we were due to leave, so we decided to play all the Jackson 5 records and imagine which songs they'd be singing. "I Want You Back" and "ABC"? Definitely. "I'll Be There" and "Maybe Tomorrow"? How could they not? Mike wanted to know if I thought they'd also play "How Funky is Your Chicken" since that song from the Third Album had cracked us up since we first saw the title and then had become our own special secret favorite.
When our moms knocked on Mike's bedroom door we froze as if we were trying to hide something. Uh-oh. It's time, isn't it? We looked at each other. We looked at the door. Then we each took deep breaths, opened up and walked purposefully out of Mike's bedroom.
"Come on, already! Do you want us to be late?"
Our moms let us get away with the charade just as they had so many others, and both were beaming by the time they got out to the car to drive us over to the Beach. Mike and I blabbed the whole way, naming songs and recalling trivia and imagining what we'd say when we saw Michael.
"I'll tell him we have every record but we're not fans like girls," said Mike.
"Yeah, that's a good idea. Tell him we just collect them."
"Do you think he'll want to hang out?"
"Probably. If he's not bothered by too many amateurs."
I'm sure our mothers were cracking up inside, but Mike and I were serious. We considered Michael and his brothers to be our friends. And there's no reason why friends can't come over and hang out.
After admonishing us for the umpteenth time to meet them right there at this spot right after the show, Mike and I broke free of our moms and strutted into the Convention Center as if we'd done this a thousand times before. But we hadn't. And the crush of long hair and afros and long-legged women had us dizzy. Then again, maybe it was that sweet funny scent that was making our heads swim. Or maybe we were just giddy with over-excitement.
I don't really remember all the songs the Jackson 5 played that night, or even if they played that "Funky Chicken" number. I do remember that Mike and I were laughing and dancing and happier than we'd ever been in our lives. More important, we were cool, like Michael himself, and all because we were in his company.
Thanks, Michael. Really.