It was 1981. I watched with the amazement of my seven year-old eyes as MTV came on to the airwaves. I sat on the floor in front of the enormous TV encased in oak, my eyes, inches from the screen. As if something possessed me, I rose to my feet and began dancing and twirling about. This was my kind of music. No more “Hooked on Classics” or George Jones for me.
I struggled to move the coffee table, as I definitely needed more room. But my scrawny arms strained against me. “Mom! I need help!” I screamed. My mother rushed in the room thinking she would find me bloodied on the floor. I’m not sure if she was relieved to see me in one piece or concerned that I could have her running like that at a moment’s notice. She helped me move the table and my dance floor was born.
I started dancing at a young age. There was always - and still is - something inside me that made me want to move. I just knew that cheerleading and dance were what I was born to do. Luckily, I had some pretty good parents who encouraged this, even if it meant we put the coffee table in the den instead of the living room. I mean, how was I ever going to be Dallas Cowboy’s Cheerleader if I didn’t practice all day, every day?
When Toni Basil’s “Hey Mickey!” aired on MTV, I almost passed out. I can still do the entire routine to this day. Unfortunately for my husband, I often prove this when I’ve had a few cocktails. Music, dance and cheerleading? Oh my! This MTV thing was the best thing ever. Ever.
Every day when I came home from school, I immediately turned MTV on. No stupid cartoons for me. No programming for anyone else either. That TV was mine until dinner.
And then it happened.
“Thriller”. Whoa. I was blown away. My brain tried hard to compute the images on the screen. Should I be scared? “The Howling” really did a number on me. But, the music made my body move. Plus, dancing zombies can’t be all that bad, right? So, I went with it. That minute, that instant, I couldn’t get enough of Michael Jackson.
We had to get the album right away or “I’ll die!” I begged and pleaded. “We’ll see,” mom said. Oh, I was crushed. But, I couldn’t very well throw a tantrum and lock myself in my room – I had to see more.
A few days later, my wish came true. In my hot, little hands was “Thriller” and “Off the Wall”. I was the luckiest kid alive. I was sure to make all my friends jealous. I was sure to pay back my parents’ kindness by making them listen to Michael ad nauseum.
When the elementary school talent show was announced, I knew I had to be in it. No magic tricks. No pet show. I would dance. I ran home about to burst with anticipation. The song had to be “Thriller”; there was no other choice. I choreographed until it was perfect.
My mother made me tight, blue satin pants. She sewed a keyboard and music notes on a t-shirt. “I don’t know, mom. This isn’t very Thrillery.” And then she pulled it out. It was like a beacon, drawing all the light from the room to it. The glove. She hand-sewed hundreds of silver sequins to a white Easter glove. The latter being the icing on the cake as now I wouldn’t have to wear those stupid things. I forgot all about the keyboard and slipped into the glove. It was perfection.
Although they made me cut my routine since it was such a long song, for those two minutes, the stage was mine. I danced my little heart out. It was heaven. I received a standing ovation from the crowd. Suck that Tommy the Magician!
When I made my way back to my seat, my love, my crush, Chris said, “I didn’t know a white girl could dance like that.” A phrase that, for some reason, has stuck with me to this day.
So, thank you, Michael. Thank you for your music. Thank you for the endless hours of joy and fascination. And thank you for helping me to reel in my very first boyfriend.
Bonus Farrah hair