We challenge you to find someone with a more bizarre claim-to-fame than this…
Here’s the backstory:
The year was 1997 and Michael Jackson was coming to Dublin for his HISTORY world tour. Aiken Promotions was organising the concert and the son of Mr Aiken was in my senior infants class. A bunch of children were needed for the show’s finale, so our entire class was given the royal invitation to join the Prince of Pop on stage.
And here is the subsequent sequence of events:
The day in question was spent hanging around a freezing backstage tent as multiple Michael Jackson impersonators tried to entertain us confused children. I remember being so unsure as to who the real MJ could be that I decided to greet each one with equally enthusiastic cheers and screams, just in case.
Alongside the entertainment, we had a few practice runs at our own performance throughout the day, which required us children to walk around in a circle, holding hands. You’d be surprised how complicated such as concept can get for a bunch of 3-6 year olds.
Next thing I remember is a large American woman (let’s call her Ronda) entering the tent to pick two children who were going to hold Michael’s hand during the performance. The first child Ronda picked was Seán. Seán was the palest, most red-haired child of the bunch, so no surprise there.
Realising that there was now only one spot left, I looked around the group to suss out the competition. There were a few threats here and there, but I felt the bright yellow ensemble that my mum had dressed my sister and I in might just prove too adorable to resist.
When the moment came to call out the second almighty hand-holder, I held my breath. Ronda pointed directly in my direction. Oh my god. But just as I was about to jump and squeal with delight, her index finger moved ever so slightly to the right of me, and then a little bit lower. To where my sister Chloe was standing.
Chloe had been crowned the cutest of all us cutesters. What a blow to my young ego. But even my inner disappointment couldn’t take away from the excitement I felt for her. “Ahhhhh!!!!” I screamed. “You’re going to meet MICHAEL!!!!!”
Chloe, being the particularly nonchalant three-year-old that she was, blinked and continued to suck her thumb. But for such a confident young child, the stage fright hit her hard and heavy when the time came to go on stage, and she refused to budge.
“Oh no!” cried Tonya, “What are we going to do? How will we ever find a child even half as cute as Chloe?”
Without a second’s thought, I took my chance: shoving little Chloe out of the way and uttering in a low, determined voice, “I’LL DO IT”. Tonya looked reluctant, but we both knew she had little choice at this point.
Out the children went, trailing one after another, and just as it was my turn, Michael Jackson hopped out from his dressing room, took mine and Sean’s hand, and skipped us out to the sound of “Heal The World” ringing out over the screaming fans.
(And before you ask: yes, his hand did feel like plastic.)
Cut back to where my parents were sitting somewhere near the back of the arena. They had been straining their eyes to look out for was a tiny yellow dot somewhere amongst the other shuffling dots, but then, *BAM*. There was me, blown up to giant proportions on the screens, walking hand-in-hand with the biggest celebrity on the planet.
I understand that they were probably caught up in the excitement of the whole thing, but it still baffles me that they never thought to record this moment; no photograph, no video recording – nada. Their lack of foresight (and apparently the lack of foresight of every other person in that stadium, too) means that now not a single morsel of evidence of my experience exists.
And this is where my plea comes in.
People of Ireland: if you were at that Michael Jackson concert in 1997 and you think that you may have video/ photographic evidence of two children holding hands with Michael for the finale (one child being particularly gorgeous, the other being particularly unremarkably, in comparison), then please make yourself known and share the goods.
It would mean that my years of defending the story to skeptics would not be in vain, and you’d give an old hag the chance to relive those moments of glory with the former prince of pop.