To carry the name “Michael Jackson” can be a blessing if you’re ordering room service, or a curse if you’re trying to get a low-interest loan. There are at least 13 Michael Jacksons in the Triangle. Of those, the Indy was able to talk with three: One MJ grows cells, another delivers newspapers and a third plays guitar and sings. We asked the MJs the same six questions, ranging from their feelings about the late celebrity to their experiences sharing his name.
1. What is MJ’s best album?
2. How did you react to MJ’s death?
3. When was the first time you realized you shared a name with Michael Jackson?
4. Do you play any instruments or dance?
5. Has anyone thought you were actually Michael Jackson?
6. Was MJ right when he said, “It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white”?
City: North Raleigh
Occupation: cell-culture associate at biotech company
Siblings: Four boys, one girl. “We were called the Jackson 5”
1. Off the Wall (“It’s really hard to say. I liked them all.”)
2. “I was really bummed. I grew up with him, and I really liked him. I think he got a bad rap with all the negative publicity.”
3. “He’s only two and a half years older than me. I watched those guys on The Mike Douglas Show. When you’re a young kid and you have that name and you’re close in age, it’s kind of a cool thing. I only got high accolades. My son is also named Michael Jackson. When he went to middle school, he went through pure hell. It’s sad.”
4. “I auditioned for INXS (on Rock Star), but didn’t make it to Hollywood. I like to sing, and I do some good INXS. I’ve got a few of Michael’s moves down, but I don’t think anyone can dance like him.”
5. “No. I’ve heard jokes, checking into hotels, ‘I didn’t realize Michael Jackson would be staying here.’ The worst is when the cops are making fun of your name. I was (pulled over for speeding) in some rural town in Ohio, at midnight, and the guy had the audacity to make fun of my name. He didn’t let me off.”
6. “Absolutely. I’m colorblind. I grew up that way. I’m all for character. We’ve all got souljust different pigmentation.”
Occupation: singer/guitarist for Red Collar
Siblings: Oldest of five, four boys and one girl
1. Thriller (“Thriller was the very first album I ever purchased with my own money. I’d gotten a boombox for my birthday, so I could drag it around, so I bought it on cassette.”)
2. “We were on tour when he died, and I was just so tired and out of it that I was unfazed. Then I panicked, because I thought, ‘Oh no, everyone’s going to make a big deal about my name again.’ And, sure enough, I got the text messages and the comments, like, ‘Oh look, Michael Jackson’s dead.’ And I thought, ‘Wow, that’s really funny, I never heard any of that stuff.’
3. “I don’t remember exactly when it dawned on me. I remember early on, when I was aware of it and liked his music, thinking I was the only other person in the world named Michael Jackson. And that somehow, I would be at a concert and Michael Jackson would say, ‘Is there another Michael Jackson here?’ and I would go up onstage and hang out with him. Now, I think, thank God that’s not the casea 7-year-old boy hanging out with Michael Jackson. It didn’t take very long before I ran across another Michael Jackson and realized that’s not the case.”
4. “It’s debatable if what I do counts as dancing. I move around a lot onstage for a typical rock performance. But somebody posted pictures of a recent showand this wasn’t something consciousbut I was way up on my toes, as if I was trying to imitate the classic Michael Jackson pose, but I wasn’t. It was just one of those things that happens, and the camera caught me at the right moment.”
5. “After I graduated, I ran track-and-field in Europe. In Norway, the announcer was trying to pronounce my name with a Norwegian accent, and suddenly he goes, “Michael Jackson?!’ I remember this guy was so excited and shocked to find out this competitor was named Michael Jackson.”
6. “Certainly since the Jackson 5 started we’re a long ways away from that stuffit’s a different world. But on some level, it still matters, and that’s unfortunate.”
Occupation: newspaper deliveryman
Siblings: “We were five boys and two girls, the same as the Jacksons”
1. Thriller (“I think all of his music was greatthe greatest of all time. Don’t you?”)
2. “I was kind of surprised. But he couldn’t keep living forever. I got over it, because I’ve got to keep living.”
3. “He shared my name. I’m older than he is. And he also has my brother’s name, Joseph.”
5. “No. They just tease me about my name, every day. Right now they’re saying, ‘I thought you were dead.’ Some say, ‘Your name is gone now.’ I have to remind them that my name will never die.
6. “It does matter. In America, if you’re black, you’ve got a strike against you. It’ll always be that way. When he came out with that song, I understood what he was saying. But it’s just one of those things. You can’t change people’s way of thinking or how they feel. My thinking is, stay out of harm’s way and keep living the way I want to live.”