Michael Jackson and My Family: A Life in Encino


One year has passed since the sudden death of Michael Jackson (MJ).  It was truly a tragedy.  Michael made his first appearance to show business as the lead vocal of the ‘Jackson Five’ in late 60s of the 20th century.  The group’s first singles, (I Want You Back, ABC, The Love You Save, I’ll Be There) became #1 hits in a row in a hit chart (Billboard Hot 100).

In the early 80s he released one after another a new style of entertainment putting together vocals, dances, and visuals; such as ‘Billie Jean’, ‘Beat It’, or ‘Thriller’, which brought about drastic changes to the Pop Music.  He was truly an extraordinary genius.  No wonder people call him the ‘King of Pop’.  Michael created ‘new art of the age’ which is a combination of vocal, dance, and visual that is very popular today.  Yet his works are still shining like a star after all these years.

His sudden and unexpected death came precisely when the whole world was waiting with great expectation his last series of live performance ‘This Is It’.  When you look at the movie ‘This Is It’  which was made from rehearsal clips, you can see and feel his talents, personality, the greatness of true professional performance, hard and uncompromising work he went through and demand to his entire team.  You never get tired of seeing no matter how many times you play it.  His performance is just extraordinary and wonderful.  Since this video is a work edited from rehearsal clips unfortunately he was often not singing in his fullest in the video, so it makes you feel sad when you imagine how the live show would have been or how this whole piece of work would have turned out to be when completed.  I myself am also a great fan of MJ.  I own several DVDs, too.

After a year from his death, ‘This Is It’ continues to move people’s hearts with his personality and I hear that his popularity has become higher then ever since his death.  The total sales of DVDs etc. are said to be over 30 million albums, which is worth nearly one billion dollars.  This is so extraordinary.

In the summer of 1977, I returned to UCLA and bought a house in Encino, a town located 15 min. by car going North on Freeway 405 that runs beside UCLA, over the Santa Monica Mountains across Mulholland Drive (a street also well known in films )(Ref.1) and down the mountain slope facing San Fernando Valley.  16465 Refugio Road, Cul de Sac, was the place.  The view, environment, neighbors…..everything was very nice.

Then only after a short while, surprisingly, Michael Jackson (MJ) came to live in our neighborhood. 4641 Havenhurst Avenue.  He was famous already, but speaking in the context of his career as a whole, I think it was the time when he was searching for the next step.  He then moved in 1988 to Neverland, about 200km west of Encino: when he died last year, the house in Encino was the residence of his parents.

It was during that time when we (my family and I) used to see Michael Jackson every once in a while, at a nearby supermarket – Gelson  (a premier supermarket at the intersection of Havenhurst Avenue and Venture Blvd).  He was shopping all by himself, and we used to exchange few words for a few minutes. He was a very shy and charming young man.  MJ was 19 years old then.

Then, I returned to Japan in October, 1983.  MJ was already a big idol, having released ‘Thriller’  in 1982.  In this album, ‘Beat It’, ‘Billie Jean’ were also included.  It was and is a great album!  I recall ‘Thriller’ being played on TV repeatedly in these days.

In 1969, the year we went to US, MJ has been a new idol kid, and in 1983 when I returned to Japan, MJ began his career as King of Pop.  He was without doubt the greatest entertainer connecting the 20th century to the 21st century.

By the way, Google Maps (maps, street views) is an amazingly great tool.  You can find Gelson by tracking about 100m North from MJ’s house along Havenhurst Avenue.  Going south for 400m and you will reach Lanai Road, then go 400m, turn East at Havenhurst Drive, go 300m and enter Balliana Drive, then another 300m to Ballina Canyon Road, go on and on up to the mountains.   After about 200m, turn right to Refugio Road and 5 houses ahead will be the dead end of the street.  Our house was on the right side of Cul de Sac.  You can see the area both by Street Views and Air Views, but see here for a description of my house (in Japanese).  It was during these days when late Mr. Saburo Shiroyama, a great Japanese non-finction writer, visited us and wrote a short article about me  (in Japanese) with some description of the house.

I have written this posting to commemorate the 1st anniversary of the death of Michael Jackson.