Columbians remember a pop icon

Thursday, June 25, 2009 | 9:28 p.m. CDT; updated 9:16 a.m. CDT, Friday, June 26, 2009
Singer Michael Jackson, at age 13, the youngest member of the singing group the Jackson 5, sings in his home in Encino, Calif., in 1972.

COLUMBIA — Columbia residents shared their memories of Michael Jackson Thursday evening at Cosmo and Peace Parks.

While some had already heard about his death, others, such as Shawn and Jill Charles, 36 and 39, needed to ask again. Both said that they were shocked to hear the news.


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“I remember having his poster on my wall,” Jill Charles said.

“There was a whole era where people were dancing like him and dressing like him,” Shawn Charles said. He reflected on his days as a “breaker,” or break dancer, when he imitated Jackson’s signature moves.

But people like Joni Hodapp, 59, remember him as the “cutest” member of Jackson 5.

“It was a family group,” she said. “It was a unique experience watching the whole process.”

The emergence and success of the Jackson 5 meant a lot to Clifton Cooper, 49, who grew up listening to Jackson and the group.

“It was great for us being black and seeing someone black on American Bandstand,” he said, remembering the first time he saw the Jackson 5.

However, the majority of the people crowding the park for baseball and softball games remember Jackson for the famous, zombie-inspired music video, “Thriller.”

“'Thriller' was like the best thing ever,” Katy Travis, 32, said. “It made me want to get up and dance when I was little.”

“I don’t think I paid attention to music videos until then,” Hondapp said.

Some honored Jackson’s memory in a slightly different way.

Charles Ludeke, 21, Rosa Sow, 23, and Jessi Stafford, 21, stood outside Ludeke’s parked Toyota Camry, with three passenger doors open, blaring Michael Jackson from the car’s stereo.  They said the impromptu dance party started at 6 p.m. with the text message “Dance party at Peace Park” and didn’t end for about two hours, or the length of Jackson’s “Thriller” album plus a mix CD they had of his hits.

“We’ve been getting a lot of love from passersby giving us thumbs-up,” Ludeke said.

The pop-icon will be remembered for more than just one video or one album because, like the people at Cosmo and Peace Park said, he has affected many in different ways.

“I thought a legend died,” Hodapp said.

“I had a little white glove that I crocheted,” April Hill, 36, said.

“He was one of those icons that makes you feel like when you grow up you can do anything,” Cooper said.

“He was better than ‘bad,’” Travis said.

“You could know nothing about American culture, but you know about Michael Jackson,” Sow said.

Missourian reporter Andrew Williams contributed to this report.

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