Jackson's 'Victory' in D.C.: The Post Looks Back
In early 1984, when it looked like Michael Jackson's Victory tour might not make it to the Nation's Capitol, the star got a friendly suggestion from the man in the White House.
Jackson was in town helping promote an anti-drunk-driving campaign he'd worked on; he visited the executive residence to meet with Ronald Reagan, who gave him an award after he let his song "Beat It" be used in radio and television commercials. (A YouTube user has posted news video of the visit, which is well worth watching.)
From a May 15 Post article by Richard Harrington:
Reagan, apparently aware of the confusion surrounding plans for Jackson's summer concert tour that could bypass Washington, added: "Michael, I have another message from your fans in the Washington, D.C., area. They say they want you back, so when you begin your greatly awaited cross-country tour, will you please be sure to stop off here in the nation's capital?"
Jackson greeted the appeal with a noncommittal grin and a half-waved glove.
Did Reagan's words sway Jackson? (Or did Nancy's?) Whatever the case, Jackson did indeed play RFK Stadium -- twice, on Sept. 21 and 22. Tickets to the show -- 44,000 were sold for each night -- were listed at $30 apiece, and many camped out overnight to buy them.
The Post's Leah Y. Latimer covered the breathless buildup:
City police have canceled all weekend leave and Metro is keeping its trains running late. Stores are reporting a run on single gloves with silver sparkles, and local emergency crews have been told to treat the event "like an inaugural."
Then-Mayor Marion Barry had almost 1,000 tickets, provided courtesy of tour sponsor PepsiCo, to give to area kids; he wore a black satin jacket with "Jacksons" on the back in glitter to the press conference announcing the giveaway. (The tour's national community relations director? Rev. Al Sharpton.)
And, from Latimer's report, the area's hottest fashion accessory in the days leading up to the concerts: a single glove.
At Commander Salamander, a punk rock clothing and paraphernalia store in Georgetown, assistant manager Marcus Dinsmore said mothers had been calling all week inquiring about the store's silvery gloves, which sell for up to $20 each. "There's been an upsurge in buying the glitter gloves. In the last week we're selling a dozen a day," Dinsmore said, noting that most of the customers are under 14.
And so Victory came to Washington. While performing with his less-famous brothers Jermaine, Tito, Marlon and Randy -- the Victory album was actually a group effort -- he nevertheless also played many of his megahits. (He did not, however, play "Thriller," which had come under fire from his church because of its occult references.)
Wrote The Post's Courtland Milloy on the Sunday after his double-sellout run ended:
During his two concerts, which ended last night, Jackson played before more than 90,000 fans of all colors and ages who rocked and swayed inside the stadium. Outside he played to hundreds more as the laser light and electric bass rode a wave of screams into the streets and another audience was entertained by the color and the spectacle of the Jackson phenomenon.
And Friday night, as the Jackson motorcade made its way along Independence Avenue, it became clear that the neighborhood was the best place to be outside RFK.
"We saw him," exclaimed William Tierney, 11, his friends nodding in agreement as they sat on the porch of a house at 109 19th St. SE., which is located a block from the stadium. "He was waving from the van and I hopped up and got a 'high five.' I've been dreaming about it ever since."
The concert was an event, to be sure: The Post's Nina Hyde actually wrote a fashion piece about the clothes people wore to the shows:
For most of those who attended the concert last night, dressing up was a matter of adding glitter and glitz with a sequined glove, a sparkly headband, shiny pants, mirrored glasses, studded belts or fluorescent socks or at least a Jackson T-shirt or badge.
For others it was a head-to-toe effort, from Jackson's aviator glasses to his glitter socks and polished slip-ons. Fancy socks could almost have been a motif for the night, since the giant video screen behind the stage regularly zoomed in for shots of Michael's footwork.
For a review of Jackson's actual performance, perhaps it's best to turn it back over to Harrington, the man who covered the performances for The Post:
Despite the yards of sequined costumes and the spectacle of the Victory production, all the technology dissolved before Michael Jackson's passion. If at times that passion seemed studied, as on several songs where Jackson stretched his endings to overly dramatic effect, then most of the show was the kind of kinetic artistry that one seldom experiences, particularly in a show running an hour and 45 minutes.
Jackson is a mesmerizing performer, impossibly lithe. He has elasticity so ethereal that even Clara Peller would be forced to ask "Where's the bones?" The wonder is that his performance was not only fluid and the magical blur that his fans certainly expected, but also lean and hard in the manner of a performer who grew up on James Brown and Jackie Wilson before he grew into Fred Astaire.
Those expecting the soft presence from the Grammy Awards show or the bedeviled persona of video must have been amazed at Jackson's stamina and the muscular edge he gave his performance. Away from the stage all you get are traces of Michael Jackson; on stage, it's the full explosion and exposition of those talents.
The spins, stops, pops and tiptoe freeze frames that provide the sharp edges of his motion are as instinctual as the whoops, hollers, squeals and falsetto flights that mark his singing. At RFK, he invested his performance with an intensity that sometimes turned him into a sneering, scowling adolescent and at other times defined him as an unrepentant romantic.
Harrington's review of the "Victory" album was lukewarm. ("So, after all the votes are in," he wrote, "'Victory' is hollow.")
His take on the concert, however, was anything but.
"His impassioned stagecraft and presence are irreducible to the point that he didn't need to do 'Thriller,'" wrote Harrington. "He was the Thriller."
Were you there? If you remember the tour's stops in D.C., let us know in the comments below.
-- David P. Marino-Nachison
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