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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.)

Jackson with Ronald and Nancy Reagan at the White House in 1984. (Ronald Reagan Archives)

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.

Jackson during opening night of the Victory tour in Los Angeles. (AP.)

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

By Washington Post Editors |  June 25, 2009; 6:33 PM ET
Previous: Michael Jackson Update | Next: The Daily Goodbye


Please email us to report offensive comments.

He wrote Thriller man. Thriller.

Posted by: Conservativemindsareinshackles | June 25, 2009 7:02 PM

I was at that show. I lived at 17th and Const. NE, and I couldn't sleep that night, so I got in the line. I bought tickets for myself and three friends; none fo the friends could go, and I had a problem selling the tickets even at face value. We sat in the upper deck off the 1B side; the stage was set in center field, so you really could not see him very well. Your eyes drifted towards the big screen, which to me meant you paid to see him on TV. But a good time was had by all.

I also saw him, in the late 80s, at MSG. This was after the first scandals broke, and his sister Janet was there to support him. I'm not sure that he toured after that; respect for him fell fast as the scandals came out.

Posted by: gbooksdc | June 25, 2009 7:04 PM

R.I.P. Michael. You are already missed.

Posted by: nobammy | June 25, 2009 7:06 PM

Now you can add the Letter "D", too the song ABC. "D" as in dead.

Good ridience to Wacko Jacko the child molester.

He He,,,,,,Ummmmm I'm devilish!!!!!!!!

Posted by: dashriprock | June 25, 2009 7:09 PM

Much love and prayer goes out to family and friends. We miss you Michael.

Posted by: kitkatm_99 | June 25, 2009 7:14 PM

What a very sad ending for a very gifted man! He was never allowed to be a child and spent his entire life with his family living off him as the cash cow! May he rest in peace!

Posted by: Maerzie | June 25, 2009 7:20 PM

Rest in peace, Michael. You touched so many!

Posted by: wapo9 | June 25, 2009 7:25 PM

Lisa Marie Presley probably told him: "You know, I knew this guy who was bigger in death than he was in life". Hmmmm . . .

He never could top "Thriller" . . . until today.

Posted by: tifoso1 | June 25, 2009 7:45 PM

I am very sorry for his family.

This was a talented man who unfortunately lost his way.

My prayers and condolences to his loved ones.

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | June 25, 2009 7:49 PM

I was at that show too. I will never forget it.

Posted by: | June 25, 2009 7:54 PM

Mike, Motown & Hollywood. All on Sunset Blvd. Michaels Sunset was Tort Action last year for 6 billion dollars. Staggering sum, Michael settled out of court, to Suadi Arabian. It is most likely that ALL Michaels future work would be of NO account & by statutory, Michael can retire name of Charcter. Its reflection of Societies communication upon artists message.

Locally, another Jackson, Bre' Jackson worked in NCAA Field.Bre' Is Strong Promoter of Blackness. Neighbors Are Ms. Johnson, Just Think MAGIC.Each BandHouse Is Collection of Performers Trained in Characters Style & Often limited To Shows They Control of Local Events. So Jackson/Johnson Family has its Ups & Downs.

Madonna already split with Jackson Troupe & other properties will, No Doubt continue under Mr. Jacksons' Command. Thats way it is with ones property.

Too Bad, Yet Valurability Had To End.


Posted by: thomasxstewart1 | June 25, 2009 8:09 PM

Rest in peace, Michael. You touched so many!

Posted by: wapo9 | June 25, 2009 7:25 PM

Most of them under the age of 9.

Posted by: wahoo2x | June 25, 2009 8:34 PM


Posted by: dashriprock | June 25, 2009 8:45 PM

He was Obama before Obama - until he bleached his skin and became one of the strangest celebrities ever to be in the public eye. He was talented but went crazy living in a bubble. I feel sorry for his kids. Hope they will be able to live a more normal life now. And Blanket, change your name!

Posted by: kenpasadena | June 25, 2009 8:49 PM

Who will look after the children now?
Will they live with the Jackson clan or Debbie Rowe or at least get to see much more of her?
And who is Blanket's mother..
will we finally know now?

It would have been great for Michael and his kids to have had the world tour together...
he had said that he wanted them to see him perform while he was still young enough too.
I had thought that perhaps, that that tour might become the most "normal" part of their lives together!

I doubt that the children would know of the dark allegations against him....
but a time will come quick when they do.

Sad and surreal as his death is at present I believe that it will free up his children to live a more unfettered existence.....
and their memories of him shall remain forever......Peter Pan!

Posted by: luciamorganwales | June 25, 2009 8:59 PM

A strange man. Fantastic talent. I could watch his performances for hours. What brilliance!

Posted by: KathyWi | June 25, 2009 9:36 PM

I was working for the Afro American Newspaper when I first met Michael Jackson. He was coming out of the White House and driving away in a car. He rolled down the window to greet a group of students and I was with them. I asked him. "What do you have to say for your fans," and he said, "Tell them that I love them." Michael loved so many. I wish he knew how many people loved him.

Posted by: hamil238 | June 25, 2009 9:51 PM

I always thought he had some real talent.

How awful that he died on the same day as Farrah Fawcett-Majors, who was a genuine star and who will certainly outrank him in the obits. Too bad he never grew up, but he had gifts.

We mourn Farrah but Michael is there too.

Posted by: StaffSgtAmerica | June 25, 2009 9:57 PM

I was 16, just started my junior year at John F. kennedy, in Silver Spring. Me, my sister(15) and cousin(15) went to the show at RFK. I was a Micheal Jackson fan, but my sister was a fanatic; the pens covered her entire jean jacket, posters on all four walls in her bedroom, a zillion MJ tee-shirts. I had a blast that night, but to see the excitement and in "total awe" state my sister was in, was priceless. She lived for this moment since she was a toddler, and to see her truly excited, as I look back on it, probably was one of the few times she was completely happy in her life. That was the time in our lives, I wish could be placed in a bottle and opened up whenever feeling down, cynical, or joyless. To actually see Micheal and his brothers in the flesh, it was something special, no longer were they the cartoons, album covers, music videos, or articles in a magazine. Micheal and his 5 brothers became the surreal reality in Sept 84.

Posted by: meidian | June 29, 2009 3:04 AM

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