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Getting reacquainted with the King of Pop ... and a VCR


Despite never having been a huge Michael Jackson fan, a strange melancholy overtook me after hearing of his June 25 death. I remembered an aging VHS copy of Jackson's 1995 Video Greatest Hits: HIStory buried in my office storage, so I vowed to pay homage by re-immersing myself in some of the King of Pop's finer video exploits. What follows are the highlights, so if you manage to find your own copy, you can fast forward to the best bits.

0:00--A montage of Jackson dancing, running, singing--and his Asian fans freaking out--is set to Carl Orff's famous opus "O Fortuna." Then "Billie Jean" kicks off the anachronistic 10-segment set.

4:01--Clad in the highest high-water pants ever in a music video, MJ shuffles along an abandoned street while magical cement blocks glow each time he touches one.

6:08--Jackson subtly grabs his crotch the first of 28 times on this 75-minute tape.

12:00--In "The Way You Make Me Feel," MJ ascends the hood of a parked automobile. (He'll later repeat the feat, dismantling car No. 2 at 24:28.)

16:12--Macaulay Culkin ushers in a wave of celebrity cameos, including: George Wendt, Tyra Banks, Bart and Homer Simpson, Iman, Eddie Murphy and "Magic" Johnson.

22:30--In a segment following the "Black or White" video later deemed too hot for TV, Jackson gyrates through a rain-soaked alley. Nineteen of his 28 brushes with his nether regions occur in this 4:13 stretch.

26:47--Jackson, clad in a head-to-toe-sequined get-up in "Rock With You," unknowingly influences more Bedazzler sales than Billy Mays ever did.

34:10--Despite a tapestry of "Bad"-ness swirling around his urban dancing pals in the NYC subway, an ever-so-quick shot of a break dancer in red rollerskates steals the show. In fact, there's nothing badder on the entire tape.

34:45--For the next 13:43, my mouth hangs agape. The horror movie/music video hybrid that once made my 5-year-old self huddle shaking under my parents' comforter now blinds me with its brilliance. On a future episode of Jeopardy!, when Alex Trebek says, "This is the reason Michael Jackson is considered a genius," I will now know to respond with: "What is the 'Thriller' video?"

51:41--Dance combat! Luckily, MJ saves the day by leading both sides of a gang fight in the "Beat It" group dance.

52:39--One of MJ's backups unveils my favorite dance move of the tape--what I call "the Grand Mal Shimmy." If he was on the Discovery Channel, I would've sworn the guy was having a seizure.

1:05:18--In "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough," Jackson proves that as the best dancer in the world, he didn't actually need backup dancers, just a couple clones.

1:06:49--Foretelling the future, the tape's last video, "Heal the World," hints that even when MJ isn't present--he's inexplicably absent from the entire segment--his music will still make the world a better place.

If my digging out a VHS treasury of his work says anything, it's that future video formats may be bested once a decade, but nobody's yet topped Michael Jackson. And with a rate of .37 crotch-tugs per minute, I certainly hope nobody ever will.