I fell in love with Michael and The Jackson 5 when I was in second grade. For years after that I created scenarios of how Michael and I would meet, how he would discover my true love for him and how we’d get married. Last week I posted about my favorite MJ meet-up scenario. But, my first plan, at age nine, was to call Michael Jackson on the telephone to introduce myself.
I had paid my three dollars and couldn’t believe the day it came in the mail: The Private Telephone Book To The Hollywood Stars, ordered from an ad in the back of Tiger Beat magazine.
My two sisters didn’t believe it was real, just like we all didn’t believe the x-ray glasses that could see through a lady’s dress really worked. But what nine-year old girl wanted to see through a lady’s dress anyway? I wanted the phone book so I could call up Michael Jackson and tell him how much I liked him.
When the weekend was over, and my mother was at work, I made the call. Despite her skepticism, my older sister Sarah joined me in my parents’ bedroom to witness it. My fingers shook. I dialed the numbers on the black rotary phone, but hung up before I got to the end. I needed to rehearse what I was going to say.
“What are you doing?” Sarah nudged me.
“I’m too nervous,” I answered. “I have to think about what I’m going to say.” Too shy to practice out loud in front of her, I rehearsed in my head.
Hello, may I please speak to Michael? Okay, that’s a good start. Be very polite, but casual.
Maybe Jermaine would answer, or Tito. I didn’t want it to be Tito, though. He dressed weird, in sequined baseball outfits and sunglasses. Besides, I didn’t think he was as cute as the other brothers.
But, what should I say when I got Michael on the phone? My name is Wendy. I really like your music. I wouldn’t know what to say next, but figured he’d start talking and we’d hit it off. He’d know I was special, his best fan ever. Well, not a fan, but someone better—Michael would want me to be his girlfriend.
I was ready.
I dialed the number, took a deep breath and waited. Ring. Ring.
“Hello,” a man answered. A man who sounded white, and not like Michael Jackson.
“May I please speak to Michael?” I asked timidly, twisting the phone cord with my free hand.
“Who?” came the answer.
“Michael,” I repeated, looking at Sarah, who sat beside me on the edge of the bed.
“Michael? Michael who?” the man asked, sounding confused.
“Michael Jackson,” I said softly, embarrassed.
“You have the wrong number.”
“Oh, okay. I’m sorry to bother you.” I hung up the phone. My stomach hurt, but I was also relieved. “Maybe I dialed wrong,” I said to Sarah.
“Yeah, I don ‘t know. I guess you can try again if you want.” I was glad she didn’t dismiss my efforts yet.
I took a deep breath, brushed my hair behind my ear, and dialed the number slowly and carefully.
“Hello.” Darn, it sounded like the same man again. “Is Michael there please?”
“No. You just dialed the same number again. Who is it you’re looking for?”
“Michael Jackson, you know, the singer from the Jackson Five. This is the number they have in this phone book I paid and sent away for,” I said for proof. “So, I’m trying to reach him—in California. Is this California?”
“No,” the man laughed. “This is Watertown.”
Watertown was one town over from where I lived in Waterbury, Connecticut.
After apologizing and hanging up, I asked Sarah, “How come I’m not calling California?”
“Let me take a look at that,” Sarah said, and grabbed the book from my lap.
After glancing at the numbers, she said, “No area codes here. You have to dial the area code for California first, and put a one before it too, see?” She pointed to the index complete with area codes for all fifty states, and handing me back the book, said, “Here’s the one for California, around Los Angeles.”
I didn’t have any better luck on my third try, and felt humiliated when Sarah turned sour and said, “I told you it wasn’t real.” I threw the book onto the lemon yellow carpet. I was mad at the grown-ups who ran the company that made this fake telephone book and took little kids’ money and lied to them. How could I ever trust another adult…or, more importantly, believe that I’d ever get close to Michael?
Stay tuned….for more adventures with MJ…for there will be more to come.