Saturday, November 14, 2009

Book Review: Remember the Time

My mom always used to say she knew exactly where she was when she found out JFK died. I feel our generation already has two of those "moments": knowing where we were when we found out about 9/11 and where we were when we found out Michael Jackson died.

I had been driving home from work when I got text messages from two friends. I was really in disbelief and told them both that until I heard it from a reputable news source I wouldn't believe it. But when I got home and turned on the TV, there was the news on CNN, NBC, Fox News: Michael Jackson had died.

Most of my MJ memories consist of dancing to the Dangerous album with my little sister. My family had just gotten a CD player, and that was one of the only CDs my dad had. Emily and I would bop around to "Jam," "In the Closet" and "Who Is It" before dinner.

Others have many, many more memories of Michael, some of them personal. This includes Theresa J. Gonsalves, a writerwho shares her memories of Michael in her new book "Remember the Time."

Gonsalves is the muse for one of MJ's most well-known songs "Billie Jean," but she starts her story before the King of Pop penned that tune after her. Gonsalves was a schoolgirl in love with the Jackson 5, specifically Michael. She wrote hundreds of letters to the pop star, and made a decision she was going to fly out and see the singer perform with his brothers in Las Vegas for her 16th birthday.

It's amazing how easily the young Gonsalves got in contact with Michael. She called the hotel she knew they were staying at and asked to speak to the road manager, Randy Wiggins. She asked Wiggins if she could meet Michael when she flew out to Vegas, and Wiggins arranged for her to spend an entire week with the family.

Gonsalves and Michael bonded during her trip, and they started to talk on the phone -- all the while, Gonsalves continued to write Michael letters, something he really looked forward to receiving. They continued their friendship through Michael's solo success, with Gonsalves visiting him while he lived in New York with his sister La Toya to film The Wiz. During this time, Michael and Gonsalves started a more intimate relationship.

Gonsalves eventually moved out to California to be closer to Michael. Over the years, Gonsalves stopped writing as many letters, and just as Michael was slowly pulling away from his family, the same happened with his relationship with Gonsalves.

Through it all, Gonsalves told Michael she would always be there for him, and she kept running into him over the years, the final time being in 2003 in Las Vegas.

Through her recollections of her memories with the pop star and excerpts from her letters to them, Gonsalves sews together the special bond she shared with someone she saw as the man she loved, Michael, and not mega pop star Michael Jackson. Gonsalves showed she was more than just a groupie to the King of Pop; their relationship went much deeper than that.

Gonsalves also gives an interesting glimpse at the other Jackson family members, especially Katherine Jackson, who was kind to Gonsalves and showed her around California; a very bubbly and talkative Janet; and the religious La Toya. Gonsalves' one interaction with father Joe Jackson is memorable as well.

Included is a letter from La Toya to Gonsalves and a bunch of pictures of Gonsalves with Michael. Through reading "Remember the Time," people can get a feel for the Michael Gonsalves got to know: a kind man who loved his music and giving back to others.