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Published June 26, 2009, 12:00 AM

News of Jackson’s death draws mixed reactions

Local reaction to word of Michael Jackson’s death Thursday was as divergent as the pop star’s own rise to mind-blowing fame and fall amid public scandal.

By: John Lamb and J. Shane Mercer, INFORUM

Local reaction to word of Michael Jackson’s death Thursday was as divergent as the pop star’s own rise to mind-blowing fame and fall amid public scandal.

“I don’t believe you,” said Empire Tavern bartender Kaira Ludwig on first hearing the news. “That’s sad. I love Michael Jackson.”

But Jeff Andre, 45, of Fargo said Jackson was “nobody to me.”

“I think he’s a loser,” Andre said, “because of what he did to those kids. Then he bought his way out of it because he had money.”

“Everybody’s going to look at him differently,” said Justin Eddington, a Denver pilot who was in town because of his job. Eddington said he remembers Jackson back when he was known for his music and not his private life.

“He’s like Elvis,” Eddington said. “He’s the King of Pop, man.”

However people remember Jackson, his pop music prowess was pretty undeniable.

Ryan Myrold, a Fargo native and member of the vocal group The Blenders, compared the news of Jackson’s death to when Elvis Presley died in 1977.

“He wasn’t just a pop icon; he was a creative superstar,” said the 40-year-old Myrold, who now lives in Minneapolis and fronts a 1980s nostalgia act, Brat Pack Radio. “As the pop guy, he influenced everyone whether they were a rock guy or an R&B guy.”

“Who doesn’t remember ‘Thriller,’ the most successful album of all time?” asked Chris Hennen, 32, a Fargo-based concert promoter and an occasional DJ at the Aquarium. “I don’t think we’ll ever see anything approaching that as far as record sales.”

As to what his legacy will be, Fargo musician Brandon Schiwal said that, early on, people will joke about his strange behavior and the child molestation allegations.

“But slowly that will dissipate and people will remember what he was in his prime.”

Ashley Wilson, a 24-year-old real estate educator, believes “he’ll be remembered for his performance.”

Her friend, April Ecker, disagreed.

“I feel like he’ll be remembered as a creep, but, on the side, he did have some good songs,” said the 24-year old from Moorhead.

North Dakota State University student Travis White said he was saddened by the news, calling Jackson a “legend.”

His legacy is “always going to be wrapped in this weirdly strange tale,” Hennen said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb (701) 241-5533 and reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734

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