by Adrienne Gaffney
June 8, 2010, 12:01 AM
Oct 13th 1983 Eight pm Downtown LA
On a chilly Autumn night gaffers rig motion picture lights
to the entrace of the Palace Theatre which bears the title
" THRILLER "
Nancy Griffin, in “The ‘Thriller’ Diaries” reflects on a man for
whom all the talent in the world couldn’t stave off crippling
insecurities and loneliness. Griffin speaks with director
John Landis, record executives, Jackson’s co-star Ola Ray,
choreographers, and others to illuminate the process of how
the star created something totally revolutionary.
On the backs of the record-setting LP of the same name,
“Thriller” set a new standard for the infant medium of music
videos with its unprecedented length, its unheard-of budget,
and its unparalleled wit and dancing. This achievement came
at a time when Jackson had much to be proud of.
As Griffin writes: “Thriller” marked the most incandescent
moment in Jackson’s life, his apex creatively as well as
commercially. He would spend the rest of his career trying
to surpass it. “In the Off the Wall/Thriller era, Michael
was in a constant state of becoming,” says Glen Brunman,
then marketing director at Jackson’s record company Epic.
“It was all about the music, until it also became about
the sales and the awards, and something changed forever.”
Still living at home at the age of 25, Jackson’s problems with his
family were painfully apparent during the shoot. Landis and other
crew members witnessed the frequent clashes between father
and son, which would become public knowledge in the coming years,
when Jackson would publicly refer to Joe Jackson’s abuse.
More than once Landis found himself caught up in the twisted
dynamics of the Jackson family. One night when Joseph and
Katherine Jackson visited the set, the director recalls,
“Michael asked me to have Joe removed. He said,
‘Would you please ask my father to leave?’
So I go over to Mr. Jackson. ‘Mr. Jackson,
I’m sorry, but can you please … ?’ ‘Who are you?’
‘I’m John Landis. I’m directing this.’ ‘Well, I’m Joe Jackson.
I do what I please, and I want to be here.’ I said,
‘I’ll have to ask security to remove you
if you don’t leave now.’”
Landis had a policeman escort Joe Jackson off the set.
Perhaps no one understood this better than Ola Ray,
who depicts her flirtation with Jackson as being characterized
by his fragility.
“I won’t say that I’ve seen him in his birthday suit but close
enough,”she says, laughing. Because he was shy, she tried not
to scare him by coming on too strong. “What we had was such
ike a little kindergarten thing going on. I thought it was important
for him to be around someone who would make him feel comfortable
and that was my main objective.”
I never had one vibe, as dynamic and electric and powerful as he was.
He was like nobody I had ever met in my life. On the one hand he was
so socially retarded, and on the other hand he was a creative genius.”
Just before calling" action " Landis rifles his actors with boisterous
encouragement , " How are you going to be in this shot?"
" Wonderful " Jackson chirps barely audible.
Seconds later Jackson steps into his nimbus of light
as he flips on the internal switch; he glows, he smiles,
he comes to life , he mezmerizes...
Jackson says , " You were scared werent you ?"
Nancy Griffin on the Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller VF Daily Vanity Fair