Over the Hill

A small connection to King of Pop

Back in 2005 when people asked me, “Where in heck is Paso Robles?” I’d say, “Sixty miles north of the Michael Jackson trial.”

You remember Jackson’s trial in Santa Maria for child molestation? The scene of the alleged crime was his Neverland Ranch southeast of there.

The jury acquitted him, so in a couple of years I went back to saying, “Paso Robles is about 30 miles east of Hearst Castle.”

Also, a ticket to a Michael Jackson concert has been pinned to a wall in my garage for 20 years. It was for one of his shows in Germany in 1988, but no one used it. It was given to me in 1991 by Harlan Hallett, who then operated the Home Supply Center in Atascadero.

But in 1988 Hallett, was working for a firm that provided business-management services for entertainers. He was a certified public accountant and frequently went on tour with such big-time entertainers as Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond and Michael Jackson. On the road, he audited their box offices, collected their money and paid their bills. When not on the road, he did duller chores such as figuring the entertainers’ income taxes.

He toured with Jackson in 1987 and ’88. He described Jackson as friendly but shy and said Jackson “relates well with children.”

He also said Jackson took his pet chimpanzee along on a few tours. Once in St. Louis, the chimpanzee had the hotel room next to Hallett’s, and woke him up by “bouncing off the walls.”

Hallett quit touring in 1989. He wanted to spend more time with his three children and to escape the Los Angeles smog. I interviewed him in 1991. He was working temporarily at the Mid-State Fair supervising the ticket sales and the proceeds from the carnival, concessions and parking lot.

So you can see Michael Jackson was part of the background music of my life. I say background music because I wasn’t one of his fans. I had acquired my music taste back in the days when many songs may have been trite, but all were understandable.

I couldn’t, however, help noticing Jackson’s tragic life. Starting at age 4 he strenuously pursued admiration and acceptance, but he never seemed to catch them. He sought to relieve his painful frustration with make-believe and drugs.

Jackson died of an overdose in 2009 at age 50. The doctor who administered his drugs has been convicted of botching the job and was sentenced Tuesday to four years in jail.

Reach Phil Dirkx at phild2008@sbcglobal.net or 238-2372.