Abstract: This month, MJ Studies Today columnist Kerry Hennigan looks at the various celebrations of what, in 2023, would have been Michael Jackson’s 65th birthday. These include the official event held in Las Vegas, and a tribute show performed at the Hard Rock Casino in Gary, Indiana, the city where Jackson was born. Kerry also looks at Paris Jackson’s suggestion for meaningful ways fans could celebrate her father if they want to do something he would really love.
Column by Kerry Hennigan, editor of the free monthly newsletter A Candle for Michael, administrator of the widely subscribed Facebook group “Michael Jackson’s Short Film Ghosts” and an MJ blogger on WordPress. Kerry is a student of Ancient, Early Medieval and Medieval History, Anthropology and Religious Studies and has Certificates in the Archaeology of the Ancient World and Ancient Britain from Cambridge University. Her current study focus is the Viking Era.
Hennigan, Kerry. “MJ Studies Today XCIII: ‘I feel very wise and sage, but at the same time very young.’ Celebrating the 65th anniversary of the birth of Michael Jackson.“ (14-09-2023). The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies Vol 10, No. 1 (2023). https://michaeljacksonstudies.org/mj-studies-today-xciii/
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“I feel very wise and sage, but at the same time very young.” Celebrating the 65th anniversary of the birth of Michael Jackson. By Kerry Hennigan
Photo montage © Kerry Hennigan 2023
Every year on or near August 29 – except for unavoidable interruptions like the Covid 19 pandemic – fans of Michael Jackson gather to celebrate the late pop icon’s birthday. In Brooklyn, film director Spike Lee hosts a free block party, while in Las Vegas, Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson One show provides the backdrop and location for official festivities organised by the singer’s estate. These events attract special guests such as Jackson’s children and other family members, and artists with whom he collaborated or counted as friends. In 2018, the Diamond Jubilee saw the singer Usher take to the stage in front of partying MJ fans at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino’s Daylight Beach Club. The two eldest Jackson offspring, Prince and Paris, accepted a humanitarian award from Elizabeth Taylor’s grandson, Quinn Tivey, in honour of their father’s support for the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, for which Paris is an ambassador. 
This year, the Michael Jackson Estate again threw a big party, dubbed the Blue Sapphire Celebration, to mark what would have been Jackson’s 65th birthday. Myles Frost, who made his Broadway debut playing Jackson in MJ: the Musical, took part in a Q&A with choreographers Rich + Tone, the Estate’s ‘go-to’ duo for “Michael Jackson movement” on most live action projects. The cast of Michael Jackson One then presented a special performance of “Dangerous” to an audience that included Jackson’s sons Prince and Prince II a.k.a. Bigi. The in-theatre action was live-streamed for fans around the world to watch as it happened, or to catch later on YouTube. In addition, an “immersive” experience was available free in the resort’s shopping arcade. 
Elsewhere, some Jackson fans organised their own celebrations and shared them online through social media, spreading the activities across the days leading up to August 29. In Hollywood, Tha Real Coreyt, Sales and Marketing Manager at the Hard Rock Café on Hollywood Boulevarde (himself a Jackson fan), went to great lengths to make Michael’s birthday the focus of an event that benefited the Heal LA Foundation. Prince Jackson and John Muto formed this non-profit body when they were students at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. The Hard Rock event also prompted the unveiling of a new display case of Michael Jackson artefacts at the chain’s Hollywood café, with Coreyt publicly proclaiming it his “greatest professional achievement to date.”  This same Hard Rock Café had previously angered fans when Jackson’s memorabilia were removed and his music stopped being played following the negative propaganda generated by the Leaving Neverland television program, which wrongly accused Jackson of child abuse.
Fortunately, other Hard Rock outlets had carried on displaying memorabilia related to the singer, including in Jackson’s place of birth, Gary, Indiana. Here, the Hard Rock Casino (located just four miles distance from the Jackson family’s original two bedroom house) uses as its signature theme, a giant version of Joe Jackson’s guitar that sits outside the entrance to the complex. This year the venue celebrated Michael’s 65th birthday with a popular tribute show. It attracted sufficient crowds to warrant moving the event from the complex’s café where it played to a packed house last year, to the 2,700-seat Hard Rock Live venue. At this year’s performance, the audience was reminded of the city of Gary’s role at the genesis of Jackson’s incredible career. His first-grade teacher at Garnett Elementary School in Gary was seated amongst them, the show’s producer, Darrin Ross, told the audience. Anita Hill’s online bio proclaims her to be most proud of having been the first to teach Michael at the school, telling everyone, “she was the one who discovered his voice.”  Imagine having that on your curriculum vitae!
When it comes to Jackson’s own children, in addition to appearing at the official celebration in Las Vegas with his younger brother, Prince Jackson posted a family photo and birthday message for his dad on Instagram.  His sister Paris uploaded a video on her Instagram account in which she explained how her father felt about his birthday, and what fans could do if they really wanted to make him happy.  Paris has had more than her share of critics since becoming a photographic model and a recording artist, and the on-line trolls were out in force again when, in her video, she lifted her arm to sweep back her long tresses and revealed some underarm hair. Viewers fixating on such things risk missing the point of Paris’ message, which was: if fans wanted to do something to celebrate her father’s birthday in a way that would make him really happy, she suggested they become involved in climate action, environmental issues and animal welfare – things about which he cared deeply.
However, there will always be opportunities on August 29 each year to enjoy the music and have a piece of birthday cake. Even activists and artists need to put their feet up and relax sometimes, as Jackson himself would likely agree. In 2008, on the day before he turned 50, Michael told ABC News’ Chris Connelly that he was listening to James Brown and planning to spend the following day with his children, having a little cake and watching some cartoons. When asked how he felt about having reached the milestone age, Michael replied, “I feel very wise and sage, but at the same time very young.” 
Though bittersweet in retrospect, such a statement is nevertheless likely to have left Jackson’s many mentors from throughout his life and career (including first grade teacher Anita Hill) feeling content that their job had been well done.
14 September 2023
 Hennigan, Kerry. “Let us eat (birthday) cake – the Michael Jackson Diamond Celebration, Las Vegas 2018.” October 4, 2018. https://kerryhennigan.wordpress.com/2018/10/04/let-us-eat-birthday-cake-the-michael-jackson-diamond-celebration-las-vegas-2018/ Retrieved 31 Aug 2023.
 Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. Team: Ambassadors. Paris Jackson. https://elizabethtayloraidsfoundation.org/team/team-ambassadors/paris-jackson/ Retrieved 14 Sep 2023.
 Hennigan, Kerry. “MJ Studies Today LVII (14-09-2020). ‘Celebrating Michael Jackson’s birthday virtually, and what his philosophy can teach humanity.’” The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies 7, No. 1 (2020). https://michaeljacksonstudies.org/mj-studies-today-lvii/ Retrieved 14 Sep 2023.
 YouTube. “Michael Jackson ONE #MJBlueSapphire Celebration of The King of Pop’s Birthday (8.29.23).” https://www.youtube.com/live/oEuKVlXFZKg?si=iPDWdwiufD0ST6Yh Retrieved 31 Aug 2023.
 Tha Real CoreyT on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/coppo711/posts/pfbid02RDLE9AUAqvc4J3NrcNTzVmjf59SLHQsik5s5hLvkLWvzzJZmN4FanHqxq3qdySHKl Retrieved 12.Sep 2023.
 Jongsma, Melanie. “Fans celebrate Michael Jackson’s birthday in his hometown.” August 27, 2023. https://thelansingjournal.com/2023/08/27/fans-celebrate-michael-jacksons-birthday-in-his-hometown/ Retrieved 31 Aug 2023.
 Prince Jackson on Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/p/CwiOggVRH8W/ Retrieved 12 Sep 2023.
 Paris Jackson on Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/reel/CwjNEAisMnz/ Retrieved 12 Sep 2023.
 ABC News. https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/SummerConcert/story?id=5680705&page=1 published Aug 28, 2008 and https://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/MichaelJackson/michael-jacksons-tv-interview/story?id=8429051 published Aug 29, 2009. Both retrieved 6 Sep 2023.
Artwork: Photo montage “light of love” composed by Kerry Hennigan using professional photographs and PhotoScape X Pro software. No infringement of original photographic copyright is intended in this not-for-profit, educational exercise.