Fred Astaire was a Smooth Criminal

Michael Jackson was the Fred Astaire of his time. After Michael first performed the Moonwalk on a televised Motown anniversary special before a nationwide audience, this happened:

The day after the show aired, on May 16, 1983, Michael Jackson received a call from Fred Astaire. (“Oh, come on,” was Michael’s first reaction.) Astaire was eighty-four. He had filmed his final movie, Ghost Story, two years earlier. “You’re a hell of a mover. Man, you really put them on their asses last night,” Fred Astaire told Michael Jackson. “You’re an angry dancer. I’m the same way. I used to do the same thing with my cane.” It remains a mystery exactly where the anger appears in Astaire’s elegant ballroom dancing — his persona in movies is bemused and easygoing — but “Billie Jean” was, in fact, an angry song, reflecting Michael’s feelings of fear and distrust for those around him. Michael was also angry at his father, who was still tomcatting around on Katherine and milking the family for cash.

“It was the greatest compliment I had ever received in my life,” Jackson would say of Astaire’s call, “and the only one I had ever wanted to believe.”

 

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Screenings, premieres and seeing people true stories are based on

So, I’m on my way to a baseball game, because the Washington Nationals have a deal where you can pay $75 for standing room tickets to all of the team’s home games in September. And as I’m about to go into the Metro, my brother calls and asks if I want to go to a special movie screening at the Newseum.

Let’s see: Use the $5 ticket to stand up for a nine-inning baseball game, or get in free on a movie that will cost $12 when it opens in D.C. theaters on Sept. 23. Movie it is.

But here’s where it gets strange (for me. I’m sure other people do this all the time and are used to it). It’s at the Newseum, and there’s an open bar. Free drinks!

Waiters are carrying around hors d’oeuvres. Free food!

And as we walk into the theater, there are boxes of popcorn and candy and bottled water. Free snacks!

So into the theater and head up to the cheap seats, because, like, it’s free and there’s no such thing as a cheap seat when you’re not paying anything. But someone comes along and asks us to move to one of the rows closer to the screen, because they don’t want the stars of the movie coming out to talk to empty seats up front. OK.

But before the movie, there are speeches.

So we get one from a Disney executive, since it’s a Disney movie.

Then we get one from a congresswoman from Brooklyn.

Then we get one from a congresswoman from California.

Then we get on from a senator from Delaware.

And all of them make it a point to recognize the senator from New Jersey sitting in the row in front of us.

(Is this how we do movie screenings in the nation’s capital?)

And when they’re done, they bring out two people who are the main subjects of the film, “Queen of Katwe,” based on a true story about a female Uganda chess prodigy.

And then the two stars of the movie: David Oyelowo, who was nominated for an Academy Award for playing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the movie “Selma” and Lupita Nyong’o, who won the Academy Award for “12 Years a Slave.”

Here’s the background trailer:

So this is the second time in a week that I’ve been to a performance where the subjects of the story actually show up at the event. Last week, it was at Ford’s Theatre (yeah, the place where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated) for the second night of a new musical about the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. (And yes I realize how potentially tasteless that sounds, and no, the name of the musical wasn’t “Springtime for bin Laden.”)

The musical, “Come From Away,” was very good and is headed to Broadway. It’s the story of how the citizens of Gander, Newfoundland, pulled together to take care of the people on the 38 passenger jets that were rerouted to the small island community when all of the air traffic to the United States was grounded. The special appearances were by the woman who was the captain for a Paris to Dallas American Airlines flight, and a middle aged couple (Brit man, Texas woman) who met and fell in love during their five days in Newfoundland and later got married.

Following the performance there was a half hour Q&A with the playwrights and the subjects of the musical.

(Oh, by the way. The Nats lost in 10 innings.)

The athlete formerly known as Prince

We’re hearing all these stories about how Prince, the musician, was a great athlete. These stories are kind of old, and we didn’t believe them, but everyone swears they were true.

Like Prince and basketball:

 

Samuel L. Jackson says it’s true:

And Prince and ping pong:

Susan Sarandon says it’s true:

And I didn’t know Prince hung out with Michael Jackson and tormented him:

I would love to have been a fly on the wall for the Prince/Michael Jackson ping-pong match.

But there was respect. Prince wouldn’t have covered this song if he disrespected Michael.