I was reviewing some online headlines when I came across a reminder of sorts regarding a man that few people have met but many in the industry know. I speak of Michael Jackson and I don't mean the crotch grabbing, pale skinned entertainer of millions during the 80's and 90's, but the other MJ. Today March 27th, 2009 would have been his 67th birthday and like many I have only memory when I personally met him for the first time.
It was back in 2006 during the World Beer Cup in Seattle while we (my wife and I) attended a brewers & vintners dinner at Union. For my wife it was also her first time meeting this man who she likened to, as she teased, Santa Claus and in a way that seemed appropriate to call him that. This was a man who dressed in a salt and pepper sports jacket complete with elbow covers, a rather distinctive tie, and a pair of designer glasses. What made the whole thing all the more 'geek' is that here was a man who despite my not knowing about his Parkinson's looked like he was drunk. I mean this in all respect to Mr. Jackson but at the time I thought to myself this man has lived the life!
Michael had a soft spoken accent whose inflection was British and an ability to speak to the audience that for the audience felt like being a large auditorium during a lecture. I sat there listening to his every word knowing that decades of experience were echoed in each breath. Later a book was offered to each of the attendants at this one hundred and twenty five per person event with an opportunity to have MJ autograph it. During this time I took the moment to have Michael sign my moleskin leather-bound notebook as well as my copy of his book. We chatted for only a couple of moments but I have to admit I felt glad to have finally met him.
Sadly a year later Michael suffered through the ravages of Parkinson's before his passing on August 30th, 2007 at the age of 65. A month passed and gathering at one of our favorite pubs we all raised a glass to toast the man who inspired thousands and continues to inspire thousands more even from the great void. Please join me tonight wherever you are in toasting him once again for filling our minds, our hearts, and our stomachs with the words of good beer.
Michael Jackson (b. March 27th, 1942)