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It Came From the ’80s: It’s Just a Thriller! (1983)

by Sheri White

You may argue that Thriller is a video and not a movie, and you’d be partially right.  But I would argue that Thriller was so much more than a music video – it was an event.

I had just turned 18 when Michael Jackson’s amazing album was released.  The music was absolutely phenomenal, and Marybeth and I were dancing the nights away in many a club to it.  We had two gay friends who were a couple, Raymond and Don.  We went to a lot of gay bars with them, because let’s face it, gay men can DANCE.  Those nights were always such a blast.

My friend Bobby, who lived across the street from me, kept telling me about the Thriller video, and how it was full of zombies and creepy stuff that he knew I liked.  Vincent Price rapping?  Count me in!  We didn’t have cable or MTV yet, so I went over to Bobby’s one day after I got home from work and we waited for it to come on.  We didn’t have to wait long; it seemed MTV was playing it every hour or so.

Zombie Jackson

Zombie Jackson

It was amazing.  I couldn’t stop talking about it to my friends.  Marybeth and I worked together at the time, and I would tell her how cool it was and how she had to see it.  I worked above a mall, and while out at lunch one day, saw a video, The Making of Thriller, in a video store window.  This was in the days of VHS and Beta, and we had a Beta (which should’ve won).  A few minutes later, the video was mine.

I invited Marybeth, Raymond and Don over for a Thriller-watching party.  We’d not only get to see the Thriller video, but how it was made.

I thought the “making of” part was pretty cool.  John Landis was the director, and we got to see how the video was put together.  It was very interesting to see Michael Jackson on the set – he was very immature and playful, and seemed to delay a lot of shots, although Landis was a good sport.

There were a couple bonuses in there as well – “Can You Feel It,” which was a new song at the time by The Jacksons.  It was a pretty cool video, although I don’t remember the song ever being played on the radio.  You can see the video here:

Can You Feel It Music Video

We had a blast at my house that night.  My brother Dave hung out with us to watch, although he had chicken pox – at fifteen!  Poor kid was miserable, so I decided to be the nice big sister and let him stay.  So wine coolers and poppers in hand, we watched the hell out of that tape.

Another bonus was Michael’s “Billie Jean” performance on the Grammy’s, something I hadn’t seen.  That was the night he introduced the “Moonwalk” and blew the world away.  He actually got a call after that from one of my favorite dancers, Gene Kelly, who praised Michael highly.  We all cheered in my living room as the audience cheered on TV.  Who didn’t try the move after that?  The nightclubs were filled with Moonwalk poseurs, but everyone had to try.

My youngest daughter, Becca, actually does a pretty good version of it.

After we finished watching the tape, we were wired.  We headed out that night to our favorite gay bar, Lost and Found, and got our groove on.

I watched that tape many times after that; I just couldn’t get enough of it.  To this day, “Billie Jean” is my favorite Michael Jackson song.  I like “Thriller,” but I like watching the video more than listening to the song on the radio.  “Billie Jean” always gets me moving, even in the car!

I think The Making of Thriller is on DVD now, so if it is, check out a copy.  It’s very 80s, but that’s the fun of it.  This was Michael back in his glory days, before he turned white, had nose jobs and became “eccentric;” before the awful things were said about him.  Whether true or not, nobody can dispute the fact that in 1983, Michael Jackson was already a legend.

The Making of Thriller (Part 1)