Michael Firestone: I am aware that people come to see my shows because they love MJ
Having entertained Michael Jackson fans for over 20 years by mimicking the pop icon on stage, Michael Firestone talks of his first leg of concerts in India
Born in Rome, NY, Michael Firestone began idolising and imitating the King of Pop, Michael Jackson's magical dance moves, 30 years ago. For the last 20 years, he has also travelled the world over, making a living as a pseudo Jackson in concerts that have won acclaim. For the first time, the performer will impersonate the King of Pop at an upcoming tribute tour in the country. I Am King - The Michael Jackson Experience, is set to take place in the city from March 13 to 15, and will travel to Bengaluru on March 16 and 17. Firestone, we learn, will perform on Jackson's biggest hits, including Bad, Billie Jean, Thriller, Man In The Mirror and Human Nature, among others. Over an email, he connects with us to discuss his peculiar career choice.
When did you first realise that you wanted to make a career of aping Jackson?
When I saw his music videos. After that, I couldn't stop learning his moves and his songs.
Do you recall your first interaction with him?
I met him in 2002 in Las Vegas, and we spoke for hours. It [interaction] was more normal than I had expected it to be. He called me a few weeks later, and we spent several hours on the phone talking about everything - love, life, family, the stars, space and time travel. Michael was spiritual, and cared about every human being. He was among the nicest, if not the nicest person I've met.
How did your family react to your choice of career?
I wanted to impersonate MJ after coming to Vegas and watching the impersonator [the late] Lane Lassiter. Lane has been an inspiration for many up and coming MJs. My family was not surprised. I had already been impersonating MJ at home for long. They thought [the phase would] pass, but it never did. Over 20 years later, I am still doing it.
It's not easy to emulate MJ. What kind of physical alterations did you have to go through to look like him?
I did not have to go through any physical changes. The one thing I must continue to do is stay in shape. I work out to keep my stamina up. It's a high energy show, involving a lot of dance, and I am not allowed to lose my breath.
His dance technique was as unique as the man. How did you learn his moves? Which is your best number as a performer?
Oh boy, it is not easy! He [was] so talented. I learnt from watching videos and recording myself, and then critiquing those videos. I did that over and over again. My favourite number, as a performer-singer, is Human Nature, and as dancer, it's Billie Jean.
How did Michael Jackson and his music influence you, personally?
It inspired me to be a songwriter. His music is positive and also, at times, calming. Pop music, today, doesn't even come close to his tracks.
What motivates you to hit the stage again and again? Would you do this for your lifetime?
I've been performing live for over 20 years. I love being on stage. It's the audience that motivates me; the way they react, dance, and sing along, is amazing. I will continue doing this for as long as I possibly can.
Have you made peace with the fact that the audience's appreciation is for him, and not you?
I am aware that people come to see my show because they love MJ. I have no issue with that. As a matter of fact, I would not have it any other way. The show is named I Am King, not because I think I am [the] king, but because he [was]. I will continue to bring the magic and music of MJ to venues worldwide for as long as I possibly can. There will never be another MJ.
Along with love come brickbats. Jackson was involved in a lot of controversies. Did you ever experience the wrath of people?
The one thing we should all learn from him is that no matter what, haters will always hate. But we don't have to let it get to us. He loved people. Since he was a boy, he gave us his soul through his music.
This is the first time you are performing in India. What kind of expectations do you have from the audience?
I hope that for 90 minutes, the audience forgets everything and becomes part of the show. We will do something in Mumbai and Bangalore [soon].
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