Editor’s Note- – Sixty miles north of Isla Vista, the internationally covered trial of Michael Jackson continues to draw a dedicated group of fans to the singer’s defense. The second in a continuing series, the Daily Nexus heads to Santa Maria to interview the Jackson supporters holding court outside the trial.
For many of the fans clustered outside the Santa Maria courthouse gates, Michael Jackson is less a musician than a lifestyle; less a pop icon than a religious one.
Darina Ahern, a 29-year-old native of Dublin, Ireland, sat on a blanket of Irish and American flags Monday morning, saying that squatting on cement and scrambling for glimpses of the elusive pop star was her equivalent of a beach vacation. Ahern said for the last six years, almost every dollar earned at her 55-hour-a-week catering job has gone to traveling around the world to support Jackson at concerts, hotels and trials. From the moment she first saw him on television, Ahern said, she has felt an intimate connection with the singer that has moved her to spend a week standing vigil outside the courthouse at his trial.
“When I was six years old, I heard “Billie Jean” and saw “Thriller” and I wasn’t scared at all,” she said. “There was just something about this man that was just amazing and drew me to him. Some people save toward a house, some people take drumming lessons; I’m at this moment in my life when I can go see Michael. It’s something deep inside of me.”
Ahern said she began covering her walls with posters of the singer and finding personal meaning in his music, ultimately going to her first Jackson concert at 21 years old and becoming hooked on seeing the King of Pop.
“Any time he was on TV, I’d tape it,” Ahern said. “My schoolbooks were covered in song lyrics. My parents didn’t have enough money for me to be in a fan club, but like any fan, when anything bad happened at school, you would go home and put Michael on and it would put you in a better place.”
Ahern then peeled down the sleeve of her sweater, one of many white articles of clothing standing out in the Santa Maria sunshine, symbolizing Jackson’s innocence. Michael Jackson’s name was tattooed below an image of his famous dancing feet high on her arm.
“It’s from “Billie Jean,” and that’s one of the first songs that drew me to Michael,” Ahern said. “It’s Michael the dancer. I’ve been a dancer all my life. It’s everything that is me – Michael and the dancer.”
A woman in a white suit and hat covered in what looked like several layers of thick makeup stood beneath an umbrella Monday morning, surveying the fans and taking Ahern’s love of Jackson’s dance up a notch. San Diego native Dev Gregory said she has been a Jackson impersonator for five years, and says although she must still work as a massage therapist and an African percussionist to pay the bills, being Jackson allows her to explore the artist’s unique and revolutionary movements.
“I was a professional dancer and it was his dancing that drew me in,” Gregory said. “I thought I had done everything, but I had never moonwalked. I wasn’t a fan until I started impersonating him. … The music and the dance go hand in hand. Michael interprets the music with the way he moves.”
Gregory and some of the more flamboyantly dressed fans were surrounded by news cameras broadcasting their faces to curious millions. Ahern ate lunch and chatted with her friends, looking out from her seat over the crowd.
“I have my normal life,” Ahern said. “This is just one part of my life. [Dressing like Jackson] is like putting on your work clothes and going to work. I’m pretty boring. I go to work, I go out, I have friends. I’m just like anybody else.”