My friend Gene Trindl, who passed away four years ago this month at 80, shot more covers for TV Guide than any other photographer--over 200 covers. Gene worked with them all, and as he told me back when we were collaborating on a collection of his celebrity photographs, had a couple of memorable encounters with Michael Jackson.
Jackson was already a phenomenon when Gene snapped the above shot. At 10 or 11, he was the breakout star of The Jackson 5, the kid who danced an dazzled on The Ed Sullivan Show and all the other big variety hours that dominated television back in the late-'60s, early '70s. Gene got a call to come photograph all five brothers, and, spotting Michael alone and off to one side, caught him in a pensive mood.
Fifteen years later, Gene got another call to shoot stills for Jackson's ground-breaking Thriller video. Jackson was, without question at this point, the hottest star on the planet. Every track from that album got airplay and Thriller stopped you in your tracks whenever it came on TV. It was the video that drove MTV and MuchMusic straight to the bank.
Gene remembered that shot he took all those years earlier of the young entertainer. He went into his dark room, and carefully hand developed an 11 x 14 print for the singer. He custom mounted and framed it and took it with him to the set of Thriller.
Gene snapped away and waited for a chance to present the photograph. Jackson was, as you could imagine, pretty busy that day, dancing, singing, taking direction from John Landis. Finally there was a break, and Gene put down his camera and walked the framed shot over to the superstar.
Jackson gave the photo a fleeting glance and quickly walked away. He did not want to go there at all. He would not look at the photo.
Gene guessed it brought back bad memories, or maybe Jackson just no longer accepted that image as representing who he was at that moment or who he had become. Still, as Gene wondered, how could anybody turn their back on such a handsome, beautiful face.