The Wiz Kid

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Sequined glove, high-water slacks, and penny loafers, oh my! In the 1980s, Michael Jackson crafted his signature look. Throughout his career, the King of Pop has donned many character looks — from a zombie to a gangster to an ancient Egyptian magi — but there’s one character that not all fans may remember: the friendly, loveable scarecrow without a brain.

In the 1978 film adaptation of The Wiz from the Broadway musical of the same name, Diana Ross played Dorothy, a young school teacher anxious to get back home to Harlem, Richard Pryor played The Wiz, the magician who could grant her wish to do so, and Mabel King played Evillene, the wicked witch who stood in her way. Jackson played the scarecrow in a film that has quietly joined the list of cult classics.

And on Sunday, Aug. 30, one day after what would have been Michael Jackson’s 51st birthday, DJ Soul Sister hosts a free screening of the movie at One Eyed Jacks starting at 7 p.m. with a Jackson 5 cartoon matinee preceding the screening.

“Well, ever since the death happened, everybody has been asking me to do something, like throw a party, but it’s too soon for me to do something like that,” says Soul Sister. “And I wanted to at least mark the birthday to commemorate him and do something a little different. It’s an interesting movie and it’s gonna be fun.”

Michael Jackson died of a cardiac arrest on June 25, shocking fans worldwide, and depriving many of his much anticipated stint in London at the O2 Arena. Jackson left behind an impressive show business career that began in the mid-1960s with his brothers in the Jackson 5. Jackson eclipsed the popularity of the group when he went solo in his late teens. His album Thriller became one of the best selling album’s off all time with over 100 million units sold.

The album won the budding superstar eight Grammy’s, but it also showcased Jackson’s acting interest and ability. In the music video for “Thriller,” Jackson played the roles of a bloodthirsty werewolf and crazed zombie, which were nothing like his shy, soft-spoken public persona.

But it was in his first feature film role that Jackson got to play the likeable scarecrow, a role that seemed to fit his caring disposition. Initially the Wizard of Oz adaptation was panned by critics for it’s silliness and especially because Diana Ross’ appeared too old to portray the young Dorothy. But Jackson seemed to be the bright spot of the film, with some critics noticing that the young musician may have some hidden acting talent.

“Its rated G, but it’s a really strange film; it scared the daylights out of me.” Soul Sister recalls. “The film is just outrageous and fun, but it’s not a kiddie film. The film is wild and if you haven’t seen it before, its something to experience. But Michael is the reason you would want to come see it.”

Music fans who want to “Shake your body down to the ground” to commemorate Michael Jackson will have to wait until December’s underground dance party at the Dragon’s Den, when Soul Sister will spin all of Jackson’s biggest hits along with the hits from one of his biggest influences, James Brown.

“I love Michael and I wanted to show that [New Orleans’] love for Michael Jackson is not a fad,” Soul Sister says. “We’ll love him forever.” – Briana Prevost

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