Staff memories of Michael Jackson: April 1 hoax

By Eric Butler: Freedom New Mexico

I can only remember falling for two April Fool’s jokes that were in print.

One was Sports Illustrated’s hoax that an eccentric pitcher named Sidd Finch had learned how to throw a baseball 168 miles an hour and had been signed to the Mets.

That was sort of understandable. The issue, though dated April 1, 1985, came to my house days before I had even got around to thinking about pranks and such.

The other was a little more embarrassing for a student attending Eastern New Mexico University at the time. The year was either ‘83 or ‘84 and, this I remember, the issue of the campus paper was dated April 1.

The big news was the pop music superstar Michael Jackson had decided to come to Portales and do a concert there.

Why? As I recall, the writer came up with some cockamamie story about how some kind-hearted citizens from Portales had assisted MJ and his traveling troupe while they were all passing through New Mexico. Apparently, the tour bus had some kind of mechanical problem or something and Michael was so grateful he promised the good samaritans a free show in their hometown.

Yeah, I was excited. What can I say?

My sister and I, only a couple of years before, had propped a copy of “Thriller” face-out on a living room bookshelf in an earnest effort to give our house a “cooler” look (much to my mom’s chagrin).

The idea that Jackson would be moonwalking all over a stage at Greyhound Arena was soon dashed when I noticed that the newspaper had two front pages: The real front page and, on the back, the April Fool’s Joke.

I guess I should’ve realized that the King of Pop doing a charity concert at ENMU, at the height of his popularity, was unrealistic. But country superstars Alabama had also played at the college at around the same time, so it seemed sort of credible.

As it turned out, I was completely taken in – if only for a few moments. But, just so you know, I wasn’t the only one bamboozled on that day.

And I also wasn’t the only one who really did like Michael Jackson back then.