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Dan Dunn

I’ve been loosely following the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray — the physician facing involuntary manslaughter charges in connection with the death of his former patient, Michael Jackson — and must say that while I’m all for the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, based on everything I’ve seen and heard about the case thus far, this Dr. Murray cat appears to be an incompetent hack. At the very least, he’s guilty of being the worst doctor since…well, since Jackson’s plastic surgeon.

I mean, the guy prescribed massive quantities of the powerful surgical anesthetic Propofol as a sleep aid to a patient who was clearly unstable to begin with. Who the hell taught this guy how to practice medicine, Josef Mengele?

It’s reminded me of something that happened a few days after the singer’s death. Something that rates among the more unusual incidents I’ve witnessed inside a drinking establishment: Watching a guy get 86’d for queuing up too many MJ tracks on the jukebox.

Yes, for real.

It happened in the middle of a weekday afternoon at the Venice Whaler — a bar and restaurant located on the beach in Los Angeles. I arrived looking to grab some liquid lunch and soon spotted a guy with a large, freshly-inked tattoo of Michael Jackson’s visage, circa 1983, on his arm. It was, to the say the least, weird. I had to say something to the guy. He appeared to be in his early 30s, good-looking, clean cut. Seemed straight; perhaps an ex-frat boy. Not really the sort of fella you’d expect would willingly have the album cover from “Thriller” permanently etched into his skin.

The guy — who spoke in a dialect I happen to be familiar with called “shitfaced” — drunkenly explicated that he had been part of a film crew that was scheduled to capture M-Jack’s worldwide “This Is It” tour, before the singer went and screwed everything up by dying.

“My whole life is ruined,” he cried. “I was supposed to be on the road with Michael for the next 18 months, and now what? I’m fucked.”

Not as fucked as, say, Michael Jackson or for that matter, anyone in the Venice Whaler that day who didn’t particularly appreciate the King of Pop’s oeuvre. You see, tatt-frat-head had decided to pay tribute to his dearly departed meal ticket by loading $100 worth of MJ’s music onto the jukebox. Given that the selection was limited to just two albums, there was a fair degree of repetition.

Around the third of fourth go-round of “Rock with You” the bartender had had enough. She came out from behind the bar, angrily pulled the plug on the jukebox and shouted, “ENOUGH ALREADY WITH THE MICHAEL FUCKING JACKSON!” A rousing cheer went up. She then plugged the jukebox back in, fed it a few bucks, and on came “Cherub Rock” by The Smashing Pumpkins. Order was momentarily restored.

Ah, but the cat with jheri-curled MJ image on his shoulder was none too thrilled that his musical hero had been supplanted by Billy Corgan. He slid a $50 bill into the jukebox, and cued up another hefty helping of Michael, starting with “Man in the Mirror.” And he danced. Alone. Even by far-out Venice standards, what we were witnessing was highly peculiar.

Following a double shot of “Dirty Diana,” the bartender once again marched out from behind the bar, only this time she headed straight to the door and grabbed the bouncer. It was time for the jukebox joker to beat it. Just beat it.

But he wanted to be starting something, so when the behemoth bouncer tapped him on the shoulder and asked him to leave, he wheeled around and unleashed a spectacularly ungainly haymaker. He missed by a mile, lost his balance and fell flat on his face. And then he started weeping. Violently. Weeping. Over Michael Jackson.

After they threw him out and removed all the MJ tracks from the jukebox queue, the bartender delivered an admonition no one is likely to hear ever again:

“The next person to play anything off of Thriller on that jukebox today will be barred from here for life.”

And that, my friends, was just Off the Wall.

Read the previous installment of The Imbiber on Food Republic. 


Dan’s book “Living Loaded: Tales of Sex, Salvation and the Pursuit of the Never-Ending Happy Hour” is available at Amazon, Borders Barnes & Noble and wherever books are sold. Follow Dan on Twitter and Facebook