Standing on the Sidewalk, Waiting for…?

We were standing outside the terminal at Los Angeles International, waiting for a bus to take us to a car rental lot. Another passenger from our flight was waiting for the same bus, which was in no hurry to get there. He struck up a conversation.

While we recognized immediately he was from England, we didn't recognize him for who he really was.

That would be "Michael Jackson."

We'd just left a cruise ship, the Norwegian Epic, where we'd seen another "Michael Jackson." Two years before that, on another cruise, we watched yet another "Michael Jackson" in concert.

All of them are "tribute artists" who keep the music of the King of Pop alive, and entertain an audience that misses the deceased super star. But what are the chances that in four days you would meet two of them, without even trying?

On the Epic, the performance we saw was the artistry of J Lucas (left), who does this sort of thing for the world-famous Legends of Concert. We'd seen him the previous night in a brief, impromptu performance alongside Slam Allen, the bluesman who entertains nightly at the Epic's Fat Cats lounge.

About 24 hours later, when J turned into MJ, he was terrific as a tribute act. Later, he told us he studied Michael Jackson tapes intensively for six months before embarking on his new career. That was in 2009.

The MJ at the airport is quite a different story. His name is Navi, he's from the Caribbean, lives in London and does 250 shows a year, all over the world. We'd talked for about 10 minutes (yes, the bus was late) before he told us enough about his travels that we had to ask what he did for a living.

"I'm in the music business," he said. "It's kind of hard to explain, so let me show you."

And here, on the sidewalk outside LAX, we watch a snapshot of his impersonation on his smartphone (as much as you can tell from a 30-second preview, he is spectacular). And if you don't believe a guy standing at an airport waiting for a rental car bus when he tells you he plays Michael Jackson, check out his website: www.kingofpop.co.uk.

And here's the kicker. He used to work for the real Michael, originally as a decoy because there was enough of a facial resemblance that he could, and later as a legitimate impersonator who is articulate, affable and — clearly — approachable.

Sometimes, life can be really surreal, can't it?


Norwegian Epic
7 nights
January 19, 2013
Miami (return): St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Nassau
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $71
www.ncl.com

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