This year Jackson arrived. His high-octane Thriller album spawned a record six Top 10 singles and has so far sold more than 20 million LPs worldwide, second only to Saturday Night Fever. While his high-stepping videos to the singles Beat It, Billie Jean and Say Say Say were getting saturation play on MTV, Jackson took the form one step further with a $1.1 million, 14-minute film to accompany his Thriller title song. Starring Jackson and 1980 Playboy playmate Ola Ray as high school sweethearts in a mock monster movie, it played on MTV for several weeks and premiered in movie theaters last month, in time to qualify for a 1984 short-subject Oscar.
Yet for all his public exposure, Jackson remains an intensely private person, reclusive as Garbo. A Jehovah's Witness, he neither smokes nor drinks, is a strict vegetarian and fasts one day each week. "He's so pure it's scary," says Ray. "He's a space person." Echoes Quincy Jones, Jackson's producer: "Sometimes I think Michael is from another planet."
In 1984 he will cross much of this one when he joins his brothers on a major tour. Promoted by hyperverbose boxing entrepreneur Don King and sponsored—to the tune of at least $5 million—by Pepsi-Cola, the tour is slated to begin in May, hit as many as 50 American cities, move on to Europe and make more noise than any invasion since D day. In other words, a tour not unlike the performer himself. Out of this world.