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Saturday, Mar 25, 2017
Arts & Music

Tampa DJ cherishes memories of lunch with Jackson

As a DJ at radio stations across the country for decades, Jon Anthony has collected a music hall of fame of photos which he plastered on the walls of his Valrico home office. There's Rick Springfield, 'NSync, Toby Keith and Bobby Brown. But there's one picture more precious than all the others. "If my house were to catch on fire, I would grab my wife, my son and that picture of Michael Jackson, and we would hit the door," Anthony said. "That's how big that picture is to me." Anthony had lunch with Jackson in 1981. He spent an hour and a half with the pop star, who was cutting tracks for the album "Thriller" at a Nashville studio next door.
He met Jackson after he was called over by a record executive pal who noticed Jackson outside the studio. The two men approached Jackson and asked him if he'd like to join them for lunch in the record exec's office. Anthony calls it an experience he will never forget. He says the three of them ordered sub sandwiches and talked about everyday topics like sports and the weather. They were trying to steer away from subjects like celebrity that might make Jackson feel uncomfortable. "I could not believe how friendly he was, how nice he was, and how relaxed he was, "Anthony said. "It was almost like he had escaped out of that world that he was so used to and got to come into the real world with some real people and eat a sub sandwich." The photo of Anthony and Jackson was snapped before their lunch. "I didn't realize I was going to be having my picture made with one of the biggest entertainers in the world!" Anthony, now 54, ended up in Tampa Bay when his career led him to a radio job here. Since then he's met more famous people, and more photos have filled up spaces on his walls. But when it comes to celebrities, he will always regard the Michael Jackson photo as his most valuable item. Jackson's sudden death was a real punch in the gut to Anthony. "We have lost the greatest entertainer of all time, end of story. " Anthony watched the televised memorial for Jackson and said it was a fitting, tasteful tribute for pop royalty. Anthony says there's only one thing left to say now, even for a former DJ. "Rest in peace, King."
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