And then around the bend to the weird-looking guy with the chimp and surgical mask; the man with the ever-whitening face and ever-narrowing nose who held his baby over a hotel railing.
"Michael is pretty close to still cool all the way through 'Thriller,'" says Rolling Stone's Joe Levy. "It's around the time of 'Bad' that people begin to scratch their heads and say, 'but it might not be so cool anymore.'"
But "Bad" was released in 1987, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod. With Michael Jackson, eccentric turned bizarre a long time ago.
"Where does the point come where you want to look away? When they start doing things that you can't accept," says Levy. "When they start looking in ways that you can't accept."
In other words, the morphing from cute to unique to flat-out strange didn't keep Jackson from putting people in the seats. He was weird, not repulsive.
But a comeback from this? As a politician once put it, "The only way I'll lose is if I'm caught with a dead girl or a live boy."
"Child molestation is just the harshest thing one can be accused of," says public relations specialist Ronn Torrosian. "The Michael Jackson brand is effectively dead."
Torrosian knows spin. His PR firm reps stars like P. Diddy and Mary K. Blige, who've needed his skills after brushes with the law. For Michael Jackson, he says, there can be no second act.
Michael Jackson is about to test the limits of that theory because everyone's supposed to get a second act in American life.
"People will still hear that old music and relate to it," says Rolling Stone's Joe Levy. "Yet we're not going to talk about Michael Jackson as a man of accomplishments. We are going to talk about him as a freak."
And that certainly isn't anything anyone wants on their tombstone, even if they're only talking about their career.