Joby Rogers never met Michael Jackson, but he did get his hearty endorsement.
“He went through 116 videos of tribute artists and he picked me,” said Rogers, who will bring his show, “The Ultimate Michael Experience,” to Proctors for one show at 8 p.m. on Friday. “Yeah, that made me feel pretty good. That made it all worthwhile.”
A native of New Britain, Connecticut, Rogers has been performing as Jackson since he was in high school back in 1984. In 2003, he got a letter from Jackson asking him to become his official substitute.
“It was from his company, but it had his signature, and he chose me out of 116 other people to make a decoy appearance for him at the Tribeca Film Festival,” said Rogers.
‘The Ultimate Michael Experience’
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday
HOW MUCH: $50-$20
MORE INFO: 346-6204, www.proctors.org
“I’m also Michael’s only tribute artist to make the cover of Rolling Stone. I’ve always been a big fan, and although I wasn’t a dancer, I learned all his moves.”
Rogers, who is half Italian and half African-American, began performing as Jackson as part of a friend’s band.
“I was the closest thing to Michael Jackson that they had, so when they asked me I decided to say yes and just work with them,” he said.
“Then I would show up at kids’ birthday parties with balloons and a boom box. I do that five or six times a week and get $30 or $35 a pop.”
Eventually, after winning the $1,000 first prize in a Michael Jackson Dance/Look-alike Contest at Weaver High School just outside of Hartford, Rogers started performing as Jackson at local clubs in the Hartford area.
“I did some small clubs, and then I was able to branch out,” said Rogers, whose performances are lip-synched.
“I got a job at an off-Broadway club in New York, ‘LaCage,’ which was a show made up of female impersonators. I learned how to do makeup, and how to make myself look more like Michael. That’s when I realized I could keep doing this kind of thing, and really make some money doing something I truly enjoyed.”
Rogers showed up at numerous performances by Jackson in the 1980s, but he never met him.
“I did get to meet his brother, Germaine, and not long after Michael passed in 2009 I met all the Jacksons and had a picture taken with them by Michael’s photographer, Harrison Funk,” said Rogers. “I wish I would have had the opportunity to meet him. That would have been great. When he died it was like I lost a sibling.”
Rogers, who has made national television appearances on “Conan” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” said a performer like Jackson doesn’t come around too often.
“I think it was his professionalism and his need to be perfect in all of his performances,” he said. “You see his silhouette behind a screen and you know that’s him. What other artist can do that? He was uncanny and you’re never going to see anyone like him again.”
When he’s not performing as Jackson, which he’s done in 46 states and 11 countries, Rogers works as an arts writer for two Connecticut newspapers and also teaches students how to use makeup.
“I am a certified makeup educator, and I also am an entertainment journalist,” he said. “I love both jobs. I’ve been writing for about 10 years and doing the makeup thing for about 15. I had to do all my own makeup to perform as Michael, and I got pretty good at it. Now I’m teaching others how to do it.”