January 27, 1984: What was supposed to be a routine commercial shoot, turned into a pivotal, life changing moment for Michael Jackson.
Jackson was the biggest star in the world, riding high off the success of this ""Thriller" album, which had been perched at #1 on charts for most of 1983. He and his brothers were traveling the country on their "Victory" tour, and had signed an endorsement deal with Pepsi.
This brought them to the Shrine Auditorium in LA to shoot the now infamous commercial. On the sixth take, Jackson was dancing to his hit, "Billie Jean" in the faux concert setting, apparently moved too close to a pyrotechnics display, which went off early. Here's a video of the event that has been floating around the internet for years.
He was set ablaze by the fireworks, suffering second-degree burns to his scalp and losing some of his hair. His jacket also caught on fire.
For some reason, there was no fire fighting equipment nearby. You see his rescuers putting the flames out with their bare hands.
Jackson underwent treatment to hide the scars and had his third rhinoplasty shortly thereafter.
It is said by many close to the King of Pop that the pain from the burns and the painkillers that he took in the accidents aftermath started the troubles with drugs that haunted him for the remainder of his life.
Thanks to Tap Root for some of the details in this blog.