A couple of dozen fans waited calmly at midnight Monday as assistant manager Cresing Malinis tore away the posters covering a rack of double CDs of the new Michael Jackson album, "HIStory," at Planet Music at Westview Plaza.
Within 10 minutes, Baltimore pediatrician Dr. Michael Zollicoffer had the biggest armful of Jackson albums, including CDs, cassettes, the "HIStory" video and even a vinyl record album.
"I'm getting every medium I could. I've been a Michael Jackson fan from way back when," said Dr. Zollicoffer, who practices in Baltimore and Randallstown. He said he has followed the pop star's career since Mr. Jackson was a kid singing with The Jackson Five.
"I've seen him 15, 16 times in person. . . . It's just a thrill to see him come back," he said -- back from the recent controversy over a sexual-abuse suit filed against the star that was later withdrawn after an out-of-court settlement.
"It doesn't make a difference. Inside, it's that same innocence; somehow he still keeps that innocence of youth. This is a man who's crossed 25 years of music," said Dr. Zollicoffer. And after listening to his purchase in the car going home Monday night and again to and from work yesterday, the pediatrician called in a review: "I think it's pretty good all the way through."
The flurry of activity at the record store near Catonsville demonstrated a steady if not overwhelming demand for the new Jackson product. The release yesterday followed a $30 million promotional campaign and last week's highly rated "PrimeTime Live" interview with Mr. Jackson and his wife, Lisa Marie Presley.
"We're selling quite a few. We'll sell out, definitely," said Earl Jones, manager of the record department of the new Bibelot store in Pikesville.
Shortly after noon, in a live promotional broadcast from a Waxie Maxie's outlet on Security Boulevard in Woodlawn, WXYV-FM (102.7) deejay Lorenzo "Ice Tea" Thomas said 60 to 70 people had lined up to buy "HIStory."
At the Recordmasters outlet in The Rotunda, clerk Jamie Hopkins said, "We've sold some." But he also noted, "It's a greatest hits package, so it's not getting a big reaction."
And at Planet Music, manager Ben Whitehouse said yesterday afternoon that sales at the midnight release session had so far exceeded sales during the day. The store is open every Monday until 12:30 a.m. to make recordings available at the beginning of the usual Tuesday release day.
Assistant manager Tanya Fermin said the "HIStory" response exceeded that of the similar midnight release of Pink Floyd's "Pulse" earlier this month.
The first person in line Monday night was Argin Hutchins of Baltimore, buying the album for his grandson.
Another early purchaser was UMBC student Jonta Williams of Silver Spring, who said: "I just like Michael, and I want it now. I didn't want to come back tomorrow and have it be gone."
"She's so bad," joked classmate Tandi Barnes. "We had to get her here or we would not sleep tonight."
Hank Bahne, who works as a deejay at radio station WVYC-FM (88.1), an alternative music station in York, Pa., was buying several CD copies, in spite of some critical reservations about "HIStory."
"I'd rate it 80 percent of what it could be," he said. "I guess part of it's the hype. They've been pushing it for nine months. . . . I think he was trying to fight off everything that's been said about him, when he should have paid more attention to making the album." Still, he added, "I think he should have brought out a greatest hits album years ago."
"You know it's hard to predict. It wouldn't surprise me if it were the biggest record of the year, and it wouldn't surprise me if it was gone in two months," said Lee Geary, music director and midday deejay at WGRX-FM (100.7).
Although her rock-formatted station is not playing "HIStory," she said, "you've got to pay attention to Jackson . . . although I still have a problem that he hasn't evolved much over the last few albums. It seems still so stuck in the '80s."