“Smooth Criminal” – The Shoes That Held The Song Together

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This song was a highlight of Jackson’s live shows, where he performed variations of the 45-degree lean popularized in the video, often leaving the crowd wondering how it was done. The routine grew more elaborate over time; on the Dangerous tour (1992-1993), he basically reenacted the video with four dancers. The HIStory tour (1996-1997) brought a more theatrical performance, with Jackson dressed like a 1930s Chicago gangster. He would appear on stage with a prop machine gun and blast away six or so rival gangsters, whose bodies were then dragged off stage to great applause.

The lean was accomplished with specially designed shoes that could lock into an anchor on the floor. Jackson patented the system.

In 1993, Jackson patented the mechanism used to create the gangster lean in his “Smooth Criminal” performances.

Converted to lawyer-speak, the patent reads: “A system for allowing a shoe wearer to lean forwardly beyond his center of gravity by virtue of wearing a specially designed pair of shoes which will engage with a hitch member movably projectable through a stage surface. The shoes have a specially designed heel slot which can be detachably engaged with the the hitch member by simply sliding the shoe wearer’s foot forward, thereby engaging with the hitch member.

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