Michael always made sure everyone was very well looked after. Although he didn't eat when he was there, dinner was laid out for all of the rest of us. He would sometimes mingle with us in other places, as well, as long as he was sure he wouldn't be mobbed. In Germany we once stayed in a large house rather than a hotel, which was memorable because it "featured a miniature bowling alley. Because we were the only people staying there, Michael felt able to come down to the bar and say hello to everyone, although unlike the rest of us, he didn't partake of the famous and delicious German beer.
Michael was far more tolerant of our normal human frailties than most people would have been. In Scotland, he stayed in a house, while we stayed in a hotel about a mile, away - a hotel that proved to be totally inadequate. We asked if we could move to another hotel and Michael agreed. While the move was taking place, we were asked to the house in which Michael was staying, where food and drink were laid out for us, along with playing cards and other entertainments. The drink flowed rapidly, with the result that when a call came from Michael's room at about 10 p.m. saying that he wanted one of us to go out and collect some Kentucky Fried Chicken, not one of us was in a fit state to do so. 'Look at you lot: said an aide. 'You're his drivers and none of you are capable of driving.' Michael took the whole episode in very good heart, though, and sanctioned a mini cab to go out for his late-night snack.
Before the start of every concert, Michael would have an audience with the local children. He was very friendly to them: he'd answer questions, sign autographs and pose for photographs with his young fans. The children absolutely loved it - they were as excited as anyone else about meeting Michael Jackson. When we returned to London, my children - Michael, five, and four-year-old Sheryl - were invited to the meeting and were wildly excited at the prospect.
In the event, the concert was cancelled because Michael had a sore throat, with the result that his audience with the children was cancelled, too. My children were bitterly disappointed but understood that these things do happen. Another member of the crew, however, found out that my kids had been desperate to meet him and were dreadfully upset to have missed out. I didn't know that Michael knew anything about it until he came up to me one day with two signed pictures of himself. 'I know this doesn't compensate for the meeting being cancelled, but at least it's something,' he said, as he handed them over. I looked at the photographs and on them he'd written 'To Michael, love Michael Jackson; and 'To Sheryl, love Michael Jackson.' I was particularly touched by this, as Michael usually just puts 'Michael Jackson' on his photographs - and only very rarely a personal message.
When he was travelling longer distances, Michael would usually go by plane or on the Orient Express, depending which one he felt like taking, while the rest of us would drive our cars to each new destination. This happened towards the end of my leg of the tour when Michael was performing in Istanbul when sadly I was never able to say goodbye.
Michael was going to be flying in to the city, while I drove a Mercedes behind his customised minibus through Turkey, and it was while I was on my way to the country's capital that I had the first indication that Turkey wasn't going to be like the other countries we'd driven through. A car came up behind me and carved up both me and the minibus, so I chased him down the road to show he couldn't get away with that kind of behaviour. Suddenly the car stopped and a man jumped out: I did likewise to have a word with him. Just as suddenly, the man pulled a gun on me. I got back in to the van and it was the last time I gave chase to any car in Turkey.
Once we got to Istanbul we all met up with Michael and settled down in to the hotel, where we lived in our usual luxury: food set out for -us at all times, beautiful rooms and so on. However, Michael wasn't at all well and after much deliberation, it was decided he shouldn't do the show, but return to London to recuperate instead. I drove him to the airport and had some trouble with the police en route: one car tried to force me off the road, assuming, no doubt, that it would be a great coup to cause trouble for Michael Jackson, while others were cutting me up. It was a nasty experience: my windscreen was smashed and it was with some relief that I got Michael to the plane. Michael never says very much on these occasions, but he was plainly relieved to be leaving ..
Initially the concerts were merely postponed until Michael felt better and it wasn't common knowledge that he'd actually left the country. After a couple of days, though, it became apparent that Michael still wasn't better and the concerts were to be cancelled all together. This presented us with a problem. Turkey is a beautiful country but, as I had already discovered, life is rougher there than it is in Western Europe. I wasn't the only one to make this discovery and so there was concern about how the promoters would react when they discovered that Michael had gone and wasn't coming back.
Ultimately and, I believe, wisely, we decided that discretion was the better part of valour and that it would be best for us all to leave before the official announcement was made. Michael's party started trickling out of the hotel in dribs and drabs and we ferried people in relays to the airport. After that was done, we had to get ourselves and the cars out of the country and so we ended up racing through Turkey in three blacked-out Mercedes. It was lucky they were good cars, because the police tried to stop us on a number of occasions, and in each case we got away simply by outspeeding them.
We were still nervous even after crossing the border in to Greece but by the time we made it back to Western Europe our nerves were gone and life returned to normal. Shortly after that I was reunited with my family and the four and a half months I spent on the road with Michael seemed like just a dream.
In the course of those months, Michael did forty-one concerts and I saw every single one of them. The openings were the most amazing stagecraft I have ever seen - and I've seen just about everyone. There would be a dramatic burst of music, which would build up in intensity along with flashbacks of Michael throughout the years.
Then the lights would go down, the music would become increasingly frenzied and the stage would suddenly explode in fireworks as Michael himself exploded out of the floor from a 'toaster', something that made headlines all over the world. The crowd would go absolutely wild. Michael would stand absolutely still for as much as a minute - and it takes an inordinate amount of charisma to be able to stand on stage alone holding a crowd of thousands - then he would suddenly turn and hold his pose for another minute as the crowds erupted again. At the end of the concerts, he would leave wearing a jet pack - another world first.
And so that was my time with Michael Jackson: a musical genius, a truly kind and nice man and, for a very short time, a friend. I'm so glad for him that he has children of his own now and I wish him nothing but happiness in the future. And as for his music and his performances, I can only quote what someone else said in a very different context - baby, you're the best.
I met a couple of other members of the family over the years and to be honest, they aren't a patch on Michael.
The first was Latoya, his younger sister, whom I met off Concorde with her then husband and manager, Jack Gordon. Of course, I recognised Latoya immediately and even if I hadn't, it would have been obvious she was a star. Latoya absolutely loves the attention she gets and was playing the crowds for all she was worth: fluttering her eyelashes, wiggling around, putting on and taking off sunglasses and generally acting the star. Jack was struggling behind her with the suitcases so I went over to him: 'Mr Gordon,' I said, 'let me help.'
It immediately turned out that I had made a mistake in Jack Gordon's book in talking to him without holding up a name board, as is the usual practice. He looked at me in a wary manner. 'Have we met before?' he said in a tone that could easily have served as an ice pick.
'No sir, we haven't. But since you're standing right behind a member of the Jackson family, whom I recognised as I have seen approximately 18,243 pictures of her in the newspapers and I knew she was married to her manager and that that manager was called Jack Gordon, it's a fairly obvious assumption that you would be he. And I was correct, was I not? You are that Jack Gordon? And you are accompanying Latoya Jackson, who has an even more famous brother called Michael with whom I recently spent a few months and who has more courtesy in his little fingernail than you have just shown? Now I will drive you in to London, as I am being paid to do. And might I add that your wife is wearing far too much make-up.'
Actually, I said nothing of the sort. I just picked up their bags and got on with it. But I certainly thought it.
I also met Germaine (LOL) Jackson - extremely briefly - when I was called to meet him and his family at the Conrad Hotel in Chelsea. Germaine came across as a decent man, and polite with it. He and his family had just been eating and offered me a sandwich, which I gratefully accepted as you can go for hours and sometimes even days without eating in this job.
The family then went to their rooms to change, while I want to wait outside. And so I waited. And waited. And waited ... Finally, over two hours later, a minion appeared. 'Sorry about this,' he said, 'but they've decided not to go out after all.'
'Couldn't someone have told me?’
'They, er, forgot you were here,' said the minion and went back inside. Oh well, I thought, thanks for the sandwich ...
"We had icons like the Beatles, Elvis Presley, but Michael had a profound impact. And the good thing about Michael is that, he’s a humanitarian. All of that, and then he did a lot for people all over the world. He showed a lot of love. Very sensitive, young man. So he took it to ionosphere."
MORGAN: Of all of the things that you've experienced in your extraordinary career and life, if I could give you five minutes to replay one of them again, what would it be? What's been the most magical? Forget women or children or births of a child. Obviously, that's different. But what's the career moment where if you had the chance, you'd relive it?
KRAVITZ: The career moment. Wow. You know, I -- I've had so many where I had to pinch myself.
MORGAN: What was the biggest pinch?
KRAVITZ: Being -- probably producing Michael Jackson. And there's been a lot of great ones, but that was something extraordinary.
MORGAN: What made it so extraordinary?
KRAVITZ: Well, the fact that, you know, I wouldn't be here today if I hadn't seen the Jackson Five when I was six years old. That was the first concert that I had ever been to. My father took me to Madison Square Garden to see them. And it changed everything.
The universe was a different place the next day. I was completely blown away by the music, the talent, the whole experience. And here I am in the studio. I had written a song for Michael. And he's standing there, telling me to be very hard on him, I want to do this exactly the way you see it, so stop me every time it's not the way you want it and so forth.
And we're just getting into it. We're working together. And we ended up spending, you know, a week together in the studio. It was just unbelievable.
MORGAN: What kind after man was he? For real.
KRAVITZ: I thought that he, first of all, was just a beautiful being. Extremely professional, a perfectionist. Still having the passion all those years later, you know? He would stay, work all day and night, come back the next day, all day and night. He hadn't lost that.
A great father. He was amazing with his children. I spent time with the kids. We were all in the studio. Zoe would come and we would all hang out together. He was a very good father. And he was funny. Very funny.
MORGAN: Great sense of humor.
KRAVITZ: We laughed all the time. And he could eat more than you think.
MORGAN: Really? He had all of the energy to burn off, all of the dancing.
MORGAN: Incredible talent. The greatest I've ever seen.
KRAVITZ: The greatest ever. I would agree with that.
MORGAN: How did you feel when you heard what happened to him? And there's sort of mixed thoughts from people that knew him well, that there was a kind of inevitability in the way his life was going, and that actually for somebody like Michael Jackson -- I don't want this to sound callus -- but actually not getting old may have been something that wouldn't have been his worst nightmare.
KRAVITZ: It was interesting. I heard you speaking to Jane Fonda about that. She had spoken about that. I mean, I was obviously devastated. I was blown away. I found out on stage in Scotland, as I was coming off and getting ready to go back on for an encore. And they told me and I had to go back out.
I mean, I -- it's -- it's extremely sad. I mean, I -- I was really looking forward to seeing him come back and do those shows, even though I knew, like, wow, 50 shows, that's -- that's really serious.
MORGAN: I mean, is his legacy going to be that, of our lifetime -- because you get the older generation saying Sammy Davis pretty well the greatest entertainer of that era, whatever. Do you think of our lifetime, Michael Jackson was the best? KRAVITZ: Of course. You can't touch it.
MORGAN: The greatest naturally gifted, as you said earlier?
MORGAN: Entertainer of them all?
KRAVITZ: Yes, completely. I think people -- people think about Michael Jackson and his solo career, which was obviously phenomenal. But the deepest genius I saw him in was when he was a child. I think that he was -- he was a child and he sang with the same talent and soul and intensity of an Aretha Franklin or a James Brown or any great vocalist.
Winnin' times: the magical journey of the Los Angeles Lakers
Michael Jackson visited the Laker locker room once, very quickly. He had choreographed a Laker Girls routine and had come to the game to see it performed. He arrived late and missed the routine, but decided to stay around and say hello to his buddy, Magic Johnson, after the game.
"I'm telling you, the Laker Girls had so much to do with the atmosphere around the team and the Forum at that time," Rosen said. "Jerry is a brilliant marketing guy, and he knew this was entertainment. People loved it. There were cheerleaders in college and in the ABA, but not really in the NBA. He just made it a spectacle. When we started, it was just girls from USC and UCLA, but then he turned it into a big marketing opportunity where you had big tryouts and then you had Paula Abdul and I remember Michael Jackson one time helping to choreograph a routine."
(22-12-2011) Superstar English ballerina Darcey Bussel says that Michael Jackson is among her all time favorite dance icons.
The former Royal Ballet star is paying tribute to the great dance musicals this Christmas day and, before the special airs on TV, she gave in interview in which she named her personal favorite dance icons. Among greats like Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers, Bussell had this to say about the King of Pop:
"When I was a teenager, I used to watch the Making Michael Jackson’s Thriller video and try to follow the steps and do the Thriller moves in my bedroom. That was the most incredible dance sequence. And actually, you can see that Jackson was hugely inspired by Fred Astaire in the way he choreographed his music videos. He was hungry for inspiration and loved every dance and every song. He was born to be on the stage."
Bussell's special, 'Darcey Bussell Dances Hollywood,' airs Christmas day on BBC2 at 6:30pm.
(Michael Jackson with Legends in Concert’s former Director of Marketing, Mary Anne Beaman)
Las Vegas, Nevada
November 2, 2009
The thumping beats of “Billie Jean” started up. On the dark stage, a spotlight illuminated the performer wearing a black hat and a single glove. The crowd erupted with loud cheers and applause.
But it wasn’t Michael Jackson -- at least not the real one. Still, it was about as close as it gets.
William Bostick had been perfecting his Michael Jackson tribute for more than a quarter of a century and was an integral part of “Legends in Concert” for many years. He was so good, in fact, that the superstar had befriended Bostick after one of his tribute shows and offered him some tips.
Though William had always put on a great show, that October night in 1998 was different. He was moonwalking his heart out on the stage at Las Vegas’ Imperial Palace – for the real Michael Jackson in the audience.
Sue Cirone, then a captain at the casino, recalls hearing from a coworker that morning “that Michael Jackson might be coming to the ‘Legends’ show that night. And he said that I might want to bring my daughter to meet him. She was 9 years old and a huge fan. She was really excited, and nervous, too. Everyone was.”
“No one was sure that Michael was going to show up, but it was a real possibility,” remembers Jillian Hrushowy, a production manager for ‘Legends’ for the past 15 years. “The band was sitting in their places, getting ready for the 7:30 show, and a stagehand told us, ‘Yes, it’s true, he’s here.’ Well, right then you could absolutely feel the electricity in the room.”
Jackson, wearing a signature black hat and dark sunglasses, had quietly slipped into booth 206 after the lights went down, and was completely surrounded by his entourage. “I have never seen that much undercover security here, ever,” says Sue, who’s worked at the Imperial Palace for 29 years.
Sue has witnessed the real Kenny Rogers sing at a “Legends” show (“Nobody in the audience knew it was the real Kenny!” she says, laughing). Other high-profile celebrities like Shania Twain and the Righteous Brothers have dropped by to see themselves portrayed on stage. But nobody matched the star wattage of Michael Jackson. “He was certainly the most celebrated personality that we’ve ever had come to the show,” says Jillian.
And even though the audience didn’t have a clue that the Gloved One was in the same room -– “Only the people who worked at the I.P. and at ‘Legends’ knew that he was there,” says Sue – they sensed that there was something different about this performance.
“There was definitely a buzz in the room,” Sue recalls.
Jillian agrees. “The band – everyone in the show – worked their butts off that night. The whole place was on fire. It was amazing!”
Michael Jackson stayed to watch his impersonator sing, twirl and of course, moonwalk, through five songs: “Remember the Time,” “Thriller,” “Jam,” “Heal the World” and “Billie Jean.”
“For ‘Heal the World,’ there was a scrim with a globe projected on it,” remembers Zach Thalheimer, a technician for “Legends” who had a bird’s-eye view of the show. “I remember looking out and seeing Michael pointing up at it and him saying, ‘That’s cool.’”
To memorialize that eventful night, Sue has a picture of her daughter and her friends with Jackson. Thalheimer didn’t get a photograph, but he did come down from his perch high above the stage to mingle with excited fans. “I definitely got a bit giddy,” he says. “And I just thought it was really special that he would take the time to come see William.”
In fact, the superstar later met up with the performer and congratulated him on a great performance. “William told me that Jackson was very proud and very pleased,” says Jillian.
But when she thinks back to that fateful night, Jillian does wish she could change one thing. As production manager, it was she who had filled out a comp slip with Jackson’s name on it. “I was going through some stuff a while ago and saw that slip that I’d saved,” she says. “I thought, ‘What will I ever want this for?’ Boy, do I regret throwing it away.”
After the passing of Michael Jackson on June 25, the performer portraying the King of Pop in “Legends” became even more important. Currently that honor belongs to Damian Brantley, a 10-year veteran of the tribute artist genre, who introduced Foxwoods’ audiences to the tribute show this summer at the casino property in Connecticut.
Damian, who is now headlining “Legends,” still gets very emotional recalling that June day. “We happened to be rehearsing my set in the Fox Theater and were in the middle of ‘Billie Jean.’ One of the techs came by and told us that Michael was gone. It seemed so out of left field.”
But as they say, the show must go on. “I’m here to help audiences remember Michael and highlight the memories that they hold dearest,” Damian says. “That’s my job, to recreate the highlights. I’m just playing my very small role in helping his legacy live on.”
And most important, he notes, is honoring Michael’s memory in a respectful way. “With his passing, there are people coming out of the woodwork calling themselves tribute artists, when in fact, they are turning it into a parody,” Damian laments. “At ‘Legends,’ we have handled the situation delicately; we have been doing this a long time and I do my utmost to do a respectable rendition of the man.”
“Legends in Concert” with Damian Brantley as Michael Jackson is currently running at Harrah’s Las Vegas. For Tickets and show information call 702.369.5111 or visit Harrah's Las Vegas
Jennifer Ceaser is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn, New York, whose work can be seen in a variety of newspapers and magazines including The New York Post, Gotham Magazine (New York), L.A. Confidential and Social Affairs (Miami). Her favorite Michael Jackson song is Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'.