Interview With Navi



We caught up with Navi to talk being chosen by MJ, seeing Egypt and gives us the exclusive scoop on the real Michael Jackson’s upcoming post-humous album, Xscape.

Where are you from/where did you grow up?
I was born in the Caribbean but grew up in London. I have been in the UK for the past 34 years now.

How did you get into Michael Jackson impersonation?
When I arrived in the UK in 1979 , MJ dominated the 80s and 90s and therefore I wanted to be like him. He was like a real like super-hero and all his music and videos were everywhere. I remember standing outside the hotel in London as a kid looking up at the hotel window with hundreds of other MJ fans on the street. A few years later, I was in the hotel with him looking down at the MJ fans, was surreal to have my life turned around like that.

I grew up learning to dance in my parent’s kitchen and I had my first break opening for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame group The Drifters at the age of 15. I went on from opportunity to opportunity evening opening the Virgin Megastores across 9 European cities.

Then working for MJ in promotion of albums and concerts and also as a decoy (being used as a double so he could leave a certain place easier).

Have you ever met Michael Jackson in real life, if so what was the meeting like?
I have met Michael several times, evening being chosen to perform at his birthday parties in London, New York and Los Angeles. I also had the honour of being invited to Neverland which was amazing.

Michael was always humble and supportive, always the kind of person you never expected to be so kind. He loved people and admired everyone by just watching and trying to learn. He said to me once “you’re an amazing dancer, do you practice everyday?”… to hear MJ ask you that was unbelievable.

What was your favourite MJ album?
It’s difficult to choose but I guess Bad. It’s the album around the time I was in my teens and filled with so many classic Pop hits.

There are a lot of MJ impersonators out there. What makes you number one?

I have been branded number one for several years now, so I suppose it’s being ‘Chosen By Michael’ and working for him. Even last week, I was invited to Los Angeles to hear the brand new MJ Album Xscape then meet with the Epic Record executives. The album I have to say is truly amazing and a tribute to the legendary dance beats Michael always likes to have associated with his catchy tunes.

I am also the only impersonator to have been invited to Neverland, and guess having performed in over 300 international shows on 58 different countries covers most of the world. But to be honest, I believe we all are top impersonators – we all fly the flag for MJ in our own way and none is more important than the other.

Have you been to or performed in Egypt before?
Egypt is one of my favourite places in the world. The history and culture is amazing. This year alone I have been to Thailand, Malaysia, Los Angeles twice and now to Egypt. So I see many amazing places, but I’m not sure many people can say they would rather visit another country than Egypt.

I have been here twice before: once for a wedding and once for a small private show. This time I am looking forward to performing at this event at Club 88. I have always heard of the Red Sea region and now I get a chance to finally see it. I wish I could have stayed a few more days, but also hope this is the first of many trips back to this beautiful place.

Michael Jackson is huge in Egypt, what do you have planned for the crowd?
I plan to celebrate the music and legacy of MJ with the Egyptians. I know they love music and dance and I also know I could learn quite a lot from them, so I look forward to dropping some of the classic MJ hits we all know.

For more information on the ‘Moonwalker Party’ click here. Check out Navi on Facebook here.


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Locals Bring Back King of Pop From Behind Scenes

Source: This Week News


A Cirque du Soleil tour is a massive undertaking, and its partnership with the estate of Michael Jackson on Michael Jackson: The Immortal is no exception. It takes a small city of people to put on a show, many of those people doing their work before the show even begins or behind the scenes.

Yet, whenever people find out that Ricky Morant and Brittany Kiefer aren’t performers, their interest begins to wane.

“They usually ask me if I can get them tickets,” Morant said, only half-joking.

Morant, a Whitehall-Yearling High School and Ohio State University graduate, works in the training and medical department for the tour. Kiefer, also an OSU alum, is an acrobatic rigger on the tour. Both said their work gets plenty of appreciation and offers them plenty of professional satisfaction.

“We make a lot happen in a short amount of time,” Kiefer said of her team, whose job begins when a show loads into a facility, continues through the entire set-up, works the riggings during the shows and into tear-down.

“I manage the grid. My team is responsible for flying the performers and the general safety of all the acrobats. On a production level, we move the show, building the rigging, getting everything hung.”

The dedication to safety requires “a very high attention to detail,” she said.


As a medical trainer (his title is “physio”), Morant also is tasked with performer safety. He runs classes and workout sessions designed to maximize fitness and minimize the risk of injury, treating both the physical and psychological effects on injuries when they do happen.

“You work so many hours every day, then you can take a deep breath and take in the show, knowing you had a small or sometimes not-so-small part in putting it on,” he said.

Morant studies athletic training at OSU, and his work with the football, track and field, swimming, wrestling and, most importantly, men’s gymnastics teams serves him well. Additionally, he minored in dance and worked for a time with BalletMet Columbus as a trainer – also a benefit in this dance-heavy Cirque show.


Kiefer got her start working with arena shows as a student production coordinator at the Schottenstein Center, where she also worked after graduation. From there, she connected with the Walking With Dinosaurs tour and more recently worked on the set crew for Shakira before joining Cirque.

“It’s great to come back to Columbus and it’s always great to play the Schott. It’s where I came from, and I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do what I do now without those experiences and those people,” Kiefer said.

Morant, whose family still lives in central Ohio, takes pride in bringing his work “home” as well.

“My parents have never seen a show that I’ve worked, so I’m hoping maybe now they’ll understand why I don’t call home every night,” he joked.


Read more:

Michael Jackson the Immortal World Tour Stops in Richmond (Video)



RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) - Michael Jackson the Immortal World Tour is described as Cirque du Soleil meets rock concert, and today 8News got a special behind the scenes look at all the work it takes to put on the show.

Today our photographer was there as crew members unloaded equipment from thirty trucks and started building the set. It takes about ten hours to get everything in place. About 130 people travel with the tour from city to city.

This show has all the acrobatics you see with other Cirque shows, but it has the feel of a Michael Jackson concert. “We invite people to get up out of their seats and dance and sing along and really embrace and be a part of the music,” says publicist Laura Silverman. “He changed the entertainment industry, he changed pop culture and so we’re putting all of that on display.”

Four members of the eleven-piece live band actually played with the King of Pop. The costume designer from his This Is It documentary heads the wardrobe department. Silverman points out LED bulbs built in jackets for the Billie Jean number and says each detail has been planned carefully. Backstage she shows us. “Fedora hats, very Michael Jackson. We also have on this side the gangster coats for smooth criminal.”

Hit songs from Jackson’s solo career are a part of the show, along with some favorites from the Jackson Five days. His choreography is also included.

Michael Jackson the Immortal World Tour is at the Richmond Coliseum Tuesday and Wednesday evening. Click here for ticket information.

Click here for video.

Xscape With The King of Pop! New Album Review!

By April Lamrock /


I was lucky enough to be chosen along with a select few fan representatives from around the world to experience the new album, “Xscape” in advance of its release. It would be my first time traveling to represent my family web site of 11 years,

On the morning of the event we all met in the lobby of the hotel. Everyone took a few moments to introduce themselves and then we were off. We loaded up into the van and headed off not knowing where we were going. Even the driver wasn’t talking, as he knew it was a surprise. Everyone was excited and chatting it up as we anxiously anticipated our destination. I remember the driver making a comment about us all knowing each other. When in fact it was our love of MJ that I think made it so easy for all of us to mesh so quickly.  Most of us had only just met that very day.

It wasn’t long before we arrived at Hanson Recording Studios. We were brought into a large room and sat down into a semi-circle.  It was a familiar looking place to us all, (as well it should), because it was the very room where “We are the World” was recorded. As if that wasn’t enough of a surprise, we were then told we would be listening to the new Michael Jackson album ‘Xscape’ and L.A. Reid himself would be the one playing it for us!

It wasn’t long before L.A. entered the room and introduced himself. He went on to talk about his experiences with Michael and how much this project meant to him and everyone else involved. L.A. said he would only work on the songs that Michael had completed from top to bottom. He said that was the way to know for sure that Michael really liked a song, and that he was committed to completing it all the way through.

MJ Quote: “I’m really very self-confident when it comes to my work. When I take on a project, I believe in it 100%. I really put my soul into it. I’d die for it. that’s how I am.”

As L.A. played each song through, It took everything in me to not jump out of my seat and dance! You could tell I wasn’t the only one, as everyone was bobbing their heads to the beat. We were all still seated while we looked up into the reflective glass in front of us and saw members of the estate and Sony teams along with L.A. Reid dancing like no one was watching. It was like the tables were turned and ‘they’ were the fans. Love filled the room, just as Michael’s music always does. It wasn’t long before we were all up on our feet dancing together

One song after the other introduced to us for the first time, in the very place Michael had worked before. I scribbled down little notes about specific things I liked about each track. I put a star and wrote “FAVORITE” beside the songs that I loved. After about the fourth song I noticed that I had been marking EVERY one! It wasn’t long before we had gone through all 8 songs and basically all of them were starred!

I was in heaven. I closed my eyes and took it all in. It gave me goosebumps as it made me feel like Michael was back doing his thing. Back doing what he loved, and sharing it with us once again.

MJ Quote: “And my goal in life is to give to the world, what I was lucky to receive…the ecstasy of divine union through my music and my dance.”

Michael worked tirelessly at his career. He put so much love into his music. He wanted nothing more than to share his art with the world, as this was his goal in life. I am so excited for everyone to hear this new album.

The album was created from raw music by Michael spanning from 1983-2001 (almost a 20 year span), yet it so effortlessly fits together. I know we’ve all heard the leaked versions of some of these tracks but let me tell you, you’ve heard nothing. These leaked versions are only a stage in the productions. What I heard that day in the studio were finished products that I know Michael would stand behind.

The album as a whole is going to bring you back; make you feel, as I did that day, a prescious part of Michael is emerging back to rock us off our seats like only HE knows how to do.

There are so many times where I sit and listen to Michaels music since he passed and think to myself, “we’re never going to see an artist like this again”. His talent and drive for perfection are unmatched. To know now that even five years after his passing he can still live on and spread his legacy for generations to come with new music brings a sense of content to my heart.

This album is highly recomended for the music lovers and Michael fans across the globe! You won’t regret it. Let’s make Xscape #1 across the world!

- April Lamrock /


Click here to read and see more:

Global Release Dates For ‘Xscape’

Source: MJWN / Amazon


Many fans have been asking us if ‘Xscape’ will be released on 13th May globally, as outlined in the initial press release. The answer is no and some may even get it earlier!

Below is a list of the release dates that are available so far. We will continue to add to them as we find out more information:

May 9, 2014

France, Spain and UK
May 12, 2014

US, Canada and Italy
May 13, 2014

May 14, 2014

US (Vinyl LP)
May 27, 2014

May 29, 2014


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Do You Know Where Your Children Are?

Source: MJWN


There seems to be a lot of mis-information about track six on the forthcoming ‘Xscape’ album, with many believing the track originates from the early 1990s, when Michael was embroiled in allegations.

This was not the case.

The inner sleeves of the ‘Xscape’ album will contain information about each track, including when they were recorded and the lyrics. At the LA playback, co-executor of the Michael Jackson Estate, John Branca, said that actually this track was written by Michael in the mid 1980s and based on the American public service announcement that was played on television.

The question was asked around 10pm or 11pm (Michael’s song uses 12 o’clock) and asks “Do you know where your children are?”.

The phrase was regularly broadcast from the 1960s – 1980s, however has been sporadically used since, and was brought back into circulation in 2008. Often celebrities made cameos saying the famous line on camera just before the news, predominately in New York City.

The song is a definite dance floor filler with a stomping beat. We can’t wait for you to hear it! Similar to ‘Abortion Papers’, which was released on ‘Bad 25′ in 2012, the song has a serious meaning, though Michael makes it into a song you can’t help but sing along to with a catchy melody.

As well as Michael’s track, there have been many other cultural references to the announcement, including this humorous one from The Simpsons:



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Cirque Du Soleil Captures The Creative Genius of Michael Jackson – Video

Source: WTVR

Fullscreen capture 4142014 63956 PM

RICHMOND, Va (WTVR) – Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour’ is a stunning show full of dance and music that embraces the heart and soul of Michael Jackson’s musical legacy. Publicist Laura Silverman and Giulia Piolanti, one of the featured performers talked about this show that has received rave reviews all over the world.   You have the chance to see this spectacular show Tuesday April 15th and Wednesday, April 16th at 8pm at the Richmond Coliseum. For more information visit


Video interview

L.A. Reid Masters Michael Jackson’s “Xscape” At Bernie Grundman’s


Pictured (L-R) in session at Bernie Grundman Mastering are executive producer L.A. Reid and mastering engineer Bernie Grundman.  Photo by David Goggin.

Pictured (L-R) in session at Bernie Grundman Mastering are executive producer L.A. Reid and mastering engineer Bernie Grundman. Photo by David Goggin.

Epic Records Chairman/CEO L.A. Reid was in session recently at Bernie Grundman’s for the mastering of Michael Jackson’s “Xscape.”  The collection of eight previously unreleased Jackson songs was curated by Reid, who also decided on the final tracklist. 

“Michael left behind some musical performances that we take great pride in presenting through the vision of music producers that he either worked directly with or expressed strong desire to work with. We are extremely proud and honored to present this music to the world,” Reid said. 

Grundman mastered most of Michael Jackson’s albums, many times with recording engineer Bruce Swedien, including “Thriller,” the most successful album of all time with more than 100 million in sales.  L.A. Reid recalled that his very first mastering session was with Bernie Grundman in 1983.

Reid curated the final list of recordings to deliver to the producers, who retooled the production to add a fresh, contemporary sound that retains Jackson’s essence and integrity.  It’s a process Reid calls “contemporizing.” The album’s lead producer, Timbaland was one of a handful of producers Reid believed had the gravitas, depth and range to creatively engage with Jackson’s work. Additional producers include global hitmakers Rodney Jerkins, Stargate, Jerome “Jroc” Harmon and John McClain.

For the ultimate fan experience, “Xscape” will also be available in a Deluxe Edition, which includes all of the sourced Michael Jackson recordings in their original form. The “Xscape” standard and Deluxe Edition’s are available for pre-order and elsewhere, and available at all retailers worldwide on May 13.

Learn More about Bernie Grundman Mastering at:

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Source: Associated Press – By Anthony McCartney


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Michael Jackson’s mother should pay more than $800,000 in trial costs to a concert promoter that she targeted in a failed negligent hiring lawsuit involving the death of her son, a judge said Monday.

Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos issued the tentative ruling calling on the Jackson family matriarch to pay AEG Live LLC after it won the case.

The five-month trial ended in October with a jury determining that AEG Live did not negligently hire the doctor convicted of causing Michael Jackson’s death in 2009 as he prepared for a comeback tour.

The ruling is expected to be finalized after AEG Live submits an amended list of its costs for items such as court filing fees, court reporters and travel. Attorneys for the company and Katherine Jackson agreed not to argue Palazuelos’ tentative ruling, but it might be appealed.

Katherine Jackson’s attorney Kevin Boyle said a decision on appealing the order would be made after reviewing its final language. The verdict and rulings in the case are currently being appealed.

AEG Live initially sought more than $1.2 million to cover its costs. Katherine Jackson’s lawyers claimed only about a quarter of that amount was justified.

AEG Live attorney Marvin Putnam said the court did the right thing “by ordering Katherine Jackson to pay nearly $1 million spent in having to defend a matter that she should have never brought in the first place.”

A motion filed by her lawyers last week stated that the costs would be borne by her and the singer’s three children, all of whom are supported by his estate.

The estate has earned hundreds of millions of dollars since the singer’s death and paid off his debts. It also covers schooling, housing and other costs for his children and mother.

Jackson died in June 2009 after receiving an overdose of the anesthetic propofol, which former cardiologist Conrad Murray was giving the superstar as a sleep aid during preparations for his planned “This Is It” shows. Murray was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

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EXCLUSIVE : LMJ Listening To XSCAPE With The MJ Estate In Los Angeles

Source: Legendary Michael Jackson – By Sjoerd Roijenga

On behalf of the Legendary Michael Jackson Fan Club (LMJ), Sjoerd Roijenga (LMJ’s USA Representative and member of the Board) attended a very special and exclusive event. We are happy to share the news with you all!

 Photo : Karen Langford, Sjoerd Roijenga (LMJ), John Branca (MJ Estate)

Photo : Karen Langford, Sjoerd Roijenga (LMJ), John Branca (MJ Estate)

Good morning,

LMJ was one of eleven invited fan clubs from all over the world: Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, United Kingdom, United States and us, from The Netherlands.

We were picked up from the hotel in a van and taken to the Jim Henson recording Studios. There where chairs waiting for us in Studio A, the actual studio where Miuchael recorded ‘We Are The World’ with all the starts in 1985!

Photo : Studio A of Henson Recording Studios

Photo : Studio A of Henson Recording Studios

It was announced that John Branca was going to be there and also L.A. Reid who is the CEO of Epic records and actually created this new CD, XSCAPE. Mr. Reid was actually going to be the one playing the new album for us.

Before the playing of the new album Mr. Reid told us that on this album there are only 8 songs because they ONLY wanted to use songs that where actually finished by Michael Jackson himself.

Both XSCAPE album covers. Silver for single album, gold for album + bonus CD (Jewelcase or Softpack)

The songs that where played for us were:

Love Never Felt So Good 

With this song it was mentioned that the voice, piano and finger snaps from MJ where on the same original track so they had to be put on the cd like this.


She Was Loving Me

A Place With No Name

Slave To The Rhythm

Do You Know Where Your Children Are

Blue Gangsta


In my opinion they are taking us back to what Michael used to do before History especially with the “hihi”, “hoehoe” and “ows”!! I personally like that a lot since that is really what Michael was about for me. The songs give me the feeling we are about to get a Michael Jackson album with older, very original, tracks that sound like Michael’s songs in the ‘Dangerous’ period.

They only picked songs of which Michael made more than one track. In that way it was possible to determine which songs Michael really liked because he worked on them more than once.

They all sound very suitable for this time. Michael’s songs were always very timeless. Many of his old hits are still perfect for airplay today.

The sounds and beats of the songs are very powerful and I think this album will do great!

John Branca also mentioned there will be videos (or as MJ liked to call them ‘Short Films’) with this new album.

We thank the Michael Jackson Estate and Epic Records for inviting us and enable us to share this with our fellow fans!

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Xscape – An Album Listening Like No Other

Source: MJWN – By Matt Blank


MJWN’s Matt Blank has listened to the ‘Xscape’ album, and there’s a lot of excitement he wants to share with you:

I’ve been fortunate to go to Michael Jackson listening previews in the past. I’ve had the honour of visiting Sony Music HQ in London and sitting eagerly around a table whilst music is blasted.

The experience I had though on Thursday, was not like one of those times. Myself, along with around 10 other fans who represent fantastic Fan Clubs all over the world, were invited to LA in California by the Estate of Michael Jackson and Epic Records. We all attended somewhat blindly, without any knowledge of what we were going for. However, with the new album ‘Xscape’ already announced, it was a fairly safe bet that we were going to get a chance to listen to the album. Excitement was running through all of us as we met that morning, though it reached a new level when our car arrived at the Jim Henson Recording Studios.

This studio used to be known as the A&M Studios and it was where Michael co-wrote ‘We Are The World’ and recorded it with many other high profile artists. There wasn’t a more fitting location to listen to Michael’s voice again than in that room. Little has changed to the studio in nearly 30 years. With the wooden floor and ceiling, it was instantly recognisable from what we’ve seen in the video of the hit charity single of 1985.

As I looked around, reflecting on the history that was made in the room, we sat down in a semi-circle and John Branca, co-executor of Michael’s Estate, greeted us all and explained why we were there. Then L.A. Reid, Chairman of Epic Records and Executive Producer of the ‘Xscape’ album walked in. He was ready to personally play us the eight new tracks on the album. He explained that in line with his style of production work, the eight tracks selected are the best tracks he could have found in the vault of Michael’s archives. He said he disregarded any recordings that didn’t have full vocals, noting that if Michael recorded a whole song (compared to just a chorus for example) then it meant that Michael liked it. And true to form this is something we can see as we look back on Michael’s career. John Branca pointed out that ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin” was originally recorded for ‘Off The Wall’ but used three years later on ‘Thriller’. ‘Earth Song’ and ‘They Don’t Care About Us’ was originally recorded for ‘Dangerous’, but eventually used four years later on ‘HIStory’. The songs left over, recorded in full, aren’t finished articles. But nor are they necessarily songs Michael had disregarded and thrown into the trash. Also interestingly, Reid told us later on that he was unaware that six out of the eight tracks had previously been leaked, and that the song list had already been chosen when this information was brought to his attention.

Before hitting play, Reid delighted us with stories from his past; the moment he met Michael, the moment he had an official meeting with Michael, and other stories including touching moments he witnessed between Michael and his children. The stories spanned two decades, as Michael and Reid grew close and desired to work together. Unfortunately this was never meant to be during Michael’s lifetime, nevertheless Reid’s appreciation, love and respect for Michael is evident.

My original intention was to review each song and scribble down notes to report what each track sounded like. However, with every song that passed, my pen was used less and less. As the album continued, we were getting up, starting to dance, move, feel the music and experience Michael in a new way. I stared around the historic ‘We Are The World’ room, with L.A. Reid jumping around to the grooves, John Branca and the rest of the Estate team dancing and Michael’s vocals ringing through my ears, and writing notes on every song was not what I wanted to do. It wasn’t a place to write. It was a place to listen. The music dictated this more than being a conscious decision. I was overwhelmed by the music and soon enough you will find out why when it’s released. It’s not for me to ruin that experience and surprise for you. So instead, let me give you the quickest of overviews:


  1. Love Never Felt So Good
  2. Chicago
  3. Lovin’ You
  4. A Place With No Name
  5. Slave To The Rhythm
  6. Do You Know Where Your Children Are
  7. Blue Gangsta
  8. Xscape

Each song could be a dance floor filler. They all have very strong beats that rumble through your body. The opening song put an immediate smile on my face and raised the hair on my arms. With powerful vocals delivered by Michael throughout, his passion, his anger and his love is constantly there.

The album was played twice back-to-back. Smiles all around, the excitement was so different to anything I’ve experienced before. Branca would go and talk to different people in the room. He said to me “this will fill dance floors across the world”. And it just might!

The next month will prove to have lots of surprises for the fans and public alike. I’m not going to tell you what they are, but what I will say is that as I walked out of the studio, I was left with the knowledge that Michael’s legacy is in great hands. Michael worked harder than any other artist throughout his career. He would want that legacy continued. Creating the record breaking Cirque Du Soleil tour, releasing a movie, producing a video game among other things such as anniversary albums and DVD releases, is just part of what the Estate have done to help further and retain Michael’s legacy. Bringing together producers to release unheard material; producers that knew Michael or worked with Michael or it was a known fact that Michael admired, is just right. The album feels contemporary in every way and it’s thrilling to hear Michael again. You think you’ve heard some of these songs before…but you haven’t. Not like this!

It is a delicate situation, but the Estate have continued Michael’s legacy with dignity and introduced millions of new people to Michael’s unique talents.

Long may it continue.

Read more:

Jackson Tribute Show Is A Real Thriller

Source: Fifetoday – By Fiona Dobie


The music of Michael Jackson has played a part in many people’s lives over the years.

And even now, five years after his death, his music lives on.

One way in which the music continues to be a huge hit with fans of all ages is through the hit musical production ‘Thriller Live’, which comes to Fife on its only Scottish tour dates later this summer.

The production, which has been in London’s West End since 2009, comes to the Alhambra Theatre in Dunfermline for a three day run from Thursday, June 5 to Saturday, June 7 and is celebration of the music of Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5.

Unlike other West End productions, ‘Thriller Live’ is not a rigid book musical with set songs – it’s a constantly evolving music concert celebration.

And when the theatre production comes to the Kingdom, fans of television series ‘The Voice’ will recognise one of the cast members.

Cleo Higgins, Will.I.Am’s contestant in the 2013 series of ‘The Voice’ stars in the show.

Cleo Higgins in Thriller Live

Last week the former lead singer of the 1990s pop group Cleopatra took time out of the production’s tour in Switzerland to speak to The Press ahead of the Dunfermline date.

She said: “I’m really excited about it.

“Scotland’s one of my favourite places in the UK.

“I love it. We have one person from Glasgow in the show and she is looking forward to getting back to people that she can understand.

“I’m really looking forward to it to be honest.

“For the most part of the tour this time we’ve not touched Scotland.

“I’ve genuinely been disappointed by it.

“I think the closest we’ve been is Carlisle so far.

“So we’re excited that this time we’re actually coming to Scotland.”

Before appearing on ‘The Voice’ – where she made it through to the semi final – Cleo had previously been in the pop group with her sisters and signed to Madonna’s label Maverick when she was just 13.

Cleopatra had three Top 10 hits, supported the Spice Girls, had two TV series and even performed concerts at the Vatican.

But now that she’s part of the Thriller Live production it’s about a whole lot more than just the singing.

Cleo continued: “For me originally it was quite daunting and we learned it in different stages and the first part we learnt last.

“It’s a strange and different world for me.”

The show brings to life the distinctive high-energy dancing and pulsating sound of many of pop’s greatest hits.

Video footage and effects are blended with dazzling choreography by award-winning director Gary Lloyd and it’s regularly updated with additional songs and new visuals and choreography.

So how does it feel for Cleo to be performing in a stage production that’s a celebration of Michael Jackson’s music?

Even from the days of Cleopatra with sisters Zainam and Yonah it was apparent the girls were fans of the king of pop. They even had a Top Five hit single in the UK with their cover of the Jackson 5 track ‘I Want You Back’.

“With it being Michael Jackson I jumped at the chance to audition,” said Cleo.

“I remember someone mentioning a Michael Jackson show but didn’t realise it was an ongoing one.

“Michael Jackson is probably my biggest male influence really.

“He taught me how to vibe and really have the passion in my music and my life.

“He taught me and my sisters to perform.

“There’s no one really like him and I couldn’t think about myself or anyone else as being a female Michael Jackson.

“To do the MJ show is incredible.

“His death hurt me so much when we lost him. No one expected that to happen.

“When he died, he took a large part of me with him. It was like losing a brother.

“Now I feel I can give something back to him and his family by doing this show.”

‘Thriller Live’ is celebrating its sixth year in the West End where it has become the longest running production in the Lyric Theatre’s 125 year history.

But the show has been performed across the globe, with more than 2.5 million tickets sold.

The cast are currently on tour in Europe, visiting the likes of Germany and Switzerland, before going on to Italy later this year.

Now that she’s part of a larger cast and crew, how does it feel for Cleo to be back on tour?

“Being on the road, I was used to it from before,” she said, “but it’s the first time I have been away as a mum and it’s been up and down.

“My children are very excited about me being away.

“They are very resilient and know this is my job, but it’s hard.

“It’s not as easy being on tour, it was hard enough in the UK, but now we’re further away and you know it would take a whole day to get back home to them it’s tough.”

Thriller Live comes to the Alhambra Theatre, Dunfermline from Thursday, June 5 to Saturday, June 7.


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Arnie Klien’s Michael Jackson Hat, Elizabeth Taylor Cuff Links And More Up For Auction Today And Tommorrow

Source: Estate Sales/ Munyon and Sons

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We will be selling the entire contents of a modest Thousand Oaks residence on April 11-12, 2014 from 9 am – 5 pm each day. Everything in the residence, MUST BE SOLD THIS WEEKEND.

Along with the general household furniture, furnishings, artwork, silver and accessories there are many interesting items at the sale including some Dr. Arnold Klein leftovers: a signed Michael Jackson hat, a pair of 18K gold cuff links given to Dr. Klein by Elizabeth Taylor, a ship’s chandelier from a ship as fine as the “Titanic, an elegant 12’ long dining table with 12 chairs and so much more…

HOUSEHOLD CONTENTS: a designer brass chandelier, dining room table & chairs, Gorham Sterling silver flatware, tons of artwork, sofas, chairs, bedroom furniture, patio furniture, tools, dishes, crystal etc. etc.

Numbers will be given out staring at 8AM each day to the people in line. Everyone will need a number and will required to sign in and agree to enter at their own risk. We will accept cash, credit card, PayPal and some personal/business checks, which can be verified and approved. All credit card transactions require a valid photo ID. Sales tax of 7.5 % will collected on every sale unless you complete and sign a valid resale certificate. No exceptions. We look forward to doing business with you.


Address:   1555 SUFFOLK AVE, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360

4/11/2014 9am to 5pm (Fri)
4/12/2014 9am to 5pm (Sat)

(805) 402-0350

(805) 444-6411

View Company Details

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Dancer Davi Lorenzo Says The Immortal Tour Is More Like A Concert


Artistic Director Tara Young and dancers Davi Lorenzo and Leo Moctezuma

Artistic Director Tara Young and dancers Davi Lorenzo and Leo Moctezuma

Heads up, Richmond. There’s a brand new Cirque du Soleil show coming to the Coliseum. And it’s all about Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour takes over the Richmond Coliseum on Tuesday, April 15 and Wednesday, April 16 for a top-to-bottom transformation for the show. Tickets range from $50 to $150.

First off: this is a different kind of Cirque show.

Think more Michael, less acrobatics.

There won’t be as many high-flying acrobatics and physical stunts as other Cirque shows. But there will be more cool dance moves, moonwalks and memorable Michael Jackson songs.

(And there will be some acrobatics, just not as many as some Cirque fans are used to.)

We caught the last Cirque show in Richmond and loved the acrobatics, but not the muzac. So personally, we say, Bring it on, Billie Jean!

Dancer Davi Lorenzo says the show covers all of Michael Jackson’s hits – from Billie Jean and Human Nature to Smooth Criminal and Black and White.

“There is a lot of choreography from Michael Jackson videos,” Lorenzo says,“from Billie Jean and Thriller.” She says they also do the moonwalk, the cobra and “lots of the moves that Michael used to do.”

She says the show is more like a concert than the typical Cirque show.

“People can stand up, dance and move along with the songs. It’s more dance oriented. And it’s to celebrate Michael’s life.”

Her favorite song to perform is “Smooth Criminal.”

“All the girls – we have the dresses and the high heels – we slither around. I prefer my flat sneakers, but I love that choreography. It’s my favorite part of the show.”

A Spanish dancer originally trained in flamenco, Lovato herself has appeared in music videos with Chris Brown, as well as toured with Jennifer Lopez.

But she says she’s enjoying the Cirque show because “it’s a different type of performance. Here, we are the artists out in front. [Instead of performing back-up], it’s good to be viewed as an artist. There are 22 dancers in the show. And we just want to get people up and to dance. To treat it like a party.”

Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour

Tuesday, April 15 & Wednesday, April 16

Richmond Coliseum

Tickets range from $50 to $150.


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WATCH: American Idol’s Alex Preston And Sam Woolf Duet – “The Girl Is Mine”

Source: – By Lauren Weigle

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Alex Preston and Sam Woolf performed a beautiful duet tonight of the song “The Girl Is Mine” for American Idol’s 80′s night. The two fan favorite contestants blended perfectly together and made the girls in the audience swoon. The judges loved it … the audience loved it … And, the viewers loved it. In fact, the Twitter trend #SamandAlex sprung up and rose to the top within minutes.

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Cirque du Soleil Honors Michael Jackson’s Work: Interview With Dance Master Laurie Sposit

Source: News & Record – By Leah Hughes

The woman with the notepad knows every move of this show. She predicts when that dancer will go left and the other will break right. That jump was supposed to be higher. That person in the back was late. She counts every beat.

Laurie Sposit joined “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour” in July 2011 as the dance master. Her job involves overseeing the dancers and preserving the show’s original choreography.

She and her dancers and the entire 49-member cast that also includes acrobats and musicians will perform at Greensboro Coliseum on Friday and Saturday in the Cirque du Soleil production that honors the life work of Michael Jackson.

Sposit grew up listening to Jackson, watching his videos and mimicking his moves.

“I was that kid that had all the posters plastered on the wall,” she said.

For Sposit and fans around the world who grew up idolizing Jackson, “The Immortal” is for them. The show includes more than 35 of Jackson’s songs. It balances his original work and recordings with new interpretations.

Musical director Greg Phillinganes worked with Jackson for more than 25 years. The Cirque du Soleil flair enhances each song. During the “Wanna Be Starting Something” scene, the gates of Neverland open to reveal “The Immortal” band, which includes Jonathan “Sugarfoot” Moffett, who played drums for Jackson for 30 years. The scene then brings in dancers and acrobats in tribal costumes.

“The costumes are great,” Sposit says. “A lot of them are replicating what he had in his videos and his style. … And the other side is the genius of the Cirque du Soleil wardrobe department.”

“Beat It” highlights a couple of Jackson’s famous accessories. A dancer inside a 6-foot-tall glove forms hand positions with his entire body. And a pair of 8-foot-long shoes made of orthopedic foam with a vinyl skin represent Jackson’s penny loafers.

Sposit remembers wanting a red, leather jacket when she was younger to match the one in the “Thriller” video. (Her father said no.) The music and choreography of Jackson and his sister Janet influenced her decision to become a dancer. She toured with Janet Jackson on the “All for You” tour in the early 2000s.

“Having worked with his sister, that was awesome,” Sposit said. “I never got to meet him, but working on this is a way to be part of his legacy.”

The show carries forward Jackson’s overarching themes — love, peace and unity — found throughout his work.

“I think the main kind of message of the show is Michael’s love for life and humanity,” Sposit said.

Sometimes sitting and watching the show is difficult for her. Sposit danced professionally for more than 20 years. But chronic back pain forced her to take a different role. She works with a dance captain who acts out the examples she can no longer manage.

But she likes this side, too. She occasionally tries to watch without taking notes, but she finds it hard to turn off that make-it-better mind-set.

“I never get sick of it,” she said. “I can go out there every day and go, ‘Oh wow, what a great show we have.’”


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Great Review: Xscape Listening Party ~ Top Of The Rock, NY (April 8)

Source: Complex Music – By Rob Kenner / Pictures: Epic Records


Forget what you heard; we actually heard the music.

Last night a select group of music execs, press, radio, TV, and representatives of the Michael Jackson estate gathered at the Top of the Rock in NYC for a chance to hear Xscape, the second Michael Jackson album to be released since his tragic death in June 2009. During the ride to the top of Rockefeller Center, a ghostly image of Michael Jackson peered the down through the elevator’s glass ceiling. “Michael would approve,” quipped Fab 5 Freddy, one of the invited guests on the way up.

Upstairs there were magnificent views of Manhattan, signature cocktails, and elegant hors d’oeuvres.


But first the guests were compelled to check their phones (and submit to a metal detector sweep) all in an attempt to prevent digital piracy of the precious audio assets being unveiled that evening. But despite Epic Records’ best efforts, the album’s poppin’ title track leaked this morning. Normally this would be bad news for the album roll-out, but in this case the music provides a powerful retort to all the cynical criticism that has dogged this project since it was first announced.

“Xscape” was written by MJ and Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, most likely for the Invincible sessions. The track was recently “contemporized” by Jerkins—making it the only one of Xscape’s eight cuts to be reworked by its original producer. The rest of the album’s creative team includes Timbaland, Stargate, and longtime Jackson family friends Jerome “JRoc” Hamilton and John McClain—who were responsible for updating eight never-before-heard songs from the Jackson vaults, with the aim of giving them “a fresh, contemporary sound that retains Jackson’s essence and integrity,” as the press release put it. Based on an informal poll of guests at the party, the prevailing attitude in the room was somewhere between curious and cautiously optimistic.


LA Reid and Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins

Sylvia Rhone, the newly appointed President of Epic Records, kicked things off by recalling her own favorite Michael Jackson moment—when she was “the hottest chick on campus” at Penn University and got the chance to see The Jackson 5 at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. She then introduced her boss, Epic Records Chairman/CEO Antonio “L.A.” Reid, who assured her that she was still the hottest chick in the place before calling up representatives of the Jackson estate and presenting them with a plaque so enormous it required two strong men to lug it onstage, commemorating over 100 million copies (and counting) sold of Thriller, the biggest selling album of all time.

Despite the fact that it’s named after an awesome So So Def girl group, advance press on Xscape, which is due to drop May 13, had been overwhelmingly negative. Much of this negativity has to do with the never-ending media circus surrounding all things Jackson, which has sadly sullied the legacy of one of the greatest entertainers who ever walked the earth by distracting us all from what he did best.

Fab Five Freddy

Fab Five Freddy

LA Reid chopped it up with our friend Elliot Wilson from — at Top Of The Rock NYC.

LA Reid chopped it up with our friend Elliot Wilson from — at Top Of The Rock NYC.

As with the posthumous 2010 album Michael, knee-jerk news reports (written without hearing any of the music) characterized the songs as cutting-room-floor rejects polished up for purely financial motives—a notion that Antonio “L.A.” Reid wasted no time rebutting. “This is not about record company greed,” he said defiantly. “I knew Michael. I had the chance to spend time with him and I knew how he felt about his work, about breaking new ground and not repeating himself.” The estate reps pointed out that “Michael would not put a vocal down on a song if he didn’t love it,” and that the song “Wanna Be Starting Something” was originally recorded for the album Off The Wall and released later, ditto for “Earth Song,” which was originally written for Dangerous.

Then it was time to let the music play, and suddenly the only words that mattered were the ones Michael was singing. L.A. kicked things off with a sureshot dance-floor filler called “Love Never Felt Like This Before.” There were songs about cheating and double lives, and even darker cuts like “Slave To The Rhythm” a song about the trials of an unappreciated woman, and the “Do You Know Where Your Children Are?” which tells the tale of a 12-year-old runaway and features a haunting refrain of MJ singing “Save Me” over and over. Happily, the “contemporized” production on Xscape not so over-the-top that it distracts from the main attraction here, Michael’s superior songwriting and one-of-a-kind vocals.

Up high on one of the windows was a quote in bold letters that speaks to MJ’s creative process. “It’s an adventure, it’s a great adventure,” he said. “They just love wonderful experiences, they want escapism. We wanna take them places that they’ve never been before.”


How many recording artists today even aspire to do as much for their listeners? Contrary to what Kanye West said on “All of the Lights,” MJ isn’t exactly dead—not as long as he still can make your pulse race by hitting a note with just the right touch of grit in his voice. Almost five years after his outrageously untimely death, the King of Pop’s ability to move the crowd endures. He’s still a thrilla.

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Michael Jackson’s Irrevocable Trust and Estate, The IRS And Future Revenue



Major music label Epic Records has announced that May 2014 will be a good month for fans of Michael Jackson and his incredible musical legacy (1); that is when “Xscape,” one of about ten albums expected to be released by the Jackson estate over the next three years, will hit stores. This highly anticipated album is expected to add even more value to the already lucrative Jackson estate, which is undergoing probate under case number BP117321 in the Superior Court of Los Angeles. The Jackson estate is estimated to be earning about a billion dollars each year (2).

The King of Pop was 50 years old when he passed in 2009. At that time, Jackson was staging a comeback tour that eventually became a posthumous and highly successful musical show in Las Vegas. CNN has reported that the respected music impresario L.A. Reid, top executive at Epic Records, is praising the work performed by the producers working on Xscape, some of whom are executors of his will and had previously worked with Jackson.

Music and entertainment industry publication Billboard has identified several revenue streams that may keep the complicated and highly contested Michael Jackson Family Trust (3) from going into the red. Digital film, video games, the hit show “This Is It” in Las Vegas, music publishing, and recording contracts are among the activities that make the Jackson trust a posthumously profitable endeavor.

The irony of Michael Jackson’s posthumous earning power is something that Rocco Beatrice of recently commented on. He is the Managing Director of Estate Street Partners, a CPA firm that specializes on irrevocable trusts and estate planning. “That Michael Jackson is still earning from the afterlife is a veritable testament, so to speak, of his sizable contribution to the pop music canon. He is not the first music artist to find considerable posthumous success. Let’s keep in mind the estate of Elvis Presley, the King of Rock, as well as other late artists such as rapper Tupac Shakur, guitar legend Jimi Hendrix, reggae luminary Bob Marley, and grunge pioneer Kurt Cobain; those estates are still producing $1-5M per year.”

Mr. Beatrice has previously commented on the Jackson estate, specifically on his use of a “pour-over will” to assign any remaining assets that he may not have deposited into the Michael Jackson Family Trust. “Although trusts afford a lot more privacy than wills, we have learned quite a bit from the Jackson probate proceedings (5). That usually happens in cases involving major celebrities such as the King of Pop, and we know that he left a revocable trust.”

“Jackson’s revocable trust presented a problem insofar as estate taxation – some reports said it actually caused a deficit.” Mr, Beatrice is referring to Estate of Sanford v. Commissioner, 308 U.S. 39 (1939), a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that deems assets transferred to revocable trusts as incomplete gifts (4), and therefore subject to estate taxes. “Irrevocable trusts, which we often recommend to our clients, are much better structures in the sense that they provide tax mitigation and considerable estate protection.”

Taxes have been major issues in the protracted battle over the Jackson estate. In August 2013, Forbes reported on a $700 million deficiency determined by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) with regard to the Jackson estate (6). “It is clear from Jackson’s will and what we know from his trust that he wanted most of his estate to go to his three children. Unfortunately, the revocable feature of his trust is causing a lot of money to be paid in taxes. Irrevocable trusts tend to be far more favorable to beneficiaries, heirs and survivors than to the IRS,” Mr. Beatrice explained.

In the past, multiple lawsuits faced by the Jackson estate. “On one hand, it is good to know that Jackson’s musical legacy continues to produce so much revenue; on the other hand, the revocable trust is not sufficient to protect his estate against the dozens of lawsuits that are piling up in Los Angeles Superior Court. It is safe to assume that quite a few of those plaintiffs seeking money from the Jackson estate would be dissuaded if he had chosen an irrevocable trust that provides true asset protection.”


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Al Sharpton Says His Life Was Threatened Over The Victory Tour (Video)

Source: The Raw Story – By Arturo Garcia


MSNBC host Rev. Al Sharpton suggested on Tuesday that reports that he served as an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have been overblown.

“I did the right thing — working with authorities,” Sharpton said in a closing commentary. “I didn’t consider myself, quote, ‘an informant,’ wasn’t told I was that.”

Sharpton said he initiated contact with the bureau after getting threatened in 1984 over his demand that Black promoters be included in a national tour by singer Michael Jackson and his family.

“My life was threatened by people who claimed to be mobsters,” Sharpton explained. “The guy who called himself ‘Sal’ actually flew to New York from [Los Angeles], and said that if I didn’t stop interfering, they would kill me.”

Earlier in the day, the Smoking Gun reported that Sharpton was known to bureau officials as “CI-7″ as part of a lengthy investigation into the criminal activities of the Genovese family. Sharpton is credited with helping “secure court authorization” for authorities to tap more than a dozen phone lines and plant bugs in two social clubs and three cars owned by members of the organization.

The Associated Press reported that the report has led to criticism against Sharpton as his civic advocacy group, the National Action Network, prepared to host a visit from President Barack Obama. But at both a press conference and on his show, Sharpton said his involvement was detailed in his 1996 autobiography, Go and Tell Pharaoh.

He also criticized what he described as resentment within the African-American community for “snitches,” which perhaps peaked with the “Stop Snitching” campaign.

“We can’t have kids feel as though there’s something wrong with helping the police keep communities safe, and getting guns out of the neighborhood,” Sharpton said. “I’ve certainly had my differences with police, and still question them. But we must live in a country where people can call law enforcement and not be castigated.”

Watch Sharpton’s commentary, as aired on MSNBC on Tuesday, below.


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Cirque du Soleil Celebrates Michael Jackson With Superb Flair

Source: Charlotte Observer – By Lawerence Toppman


Michael Jackson died five years ago this June. His passing removed all the distractions surrounding his work and left a song catalog that holds four decades of prime material.

Those songs form the core of “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour,” which started a two-night run at Time Warner Cable Arena Tuesday. Like all Cirque du Soleil shows, it dazzles and confounds the eyes for more than two hours. But the organs that come away most delighted are the ears.

They get the unadulterated joy of preteen Michael singing “I’ll Be There” to the gentle solo piano of Charlie Wilson, the playful humor of young adult MJ bouncing through “Wanna Be Starting Something,” the primal rage of the mature Jackson on “They Don’t Care About Us”. (That number recreates a piece designed for the “This Is It” tour, with dancers stomping in unison as robots. Their LED breastplates reveal dollar signs, then question marks, then peace symbols and finally red, glowing hearts.)

Sometimes the show approaches a straight-up rock concert, especially near the end. (Except for Jackson’s lead vocals, a tight live band supplies the music.) Sometimes aerialists take flight, acrobats dangle from silks or poles, gymnasts contort or hurl themselves across the stage. Often a mime (agile, emotive Mansour Abdessadok) responds to Jackson’s vocals or seems to act out the words. And always, whether we hear Jackson or see him on huge screens behind the stage, MJ’s charisma shines through.

A pairing of Cirque and Jackson seems natural for three reasons. First, they share a sense of playfulness: Pole dancer Anna Melnikova writhes high in the air, both menaced and worshipped by six guys below in suits, during the half-serious “Dangerous.”

Second, his songs often express a sense of wonder, an open-eyed amazement at the world, and that’s a Cirque hallmark. Aerialists in sparkling garb float through the air during “Human Nature,” like beings reduced to ethereal spirits.

Third, Cirque shows have a special inclusiveness: People of different builds, ages, races and nations take part. In this case, a one-legged dancer rocks the house on his arm braces. Jackson’s songs also emphasize our universality, especially universal needs for respect, trust and affection (celebrated here in the climactic, pull-out-the-stops “Black or White”).

We usually associate Cirque with pure pleasure, but Jackson’s social consciousness gets a workout in the second half, whether in the ominous “Earth Song” (with the planet burning) or “Scream.” I can’t give a better description of the latter than the press notes: “Acrobats execute a perfectly synchronized tumbling act, flinging themselves in the air and bellyflopping onto the stage, as Ninja-style aerial dancers suspended above interact with Japanimation-inspired sequences projected on the screens. The scene evokes the destruction of the world.”

That may sound a bit zany, but it’s compelling when you see and hear it. And there’s nothing silly about the children with near-fatal malnutrition or the murdered civil rights leaders projected on the screen during “They Don’t Care About Us.” That class-conscious number couldn’t be more timely.

Those screens serve more of a purpose here than in most arena shows, even most Cirque shows. They provide a visual counterpoint or complement to what we see onstage, showing related images, special visual effects or snatches of old Jackson videos.

At one point, dancers in suits that turn them into neon-lit silhouettes move into a synchronized number. They’re stepping out in fascinating style when the glittering Jackson appears on the big screen, whirling and moonwalking. Even they stop dancing for a moment and seem to watch. The choreographer knew that, when Jackson’s at his most compelling, our eyes go straight to him.

‘Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour’

WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday.

WHERE: Time Warner Cable Arena, 333 E. Trade St.

TICKETS: $58.15-$172.20.

DETAILS: 800-745-3000;


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Michael Jackson And The Number 7

Source: MJWN


Alex Bellos, a Brazilian mathematician, has claimed to have uncovered the world’s favourite number. In researching more than 30,000 people to pick a number between one and 1,000, the number 7 emerged as the most popular.

Maybe the King of Pop had it right all along? It’s well known throughout his fanbase that over the course of his career, it is clear that Michael Jackson’s favourite number was seven. We explore some of the times Michael used the most popular number in the world:
•Michael wore a 7 on his top in the ‘Scream’ music video
•There is a 7 on a hat within the ‘Dangerous’ album cover
•Michael has 7 embossed on the top of each leg guard during the HIStory World Tour
•777 appears on the arm of Michael’s statue on the ‘HIStory’ album cover.
•777 again appears on the arm of the jacket Michael is wearing in the ‘HIStory’ promotional video.
•He wore plasters on 3 of his fingers, keeping 7 free.
•It appears on the ‘Blood On The Dance Floor’ album cover his body is making a number 7

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Other things that are slightly more tenuous and possibly/probably just coincidental, but is worth noting out of interest:

•Michael signed his will on 7/7/02
•His memorial was on 7/7/09 (exactly 7 years after the will was signed)
•His two longest serving number one hits were ‘Black Or White’ and ‘Billie Jean’ – both at number one for 7 weeks (USA).
•He was the 7th of 9 children.
•Michael was born in 1958: 19 + 58 = 77.
•Michael died on the 25th: 2 + 5 = 7.
•Michael has 7 letters in his first and last name.
•He was found not guilty in his 2005 (2 + 0 + 0 + 5 = 7) trial on the 7th day of jury deliberations
•Michael was born in 1958 and died 2009: 1 + 9 + 5 + 8 + 2 + 0 + 0 + 9 = 34: 3 + 4 = 7
•MJWN’s newsletter is called Network 7

Find out more why Alex Bellos believes the special number is the most popular:

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Ryan White (1971-1990)

Source: Retro Indy


All Ryan White ever wanted was the one thing he could never have — the chance to be a typical kid.

In 1984, the soft-spoken Indiana schoolboy was diagnosed with a new disease that had modern medicine stumped and America simmering on the verge of panic.

Communities drained swimming pools. Grocers tossed out produce. Anything or anyone that might come in contact with a person who had this deadly disease known by the strange acronym — AIDS — was feared to be potentially contaminated.

Compassion and understanding often gave way to terror and scorn, in great part because AIDS was most closely associated with gay sex and IV drug use. Some even saw it as a punishment from God.

Into this climate of confusion and fear entered a shy, reluctant 13-year-old boy from Howard County. His fresh-faced innocence provided a different perspective — an eye-opening realization that anyone could fall victim to the disease, and a call for the world to help, rather than shun, those afflicted with AIDS.

Ryan White proved to be an antidote — not to a disease, but to the way many perceived it.


“There was a stereotype of HIV victims at the time, that they were evil incarnate,” said former Indiana Health Commissioner Dr. Woodrow “Woody” Myers. “Ryan showed that was not the case.”

Myers, who became aware of the AIDS epidemic while training in the early 1980s at Stanford Medical Center, came to know Ryan after he was banned from attending public school in 1985.

“What I’ll remember most about Ryan,” said Myers, “was his aggressive desire to be normal. He wanted a car. He wanted to hang out with the pretty girls. He just wanted to have fun and be treated the way other kids were. He wanted to fit in.”

But the five years after Ryan contracted AIDS from a tainted blood-clotting treatment for hemophilia were anything but normal. His life became a whirlwind of emotions as he struggled not only with the ravaging disease, but also ignorance, intolerance and celebrity.

He was spit on and called names. Barred from public school. Shunned by former classmates and teachers. On more than one occasion, the family’s home near Kokomo was the target of gunshots.

But there was another side to Ryan’s story — an almost magical counter to the hatred and turmoil. Celebrities such as Elton John, Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson came to his aid.


MJ-michael-jackson-31717376-1016-702-640x360 Ryan-and-Elton-s-Friendship-ryan-white-23205991-929-656 ELTOHN-532_1548206a The-Red-Mustang-Michael-Gave-Ryan-White-For-His-Birthday-michael-jackson-35779505-600-908

Some, like John, became close friends and remain in contact with Ryan’s mother, Jeanne White Ginder. Ryan spoke to members of Congress, met with then-President Ronald Reagan and traveled internationally to talk about his experiences with AIDS. His story was recounted in books, on TV and in movies.

His life was a powerful instrument for change. But his death was inevitable. Ryan succumbed to the disease 20 years ago today at Riley Hospital for Children.

Two decades later, Ryan’s legacy lives on. His mark can be found in legislation that provides assistance to AIDS victims and in the commitment of his mother and friends to fight the disease that killed Ryan.

His name is on the nation’s most significant AIDS legislation: The Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act. First approved in 1990 and last year extended by President Barack Obama, the act created the country’s largest HIV/AIDS-specific federal grant program. It has been called America’s most important step in fighting the AIDS epidemic, helping thousands annually.

In addition, Ryan’s struggles spurred Indiana lawmakers to empower the state health commissioner to overrule decisions by local health officials.

His case also prompted the development of protective protocols for dealing with infectious diseases and highlighted the need for more scrutiny of the public blood supply.

And in classrooms across Indiana and the U.S., Ryan’s story encouraged greater acceptance of students with HIV or AIDS.

Ryan would be nearing middle age now if he had lived. But to Indiana and the world, he is forever frozen in time: the slight teenage boy with a crooked smile and spiky hair, thrust into the spotlight.

Ryan’s life had never really been normal. His hemophilia required regular treatments and kept him out of some typical childhood activities.

But that was nothing compared with what happened after his AIDS diagnosis became public.

Controversy erupted when he was barred in 1985 from Western Middle School near Kokomo.


“It was a dark moment in Indiana,” said John Krull, director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and a former columnist for The Indianapolis News, who covered the story. “He probably wouldn’t have been treated that much different anywhere else in the country. That’s the pity — there was so little sympathy for him and his family.”

Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, said the mystery of AIDS fostered an “abject terror” at the time.

“There was little or no understanding how HIV was transferred, who was at risk or what you could do to protect yourself,” Caplan said. “That type of nervousness about a disease that was deadly really led to the reaction you saw in Indiana.”

Despite being handed a death sentence and treated like an outcast, Ryan never got down about his fate, his mother said. In fact, he worked to make others feel more comfortable — even in the days immediately after he was told his declining health was the result of AIDS.

White Ginder will never forget one particular mother-son moment:

“Mom,” he said. “The Lord just came and spoke to me.”

“What did he look like?” she asked.

“Nothing like the pictures we have at home.”

“What did he say?” she asked.

“I have nothing to fear,” Ryan told her.

White Ginder said that quiet strength made it easier for her to accept the inevitable.

“There was,” she said, “a peace within him.”

But not around him.

His diagnosis came just three years after the Centers for Disease Control first identified the mysterious virulent disease.

“There was a dissonance between what we knew about the disease and what people thought about the disease,” Myers said. “There was so much fear associated with AIDS, and people latched onto that. Ryan came along right at the time this was at its height.”

Officials at Western School Corp. in Howard County banned Ryan from attending classes at the start of the 1985-86 school year, saying he posed too great a health risk to others. A nearly two-year legal tussle ensued, with Ryan ultimately allowed to return to classes — prompting the parents of more than two dozen kids to pull them from the school.

What Ryan experienced, Myers explained, was not different from what others with AIDS faced at the time. Ryan “just put a face on all this craziness.”

Faced with that craziness — the taunting, attacks and a community that treated him as a pariah — Ryan was deeply hurt, but he also understood.

“He would say, ‘Mom, they are just trying to protect their own kids like you are trying to protect me,’ ” White Ginder recalled.

Ron Colby, who was the principal at Western Middle School at the time, defends the school’s handling of the situation.

“It was just so new,” said Colby, who retired in 1999. “(AIDS) was just a very scary thing that nobody knew too much about.”

Colby said his school and community have been portrayed unfairly.

“I have not one regret about anything we did,” Colby said. “I think it was sound for Ryan, Ryan’s family and for the community.”

A new life

Ryan transferred to the Hamilton Heights school district in 1987 when his family moved to Cicero to get away from the controversy in Howard County.

He was welcomed, literally, with open arms as he began his freshman year of high school.

“For the first time since he was diagnosed with AIDS,” his mother recalled, “he felt like he could just be who he was.”

Hamilton Heights Schools Superintendent Tony Cook, who was principal at the time, calls Ryan’s first day at school one of the greatest moments of his professional career.

Cook met with Ryan and his mother in June to begin planning for the transition. A comprehensive strategy was quickly devised: Get out early and educate students and parents.

“We decided we would not put any restrictions on Ryan’s attendance,” Cook said. “We did a lot of research. We brought in experts. We had question-and-answer sessions with students and parents prior to the start of school. We did things right.”

Still, Cook refuses to criticize officials in Howard County for their handling of the matter. In the two years that had passed since Ryan’s diagnosis, school officials and the public had learned much about the disease.

One step taken at Hamilton Heights was to appoint ambassadors to greet Ryan and help him become comfortable in his new surroundings.

One was Jill Stewart, now Jill Waibel, who was the student body president and a neighbor of Ryan’s family. The experience changed her life — she became close friends with Ryan, often traveling with him to public appearances.

“That year turned out to be crazy,” said Waibel, a dermatologist who now lives in Florida. “We testified in Washington, D.C., we went to fundraisers in New York, we were on PBS. There was a lot of interest in Ryan. He had become the face of HIV/AIDS. He was the first child victim whose plight had been publicized, and that really changed the public’s perception of the disease.”

Waibel said Ryan “knew he had a mission on earth” to help others struggling with AIDS and its stigma.

But, she added, “he really hated all the spotlight.”

“He was shy, but he had a wonderful sense of humor,” she recalled. “He loved skateboarding and surfing. Chi Chi’s was his favorite place to eat.”

But there was much more to Ryan — a side born out of his illness that seemed to blossom in the face of adversity.

Waibel recalled an exchange Ryan had with his doctor as his condition declined. At the time, Ryan was very sick and taking a very painful IV treatment.

“I don’t want that anymore,” Ryan told his doctor.

“You have to, or you will die,” his doctor said.

“I know,” Ryan replied.

Waibel said tears welled up in the doctor’s eyes. He walked out of the hospital room.

Ryan followed him out into the hall. Instead of talking about his troubles, Ryan started asking the doctor about his kids.

“That’s just how he was,” Waibel said. “He was always more concerned about other people.”

Waibel said Ryan had a great acceptance of his fate.

“He was hopeful, always hoping for a miracle, and he was worried about his mom and sister. He didn’t want to suffer — he had suffered enough — but he wasn’t afraid to die,” she said. “He had a beautiful attitude and wanted to help others. We can all learn from that lesson.”

Ryan’s legacy

Even in death, Ryan’s legacy continues to grow.

“When I think of Ryan White, I think of education,” said Thomas Bartenbach, executive director of the Damien Center in Indianapolis, which offers supportive services to those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.

“He educated us all about the disease and all the false perceptions out there at that point.”

Schools have since developed models for reacting in more deliberate and less emotional ways, said Indianapolis attorney Jon Bailey, who specializes in education law.

“Because we know more,” Bailey said, “we are much less likely to react out of fear or overreact.”

But as much as everyone wants to believe the abuses Ryan endured are behind us, that isn’t always the case.

A lawsuit over the alleged mistreatment of a former Washington Township student who is HIV-positive is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The suit alleges school officials failed to address bullying of the teen, who was pulled from the school in 2008 and is now home-schooled.

The family’s attorney and school officials declined to comment on the case, which is set for trial next March.

Ryan’s legacy today goes beyond law books and health protocols. It can be seen — and experienced — every day by new generations of Hoosiers at The Children’s Museum. Ryan’s story is one of three featured in the permanent exhibit, “The Power of Children: Making a Difference.”

At the museum this week, Rachel Geith, 42, Indianapolis, stopped at the exhibit — a replica of Ryan’s bedroom, surrounded by his most prized possessions.

Geith recalled watching Ryan’s story play out when she was a teen. Now she is sharing that experience with her children.

She said they don’t understand how a child could be banned from school. Or how an innocent child could become a pariah.

That such things are so hard for a child to comprehend could be the most important piece of Ryan’s legacy.

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A boy’s story

Poll: Which Artist Would You Want Your Child To Study?

60 Minutes and Vanity Fair have released a music poll for April. The poll asked various questions regarding people’s music preferences down to the worse decade for music.  We found one poll result asking parents which artist that would want their child to study.  Michael Jackson was rated third. Although this ranking it’s not as high as we would like, we were none the less pleased to see that Michael made the list.


It’s a toss-up between the Fab Four (33 percent) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (32 percent) as to which artist’s music Americans would choose to have their children study. Next in order are Michael Jackson (14 percent), Billie Holiday (nine percent) and Jay-Z (five percent). People (mostly Baby Boomers) between the ages of 45 and 64 favored the Beatles, while those under 45 as well as those over 65 went with the brilliant 18th century composer. It’s a tribute to Mozart’s genius that he could win a strong coalition of the youngest and oldest people in the country, now that’s staying power.

Source: CBS/ 60 Minutes/ Vanity Fair

EMU’s Student Tribute To The King Of Pop

Source: The Eastern Echo – By Sarah Williams

Fullscreen capture 482014 94050 AM

Bader Yousef

Audience members were dazzled with songs, dances and costumes honoring the king of pop in the Michael Jackson tribute show “This Is It” held at Eastern Michigan University’s Student Center Auditorium on April 2.

Bader Yousef, founder and president of EagleFIT and mastermind behind “This Is It,” was often seen as Michael Jackson during the show. He donned a sequined glove and black fedora for his performances, paying tribute to the king of pop’s signature style.

Mary Larkin, program coordinator for the Lesbian Bisexual Gay and Transgender Resource Center on campus, was the host for the evening. Larkin provided commentary on the performances as well as laughs. She was also throwing out vintage Michael Jackson trading cards into the audience in between performances.

Larkin expressed how badly she wanted to be part of the show as a dancer, and surprised the entire audience by joining in during “Beat It.” Yousef had promised surprises for the show, and this unexpected twist was a hit with the audience.

Many dancers were involved in the show including some groups here at Eastern. Overdosed on Dance was seen dancing during songs such as “Dirty Diana” and “P.Y.T.” The EMU Swing Society, a swing dance group, performed during “Man in the Mirror.”

Tristin Taylor, who danced during “Dirty Diana,” enjoyed being a part of the event.
“This was a real fun experience,” he said. “It brought people with different perspectives together, and I thank EMU for the opportunity.”

Performers in the show sang almost all of the songs heard during “This Is It.” This allowed each singer to give their personal and unique renditions of classic Michael Jackson songs, and really displayed the amount of talent and hard work that was put in to the show.


Some of the songs performed were “Bad,” sung by Jack B and Ryan, “The Way You Make Me Feel,” performed by Jaklyia Johnson and Adel Nassar, and an acoustic version “Earth Song” sung by Emily S.

Not every performer in “This Is It” was from EMU. Kamryn Johnson, a 10 year old with dreams of becoming a singer, sang popular Jackson 5 songs, including “ABC” and “I Want You Back.” Rare Paragon Gem, a dance group from Washtenaw Community College, also took part in performances on songs such as “Will You Be There” and “Gone Too Soon,” which were sung by the director of Rare Paragon Gem, Gayle Martin.

Mahdi Alkadib was both backstage and an audience member at the show. He frequently helps backstage at EMU productions, most recently at “Colors in Harmony.”

Alkadib said from his experience, “being backstage can be stressful and tense.”

He made sure to be backstage for the first showing in case his help was needed, and decided to stay as an audience member for the second show and found it to be “fun and exciting.”

Although the show had two time slots to allow for more audience members, both shows were full and many people were unable to get a seat.

Alkadib said he expected both shows to be filled because of that fact that the show was well advertised and free.

As each audience member entered the auditorium they were handed a green wristband, to ensure they had a seat, and an “After Show Quick Survey.” The short survey asked about quality of the show, and whether or not people would want to see a “This Is It” show next year.

Yousef said that every person who turned in a survey would like to see the show again next year. Although he is graduating soon and wouldn’t be managing the event like this year, he did have some thoughts on the possibility of continuing the show. “More days and times offered” would be a top priority after the success this year’s show had.


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Administrator’s Note: Bader Yousef has sent me some lovely pictures from this event, which I will share with you later in a follow up post. 

MJ Statue Finds A Good Home At Manchester’s National Football Museum

Source: Daily Mail – By Charles Sale


The Michael Jackson statue that so divided opinion among Fulham fans before it was removed by new owner Shahid Khan is to find a permanent home at Manchester’s National Football Museum.

The sculpture has been in a warehouse owned by former owner Mohamed Al Fayed, a close friend of Jackson, since it was taken down last September from its prominent Thames-side location at Craven Cottage.

Fayed commissioned the statue to stand outside Harrods after Jackson died in 2009. But after selling the store, he switched the site to Fulham, where the King of Pop watched one game as the chairman’s guest in 1999.

The National Football Museum approached Al Fayed about a loan after it was removed from Craven Cottage, and once contracts have been agreed, the 7ft 6in memorial is due to occupy a showcase position near the entrance to the museum in the distinctive Urbis Building.

Fayed had other options, including an unlikely sale to former Fulham manager Martin Jol. The Dutchman has an eclectic art collection and made it clear he was prepared to pay £20,000 to have Jackson in his garden. But preliminary talks stopped after Jol was sacked last December.

Fayed said: ‘The National Football Museum is a splendid institution. The statue means a great deal to me and my family. But on reflection, I decided it should go to a place where it can be enjoyed by the greatest amount of people for ever. I think Michael would have approved of the choice. Like football itself, he entertained the world.’

An NFM spokeswoman said: ‘The story behind the statue and its relationship with Fulham would certainly make for a thought-provoking addition. We are very grateful to Mr Al Fayed for offering to donate this important item.’

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