Two Scarecrows Named Mike

Sources: The Examiner – By  Peter Heimsoth | All Things Michael

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Makeup man Stan Winston assembled a team of makeup artists to apply the fantastic faces to the otherworldly Ozites in The Wiz. Whether Winston had full knowledge of the appropriateness of the man assigned to turn Michael Jackson into the Scarecrow or it was just pure serendipity, your humble History of Oz Examiner does not know.

Nevertheless, Jackson’s personal make-up artist was something of an old hand on the subject of portraying the Scarecrow; his name was Michael R. Thomas, and he had played the straw-stuffed Oz notable in Barry Mahon’s 1969 kiddie matinee The Wonderful Land of Oz (please see my articles on that movie). He had also been responsible for all of the character makeups in that film.

The two hit it off well professionally and personally. On the set, Thomas made sure that the famously frenetic Jackson’s unbounded energy didn’t dislodge the foam latex appliances that had been glued to the young performer’s face. Of course it happened anyway, as it tends to happen with pretty much any such makeup– tales from the sets of the various Planet of the Apes movies have been told for decades– but Thomas was always on hand to do repair work.

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While many actors who have had to wear prosthetic appliances found themselves unable to endure them for long– Sal Mineo, who was in agony over his makeup as the chimpanzee Dr. Milo in Escape from the Planet of the Apes, for instance– first-timer Jackson loved his Scarecrow visage, so much so that he is said to have worn it home (“home” being a suite of rooms he shared with his sister La Toya in a New York hotel for the duration of the filming) once or twice.

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While the subject of Thomas’s having played the Scarecrow must have come up during their many conversations, I personally do not know if Thomas offered Jackson any pointers. But they became good friends while The Wiz was in production, and along with playing games and telling jokes on the set, Thomas welcomed Jackson (and his security guard) to his modest New Jersey apartment for dinner one evening.

Though they fell out of touch in the years that followed, Thomas remembered Jackson fondly, noting his childlike interest in everything around him and how easy it was to make him laugh. While Jackson went on to become one of the most successful singers of all time, Thomas, who had a lifelong love of the classic Universal monster movies, continued his career in makeup and acting, as well as making horror movie convention appearances as Ygor, the sinister, broken-necked lab assistant played by Bela Lugosi in the movie Son of Frankenstein. He also did a dead-on– or perhaps that should be undead-on– impersonation of Lugosi’s famous Count Dracula.

Poignantly, both Scarecrows named Mike passed away in 2009; Michael Jackson on June 25th and Michael R. Thomas on August 24th (three days short of his sixtieth birthday).

 

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Chuck And Val DeVitis Recall MJ’s Visits To Disneyland

Sources: Desert News | All Things Michael

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“Magical” is the word commonly used by Disneyland lovers who find it easy to “leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy.”

Val DeVitis was in her 20s when she went to work at Disneyland on Nov. 16, 1968. It didn’t take long to build a love for her job, retiring 35 years later.

“I loved it there. I couldn’t wait to go to work,” she said.

She started in merchandising as a clerk typist and advanced to administrative assistant. Many of the years were spent in the park on Main Street USA, followed later at the Disneyland Hotel.

Most of all, she loved watching people’s faces as they came into the park.

Actor John Travolta poses with Chuck DeVitis and Val DeVitis

Actor John Travolta poses with Chuck DeVitis and Val DeVitis

“Kids and adults would be walking around in awe and disbelief at what they were seeing,” she said.

In 1986, her husband, Chuck DeVitis, also went to work at the park, as a security manager. Over 15 years, he was regularly called upon to escort celebrities through the park, including Jack Nicholson and Michael Jackson. Jackson came often, usually bringing a young Macaulay Culkin.

“One time, I was escorting him (Jackson) out the gate and he stopped by a news stand to the left of the gate. He goes to the stand to get a postcard and reached over a woman who did not recognize him and he enjoyed that,” Chuck recalled.

He also escorted Elizabeth Taylor to Fantasyland, where she celebrated her 60th birthday with a private party.

“She was pretty as a picture,” he said.

Disneyland had a magical appeal even to the celebrities, he said.

“You’d see them light up. I don’t care who they were.”

Photos of Mickey Mouse and Goofy, signed by co-workers at their retirement, are among the items that decorate some of the walls of their Desert Hot Springs home and are just a handful of the memorabilia they have stashed away.

“I have some great memories of working there,” Val DeVitis said.

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Michael Jackson’s 1996 Trip To Mumbai

Sources: Huffington Post – By Aashmita Nayar | All Things Michael

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Six years ago, the ‘King of Pop’, Michael Jackson, passed away, leaving millions of fans across the world heart-broken. Jackson performed once in India, where his music has always been popular and continues to be a staple at house parties in its cities.

In 1996, on 30 October, the music legend arrived in Mumbai to perform at a charity concert organized by ‘Shiv Udyog Sena’, an arm of the Shiv Sena, to help create jobs for over 2.7 lakh people in Maharashtra. He was greeted at the airport by actor Sonali Bendre, clad in true Marathi style, along with Raj Thackeray and Sharmila Thackeray with several other politicians, and his entry was captured in this Associated Press video amidst the thunder of beating drums and dholaks, and whistles.

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Even as the crowds go wild, with stern admonishing from cops, Jackson can be seen being warmly welcomed with giant garlands and a scarf. A few minutes later, the video also captures the singer smiling and delightedly clapping his hands at the drum beaters outside the airport.

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On arriving in Mumbai, Michael stopped his driver and spent 20 minutes talking to children playing at the crowded slums. He also entertained them a few minutes before proceeding into Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s residence. He also waived his fee for the performance, and proceeded to donate money to a local charity to help educate the children residing in the slums.

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THE EVENT HORIZON – “SYNCLAVIER, MUSIC AND MICHAEL JACKSON” PART 3 ( EXCERPT)

Sources: Head Gear – By Christopher Currell| All Things Michael

The “Bad” World Tour

To refresh your memory of where the story left off, here’s Part 1 and Part 2.

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There were so many experiences while on the “Bad” tour, and it is almost an impossible task to write about them without making a complete book. I could break down the tour into three primary categories. The rehearsals; the actual tour which covered Japan, Australia, America and Europe; and the period right after the tour. I will talk about some of the experiences in the above mentioned three categories. What I will not discuss are the political/business aspects of the tour as these subjects tend to be somewhat of a downer. Due to the amount of information, I will write about my experiences on the Bad tour in two columns. This month I will talk about the rehearsals. Next month I will talk about the actual tour with a few additional notes of what I experienced shortly after the tour. Let’s get going….

The Rehearsals

My biggest worry was how to play the Synclavier Live. I am not a keyboard player. I am a guitar player. I needed to search for the latest technology that would allow a guitar player to play an instrument with guitar like technique but would output digital information reliably to a computer to trigger the Synclavier. I tried everything! In the end, I chose an instrument called the SynthAxe. After plying it for 5 minutes, I knew this instrument could do the job. It was $12,000! I bought one for myself and I had TTC buy two for the tour. Now I just had to learn to play it in a few weeks!

My biggest worry was how to play the Synclavier Live. I am not a keyboard player. I am a guitar player. I needed to search for the latest technology that would allow a guitar player to play an instrument with guitar like technique but would output digital information reliably to a computer to trigger the Synclavier. I tried everything! In the end, I chose an instrument called the SynthAxe. After plying it for 5 minutes, I knew this instrument could do the job. It was $12,000! I bought one for myself and I had TTC buy two for the tour. Now I just had to learn to play it in a few weeks!

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I happened to be at Leeds the day Jennifer Batten came to audition. She pulled up in a beat up pickup truck. She was a guitar instructor at GIT. She had her guitar and her amp. I was walking into Leeds at the same time so she asked where she should set up. She did not look like a rock star…she looked more like an introverted librarian. I showed her the stage. As I recall, Rory was there too. Jennifer asked what she should play. We said anything she wants. So she played the Eddie Van Halen solo on Beat It perfectly with no backing music! We were floored! Later that evening, at Michael’s house, we were watching the videos. I told Michael that Jennifer was really good and he should really check her out! He watched and got very excited and said…”Wow! She is really good but we have to do something about her look!” We all laughed! She was immediately in the band!

Next, came a referral for a bass player! Don Boyette! He had played with many people including the Pointer Sisters and had just come off a year tour with Lionel Richie. Great player and a great look he was in right away!

There were many keyboard players auditioning but Michael wanted Greg Phillinganes. He had played on some of the songs in the studio and he had been working with Michael for many years. I am not sure why we even held keyboard auditions. He was the last musician to come into the band.

It seemed that the plan was to use Jonathan Moffett on drums and David Williams on guitar since both were on the Jackson’s Victory tour. The problem was, they were currently out touring with Madonna. Her tour would soon end allowing a couple of weeks to make the transition into the band. For rehearsals, we needed substitutes for the drums and guitar. Ricky Lawson was brought in on drums. He had also been on the Lionel Richie tour with Don Boyette so they were already very tight playing together. Ricky wanted to take some time off from touring so he agreed to set in temporarily for Jonathan Moffett at the rehearsals. As it turns out, Ricky and Greg were both from Detroit, Michigan and had already done much playing together. I found that interesting because I am also from Michigan and had also lived in Detroit.

LA session guitar player, Paul Jackson, Jr. was asked to fill in for the rehearsals but turned it down. He referred a guitar player named Jon Clark. As I recall, Jon had a day job being a messenger for a record company. When he got the call, Jon said yes right away even though it was just a temporary gig.

If I was to also play guitar, I needed a guitar system so I had TTC buy two Mesa Boogie amps and speakers. I realized very quickly, however, that my gig was going to be very demanding with the SynthAxe and the Synclavier. We had very little time to assemble, program and learn the music. I decided playing guitar was not really necessary since we had two good guitarists already. So I dropped the idea of playing guitar to focus on just playing the SynthAxe and Synclavier.

The band at this point was me, Greg Phillinganes, Rory Kaplan, Ricky Lawson, Jennifer Batten, Don Boyette and Jon Clark. We were finally ready to begin band rehearsals!

Everyday the sound got better and better. We were impressed how well we played together and how good the sound was!

Meanwhile it seemed that Madonna was extending her tour. She would not be finished until we were in the middle of the Japan tour! Clearly this was a problem. Our integration of technology and performances would not be easy for Jonathan Moffet or David Williams to just walk into with little or no rehearsal. Also, the band was sounding great as is! Even Ricky changed his mind and wanted to do the tour! The band had a meeting and we all agreed that this was going to be THE band! We decided that we needed to make our thoughts known to Michael and Frank. So Greg, Rory and myself had a meeting with Michael and Frank to discuss the situation.

We explained that it would not be easy to quickly integrate other players because so much technology was being used. Plus a different drummer and guitar player would change the basic feel of the band and already it was sounding great. We explained to Michael that we thought that the current lineup of members should be the final band. Michael agreed. He thought the band as is sounded great! Frank had no problem with the current lineup because he was already frustrated with negotiations concerning the high salaries that Jonathan and David were demanding. So it was decided! The current lineup was to be the official band! We reported back the good news to the other band members. Ricky was very excited! Jon Clark was in tears! He had no idea that he would actually become a final member in the band! He was overjoyed!

Next stop…production rehearsals!

Production rehearsals were to take place at the Universal Studio’s largest sound stage in Los Angeles. These rehearsals are where we refine everything…the music arrangements, the vocals, the sounds, the choreography, costume changes and the pyrotechnics!

The first day at rehearsal, I had the SynthAxe strapped on. Michael walked up and saw it for the first time. I thought his eyes were going to pop out of his head! He said “Wow! Where did you get that!” I responded with “I have my ways” with a smile. Right away he wanted some future looking guitars dug out of storage from the Jacksons’ Victory tour. Jennifer and Jon diplomatically tried them but declined as they were too hard to play.

Everyday there was new arrivals. The backing vocalists showed up for the first time…Kevin Dorsey, Dorian Holley, Darryl Phinnessee and Sheryl Crow.

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During the rehearsal time spent at the sound stage, our work required long hours. Basically we ran the two hour plus show three times a day. Then in the evening, we would work on programing the gear to reflect the additions or changes to the songs as Michael requested. If I recall correctly, we would arrive around 10:00 am and work until about 1:00 am everyday.

Michael would go rehearse with the dancers at another place when we finished playing the show for the day….

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Christopher Currell

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A Brief Look Back At The Dangerous Tour – Singapore

Sources: Strait Times | All Things Michael

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The Straits Times and Business Times are organizing an all-star concert in August to celebrate 50 years of popular music in Singapore. In this fourth installment of a five-part series, Paige Lim looks at the entertainment scene in the 1990’s.

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Jackson fever gripped Singapore hard when it was announced that the King of Pop would be holding his first concert here in August 1993 as part of the Asian leg of his Dangerous Tour.

Sistic and American Express ticketing phone lines were jammed, public queues snaked overnight at ticket counters, and airlines and hotels here reported heavy bookings over the concert weekend with the massive influx of fans from neighbouring countries. More than 10,000 tickets were snapped up on the first day of priority sales, and all $200 and $125 tickets were sold out within an hour when public sales opened.

On Aug 29, Jackson enthralled a capacity crowd of 45,000 fans in an exhilarating two-hour spectacle of lasers, lights and pyrotechnics at the National Stadium. Complete with his signature moonwalk, the pop star sang songs from all stages of his career, from albums Off The Wall, Thriller and Dangerous to a Jackson 5 medley.

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His second concert, scheduled for Aug 30, was postponed to Sept 1 after he collapsed off-stage before the show. In 1996, he returned for one night at the same venue.

Sadly, that performance proved to be his last in Singapore.

 

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The 60 Most Memorable Moments Of All Time From the Billboard Music Awards

Sources: Billboard | All Things Michael

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Via telecast at the 2002 Billboard Music Awards, Chris Tucker presented Michael Jackson with a special Billboard Award for his chart history-making album Thriller.

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Nearly five years after his untimely death, Michael Jackson returned to the BBMAs stage in 2014… in hologram form. An animation of the King of Pop was unveiled alongside a slew of dancers, and performed “Slave To The Rhythm,” from the 2014 posthumous album Xscape.

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Pat Houston and Bobbi Kristina Brown emotionally accepted the Millennium Award on behalf of Whitney Houston onstage at the 2012 Billboard Music Awards.

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At the 2006 Billboard Music Awards, Stevie Wonder presented classic crooner Tony Bennett with the Billboard Century Award.

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On the heels of her success with concept album Rhythm Nation 1814, Janet Jackson walked away with the most awards at 1990’s BBMAs.

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In 2006, Janet Jackson treated viewers to a medley of songs both new and old, performing “Control,” “Pleasure Principle” and “So Excited.”

The 2015 Billboard Music Awards, which ABC will air live from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on May 17.

You can check out the full list of finalists for the 2015 Billboard Music Awards at Billboard.com.

TOP R&B ALBUM
Beyoncé, Beyoncé
Chris Brown, X
Michael Jackson, Xscape
John Legend, Love in the Future
Pharrell Williams, G I R L

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The Simpsons: From Michael Jackson To Johnny Cash Some Of The Best Guest Stars Ever

Sources: Mirror – James Leyfield| All Things Michael

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Following the devastating news that one of The Simpsons biggest voices, Harry Shearer, is leaving the show after 26 seasons we have looked back at some of the best guest stars EVER on the animated show.

Harry has voiced some of the best characters, including the likes of Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, Waylon Smithers, Otto and Principle Skinner – so how did the great guest stars compare to him?

Let’s take a look at some of the big names who have lent their vocal talents to characters in the show…

Michael Jackson – Leon Kompowsky

The late King of Pop portrayed this mental patient who thought he was Michael Jackson before later realising he wasn’t the legendary singer.

Homer revealed in the episode that he didn’t even know who Michael Jackson was (of course he didn’t) after Leon performed part of Billie Jean in the episode.

But Michael didn’t actually lend his vocals to the song in the show in an attempt to play a trick on his brothers by pretending it was him.

Johnny Cash – The Space Coyote

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The country singer is another late star who has lent his vocal talents to a Simpsons character before passing – playing Homer’s Spirit Guide aka The Space Coyote.

The talking coyote is called Wolfy by the Simpsons patriarch and makes an appearance in episode El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer) during Homer’s hallucination after he consumes some Guatemalan peppers.

He also appeared in Blazed and Confused when Marge was hallucinating.

 

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Michael Jackson Visit the Sets of Red Dragon, The Goonies And Home Alone 2

Sources: Movies.com – By Christopher Campbell | All Things Michael

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Did you know that Brett Ratner and Michael Jackson were good buddies? They never worked together, exactly, but they became close following a business matter involving the making ofRush Hour. Ratner needed to get the King of Pop’s approval on a moment in the comedy where Chris Tucker does one of Jackson’s signature moves. “We both had this huge, almost childlike fascination with movies and music and all kinds of entertainment,” Ratner said of their bond after Jackon’s death — their joint-favorite classic: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

In 2002, Ratner was directing Red Dragon, his adaptation of the Thomas Harris novel, and he invited Jackson to the set. Everyone was excited, as you can see in part of the behind-the-scenes documentary A Director’s Journey: The Making of ‘Red Dragon’, which is on the Red Dragon DVD. And best among them was Ralph Fiennes, who acknowledged the music icon’s presence in character as serial killer Francis Dolarhyde, aka “the Tooth Fairy,” while filming a scene with Emily Watson. Watch the excerpt of Jackson’s visit below.

And here’s Jackson and Ratner, dancing in a car while listening to R. Kelly, because why not?

Jackson (and/or his chimp Bubbles) was apparently invited to a number of movie sets over the years just as randomly, without having any involvement with the productions. Here are some more videos and images of or about the singer visiting the sets of Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and The Goonies:

Truffle Shuffle Shirt TV Store Online

 

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