Source: New Yorker (The Talk Of The Town) – By George W.S. Trow and Jamaica Kincaid
One minor musical motif we follow involves talented people who announce that they intend to “leave Motown,” the Detroit record company that superintended the most popular black music of the sixties. So far, The Spinners have left Motown and have had a great success; Gladys Knight and The Pips have left Motown and have had a great success; Martha Reeves has left Motown and has granted interviews. Motown producers like Lamont Dozier have left Motown; the management of Motown has left Motown (that is, Detroit); and there is no longer any trace in popular music of Motown’s regional idiosyncrasy or much evidence of the company’s former musical hegemony. Diana Ross, The Temptations, and The Miracles (all of whom remain on the label) have for the record-buying public an interest that is at least partly reminiscent; only Stevie Wonder and The Jackson Five, the last classic Motown act to develop, have continued with undiminished vitality, and last week, in an atmosphere that was—well, businesslike, the Jackson family announced that they had signed a contract with Epic Records (a subsidiary of CBS) and would leave Motown.
The Jackson family announced their decision to leave Motown at a press conference in the Rainbow Grill. For the conference, ten high-backed black chairs were arranged behind a long, narrow table on a dais; dozens of other high-backed black chairs were arranged to face the dais. Taken one by one, the black chairs resembled the chairs found in medium-priced dinette sets; massed together, they lent the room a sober quality such as one might find at the United Nations—at meetings of, say, the Trusteeship Council. Susan Blond, who works for Epic, selected the music that played while the press assembled.
“I put on three Jackson Five, three LaBelle, three Jackson Five, three Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes—like that,” she told us as we sat in one of the high-backed black chairs. “I can tell this is a Jackson Five song playing now, because I know it isn’t LaBelle.”
Eleven members of the Jackson family entered the Rainbow Grill and mounted the dais. Ten members of the Jackson family sat in the black highbacked chairs. One member of the Jackson family, Stacy, sat in the lap of her mother, Maureen, the oldest Jackson daughter. At the end of the dais, stage right, sat Joe Jackson, father of the family and manager of the group. He was dressed in a slick black suit. Ranged down the table were Jackie (green jacket, twenty-four years old), Tito (brown jacket, twenty-one years old), Marlon (white leisure jacket, seventeen years old), and Michael (black velvet jacket, plaid vest, sixteen years old). Not present was Jermaine Jackson (twenty years old), who is married to Hazel Joy Gordy (daughter of Berry Gordy, chairman of the board of Motown Records), and who has not yet decided to leave Motown.
“There are a lot of little ones,” Susan Blond remarked to us.
“But do they make up for Jermaine?” asked a young woman behind us.
A reporter asked the Jackson family why they had decided to leave Motown.
“We left Motown because we look forward to selling a lot of albums,” Tito Jackson answered.
“Motown sells a lot of singles. Epic sells a lot of albums,” Mr. Jackson added.
A reporter asked Michael Jackson, who is really the star of the group, how he thought the move would affect him.
I’m sure the promotion will be stronger,” Michael Jackson said. A reporter asked Mr. Jackson how the move would affect the Jacksons’ relationship with Berry Gordy.
Mr. Jackson smiled. “You take it as it comes,” he sald.
Tito and Jackie Jackson looked as self-confident as their father, although they didn’t manage to be quite as elusive. Michael looked very shy. Stacy, in her mother’s lap, put her face in a glass of ice water. Mr. Jackson said he was very happy to be at CBS, because “everything is possible” at CBS. Michael Jackson said he thought the family would be going after an older audience and might, in their Las Vegas show, do some nostalgia, “so the older people can remember their younger days.” Mr. Jackson said he was confident that Jermaine would rejoin the group. “Under his conditions, it’ll take a while,” Mr. Jackson said. No Jackson said anything sentimental. No Jackson said anything to indicate that there had been anything in the Motown ethic which couldn’t be reproduced at will at CBS. No Jackson really explained why their contract with CBS is being announced now, even though they remain under contract to Motown until March, 1976.
A reporter did ask if the Jacksons had tried to renegotiate their contract with Motown.
“Sure we tried to renegotiate with Motown,” Jackie said, “but the figures were just Mickey Mouse.”
“Do you know that show ‘The Jeffersons’?” the young woman behind us said. “About the upperwardly mobile black man who owns some dry-cleaning store? Well, Mr. Jackson is Mr. Jefferson, and the children are his dry-cleaning stores.
We have a report from our correspondent Jamaica Kincaid about Michael Jackson:
Here is my favorite fan letter to Michael Jackson, from the March, 1975, issue of Right On!:
Dear Michael Jackson:
You are my favorite star. You have all the right things going for yourself. You’re cute, beautiful, sweet, and also kind. You’ll always be my favorite star, Michael, until you get married, then I’ll have to put you down. But while you’re free, I want you always to remember me, because I’m in your corner! I love you!
Michael Jackson is my favorite teenage idol, because he is so pretty. True, he is not the little ebony cutie he used to be, and his Afro hairdo often shows some split ends, but nevertheless he is just plain old pretty, and as far as I am concerned, if you’re pretty, you’re cool. Some people think Donny Osmond is cool, some people think David Cassidy is cool, some people think Foster Sylvers is cool, but I think Michael Jackson is coolest.
Michael Jackson is so cool that he was discovered by Diana Ross. How many people are ever discovered by Diana Ross? Not many, I bet. Oh, I know, she really discovered The Jackson Five, but I say she discovered Michael. The Jackson Five is just his backup band.
I read everything I can get my hands on about Michael Jackson, so I know a lot of things about him. I don’t mean that I know his mother’s name is Katherine; his father’s name is Joe; he comes from Gary, Indiana; or the song “Ben” was his biggest solo venture. I mean I know things like Michael Jackson is a Virgo; he had his first date on a TV show called “The Dating Game; “ his favorite drink is Kool-Aid; he likes cameras and likes to take pictures of people when they are not looking; he keeps white mice for pets; Tito and Jackie call him Big Nose as a pet name; some of his favorite entertainers are Jim Nabors, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Diana Ross; he believes “you gotta give love to get love;” he likes being treated like the guy next door; his eyes are brown; he likes paintings and likes to paint in oils. I get most of this information from Right On!, a fan publication for black teen-agers. It’s just the greatest. In every issue, there are at least two articles on The Jackson Five and almost always an article on Michael. Recently, I came across a quiz in one issue that said, “Can You Pass Michael’s Love test?” The quiz said that Michael doesn’t like a girl who keeps her thoughts to herself; that he delights in being around a lot of people, even when he is on a date; that he likes comics, and his favorite characters are Spider-Man, Green Arrow, and The Incredible Hulk; that he thinks personality is more important than looks; and that he doesn’t like jealous types. Do you know what? I failed the test pathetically.
Administrator’s Note: The pictures were not part of the original article but added by me for visual content. CP ♥
Source: SOS – By Richard Buskin
The 18-month gestation period behind Michael Jackson’sDangerous album and its lead single ‘Black Or White’ saw ’80s studio perfectionism taken to extremes — and despite their success, the experience helped to convince co-writer, engineer and co-producer Bill Bottrell that there had to be another way to make records.
Grammy Award-winning producer, engineer, composer and musician Bill Bottrell has amassed some pretty amazing credits since leaving college in 1974 and first seeking work inside a recording studio. He’s engineered the George Harrison/Bob Dylan/Roy Orbison/Tom Petty/Jeff Lynne opus The Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 1 (1988), Petty’s Full Moon Fever (1989) and Madonna’s Like A Prayer; co-produced Thomas Dolby’s Aliens Ate My Buick album (1988), Madonna’s songs on the Dick Tracy film soundtrack (1990) and a trio of numbers on Michael Jackson’s Dangerous (1992); and produced the movie soundtrack to In Bed With Madonna (aka Truth Or Dare in the US, 1991), as well as Sheryl Crow’s smash hit debutTuesday Night Music Club (1993) and the eponymous I Am Shelby Lynne (2000). Most recently he has been performing live with various bands that he’s assembled close to his studio near Mendocino in Northern California, while also running and maintaining said facility, and co-composing, producing, engineering and mixing Five For Fighting’s second album, The Battle For Everything, released this year on the Sony Music label.
Having worked as an engineer on the Jacksons’ 1984 Victory album and then on Michael’s Bad three years later as part of the second-tier team working at his Encino home, Bottrell received a call in 1988 to commence work on the follow-up. The fact that he was already a producer by then was quite timely, as the Gloved One was parting company with Quincy Jones and looking to create a more hard-edged, streetwise image with the help of some new writing/production/arrangement collaborators — most notably Teddy Riley, as well as Glen Ballard and Bruce Swedien. So it was that Bottrell ended up as a co-composer on ‘Dangerous’, ‘Give In To Me’ and ‘Black Or White’, while also co-producing the latter two in addition to the Jackson-penned ‘Who Is It’.
“Michael told me at the end of the Bad sessions that he would hire me as a producer on his next album,” Bottrell confirms, while explaining how his initial involvement with Dangerous commenced at LA’s Oceanway complex.
“The genesis of the songs we co-wrote consisted of Michael humming melodies and grooves, and him then leaving the studio while I developed these ideas with a bunch of drum machines and samplers, including an Akai S1000,” Bottrell says. “Still, we were only at Oceanway for a few weeks, and none of the things we worked on there actually made it onto the record.”
Thereafter, the sessions moved to Westlake, where Bruce Swedien utilized one room, Bottrell used another and, eventually, drummer/percussionist/synth player Bryan Loren worked in a third. Armed with a Neve console, Bottrell used a pair of 24-track Studer analogue tape machines to record initial tracks and then compiled things on Mitsubishi 32-track.
“As soon as we got to Westlake, the first thing that Michael hummed to me was ‘Black Or White’,” he recalls. “He sang me the main riff without specifying what instrument it would be played on. I just hooked up a Kramer American guitar to a Mesa Boogie amp, miked it with a Beyer M160, and got that gritty sound as I played to his singing. He also sang me the rhythm and I put down a simple drum-machine pattern coming out of an Emulator, and he then left so that I could spend a couple of days working alone on the track. It was Michael who actually drew me out as a musician — on the Bad sessions he would hum me things and go away, and I’d be there alone for two weeks, working on a track. I was used to sampling, but he needed music; guitars, keyboards, you name it. That’s what he expected of me. He assumed I could do it, and since I had been a musician before going into engineering I just followed his lead.
“For ‘Black Or White’ I laid down a more precise guitar part, and I also had this very dorky EIII drum machine playing a one-bar loop. Back then I would use a Hybrid Arts sequencer that I loved dearly — it ran on the Atari platform and was kind of sophisticated for its time, and I would use that for all my MIDI storage. I could run anything through it, so I set about adding loads of percussion, including cowbells and shakers, trying to get a swingy sort of groove. You see, the guitar swung a lot, as defined by the original hook that Michael had sung to me, and the percussion devices were pretty straightforward, but the groove itself was heavily tweaked in the sequencer in order to be complex and non-linear. This basically amounted to shifting things and manipulating the data.
“As soon as I sorted out the guitar and drum machine parts on day one, Michael performed a scratch vocal as well as some BVs. I miked him with a [Neumann] U47, which was my choice, and I’d take out most of the bottom end and compress the rest with my Sontec limiter. The guy’s an absolute natural — I mean, we’re talking about Michael Jackson — and for me the best thing about ‘Black Or White’ was that his scratch vocal remained untouched throughout the next year [of work on Dangerous] and ended up being used on the finished song. He had some lyrical ideas when he first entered the studio, and he filled them out as he went along.”
So it was that, within two days of commencing work on ‘Black Or White’ at Westlake, Bottrell had recorded the guitar, drum loop, a small amount of percussion and what would prove to be the finished vocal. Aware that the addition of just bass and a little more percussion would be sufficient to flesh out the verses and choruses, he subsequently took it upon himself to ensure that Jackson would allow the song to retain a basic, more free-and-easy sound.
“I thought the vocal was brilliant, and that the loose, imperfectly layered backgrounds were perfectly charming,” Bottrell says. “As opposed to some of the other people who worked with Michael at the time, when I was allowed to produce I would consistently try to go for simpler vocals, comping them from two or three takes, with looser backgrounds and a more instinctive feel. In this case, he came in with such an endearing lead vocal and background track, I really resolved to try and keep it. Of course, it had to please him or he would have never let me get away with that, but the way it went down is that we had the verses and choruses — the main part of the song — and there were two big gaps in the middle which prompted us to look at each other and say ‘Well, we’ll put something in there.’ They were big gaps.
“The total length of the song up to that point was probably about a minute and a half, and Michael has always felt better really fleshing out something over a long period of time to discover everything that he can about it. Most Michael Jackson songs are worked on quite heavily, for months and months, and we certainly had those months when we worked on ‘Black Or White’ along with the other songs. However, we worked on the middle sections, filling in those two big gaps, and this meant that, while the song got the amount of attention that Michael was used to giving something, I was able to retain its strange, funky, loose and open Southern rock feel all the way through to the end. We never touched anything else. I mean, he never asked to redo the vocals, and so while I say it was my agenda to keep things as they were, maybe it was his as well.
“As a co-producer, Michael was always prepared to listen and put his trust in me, but he was also a sort of guide all the time. He knew why I was there and, among all the songs he was recording, what he needed from me. I was an influence that he didn’t otherwise have. I was the rock guy and also the country guy, which nobody else was. He has precise musical instincts. He has an entire record in his head and he tries to make people deliver it to him. Sometimes those people surprise him and augment what he hears, but really his job is to extract from musicians and producers and engineers what he hears when he wakes up in the morning.
“After the first couple of days working on ‘Black Or White’, I put down this big, slamming, old sort of rock & roll acoustic guitar part using my all-mahogany 1940s Gibson LG2. It’s very rare and pretty battered, and it’s actually a deeper acoustic than most other Gibsons — you can hit it hard and it doesn’t cave in. The part I played was in the style of some of my own musical influences, like Gene Vincent, where you just hit the guitar hard and play a big open ‘E’ and an ‘A’ chord. I was quite pleased with it and wondered if Michael was going to like it, but he didn’t say a thing. He just accepted it when he first heard it, and I was really happy to get that type of classic sound on a Michael Jackson album.”
Brad Butler assisted Bill Bottrell in terms of tweaking the percussion and getting it to swing in a complex way — mechanically, but with a human feel. At this point they were in Westlake’s Studio B while Bruce Swedien utilised the Harrison-equipped Studio A. But then, while attention turned towards some other numbers — ‘Earth Song’, which would end up on 1995′s HIStory collection, and a couple that are still on the shelf — Bottrell switched to Studio A and remained there for about six months before relocating to Ocean Way’s Record One complex in Sherman Oaks. It was there that he and Michael Jackson set about filling those two big gaps in the middle of ‘Black Or White’. Initially only featuring a drum machine, these would eventually comprise the song’s ‘heavy metal’ section and another that would evolve into the rap. In all, this intermittent process took about a year, during which time several more tracks were also recorded.
“I had hopes to insert a rap in the first eight and Michael came up with the idea of putting heavy metal guitars in the second eight,” Bottrell states. “He sang me that riff and I hired my friend Tim Pierce, because I couldn’t play that kind of guitar. Tim laid down some beautiful tracks with a Les Paul and a big Marshall, playing the chords that Michael had hummed to me — that’s a pretty unusual approach. People will hire a guitar player and say ‘Well, here’s the chord. I want it to sound kinda like this,’ and the guitarist will have to come up with the part. However, Michael hums every rhythm and note or chord, and he can do that so well. He describes the sound that the record will have by singing it to you… and we’re talking about heavy metal guitars here!”
After Tim Pierce had adhered to the main man’s wishes, Michael Boddicker played a stand-alone Roland sequencer part that was meant to sound like high-speed guitar segueing into and out of the heavy metal section. Bottrell’s young musican friend, Kevin Gilbert, also contributed some high-speed sequencer.
“Michael Boddicker played synths and keyboards on several songs,” Bottrell recalls, “and on ‘Black Or White’ he played really fast sequencer notes running up and down, and I recorded his MIDI out of that box into my Hybrid Arts. I then used that, put a guitar sample in my Akai and ran it through the Mesa Boogie amp in order to make it sound more like a guitar. At that point the heavy metal section was intact and Michael [Jackson] sang it, which meant we only had the rap to do. Things remained that way for quite a time, during which I put Bryan Loren on Moog bass and tried Terry Jackson on five-string electric bass going through a preamp that I had built. Bryan’s Moog part was really good, and I used some of Terry’s notes to fortify it and make a rhythm, while also replacing the simple Emulator drum machine with live drum samples that I had in my Akai.
“All the time I kept telling Michael that we had to have a rap, and he brought in rappers like LL Cool J and the Notorious BIG who were performing on other songs. Somehow, I didn’t have access to them for ‘Black Or White’, and it was getting later and later and I wanted the song to be done. So, one day I wrote the rap — I woke up in the morning and, before my first cup of coffee, I began writing down what I was hearing, because the song had been in my head for about eight months by that time and it was an obssession to try and fill that last gap.”
It is interesting that Jackson left this task to Bottrell and didn’t try to fill said gap himself. “That’s the sort of thing he does,” asserts Bottrell. “It seems kind of random, but it’s as if he makes things happen through omission. There’s nobody else, and it’s as if he knows that’s what you’re up against and challenges you to do it. For my part, I didn’t think much of white rap, so I brought in Bryan Loren to rap my words and he did change some of the rhythms, but he was not comfortable being a rapper. As a result, I performed it the same day after Bryan left, did several versions, fixed one, played it for Michael the next day and he went ‘Ohhh, I love it Bill, I love it. That should be the one.’ I kept saying ‘No, we’ve got to get a real rapper,’ but as soon as he heard my performance he was committed to it and wouldn’t consider using anybody else.”
The Notorious W Cool B? If the hat fits… “I was OK with it,” he says. “I couldn’t really tell if it sounded good, but after the record came out I did get the impression that people accepted it as a viable rap. Since I try to do everything in the spirit of instinct and in-the-moment, I had given it my best shot, and apparently it worked… I also played a funky guitar part on my Kramer American in the rap section, but then I still felt that the song needed some sort of fire, and so I sampled distorted guitar riffs into my Akai and laid them down all over the place. It just need a more live feel, and a real guitar would have had the wrong effect, so I laid out a keyboard of maybe eight guitar versions, and as I didn’t want to do it — I had heard the song so many times — I brought in my friend Jasun Martz. He listened once to the samples, listened to the song and just laid them down using my Hybrid Arts, a MIDI keyboard and the Akai sampler, and it worked great. He brought an immediacy and a rock & roll fire to something that had been pieced together.”
One way in which Bill Bottrell swam against the tide when working on ‘Black Or White’ was in actually using the live rooms in Westlake and Record One studios; his own guitar parts were tracked in the control rooms, but almost all the other elements, including Michael Jackson’s vocals, were tracked in the studio live areas. “Don’t forget, this was the late ’80s, when so much work was being done in control rooms and these huge studios were being wasted,” Bottrell remarks. “I always found it ludicrous the way studios were designed — all the gear would be in the control room and there’d be no space for people — so I built my own studio consisting of one room with no glass in between.”
Mixing & Matching
Conforming to his usual approach, Bottrell basically mixed and built the track as he went along. “Even back then I didn’t believe in ‘mixing’ per se. I mix as I go, and when the song is finished recording I leave the faders where they are and press Record on the machine.”
Still, this didn’t mean that everything was simple and straightforward when the mix proper took place on Record One’s Neve 8078. How could it be? “Mixing was quite a trip,” he confirms. “I was dealing with the fine points of audio and equipment and what they were doing to the feel of the song. That’s where I struggled. It was down to balances or effects. There weren’t many effects. As I’ve said, the main part of ‘Black Or White’ always remained the same, but I could not get the rap section and heavy metal part to sound right. I therefore went over to Larrabee, where the bulk of the company had moved, and did a mix over there and then couldn’t get the country part to sound right. The problem was the SSL, which really worked for the heavy metal section — where the Neve produced too much ringing — but was too cold and clinical for the rootsy and nostalgic country part. It didn’t work at all, so I cut the two together, using a Neve for the main parts and the SSL for the rap and heavy metal sections.
“It didn’t take a long time to get that together, but it did take a long time for me to realise that’s what I had to do. I was going around in circles for a while, and although Michael would drop in every now and then he wasn’t aware of the struggles that I was going through. I don’t think I ever told him. I would try something, it would be time to finish the song and turn it in, so I’d do the mix and the next day I’d hear it and not like it for some reason. Nevertheless, each time I did a mix it would only take an hour or two, or less, because by then the song was so commodified in my mind and repeated so many times that there was nothing to mix. I was just trying to get the audio to sound right.”
In all, the Dangerous project accounted for about 18 months of Bill Bottrell’s life, and working on it brought him into direct contact with the megastar ethic at its most extreme. This, in turn, was an education for him, both in terms of conforming to this type of sensibility and in concluding that in future he’d rather work on rootsier, more understated, less commercially obsessed projects — ones that would connect with his own Appalachian and country leanings.
“By then I was at the end of my musical education with Michael,” he says. “I had been out at his house for a couple of years and at various studios with him before that, so it was all adding up, and by the time we even started the Dangerous album I was well into that system. It taught me a lot about really going all the way for something, working and working until there’s some kind of perfection. Objectivity is everybody’s biggest problem, especially if you’ve worked a long time on a song, but there’s also a threshold beyond which that isn’t a problem any more because, having the luxury of so much time to spend, your failures in objectivity eventually get fixed.
“In other words, if something ends up sounding wrong, there’s no deadline to turn it in. And you will hear that it’s wrong if you get away from it for five days and then hear it again. You always have that second chance, as well as that third or fourth or fifth chance, and that’s a technique which I learned from Michael, in addition to meeting the challenge of outdoing whatever’s out there within the same game. It’s a case of doing whatever it takes. So, I learned all of those things… and never did them again. I totally refused to, but that doesn’t mean I disrespected doing them. I absolutely respected doing them. It just taught me that there is another way to beat everybody, maybe by taking the exact opposite approach to a technique that requires a tremendous amount of time, listening to what records are doing, listening to what gimmicks people are using and making sure you did it better.
“What I decided to try was to not listen to anybody else, but go to the extremely raw and take that to its logical ends. Only serve the words and the melody and the singer, and although that can take you to some extreme place, you won’t feel it’s extreme because you haven’t been listening to everybody else. This is the approach I’ve been taking ever since, and while it may be less contrived by definition, I say that without imposing any judgement on contrivance. At the time, I was interested in the techniques employed for a project like Dangerous. It was a challenge to me, and none more so than ensuring that ‘Black Or White’, with its cool Southern rock/country thing happening, didn’t go in the wrong direction. That was my agenda: to save take one.”
Source: LA Weekly Blogs – By Randall Roberts (Published June 25, 2009)
In the wake of the the untimely death this afternoon of Michael Jackson, West Coast Sound contacted the late King of Pop’s longtime attorney, Bob Sanger. Sanger represented Michael Jackson for 16 years, and sat at the table with Jackson throughout the high-profile 2005 case in which the family of a boy accused Jackson of child sexual abuse. We spoke with Sanger late this afternoon.
Bob Sanger: This is what I want to say. I do think it’s appropriate to speak out at this point in honor of Michael. First of all, he was a great musician and performer, and his impact on music goes on today. I saw something on television today, I forgot who it was, but I looked at it, a current star doing a music video, and thought, ‘That’s Michael Jackson.’ You can just see where all that came from that didn’t exist before he started doing that sort of thing. The beat, and the music and everything else. That’s an impact that he’ll have forever, or certainly for a long time. I think that what people don’t appreciate about Michael Jackson was as a human being, which I got to see, was privileged to see this, because he does have a lot of people around him.
When you represent him, which I did, unfortunately – unfortunately for him that we had to do this, but you do get very close to a person, and I sat next to him for four months in the criminal case – it took a full four months, and he was there every day. But what I did learn in the years that I represented him – particularly in that last case – is that he is a very kind person. Truly from his heart. And his whole family is like that. His mother, Katherine, and his sisters, LaToya and Janet – they have their own personalities onstage and everything, but they are the kindest, sweetest people you’ll ever want to meet. And his brothers are very nice; they offer to do what they can for you.
I remember having a family meeting out at the ranch, in a room out there that was nicely appointed, as everything was. And we were all going to sit down and have a big meeting. And Janet says, ‘Bob, you don’t have a place to sit.’ I told her it was okay, I could stand, and she said, ‘No, no, no, I’ll get you a chair.’ She walks out the door, and I figure she’s going to get someone to bring me a chair. She walks in with this big wing-backed armchair that she’s carrying into the room – Janet Jackson – for me to sit in. It wasn’t remarkable in that it was any different that what you’d expect from anyone in that family, or from her.
They were very kind. You would go to the ranch, or a house elsewhere where we met on other occasions, and you couldn’t get away without being offered something to eat or drink. And personally, and I don’t mean snap your fingers and someone comes to do it, they would be very concerned and very kind and generous about everything. And Michael was the same way. He believed that one of the things he could do in life in addition to entertainment was that he could really help children. And I know that’s going to immediately get some kind of sarcastic response, but it’s absolutely true.
I was there at his ranch when he wasn’t even there on at least two occasions when he had a giant group of kids come up. One, a bunch of kids who were from hospitals down in LA — children’s wards — came up with their families and everything else, and another time it was disadvantaged kids with their families, they were brought up and came up on buses – he had a couple of buses – and he would bring people up and it was like they were at Disneyland. His staff was there, and at one point he had a hundred-something people on staff. They would be offering everybody candy, and something to drink, and play in the game room, and go to the movie theater. And you’d see these kids, and it was just remarkable to see these kids and their eyes so wide and being treated this way.
Did the attorney in you ever become concerned with that? Here are hundreds of strangers coming into this multimillionaire’s home, and anyone of them could have ulterior motives.
Well, I don’t want to get into all that.
No, no, I understand.
Well, you know what? Yeah, the attorney in me, I look at what clients do and I always wonder. But, I’ve got to tell you: until we saw what this last family tried to do to him, which was so completely bizarre and off-the-wall, unfounded, manipulative — the DA was so committed to get back at Michael Jackson that they just looked with blinders at these people, and ignored the fact that they had scammed other people, and so on. But when you saw that family and looked at that, you had to say, ‘Oh my god, how vulnerable’ – clearly he was vulnerable. But for a family like this to be able to get the attention of a district attorney and law enforcement was just remarkable. And it just shows you how vulnerable people can be.
And I’ve certainly seen that in my career in representing people for the last 35 years, certainly there are cases – people are prosecuted because they’re guilty, sure, but people are also prosecuted because the government can, and sometimes there are some bad motives. And I don’t want to talk about the particulars of that case, but it was just so clear how vulnerable he was.
The groups stopped at that point because we were in the trial – or at least I didn’t see any, because I was busy trying to save his life, basically. But prior to that when I’d see these people come in, the generosity, and the kindness – the staff was told at all times, whenever you go to Neverland, or to his house elsewhere, the staff was always instructed to be absolutely kind to everybody. The kindness ran from the top down. And it wasn’t the obsequious kind of stuff. It was true kindness, and it came from the top. Michael was kind, the whole family was. And that’s the stuff that people don’t see. They don’t understand how deep the concept of kindness ran in his family.
And the third thing was that Michael was extremely well-read.
I didn’t know that.
No. Few people did. In trial – and I knew Michael, but I got to know him a lot better at the trial. The judge was doing jury selection, and it was time for break. Judge Melville said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I want you to know that jury service is very, very important.’ He’s trying to convince people not to have stupid excuses to get out of jury service. All judges do this. He says, ‘The jury system is a very time-honored system. It’s been around for 200 years. We’re going to take a break and come back in 15 minutes.
We stand up and the judge leaves, and Michael turns to me and says, “Bob, the jury system is much older than 200 years, isn’t it?’ I said, ‘Well, yeah, it goes back to the Greeks.’ He says, ‘Oh yeah, Socrates had a jury trial, didn’t he?’ I said, ‘Yeah, well, you know how it turned out for him.’ Michael says, ‘Yeah, he had to drink the hemlock.’ That’s just one little tidbit. We talked about psychology, Freud and Jung, Hawthorne, sociology, black history and sociology dealing with race issues. But he was very well read in the classics of psychology and history and literature.
He loved to read. He had over 10,000 books at his house. And I know that because – and I hate to keep referring to the case, because I don’t want the case – the case should not define him. But one of the things that we learned – the DA went through his entire library and found, for instance, a German art book from 1930-something. And it turned out that the guy who was the artist behind the book had been prosecuted by the Nazis. Nobody knew that, but then the cops get up there and say, ‘We found this book with pictures of nude people in it.’ But it was art, with a lot of text. It was art. And they found some other things, a briefcase that didn’t belong to him that had some Playboys in it or something. But they went through the guy’s entire house, 10,000 books. And it caused us to do the same thing, and look at it.
And there were places that he liked to sit, and you could see the books with his bookmarks in it, with notes and everything in it where he liked to sit and read. And I can tell you from talking to him that he had a very – especially for someone who was self-taught, as it were, and had his own reading list – he was very well-read. And I don’t want to say that I’m well-read, but I’ve certainly read a lot, let’s put it that way, and I enjoy philosophy and history and everything myself, and it was very nice to talk to him, because he was very intellectual, and he liked to talk about those things. But he didn’t flaunt it, and it was very seldom that he would initiate the conversation like that, but if you got into a conversation like that with him, he was there.
Do you remember the last time you saw him, or talked to him?
The last time I talked to him was right after the trial, and then he moved out of the country. I had not seen him personally, in person – I talked to him on the phone – since them. Of course, I talked to people around him, because we still took care of matters for him. But the best I can say, and I don’t want to oversell my significance in his world, but I want to convey this side of him that people didn’t see. I just hate – every time I hear Jay Leno or somebody take a cheap shot – and Jay Leno I think is a very funny man – but every time they take a cheap shot I think, that really isn’t fair, because that’s not who he is. And few people had an opportunity to really experience the kindness of him and his family. And few people really had the opportunity the have these intellectual discussions about great thinkers and writers. Freud and Jung – go down the street and try and find five people who can talk about Freud and Jung.
So I have to ask. Are you representing his estate?
No, no. I represented him up here for Santa Barbara-type matters.
And what’s the status of Neverland Ranch?
I don’t know the exact – I always hesitate to comment on this because I don’t know exactly. It was taken over by an investor. I don’t know that it was sold outright, I’m not sure exactly. But Michael – after having it raided three times by the cops to no avail for them, it shook him. He was living there up until the trial, and continued to live there during the trial, but just before the trial, they got a search warrant and went back out, allegedly because they wanted to find as-built plans for the house. And they could have asked us and we would have given them to him. They could have made a motion in court and we would have given them to him. They could have gone down to the archives and got them. But it was just an excuse to go out and raid it one more time. They roused him early in the morning, and his kids were there, and after that he said, ‘I don’t think I can live here anymore.’ And it was a shame. He had his tree. He would go up in this tree, and he wrote some of his songs there. It’s kind of like a historic place, but for him it was a very personal place.
Source: Vanity Fair – By Lisa Robinson / Photographs by Annie Leibovitz
With her interviews and notes from the early chapters of the pop king’s career, the author resurrects the innocent, ebullient, exploring youth as he confided his struggle to move beyond his family and take control of his art. Photographs by Annie Leibovitz, from her 1989 V.F. shoot with a then 31-year-old Jackson.
The Westin Crown Center Hotel, Kansas City, Missouri, February 23, 1988: Michael Jackson had just finished the opening night of his Bad tour and his manager, Frank DiLeo, arranged for me to visit the star in his hotel suite. No handlers, no bodyguards, no hangers-on, no family members—unusual for a Jackson visitation—but we’d had a friendly journalist-to-artist relationship for the past 16 years, and Michael asked to see me. For Kansas City, the suite was lavish, the size of a small apartment, but as I entered, let in by a security guard, Michael was nowhere to be seen. “Michael?,” I called as I walked around. After a few minutes, I heard giggling from behind a door. The 29-year-old Michael Jackson was literally playing hide-and-seek. Eventually he appeared, wearing black trousers and a bright-red shirt, his semi-straightened hair in a loose ponytail with a few strands falling over his face. He hugged me. He was taller than I’d remembered, taller than he appeared in photos, and while his giggling continued, I thought that the hug was a hug from a man—not a boy—and while there was nothing sexual, it just was strong. Then he pulled back, looked at me, and said, in the lower and more “normal” of the two voices he could produce at will, “What’s that smell? What’s that perfume? I know that smell.” I laughed. “Oh, Michael, you don’t know this perfume. It’s an old drag-queen perfume from the 1950s.” At the words “drag queen” he started giggling and repeated: “Drag queen … hahahahahaha!!! No, I know it. It’s Jungle Gardenia, right?” I was more than slightly surprised. “How do you know that? The only people who’ve ever recognized this perfume are Bryan Ferry and Nick Rhodes. Well, I guess you’re not as la-la as they say you are.” The phrase “la-la” cracked him up and he repeated it: “La-la … hahahahahaha!!!”
A few days later I sent a case of Jungle Gardenia to his hotel suite at New York City’s Helmsley Palace. The following night, on March 2, I stood in the wings at Radio City Music Hall as Michael waited with gospel singers the Winans, about to perform “Man in the Mirror” for the Grammy Awards live telecast. Looking at me he whispered, “Thanks for the smells.…I’m wearing it now.”
Michael Jackson was one of the most talented, adorable, enthusiastic, sweet, ebullient performers I’d ever interviewed. From 1972 to 1989, I spent time with Michael at his family’s home in Encino, California, in New York City, backstage at his concerts, at parties, at Studio 54, and on the phone. And in 1972, when Michael was 14 but I thought he was 12 (he was 10 when he got to Motown but was told to say he was 8 because he’d seem cuter), we did the first of many interviews.
Havenhurst, Encino, California, October 8, 1972: A sign on the gate to the Jackson family’s house says, beware of guard dog, with the phone number of the place that trained the dog. (“Promotion,” Michael tells me later.) According to Michael, Liberace used to live across the street, and the Jacksons would visit him and look at his diamonds. The family has a German shepherd named Heavy and a Doberman named Hitler (the group’s drummer named him Hitler), but when they talk about that dog in interviews they call him Duke. The bottom of the swimming pool is decorated with two blue-tile dolphins. Lemons and tangerines grow on the trees around the pool. Michael shows me around the house: the pool, the animals, his room—with two beds, a clock with time zones from various cities around the world, the TV, a phone (there is also a pay phone in the house). He climbs a tree, he does dance steps, he is outgoing, inquisitive, fun. I call a friend and say, “This kid is going to be the greatest entertainer ever, seriously, like Frank Sinatra.”
Lisa Robinson: The group is going to perform in London soon?
Michael Jackson: Yes … and I want to go shopping when I go over there, get a lot of souvenirs, and antiques … Ever hear of Napoleon?
L.R. Yes …
M.J. I want to see him too.
L.R. You mean the monuments? His tomb? In Paris?
M.J. You’ve seen that? What airline did you take?
L.R. Well, several. I’ve taken Pan Am, TWA, Air France …
M.J. What kind of tape recorder are you using?
L.R. Sony. [A discussion ensues about the size of the tape recorder, how, if they get any smaller, people will be able to sneak them into concerts, tape, and make bootlegs.] They’re really excited you’re going to be performing in England.
M.J. I know, we got a lot of letters, so we decided to go. But we want this time to be the biggest … for the Queen.
L.R. Ah … you’re performing for the Queen. Her palace is huge …
M.J. You’ve seen it?
L.R. Well, only from the outside. Have any of the other groups told you what it’s like performing in England?
M.J. Well, the Supremes and the Temptations told us some stuff. You ever hear of Marty Feldman? [I say yes.] When the Supremes went there, Ringo Starr went shopping with them. But I don’t know what [the audiences] will be like, whether they’ll be quiet or loud.
L.R. So, what do you like to do in your spare time?
M.J. Swim … play pool … We don’t go much out of the gate because we have [everything] here. When we lived in the other house, we would go to the park to play basketball, but now we have it here.
(Michael asks me more questions than I ask him; there are discussions about my maroon nail polish, buying antiques on Portobello Road, the Apollo Theater, Madison Square Garden.)
L.R. Do you ever get scared onstage?
M.J. No. If you know what you’re doing, you’re not scared onstage.
Interview with Michael, circa 1974:
L.R. Do people tell you what to do?
M.J. Well, I never like to stop learning—even Stevie [Wonder] says that. If you stop learning, then you’re dead. People used to tell us what to do and we listened, but we filled in our own stuff, too … We still have people work with us, but no way are we puppets [laughs], no way.
L.R. What sort of thing are you going to do on the TV show?
M.J. I’m used to being highlighted on the show, but I also do different things—like dancing. It’s a very showbizzy kind of thing, we get funky in the front, and in the closing we get real spankin’—that’s what the fans like.
L.R. Any plans for acting? Movies?
M.J. I was supposed to do Roots, but it was done during our own TV show, and I couldn’t do it—I had an offer for that.That’s the kind of thing I’d like to be my first film—a big TV event, because then the most people can see it.
L.R. What other plans do you have for the future?
M.J. I’d like to write my own things, because an artist knows what fits him best. Every artist can’t write his own material, but if you feel like you can do it—like Marvin Gaye or Stevie Wonder—you should do it. At first, people didn’t think that Stevie could record himself—they thought he was taking a risk. Then he did those albums and they were dynamite.
To me, ballads are special, because you can have a pop song that’ll be known for three weeks and then you’ll hear nothing else about it. Nobody else will record it and it’ll just be gone. But if you do a good ballad, it’ll be [in] the world forever. Like [Stevie Wonder’s] “Living for the City”—that’s a great song, and it opens up the minds of a lotof people, but it won’t be around as long as “My Cherie Amour” or “For Once in My Life” or “You Are the Sunshine of My Life.”—Michael Jackson
The Warwick Hotel, New York City, February 5, 1975: The entire Jackson family is in town for the Jackson Five’s concert at Radio City Music Hall. Michael is alternately fun and his usual outgoing self and more quiet, thoughtful. His skin has broken out; he confides to me that his brothers have been teasing him.
L.R. What was different for you on this latest album [Dancing Machine]?
M.J. I got to sing free. For the first time I got to do my own thing.
L.R. What do you mean “free”?
M.J. Well, when you’re being told, it’s not you.
L.R. What were you being told?
M.J. Told to sing this word this way, this line this way, go up and down, and this and that. It’s not being “you.” And you’re trying to get the “you” out. Like Gladys Knight—she sings freely and look how great she is and that’s the best way.
L.R. And how was it working with Stevie Wonder?
M.J. It was really fun because he lets you sing freely. Only a singer and a producer-singer knows what he’s doing, because he sings also.
L.R. Have you been going out lately?
M.J. No … I like staying home, just under the fireplace, reading …
L.R. What sort of things are you reading?
M.J. All kinds of things … the dictionary, adventure books. I had four weeks off and I just stayed home. I don’t really like going to parties … Well, I like parties where you can talk—a fireplace and a piano, and when there’s entertainers [there] it’s even better. You go to a lot of concerts, don’t you? You get in for free? What was the last concert you went to?
L.R. Led Zeppelin.
M.J. Good concert?
L.R. Yes. Loud. Rock. You don’t get a chance to go to many? You don’t want to?
M.J. I want to, but whenever I go out, there’s always problems. But that’s how you could tell what [else is] happening.
The Plaza Hotel, New York City, February 1977: For a photo session, Michael wears a blue sweater, blue pants, a white shirt, and, for some reason, an E.L.O. (Electric Light Orchestra) pin. His bodyguard and a friend/publicist are with him, and when it comes time for photos, the publicist calls him into another room to tell him to take off his undershirt; when he comes back, Michael says that he could have been told that in front of us. He’d arrived late the night before and is staying an extra day so he can go see The Wiz starring Stephanie Mills (there were rumored publicity attempts to drum up a fake romance with her to calm down Michael’s black female fans who were upset he was never seen with a black girl). “I’ve seen [The Wiz] three times already,” Michael says. There is a discussion about birds—Michael had spent the morning at the Bronx Zoo visiting the birdhouse; he says he likes the exotic birds and used to have some, but they made a lot of noise, especially during the mating season, and usually at night, and the neighbors complained, so he had to give them away. It was his first trip to the Bronx Zoo. He asks if Coney Island is still any good, or if they have taken all the good stuff out. He talks about Disneyland—which he’d been to lots of times—and Disney World: “Disney World is better,” he says. “It’s more of a world, like they say. It’s a resort; they have everything—golf, tennis, hotels—it’s all fantasy time.”
From a generic questionnaire filled out by the 18-year-old Michael Jackson in 1977:
What do you do in your spare time?
Read, think, write songs
What is your favorite sport?
Would you like to get married?
Later in life
What kind of girl/boy would you like to marry?
How many children would you like to have?
20. Adopted. All races
Briefly describe your dream girl/boy
Beautiful in every way
What type of person do you usually dislike?
What would you do if someone gave you a million dollars?
What was the biggest thrill of your life?
Finding what I was searching for
Who has helped you the most with your career?
My father, experience
Out of all the performers you’ve worked with,who do you admire the most?
Fred Astair [sic], Stevie Wonder
What do you like best about your work?
What do you dislike about your work?
What is your most prized possession?
A child, words of wisdom
Do you have a pet fear, superstition?
No, that [sic] man made
Who is your favorite actor?
Heston, Brando, Bruce Dern
Who is your favorite actress?
Garland, Bette Davis
Do you have a nickname, how did you get it?
Nose [and then, crossed out, is the word “niger” (sic)]
What do you daydream about?
Interview with Michael by phone from his home in Encino, California, February 1977:L.R.You’ve been doing this for more than 10 years now; do you ever wonder, if you could have had a different life, what you’d be doing?
M.J. I don’t know … It’s a lot of fun, you learn a lot of things, and you get into a lot of things. Right now, I write a lot of songs. I’ve been writing a lot of songs for a long time. I’m looking forward to recording them.
L.R. What about the celebrity stuff, like when you come to New York and go, for example, with Andy Warhol to Regine’s like you recently did?
M.J. [Laughs.] It’s part of being an entertainer. You know, people talk to you, and they want to know about you. And a lot of entertainers don’t know this, but interviewers help entertainers 100 percent. I don’t mean promotion-wise; I mean like when they ask you questions, it helps you to look at your future yourself, like when they ask you what you think you’ll be doing in 10 years. Interviewers put [entertainers] in a position to think about their life—where they’re going or what they should be doing or what shouldn’t they be doing. So it’s important, it really is.
L.R. Do you think your brothers are relieved that they don’t have the same burdens you do being the lead singer or do you think they’re jealous of the attention you get?
M.J. No, never. Everybody knows we have certain jobs that we do onstage, and my thing that I do is sing up front, and I dance and lead most of the songs. They know that’s my thing and they do theirs.
L.R. Did you ever have doubts, or worry that you wouldn’t be able to do it?
M.J. No, because it’s something that I like to do. I never thought I couldn’t do it—it’s just a feeling inside of you.
L.R. You never get fed up or exhausted or bored?
M.J. I get bored sometimes … yeah. You have to wait in your hotel room, and all these fans are knocking on your door or waiting outside around the hotel, and all you can do is stay in your room. You can’t go anyplace. So that’s when I would say I get bored. But you have an obligation to your fans—they made you what you are. They’re the ones who bought the records, so performers who don’t sign autographs and stuff are wrong. Someone who does that can’t say he’s right, because he’s wrong … because if he did a concert and nobody showed up, he wouldn’t do the concert. So he owes it to them.
L.R. Do you go out with girls? Any dates?
M.J. No, I don’t date, no. I’m not really interested right now. I like girls and everything, but [laughs] … Oh, you think I’m one of those? No! I’m just not that interested right now.
L.R. Most 18-year-olds don’t have to get up every day and rehearse or tour or work 12 hours a day: they have girlfriends, they do sports, they have homework—they have a different life and they’ve had a different life for years. Does it bog you down?
M.J. No, because it’s something I like doing. If it was work, I don’t think I could have lasted this long. I’d probably go crazy.
L.R. Do you feel you have a special gift?
M.J. Well, there’s such a thing as talent. And, yeah, I would say that’s true … For instance, with an artist, he can draw anything you look at—he can draw it. And then you take [someone else], who can’t even draw a stick person. So look at the difference.
L.R. What about vacations?
M.J. I like to be at home because we travel all the time, so if we had some time off, we wouldn’t go on vacation. We do enough [traveling] when we’re working.
L.R. Who lives at your family home now?
M.J. Me, Janet, Randy, and La Toya.
L.R. None of the other brothers?
M.J. Uh-uh. The rest live out and are married.
M.J. He’s married and he’s got a baby.
L.R. I didn’t know that. What is his wife’s name?
M.J. Carol … but don’t print that.
L.R. You’re not supposed to say they’re married? Not Jackie either?
M.J. Right, none of them. Don’t mention that.
L.R. What? That’s kind of silly …
M.J. I know.
L.R. O.K., change the subject. You’re on Epic [Records] now—do you miss Motown at all?
M.J. I miss the old days at Motown, the old days. When we first came there we used to live with Diane [Diana Ross] and we’d play at the Gordys’. We’d go to Disneyland and go bike riding and all those things.
L.R. Have you seen Diana Ross in Lady Sings the Blues or Mahogany? Do you want to act?
M.J. Lady Sings the Blues was much grander than Mahogany because she could get into it much more. It was about this singer, and drugs … A real actor can do any part, but I want to do something pertaining to show business. Like in Mahogany, Diana is great, but she’s not a real actress [as much as in Lady Sings the Blues] … She inspired a lot of people, though.
Interview with Michael by phone from Encino, California, June 9, 1977:
M.J. We just came back from Europe and we performed for the Queen of England in Scotland. We’d done it five years ago for her mother, but this time it was for her and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh. They asked us and we were honored to do it. Afterwards she came backstage and she said, “Did you just come here to perform for [me]?” And we said, “Yes.” She said, “Where do you go next?” We said, “London.” She said, “Are you all brothers?” And we said, “Yes.” And she said our show was very enjoyable. Her husband was very interested—he must have spent five minutes asking us if our parents were musically inclined: what did they play, what did my mother play? My mother played the clarinet in a band, and my father was in a singing group called the Falcons—they were a local group. The Queen had her crown on and a pink dress with all these pearls and rubies and diamonds all over it. She wears a lot of jewelry. The producers and the people from the [Silver] Jubilee told us that [the Queen] did something at our show that they never saw her do—she actually clapped to the music and kept time and nodded her head in keeping the time. We were really happy to hear that; that’s really different and I was glad.
L.R. Did you have any time to sightsee?
M.J. Well, we’re usually in these cities so quick and out the next night—we do the concert and split. But I made time in London to see Big Ben, which I’ve seen before. I’ve seen the London Bridge and Whitechapel, where Jack the Ripper was cutting people up … it’s scary. In Scotland, I saw Loch Lomond—it’s very close to Loch Ness … We saw old castles. We didn’t see any changing of the guard this time, but we were with the guards and took some pictures. But the show in London was much wilder—I didn’t think we’d get out of that place. All through the show there were girls running up, one after another, onto the stage—poor children were being crushed and smashed. Two policemen got stabbed. The last time was even rougher, because there’s just something about the excitement in Europe … the teenyboppers and the excitement of Beatlemania. They called it “Jacksonmania.”
Interview with Michael by phone from California, August 3, 1978:
L.R. So after filming The Wiz here, you told me you wanted to come back to New York and spend more time.
M.J. I love it—it’s the perfect spot for me, for the things I’m interested in in life. When I’m in New York, I get up early and I’m ready to start the day. You have a whole schedule: I’m going to see this play at this time, and I’m going to have lunch, I’m going to see a movie—that’s what I like about it, so much … energy. Whenever I come back home, I look forward to going back to New York. I love the big stores—I love everything.
L.R. You’ve been seen out with Janelle Penny Commissiong, the former Miss Universe. Is it a romance?
M.J. [Laughter, giggling.] That’s a hard question to answer. Like most of the people you may see me out with, like Tatum [O’Neal] and Janelle, they’re kind of on and off, they’re friends, and [hysterical laughter] … I talk to them. I don’t know how to describe it, really [more laughter]. I don’t know what to say.
L.R. O.K., change the subject. What was it like to work with Diana on The Wiz?
M.J. It was incredible, wonderful. I learned so much from her. We’re like brother and sister, really. She was such a help—she made sure I was O.K. on the set; every morning she’d come to my room and ask if I needed anything. She was very protective. I just loved the world of moviemaking; I love it more than reality. Sometimes I just wish I could wake up in the morning to a big production dance number.
L.R. As for reality, do you still like meeting your fans?
M.J. I enjoy all that sometimes, seeing people who love me, or buy my records. I think it’s fun, and I enjoy meeting my fans and I think it’s important. But sometimes people think you owe your life to them; they have a bad attitude—like “I made you who you are.” That may be true—but not that one person. Sometimes you have to say to them, If the music wasn’t good, you wouldn’t have bought it. Because some of them think they actually own you. Someone will say, “Sit down,” “Sign this,” or “Can I have your autograph?” and I’ll say, “Yes, do you have a pen?” And they say, “No, go get one.” Honestly. I’m not exaggerating. But I just try to deal with it.
L.R. Are you having fun with your new car [a recently purchased blue Silver Shadow Rolls-Royce]?
M.J. Yes, it’s my favorite car. I know how to drive it, but I hate to take pictures in it. You know, you see so many people with their new cars, and it’s a little show-offy. I’m really not like that.
L.R. Why did you go outside the family and work with Quincy [Jones] on Off the Wall?
M.J. I felt there are still so many different things I want to learn that I didn’t want to go in myself and do it. I wanted to watch a giant and learn from him. That’s why I wanted to work with Quincy. He’s the kind of guy who’s unlimited musically: classical, jazz, disco, soul, pop—he’s done operas, movie soundtracks, he’s worked with Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, all the greats, he can do everything. He can work with me and do anything I want. I wanted an album that wouldn’t just consist of one kind of music, because I love all kinds of music. I see it all as music; I don’t like to label it. It’s like saying this child is white, this child is black, this child is Japanese—but they’re all children. It reminds me of prejudice. I hate labels. I went to a record store the other day and I saw the Bee Gees in the “Black” category. I mean, what is that? It’s so crazy. If somebody has a wonderful song that’s right for me, I’d love to do it. I wouldn’t pass up a good song just because I didn’t write it. On the Jacksons’ albums we write all the songs, but I love hearing other people’s material. It’s so much fun hearing things that I didn’t write; I think, How did you write that? How did you do that? That’s what I enjoy most about doing solo albums. You get to see how different people work in the studio. With the Jacksons we’re just doing our own thing in our little private world. That’s why I didn’t want the Jacksons to produce my album. I don’t want the same sound, because mine is different.
L.R. How was it filming The Wiz?
M.J. I had the time of my life. It was an experience I’ll never forget. I’m just dying to do the next film. It’s really killing me—and when I say killing me, I really mean it. Sometimes I could just scream, but I’m so busy with other things, and what I really want to do more than anything is film. Film will last forever. I can go on tour and it’s exciting, but when it’s done, it’ll be lost to the world. But if I do a movie, it’ll be there forever, that’s what I love about film: it’s something captured, a moment captured that’ll be there for eternity. The stars die, like Charlie Chaplin—he’s gone, but his films will be here forever. If he did Broadway and plays while he was alive, he would have been lost to the world. I’d have to set time aside to do films, but I always do things through force and feeling, and I always follow my instincts. If it’s meant to be, it’ll come, it’ll happen. It will make itself known.
In my interviews over two decades with the other Jacksons, I learned that for years Michael ate fruits and raw vegetables every day, and nothing else. “He loves carrots, celery, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, apples, peaches,” La Toya once told me. Until they were 18, Janet said, their mother, Katherine, a devout Jehovah’s Witness, would take the kids to Kingdom Hall, but when they came of age, they could choose what religion they wanted. As for all the tabloid stuff about Michael—the plastic surgery in particular—in October 1986, Janet said it was just part of being in show business.
“Michael told me when you hear bad things about yourself,” she said, “just put your energies into something else; it’s no good crying about it. Just put it into your music—it’ll make you stronger.” But she had, had she not, said he was a weirdo? “I probably just said, ‘Oh, Michael’s crazy’ … like silly, fun. He’s very quiet, but every once in a while he says something that’s really funny, and I’ll say he’s crazy, like a lot of fun to be around. And it was taken as his being weird.” But, I say, people think he is weird, all that re-doing of his face. “You know, so many stars do that, but the press picks on certain people. I think if more people could afford it they’d do it, too. I see nothing wrong with it. You have to feel good about yourself. You can’t worry about pleasing other people. And aging is a sad thing. I don’t see anything wrong with staying young as long as you can.” The hyperbaric chamber? Is it in the house? “It is not in the house; I would know if it was in the house. Knowing Michael, if he had gone into one, it probably had something to do with his voice.”
His older brother Marlon, to whom he was closest growing up, said in October 1987, “Sometimes [the stuff they write about Michael] hurts, but the main thing is they’re keeping the name going. Regardless if it’s good or bad news. If they stop talking about you, then you’re in trouble. People have the right to write whatever they want to, but I don’t think that they give people a fair shot sometimes. Everybody has the right to do what they want to in life, to make themselves happy, regardless of what it may be. People probably don’t know the reason why Michael wanted to buy the skeleton [the Elephant Man’s bones]. Maybe instead of looking at it in a negative way, my first thought was maybe he wanted it at the burn center of a hospital so doctors could look at it and study a skull like it in case a case like that happened to an American kid. We’re not here on earth to judge other people. I feel that we’re here on earth to love one another and bring harmony to each other’s hearts.” As for the constant stories about how Michael had no fun as a child while the other brothers participated in sports and had dates, Marlon disagreed: “That’s not true—he did the same things we all did. We all rehearsed constantly, we rehearsed together, and that’s how we got to where we are today.” The family didn’t drink, except wine and champagne when guests came over or, according to Janet, brandy when someone was sick. They had snakes—one named Muscles and another named Revenge. They had two black swans, a llama, the dogs, two deer, and a giraffe named Jabbar. Michael and Janet were together all the time after Marlon got married and moved out of the house. Janet and Michael did everything together: they’d draw together, and when Michael went on the road he’d send boxes of drawings and paintings back to Janet. “He never put his name on it,” she said, “but I knew who it was from.”
Michael’s jaw-dropping solo performance of “Billie Jean” on the 1983 TV special Motown 25 put him into the stratosphere. This was the solo spot that Michael demanded from Berry Gordy and producer Suzanne de Passe before agreeing to appear on the show with his brothers. It was rumored that initially he refused to allow them to film the number, then he agreed after he was given approval of the final edit. During the 1980s, according to CBS Records Group president Walter Yetnikoff, Michael talked to him incessantly about his record sales, marketing, and promotion; “possessed” was the word Yetnikoff used to describe Michael’s involvement in his day-to-day business. On February 7, 1984, CBS threw a huge party at New York’s Museum of Natural History for 1,200 guests to celebrate the mega-million success of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The invitation was printed on a glove; President and Mrs. Reagan sent a telegram; Yetnikoff introduced Michael as the greatest star ever, and a few days later told me Michael was being pressured to tour again with his brothers.
Luncheon to announce the Jacksons Victory Tour, Tavern on the Green, New York City, November 30, 1983: Promoter Don King came out to announce the upcoming Jacksons Victory Tour. He talked about the Jacksons and himself, how wonderful the tour would be, how fabulous their association was, introduced the Jackson parents and the celebs in the room (Dustin Hoffman, Andy Warhol, Roberta Flack, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, and a few boxers). King went on about how it would be the biggest-grossing tour of all time, the biggest this, the biggest that. He quoted Shakespeare; he introduced the boys. Michael introduced his sisters and the wives—it was a cross between a press conference for a heavyweight title fight and a revival meeting.
The Jacksons Victory Tour, 1984: Michael traveled separately from his brothers on the tour. He reportedly sent Don King a letter stating that King could not communicate with anyone on Jackson’s behalf without prior permission, that Michael’s personal representatives were to collect all the money paid to him for his participation in the tour, and basically that King could not hire anyone to work on the tour without Michael’s approval. Michael referred to the Victory Tour as “the Last Hurrah” and “the Final Curtain”—meaning for the family group. On August 4, 1984, I took Van Halen lead singer David Lee Roth to see the show at Madison Square Garden, and we met Michael in a private area of the Garden’s rotunda. I was surprised at how different Michael looked from the last time I’d seen him, how much makeup he was wearing (it rubbed off on my clothing when we hugged hello), but mostly I was surprised how fully aware he was of just exactly who David Lee Roth was—probably even to the number of records Van Halen had sold and their chart positions. Later, in a phone interview from Los Angeles on February 15, 1985, Michael admitted to me his problems with the tour and the pressures of working with his family—especially after having had such huge solo success.
L.R. I haven’t seen you since the Garden.
M.J. I know. What have you been doing? Do you still love New York?
M.J. Better than L.A.?
L.R. You know, I haven’t been out to L.A. in so long …
M.J. You don’t like us out here?
L.R. I think it’s too … bright. Anyway, were you happy with the tour?
M.J. Well … ummm … it depends. I never really wanted to use a lot of the people we had, but it became a voting thing. It was unfair to me, you know? I was outvoted a lot of times. I never liked doing things that way. I always liked using A1 people who are considered excellent in their field. I’ve always tried to do everything first-class. Use people who are the best. But it was a different story with the family. And the fact that it was the biggest tour that ever happened, and my success has been so overwhelming, it’s as if they’re waiting to throw darts at you, too You know [Barbra] Streisand once said … um, I taped it, on 20/20, she said she first came out, she’s new and fresh, everybody loved her, and they built her up and then … they knocked her down. And she felt, you know, ‘Oh, is that it?’ You know, she’s human, she can’t take it, she can’t just forget about it.
L.R. Well, when you get that big, there is this backlash … people get jealous.
M.J. I know. Steven Spielberg’s going through that … But I’m a strong person. I don’t let any of it bother me. I love doing what I do and I’m gonna keep moving mountains and doing bigger and better things because it makes people happy.
L.R. I heard some of the fans were upset because the ticket prices were high.
M.J. You know, that wasn’t my idea. None of that was my idea. I was outvoted. I mean, mail order … I didn’t want that—I didn’t want the ticket price the way it was … our production was so big, it had to pay for itself, but still, even then, I didn’t want the ticket price so high. But … I was outvoted … Don King … all of it, I was outvoted. And it’s tough, especially when it’s your family. Like Lionel Richie said with the Commodores, he would do the same thing, and he would say, ‘Can we talk about it?’ But they’re not his brothers.… It’s hard to see your brother and they’re upset with something and you can look in their eyes and see it, or they won’t talk to you. But I’m going to do bigger and better things in the future. I’m compelled to do what I’m doing and I can’t help it—I love performing. I love creating and coming up with unusual new things. To be a kind of pioneer. You know, innovative. I just love it. I get excited about ideas, not about money; ideas is what excites me.
L.R. The conception about you is that you’re totally insulated and isolated, locked up, can’t go anywhere …
M.J. Well, a lot of that is true, but I get a chance to have fun, you know. I show films, and I play games and have friends over sometimes, and I love children and stuff. I get to play with them; that’s one of my favorite things to do. Performing is fun. I miss that, but I’ve been writing a lot of good stuff lately and I’m real excited about the songs I’m coming up with.
L.R. Wherever I go in the world, I hear your songs.
M.J. Well, it just proves that what you put into something you get out of it. And I put my soul, my blood, sweat, and tears, into Thriller. I really did. And not only was it Thriller, but I was doing E.T. at the same time, the E.T. [soundtrack] album. And that was a lot of stress. But [when we first] mixed the Thriller album, it sounded like crap.
M.J. Oh, it was terrible. And I cried at the listening party. I said, “I’m sorry—we can’t release this.” I called a meeting with Quincy, and everybody at the [record] company was screaming that we had to have it out and there was a deadline, and I said, “I’m sorry, I’m not releasing it.” I said, “It’s terrible.” So we re-did a mix a day. Like a mix a day. And we rested two days, then we did a mixing. We were overworked, but it all came out O.K.
Michael Jackson’s induction as a solo artist into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Waldorf Astoria, New York City, March 19, 2001.
Michael is wearing a white suit and is surrounded by huge bodyguards as well as his friend Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who, at that time, was—for lack of a better word—his “spiritual” adviser. Michael is standing against the wall in the kitchen to the left side of the stage (which serves as “backstage” at the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies) when I catch his eye. “Lisa?” he says. We start to move toward each other and his bodyguards are on me. “No! It’s O.K.,” he says to them forcefully—in that other voice, not the whispered one, not the public one, but the one he uses when talking, say, to a lawyer or record-company executive. “She’s my friend.”
It was the last time I ever saw him.
Epilogue: When I was writing the Motown oral history for V.F. last year, Jermaine wanted the brothers to be a part of it. Annie Leibovitz and I didn’t want to photograph or interview the brothers without Michael. We got a message from Jermaine that we needed to contact Michael’s spokesman, Dr. Tohme Tohme, who had only a P.O.-box address somewhere in California. I wrote a letter requesting Michael’s participation. We never heard back.
Lisa Robinson is a Vanity Fair contributing editor and music writer.
Source: UK Loves Michael Jackson
I don’t know the original source of this article other than the site I got it from. I do remember reading in either Katherine’s autobiography or one of LaToya’s books that he and his siblings use to hang out and help his grandma in the kitchen while she cooked. Sorry I can’t make it bigger because of the WordPress format. CP ♥
Source: Los Angeles Times – Paul Green (July 22, 1987)
Today is the day that Michael Jackson begins the defense of his pop crown. Or, more precisely, the day he attempts to regain his pop crown.
Epic Records is releasing to radio stations today “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” a duet with Siedah Garrett. It’s Jackson’s first new record since 1982′s “Thriller,” the most successful album of all time with worldwide sales of 38.5 million.
The single, described as a gentle, soulful ballad, will be in the stores Monday, with Jackson’s new album, “Bad,” to follow late next month. A CBS-TV special is expected near the time of the album’s release. And Jackson is set to begin his first solo tour Sept. 12 in Tokyo, with U.S. and European dates slated for 1988.
The success of “Thriller”–which resulted in a then-unprecedented seven Top 10 singles and a record eight Grammy Awards–established Jackson as the hottest property in pop music since the Beatles.
Most retailers and radio programmers surveyed about Jackson’s return to the chart wars expressed optimism about the singer’s chances. But there is industry uncertainty surrounding Jackson’s album, and it extends beyond the usual whispers of “can he do it again?”
Those surveyed acknowledged that Jackson may have to battle against a backlash resulting from overexposure and negative publicity surrounding his controversial 1984 “Victory” tour with his brothers.
Numerous other stars have occupied pop’s center stage since “Thriller,” including Lionel Richie, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna and Whitney Houston. This leaves Jackson’s own status in pop unclear: Can the exiled king reclaim his throne?
In a stinging cover story in its June issue, Spin magazine described Jackson as the victim of “the most powerful backlash in the history of popular entertainment.” Other observers have questioned Jackson’s position with equal bluntness.
Is this just another case of the media building up a celebrity only to tear him down? Or have rank-and-file fans indeed tired of Jackson?
The fate of Jackson’s single and album will answer several other provocative questions:
–Did Jackson, by staying away from the pop scene for so long, let his audience slip away? Or was his absence a clever way to combat his earlier overexposure?
–Have Jackson’s “eccentricities”–bidding on the Elephant Man’s remains, sleeping in an oxygenated chamber, wearing surgical masks–alienated his audience and overshadowed his artistry? Or have they helped pique people’s interest and curiosity in him?
–Has sister Janet’s own enormous success helped Michael by keeping the family name in the foreground? Or has it upstaged him by stealing the thunder from his comeback?
One more question: Do any of these questions really matter?
Louis Kwiker, president of Wherehouse Entertainment, which operates the 202-store record and video chain, says no. “Ultimately the product will sell or not based on the quality of the music,” he observed.
Kwiker is one of 60 key retailers who heard the album at a listening party thrown by Epic and the singer July 13 in Beverly Hills. His verdict? “It will be a very strong album. Clearly, the jury is still out as to whether it’s going to match ‘Thriller,’ but I don’t think anybody can expect a world record every time somebody goes to the plate.
“Maybe the album will sell only 10 million. Next to what ‘Thriller’ sold, that doesn’t sound like a lot. But no album in the last two years has sold 10 million (in the U.S.). So the question is what are you going to measure it against–everything else that has happened in the marketplace in the last couple of years, or the greatest-selling album of all time?”
Mitch Perliss, director of purchasing for the 48-store Music Plus chain, also attended the listening party. “I think the album’s a winner,” he said. “We’re going to buy it as though it’s going to be the smash record of the season.” But, Perliss added, “I don’t think people are waiting on pins and needles for it. I think he’s got to build that audience back up again.”
Historically, most follow-ups to blockbuster albums have come up short. Stan Goman, senior vice president of retail operations for the Tower Records chain, pointed to the impact of Carole King’s 1971 “Tapestry” album. “The time was right, the lyrics were right,” he said. “Everybody had it. But it never really happened for her again after that. I think that’s what everybody’s afraid of (this time).”
King wasn’t an isolated example. The follow-ups to Peter Frampton’s “Frampton Comes Alive!,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” and the Bee Gees’ “Saturday Night Fever” were also sales disappointments.
That explains CBS’ cautious handling of Jackson’s album. The label is urging retailers to be conservative in ordering the album, emphasizing that they can easily replenish their stock if they sell out quickly.
“They’re not going to let the accounts run wild on ordering,” said Music Plus’ Perliss. “Perception is important: You can order 1,000 and sell 800 and it’s moving, or you can order 5,000 and sell 800 and it’s a stiff.”
Source: MJ The Best.com/Jet
Posted for those who say that Michael tried to sabotage the careers of his family…..epic fall! CP ♥
Source: VH-1 Tuner – By Felicia Daniels
Ciara is bringing Michael Jackson to VH1 Divas! No, not hologram MJ. A little birdie told us that on Sunday, December 16 at 9PM ET/8C CiCi will be using one of his classics to kick off her “Got Me Good“ set.
Though, she’s not the first to draw inspiration from the King of Pop, we’ve seen her perform tributes to his work in concerts over the years, work the red carpet like Mike and peeped his dance moves in some of her own gravity-defying choreography (does the woman have a spine?!). So, if any Diva can ”Work“ his presence on stage, it’s Ciara. We don’t yet know which minute-long snippet I’ll be screaming, “That’s my jam!” to in six days, but here are a few theories:
Song #1: “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’”
Why It’s Likely: She got the blogosphere buzzing last summer when flexed her fancy footwork to the tune in an Angola concert. Where is Angola? I don’t know, but I wished I was there when I saw that show footage.
Song #2: “Heal The World”
Why It’s Likely: She performed it at the 2009 BET Awards shortly after Michael Jackson’s death. It’s a slow jam, but it could be an easy-build complement (and moment of rest) before the non-stop dance fest that is “Got Me Good.”
Song #3: “Billie Jean”
Why It’s Likely: This song is all about showcasing feet popping and hip twerking. And the first 30 seconds are so recognizable, too - 1983 Motown 25 performance, anyone? Nothing but good things happen from starting a set with that.
Song #4: “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”
Why It’s Likely: Another jam she’s pulled out of her concert repertoire before. It’s definitely a big crowd-pleaser. What better way to pump up a dance-theme Divas crowd?
Believe it or not, the National Enquirer once wrote a nice, truthful article about Michael. The world was at his feet and it seemed like it would never change, but like all good things, it sadly came to an end. The world may have changed their opinion about him but he never changed from being loving and kind. Bless you Michael. You will always be my hero! ♥
Source: Belief Net
Written and Composed by Michael Jackson
In one of our conversations together, my friend Rabbi Shmuley told me that he had asked some of his colleagues–-writers, thinkers, and artists-–to pen their reflections on the Sabbath. He then suggested that I write down my own thoughts on the subject, a project I found intriguing and timely due to the recent death of Rose Fine, a Jewish woman who was my beloved childhood tutor and who traveled with me and my brothers when we were all in the Jackson Five.
Last Friday night I joined Rabbi Shmuley, his family, and their guests for the Sabbath dinner at their home. What I found especially moving was when Shmuley and his wife placed their hands on the heads of their young children, and blessed them to grow to be like Abraham and Sarah, which I understand is an ancient Jewish tradition. This led me to reminisce about my own childhood, and what the Sabbath meant to me growing up.
When people see the television appearances I made when I was a little boy–8 or 9 years old and just starting off my lifelong music career–they see a little boy with a big smile. They assume that this little boy is smiling because he is joyous, that he is singing his heart out because he is happy, and that he is dancing with an energy that never quits because he is carefree.
But while singing and dancing were, and undoubtedly remain, some of my greatest joys, at that time what I wanted more than anything else were the two things that make childhood the most wondrous years of life, namely, playtime and a feeling of freedom. The public at large has yet to really understand the pressures of childhood celebrity, which, while exciting, always exacts a very heavy price.
More than anything, I wished to be a normal little boy. I wanted to build tree houses and go to roller-skating parties. But very early on, this became impossible. I had to accept that my childhood would be different than most others. But that’s what always made me wonder what an ordinary childhood would be like.
There was one day a week, however, that I was able to escape the stages of Hollywood and the crowds of the concert hall. That day was the Sabbath. In all religions, the Sabbath is a day that allows and requires the faithful to step away from the everyday and focus on the exceptional. I learned something about the Jewish Sabbath in particular early on from Rose, and my friend Shmuley further clarified for me how, on the Jewish Sabbath, the everyday life tasks of cooking dinner, grocery shopping, and mowing the lawn are forbidden so that humanity may make the ordinary extraordinary and the natural miraculous. Even things like shopping or turning on lights are forbidden. On this day, the Sabbath, everyone in the world gets to stop being ordinary.
But what I wanted more than anything was to be ordinary. So, in my world, the Sabbath was the day I was able to step away from my unique life and glimpse the everyday.
Sundays were my day for “Pioneering,” the term used for the missionary work that Jehovah’s Witnesses do. We would spend the day in the suburbs of Southern California, going door to door or making the rounds of a shopping mall, distributing our Watchtower magazine. I continued my pioneering work for years and years after my career had been launched.
Up to 1991, the time of my Dangerous tour, I would don my disguise of fat suit, wig, beard, and glasses and head off to live in the land of everyday America, visiting shopping plazas and tract homes in the suburbs. I loved to set foot in all those houses and catch sight of the shag rugs and La-Z-Boy armchairs with kids playing Monopoly and grandmas baby-sitting and all those wonderfully ordinary and, to me, magical scenes of life. Many, I know, would argue that these things seem like no big deal. But to me they were positively fascinating.
The funny thing is, no adults ever suspected who this strange bearded man was. But the children, with their extra intuition, knew right away. Like the Pied Piper of Hamlin, I would find myself trailed by eight or nine children by my second round of the shopping mall. They would follow and whisper and giggle, but they wouldn’t reveal my secret to their parents. They were my little aides. Hey, maybe you bought a magazine from me. Now you’re wondering, right?
Sundays were sacred for two other reasons as I was growing up. They were both the day that I attended church and the day that I spent rehearsing my hardest. This may seem against the idea of “rest on the Sabbath,” but it was the most sacred way I could spend my time: developing the talents that God gave me. The best way I can imagine to show my thanks is to make the very most of the gift that God gave me.
Church was a treat in its own right. It was again a chance for me to be “normal.” The church elders treated me the same as they treated everyone else. And they never became annoyed on the days that the back of the church filled with reporters who had discovered my whereabouts. They tried to welcome them in. After all, even reporters are the children of God.
When I was young, my whole family attended church together in Indiana. As we grew older, this became difficult, and my remarkable and truly saintly mother would sometimes end up there on her own. When circumstances made it increasingly complex for me to attend, I was comforted by the belief that God exists in my heart, and in music and in beauty, not only in a building. But I still miss the sense of community that I felt there–I miss the friends and the people who treated me like I was simply one of them. Simply human. Sharing a day with God.
When I became a father, my whole sense of God and the Sabbath was redefined. When I look into the eyes of my son, Prince, and daughter, Paris, I see miracles and I see beauty. Every single day becomes the Sabbath. Having children allows me to enter this magical and holy world every moment of every day. I see God through my children. I speak to God through my children. I am humbled for the blessings He has given me.
There have been times in my life when I, like everyone, has had to wonder about God’s existence. When Prince smiles, when Paris giggles, I have no doubts. Children are God’s gift to us. No–they are more than that–they are the very form of God’s energy and creativity and love. He is to be found in their innocence, experienced in their playfulness.
My most precious days as a child were those Sundays when I was able to be free. That is what the Sabbath has always been for me. A day of freedom. Now I find this freedom and magic every day in my role as a father. The amazing thing is, we all have the ability to make every day the precious day that is the Sabbath. And we do this by rededicating ourselves to the wonders of childhood. We do this by giving over our entire heart and mind to the little people we call son and daughter. The time we spend with them is the Sabbath. The place we spend it is called Paradise.
Source: Life Magazine – By David Friend /Photographer Harry Benson
Mom’s rarely around. Dad’s often on tour. But, hey, the babe’s in Neverland! So come on along as LIFE takes an exclusive peek inside this kid’s otherworldly digs at his father’s California estate. Meet the one and only nine-month-old PRINCE MICHAEL JOSEPH JACKSON JR.
In the dance studio where he practices his moves, Dad plays career counselor. “This is his first step into the spotlight,” Michael says, only half in jest. As if on cue, Prince grabs for a toy microphone – and promptly shoves it into his mouth. “He’s teething,” explains a nearby nanny. Will he be moonwalking by next year? Dad laughs, slipping into mock-grandmother mode: “As long as he’s healthy, smart and brilliant, he’ll be O.K.”
Pop and the little Prince share meals, afternoon naps and story hour. “I put my voice on tape, reading poems, stories I’ve written,” Michael says. “When I’m out at concerts, [his nurses] play it for him.” One tape offers this: “Not the stars, not the farthest solar systems, not the millions of different species of animals, but the child is the greatest of God’s creations.”
In the nursery the nannies come and go, bottles and squeeze-toys all in tow. Six teddies occupy an antique African cradle, six stuffed animals crowd Prince’s modest crib. Above it hangs a Humpty-Dumpty poster, a Mickey and Minnie mobile and a quilt with Daddy’s image. On ledges and counters stand five forlorn picture frames – each one empty, since so few photos have been taken of the room’s elusive occupant. “You don’t have to buy him much,” notes Michael. “Fans give him toys, signs, banners – everything.” The child’s cache includes a red Junior Roadster from Michael Milken and a genuine Lamb Chop puppet, courtesy of ventriloquist Shari Lewis.
Prince is nicknamed after Michael’s grandfather and great-grandfather. Though, on occasion, Dad prefers Baby Doo-Doo. Or Apple Head, for his plump countenance. (He’s a bruising 22 pounds.) “When he first came out,” Michael recalls, “he had my grandfather’s and brothers’ and La Toya’s shape of head. He has Debbie’s chin.” Michael claims his hectic touring schedule kept him from taking Lamaze classes, but he held wife Debbie Rowe’s hand throughout her 25-hour labor last February 13: “I was screaming and praying at the same time.” Rather than reducing his creative output, Michael believes, fatherhood has energized his inner artist. Michael insists: “I’ve written more songs in my life – albums’ worth – because of him than because of any other inspiration. He’s complete inspiration.” (One recent verse: “People say/I’m not O.K./’cause I love such elementary things. /It’s been my fate/to compensate/for the childhood I’ve never known.”)
YOU HAVE TWO nurses, three chefs and a doting dad. You have a petting zoo, two locomotives and a full-scale amusement park – all in your backyard. And, oh yes, your godparents are Elizabeth Taylor and Macaulay Culkin. So you’ve got that going for you.
On the other hand, your dad wears sequins and a hat when changing your diapers and has been known to grab his privates in front of thousands. Your mom has to commute to visit you, sometimes across the globe. And even as a celebrity fetus you got no respect: Your pop-star pop felt compelled to issue a press release insisting you weren’t the product of artificial insemination.
Welcome to Earth, Prince Michael Joseph Jackson Jr.
The bright-eyed, beaming Prince is genuinely good-natured, prone to wide, if toothless, jack-o’-lantern grins. Tonight, however, he is Mr. Whimper – due to the merciless popping of flashbulbs. The boy of beige-and-olive cheek, with a hint of spit curl, sobs for several minutes. His nurses, in white NEVERLAND VALLEY uniforms, brandish rattles to little avail. Then Dad tries, stroking bony fingers tentatively against his child’s face: “If he cries, and then you dance, he’ll stop at once.” But Michael’s not in a particularly moonwalky mood. “C’mon, look, look, Mmm,” Michael says, hazarding a hum. “He loves anything rhinestone.” So Dad quickly dons a bangled jacket. But the Prince blubbers on.
His cries sound mama-like, even at nine months. Indeed, his cries seem part reproach. Everywhere, throughout the 25-room home, mom is eerily absent. The house, with games and knickknacks piled in stairwells and nooks, has an edgy abandon, as if a teenager and his friends have been left in charge and the real parents are about to burst in – back from vacation – and throw a fit. Even now, after returning from an African tour, Michael is here in Neverland with his boy, yet Debbie is in L.A., 150 miles southeast. When asked why Mom’s away, Michael cryptically attributes it to some unspecified aspect of – yes – a second pregnancy. He says, in a delighted whisper, “There’s a new one on the way.”
Michael, 39, is well aware that his is not a nuclear family. “It’s very hard,” he explains, faulting his performance schedule for their long-distance marriage. “We haven’t been able to spend time as a family. Not at all.” Debbie Rowe, 38, who has kept her one-bedroom Van Nuys apartment, reportedly told intimates she was carrying Michael’s first child as a “favor to a friend.” Since then, she has admitted in a TV interview: “I don’t need to be there… It’s not my duty. And [Michael] understands that. And he understands that I need my independence.” Citing Michael’s constant attention to Prince’s every need, she said, “I’d have nothing to do.
Michael’s choice of partners, confidants and playmates has never been conventional. He has long sought the company of other former child stars, like Taylor and Culkin, or stars’ children, such as first wife Lisa Marie Presley, whom he divorced last year. He has befriended young boys and girls. (Charges of child molestation in 1993, never proven, were dropped after he reached a multimillion-dollar out-of-court settlement with the family of a 13-year-old accuser.) “Celebrities have to deal with this,” is all he will say on the subject, adding dismissively, “I’m not the first who’s gone through it. It’s horrible.” Debbie has remarked of the accusations: “I wouldn’t leave our child there…if I even suspected any of them were true.”
Despite the time they spent apart, Michael has found a kindred soul in Debbie. A free spirit who fancies Harleys and animals (one tabloid reported that she arranged for chemotherapy for one of her dogs), she met Michael at his dermatologist’s, where she was a medical assistant, during his treatment for skin condition. After they became friends, Debbie twice offered to bear his child. And once his divorce from Lisa Marie was finalized, Michael surprised her by accepting. They were married in a secret Australian ceremony last November. They do spend time together, of course, often watching cartoons or big-screen projections of Three Stooges shorts. “We laugh, hold the baby,” Michael says. “She’s come out on the tour a lot.”
But there is one subject to which Michael repeatedly returns during four hours of conversation and picture-taking: Lisa Marie Presley.
Michael’s voice quickens, even quavers, when he speaks of Lisa Marie. How she enjoys the baby. How they are still close after an amicable divorce. How they frolicked overseas the month before. He seems to pine for her. “Lisa Marie was just with me in Africa,” Michael says. “We [went to] IMAX theaters, simulated-ride safaris, dinner. We went parasailing. It was wonderful.” Even Debbie has acknowledged that Michael is still smitten. “He cares about her very much, but it didn’t work out and he was devastated,” she has said. “He loved her very much. Still does.”
When asked if Lisa Marie has ever expressed second thoughts about not having been the one to bear his son, Michael insists, “She regrets it. She said so.” Would she still consider having a kid with him? “She’d like to, yes,” he says, putting a mischievous finger to his lips. “Shhh.”
Michael turns the conversation to what makes him happiest nowadays: “the baby, writing music and making movies.” He’s planning a film version of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan fable, having been misled, he says, by Steven Spielberg, who he believes reneged on an offer to cast Michael in Hook six years ago. “I worked on the script, writing songs, for six months,” says Michael. “And they let me down. I was so heartbroken. Steven Spielberg admitted later it was a mistake. I was torn. He put me through a lot. We’re friends now, though.” What Michael dreads most, he says, is continuing a life on the road. “I love to entertain,” he admits, “but I don’t like the system of touring. You’re jet-lagged. You’re sleepy onstage. I don’t know where I am half of the time. I may not tour again. Ever.”
Besides, for now, Michael has his glove full with this bundle of Jackson. Especially with bedtime beckoning. His T-shirt mottled with faint baby-food stains, he cradles Prince in the crook of his arm, placing a lavender pacifier in his son’s mouth. The baby drifts into his own little Neverland. After several minutes, Michael hands the child to a nanny and slips away to his own bedroom – a floor below and a wing away.
At first, it is his red and gold throne that stands out amid the clutter. But then one’s eyes zero in on Michael Jackson’s bed. On its green brocaded pillows. On the twin stereo speakers mounted near the headboard. On the stark but simple painting of Jesus in a plain frame, the Sacred Heart blood-red, the eyes penetrating.
And there, on one nightstand, rests a framed photograph of Lisa Marie. Not a recent snapshot. Or even a formal portrait. But a picture apparently cut out of a magazine, placed as a child would place it, cockeyed, in a frame meant to hold a photo twice its size. A picture of Elvis and is little girl, then only five years old.” This is the age,” Michael says, “when I first met Lisa Marie. When her father first came to my concerts. I’ve known her ever since.”
But when Michael lies in his bed, the last thing he sees before he falls asleep is Prince’s spare crib, sitting next to an old Peter Pan diorama. It is empty tonight but for the clutch of stuffed animals inside. Still, it’s there – ready for those nights when Prince needs his dad.
Source: Ebony Magazine – By Robert Johnson
In the first one-on-one interview the “King of Pop, Rock and Soul” Michael Jackson granted after he shook up America with the announcement of his marriage to Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of the late Rock ‘n’ Roller Elvis Presley, the mega star revealed to EBONY where they met and how he proposed.
Some published reports said that the couple had known each other only eight months before Lisa Marie Presley-Jackson issued a statement, saying: “My name is Mrs. Lisa Marie Presley-Jackson. My marriage to Michael took place in a private ceremony outside the United States [May 26].” She said the marriage was not formally announced because “we are both very private people living in the glare of the public media… I am very much in love with Michael. I dedicate my life to being his wife. I understand and support him. We both look forward to raising a family and living happy, healthy lives together. We hope friends and fans will understand and respect tour privacy.”
It was their love of privacy that prompted media probes that resulted in published stories that stated the couple knew each other only eight months before beginning their romance that led to matrimony. The truth is that Michael, now 36, and Lisa Marie, 26, were just a couple of youngsters when they met in Las Vegas 20 years ago. He was 16 and she was 6. The Jackson Five, with Michael out front as the lead singer, appeared at the MGM Grand Hotel April 9 through 23, 1974, and August 21 through Sept. 3, 1974.
Michael, taking time out from his studio recording session in New York to give EBONY an exclusive interview, recalls:
“Her father [Elvis] used to bring her to catch our show where all nine of us [Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, Randy, Maureen 'Rebbie,' LaToya and Janet, then 8] were performing. It was a real family show — the only family show in Las Vegas which allowed children to come.” He continued: “Elvis would bring his daughter, Lisa Marie. She would sit right in the front and bodyguards would be right there. Afterwards, she would be escorted backstage and I would meet her and we would talk. This happened quite often. She would come again, again and again. It was quite an event. After that, I didn’t see her for quite a while. You know, it was like ships passing in the night — hello and goodbye.”
Lisa Marie married musician Danny Keough in 1988 and two children (Danielle, now5, and Benjamin, 2) were born to this union. Differences that the couple did not reconcile resulted in a “quickie” divorce in the Dominican Republic last spring. Three years ago when he started the DANGEROUS album, which featured such hits as “Why You Wanna Trip On Me,” “Remember The Time,” “She Drives Me Wild” and “Can’t Let Her Get Away,” Michael said their relationship reached a new plateau.
“We sort of went out together. Then we would talk on the phone… I noticed that we had come closer. We went to Las Vegas for The Jackson Family Honors [in 1993]. We later traveled to Atlanta for (former) President Jimmy Carter to visit children, but no one knew that she was there with me. The brilliant thing about us is that we were often together but did not let anybody know about it. We got to see each other that way over the years. We were really quiet and comfortable with each other. That’s pretty much how the dating started happening.”
It was during this period that Michael said their relationship changed from being good friends to lovers. As a sensitive songwriter who deals with feelings that run the range of human emotions, Michael has an uncanny sense of the chemistry in writing songs. For him, that chemistry is inspiration. If you listen to the lyrics of ”Remember The Time” and “I Can’t Let Her Get Away,” in the 1991 release of his ‘Dangerous’ album, you conclude that Lisa Marie could have provided the inspiration. She certainly provided the kind of support he needed in 1993 when he was going through legal trials and tribulations.
“I was on tour and it seemed like I was in Armageddon — Armageddon in the brains,” Michael remembered. “All these horrible stories were going around about me. None was true. It was unbelievable. Lisa Marie would call. I could count my true friends on one hand. She was very, very supportive the whole time. That really impressed me. She would call and be crying. She was angry and really wanted to choke people. But really, what impressed me was earthquake day in L.A. [June 28, 1993],” Michael says with an air of excitement. ”On earthquake day, my phone just happened to be working. I was terrified — almost out of my brains. I thought the world was ending. I got a phone call that day and it was from her, right after the quake. “Later, in London, where he underwent treatment for addiction to prescription drugs, Michael said that Lisa Marie gave him the impression that their relationship was moving them toward each other in ties that bind. ”She would call me, but she didn’t always get through to me. And that made it very frustrating for her. I got all the messages… She was very concerned.”
It was after these experiences that Michael say she came to that moment when he had to say “This Girl Is Mine” and “The Way You Make Me Feel.” (Michael chuckles at the play on the words of two of his best-selling songs.) “It kind of unfolded,” he said of the moment of truth. ”We spent a lot of time on the ranch [his sprawling, multimillion-dollar Neverland] and just walked around and talked. It happened! It unfolded all natural. We could feel the feeling we had for each other without even talking about it. It was all in the vibrations, the feelings and the look in our eyes.”
After he recounted how a friendship turned to romance, Michael was asked: “Who proposed, you or Lisa Marie?” He responded: “I proposed.” Blushing at the recollection, Michael said: “Well, first I asked — I’m the shyest person in the world. I said to her — we were on the phone — “If I asked you to marry me, would you?” She said, “Of course!” Then there was silence. I said, “Excuse me, I’ve got to go to the bathroom,” he laughed sheepishly. ”So I came back. I didn’t quite know what to say. But that’s how it happened.”
Following the telephone proposal and acceptance, the engaged couple promptly met at Neverland, where the romance started. It climaxed in marriage on May 26 in the Dominican Republic, proving that love conquers all. The couple honeymooned briefly in Budapest, Hungary, where the bride shared sometime with the groom on a film location, where he produced a promotional video for his upcoming album, ‘HISTORY.’ They also spent some time doing what they both love — caring for children. They visited children’s hospitals where they comforted the young patients and distributed toys. This was a prelude to the priority they have agreed upon. The priority is not recording together, although Lisa Marie inherited her famous father’s talent for singing and his estate valued at over $150 million.” All this talk about us recording together is a complete rumor,” says Michael, whose financial worth is estimated to be over $200 million. ”The thing we want to do most is centered around children. I never met anybody who cared so much about children the way I do. I get real emotional about children. Lisa Marie is the exact same way. Wherever we go, we visit children’s hospitals. My dream is that when we go to South Africa and India, we will aid children,” he discloses. Asked about plans for their own children, he replied: ”It’s already happening.” Then the fifth born of the nine Jacksons paused and added: “I want more children than my father [Joseph] has.”
Written By David Nathan – Soul Music.com
THE FIRST ever visit of Motown’s Jackson Five is something which numerous people won’t forget in a hurry: the staff at the hotels that the group used, at the airports, and at Wembley Pool and the other theatres the group played at during their brief time here, if only because of the number of fans that turned out to see them. With the attendant publicity, what with weeny-boppers and all, it would be easy to dismiss the group as the ‘new’ Beatles in terms of the sheer hysteria they created, but when it all boils down to it, just how good are The Jackson Five? After all that’s been written and said about them since they first hit with ‘I Want You Back’, it was a question that must have been uppermost in many minds. Well, taking everything (particularly their ages) into consideration, the Jacksons are exactly what we’d been told to expect: talented, slick, and surprisingly professional and polished – but for all that, purveyors of either good pop music, or depending on how you look at it, bubblegum soul! Perhaps it’s wrong to bring the word ‘soul’ into it at all, because no one could honestly claim that it’s been an ingredient as such of anything the group have ever done. Not to say they don’t put a lot into what they do – but because they happen to be black surely doesn’t make them any more soulful than anyone else. Indeed, the group can easily lay claim to be the leading black pop group and judging them as such they are very good indeed – but they hardly bear some of the comparisons that have been made with some top soul groups.
Apart from any other consideration they draw a completely different audience – when has anyone ever witnessed the kind of scenes we did at Wembley for any other black act? It would probably be true to say, too, that no one fully expected the reaction there was to the group’s visit – after all, they have had their share of chart failures here. But they’ve always had a following: did anyone think it was as big as it turned out to be?
From how the audiences reacted at Wembley, no one could possibly dispute that the group have far more fans than anyone had ever given them credit for! Proceedings at the jam-packed Pool on Sunday, November 12, were severely marred by the long wait everyone had to endure in pouring rain until the entrances were opened – the delay was possibly due to the time it took to empty the vast arena from the hastily-organized first house. When the magical moment did come, all hell broke loose and it’s a miracle that there weren’t literally hundreds of accidents.
It was, in some ways, far worse than any football crowd and the fact that the average age must have been around fourteen or fifteen didn’t help much. When eventually the show opened late, every mention of The J5 was met with the kind of deafening roar that made the wholes place shake and that’s more or less how it went all evening. Local group The Orange Rainbow started off with ‘Shaft’ and ‘Backstabbers’ before serving as backing group for MoWest’s four Sisters Love. The former team of Raelets did not meet the kind of response they deserved but since they have yet to become established here, that’s hardly surprising
Throughout their act, the girls displayed a remarkable sense of showmanship and timing as well as some exceptionally fine vocal teamwork. Kicking off with ‘Now Is The Time’, they proceeded with a soulful ‘Giving Up’ before their much-appreciated funky ‘Mr. Fix It Man’ which has given the girls some degree of success here, particularly amongst disco-goers. Unfortunately, their version of ‘Do What You Gotta Do’ seemed pretty weak, but they made up for it with an up-tempo ‘Come Get It, I Got It’ (the last Raelets single).
Their closer was the exceptionally soulful ‘Are You Lonely’, which just missed being an American hit for the group on A&M, just prior to joining MoWest. And, boy, can those girls sing! Their harmonies are really excellent and particular credit should go to Vermyetta Royster whose wailing, gutsy voice was particularly stunning.
Unfortunately, the soulful ladies did not get the reaction they earned with their hard work, but perhaps, all things considered, it may have been the wrong kind of bill for them. There could be no question, however, about Junior Walker’s place as special guest of the evening. Supported by his All Stars, the man had the vast audience with him every step of the way. Whether he played and sang his haunting ‘What Does It Take’ or equally mellow ‘These Eyes’ or whether he had the crowd clapping and singing along to the strains of ‘How Sweet It Is’, Junior simply could do no wrong.
His act should have ended with ‘I’m Losing You’ which he did insist was the last number, but he was forced to continue with his recent smash, ‘Walk In The Night’. Yet again, he insisted that ‘Shotgun’ be the absolute closer and he demonstrated his ability on the sax by playing it literally on the stage!
What then followed is open to question: was it planned or did the organizers of the show have genuine trouble trying to get him to conclude his act? Nobody seemed quite sure, but he was yanked up onto his feet to finally finish off his act. From the reaction he got from the audience, they would have gladly listened to more – but by now, time was rolling around, and the big moment was not too far away.
When the Jacksons’ drummer came out on stage, the whole place fell apart; then, when the boys themselves appeared, the entire crowd hollered till you couldn’t hear yourself think. Looking just as smart as you’d expect, the group launched into a number presumably entitled ‘Doing Our Thing’. Each separate offering met with the same roar of approval and the flashes of slick choreography that permeated the act also met with instant acceptance.
It was left to Michael and Jermaine to draw some of the biggest screams whenever either sung solo or spoke. Naturally, the group sung their major hits, ‘I Want You Back’, ‘A.B.C.’ and ‘I’ll Be There’ before giving way to some humour. They needn’t really have sung a note, if they’d only done ‘Humpty Dumpty’ it would have been enough for the audience – just their presence sufficed. ‘Going Back to Indiana’ was followed by our introduction to ten-year old Randy who plays the congas – and he certainly can play. Indeed, whatever criticisms can be levelled at the group, no one can possibly claim they are not good at what they do – Tito and Jermaine are fine guitarists whilst Jackie and Marlon really harmonize and move well, leaving Michael to shine out vocally. But then, all that vocal talent doesn’t lie just with him as Jermaine proved on ‘I Think I’ve Found That Girl’.
The Golden oldie, ‘Daddy’s Home’ was a fine group effort and Michael’s talent was evident on his own solo hit, ‘Ben’. Changing the pace, the group offered ‘Rockin’ Robin’ and their latest hit, ‘Looking Through The Windows’ before Jermaine insisted on getting in his own plug for his solo album and single, ‘That’s How Love Goes’ which he performed well.
It’s Michael that really draws the screams though, and his ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ floored the crowd. He certainly has a fine professional stance and manner and one can’t help but wonder what the group will be like in years to come, seeing how together they are now.
‘Never Can Say Goodbye’ was a welcome item in the programme though it seemed somewhat spoiled by the instrumental break of ‘Walk on By’ a la Isaac Hayes. The audience lapped up every minute though and when the end came with ‘The Love You Save’, the crowd were really enjoying themselves.
The end came rather abruptly and although there were the expected calls for more, the group did not return. So that was it – a phenomenon had come and gone. It’s easy to see what all the fuss is about – the group have talent and polish and by no means does their youth make them amateurs at what they do.
David Nathan is the founder and CEO of SoulMusic.com and began his writing career in 1965; beginning in 1967, he was a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine in London before relocating to the U.S. in 1975 where he served as U.S. editor for the publication for several decades and began being known as ‘The British Ambassador Of Soul.’ From 1988 to 2004, he wrote prolifically for Billboard, has penned bios, produced and written liner notes for box sets and reissue CDs for over a thousand projects. He returned to London in 2009 where he has helped create SoulMusic.com Records as a leading reissue label.
The King of Pop exclusively on L’Uomo Vogue for Thriller’s twenty-fifth anniversary, the biggest selling album of all time
Source: L’Uomo Vogue
“I love you,” whispered the King to his future Queen, ending the long day events with such beautiful wisdom. Only then, the villagers started celebrating, dancing and shouting hundreds of cheers everywhere in the kingdom of Vogueland. The mighty King had finally found his companion: a beautiful, courageous and magical princess, who, after a long journey saw, all her dreams come true. Even the wizard was respectful and all thumbs up for the king’s choice, so much than with few words, he had sealed her fate: “A star is born”. Let me introduce myself, ladies and gentlemen, I am the storyteller, and my assignment is to show you step by step L’Uomo Vogue’s magical quest in photographing Michael Jackson (The King of Pop), thanks to Bruce Weber (the wizard) and fashion editor Rushka Bergman (the princess), all of it for the 25th Anniversary of the release of “Thriller”, the most successful and most sold album in the entire world.
September 14th 2007. From L.A. to New York, here I am. The doorman opens the door and Rushka Bergman – long satin jet-black hair, with 60’s old vintage glasses – walks out welcoming me with a strong east European accent: «How are you darling?». I want to know all that happened before my arrival to the Four Seasons Hotel, few minutes away from Michael Jackson. On august 22nd, Rushka talks to her agent, Marek, suggesting him the photo shoot with Michael Jackson, in time for the 25th anniversary release of “Thriller”. She prepares a letter for Jackson’s agent, Raymone K. Bain. We will see what happens next.
September 2nd. Broadway, right in front of the Angelika Theater. The phone rings. It’s Raymone confirming the photo shoot. Oh my god! Dreams do come true. Michael Jackson will be available on the 14,15, 16 of September. September 5th. Fortunately for us, Weber, booked solid for the next 6 months, is available for those three days. «I was nervous. He is like a god to me, then I thought, who better than him knows fashion photography. It was enough to calm me down. It’s up to the fashion editor to line up the photographer, hair&make up, talent & plan the shoot. Sometimes it is more important than the styling itself. «For someone like me, who knows Engels and Marx by heart, this is the easy part. Michael loves the Uomo Vogue look, elegant, classy, white shirts, black jackets. His favorite is Roberto Cavalli, they are great friends… but I like to mix & match and it is my job to speak my mind», says Rushka. September 6th-13th. Everybody is confirmed. «I was on the phone the whole week. I got 300 looks from 62 designers, 178 pairs of shoes. Michael loves a military coat, Burberry’s. I’ve got clothes from every designer in the world, Paris, London, New York, Milan. No one said no to us. I even got some incredible sequins shirts that weigh 8 pounds! The King of Pop had the best clothes in the planet!». September 14th, the Four Season Hotel. The day before the shoot, Rushka is nervous but focused. We are riding a cab. With us, 20 racks of clothes. We got everything, except fur, Michael doesn’t like them. We walk through the hotel, everybody stands still. We even passed the jeweler security checks, $ 2 million worth of diamonds! I see Michael for the very first time. He’s sexy. My heart is beating. After I finished, he says to me: Rushka I like everything you chose, please, help me getting dressed. Michael wears a small size, like a model. Dior is the perfect fit for him. All the others required minimum fitting.
“Now it’s my turn. I’ve got to satisfy Michael Jackson, the magazine, Weber, the designers, all without compromising my style, my choices,” says Rushka. Once back in her apartment she will focus on the looks for the shoot. But once in bed… it was hard to sleep all night, I kept waking up. Millions of thoughts in my head. At 8 a.m. I got up and went to the set. September 15th, 10 am, on the set. While Kabuki applies the make up and Bruce prepares everything else, Rushka starts dividing the clothes: jackets, pants, accessories, shoes. The first look is ultimately the cover look: Dior Homme suit, Prada shoes: everything black! Jacob & Co. necklaces. “It was a complete partnership while, I just gave some clothes and he put them on. I told him that this was the best I could get,” says Rushka. 3 p.m. Mozart music in the background. A positive energy came over the set, everyone was focused but happy at the same time. It’s like when you have lots of people who are trying to make something happen… if their energy is true, it will happened, don’t matter how long you wait for it. Sooner or later, the magic moment hits you. That’s when we put on “Thriller”, everybody started to dance and then… all of a sudden… he came in. “Hello.” Michael Jackson stepped in front of the camera, looked at us and dance showing off the moves that made him famous! It was miracle magic. After that, he never stopped. Professional, genius, he was him who took us by hand through the whole shoot. He let us in his world. And while Jackson was dancing, Bruce was shooting away. Another genius! 10 p.m. After five looks and hundreds of pictures, we finished the shoot. He got up and came to me: “I love you baby,” he said. Then he shook my hand and thanked everybody, and I mean everybody. We applauded him for what looked like an eternity.
September 16th. The day after Rushka feels like a different person. “I felt I learned something, like something happened in my life, something I can never forget. Like I knew what I was gonna do for the rest of my life not bad for a day’s work.”
TeenStar Magazine 1972: Michael’s Dating Advice
Q: Michael, your fans want to know your ideas about a first date!
Michael: On a first date, I like to bring a girl over to my house for a barbeque and a swim, especially on a warm summery evening! I know that some chicks get mad if you don’t take them somewhere fancy and spend a lot of money on them on a date, but I’m not interested in those kinds of girls. I want someone who I can feel comfortable with just sitting and talking to, or sharing a fun, casual time with! I’m not sayin’ that we wouldn’t ever go out. I love to go out to movies, concerts, and restaurants, but I think it’s important to know one another on a first date, and you can’t if you go to watch somethin’ all night!
Q: Are you a ‘gentleman’ on a date?
Michael: I never gave it much thought. Opening doors for girls is something that I just do automatically without thinking, like scratchin’ my head when it itches! When you’re taught all your life to do polite things for girls, you just can’t forget it! It’s second nature to you, like breathing or tapping your feet to music!
Q: How do you feel about kissing on a first date?
Michael: I can dig it! I think that if you dig a chick enough to ask her out, you’re crazy if you don’t want to kiss her. And, if she accepted the date, she likes you and probably wants to be kissed. So, I couldn’t think of any reason why you shouldn’t! I think I’d like to wait ‘till the end of the date before I kissed her, though! I think most girls are afraid you’re comin’ on too fast if you kiss them right away. But, if I could tell that chick I was with was just waitin’ to be kissed, I wouldn’t mess around wastin’ time! I’d take her in my arms, bend her face back to rest on the back of her seat, and slowly lean toward her, gazin’ into her eyes and talking in a slow, smooth voice. Then, I’d press my lips against hers, gently at first, then harder and harder until we’re both lost in a soul kiss of true love.
Q: How do you feel about honesty between a guy and a girl?
Michael: I think that bein’ honest with one another is important when you’re gettin’ serious with a chick, and don’t want to have her goin’ out with other guys. You have to be loyal and true to one another, or your love will never last! But, when you’re dating lots of chicks, and the chicks you date go with other guys, honesty isn’t so important. Don’t get me wrong, though! I don’t think lyin’ to someone is ever a good or a smart thing to do! But, as long as you haven’t made any promises to each other, you have the right to keep some things for yourself! For instance, if you’ve been dating a chick on and off and she dates other guys, and she asks you where you were when she phoned your house and didn’t get an answer, I don’t think it’s any of her business to know you were out with a different girl! I don’t think I have the right to pry into her life either!
Q: What would you do if you fell in love with a girl who was going steady with someone else?
Michael: Well, if I knew from the beginning that she was going with another guy, I probably wouldn’t date her, no matter how much I wanted to! But, if I didn’t know she was going steady, and I found out after I fell in love with her, I think I’d be pretty mad! Even if I thought that she didn’t do it to be cruel, and was just too scared to tell him her true feelin’s, I think I’d tell her in a kind, understanding way, to figure out what she was gonna do, and come back after she’d done it.
Q: Michael, what do you admire in others?
Michael: I admire people who are really dedicated to their music and to entertaining people! That’s why I admire Sammy Davis Jr, and hope to be like him when I grow up! He’s a super professional, who puts a spell over his audience like some kind of magician. Singin’ and dancin’ his heart out to give his audience a thrill they’ll never forget. It takes many years to get like that, and that’s my goal.
Q: What is the one thing you dislike in a person?
Michael: I guess it’s conceited, snobbish people that really bother me! Some people are very egotistical, and think they’re better than everyone else! They’re always talkin’ about themselves, and can’t listen to you when you’re trying to tell them something about yourself. They keep looking around to see if someone’s lookin’ at them, instead of looking directly at you, listening to what you’re sayin’! It’s like talking to a stone wall. When I meet a chick like that, I just turn off right away!
Q: Here’s a hard question – what one thing in your personality would you change if you could?
Michael: Well, my Mom says that I’m a procrastinator, which means that I put off things I don’t want to do. I know that it’s better to get things out of the way as soon as you can, like cleaning your room, or doing your chores but sometimes I have a hard time gettin’ around to them and keep putting them off!
Michael Jackson’s Tidbits in 1972
Fave colors: orange and red
Fave food: barbeque beef sandwiches (he’s changed just a bit)
Fave drink: milk
Fave desert: apple pie
Fave hobby: drawing
Fave animals: dogs and horses
Fave movie: The Great White Hope
Fave instrument: drums and piano
Fave group: The Supremes
Fave sports: swimming and basketball
Fave TV Show: Hawaii 5-0
Fave clothes: wild print shirts, caps, and bell bottom pants
Fave J5 Song: I’ll Be There
Fave Male Singers: Sammy Davis Jr and Lou Rawls
Fave Female Singer: Diana Ross
Fave saying: Right on!
Fave clothes for girls: Sheer lookin’ pant suits
Fave vacation spot: Yosemite National Park
Michael’s campaign promises if elected TeenStar President:
One promise I’ll make for you for sure is that if I win STAR Magazine’s Superstar of ‘72 election, I’m gonna be so happy that I’ll grab you wherever and whenever we meet, and give you a big kiss to thank you for bein’ my fan and for giving me your vote! I always like to show my fans that I dig them and appreciate all they’ve done for me by holdin’ their hand and lookin’ right in their eyes as I talk to them! When a chick takes the time and trouble to come see me, no matter where I am or how busy I am, I’m gonna do all I can so that when she leaves she’ll really feel that it was worth her while! Here are my promises:
Promise Number One: Whether or not I win the title Superstar of ‘72, I’m going to continue to work even harder at putting together an exciting show (like learning to play the piano!), so that when you come to see us sing and dance, you’ll remember our show all your life!
Promise Number Two: I promise that we’ll try to make our concert costumes real ‘baaad’ and foxy to keep you turned on! And I want you to send me any J-5 costume ideas you might have!
Promise Number Three: I promise to bring lots of personally autographed pictures of the J-5 on the road with me, so that when I see you in concert, you’ll have something to really remember us by!
Promise Number Four: To love and cherish each of my sweet-faced fans forever.
“I’m A Girl Watcher!”
Teen Beat 1972
Have you ever had that weird feeling that someone was staring at you—watching your every move? If you have, you might discover that the someone is none other than Michael Jackson!
He was leaning against the tree, whistling a nameless little tune. The sky—so blue that it hurt the eyes to stare up too long. But that was all right because he wasn’t looking at the sky. His eyes were busy elsewhere!
Michael grinned to himself. There was nothing that could top what he was doing right now! Standing here so casually, with his thumbs stuck through his belt loops, no one could guess that he was practicing an art.
Michael always says it with a smile but he’s serious when he calls girl watching ‘an art’!
When asked, he’ll explain that it takes a lot of practice to ‘eyeball chicks’ without being noticed. For one thing, Michael knows that it’s very rude to stare at a person openly. That’s why he’s perfected a technique that never gives him away.
Why did he go through all this trouble?
‘Because I really don’t want to offend anyone by watching them. Some people really get uptight if they know someone is looking at them. But I have this weakness—I love looking at girls!’
‘Just watching a girl can give me the best reason to smile. Girls are something very special and you got to treat them that way. That’s why I always say don’t stare right at a chick. She’ll begin to fidget, wondering if her hair’s messed up or if her make-up is smeared. It’s kind of like going to an art gallery to see beautiful paintings. If you look at a painting just the right way, you get the most out of it!’
It’s very normal for a young, healthy, and great looking guy like Michael to enjoy girl watching. Every guy his age has put in time standing around just enjoying the lovely view of girls passing by! But, some guys like to look at girls and then rate them according to the way she’s dressed or how pretty she is. Not Michael. He has his own reasons.
‘The guys who are doing the rating are missing the whole point. They’re so busy counting up the scores that they’re not looking—I mean really looking at the girls.’
‘The way a girl walks. You can tell a lot from the walk. If she’s happy or sad—if she’s proud of being a girl. And then, there are the chicks that look so helpless that I want to rush over to them and put my arms around them!’
‘And if I’m lucky enough to be close enough to see her face—well, that’s like your favourite dessert after a fine meal!’
‘The eyes—do they wink at you? What makes them shine like they do? Love? Or just happy at being alive?’
‘And the mouth. Is it smiling at some secret? Or is she just doing her best to spread a little happiness by smiling at every person she sees?’
Michael’s list goes on and on. He can spend hours on a windy day seeing how the wind plays with long hair, short hair, dark hair, light hair. Or he can stare at the girls’ hands. Does she hold them still when she sits? Or are they part of her communicating methods? Do her hands come alive in conversation—gesturing wildly to emphasize her words?
But mostly, Michael just wants the time to watch and see the whole picture—the whole person. He likes everybody but the girls are still, for him, ‘something very special!’
If he was one of those guys who rated the chicks he saw, Michael would be spending all his money on paper to add up the high scores for each girl. Because to him, each girl is a winner—simply by being a girl—by being someone special—by being the very girl he might be staring at this very moment—with a smile on his face.
Michael Jackson: Master Girl Watcher!
Explosive soul brothers from Indiana are hottest young group in entertainment history
The No. 1 singing group in the country today is neither the Beatles, the new Supremes, Jefferson Airplane nor the Mormon Tabernacle Choir—all popular, all established, all hit-makers—but rather a group of the young brothers who a year ago were virtually unknown.
They are the Jackson Five, who on the strength of three hit records have become the No. 1 group in the U. S. and Britain.
Ranging in ages from 10 to 19, the Five (Michael. Marlon, Jermaine, Tito and Jackie) have burst onto the musical scene the same way that they explode onstage: all fire and energy and with a seemingly unlimited amount of musical talent.
Discovered by Diana Ross during a visit to Gary, Ind. (she was there to do a benefit for black Mayor Richard Hatcher, for whom the boys also had performed), the group was signed by Miss Ross’ company, Motown, last August. They promptly showed their gratitude by becoming the famous recording firm’s No. 1 property, outstripping both the fabled Supremes and Motown’s second bananas, the Temptations.
The Jackson Five’s first recording early this year, “I Want You Back”, has sold more than three and a half million copies, and two subsequent releases, “A-B-C” and “The Love You Save”, have each sold more than two million. This accomplishment is all the more astounding considering that, although the boys are tremendously exciting in person, having an electrifying impact on teens and pre-teens, they have rarely been presented visually to their audiences. Their television and stage exposure has been comparatively minimal, although they are obviously now becoming more in demand for personal appearances. To date they have done only a handful of national TV shows, including two Ed Sullivan performances, the Andy Williams Show, American Bandstand and Hollywood Palace, and three major concert appearances: Philadelphia’s Convention Hall, the Cow Palace in San Francisco and the Forum in Los Angeles.
At the Forum, the Jackson Five set an entertainment attendance record, drawing 18,675 people, several hundred of whom charged the stage at the end of the evening, a phenomenon that has occurred at all their appearances and which has caused abrupt, unplanned endings of their shows and considerable concern for their safety.
Trained by their parents, Joe and Katherine Jackson, who both had minor entertainment careers at one time (he was a guitarist and songwriter, she was a clarinetist), the Jackson Five were strictly soul singers at first, popular around Gary, and ofttimes playing low-paying or expenses-only engagements in the Mid-west, New York, Philadelphia and Arizona.
(Originally, the entire family sang and played together at home. It included at that time the two Jackson girls, Maureen, now 20 and married, and Latoya, now 14, but neither was interested in following it professionally. There are also two younger children in the family: Randy, 8, and Janet, 3.)
The first professional performers were the three older boys: vocalist Jackie (whose real name is Sigmund Esco), now 19, and guitarists-singers Tito (Toriano), 16, and Jemaine, 14. They were later joined by Marlon, 11, and the youngster who is now emerging as the star of the group, Michael, 10. A singer and dancer with bold and innovative showmanship astounding in one so young, Michael is viewed by many as being a potential equivalent to Sammy Davis Jr. and James Brown.
Since joining Motown, the Jackson Five style has changed somewhat. They now consider themselves to be the foremost practitioners of a sound called “bubble-gum soul,” a mixture of pop and soul music in a subtle shading of lyrics and musical arrangement which Jackie proudly calls “the Jackson Five sound.” Specific details of the “sound,” says Jermaine, are “a secret; too many people might find out and start doing it.”
Although they are well on their way to becoming wealthy and famous, and are regarded with considerable awe by class-mates and other teenagers, the Jackson Five must pay a handsome price for all the glory. Perhaps the highest price of all is being extracted from Jackie and to a slightly lesser degree from Tito. At an age when most boys have acquired the freedom of parties and hanging out with friends, Jackie and Tito find themselves constantly linked with their younger brothers and tied closely to home.
“We have to have tight security,” their father, Joe, says solemn-ly. “With stars like these, you never know when somebody out there is waiting to get their hands on one of them.” (Jackson’s fear was no doubt heightened by the brief kidnapping of new Supremes singer Cindy Birdsong last winter. She escaped her abductor (he was later arrested and imprisoned) by leaping from a moving ear on a Los Angeles freeway.)
Such caution allows for limited and well-chaperoned trips to nearby parks and the like, but little else. This, coupled with the demands of school, rehearsals, recording sessions (they cannot go swimming for four days prior to one for fear of sore throats) and appearances means that the Jackson Five, for all their celebrity, enjoy a lot less day-to-day fun than the average teenager. “It’s necessary for it to be this way, but I don’t like the private life,” says Jackie. Tito nods in agreement.
But there are compensations. The boys now live with their family in a large house tucked neatly into the Hollywood hills, where they have their own swimming pool, archery range and miniature basketball court. All are athletic, and their father makes sure they have time for physical activity.
While the Five seem to come together smoothly and completely in their music, offstage they appear to be five typical teenage brothers, no more or no less tolerant of one another than any other family. Jackie and Tito have been known to refer to the younger boys as “big nose,” “liver lips,” and “big head” when they want to tease or when the other three have been particularly difficult.
Says father Joe: “They’ve gotten a little larger, their Afros are larger, they eat a little more, but otherwise they’re the same.” Others attribute this level-headedness to good home training. Remarked one observer: “They’re still the think you, yes ma’am, yes sir type. I don’t think it’s so much a tribute to them as to their parents.”
The Jackson father admits that his sons’ success is long-time dreams come true for him. He himself is a one-time musician—a former guitar player who played and wrote songs for a group in the Gary area called the Falcons. The demands of his steel mill job and his growing family cut short his career. But they did not stop him from dreaming that his sons would someday take up where he left off.
Neither of the five has any thought beyond the group’s career as an act: singing and singing together seems to be their thing. Jackie, tall and slender with fine athletic ability, finished high school last spring but does not intend to enter college this fall. If and when he decides to go, he will have to attend one of the colleges in the Los Angeles area in order to remain with the group.
Tito, a muscular young man who has a couple more years of high school, would be a grease monkey if he were not singing. “I like things mechanical,” he explains.
Jermaine, who is considered by Jackie to have the best voice in the group, would like to study music in college, which is still four years off. With a “B” average, he is the best student in the group, laughs quickly and easily and in the kitchen can toss up batches of enchiladas, greens, ham hocks, tacos, cornbread I’ lasagna.
Marlon appears to be the quietest of the Five. He is not old enough to express himself as forcefully as his older brothers, nor is he as irrepressible as young Michael. He plays easily with his younger brother, however, likes electronics and has been described as “the lovable one” of the Jackson Five. According Tito. both Marlon and Michael would grow up to “produce cartoons” if they did not sing, a reference to the amount of time the two youngsters spend wvatching television comics.
Michael Jackson, at 10, is the lead singer of this fastest-rising group in show business. He has unbelievable stage presence and daring and admits that much of what he does in front of an audience is spontaneous and unrehearsed. “Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m doing” Michael says.
The entire group has a flair for improvisation, and something they may do in an act one time may never be repeated, no matter how well it may have gone over with an audience, because the boys have simply responded to the excitement of the moment without being totally aware of w’hat they have done.
At any time. the Jackson Five may become the Jackson Six, or the Jackson Five Plus One, or the Jackson Five and Randy for the eight-year-old youngest male member of the family may be joning the group any day. “I was watching him in rehearsal yesterday,” said father Joe a few weeks ago, “and he looked like he’s about ready.”
Loco, the playful grinly German shepherd, ran across the basketball court to join the two young boys. Michael and Jermaine Jackson were walking behind their home in Encino, California, not far from Los Angeles. A Christmas tree had been put up the day before and could be seen sparkling through the window. Their mother and father always made everything beautiful at Christmas. But Michael was upset today.
“Christmas always makes me a little sad now,” Michael said to his brother. “I always remember the good friends we had to leave in Gary, Indiana. I wish we could see them more often. Especially at Christmas. We used to have so much fun together at Christmas.” “We can still call and talk to them on the telephone,” Jermaine said, rubbing Loco‘s fuzzy head. “But that’s not half as good as seeing them, is it?”
“I miss the snow in Gary, too,” Michael added. “We never have snow here in Encino, only the sunshine.” “Yeah, that’s true, Michael,” Jermaine said, throwing an arm over his little hrother’s shoulder. “But even though we miss our hometown friends, we have made millions of new friends through our music. Dad said we have to remember that.”
“You’re right.” Michael said. “I know what I’ll do. l’ll take some time to personally answer more of our fan mail. I want to thank our fans for liking us.” That’s a good idea I’ll helpyou,” Jermaine said. “And maybe Tito,” Marlon, Jackie and Randy can help us too.”
The boys found their brothers sittiug by the huge swimming pool. Tito, Marlon, Randy and Jackie were rehearsing so that they would be ready for their next concert tour. The Jackson Five always work hard on their music. Even though Christmas was only a few days away, the popular quintet knew that they could not quit practicing. Michael told his brothers what he had on his mind.
“Why don’t we write and tell our fans what we want to get for Christmas,” exclaimed young Randy, who joined the group in the summer of 1972 as bongo player. “That’s a good idea,” Tito agreed, putting his guitar in the case. “What do you want for Christmas, Michael?”
“A golf cart,” Michael shouted. “But you can’t play golf,” Tito said with a chuckle. “I know. I just want to drive around in it like a race car.” All the brothers laughed at Michael, who laughed too.
Michael always has a good sense of humor and likes practical jokes. At 14, the young teen star is small, but very strong and quick. When he is not practicing his music, he plays basketball and ping pong. He also enjoys watching television, especially science fiction and detective shows. “Christmas has changed a lot since I was a little boy,” said Jackie, 22, and the oldest member of the group. “I can remember when kids in the neighborhood looked forward to getting bicycles and other toys for Christmas. Now, people don’t look up to Santa Claus like they used to.”
“Yeah,” agreed Marlon. “And I guess it really doesn’t matter so much what you give or receive. The spirit you give in or receive in is what counts.” Marlon explains himself and reminds his famous brothers that a short and sincere letter from one of their fans means as much to them as one that is five or six pages long. The Jackson brothers nod in agreement.
Anyone who knows about The Jackson Five should know that the popular singing group sells many records and therefore, earns large sums of money. The brothers could easily afford to show their love for family and friends at Christmastime by spending their money on expensive gifts. But The Jackson Five know well enough that money can not buy friends. They also know that a warm and friendly smile can often better express their love for others than an expensive gift. Each of the Jackson brothers is very mature and enjoys meeting their fans. They enjoy doing benefit shows.
“One of their favorite benefits was a Christmas party for blind children last year. “It was great to be able to make so many kids really happy in a group small enough to see and talk to,” says Jermaine. More than 400 blind children from the Foundation for the Junior Blind attended the benefit party. At the end of the party, someone asked Michael what he thought about the event. Michael said quietly, “You know, really, this is what Christmas is all about giving!! ”
Jackie described the concert for the blind children as “one of their most rewarding performances we have ever given.” The children had learned the lyrics to some of the group’s hits and were prepared for the show, which for the most part, turned into a sing-a-long. At other parties for children who had no Christmas gifts, The Jackson Five dressed as Santa Clauses and passed out presents.”
Jackie, along with his brothers, thinks their fans are the most, important people in their lives. “Without them we’re nothing,” he says honestly. “They have made us famous and popular and we owe everything we are to them.” The Jackson brothers are all very close. There are no favorite brothers. “Each of the guys has something about him I like, so I can’t pick one over the rest,” says Tito. “Jermaine and Michael are great singers. Jackie and Marlon can really dance and then there are personal things they each mean to me.”
“When you’re like a family and grow up together,” explains quiet Marlon, “you know each other and that’s sort of like a safety chain for us.”
With the strong chain that holds the Jackson family together, the brothers will have a wonderful holiday this year.
What do we really know about this kid? He can sing. He can dance. He’s rich—almost $70 million, by the latest estimate—and getting richer every day. He loves Disney World, hates to talk to the press. He’s crazy about kids, doesn’t much trust grown-ups. (One of his all-time favorite adults is Thomas Edison, whom he calls “my man.”) From this we might infer a case of terminally delayed adolescence. We would be wrong. Michael handles his own affairs the way he handles Emmanuel Lewis: carefully and with great concern for future growth. Here’s a fact: From market studies conducted by ad agencies, we know that Michael’s fans worry about his health and happiness. He’s too thin, they say, and he doesn’t smile enough. Where’s the fun? What’s the point of having all that money and talent if life is just a series of obligations? Well, don’t worry. Michael has his own ideas of what’s fun and of how to get away (on a Honda ATC, right, at Caribou Ranch in Colorado)—from anything but the camera, which, as the photos on the next few pages will attest, clearly loves him.
Michael (filming a video with members of the Detroit Police Department) is a cop freak. Before a Madison Square Garden concert, he shook hands with some of the officers assigned to protect him. “I wish I had more time to spend with you,” he told them. “It must be exciting to be a policeman.”
Artfully arranged by the star on a dressing table in his Montreal hotel room are a few of Michael’s favorite things: a picture of the Three Stooges (top); a snapshot of and letter from a fan (bottom left); a scepter; assorted antique pins, medals and photos; his makeup kit, cream foundation, tape and scissors (right); his sunglasses, onstage belt and offstage tie, and, of course, the glove.
The fans make you, and they can break you, but there are times when it’s nice to go where even your most ardent admirers cannot follow. After the Denver concerts, Michael spent a week in Nederland, Colo. climbing every mountain (the highest: 10,000 feet) on the 75,000-acre Caribou Ranch of his friend Jim Guercio, who was once producer of the rock group Chicago.
A man of many conveyances, Michael is joined by his cook, Mani Khalsa, for a tour of Caribou Ranch, shares a laugh with Disney World’s carousel horses and flies the friendly skies of Orlando, Fla. in a hot-air balloon. As the balloon soared, Michael broke into a chorus of Up, Up, and Away and later helped collect a handful of fruit from the top of an orange tree.
In the beginning, before there was a Victory tour, there was James McBride, whose odyssey began back in early March during a story meeting in Managing Editor Pat Ryan’s office. McBride, with PEOPLE only six weeks, had discovered that Howard Bloom—who would emerge for a while as Victory tour PR director but was then merely PR man for all the Jackson brothers except Michael—was leaving from Newark airport on a 7:00 p.m. flight for L.A., less than an hour from the moment McBride burst into Ryan’s office with the news. Armed with $650 in loans from Assistant Managing Editor Jim Gaines and Ryan, McBride was hustled by cab to Newark. Bloom was surprised to hear from a ticket agent upon his arrival at the airport: “Your traveling companion has already arrived.” By the time the plane landed, Bloom had already begun to admire McBride’s persistence, intelligence and creativity, qualities that helped him spearhead our tour coverage, gain the confidence of the shy and cautious Jacksons and put together articles on Katherine Jackson (page 10) and Tito and Randy (page 66).
McBride found following the Victory entourage for seven months through 15 concert cities—not to mention side trips to L.A. to talk to Mrs. Jackson and an occasional stop in New York to change clothes and turn in his impressive expense accounts—a once-in-a-lifetime experience. “The highest point for me was not meeting Michael Jackson, but meeting his mother,” says McBride, one of 12 siblings. “After meeting her, I understood where Michael gets his magic from, or at least his voice. It almost sounds as if she’s singing when she talks. Beneath her outward shyness is a woman of fierce pride, resolve and character. She holds that family together. America needs a few more mothers like that.”
Ironically, a low point for McBride was the September night in Philadelphia that lightning canceled the concert—the only evening McBride’s mother, Ruth, could see the show. “That was a bummer,” says McBride, “because my mom is 63 and could still show Michael and Co. a dance step or two.”
Of course, a project of this magnitude—PEOPLE’s first issue devoted to one person, first single-advertiser issue (Ford Motor Co.), first use of interior color—requires major contributions from many. Picture Editor Maddy Miller, for example, traveled to eight different concert cities to examine an estimated 60,000 frames of film. Fortunately, Michael offered suggestions and encouragement—and aid that transcended mere advice. “He even helped set up a still life of his backstage dressing table [page 18],” says Miller, “which may inadvertently have provided the most intimate and revealing glimpse of Michael yet published.”
The word had spread. The people waited. Rock’s reigning monarch and the Boss—Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen—were about to meet for the first time, and 25 members and guests of the Jackson entourage had wedged into the reception room of Jackson’s suite in Philadelphia to gawk. It felt like history.
Springsteen, 35, entered first, wearing boots, faded jeans, a short-sleeved shirt rolled up to free his biceps, stubble on his chin and a red kerchief knotted around his neck, as if his body needed a tourniquet to cut off all that energy on nonworking days. Then came Jackson, 26, fresh from a postconcert shower. He wore a pink button-down shirt over a white T-shirt, dusty rose pants so long they accordioned at the bottom and blue slippers with his initials stitched in gold. He seemed like a friendly, rich little schoolboy curious to know something about the world of a working man.
A space cleared around them, and both remained standing.
“Hi,” said Jackson, extending his hand. “I just read a story about you in PEOPLE magazine. It was very good.”
“Oh, thanks,” grinned Springsteen. “I really enjoyed seeing your show tonight.”
“I hear you play long concerts. How long do you go?”
“Oh, about three hours.”
“How do you do it? Do you take a break?”
“Yeah, about a half hour. It works out pretty good, I guess.”
A camera clicked, eyes strained, ears tilted. Jackson’s eyes flitted about the room, never pausing long enough to see. He seemed anxious to think of another question, the way he seemed anxious onstage at the end of a song to sing another song. Springsteen sucked on an ice cube.
“Did you write that song Fire [sung by the Pointer Sisters]?” Jackson asked.
“Yeah, that was a quick one. Only took me about 10 minutes. But I don’t write when I’m on the road. Can you?”
“No,” said Jackson. “There’s too much going on.”
His hands fidgeted for a home, folding in front of him, then connecting behind him, then looping over the unused belt loops of his pants. A reggae song came on the television nearby, and he started a dance step, then stopped himself.
Couldn’t he simply ask Springsteen back into his empty bedroom so they could talk like two normal human beings, maybe discover that they both loved watching reruns of The Honeymooners? Or was the anxiety of intimacy perhaps greater for him than the anxiety of holding center stage?
During the lull Michael seemed to be looking for a prop. “My secretary, Shari, wants you for Christmas,” he said, putting his arm around her waist and pulling her between them.
“What’s wrong with Thanksgiving?” laughed Springsteen, as the three posed for Jackson’s personal photographer.
“Do you talk to people during your concerts?” Jackson asked. “I read that you do.”
“Yeah, I tell stories. People like that, I’ve learned. They like to hear your voice do something besides singing. They go wild when you just…talk.”
“Oh, I could never do that. It feels like people are learning something about you they shouldn’t know.”
“I kinda know what you mean—the songs are a protection. But I remember once I played for a Vietnam veterans’ benefit and I had to go onstage to introduce this guy who was a president or something, and I didn’t have my guitar. Man, I was shaking. I realized it was the first time in 15 years I’d been onstage without it, and I’ve never been so nervous in my life.”
Jackson’s voice grew softer, so no one could hear. “Do you like talking in front of all these people? It feels kind of strange.”
“Yeah, it is strange, isn’t it?”
Jackson took a deep breath, then took a small step toward the door. Springsteen’s boots remained planted. He broke the pause. “How long did you rehearse for this tour?” he asked.
“Oh, one or two months.”
“There’s so many cues in that show.”
“Yes, there is a lot of technology…. We’ll finish up in December. Then we’re going to do a movie.”
“Yeah, I heard about that—with Steven Spielberg?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact, I just spoke on the phone with him today,” Jackson said. “It’s not certain just what the movie will be yet, but it will be with him.”
Pause. Jackson’s hands rapped the rhythm of the reggae song on his thighs, his eyes hopping like sparrows.
“I read you go right to sleep after you perform. You can’t really do that, can you?” Jackson asked.
“No, I feel good after a concert, because I feel like I’ve worked hard. I stay up till about 4. What do you do?”
“I watch TV or read,” said Jackson. “I can’t go to sleep.”
“Don’t you ever go out?” Springsteen asked.
“I can’t. Too many people would bother me…. How did you decide to let PEOPLE magazine do that story on you?”
“I just rolled the dice,” said Springsteen, blowing on his fist and tossing imaginary dice.
“Oh,” said Jackson, shaking his head. “I could never trust anyone enough to do that.”
He took another fleeting scan of the room, his bank of questions emptied. “Well, I think I’m gonna slide on out now,” he said quietly. “It was real nice meeting you.” He thrust out his hand quickly and walked through the door to another part of the suite.
Springsteen lingered for a moment. A little earlier he had seen Jackson do things for more than an hour and a half onstage that appeared almost effortless. But this was something Springsteen seemed more familiar with, 15 minutes of a human being struggling.
“You know,” he said, spitting an ice cube back into his cup, “he’s just a real nice guy.”
Jermaine Jackson once said of his mother, Katherine: “She’s like E.F. Hutton. When she speaks, we listen.” In a rare interview, the gracious matriarch of America’s No. 1 rock family spoke with Assistant Editor James McBride—who listened closely—in the living room of her Encino, Calif. home, where two of her children, Michael and LaToya, still reside.
I’m told that my great-great-grandfather was a slave, and he used to sing in the church in Russell County, Alabama, where I was born. People told me that when the church windows were opened, you could hear my great-great-grandfather’s voice ringing out all over the valley. He had such a wonderful voice, they said, so powerful and so strong, it would just ring out over everybody else’s. And when I heard this, I said to myself, “Well, maybe it is in the blood.”
I love music. I always wanted to be in show business, but I knew I didn’t have what it takes. My children, they tell me, “Mother, you sing so well, you have such a beautiful voice,” but the music I sing is for their ears only. My sister Hattie and I were quite involved with music as youngsters. We were in the high school orchestra, the church’s junior band and the school choir, and we used to sing for spring festivals and events of that nature. Our favorite popular music was Country & Western, because the radio stations my father listened to played Suppertime Frolic and the Grand Ole Opry programs. In those days we didn’t have television.
I had no illusions about getting into the ousiness. Times were hard, and who ever heard of a black person getting anywhere by singing Country & Western—back in the ’40s? Ernest Tubb, Hank Snow, Hank Williams, comedian Minnie Pearl—this was the kind of entertainment my sister and I enjoyed. She died five years ago.
I left the South when I was 4 years old and grew up in East Chicago, Ind. My maiden name was Scruse, and most called me Katie. My husband and I married and moved to Gary in 1949, into a small house, and all the kids were born there. We stayed there until we moved to California in 1969. My husband worked in a steel mill and I was a part-time sales-clerk at Sears. He worked the swing shift, from 4 o’clock to midnight, so one of us was always at home with the children. Sometimes my mother would help out, and my eldest daughter, Rebbie.
We didn’t have much money, my husband and I, and raising nine children isn’t an easy task. We weren’t able to provide them with the material things that we would have liked to. For a while we had Rebbie and Jackie taking dance and piano lessons, and then as more children came, we couldn’t afford it. Later, with all those children around the house, we had to entertain them in some way, and music is what we had. We always had instruments around the house—a saxophone, a guitar, a trombone—and the kids would help themselves, or sometimes they would sing with us. My husband and I used to sing to ourselves even before the children were born, just sit in our living room on a cold winter night and sing harmony on Christmas carols and popular songs.
I didn’t have time to consider careers for my children other than show business, because they were all so young when they got started. Jackie, he could have been a professional athlete because he was so proficient in sports. As for the others, I’d considered college for them, with the idea of them maybe working their way through school while my husband and I helped out. But this opportunity came and we took it. Times were hard back then—my children remember—there were times when my husband was laid off and we were down to our last penny. Jackie, Jermaine and Tito shoveled snow in the wintertime; they had regular customers. We were all workers. In the old days I cooked what I had and the children loved everything. Oh, there were a couple who didn’t like greens. But they all loved soul food. That’s what we could afford, so that’s what we ate. Now, of course, it’s different, though soul food is still served in our home.
Back in Gary I never dreamed we would be doing this. Their careers have gone past my expectations, and I’m grateful for it. We’re just blessed and fortunate, and I always remind them of it. I tell them, “This is a blessing and it’s a job, just like anyone else’s job. Don’t let it go to your head, because you’re no more important than anyone else.” My children respect people, and I’m as proud of that as of anything they might do in their careers.
You have to remember that children are human too, no matter how young they are, and they have feelings too, no matter how young they are. And when you talk to a child carelessly, you do damage. I’ve seen parents say to their kids, “If you don’t do this, I’ll take my fist and…” and the child will get angry and defensive, because it’s human nature to defend yourself. You can’t use foul language with a child. You have to love your children. Show love.
I have my own views about certain things. When I was growing up, you never saw a teacher in a tavern, or a teacher at a public party where they would be seen by their students, because they wanted their students to respect them. So nowadays, if I hear of a teacher actually dating a student, or a student seeing a teacher in a tavern doing everything, it makes me think, “That teacher can’t teach that student, because the student can always say, ‘Well, I saw you doing this.’ “
I sometimes wonder about society. Are we adults and parents providing the right environment for our children? By that I mean, do we respect our children enough to set ourselves up as examples for them to live up to? It seems as if things are getting worse and worse. The Bible talks about that. Me, I try to serve God and I try to raise my children properly. That’s all I can give. I went to church as a child, later became a Jehovah’s Witness and studied the Bible at Kingdom Hall. My children grew up learning about God and the Bible. But this isn’t something we thrust on people. It’s a personal, family matter with us, and people often misconstrue it.
When we first brought our children out here, that was during the hippie movement, and there were many kids on drugs and quite a bit of craziness going on. I wasn’t afraid of my children becoming involved in drugs because I know how I raised them. My husband and I, we sat them down and we told them that if they respected themselves, respected their bodies and respected us, they wouldn’t get involved in drugs—and they didn’t.
In Indiana one thing that kept my boys from running around had nothing to do with me. It was just too cold to go outside. We still had to be careful. For example, Tito was coming home for lunch from junior high school one day, and a boy put a gun to his head and demanded a dime. Can you believe that? A dime. My husband took Tito back to school in the car, and the principal pulled out a desk drawer and showed it to my husband. It was full of guns and weapons. The principal explained that the police would periodically come to the school, check the lockers and gather up those weapons.
When I first came to California, I said to myself, “My goodness, I was happier when we were poor.” The boys were in the studio and on the road while I was home with Randy and the three girls, and it seemed like an empty house. I know that sounds funny. Four kids to some people are a lot of kids, but to me it wasn’t total. I love children. I had 10 children altogether. Marlon had a twin that died. He lived about 24 hours, about a day.
They’ve missed some things by being in show business, some childhood experiences. Michael and Marlon missed more than the rest. Michael started at age 5, and he missed a lot because once we moved out here he was in the studio constantly. During the Motown years, he was in the studio three times as much as his brothers because he did solo albums, then did lead vocals with the boys, then did background vocals with the boys. But Michael loves what he does, and if he didn’t, he’d retire right now.
The boys loved the Temptations when they were coming up. They loved Jackie Wilson, and they loved James Brown, especially the way he danced. They were all good dancers. I had polio when I was a year and a half, wore a brace part of my life, was on crutches part of my life, and was in and out of the hospital with operations on my foot until I was 16, so the dancing they didn’t learn from me.
I’m not a very public person. I get stage fright just sitting in the audience sometimes, afraid someone will call out my name and ask me to stand and wave. But the children were always anxious to run for the stage. Offstage they’re more like me. I remember their first talent show at Roosevelt High School in Gary. They were in grammar school and were competing against high school students. I was scared to death for them, but the boys won first place. They couldn’t wait to become professionals after that. We brought that trophy here to Los Angeles but it got lost somehow. Personally, I’m not so proud of that trophy as I am of the fact that my boys acted like gentlemen when they won. A trophy can be won or lost, but respect for yourself and for other people is something you can’t buy. It doesn’t matter how many records they sell; some things don’t have a price.
I remember when they did their Motown audition. I was in Gary at the time. They had played for Gladys Knight the previous year and she tried to take them to Motown. At the time Joseph said no because there were other record companies interested. Then they did a date at the Regal Theater in Chicago with Bobby Taylor and Bobby talked to my husband about it. What Joe and the boys were supposed to do was to leave Chicago and head for an appearance on The David Frost Show in New York. Instead, they headed for Detroit. I didn’t know where they were. Finally I called Chicago and was told, “No, Joe and the boys didn’t go to New York.”
I said, “Well, where are they?”
He said, “They went to Detroit.”
I said, “Detroit? You mean to tell me he gave up that television show just to go to Detroit? What for?”
He said, “Motown.”
I listen to my kids’ music. But I’m very busy and can only listen to the albums in the evening. Recently I bought a stack of their old Motown records, because the ones I had they somehow got away from me through relatives and the like. I just bought a tape of Rebbie’s new album, Centipede, and I’ve heard just about all of the Victory album in bits and pieces. I always buy their records. I don’t get on the phone and call the record company because it’s a bureaucracy and you have to talk to the right people, and they want to know who you are, and it’s simpler and faster to go out and buy it. My children don’t cart their records in here. That’s business, and in this home when we’re together we like to enjoy each other—like any other family.
It’s not fair for people to say Michael is doing this tour just for his brothers. I don’t know why that’s been said. The boys, they’re not new in this, and Michael’s never toured without them. Quite naturally, Michael’s more successful than they are, because he’s made more albums. But we’re family first here. People come up to me and say, “Well, how’s Michael?” or, “Are you Michael’s mother?” and I say, “I’m mother to all of them.”
Sometimes when people ask me, “Can I have your autograph?” I’ll say, “Why?” and they’ll say, “Well, you’re their mother and they’re famous and you’re important.” I can’t stop them from feeling this way, but I am no more important than the next person, and the fame and fortune of my children doesn’t make me or them more special than anyone else. If I had the opportunity to be a king or a president or a world-famous person known to thousands or millions of people, I wouldn’t want it. I am a mother and a Christian and I won’t ever be any other way.
I listen. And I learn. I’m 54 years old and I’m still learning. I look to the future with a smile and I pray. I’m so grateful that my children love me, and all I want is for them to lead a good, Christian life and to be happy. That’s all I want.
If ever you can’t remember how old you are—for whatever reason—take this simple test: Sit in the full-lotus position and focus on the word moonwalk. If the first image that comes to mind involves Buzz Aldrin galumphing across the lunar landscape, you’re probably over 25. If, however, moonwalk makes you think of Michael Jackson slidin’ and glidin’ backward across a stage—while his body creates the illusion that he’s walking forward—then, congratulations, you’re still a member of the Pepsi Generation. Ever since he first eased across the screen in his Blame It on the Boogie video, one small step for Michael Jackson has become one big fad among his younger faithful.
Yet as closely as Jackson may be identified with the delightfully illusory move, he didn’t invent the moonwalk—nor did Aldrin, for that matter. Victor Mercado (a/k/a Shaft of the Supreme Rockers, one of New York’s premier break-dance troupes) says he first saw someone doing the “back float [the street name for Jackson's moonwalk] years and years back. I learned it about four years ago. Jackson does it good. Not perfecto, but he’s okay.” Mura Dehn, a choreographer and filmmaker in her 80s, recalls dancers performing a similar move “in the Savoy Ballroom in the ’30s. But it was different—much simpler. Now they prolong it, exaggerate it, make it slower. It looks more spectacular.”
Especially when Jackson does it. Thin, taut, angular, he’s built to moonwalk—and his tailored lamé jackets don’t hurt, either. But moon-walking is not just for the glitterati. As Dehn says, “It’s spectacular—but it’s easy.”
If you want to learn how to moonwalk, you can take the space shuttle—or you can turn the page.
FLOW FOR IT!
SLIP ON YOUR LOAFERS and find yourself a patch of floor or some sidewalk. Get comfortable. Otherwise, says Shaft, “You could maybe mess up your toes.” Shake out your arms and loooooooosen up. Stand with your right foot slightly ahead of your left foot, right knee bent, weight on your right toes.
1. NOW SWITCH that weight to your left toes, bending your left knee.
2. MAINTAINING the pressure on your left toes, slide your right foot back. Drop the right heel when it passes the left foot, but keep on sliding until the right foot is comfortably behind you while still flat. Like it so far? Are you leaning forward? Are you moving backward? After all, we are working on an illusion here!
3. BEND your right knee so the weight shifts to the right toes.
4. SLIDE that left foot back, dropping your heel as it passes the right foot. Keep on pushing your left leg back until it’s behind you. Comfortable is the operative word here—we don’t want any shattered illusions.
IF YOU’RE BACK WHERE YOU STARTED we’re in business. Let’s do it one more time. Switch your weight onto the left toes and start pushing your right foot back again. Don’t forget to drop that heel. Nice and easy, there. All together now! Weight shifts to the right toes, push your left foot back, heel drops and keep on sliding. Got it? Of course not! Did you learn to walk on this planet in just four steps? Read, shift, push and slide until your body finally learns the steps.
IF YOU CAN READ THIS YOU’RE TOO CLOSE because you’re still holding the instructions. To arms! Try swinging them with each step, or scrunch up your shoulders, hug your sides and move just your hands. Now find yourself a mirror or a store window and try it. Reflect a moment: Did you ever see a moon walkin’? We think you’ve got it!
Next time the lament, “I haven’t a thing to wear,” comes to mind, consider the plight of Mary Jane Wenzel. As wardrobe mistress for the Jackson tour, it is her job to see that those words never pass the lips of Michael, his brothers and their six-man band. The 30-year-old Illinois native is in charge of organizing, cleaning, repairing and sometimes even selecting the costumes for each night’s performance. That’s about 50 outfits to keep ready to wear, not counting the shoes (Michael wears black dancing loafers, the others boots), belts, hats, gloves, socks (Michael’s are glitter, Randy’s white, the rest “everyday black”) and underwear (“nothing special”) that are also Wenzel’s responsibility.
Valued at $500,000, the clothes are the creation of Hollywood costumer Bill Whitten, whose goal for the Jacksons was to fashion “bright, distinctive clothes that could project to the last seat in the house.” It’s a trick he pulled off not with mirrors but with glass, chrome, Lurex, spandex, leather and, above all, beads.
It’s not exactly the kind of stuff you can just dump into a carrybag. “You have to be organized,” Wenzel says. An hour before showtime, her team—there are three other dressers—prepares the quick-change booth, a 20-foot-by-10-foot curtained area off stage right, stocked with the costumes and accessories for that evening’s performance. “When the brothers and the four dressers are in there at once,” she says, “it gets pretty crazy.”
After the performance the brothers return to their hotel where they deposit their clothes in an empty wardrobe trunk. The trunk is then ferried back to Wenzel, who scours the costumes for rips, missing beads, stains or smells, problems she usually handles herself. (The former dresser for Ann Miller in Sugar Babies in L.A., she learned to sew as a child from her mother, a seamstress.) Stains from makeup or perspiration are tackled with Picrin, a cleaning fluid that “evaporates quickly,” she says. For overall freshening, she washes the costumes in Woolite or Tide (bleach is used for whites), often in her hotel sink or bathtub. Wenzel has even solved the sticky problem of perspiration odor. “The really raunchy stuff we just rinse out,” she says. “The trick is getting to it quickly.
A bigger problem is the time it takes for some of the clothes to dry. For example, Randy’s ice vest, which is made from clear plastic cubes and stars sewn onto a cotton vest, is a three-day project. To expedite the process, Wenzel lays the clothes on portable metal racks over which she erects a canvas tent, and then lets a couple of fans do the job.
Happily for Wenzel, some of the more extravagant creations haven’t needed washing yet. Michael’s crystal jacket weighs 40 pounds when dry. Marlon’s light jacket, made of 49 flexible tubes filled with lights, would present a problem Wenzel isn’t sure how she’d tackle. “He isn’t in it long enough to get it dirty,” she says with relief, “but it does have to be recharged every night.”
Her intimacy with the costumes has made Wenzel very protective of them. She’s gotten used to seeing towels, wristbands and Michael’s Billie Jean hat flung to the masses but, she admits, “The night-Marlon threw his belt into the audience, I almost died.” After the show, Wenzel and three security guards retrieved the $1,000 item, which was ultimately returned to the delighted fan. “It was a misjudgment on my part,” admits Wenzel. “From now on, anything that goes into the audience stays in the audience.”
Probably only the President of the United States is as tightly protected as Michael Jackson—and even the President isn’t quite so hard to meet. To most these days, Jackson appears only sporadically, if at all—a wonderful mirage visible onstage for a few hours in that flashing, high-tech Oz: the Victory tour. But every so often an elevator operator, an adoring fan or a security agent has snared Michael, and sometimes lives change as a result. Leslie Robinette of Greenville, Tenn. credits her recovery from aplastic anemia to Michael’s visit in a Seattle hospital 11 years ago, when she was 6. “I’ll never forget it,” she says. “I just perked up right afterward and the medication started working.” Most encounters are less dramatic—a cop has his picture taken, a Dallas Cowboy gets a $50 bill autographed—but meeting Michael has a way of delighting almost anyone.
Like millions of fans, 14-year-old David Smithee’s most fervent wish was to meet Michael Jackson. He didn’t have much time: David was dying of cystic fibrosis. Last April the boy’s wish was answered. Through the Brass Ring Society, a Tulsa group dedicated to fulfilling the dreams of terminally ill children, Michael invited David to the Jackson family home in Encino.
At 2 p.m. on April 9, Karen Smithee, a divorcée, drove her only child past the fans at the singer’s gate. “We smiled and waved just like celebrities,” she says. Michael met them in the living room, “so shy he couldn’t look at us.” Then Karen left them alone. Michael took the boy to the kitchen for lunch (David had a roast beef sandwich), then to the backyard to meet Mr. Tibbs, the ram, and Louis, the Ilama, after which Michael’s staff videotaped an interview with David. “Michael made David feel like a star in his own right,” Karen says. Jackson and his young visitor played video games (David won twice) and watched a movie in the private theater. “There David was, sitting in Michael’s jacket, looking happier than I had ever seen him,” Karen recalls. Michael gave her son his red leather jacket from the Beat It video and the black-sequined glove he had worn to the American Music Awards. “He said the glove had special magic, that I should never let anyone else wear it,” David proudly told his mother.
Seven weeks later David Smithee died. In July Karen learned that the dedications on the Victory album included Katherine Jackson, Michael’s mother, the late Marvin Gaye—and David.
At 2:30 early one morning in May, Hector Carmona, 26, was working the night shift as an elevator operator at New York’s elegant Helmsley Palace Hotel when a guest—one Michael Jackson—appeared asking for a tour. Hector squired Jackson around for three hours and “he was especially impressed with the Gold Room, a music room with a beautiful harp.” He was also impressed with Carmona’s uniform. “He said, ‘Oh, what a nice jacket. But you ought to wear one glove. Two is too much.’ He said he’d like to have a jacket for his concerts. We’re about the same size, 36 small.” Carmona retrieved one of his spares the next morning. “It had just come from the cleaners. I fixed it nice, with the captain’s braid on the shoulders. He liked it very much. He wore it to the White House.” Now Hector Carmona is a celebrity too. “I showed a picture of me with Mr. Jackson to a couple of girls. They screamed, ‘This is the closest we’ll get to Michael. Let’s kiss him!’ Michael Jackson fever. It’s crazy, huh?”
A typical morning finds Mani Khalsa in a local store shopping for asparagus, watermelon, peas, red peppers, cabbage, avocado, spaghetti, unsalted cheese and corn. As personal chef to Michael, Khalsa, 25, a Michigan-bred Sikh, spends five hours a day cooking for the slim vegetarian (the brothers have their own chef). “It’s impossible to cook for one,” Khalsa grumbles. “Even a pepper is too big.” His efforts are appreciated, though. “Sweet-potato pie is the hit of this tour,” he beams. “Everywhere you turn they ask for it.” And Michael’s favorite? “Enchiladas with cheese, tortillas and hot sauce. Every day his mother asks, ‘You still eatin’ those enchiladas?’ “
Ben Brown was 23 and president of Steeltown Records in Gary, Ind. when he heard a tape by a local group called the Jackson 5 in late 1967. In 1968 (six months before they moved to Motown) Brown produced and released their first record, Big Boy—”Michael did falsetto, a 9-year-old singing ‘I’m a big boy now, looking for a girl to love’ “—and watched the kids when Joe Jackson was away. “Michael was so small he would stand up on the seat of the car to look out,” Brown recalls. “People would throw money on to the stage at concerts. Sometimes he had so much money in his pockets he could hardly hold his pants up.”
Mike Hirsh has a different perspective on Michael Jackson. During every show he is underneath the huge stage, cranking hydraulic lifts, firing up smoke machines and raising the lid that enables Michael to ascend into view. “My title is stage manager. I am like the fixer,” says the 32-year-old Hirsh, who at 6’10″, 240 pounds goes by the nickname “Lurch.” “If I have a problem I go in the dressing room and say, ‘Michael, let’s have a chitchat.’ The kid wants perfection.” Even so, Hirsh’s crew has fun. “Every night Michael looks down through the drum riser on Shake Your Body. We’re down there dancing, doing the same thing they’re doing onstage. I’ve seen him have to run to the microphone because he was so into watching us that he forgot to go back and sing.”
Ladonna Jones, 11, knew her father’s $6.75-an-hour job as a produce worker wouldn’t swing the $30 price of a ticket to the Dallas concert. So she started saving her money, babysitting and doing chores, only to discover that tickets had to be purchased in blocks of four. A disappointed Ladonna wrote an open letter to Jackson and it was printed in the Dallas Morning News. A few weeks later the policy had been changed—partly, Michael explained over the airwaves, due to a letter from “a girl in Texas named Ladonna Jones.” An overjoyed Ladonna was sent two free tickets by the tour sponsor, Pepsi, and invited to meet her hero. “He told me he really liked my shirt. It had his picture on it. He asked me if I had good seats. They didn’t turn out to be very good, but it was fun anyway.”
If anyone knows Jackson musically, it is guitarist David Williams, who has accompanied him for five years. “I can play exactly the way he hears something,” boasts Williams, 34, a top L.A. session musician who has played with the Temptations and Marvin Gaye. After Jackson heard him in 1979, Williams spent many hours in Michael’s home studio on Off the Wall, then toured with him in 1981 and still finds his talent “unbelievable.” Says Williams, “Michael’s ideas are fresh. He hears things, sounds, that are coming from someplace else.”
Tough guys like Michael Jackson too. In July, several members of the Dallas Cowboys asked Chris Arnold, sports director of radio station K 104 FM, to arrange a meeting with the singer. So Arnold took Robert Newhouse, Tony Hill, Dennis Thurman and Dextor Clinkscale to a concert. When the jocks joined Michael backstage, Jackson recognized safety Clinkscale, 25, who had posed for a local paper dressed as Michael on the Thriller album (left) a year earlier. “Hey, that was you,” Michael said, grinning. “I thought it was me at first. Where did you get the clothes?” Near the end of the half-hour meeting, Arnold, lacking any other paper, pulled out a dollar for Jackson to autograph. Clinkscale had the same problem, but Cowboy salaries being what they are, he got Michael to sign a $50 bill.
It was sheer curiosity that drew Alice Heap, 83, and her kid sister, Elizabeth, 77, to a Jackson concert in Knoxville, Tenn. A schoolteacher for 45 years, Alice is interested in the young. When reporter Marti Levary told Jackson security agents that two elderly ladies were in the audience, the women were invited backstage. “I see you have your earplugs in,” a costumed man impishly told Alice. “Who are you?” Alice Heap asked, understandably confused by the scene. “I’m Michael Jackson,” her bemused host said, squeezing her hand, which she later used to applaud enthusiastically.
Back in 1969, when Michael was 10, Motown sent security agent Bill Bray, a 30-year veteran of the LAPD, to Richmond, Calif. to guard the Jackson 5 during a promotional trip. Bray has been the family’s security chief ever since and has seen to the mammoth protection necessitated by the Victory tour, even going undercover occasionally to follow a lead. During these 16 years, Bray has seen Michael grow from child star to superstar, at a price. “He had to be sheltered and he sacrificed what a youth of his age would normally do,” says Bray with the kind of emotion you’d expect from a family member. “The things he missed along the line he’s seen that others behind him won’t miss. But the Jacksons got what they wanted—”They always had the idea that they would become superstars”—and it hasn’t been all work. “We’ve had fun,” Bray says. “My God, we’ve had fun. I love ‘em, you understand. In a way, I grew up with ‘em.”
Police officer Allan Booze, 37, was doing paperwork at the stationhouse in Pontiac, Mich. last August when an officer yelled that Michael Jackson had arrived in the garage. Jackson was there to make “a small home video” with about 30 officers, and Booze, who had seen the Detroit concert on duty, grabbed his Polaroid and ran downstairs. “There he was, sitting in the back of a van looking like a scared little weasel,” he recalls. “I thought, ‘This can’t be the same guy that does all that crap up on the stage!’ He looked like he might start crying. Some people might say he looks like a fag, but I would never say that. He looked frail, almost sickly. But he had a real big hand—I’m a big guy, but when we shook hands his went all the way around mine.
After they chatted a bit, Jackson seemed to single out Booze as an ally, and a bodyguard told him that Michael had a phobia about getting killed. “He said once Michael was mobbed by fans,” Booze recalls. “The police got him out. Now he goes out of his way for them.” Before the filming Booze asked if he and some others could have their pictures taken with Jackson. “The more we took, the more he seemed to loosen up,” says Booze. “It was like me and him are old buddies. At the end he motioned me over with a big, long finger. ‘Thank the guys for me’, he said. ‘I enjoyed myself.’ “
“C’mon, Uncle Tookie, c’mon down!” implored Michael Jackson from below.
Tookie giggled nervously; already he missed his cigar. Hadn’t he known that being Jackson’s manager meant being a barracuda in a three-piece suit one moment and a babe in bathing trunks the next? Hadn’t he left the 9-to-5 world because he yearned for new challenges?
“TOO-KIE, TOO-KIE,” Michael chanted impatiently.
Dileo repositioned his rump on the raft, closed his eyes, grabbed the sides of the chute with his two beefy arms and launched himself downward. The first half was exhilarating, but suddenly Uncle Tookie was hydroplaning, half in control, half out. It was kind of like managing Michael Jackson during the Victory tour.
His arms flailed, his ears caught Michael’s cackle, his body pitched headfirst toward the pool below. Geronimoooooooo…
9 a.m.: Dileo awakens in Philadelphia. It is not a typical morning on the Jackson tour. No 12-year-old girl has roused him from four hours’ sleep with a phone call or rap on the door, looking for Michael.
Ever since he agreed to manage Jackson last March, life has been one long red alert. He is the man at the neck of the funnel, the point through which everyone and everything trying to reach Jackson has to flow. And the deeper Jackson burrows into his own private world, the more he needs a man like Dileo to confront ours.
Another odd thing about this morning: His wife Linda, 36, is in the room. Since he took the job, she and the two kids had become strangers; the children had even refused to speak to him on the phone. He could tell Michael felt badly about it. Every few days the singer would ask, “Did you call home, Uncle Tookie? Did you tell your kids you love them today?”
Finally Dileo invited both children to Jacksonville, Fla. the third weekend of the tour, and the little varmints nearly drove him up a wall, sliding across the dance floor in Michael’s suite, knocking over a vase, starting pillow fights. Little Dominick even told two security guards they were fired.
Tookie—he has been called Tookie ever since he was a small boy, but no one can remember why—believes strongly in two things: eating and family. Each Sunday, before his recent move to Los Angeles, there were long, laugh-filled meals with all the relatives back in Wellsville, Ohio, near Pittsburgh, and each week-night aunts and uncles and nephews and nieces gathered on his back porch. “But after Jacksonville,” says his wife, “no more kids on the tour for Tookie.”
He gets out of bed, yanks a pink polo shirt over that big belly, steps into baggy black-felt designer warm-up pants and monogrammed blue-suede slippers, fetches his Porsche sunglasses and fires up a $3 cigar. “I pride myself on breaking every budget,” he says. He makes a few phone calls just to get going, then heads downstairs with his wife for a hearty breakfast.
11:30 a.m.! A Disney World hotel cap tugged over his slick wavy hair, Dileo walks down the Franklin Plaza Hotel’s secret back route to the vans. “Whew,” he jokes, going past the kitchen garbage cans, “smells like my last 10 dates.”
“Let’s went,” he barks at the driver, and spends the drive to Philadelphia’s JFK Stadium—where he must check on preparations for this night’s concert—doing imitations of Richard Pryor: “I knew yo’ mama when she was a ‘ho.’ ” Dileo’s bodyguard, an old friend named Vince Ionada from the Italian neighborhood in Pittsburgh where Tookie’s dad owned a tavern and restaurant, chuckles in the back seat. Dileo decided even he needed a bodyguard as the death threats mounted during the tour.
At the stadium he checks sight lines, the Jacksons’ dressing room, security precautions, claps crew members on the back to boost morale. “You’re ugly too,” he greets each one with a grin.
“I look at everything as being funny,” he says. Sometimes he tells Jackson his zipper’s down, or that he has just ordered fried chicken for him from room service, or sings Born to Run so off-key Michael runs for cover. Jackson does not quite seem a guffaw kind of guy, but the day he hired Dileo, he revealed his shrewdness. The cigar-smoking, steak-eating, wine-drinking, blunt-speaking little man was just the balancing weight the shy, skinny vegetarian needed. The more extreme Michael became, the more he coveted his converse in Dileo.
Negotiations between them had dragged on for eight months before Dileo agreed to terms in March. “I was surprised at how tough a businessman Mike was, and then I figured it out,” says the 37-year-old manager. “He demanded I work with him exclusively the first part of the contract; he knew the tour and a movie were coming up. He had the contract written so the guaranteed part was enough to interest me, and the incentive part was enough to keep me motivated.”
Jackson dreams big; Tookie craves big dreams. Last fall, after his marketing strategy had helped whip four singles from Thriller into the Top 5 and he’d introduced 12 acts in one year as vice-president of CBS’ Epic Records, he searched his mind for a new challenge. “Hey,” he thought, “why not get an audience with the Pope?” Four months of finagling later, he was chatting with John Paul II in the Vatican.
“Now Michael’s going to do a movie after the tour,” he says, “and it’s going to be the best and biggest-grossing movie with the best-selling sound track ever. My plan is to keep him as popular and in demand as anyone can be.”
Does he worry about what effect that might have on Jackson, the person?
“If he didn’t want it, he’d say, ‘Cool it.’ It’s too late, anyway. He won’t have a normal life even if I stop. I can’t worry about him living in the capsule—I’m in the capsule with him. I don’t think he’s lonely…but he does call me 82 times a day.”
Sometimes Jackson wanders into Dileo’s room while Tookie’s working and goes through all his mail, or wanders into his L.A. office and goes through every drawer. Sometimes the two just sit and watch reruns of The Honeymooners.
1:30 p.m.: Dileo uses the wooden doorstop he carries in his suitcase to wedge his hotel room door open. Fat Pat and Spider and Skeets and The Rat—the old pals he kisses on the cheek and eats five-hour meals with back in Pittsburgh—aren’t around, but he still wants folks in the entourage to mosey on in. “Some people collect stray cats; I collect stray people,” he says.
He digs a 20-foot telephone wire from his bag and attaches it to the hotel phone so he can pace. “I’m smarter than the average bear,” he crows. “We’re rolling now, brother, we’re in action. Hey, Vince, go check for my messages.” In New York he left his room for four hours to see Jackson perform. There were 187 messages when he returned.
He sets games of Monopoly and checkers on the bureau “in case Mike gets bored and wants to play.”
“Underneath all that macho Frank’s very sensitive, and I think that’s why he and Mike are so good together,” says Linda Dileo. A few weeks after they married in 1976, Dileo slept in a hospital waiting room for a month while his wife slept in a bed next to her dying mother.
The phone in his hotel room is ringing incessantly now. The red message light blinks crazily. Old friends call for tickets. A man calls wanting to book Jackson in Trinidad. Funny, but not nearly as good as the man who called recently with a plan to have Jackson do a live concert in five years—from outer space. No fantasy gets dismissed. “Call me in five years,” Dileo told the man.
Cheese steaks from Pat’s King of Steaks in South Philly are brought into the room. He wolfs his so fast he’s hiccuping halfway through. His wife allows the phone to ring twice before seizing it. “Get that,” he growls. God, how he’d love to plop by the pool, but now a three-hour meeting with promoter Chuck Sullivan and the Jacksons’ lawyers looms.
Another call. “I object. I’m ready to make a stand,” he snaps into the phone. “Meet me right now in Nance’s room.”
“This is trouble,” he says as he waddles from the room, leaving two badly chewed stogies in his wake.
10:55 p.m.: More than 100,000 hands sway in the air to I’ll Be There at JFK Stadium. One of them bears a gold ring and a cigar. It is the 26th time he’s seen the concert, but the little boy in Dileo that Jackson has helped coax back to the surface is not easy to muffle. He likes the idea of a second childhood; the first one was snipped at age 16 when his dad died on an operating table without any medical insurance. Suddenly the kid who wanted to be mayor of Pittsburgh found himself busing restaurant tables to help settle debts that would not be paid off for four years.
Instead of college he got a job selling records for a small company, and his flair with people sent him on an upward ricochet through the recording industry. Then, six years ago, as he attended the funeral of his wife’s grandmother, his home burned down. It was underinsured, and he was financially flattened again.
He took a job at Epic Records, worked longer and partied harder than anyone, had limo drivers wait in the driveway while he grabbed three hours’ sleep at his Connecticut home, and became the vice-president who brainstormed the more than 37-million album sales of Thriller. Jackson couldn’t help but notice.
“This proves America works,” Dileo says sincerely. “But if I get really wealthy from this, I only want one luxury—a real snobby English valet, one who gets irritated every time I light a cigar or put on the wrong outfit or drop a rigatoni on the floor, just so I can laugh at him.”
In the middle of the concert’s last song he shepherds his wife, his sister-in-law’s family and five other guests from their seats to a van waiting behind the stage. Tookie revels in the Godfather role, caretaker of every need in the cosmos.
The brothers rush offstage and into their van, and the police-escorted motorcade races for the exit. A car blocks their path, and during the delay fans identify Michael and storm his van, pounding on the windows. “Look at that!” says Dileo, his hand reaching for a door handle. The bottleneck breaks, the vans zip free. “I’ll look into that,” he says gravely. “I’ll follow that up with security tonight.
Out of nowhere, on the ride back, he says, “You know, it kills me when people say those things about Michael, about him being gay or having surgery on his eyes and cheekbones, or that he’s taking female hormones. I’m really considering suing. Frankie Valli sang higher for 20 years, and they never said anything about him.” There is a child’s naïveté, a How can they do this to us? tone to his voice that is as surprising in him as is the shrewdness in Michael.
12:15 a.m.: Tookie goes to Jackson’s suite to make sure everything’s okay. Michael reaches into Dileo’s pocket, removes $4,000, tosses it into the bathtub and starts to turn on the water. Tookie tackles him on the bed to get the money back. It is almost as much fun as the time Michael tossed Tookie’s cash out a car window, or the day he coiled his pet boa constrictor, Muscles, around Dileo and watched him flee Michael’s mansion in horror.
Midnight to 3 a.m. is the time Dileo and Jackson usually spend discussing business and receiving special guests. One night in Dallas, it was a 9-year-old boy who had a brain tumor and spinal cancer, rushed up to Michael’s room on a stretcher. Dileo turned away in tears when the boy weakly reached up with a gloved hand to touch his idol, but then Tookie once more saw in Jackson the sinew beneath the satin. “Don’t feel sad, don’t cry,” he told Dileo. “This is why I’m here.”
On this night there is no pathos in Jackson’s suite, only laughter. Two more boxes of cheese steaks materialize. Tookie squats like Yogi Berra over a low bureau and polishes off one thick with onions.
“Oh, I can’t believe all this; I wish this day was starting all over,” sighs his sister-in-law, Patti, still exhilarated after the evening’s events.
“Hey, every day is like this,” Dileo says with wonderful nonchalance, as he comes out of his catcher’s crouch to grab a second huge sandwich.
He grins and annihilates it. Hey, it’s all part of the job. Whenever he accidentally loses a few pounds, the skinny vegetarian tells him he prefers him to stay fat.
Little Richard Penniman and Michael Jackson were born 750 miles and 26 years apart. One suffered the pain of physical deformity and an outrageous vision that could not be contained in conventional sound or behavior. The other possessed physical charms that bordered on beauty, as well as a discipline and a clarity of purpose that brought him acclaim in early childhood.
And yet these two lives are woven together by a thread of music spun through time. Little Richard was the new direction; Michael Jackson is where it led.
Their people, a struggling minority, were torn between wanting to belong and needing to be unique, and the friction created a musical earthquake. The first innovation, back in the ’20s, had been the emergence of jazz, then rhythm and blues, rock ‘n’ roll and soul.
Each new black music form was so infectious the white majority adopted it, then placed one of its own on the throne. Paul Whiteman became jazz king, Benny Goodman swing king, Elvis Presley and the Beatles and Mick Jagger the holy trinity of rock ‘n’ roll. Little Richard, the hero of these rock kings, would be arrested because of how he looked and have his songs re-recorded by white singers who grew rich from the royalties.
Two decades passed. Little Richard became a gospel singer under evangelists’ tents and Michael Jackson became a phenomenon: the first black musician to be king of his era.
Little Richard remembers a day when Michael Jackson, walking the streets in disguise, recognized the ’50s idol and hugged him. After all, there could not have been a Michael Jackson if there had not been a Little Richard.
On the evening of August 10, Michael Jackson was appearing before 45,000 people in Knoxville, Tenn. Little Richard Penniman, 51, was appearing on the Praise the Lord TV talk show in the same city before a studio audience of 75.
Richard: “I was a drug addict, and He changed me.”
Richard: “I was into homosexuality, and He changed me.”
Host: “Oh, my God!”
Richard: “I was into rock ‘n’ roll, and He changed me.”
Host: “Praise Jesus!”
Richard: “I miss some of the things, I miss some of the money. The day before yesterday, my old manager offered me $100,000 to tour in West Germany with Chuck Berry and Fats Domino. He says I can sing about God. But when Chuck Berry be done with Maybellene and Johnny B. Goode, there’ll be no room for God. When Fats be done with Blueberry Hill, there’ll be no mountain for Jesus.”
Host: “Richard, that’s beautiful.”
Richard: “And if Chuck or Fats tore the house down, something would rise in me. I’d have to play Tutti Frutti and steal the show. There’s something still in me, so the Lord has told me to run and hide.”
Host: “If we go back, it’s like a dog returning to eat his vomit.”
Richard: “I don’t wanna go back!”
Host: “You’re not gonna go back!”
In the mid-’70s, for the second time in his career, Little Richard quit rock to preach the word of God. As a performer, he would spend some nights reading from the Bible and some joining in orgies. Once, while a 40-piece orchestra waited in a recording studio to cut a gospel album, he was netted in a police raid on homosexuals and voyeurs in a bus station rest room. All his life he has swayed between the sacred and the profane; in his finest moments as a performer he fused the two and the crowd experienced a unity not entirely unlike religion.
The private war tormented him and made him an artist. When he sees Jackson run his fingers over his shoulder and down the length of his arm during a slow song, grinding his hips with a contained but smoking sensuality, he senses that in a quieter but equally powerful way the spiritual and the physical are staging a tug-of-war within the 26-year-old Jehovah’s Witness.
“It’s something that’s put in the black man; I don’t know where he would be if not for his belief in the Lord,” says Little Richard. “There was always a force inside me saying ‘Go!’ and a force inside saying ‘Stop!’ I would love it while I was onstage—what people get in sex, I got there. I wanted to set up my kitchen, bed and bathroom onstage and live there.
“But when the show was over I would feel depressed. Churches felt my music was from hell. It will hit Michael too. He’s a religious guy. His conviction will become too strong to sing rock ‘n’ roll.”
Both singers came up in big, religious families that loved to sing together. In Little Richard’s section of Macon, Ga. everyone ate meat loaf because no one had teeth, and lyrics such as “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child could leap like brushfire from kitchen window to kitchen window until the whole street was harmonizing. His family formed the Penniman Singers and competed in gospel-singing battles with other groups.
But something inside Richard was thumping to get out, and by the mid-’50s he was dancing on piano tops and belting out songs that would help change a generation: Tutti Frutti, Long Tall Sally, Jenny Jenny, Lucille and Slippin’ and Slidin’. Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger sat at stageside during his England concerts, in awe, and he sat at a piano in Hamburg, Germany going, “Ooooh! Ooooh!” until young Paul got it just right.
Whites flocked to his concerts the way they would in more massive numbers to Michael Jackson’s in 1984. In some Little Richard concerts, it would be whites only in the orchestra and blacks only in the balconies, but then the frenzy of his music would wrench everyone out of his seat and cause spontaneous integration. White teens spun his records when their parents weren’t home and hid them when they returned.
Both artists tapped something deep inside mainstream America. Was it just coincidence that to achieve this crossover, both had blurred their sexuality? “If I was dressed looking like a girl, the white man figured I wouldn’t touch his girl,” says Richard. “They were still nervous about my band, though.”
He fined his musicians $75 if he saw them walk out of a club with a white girl. He let his hair reach for the sky, curled it and crusted it with lye. He painted his eyebrows, caked his face with Pancake 31 makeup, studded his outfits with sequins and little mirrors. He mesmerized audiences into forgetting that his right leg was shorter than the left. Still, in the ’50s, there was no way to forget he was black. Promoters paid him after concerts with guns on the table; police in El Paso harassed him for long hair. There were no Sunset Boulevard billboards or Pepsi ads for Richard Penniman.
White record companies even swiped the songs right off his lips; Pat Boone remade Richard’s hits so white radio stations would play them. In exasperation, he sang Long Tall Sally at break-tongue speed so that Boone would be calling for oxygen by the time Uncle John duckedbackinthealley.
Little Richard made only half a penny per record sold, compared with the three-to-five-cent cut white stars were getting, and made nothing in royalties when his hits were used by other singers and in movies. His contract with Specialty Records was typical of the kind that black rockers were stuck with in those days; to protest meant to be labeled a smart-ass nigger, not to mention an unemployed singer. “I was a dumb black kid and my mama had 12 kids and my daddy was dead,” says Little Richard. “I wanted to help them, so I took whatever was offered. Rock ‘n’ roll was an exit for me.”
Unlike Jackson, he needed chaos in his concert, he needed to splash the smooth smug sea America was sailing. He shoved his musicians in mid-riff off 15-foot stages into the crowd. He pounded pianos so hard he snapped 80-gauge piano strings. He hurled so many items of his clothing into the audience he once finished a show in a bathrobe. Jackson would win the masses by confirming traditional values; Little Richard ransacked them.
He took oxygen between sets in Denver to keep revving it faster, and when his life lagged behind his music, he took cocaine and heroin. Then, in 1975, his brother Tony died. Richard had promised to lend him a few hundred dollars, but had postponed his visit to participate in a cocaine-and-sex party. The death sent him reeling back toward God.
Today he lives comfortably, but not lavishly, as a bachelor in a lavender and black house in Riverside, Calif. He makes appearances to preach and sing, sometimes for whatever the collection plate will bear, sometimes for a few thousand dollars. He still sweats just sitting still in an air-conditioned room but he swears he will never rock ‘n’ roll again.
When he looks at Michael Jackson, he sees what might have been. “I feel happy for him, but I feel cheated,” he says. “I want the money that should be mine, to use it for God.”
But when he listens to Michael Jackson, he realizes they each received 50-50 shares of something else. “We both didn’t know who to trust. People screamed when they saw us, but some of them are the same ones who will cut your throat. I know what he feels after a concert. You come back from singing for 20,000 people and sit in a big empty hotel suite with four security guards and someone has to stand outside the bathroom so you can use the toilet. Michael tells me I shouldn’t walk on the streets. ‘Somebody can kill you, Richard,’ he says.”
There is talk of a movie to follow The Life and Times of Little Richard (Harmony Books, $15.95), the book that was recently published. Eddie Murphy and Prince have been discussed for the role, but he wants Michael Jackson to play Little Richard.
It’s 8:45 p.m. There are 45,000 people out there who have paid $30 and waited hours to see lasers and fireworks and moonwalks and Michael Jackson. There are 45,000 combing the crowd for celebrities, leafing through $10 programs and commuting to the bathroom from nervous excitement. Forty-five thousand who did not come to see Chris Bliss.
He walks onstage anyway, bearing nothing but a few balls. For 25 minutes he tosses them in the air. No one kills him. When you are the warm-up act for Michael Jackson, that is a sweeter four-word blurb than any critic could ever utter.
Bliss, 31, synchronizes the movement of the balls to the beat of pop music, so that the balls take on the appearance of pulsing musical notes. His bad notes bounce on the floor. Often on the Jackson tour he hears applause. Usually it is for Yoko Ono or Eddie Van Halen or some other celebrity strolling to his or her seat. “I am the classic underdog,” Bliss says. “I think I’ve done a good job against the longest possible odds.
The Jacksons needed something to fill the twilight hours preceding their spectacle. Another band, requiring a second set of equipment and sound checks, would have further complicated the most complicated outdoor show ever. Comedians in football stadiums full of 4-to-74-year-olds are not very funny.
How about a juggler, suggested tour coordinator Larry Larson, who had seen Bliss open for Kenny Loggins. He contacted Bliss—working at the World’s Fair in New Orleans, where for two months he continued to perform every night the Jacksons did not—and the juggler express-mailed a video of himself that Willie Nelson had funded. Two days before the tour opened in Kansas City, he was granted a one-weekend trial. “You may get booed off the stage,” Larson warned.
Nothing, Bliss figured, could be as terrifying as the night he opened for Joan Jett in an Aberdeen, N.J. club two years ago, where the shoulder-to-shoulder mob had been drinking for three hours and chanting, “Joan Jett! Joan Jett!” Bottles and cans had whizzed by his ears as he tried to concentrate on the balls overhead. “So I took ‘em on,” said Bliss. “I flashed ‘em a few obscene gestures while I was juggling, and then I took the mike and questioned in which part of their anatomy their brains were lodged. They were fine after that.”
On opening night for the Jacksons in K.C., he walked onto the stage to a stadium full of apathy. He could not use his $30,000 lighting system or juggle balls of fire because it could interfere with the elaborate Jackson set. He had no time to spice the act with his comedy routine. He knew no one among the huge Jackson stage crew. “I felt like some guy who’d just wandered on the stage,” he said. “I felt naked. I just tried to bury myself in the universe of the music.”
In each of his next two shows, he cut his hand on the mirror-glass balls he juggles to the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Blood sprayed with each hand movement, spattering his face and making his hands so sticky the balls nearly stuck to them. But he won modest applause and the Jacksons’ approval to continue throughout the tour. Boos have been infrequent, and occasionally he has received rhythmic applause during his act.
He cannot afford to stay in the Jacksons’ hotels and has never even seen Michael except onstage. It is a far cry from his touring days with the rock group Asia, when he drove through Amsterdam with the group as they selected prostitutes from the showcase windows for 50 guilders each.
“What makes this tour so interesting behind the scenes is that it’s so dull,” he says. “A roadie hasn’t tossed a TV set out of a window yet. And the crowds are so respectful. If they were drunk, or the typical rock animals, I’d be in trouble. But these people come for a celebration.
“If I let myself think how big this is, it would blow my mind. But someday I’ll pinch myself and say, ‘You did that tour, you did the tour.’ All I want is for people to go home and say, ‘You know, the juggler was good.”
Right away you know this is no ordinary rock extravaganza. Consider the entrance of the brothers. The Kreetons—a gang of furry thugs out of a bad dream by Jim Henson—have been dispatched, strobes are flashing, smoke is billowing toward the heavens and the Jacksons are rising slowly from the bowels of the stage. Suddenly the pre-tour distractions—canceled dates, family feuds, who’s making what off whom—are forgotten. From left, Marlon, Michael and Randy wanna be startin’ somethin’.
Michael’s offstage shyness is legendary. But once the shades come off, so do the inhibitions. “Being onstage is magic,” he has said. “You feel the energy all over your body.” Randy, Jermaine and Marlon (right) energize Michael (left) right down to his talented toes.
The Victory concerts are as much a feast for the imagination as for the ears. Michael makes way for a masked Randy (top left), is laid low during Working Day and Night (top right) and then swallowed by an electronic spider (bottom right) prior to being resurrected in the show’s most spectacular illusion. Tito, Marlon, Michael, Randy and Jermaine shake their bodies in synch (bottom left). A pumped-up Randy reenacts the Excalibur myth (center).
Sirens. Screaming, wailing police sirens in a car caravan, tearing down North Philadelphia’s Broad Street, bouncing through potholes and red stoplights in the black section of town. The soul brothers glance up from their early September street-corner musings with studied suspicion as the convoy whips past—three cop cars, two city vehicles and two vans with darkened windows. The caravan screeches to a halt at the rear entrance of a local hospital, where about 200 people are assembled behind police barricades. The van doors fly open and a gaggle of security guards tumble out, followed by Tito and Randy Jackson. The crowd howls.
“Oh, yeah! Oh, yeah, man! Yo, Tito! Randy! Wait! I know you! Oh, man, please!” Randy is whisked inside, but Tito pauses momentarily, reaching into the crowd of black faces to touch the outstretched hand of a little girl. The throng surges forward. Hands grab at his arms, his jacket, his face—time to go. “Bye,” and he dashes inside.
Upstairs they’ve got a room packed with handicapped kids. This is one of those set-up deals: the mayor, the hospital director, posters, balloons, nurses, doctors—the intensive care unit is probably half deserted—publicity people rushing about and shouting orders in their moment of glory, janitors laughing, mayoral flacks flacking, and the TV guys with cameras and lights shoving everybody around, threatening to kick ass and take names if you don’t move outta the way. Forget the kids. This is an adult show.
For the normally shy Jackson brothers, whose offstage homespun politeness is reflected in the soft Midwestern twangs they still carry from their humble Gary, Ind. beginnings, this is akin to walking up to a brown cardboard box with the word bomb scrawled on it. Which is why Randy, the shyest Jackson this side of Michael, is sticking close to big bro Tito, the family diplomat, while the director and mayor drone on and on about what great guys they are and how nice it is of them to take time out of their busy tour schedule to visit and blah, blah, blah.
Tito, modest, cool, with an easygoing manner and infectious who-me? grin, handles the fuss graciously. He’s had enough kudos in his life—performing for the Queen of England, Congressional commendations for “contributions to American youth,” working the hugest tour ever—so this is no big deal. He came for the kids. When the preaching is done and church is out, Tito has a grand old time, squatting and talking baseball to a youngster in an arm cast. Suddenly a woman pushes her way through the crowd, zeroes in on Tito, thrusts paper and pen under his nose and says, “Please.” Tito signs. “Thank you,” she says. “My pleasure,” Tito says. The woman lingers. “And say hi to Michael for me,” she says. “I sure will,” he says.
Michael. Always Michael. Michael this, Michael that. After 15 years of fighting their way through the music business and, not incidentally, selling 100 million records as a group, the Jackson brothers find themselves written off as a footnote to their sequined sibling. It has been said that “Michael is only doing this tour for his brothers,” thereby reducing the entire extravaganza to an extended benefit for five millionaires. Needless to say, Jackie, Tito, Marlon, Jermaine and Randy don’t see it like that. “Michael’s done well and I’m proud of him,” says Tito. “I’ve said that before. But I would like to see the brothers get more credit. The Beatles, I loved their music and you can’t take anything away from them. But they were 20 years ago. The Jacksons were 15 years ago and are still here today.” But the question remains for the other brothers: Is there life after the Victory tour—and if so, in what form?
If the Jackson family is destined to produce another Michael, it figures to be Randy. Hot onstage, shy and reclusive off, the handsome 22-year-old offers the same dynamic—innocence and experience—as his charismatic older brother. And like Michael, he was born yearning for the spotlight. Jack Nance, longtime family friend and a member of the Jacksons’ management team, remembers Randy, then 5, watching the Jackson 5 loading into a van in front of their Encino, Calif. home for a gig in some faraway place. Tears were streaming down his face. “He wanted so much to be with his brothers,” Nance says.
Something else Randy shares with Michael is talent. In fact Ragu, as Marlon affectionately calls him, is the most versatile musician of the Jackson clan, a trained percussionist and pianist, as apt to play a sweeping phrase of Chopin at his keyboard as a lick of the platinum Shake Your Body, which he co-wrote, at 13, with Michael. More recently, he produced, arranged, played several instruments and sang lead on his Victory album contribution One More Chance, then stepped into Jackie’s singing and dancing role on short notice when Jackie injured a knee just two weeks before the Victory tour hit the road. Onstage, Randy is a performer consumed, raw, sexual, arrogant, high-steppin’ with Marlon and Michael, tossing his T-shirt into the crowd after Michael rips it off, baring his muscular chest. Offstage, he’s likely to be a good deal more subdued.
“There’s only one Michael,” Randy says in a whispery alto reminiscent of His Hotness, and also hard to discern over the engine’s whine on yet another commercial plane en route to yet another stop on the Tour To End All Tours. “I just want to be me. I have so many things to do musically.” He pats his chest, laughing. “Lady songs,” he says. “All those lady songs I’ve been holding in my heart for so long. I call it mood music. Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Chopin, that’s mood music. Burt Bacharach, that’s mood music. There’s a lot of feeling in that work.”
He shifts in his seat, concluding what for him is a rather long speech. Ever the recluse, his moods—and silences—run deep. One day he seems bright, buoyant and playful, the next a delicate flower that has closed its petals. He often plays his portable piano into the night in his candlelit hotel room. One senses that the complicated self-discovery process of a young man who grew up in the shadow of his older brothers is not yet complete. “I enjoy being alone,” he says. “Spending time with one person, I enjoy that too, but being alone gives me a chance to reflect in a different, peaceful way.”
There is much to reflect about. He nearly lost his legs when he crashed his Mercedes-Benz on a rain-slicked Hollywood street in 1980, then took a year to recover, progressing from a wheelchair to a walker to a cane. He still experiences occasional pain in his feet and ankles, though he works out regularly. Perhaps because of this experience, his feelings toward the ill and infirm actually transcend the good-guy image the group works to project. Tour publicists looking for a willing Jackson to meet with reporters usually don’t even bother to ask Randy, whose policy on interviews nearly equals that of the Silent One, but he’s a cinch for a hospital visit. “I was in the hospital for six months,” he told doctors at a New York City cancer center he visited to meet terminally ill children. “I know what it feels like to be on your back.”
The windup, the pitch and the swing sends a long, arching fly ball into the glare of Southern California sunlight and deep to left center field. Tarryl Jackson, 9, churns past first base head down, pumps on to second and slides in feet first. Father Tito watches his Little Leaguer and grunts, “A bad slide, he could hurt himself that way.” Then, unable to contain his fatherly pride as the youngster with the golden brown mane brushes himself off and grins at his pop from the summit of second base, Tito adds, “Next year he’ll be big enough to hit one out.
For this Jackson, the Victory tour is merely a means to a calmer end. At 31, high times for Tito is rolling down Ventura Boulevard in his burgundy Rolls-Royce littered with bats, gloves, games and drawings—not to mention his kids Tarryl, Taj, 11, little Tito, 6, and wife Delores (Dee-Dee), 29—perpetually en route to yet another Little League baseball game.
Tito and Dee-Dee met at the beginning of the 1969 school year at L.A.’s Fairfax High when she was 14, newly arrived from Harlem to stay with West Coast relatives, and he was 15, fresh from Gary on the Motown fast track. “It’s friendship,” says Dee-Dee of their 12-year marriage. “We’ve known each other a long time, half our lives.”
Home plate for this Jackson team is an elegantly furnished Spanish-style home atop a hill that looks down on their mother’s home. Just minutes away from his brothers’ residences, Tito’s place comes equipped with the usual conveniences—a small moat, a baseball batting cage for the youngsters and a recording studio under construction in the basement. “A lot of the nails in there I hammered myself, Tito says. An antique car buff, he owns a refurbished 1957 Edsel, a 1959 Mercedes-Benz, two fully reconstructed Model A’s and a rather indistinguishable heap of metal junk piled behind his garage. “This is a Model A,” he claims, standing over the wreckage. “I’m telling you, man, this is a Model A. I know my Model A’s. Talk to me in three years.” He once took a three-day drive from L.A. to Yoder, Colo. just to buy a Model A body. “When I saw it, I didn’t want it, but my wife said, ‘Take it. You didn’t drive all the way out here just to look at a body.’ “
In his living room is a wall full of platinum records, and above the fireplace mantel are individual portraits of the Jackson 5 with Afros, reminders of a time when the brothers were boys and times were different. Run the film of Tito’s life backwards, and the picture is of a boy in Gary, shoveling snow from driveways with Jermaine and Jackie for a fiver split three ways, changing Randy’s diapers, playing soccer with Michael, shooting hoops with his best friends—his brothers—behind Harlem’s Apollo Theatre between sets, watching Michael grow, bit by bit, into the biggest rock star the world has ever known. But Tito’s not one to look back. There’s no point: Things will never be the same now. “We never go anywhere by looking at the past,” says Tito. “There’s time enough for that.”
By now just about everyone knows that Michael Jackson is a devoted member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Whenever his schedule permits, he conscientiously performs the door-to-door canvassing by which Witnesses spread the message of their faith. To safeguard his anonymity he has even had to resort to disguises—conservative suits, dark hats, bushy mustaches. Still, his high-voltage profile seems at odds with the strict tenets of his sect, which, despite its proselytizing fervor, has traditionally avoided calling attention to itself. That is why inquiries about Michael Jackson—inspired recently by reports that one faction had embraced him as the Archangel Michael come to deliver the people—are politely turned aside at the society’s headquarters in Brooklyn, N. Y. The understandable result: public confusion over who the Jehovah’s Witnesses are and what their faith is all about.
Among those who have studied the group is Dewey D. Wallace Jr., professor of religion at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The 48-year-old Presbyterian discussed the place of the Witnesses in America’s religious life with reporter Jim Castelli.
What was the origin of the Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Their beginnings go back to a man named Charles Taze Russell who, in the period after the Civil War, became interested in the question of biblical prophecy. He picked up on some of the themes of the Adventist movements of the 1840s and ’50s and added his own ideas to create the movement that, in 1931, came to be called the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
How do the Witnesses differ from other Christian denominations?
They do not accept some of the principal Christian doctrines—for example, the doctrine of the Trinity held by Catholics, Protestants and the Eastern Orthodox. But mainly theirs is a millenarian denomination whose concern is with biblical prophecy and the Second Coming of Christ.
What do the Witnesses predict?
They believe that the world as it now exists will soon end, and it will be followed by a paradise on earth over which Christ—assisted by the 144,000 truest saints of God through the centuries—will rule from heaven for 1,000 years. Of course, only those who are Jehovah’s Witnesses will survive.
Didn’t the Witnesses predict that the end of the world would occur in 1975?
Yes, but like other millenarian groups, they have occasionally set particular dates that are subsequently revised and reinterpreted. Typically, they tend to think that they were correct about the date but misunderstood exactly what was to take place on that precise day. Charles Taze Russell, for example, thought that the earthly paradise would begin in 1914.
Who oversees the Witnesses?
At the top is the board of directors of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the group’s legal name. The president, who sets doctrine, is chosen by the board. Then there are full-time regional servants and zone servants. All members are supposed to spread the faith in an activity they refer to as “publishing.” Ten to 15 hours a week is considered proper time to devote to publishing, a term that includes door-to-door proselytizing as well as distributing religious pamphlets, newspapers, Bibles and magazines—particularly the bimonthly Awake!, which is used to encourage converts.
Is each member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses then a minister?
Witnesses do not have a professional clergy but maintain that all who actively publish the faith are ministers, so in a sense they have a lay ministry. They have little by way of liturgy. They do practice baptism by immersion, and they conduct a ceremony something like the Lord’s Supper once a year on Passover Eve.
What are their views on such social issues as divorce and abortion?
Their views are strong. They permit divorce only for reasons of adultery, and they forbid abortion. They also consider homosexuality sinful, and condemn drugs and gambling. Members are forbidden to smoke, laugh at dirty jokes, use profanity and hunt or fish for sport.
Don’t they also refuse to salute the flag or serve in the military?
Yes. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not give their loyalty to any earthly kingdom, but to the Coming of Christ. They feel that saluting the flag is tantamount to idolatry. That doesn’t mean that they’re not hardworking, loyal citizens. As for military service, they point out that the clergy is exempt and that all Witnesses—or at least those who publish—are ministers. But during the draft many went to prison.
What happens when Witnesses fail to live up to their obligations?
They can be “disfellowshipped,” which means, as much as possible, they cannot associate with other Witnesses, including their own families. Members, of course, are free to leave the society, but if they do, they suffer the same isolation.
Is the number of Witnesses growing?
Since the 1940s, membership in the society has increased dramatically. Worldwide there are probably more than two million active members. In the U.S. there are approximately 750,000. The Witnesses do not release official figures on demographics, but I’ve seen estimates that 20 to 30 percent of the membership is black.
What’s behind their growth?
I think it’s part of a pattern. Small, militant groups with clear-cut values and rigidly prescribed rules of behavior are growing rapidly at this time. Certainly their claim that those who convert will take part in an earthly paradise must appeal to many.
You don’t look at Michael Jackson, as you do at so many recently acclaimed stars, and ask: “How did he make it?” What you really want to know is: “Why did it take him so long?” Twenty years was the term of Michael Jackson’s exacting apprenticeship to fame. For 20 years he rode atop the Jackson 5 like a manic little jockey, whipping on a horse that runs hard but will never win the Derby. Though the other Jacksons were a bit lame, little Michael developed into the fleetest figure on the pop scene. As a rhythm singer, a jittery-skittery, gulp-gasp soul shouter, going round and round in the whirligig of a disco tune, he was thrilling. Yet after all his gold and platinum records, his tours, concerts, TV specials and the odd shot in The Wiz, Michael Jackson remained one of those great successes that fall just short of the ultimate POW! Then he cut Thriller. Instantly he was hailed as the new pop hero, the heir of Sinatra, Elvis and the Beatles, the focus of a phenomenon. What happened?
When pop archivists page back to find the moment of Michael Jackson’s epiphany as a superstar, they will pin the date as March 2, 1983. On that day, the first Michael Jackson video was telecast on MTV to 10 million American homes on a daily basis. If Michael Jackson had been your typical white rock star, this little bit of film would not have made history. Though rock rhymes with video today, the rockers are ill-matched with their favorite promo medium. Rock is a rhetoric for the stage, not the tube. It’s rough ‘n’ ready. Guitars brandished like guns. Mikes twirled like bull-roarers. In a huge coliseum, before a clamoring crowd, the posturings of the rockers make a strong impression. They look like Roman gladiators saluting the mob before they die. On the tube, rock looks stagy, if not downright foolish. That’s why so many rock videos are dizzy kaleidoscopes or surrealistic psychodramas or cartoons that reduce the star to a clown. You have to do something to conceal the fact that the klutzes can’t move!
Michael Jackson, by contrast, is the slickest figure on the screen since Fred Astaire. Heir to the great tradition of black stage and street dance, he’s got Bojangles in his bones. Michael is so graceful he can transmute a ghetto handslap into a gesture of kinesthetic beauty. He’s so fast, he makes your eyes blur. His charge is so electro-ecstatic that he flickers with a weird vibratory aura. His most remarkable achievement is to make his body talk. In his dance soliloquies, the motions of his mind are projected like T.S. Eliot’s “magic lantern that threw the nerves in patterns on a screen.”
“Magic” is Michael Jackson’s favorite word. It’s the word he uses to describe the effect he achieves as well as how he feels when he’s getting off onstage. His brilliant videos don’t just put him on his feet—they envelop him in a magical atmosphere. When he steps on a paving stone, it glows with Midas gold. When he flips a coin into a beggar’s cup, the decrepit old bum is handsomely rejuvenated. When a private eye tries to capture Michael’s image with a camera, the film reveals only vacancy. This magical aura constitutes the essence of Jackson’s appeal, for unlike all the famous youth heroes that have preceded him, his glamour is not based on sex appeal nor is his primary constituency comprised of adolescents engaged in the rites of spring.
Michael Jackson is the first hero of a new youth culture that is essentially Kiddie Kulture. His is the innocent world of boys and girls who have not yet reached the age of puberty. Never before have kids of this age exercised a commanding influence upon pop culture. Never before have they been the primary pop market. The first unmistakable sign of their ascendancy was the astonishing boom in video games, which blew the whole entertainment industry sideways. Video games were regarded with alarm by the parental generation, just as every spontaneous combustion of youth culture has been viewed since the days of the jitterbug. But the games represented a new and more positive orientation in the relationship between the juvenile public and its favorite pastime. Playing the games meant talking back to the screen in a manner unique to this generation. By manipulating their controls with skill, the kids abolished the passiveness that always characterized the TV habit and replaced this lethargy with an entirely new form of participatory culture. When the kids saw Michael on their screens, instead of being hypnotized by him, they set about cracking his complex movement code—more sophisticated than anything Elvis or Mick Jagger ever imagined. They figured out all his bops and bams, until they could “do” Michael Jackson: that is, become themselves little white-gloved, red-jacketed superstars.
During this same period, the kids got a new fix on black culture, the inspiration for both Elvis and the Beatles but long since relegated to the ghetto and black radio by the white rockers. The kids see the ghetto as a garishly colored, percussively accented cartoon world peopled by wildly animated break dancers, graffiti writers, rap masters and scritch-scratch deejays. It’s a kid’s world, just as break dancing and graffiti writing is kid’s stuff. The juvenile star of the latest break-dance movie—La Ron A. Smith of Body Rock, who plays a character named Magick—is so little and immature that he makes Michael Jackson look like Adolphe Menjou. Indeed, you could say that Jackson’s ultimate function in relation to this culture is not so much to embody it as to transfigure it, lending it a glamour that is sorely lacking in the streets.
The favorite entertainment of Kiddie Kulture is not something that the children do or create: It is that old Hollywood staple, the horror movie, updated with astounding special effects and aimed straight at the mind and sensibilities of an 11-year-old. For those who decry this steady diet of blood and guts, there is the sop of the sci-fi fairy tale, featuring a weird creature from outer space—where all boys and girls will someday get to go. If you had to locate the new Kiddie Kulture on a pair of coordinates, you could tag one cross hair E.T., the other Gremlins. At the point where the hairs intersect, you would locate Michael Jackson, who narrated the story of E.T. for MCA Records in 1982 (breaking into tears on every take) before he shot his own private-stock horror movie, the video for Thriller.
How much the Jackson generation owes to its McLuhanesque marriage with the electronic media and how ill it fits into the traditional venues and rituals of rock and soul was demonstrated this past summer by the Jacksons’ Victory tour. The big traveling show was designed to surpass by far the transcontinental rock arena tour, pioneered by the Beatles 20 years ago and replicated many times since by the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, Bob Dylan, Elton John, David Bowie and so on down to Bruce Springsteen. The idea was to skim the rich cream off Michaelmania while at the same time repaying the public by blowing its mind. As Michael Jackson told Interview in October 1982: “I love to create magic—to put something together that’s so unusual, so unexpected that it blows people’s heads off. Something ahead of the times. Five steps ahead of what people are thinking. So people see it and say, ‘Whoa! I wasn’t expecting that!’ ” Sad to say, the magic of Victory proved to be old hat with no rabbits.
Confronted with the challenge of entertaining 40,000 souls a night, Michael Jackson—who had been so innovative with his videos—fell back on the clichés of American mass entertainment. The towering, skeletal stage was Studio 54. The silly monsters were Disneyland and/or Star Wars. The pyrotechnics were heavy metal rock. The Jacksons’ elaborately contrived entrance—five macho figures camping atop a gleaming metal platform rising through the stage floor—was straight out of a TV ad for the latest motorcycle.
Instead of commanding this Barnumesque spectacle like an Elvis or James Brown—either standing in splendid isolation like a human statue or performing startling feats of force with pugilistic bravado—Michael darted about the cluttered stage like Puck. Nor did his antics rouse the passions that characterized Beatlemania, because the Jackson audience was not myriads of hysterical girls locked into one frothing fit but a family audience, comprising the little kids, their older brothers and sisters plus Mom and Dad. This audience would have been a lot happier seated comfortably in a movie house instead of standing all night balanced precariously on rickety folding chairs. And Michael would have showed to far better advantage upon the screen, from which he could have beamed down his magic spell on all his willing subjects.
No matter how many millions Victory will earn, the tour is a bad move for Michael Jackson, another manifestation of that mysterious force in him that, despite his childhood precocity, has retarded his development as a grown-up. At 26, Michael Jackson looks and often acts like a boy of 17. He clings to things he should have outgrown in his art as well as in his life. His Victory was Pyrrhic: It set him back in the distracting company of his less-talented brothers, back on the stage instead of in the media, back to the jukebox tunes of his youth. All his famous predecessors behaved very differently at this point in their careers.
Frank Sinatra, Elvis and the Beatles jumped into pictures and achieved with their initial efforts—From Here to Eternity, Love Me Tender and A Hard Day’s Night—their best work on the screen. Recently Prince repeated this same love-at-first-sight pattern by scoring big with a privately financed picture that had little going for it apart from the star’s beguiling self-infatuation. What makes Michael Jackson’s foot-dragging all the harder to understand is his professed preference for film as opposed to stage performance. When asked by Interview whether he wanted to work on Broadway, Jackson replied: “What I hate about Broadway [is] I feel I’m giving a whole lot for nothing. I like to capture things and hold them there and share them with the whole world.” Harboring that attitude, how must he have felt during the Victory tour?
Michael Jackson’s development cannot be measured by precedents established by other pop stars. His career is unique. The star we know today is only of recent birth. His current success would have been unthinkable were it not for the transformation in his appearance a couple of years ago. Prior to his metamorphosis at the hands of the plastic surgeon, the cosmetician and the hairdresser, Michael Jackson was a cute but ordinary-looking black kid with a broad, fleshy nose, a dark complexion and a beehive Afro. There was no glamour in his face, none of that exotic East Indian beauty that now makes him a rival to famous fashion models. Michael Jackson’s face you could have found in any high school yearbook.
Then came the Pygmalion operation. It was a stroke of genius and it instanced what is the pop star’s most important talent—his knack of inventing himself. None of the great stars before Michael Jackson had to venture so far or take such a risk to fashion their famous faces. Elvis achieved his look with little more than Royal Crown Pomade and eye shadow. John and Paul discovered their famous coifs on a weekend visit to Paris. What mattered in each case was not how good-looking but how compelling the face was as a contemporary icon. Reading Michael Jackson’s face, you find none of the sneering, leering sexual aggressiveness of Elvis nor the head-shaking mod-moppet innocence of the Fab Four. Michael Jackson’s mien is that of a young oriental prince who is also a swami, with those haunting eyes that appear to be seeing things we can’t see. Michael Jackson is from another world, a world of magical adventure like that of princes in storybooks.
To have fashioned this extraordinary face out of such ordinary materials is the sign of an artist who is guided by a vision. What Michael Jackson got from his audacious act of self-authorship was a face that matched his soul and thus enabled him to become all soul. His face became the perfect instrument of his art, and with that art he soon achieved a drastic change in status, up from star to superstar. But this change swiftly entailed yet other changes because a modern singing star is expected to display two profiles: one his trademark image, the other the profile of his personality as we grasp it from the style of his performance—lyrics, phrasing, movements. In the days of Sinatra or Elvis, this implicit character was established by the way the singer personalized the words and music put into his mouth by other men. Since the advent of Dylan and the Beatles, we have come to expect the singer to be the author of his songs and the succession of those songs to reveal the development and maturation of his inner being.
Of all the demands that Michael Jackson’s career makes upon him, this poetic vocation is perhaps the hardest, the reason being that the pop idiom in which Michael has developed makes so little use of words. The Jacksons reached their apogee with a string of dance-floor hits that were like sparkling pinwheels, tossing off little verbal hooks—”Blame it on the boogie!”, “Don’t stop ’til you get enough!”, “Shake your body!” Like so much black and white music of the present day, these songs were closer to chanting than they were to singing. Making the matter even more difficult for Michael Jackson is the fact that the rock poetry that has dominated popular consciousness for the past 30 years has evolved as a literature of self-examination and declaration. Michael Jackson is not the confessional type. He has lived all his life within a tight-lipped family group. He is shy, withdrawn, hermetic. The implicit demand that he step forth in his work and reveal himself as recent stars have done must have loomed as a difficult challenge.
When Michael Jackson started writing songs that evinced his state of mind, they startled some of his listeners. In fact, only these more attentive listeners appear to have taken heed of the often lame but poignant lyrics. The words that spoke of doubt, bewilderment, suffering didn’t conform with the long-established image of happy “little Michael,” the cutest kiddie star since Shirley Temple. Yet there was no mistaking the authenticity of his signature. Like modern urban blues, these groping songs could be heard as descriptions of both the singer’s predicament and your own.
Just after the release of Thriller in November 1982, Michael Jackson took a step that probably caused him more conflict than the surgery on his nose. He gave a couple of extraordinary interviews. His decision to speak candidly about himself came after a lifetime of strict image control. The interviews can be seen as a deliberate effort to humanize his image and provide his glittering celebrity with an interesting shadow. On the other hand, everything that he said rang true and conformed with the character that had been limned in the songs.
He characterized himself as being as vulnerable as a “hemophiliac.” A classic prisoner of fame, he revealed that his companions were not the usual boys and toys but a menagerie of exotic animals and a roomful of clothing-store dummies with whom he conversed. The picture painted by these interviews was like a chapter from Marie Winn’s Children Without Childhood. Whatever their intention, the interviews snapped Michael Jackson into focus as the latest version of the troubled adolescent, just as emblematic of contemporary youth as were James Dean or Elvis Presley of the revolutionless rebels of the ’50s.
The final phase in the emergence of Michael Jackson as a contemporary culture hero was Thriller. The album exhibited the giant growth ring that was the hallmark of each new Beatles’ album back when the Fab Four were evolving into magical minstrels. Michael’s magic was evidenced from the first thrilling chord, which signaled his long-delayed escape from the prison of his former career.
In revealing his powers as a mature artist, however, Michael also projected vividly the essence of the new Kiddie Kulture. Consider Thriller’s two most successful numbers—the title song, and especially its video, and Billie Jean, particularly in the performance on Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever. In both these songs the star dramatizes his refusal to go along with the romantic and sexual scenarios that have been the substance of pop music throughout its history. When the girl in Thriller offers Michael her love, what does he do? He turns into a werewolf and scares her out of her wits. Kiddie Kulture substitutes the thrills of the grotesque and the macabre, the weird and the eerie for the excitement engendered in pop and rock by the romantic or the erotic. In Billie Jean, when the girl identifies the Michael Jackson character as the father of her child, he treats this accusation as a defilement, a stigma he must rid himself of at any cost. In his greatest dance soliloquy—the Motown 25 performance of Billie Jean—this struggle is so prolonged, intense and obsessive that it suggests a man trying to purge himself of an evil spirit.
From both of these totally different songs and performances the same meaning emerges. Michael Jackson has planted himself like the Archangel Michael upon the threshold of innocence and experience—and will not budge! Jimi Hendrix, the archetypal rocker, used to ask, with a wicked vocal leer: “Are you experienced?” Michael Jackson’s reply is Billie Jean—a tarantella of denials.
Michael Jackson’s passionate refusal to be drawn into the world of sexual experience is as revolutionary a stance for our times as was Elvis Presley’s defiant assertion of sexuality in the ’50s. History has reversed its terms: What was once an expression of liberating vitality has now become an offensive display of outmoded attitudes.
Pop culture is inevitably counterculture because pop exists to give voice to the culture’s repressed but urgent fantasies. What Michael Jackson embodies is the current moment’s yearning to escape from inherited roles and responsibilities and transcend the terms by which we are compelled to live. What makes Michael so fascinating is his success in defying the common fate.
A real-life Peter Pan, he triumphs over mortality by never aging. Appealingly androgynous, he ends the battle of the sexes by fusing harmoniously male and female images. Black yet colorless to the eye of the mind, he transcends the painful issue of race. A fiery cherub, declaiming with upraised finger, like a boy preacher, he has that empathy with the demonic that is the dark side of religious consciousness. A glittering superstar, the envy of millions, he inspires universal sympathy through his imprisoned and deprived lifestyle. The conjunction of all these contrarieties is what makes Michael Jackson such a magical creature. He is the latest of our pop messiahs, those boy heroes, unknown to any other time, whose tumultuous triumphs have become one of the primary rhythms of our culture and its most thrilling ritual of renewal.
My Lord, he’s a wonderful mover. He makes these moves up himself and it’s just great to watch. Michael is a dedicated artist. He dreams and thinks of it all the time.”
FRED ASTAIRE, dancer emeritus
“Fred Astaire was to that era and that music—the way the music moved through him in the ’30s—what Michael Jackson is to this era. You could put him behind a scrim and see his silhouette and you’d know who he was. It’s like he’s got a direct connection to God, because those moves just come from within him and through the music.”
SANDY DUNCAN, actress-dancer
“Sure, if you like Bing Crosby or Nat Cole, you’re gonna like Michael Jackson, but he ain’t no music pioneer.”
MILES DAVIS, jazz great
“[His music is] characteristic of that ill-famed American life-style which the U.S.A. is trying to foist on the world. This film [Thriller video] is really fascist, because it forces you to appreciate it like a drug. You were all sitting around obsessed with it—you couldn’t even talk to each other.”
SOVIETSKAYA KULTURA, official U.S.S.R. cultural newspaper
“I am a vain creature. Tremendously vain. My Grammys mean a lot to me. I have all 23 in my studio. There are so many now that it looks like some sort of contemporary sculpture collection. And I don’t like [my record] being threatened by this Mr. Michael Jackson!”
SIR GEORG SOLTI, Chicago Symphony conductor
“I wish he would go away. Nothing personal. I’m not bored reading about him, because I don’t read about him. I’m just bored about his using up space for something else that I would like to read about.”
ART BUCHWALD, columnist
“When I see him dance and sing, it touches me, like a spirit; it moves me inside, sort of like the Holy Ghost. But it’s more than singing and dancing; he manages to touch your soul.”
ISIAH THOMAS, pro basketball star
“The bottom line is I don’t feel paranoid when I hear his music.”
LARRY BRYGGMAN, As the World Turns
“Michael must tell the kids to put the glove on the hand they don’t write with…. Kids have got to be able to get a good education and the pen is slipping on the gloved hand, making them poor writers.”
JAMES BROWN, Soul Brother No. 1
“The kids love him. Times have changed and guys can look any way they want, but it doesn’t mean nothing. They’re straight as a razor blade. His talent—that’s what’s special.”
JOE FRAZIER, former heavyweight champ
“The projection of a femaleness by a male performer presents a very bad role model for the millions of children who literally idolize this very talented performer. I think he has no intentions to injure anyone, but I do feel he needs to carefully appraise his presentation as to whether, as an older man one day, he wants to look back on the wreckage he’s left behind in the lives of others.”
JERRY FALWELL, electronic evangelist
“This Jheri-Kurl, female-acting, sissified-acting expression, it is not wholesome for our young boys nor our young girls.”
LOUIS FARRAKHAN, Black Muslim leader
“No dope-oriented album ever sold as much as Thriller, and no vulgar artist ever became so famous as Michael has.”
REV. JESSE JACKSON, politician
“The Jackson concert in Madison Square Garden was the first time I felt my baby kicking. When he heard Michael Jackson’s music, he was stomping. I thought his foot was going to come right through my stomach.”
PIA ZADORA, starlet
“He seems partly child, partly adult, partly masculine, partly feminine; he seems to be a person for all ages and all sexes. I don’t see that he is doing any harm, but I’m not sure he’s doing any good either.”
BENJAMIN SPOCK, baby doctor
“No living tenor has ever projected at this decibel level. What really gets me jealous, if I’m going to be totally honest, is his genius for holding high Cs steady while gyrating at a velocity previously unknown to man.”
NEIL SHICOFF, Metropolitan Opera tenor
“He takes a step that you’ve been doing and then by the time he switches it around, you don’t even recognize it. There is nothing new about thrusting your hips out, but when he does that with quick moves, the high kick out and that slow back-up step he does, people say, ‘Jeez, what is he doing?’ And he never lays on a move long enough for you to figure it out. I’m sure if he worked with Nureyev or Baryshnikov, he would come close to that level. Can he tap dance? I don’t know. But then again I’d hate to leave my dancing shoes in his vicinity.”
SAMMY DAVIS JR., entertainer
Source: People – By Cutler Durkee
One the one hand Michael Jackson is said to have proposed marriage to Elizabeth Taylor (and built a shrine to her in his Encino, Calif, home), offered $1 million for the Elephant Man’s bones, taken female hormones to keep his voice high and facial hair wispy, had his eyes, lips and nose surgically altered and his skin chemically bleached, and taken to sleeping in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber in hopes of living to be 150 years old.
On the other hand, says his producer and longtime friend, Quincy Jones, “Michael Jackson is grounded and centered and focused and connected to his creative soul. And he’s one of the most normal people I’ve ever met.”
Either Jones hangs out with some extremely odd ducks, or there’s more to Michael Jackson than meets the tabloid reader’s eye. Herewith, PEOPLE’S attempt to answer pop’s top trivia question: Is Michael weird, or what?
You won’t get the answer from Michael, who last gave a lengthy interview, to Ebony magazine, in 1984. His last major public statement, spoken at a 1986 press conference announcing his $10 million-plus contract to endorse Pepsi, consisted, in its entirety, of the words, “This is a great honor. Thank you, Mr. Enrico and Pepsi Associates. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you.” He’s still keeping mum, despite the release of a new Michael Jackson album, Bad, his first solo outing since 1982′s precedent-setting Thriller, which has sold more copies (38.5 million and counting) than any record in history. Critics, however, are talking about Bad, and most of what they’ve said is good. “First-rate work,” said the New York Daily News. “The niftiest package of toe-tappers since Thriller,” said U.S.A. Today. “Won’t harm his reputation,” said the Washington Post. Still, not all the notices have been positive, and most critics suggest that, for all it’s gleaming technical proficiency, Bad won’t rattle the record world the way its predecessor did. “You can’t expect this album to do better than Thriller,” says Los Angeles Times reviewer Dennis Hunt. “It’s a shame that even if it sells nine million it will be considered a flop.” Frank Dileo, Jackson’s manager, protector, friend and spokesman, doesn’t seem worried. “Everyone kind of wonders what sort of pressure Michael felt,” he says. “The answer is simple: none. The attitude was to go in, make the best album you can, and present it. I think we’ve done that.” As for the five-year time lag between LPs, Dileo points out that Jackson was busy with other projects, including Captain Eo, a 17-minute, $40 million, 3-D film fantasy now playing at Disneyland and Walt Disney World; an as-yet-unaired Pepsi commercial; a video for the single Bad; an hour-long video, to be televised in 1988, based on the song Smooth Criminal; and a video about the making of the Smooth Criminal video.
Okay, okay, enough about business; let’s get to the real issues. Did Michael propose to Liz Taylor or didn’t he? “No, he didn’t,” says Dileo. “And no, there’s no shrine to her in his house. Yes, they are very good friends. They dine together occasionally and visit.” Hormone shots? “Ridiculous,” says Dileo. Eye surgery? “He has never had his eyes done.” The nose, Frank, the nose? “Yes, he did have his nose done, as every person in Hollywood has. Elvis did, Monroe did.” Cheekbones? “No.” Did he have a cleft put in his chin? “Yes, a year ago.” Why? “He wanted one.” Chemical or surgical skin lightening? “Preposterous.” The hyperbaric oxygen chamber? “He has a chamber. I don’t know if he sleeps in it. I’m not for it. But Michael thinks it’s something that’s probably healthy for him. He’s a bit of a health fanatic.” Did he attend the Captain Eo premiere at Disney World dressed as a nurse? Yes and no. He was there, says Frank, “but I’m not sure which disguise he had on. He has a few.” Did he quit the Jehovah’s Witnesses? “Yes.” How about the story that he tried to buy the Elephant Man’s remains from the London Hospital Medical Center? “Well, everyone has a skeleton in their closet,” says Dileo. But seriously, he adds, “[Michael] was fascinated by the movie and really wanted the skeleton. I don’t know what he would have done with it. Except I know he would have put it in the room while I was having a meeting.”
So how goes the reclusive singer’s day? “It starts around 9:30 and he goes to bed around 1 or 2 in the morning,” says Dileo. “He has breakfast and maybe reads the paper and makes whatever calls he has to make.” (About that reading the paper—is he sufficiently in touch with current events to identify, say, Oliver North? “Maybe,” says Dileo.) Next come the day’s projects: working on a video, noodling in his 24-track home studio or rehearsing for his world tour, which opens in Tokyo Sept. 12 and comes to the U.S. in February. It is his first solo tour.
Michael still lives with his parents, Joe and Katherine, and sister LaToya in the 22-room Tudor mansion on one acre in the L.A. suburb of Encino that his family bought in the late ’70s. For relaxation, he can watch a movie in his 35-seat screening room, order up a vegetarian snack from his personal chef or play with one of his pets—Louie the llama, Jabbar the giraffe, Thriller the Arabian stallion, an unnamed lion, two 18-foot Burmese pythons and an assortment of parrots. (For reasons of space, some of the critters live with trainer Bob Dunn.) Jackson’s favorite pet—and perhaps his closest companion of any species—is a chimp named Bubbles, who has been trained to smile, roller-skate, ride a horse, moon-walk and give a high five. “Michael has a special relationship with Bubbles,” says Dunn. “He spoils him, just like any parent would. But he is strict with him when necessary.” Dunn doesn’t see anything too extraordinary about Michael’s animal passion. “He likes things a lot of kids like, for sure. Who doesn’t? I mean, if we all could have ‘em, we would.”
There is, clearly, a childlike aspect to the Jackson persona. Pets, practical jokes (particularly the tarantula-on-the-sleeve or the old python-in-the-laundry-bag trick) and collecting Disney memorabilia are not the preferred pastimes of most 29-year-old rock stars. Jackson also has a special affinity for children: A 10-year-old neighbor named Johnathan was a frequent visitor on the Captain Eo set, and Sean Lennon and TV’s Webster, Emmanuel Lewis, are also pals. “When he comes to my house, my daughters think they’re doing me a big favor by loaning him to me so he can rehearse,” says Quincy Jones. “He’s just got a very pure enthusiasm for simple things.” Dileo and others subscribe to the Lost Fun Theory, which postulates that Jackson, who has been performing since the age of 5, is belatedly “doing things now that he couldn’t do then.”
But if Michael is a kid in a candy store, he also knows who owns the store: Michael Jackson. He has made difficult, and apparently sound, career decisions: hiring Jones to produce his records, replacing his previous manager—his father—with Dileo in 1984, and spending $47.5 million to buy ATV, which owns the rights to much of the Beatles’ music. One insider says the transaction will probably pay for itself in ten years and bring in $5 million per year thereafter. He has, reportedly, the best royalty deal in the record business—$1.70 per album sold, plus song-writing fees—and seems to have won the respect of the people he works with. “If something isn’t to his liking he’ll just say, ‘Let’s do it over,’ ” says Bob Collins, who directed the video about the making of the Smooth Criminal video. “He doesn’t attack people who are doing the work. He tries to get the best people he can and he works for excellence.” Keyboardist David Paich, who played on three tracks of Bad, says that criticism in the studio “was always positive. Quincy and Michael don’t say anything, because they figure you’re searching for something they don’t understand. That’s a good attitude to have.” Adds keyboardist Steve Porcaro, another Bad contributor: “Michael has strong melodic ideas and can come up with things I’d never think up in a million years.”
Jackson also has a surprising circle of adult celebrity friends. Along with Liz Taylor, “Gregory Peck has been a friend of his for 10 or 11 years,” says Dileo. “Sophia Loren is a friend; she asked him to escort her to the American Cinema Awards earlier this year. He’s friends with Spanky Macfarland [of Our Gang' fame]. Marlon Brando is a very good friend. I’m at most of the dinners and there’s not anything earth-shattering being discussed. They talk about life, about making movies, how things are done.” Cary Grant was a friend, and Michael escorted Liza Minnelli to her father’s funeral in 1986. “Brando invited us down to his island three or four times,” adds Dileo. “We were going to go down with Scorsese and De Niro, but we were never able to get away.” One suspects that an album of Michael Jackson’s conversations with Marlon Brando might outsell even Thriller.
Significantly, almost everyone who spends time with Jackson invariably uses the same four-letter word to describe him: “nice.” He may be eccentric; he is not, by most accounts, egocentric. “I didn’t see anything freaky,” says Helene Phillips, assistant choreographer on Captain Eo. “No big ego. He was friendly and had a good time. I’d sit on his lap to discuss shots.” Gene Shelton, Jackson’s publicist for his 1979 Off the Wall album, recalls that Michael had peculiar habits—like letting his sister Janet speak for him at press conferences—but “was never disrespectful. He would always say ‘please.’ I have no horror stories to tell about how he treated people.” “Always laughing and joking,” says Ola Ray, the female lead in the Thriller- video. “He seemed very happy.”
Jackson’s charitable work is also noteworthy. Among other contributions, he gave $1.5 million to establish a medical facility, the Michael Jackson Burn Center, in L.A. He donates regularly to leukemia research and to a camp for terminally ill children, and since 1985 has funded 97 scholarships for the United Negro College Fund. Says L.A. Times critic Hunt, who interviewed Jackson in 1982: “He’s shy and eccentric, but he’s sincere. You can’t say anything bad about him.”
Sums up Dileo: “He’s utterly devoted and very disciplined. It sounds boring and stupid, like I’m hiding something, but I’m not. He realizes that he’s a good person. I think he hopes he’s thought of as a good entertainer, since that’s what he likes to do.”
Source: People Magazine
As the clock ticks down toward show time at Japan’s Yokohama stadium, the teenagers staking out a closely guarded back entrance grow edgy with excitement. Aware that their fleeting brush with a legend is at hand, they murmur, “Sugu, sugu!” “Soon, soon!” The sight of two vans—one blue, one gold—swinging round a corner brings instant recognition, and the crowd erupts with a joyous roar. As the rockmobiles come slickly to a halt, a lithe young man steps out, and for a second the stadium lights reflect brilliantly off the extravagant silver buckles of his jacket. Then he disappears behind a door labeled, in light-blue letters, Mr. Michael Jackson.
Backstage at this ninth Japanese concert of what is to be a yearlong world tour, Michael Jackson radiates energy: His arrival sends a jolt of pre-show electricity through the cast and crew members who had been lazily hanging out around his simply furnished dressing room. Jackson rolls his head to limber up; gazing in a full-length mirror, he flicks a speck of loose makeup off his cheek. His toned, 5’10″ frame seems imposing, quite at odds with the waif like image he presents to photographers. “I’m getting a little worried about my voice getting thin,” says Jackson in a voice stronger and more assured than the shy squeak of his rare public pronouncements. “But so far things are going good.”
Out front, the stadium is a powder keg awaiting the match. Christened Typhoon Michael by the Japanese press, Jackson has taken the nation by storm. The 38,000 seats for tonight’s concert sold out (at $40 per) weeks ago, and some fans desperate to hail the man they call My-ke-ru have paid scalpers $700 to get in. But here in his dressing room the rock phenomenon lingers over a cup of tea, calmly ignoring the gathering clamor from the arena and the rising nerves of his 15 backup musicians and dancers. A crew member recites a brief prayer, then Jackson huddles with his cast like a football quarterback. They clap their hands and stomp their feet. “Whatever we play,” yells Jackson, his smooth, sculpted features relaxing into an engaging grin, “it’s got to be funky!” A moment later, to a burst of bright lights and thunderous applause, they jog onstage.
So goes the stage life of the world’s most popular rock star: glitter, fame, excitement and wealth. Real life is, of course, another matter. The August release of Bad, his first album in five years, brought with it a flood of wild rumors. Jackson has been accused—and, despite his denials, accused again—of using chemicals to make his skin lighter, of transforming his entire body with plastic surgery, of taking female hormones to keep his voice high and of refusing to bathe in anything but Evian water. Having said no more than a few words to the press since 1983, Jackson left it to his stogie-chomping manager, Frank Dileo, to explain away his plastic surgeries (just the nose and chin were done, he said) and his attempt to purchase the bones of the Elephant Man (“Well, everyone has a skeleton in their closet,” Dileo told PEOPLE). Probably the tall tales only enhanced sales of Bad, which has already zoomed to the top of the charts in at least eight countries. But the rumors’ effect on Jackson, 29, has been anything but salutary. “It’s really horrible to have these lies printed about me,” he says. “It hurts.”
Driven to the brink during his Japanese tour, he did something last week that reveals a sorely troubled man very different from his magical persona: He sat down at the desk in his room at the Capitol Tokyu Hotel in Tokyo and, on the back of a piece of hotel stationery, wrote what he said would be his only discussion of his private life. “Like the old Indian proverb says,” wrote Jackson, “do not judge a man until you’ve walked 2 moons in his moccosins.” The singer’s two-page missive reveals him to be a complex mix of boy and man whose personality matches the themes of Bad, an album so full of bright, catchy dance tunes that it’s easy to overlook the lyrics that express dark fantasies and hyper-romantic dreams. Jackson offers forgiveness to the rumormongers who have upset him: “Animals strike, not from malice, but because they want to live, it is the same with those who criticize, they desire our blood, not our pain.” At the same time, he expresses himself with the desperate tone of a child who has been unfairly punished: “I cry very very often because it hurts…. Have mercy, for I’ve been bleeding a long time now.” His casual spelling and punctuation speak of backstage tutors and self-teaching, but his expression of pain is clear.
If what he wrote is what he truly feels, Jackson’s powers of concealment may be his most dazzling talent. From all appearances, he has complete control of what he has described as the only solo tour of his career. While the 150 crew members of the Jacksons’ 1984 Victory tour felt chaos around every corner, Michael alone directs the 90 members of his solo show. He approves every photo and backstage pass, and he personally signed off on every detail of a 100-minute, 16-song show that costs about $500,000 a week to produce and includes lasers, explosions and a breathtaking magic trick that levitates him across the stage. (After Japan, Jackson plays Australia and New Zealand before returning to the U.S. in December.) His own performance—as a singer and dancer whose moves seem to defy the laws of both physics and aerobics—has been worked and reworked to perfection, and with a repertoire that includes only two songs from Bad and lots of old favorites from Thriller, he has thoroughly wowed his every audience in Japan. Sheryl Crow, who duets with Jackson on the ballad “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”, says, “I have a hard time keeping my eyes off him. When he’s onstage, he just keeps drawing you in.”
From the moment Jackson stepped off the plane to face a Nikon tiring squad of 600 photographers and 1,000 fans, the Japanese have given him a welcome reminiscent of the Beatles’ first trip to the U.S. Jackson posters line city walls; his face decorates shopping bags. In the heart of ultra-high-rent Tokyo, Nippon Television set up a store that stocks only the fast-selling paraphernalia endorsed by Jackson-san. Two amusement parks shut down to provide free access when the reclusive singer and his entourage requested private playtime.
Fans Emiko Haga and Miki Ikeda, both 20, are traveling with a pack of several other girls who have saved their yen so they can follow Jackson around Japan for his entire tour. “We are trying to see him every minute of every day, except when we sleep,” exclaims Haga. After meeting Jackson on Japan’s Bullet train, Ikeda started to cry. “I said, ‘I love you,’ ” says Emiko. “He said, ‘Thank you.’ It was unbelievable.”
Equally unbelievable is the commercial consequence of all this adulation. The money is flowing into Jackson’s bank accounts in cataracts. About 450,000 people will attend his 14 sold-out stadium concerts, and Bad is confidently expected to sell 500,000 copies in a country where only phenomenally successful records sell 200,000. All told, Michael will gross at least $20 million in Japan alone. Not Bad.
The temptations of the road that have led so many rock performers into deep trouble seem not to be a problem for Jackson. Never romantically linked to anyone during the years that he confined himself to the Los Angeles mansion he shares with his parents, Jackson has not been spotted with a date on tour either. He has visited with friends Gregory Peck and designer Issey Miyake, but mostly he socializes with two favorite companions: his manager, Frank Dileo, and his chimp, Bubbles, from both of whom he seems to derive a good deal of fun and comfort. It would be difficult to imagine a figure of less physical resemblance to Jackson than Dileo, 39. Portly, short and balding, the colorfully loquacious Dileo has become Jackson’s most trusted confidant. Determined to erase unflattering descriptions of Dileo by the press, Jackson calls him “my shield of armor, my other half. We dream together and achieve together.” As for Bubbles, a 3½-year-old chimpanzee released from a cancer lab in 1985, he eats at the table with Jackson, mimics his master’s moonwalk, plays hide-and-seek, plays dead, blows bubbles and joins in pillow fights. The Japanese find it all fascinating. When Bubbles arrived in Japan on a separate flight from Jackson’s, he got a Very Important Chimp reception from 300 photographers. The Mayor of Osaka later entertained Michael and Bubbles at a formal tea ceremony. “Bubbles is so popular here,” says one Tokyo merchandiser, “that if he announced he was doing a concert tour, he’d sell out.”
On off days Jackson has ventured out to shop for clocks, Japanese art books and a colorful Oriental screen. He also plundered two of Japan’s biggest toy stores: Dileo won’t disclose what the singer purchased, but jokes, “His hotel room is a mess. I told him it’s starting to look like his room at home.”
If Jackson does at times resemble a child, it may be because he identifies so closely with children. Quietly he has given rafts of free concert tickets to handicapped youngsters, visited Japanese schools and sent condolences and $20,000 to the family of 5-year-old Yoshiaki Ogiwara, an Osaka boy who was kidnapped and murdered recently. At one concert he dedicated his tour to the boy, a gesture that brought tears to the eyes of adoring fans. “People just don’t have a realistic picture of who Michael is,” says makeup artist Karen Faye. “He’s innocent and inspiring without being preachy—and a lot of fun to be around.”
To his public, however, Jackson remains an enigmatic figure, and his handwritten message from Japan will do little to change that. Given his near total blackout on personal press, one can only assume he wants it that way: Anonymity serves his stagecraft. Last week in Tokyo’s gaudy, neon-lit Ginza district, throngs of young people crowded the sidewalks, drawn by the rumor that Jackson was to appear for a PEOPLE photo shoot. When he arrived the screams rose to a frightening pitch, and the hysterical young fans hurled themselves at his barricade of bodyguards. Yet, while the photo op dissolved in chaos, Jackson remained implacably calm. He smiled broadly, threw up his arms in a dramatic gesture, then vanished into the night.
The effect was stunning, Olympian: A god had come and gone. Offstage and out of costume, the Michael Jackson who was “sent forth for the world, for the children” could hardly help feeling chagrined that his stage persona is only an act. Gods, after all, do not feel pain.
Source: Bluerailroad – By Paul Zollo
Hard to believe it’s been more than two decades since “Man In The Mirror” was born. This is a little journey back to that time. It’s a tribute to the legend that was then and always will be Michael Jackson. And to the songwriters who wrote this anthem for him.
It was Fall of 1987, and I had just recently succeeded in convincing the fine folks at the National Academy of Songwriters to appoint me as editor of what was then essentially a newsletter and calendar of events, SongTalk. My aim from the start was to invite the world’s greatest songwriters to sit down for in-depth interviews about the art and craft of songwriting. As we had virtually no advertising and because we published on newsprint, we had ample space for long conversations.
For my first issue I scored an interview with the legendary Frank Zappa, but was notified quickly that his face should not grace our cover, as he was deemed too politically charged of a figure for what was to be the debut of our new magazine.
We were in the enthralling wake of Michael Jackson’s astounding Thriller. The world was, of course, entranced and enraptured by the pure passion that was Michael, and songwriters were tuned into the fact that in addition to being maybe the greatest performer this country has known, he had also become a seriously great songwriter. So I started politely pestering, as was my way, Miko Brando – Marlon’s son and Michael’s main man – to arrange an interview with Michael that would focus only on his songs and songwriting. It wasn’t to be. I even called Michael’s lawyers and folks at Quincy Jones’ office, all of whom were impressed by our chutzpah in even asking, but none of whom – with Miko always the sweetest and most apologetic – who could set up the interview.
We knew MJ had been working on the follow-up to Thriller, again to be produced by Quincy, and word came through that Michael had cut a song by a beautiful woman and amazing vocalist named Siedah Garrett, who co-wrote, with the then unknown Glen Ballard, “Man In The Mirror.” Siedah also sang a duet with MJ on his song “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.” I quickly surmised, not entirely accurately, that Siedah would become a blazing star, and if we could get her for SongTalk early on – and be our cover story – we could get a jump on what would surely be a stellar career.
Glen Ballard, as students of songwriting and pop music already know, went onto enormous success as a co-writer and producer with Alanis Morrisette on her first albums, as well as many other projects. He wrote the music for “Man In The Mirror” and Siedah, who also adds her distinctive vocal sound to MJ’s record of the song, wrote the words. She was already famous for her own vocals and for her great gift at arranging vocals. She got her start when Quincy Jones picked her out of about 800 hopefuls to sing with his group Deco; she sang the lead on the dance hit “Do You Want It Right Now.” She also sang and arranged vocals on Madonna’s True Blue album, and started churning out great songs she wrote herself for such artists as Kenny Loggins, The Pointer Sisters and Donna Summers.
But her biggest break came when Quincy told her that MJ needed songs for his next album. She and Glen got to work, knowing they needed something that not only sounded like a hit – something with the luminous musical magnitude of a song Michael could make his own – but something with a lyric of substance. Together they created a song that would forever be linked with Michael; he loved it so much that it is the only song lyric to be quoted on the album. Not the whole song, but the line, “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.”
Michael was not only stunned by the song, but also by the soulful beauty of Siedah’s voice on the demo (indeed, she sings the song with as much passion and purity of intention as Michael would also inject into it), that he immediately enlisted her, and not other notables being considered (such as Barbra Streisand and Whitney Houston) to sing a duet with him on his song “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.” She also was to learn that Michael wanted her to personally guide his vocal sessions for “Man In The Mirror” as he wanted to sing it like she did on the demo. (The following year, she, Glen and Michael co-wrote the song “Keep The Faith.”)
So I succeeded in arranging an interview with both Siedah and Glen – it took place in a sunny office at Warner Brothers’ Burbank headquarters, where I was to conduct scores of interviews. We also did a cover-photo shoot with Siedah, in which the photographer suggested we blow bubbles into the shot, which we did – with the lovely Siedah jumping and exclaiming, “I got a song on the new Michael Jackson album!” And the great thing about her, among which there were many, was that she was genuine – as excited as a child at what, for a songwriter, was not unlike winning the lottery. It was a dream come true.
Here, more than two decades since that moment, is my interview with Siedah; an interview with Glen Ballard will be in the next edition of Bluerailroad.
Bluerailroad: How does it feel to be thrust so thoroughly and intensely into the spotlight?
Siedah Garrett: It is amazing. I’ve been thrust into the limelight so quickly. This level of media attention is so new to me. Like I never go shopping anymore. I never have time to go to lunch. My time isn’t my own anymore. I’m very busy doing stuff like this, and writing and recording.
“Man In The Mirror” has a long, rich melody. It has four sections – the verse, chorus, bridge and tag. Did you and Glen write it all at once?
Actually, yes. It all came at once. Usually it goes in stages. We have an initial writing session in which we come up with all these ideas and deviations of ideas from musical variations. And we Also start a lyric idea from that point. Then I take it home and embellish the lyric and Glen embellishes the music. Then we meet again and put all the parts together.
Where did the title come from?
I had it for about a year. I have a book and when I hear things that I like, I write it down. I keep a pad in my car at all times.
When I go to Glen’s house, I’ll listen to what he has to play me and I’ll leaf through my book at these titles that I’ve written or collected. And if anything else catches my attention that works well with his music, we’ll use it.
When you came up with that phrase – “Man In The Mirror” – did you know how you would use it in a song?
Yes. When that title came to me, I already knew the concept behind the whole song.
Did you write it with Michael in mind?
Yes. Quincy [Jones] asked me for anything from a funk-groove street song to a ballad. So I figured I pretty much had free rein.
I know you met with Michael then – had he heard the song first?
Yes. We had the demo of the song done on a Friday evening. Knowing that Quincy Jones’ offices were going to be closed until Monday, I called [Quincy] and said, “I can’t wait until Monday.” He told me to bring the tape over. I did. Four hours later – four hours! – he called me. He said, “Baby, the song is great. It’s really good. But– ” I said, “But what?” And he said, “I don’t know. I’ve been playing songs for Michael for two years. And he has yet to accept an outside song.”
Three days later I got a call from Quincy and he told me that Michael loved the song and wanted to cut it. I screamed! Couldn’t believe it.
Then he said that Michael had a great idea for the background; he’s gonna have the Winans and Andre Crouch an a choir. Then he said, “And I might be able to squeeze you in on that. I said, “Q Babe! Thanks!” [Laughs]
A few days before the session I got a call from Quincy. He told me Michael wanted to extend the bridge and needed some new lyrics for it. And he was trying to tell me the message that should be in these new lyrics. He would say, “Michael wants so-and-so,” and then, in the background I would hear, [softly and high-pitched] “Mmmrrrmmrr…” And it was Michael, you know?
This went on for a little while, with Quincy translating for Michael. Finally, Quincy says, “Hold on,” and puts Michael Jackson on the phone, right? I’m home cooking dinner, right? And inside I’m like “OMIGOD!! It’s MICHAEL JACKSON!!” But on the phone I’m like [softly and coolly], “Yes, Michael?” Really cool, you know?
He said, “I love your song and I think you have a great voice.”
I said, “Wow. Thanks! Thanks for doing it, dude!” [Laughs]
So Michael tells me what he wants and I take off to find the answer to his dilemma in the bridge. I came up with three different ideas for the part. But then the song turned out to be long anyway, that they never used it. So it’s pretty much as it was in demo form with the exception of the key change.
Often key-changes are corny, but this one works so well, especially at it arrives on the word “Change.”
That’s it! It does really work. It’s such a lift.
How does it feel that a song about changing your life has so profoundly changed your life?
It is ironic, isn’t it? I can’t tell you how happy I am. I’m a happy puppy. Things are going so right. My plan was nowhere near this grand. God’s plan is great!
Speaking of God, I understand that when Michael asked you where you got the idea for the song, you said you asked God for it.
My answer to him was that “I asked for it.” I didn’t mention God because I didn’t know where he was as far as religion goes. But he knew who I was talking about. I didn’t ask my neighbor George for it!
And you did ask God – that is the truth?
It’s God’s honest truth! I said, “I want to write a song for Michael Jackson.” Since I wanted Michael to know who I was, I was thinking in my mind, “What can I say to him that he wouldn’t be afraid to say to the rest of the world?” And this song came through. [Claps hands and laughs.]
When did he ask you to sing the duet with him?
It came as a total surprise. Quincy called me after I had worked with him doing the background vocals for “Man In The Mirror” to come back to the studio to do more work.
But when I got there, I was surprised to discover that there was nobody else in the studio but Quincy, Michael and me. And the song they were working on wasn’t “Man In The Mirror.” It was a song that Quincy had given me a tape to learn. But I had no idea – I do lots of vocals on demos for Quincy, so this was nothing unusual.
So Quincy said, “You got the tape, right? Did you learn the song?”
I said, “Sure, I know the song.”
He said, “Well, go in there and sing it.”
I go into the booth: there’s two music stands. Michael Jackson is standing at one of them in front of a microphone and there’s another microphone for me. This is the first time I realized what was happening. On the sheet music it said, “Michael, Siedah, Michael, Siedah, etc.” I said, “Wow! I get it.”
Well, when you got the demo tape of it – was Michael singing it?
Yeah. I should have known that something was strange because, of course, I know Michael’s voice. But I didn’t put it together.
Did you and Michael do the vocals at the same time or overdub?
We did them together. It was exciting. But see, Michael is funny. He has a real keen sense of humor. Which surprised me, because you hear all these stories about how strange he is. I guess he felt relaxed with me because I wasn’t in awe of him when we met. I was kind of, “Yo, Michael, what’s up?” I think he found that refreshing.
No weird behavior on his part at all?
Well, if I was talking to Quincy and we were serious for some reason, Michael would toss cashews and peanuts at us. I would be talking to Quincy and these peanuts would fly by. [Laughs]
You know, the duet is a very serious love song. And when I was doing my verse, Michael was making these faces ar me so that I would mess up. Quincy would say, “Siedah – come on! You’re holding up the whole album!” And I would get in trouble!
Another time I came into the studio expecting to be alone with Michael.
And there were all these people there – technicians and film people. Maybe 50 of them. They were doing a documentary on the making of Bad. And his monkey was there. Bubbles. I walked into the studio and the monkey walks over to me and walks up my leg and rests on my hip. It was weird.
Then I removed the monkey [laughs] and these two guys opened this enormous metal box, taller than I am. It was the snake. And this guy had a piece of the snake as big as my thigh! I didn’t want to see the rest of it so I excused myself.
Michael came into the room where I saw and said [softly and high-pitched], “I noticed that when they brought out Muscles that you left.”
I said, “I’m just not into snakes.”
And he said, “Aw, you just chicken.”
I said, “Yes I am. When I see snakes, I think of handbags, belts and shoes, you know?” [Laughs]
I understand when Michael heard the demo of you singing “Man In The Mirror,” he said he wanted to sing it like you.
That was such a high compliment. We’d finished the part we had to fix on the duet so I was getting ready to leave. I was packing up and he said, “Where you goin’?”
I said, “Aren’t we done? Isn’t this history, dude?”
He said, “No. We’re getting ready to do ‘Man In The Mirror’ and I need you to stay because I want to sing it like you.” It was great. I stayed. It was like I was producing.
Was Quincy leading the sessions – or was Michael equally involved in producing?
When I was there, Michael was doing vocals so he wasn’t producing. It’s hard to produce your own vocals. I don’t know how it was when I wasn’t there.
Did you see how Michael prepared vocally for the sessions?
Yes. He spends two hours with Seth Riggs [the vocal coach].
Unfortunately, at $50 an hour, Seth is a little out of my range.
Did you know that your duet with Michael on “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” was to be the first single off the album?
They didn’t tell me until a couple of days later. Quincy said he listened to the song with his eyes closed and he couldn’t tell who was who – me and Michael. He said that made him a little nervous. So I went back and changed my parts a little bit. I didn’t plan to sound like him, you know. I wanted to sound like me !
When you and Glen wrote “Man In The Mirror,” did you grasp how important, how special, it was?
Yes. I knew it was special. So did Glen. You kind of know. But I wasn’t sure that anybody else would like it. That’s where politics and timing all come in.
But I had a very good feeling about it the day we wrote it. When I left Glen’s house the day we wrote it, we hugged each other and we said, “Man, there’s something about this one.” We knew it.