How The NFL Convinced Michael Jackson To Perform For The Super Bowl Halftime Show

Sources: Sports Illustrated – By Austin Murray | All Things Michael

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The calculus changed radically in 1992, after ice skaters Brian Boitano and Dorothy Hamill got their heads handed to them by In Living Color comedians Keenen and Damon Wayans. CBS’s Nielsen rating dipped from a 42.1 to a 32.8 during that halftime, and the NFL suits had seen enough. Overnight it was decided: The days of jayvee, dinner theater–caliber entertainment were over. The league sent everyone deep. They decided to go after Michael Jackson.

For a month they got nowhere. Steeg sat down with the King of Pop’s manager, Sandy Gallin, 11 months before Super Bowl XXVII. “I remember pitching them,” he says, “and them not really having a clue what we were talking about.” At a subsequent meeting, producer Don Mischer pointed out that the Super Bowl would be broadcast in more than 120 countries. Now he had Jackson’s full attention.

Steeg recalls Jackson saying, “So you’re telling me that this show is going live to all those places where I’ll never do a concert?” A pause. “I’m in.”

“Michael worked harder than anybody [who’s done the halftime show], before or since,” says Steeg, who remembers seeing Jackson still rehearsing his act at seven the night before the game, in a tent outside the Rose Bowl.

And it showed. Jackson, rocking a bandolier-draped frock coat on loan, apparently, from Muammar Gaddafi, was sensational. The final moments of that show were the most viewed in the history of television at the time.

 

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