Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough
His influence today proves him to be one of the greatest creators of all time, but Jackson’s art—like that of many black artists—still doesn’t get the full respect it deserves.
The point of his ambition wasn’t money and fame; it was respect…
Zack O’Malley Greenburg, Forbes Staff
Sammy Davis, Jr. once said that “everything Michael Jackson does on stage is exactly right.” The King of Pop indeed left some big leather loafers to fill, but judging by the crowd’s reaction at MGM’s Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour is doing an admirable job.
Among those in attendance for Saturday night’s performance: Cee Lo Green, as well as Jay-Z and Beyonce Knowles. Seated within view of the reporters assembled to chronicle the show, the couple laughed and smiled as acrobats and dancers swirled across the stage–zombies popping out of coffins, contortionists emerging from giant books, even a performer dressed as a giant white glove–all while a live band blasted out the soundtrack beneath Jackson’s soaring vocals.
“We have all done our best to make this a celebration of his essence in his absence,” musical director Greg Phillinganes told me shortly after the show’s debut. “His passion for humanity … his commitment to excellence, his flair for the big show, we’ve tried to incorporate all those factors.”
Immortal is the highest-grossing live show in the country for the second week in a row, bringing in just shy of $2 million per night in Vegas. That’s over half a million dollars more than the next-highest earner, Taylor Swift, according to concert data provider Pollstar.
It’s all the more impressive given that the Jackson show has been parked at the 8,500-seat Mandalay Bay Theatre for much of December; Swift has been playing arenas more than twice that size, as Immortal will soon be doing when resumes its trek across the North America. An international leg is set to follow in late 2012.
A joint venture between the Michael Jackson estate and Cirque du Soleil, Immortal opened in October and is already approaching $100 million in ticket sales. That should come as no surprise, given the extraordinary spectacle that audiences witness with each performance.
The show begins with a spotlight illuminating a mime clad in all white; his shell-toed sneakers and backwards hat make him look more b-boy than sad clown. As he cozies up to an image of Michael Jackson that fills a giant video screen at the back of the stage, the pictures melts away to reveal the band, and a troupe of dancers streams onto the stage.
The mime serves as a guide throughout the performance, starting with Jackson’s early years and the song “Have You Seen My Childhood.” There’s a miniature hot air balloon and a Jackson Five montage complete with dancers dressed as Marlon, Tito, Jermaine, Jackie and Michael–oversized afros included. As the show continues, a replica of the Neverland gates rolls out, followed by performers dressed as Bubbles the Chimp and some of the other animals that once resided in Jackson’s private zoo.
Next comes the “Smooth Criminal” segment. The screens behind the stage turn black-and-white, revealing a video of Jackson outsmarting a series of detectives as they try to track him down. All the while, tommy gun-toting dancers decked out in fedoras and pinstriped suits mimic and elaborate upon Jackson’s moves, culminating in a flurry of pyrotechnics and mock gunfire that leaves only one dancer standing.
Perhaps the most impressive is the scene that comes next. The surviving gangster rips off her white suit to reveal nothing more than a shimmering bikini–and proceeds to ascend a slim tube that extends 30 feet or so into the air. Upon reaching the top she launches into an aerial pole-dance, contorting herself into positions that would seem impossible even on solid ground. At some point, she manages to hold herself perpendicular to the structure, supported by nothing besides her own strength.
Pushing the boundaries of the human body are trademarks of Cirque du Soleil, and that’s one of the many examples in which Immortal lives up to its lofty expectations (There’s also a scene where one acrobat lifts a partner into the air using only a strap hanging from his mouth; in another, a green dancer folds herself into a pretzel-shape and walks on her hands).
There’s a bit of tongue-and-cheek humor, too: at one point, Michael Jackson’s trademark black loafers appear as Mini Cooper-sized characters, each manned by a single dancer.
Though Immortal pays homage to Jackson’s biggest hits–”Thriller,” “Billie Jean” and “Man in the Mirror,” to name a few–it also showcases some of Jackson’s later work, including the environmental anthem “Earth Song” and the oddly prescient “They Don’t Care About Us.” The latter of features scores of stomping robots with dollar signs emblazoned on their metallic chests, an idea dreamed up years before the birth of Occupy Wall Street.
Immortal features quite a few mashups of Jackson’s music, so it’s only fitting that the show ends with a parade of dancers hoisting flags that bear the combined symbols of various nations.
The production’s narrative arc does jump around a bit, as one might expect given the diverse nature of Jackson’s oeuvre. But Immortal’s architects managed to connect everything in a generally coherent manner–quite an achievement, given the staggering array of individual songs and mashups that made the final cut.
At any rate, the show has clearly passed the necessary tests in Vegas. Plans are already in the works to renovate the Mandalay Bay Theatre, which currently houses the Lion King, to accommodate a modified version of Immortal in time for a 2013 opening. If this month’s run is any indication, it should be a bonanza for MGM, Cirque du Soleil and the Jackson estate.
Though Jay-Z and Beyonce ducked out as the performers were taking their final bows on Saturday night, it’s clear that another superstar–Michael Jackson–will be staying in Las Vegas for quite some time.
Published: 9/29/11 11:31 AM ET
It’s hard to believe that it’s been over two years since the world first mourned the loss of the King of Pop. While some of his fans expressed remorse on June 25, 2009, many knew that the cost of Michael Jackson’s death went far beyond his impeccable music. Although entertainment remains severely devoid of Michael’s unmatched talent, perhaps even more profoundly, many charities and innocents around the planet no longer have the ability to benefit from his overwhelming generosity. And for his children and family, Michael’s departure was and is felt on the deepest level as the daily battle to carry on without him continues. This week, as the involuntary manslaughter trial for Dr. Conrad Murray (his doctor at the time) gets underway, it’s important to keep in mind precisely who the accused criminal is — and who the victim was.
During my teenage years, I had the pleasure of first being introduced to Michael. Both blessed to have received mentorship and guidance from the late great Godfather of soul, James Brown, we quickly formed a kinship and bond that was virtually like family. Even though I focused on advocacy/activism and he on creating incredible music, we were on the same social and political page and worked through our respective fields to bring light to inequality wherever and whenever we viewed it. Our friendship lasted through the decades, through all of the ridiculous false accusations and through a media frenzy that tried its hardest to paint him as somehow odd or peculiar when he was only highlighting our own abnormality as a society.
In 1984, during Michael’s Victory Tour, I took on the role of his community relations director. Working in such a capacity, I again witnessed the unprecedented reaction people from all walks of life had towards this man, his music and impact in the world. And whether it was openly reminding all of us to ‘heal the world’ or quietly giving away hundreds of millions of his own wealth to the impoverished, Michael’s imprint everywhere was remarkable. And yet, many still attempted to portray him as somehow peculiar.
Dr. Conrad Murray is on trial this week. Accused of violating standards of medical care by leaving Michael unattended and failing to call 911, his defense will do whatever they can to keep him from serving jail time. They’ll argue his innocence, his years of service and most importantly, they will attempt to put Michael on trial yet again. Already this week, we heard the defense argue that Michael died from a combination of tranquilizers and a surgical anesthetic he took without Murray’s knowledge. Defense attorney Ed Chernoff even stated that Michael took enough prescription drugs to ‘put six of you to sleep’ and then somehow he self-administered Propofol (anesthetic usually used in hospitals). It is an outrageous statement compounded by the fact that it is Dr. Murray himself that stands accused of administering Propofol in excessive quantities and then leaving Michael unattended.
Great talent comes with great consequences. As an artist, when you are so intricately in touch with emotions, and think and feel on a deeper level than most, you are often viewed as an outsider when you don’t conform to conventional norms. That is the double-edged sword Michael dealt with throughout his lifetime. I had the unique pleasure of getting to know him for years and working with him on a host of issues. In 2002, Michael came to our National Action Network headquarters in Harlem as we marched together to Sony Music along with hundreds of supporters to demand his right to ownership of the very masterpieces he created. And I watched as many often tried — and of course failed — to vilify him over and over again. As I told Michael’s children during his funeral in ’09, there was nothing strange about your daddy, it was strange what your daddy had to deal with.
As the strangeness unfortunately plays out yet again in another court drama over two years after Michael’s passing, let’s be sure to remember precisely who is on trial here.
Dr. Conrad Murray, Not Michael Jackson is on Trial
Published by Earl Ofari Hutchinson on September 28, 2011 at 3:23pm
Dr. Conrad Murray’s defense, his only real defense against the charge of involuntary manslaughter of Michael Jackson, is a simple one. He says that Jackson in effect killed himself. That he was so hopelessly drug addicted that he pumped himself up with the fatal drug or combination of drugs that killed him. The unstated is that given Jackson’s world renowned aloofness and eccentricities his self-destruction was all but foreordained. With anyone else and in any other circumstances, this would be a laughable defense.
The indisputable fact is that Murray is a trained physician. He was hired by Jackson specifically to administer and supervise his medications and medical care. He did not say no to Jackson’s continual use of the potentially lethal drug. He did not summon medics immediately when Jackson went into his fatal coma. No matter how self-destructive and on the edge one may want to believe that Jackson was, and that he did have a long history of drug use, it’s the wildest stretch to hold a patient responsible for his own death with his doctor literally in the next room. But Jackson is not just any patient. Since the day he was hauled into court in 2005 on child molestation charges and the day months later he was acquitted on all counts in the case, Jackson’s name has been synonymous with controversy.
The acquittal in the child molestation charge meant nothing to millions. Many still quietly whispered and many others openly slurred him as a child molester. His deep withdrawal from public view after the trial did not stop the endless swirl of malicious questions about his actions, motives, and alleged perversion. His death didn’t change things either.
Millions of Jackson fans mourned, agonized, and were infuriated by his death. Countless others dredged up, and hurled the same old, vicious accusations at Jackson as a freak, kook, and, of course, child molester. President Obama walked a fine and circumspect line in reacting to Jackson’s death. He sent the ritual condolences to Jackson’s family. But he also made veiled references to Jackson as a controversial figure when he noted that there were aspects of his life that were sad and tragic. The White House did not issue any formal statement on his death and when then White House press secretary Robert Gibbs asked if one would be forthcoming he testily replied “Because I just said it.” That officially ended the Jackson matter for the White House. Other politicians had no such reservations. They openly pilloried Jackson even slandering him as a “pervert” who did not deserve any public acclamation, but disgust. Jackson’s name, fame, and controversy are plastered all over what goes on in and outside the courtroom in the Murray trial.
There are the tearful and heartfelt reminiscences and reminders from fans and court observers about Jackson’s towering importance to the music and creative artistry world, and his continuing rapturous influence on millions. The legal experts meanwhile endlessly speculate on the evidence in the case and whether it measures up to the high bar of criminal culpability. Ultimately, Murray’s legal fate and Jackson’s celebrity name will rest in the hands of the jurors. Both are connected because not one of the jurors selected dared plead ignorance of not having heard of Jackson. The prosecutors and defense attorneys didn’t go there and try to determine the depth of the juror’s pro or anti Jackson bias. Some of the jurors made it clear that they were Jackson fans, or that they thought he was a great entertainer.
None expressed any misgivings about Jackson. The only misgivings were whether the criminal justice treated the rich and famous with kid gloves. More than one thought this is the case. Whether this means that the jury is so pro Jackson that Murray doesn’t stand much chance of acquittal is another matter. Indeed it should not matter. The jurors are charged with one thing, and one thing only, and that’s to strictly weigh the physical evidence and testimony and determine whether Murray did what the prosecution says that he did and that’s cause Jackson’s death. That’s the sole standard that any jury should be charged with in determining guilt or innocence in any criminal case. However, it would be the pinnacle of naivety to think that facts alone determine trial outcomes in celebrated trials. Countless studies and surveys of criminal cases involving celebrities show that money and fame do play huge role in these cases.
Money allows celebrities not only to hire the best and brightest of attorneys, but to tweak and massage the message of innocence of their celebrity client outside the courtroom. Murray used his celebrity name by dint of his association with Jackson’s death to get a crack legal team, and insure that they spin away his innocence outside the courtroom. A big part of that is their hit on Jackson that he killed himself. By any standard this shouldn’t fly. But given the always lurking undercurrent of controversy and doubt about Jackson from so many, they’re banking that they can put Jackson not Murray on trial. And this definitely shouldn’t fly.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on KTYM Radio Los Angeles streamed on ktym.com podcast on blogtalkradio.com and internet TV broadcast on thehutchinsonreportnews.com Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson
By Sophie Duvernoy Wed., Aug. 17 2011 at 11:00 AM
The interior of Michael Jackson’s art studio, which he shared with friend and artist Brett-Livingstone Strong
Until now, Michael Jackson’s art collection was shrouded in mystery. It was said to be stuck in a legal dispute over possession. Then, people speculated that buyers such as Cirque du Soleil’s Guy Laliberté were interested. It’s been valued at the staggering (and slightly unbelievable) sum of $900 million.
One crucial fact: Jackson’s art collection isn’t art by other people — it’s mainly drawings and paintings that he created himself. So what does that art look like?
Yesterday, LA Weekly was the first to visit the (until now) top-secret Santa Monica Airport hangar that Jackson used as his studio and art storehouse. The collection is currently owned by Brett-Livingstone Strong, the Australian monument builder and Jackson’s art mentor through the years, in conjunction with the Jackson estate.
Though the entire art collection has been mired in disputes and battles for rights, Strong claims that he is working with everybody — the family, the estate, as well as others — to exhibit and publish as much of Jackson’s work as possible.
According to Strong, he and Jackson formed an incorporated business partnership in 1989, known as the Jackson-Strong alliance. This gave each partner a fifty-percent stake in the other’s art. In 2008, Strong says, Jackson requested that his attorney sign the rights to Jackson’s portion of the art over to Strong. Now, Strong is beginning to reveal more and more of the art as he goes ahead with Jackson’s dream of organizing a museum exhibit.
Some of Jackson’s original drawings hanging on the wall. Prints of these were donated to the L.A. Children’s Hospital.
Strong gave us a tour of the hangar, beginning with the Michael Jackson monument that Strong and Jackson co-designed several years ago. It’s perhaps bombastic, but designed with good intentions and the rabid Jackson fan in mind. Strong explains, “He wanted his fans to be able to get married at a monument that would have all of his music [in an archive, and playing on speakers], to inspire some of his fans.”
The current design is still in the works, but it’s conceived as an interactive monument — fans who buy a print by Jackson will receive a card in the mail. They can scan this card at the monument, and then have a computer organize a personal greeting for them, or allow them to book it for weddings. Jackson initially thought it would be perfect for Las Vegas, but Strong says that Los Angeles might have the honor of hosting it — apparently, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa recently paid a visit and made a few oblique promises.
The Michael Jackson monument mock-up, featuring miniature pilgrims and a bridal couple
As for Jackson’s art, the contents of the hangar barely scratched the surface of the collection, as Strong estimates Jackson’s total output at 150 to 160 pieces. A few large pieces hanging on the walls had been donated as reproductions to the L.A. Children’s Hospital last Monday, along with other sketches and poems.
In all of his art, certain motifs kept cropping up: chairs (usually quite baroque), gates, keys and the number 7. His portrait of Bubbles, his pet chimpanzee, shows a monkey-like face vanishing into a cushy, ornate lounge chair. “He loved chairs,” says Strong. “He thought chairs were the thrones of most men, women and children, where they made their decisions for their daily activity. He was inspired by chairs. Rather than just do a portrait of the monkey, he put it in the chair. And you see, there are a few sevens — because he’s the seventh child.”
Jackson, who was a technically talented artist — and completely self-taught — fixated on these motifs, elevating everyday objects into cult symbols. Strong added that Jackson’s sketchbooks are completely filled with studies of his favorite objects, in endless permutations.
MJ’s portrait of George Washington — he initially planned to do a series of all of the presidents, but never continued it.
But Jackson also created portraits: a small sketch of Paul McCartney, and a large drawing of George Washington, created as Strong was working with the White House to commemorate the bicentennial of the Constitution back in 1987. He also sketched self-portraits — one as a humorous four-panel drawing charting his growing-up process, and a darker one that depicts him as a child cowering in a corner, inscribed with a sentence reflecting on his fragility.
As an artist, Jackson preferred using wax pencils, though Strong adds, “He did do a lot of watercolors but he gave them away. He was a little intimidated by mixing colors.” Some surviving pencils are archived in the hangar; Strong moves over to a cabinet on the far wall of the hangar and pulls out a ziploc bag containing a blue wax pencil, a white feathered quill and a white glove that Jackson used for drawing.
Jackson turned to art as times got hard for him. “His interest in art, in drawing it, was just another level of his creativity that went on over a long period of time,” Strong says. “It was quite private to him. I think he retreated into it when he was being attacked by those accusations against him.” The sketches and drawings certainly reveal an extremely sensitive creator, though it’s clear that Jackson also had a sense of humor.
Jackson’s art was kept under wraps for such a long time simply because of the pedophilia scandal, which erupted right around the time that he was looking for a way to publicize the works. “A lot of his art was going to be exhibited 18 years ago. Here’s one of his tour books, where he talks about exhibiting art. He didn’t want it to be a secret,” Strong says, pointing at a leaflet from the 1992 Dangerous World Tour.
Strong and Jackson wearing matching leather and velvet jackets, celebrating their artistic alliance.
Prior to that period, Jackson and Strong had met and become fast friends. This marked the beginning of Strong’s mentorship, in which he encouraged Jackson to create bigger paintings and drawings, and exhibit his work. The idea behind their Jackson-Strong Alliance was that Strong would help Jackson manage and exhibit his art. Notably, the alliance birthed Strong’s infamous $2 million portrait of Michael Jackson entitled The Book, the only known portrait Jackson ever sat for.
In 1993, everything blew up. At the time, Jackson and Strong were both on the board of Big Brothers of Los Angeles (now known as Big Brothers Big Sisters), a chapter of the national youth mentoring organization established in L.A. by Walt Disney and Meredith Willson. They had planned out a fundraising campaign involving Jackson’s art. Strong explains, “We thought that if we would market [his art] in limited edition prints to his fans, he could support the charities that he wanted to, rather than have everybody think that he was so wealthy he could afford to finance everybody.” When the pedophilia scandal erupted, Disney put a freeze on the project. The artwork stayed put, packed away from public eyes in storage crates.
Jackson’s sketch of an airplane at the Santa Monica airport
As for the spectacular appraisal of $900 million for Jackson’s art collection, Strong says that it derives from the idea of reproducing prints as well. The figure was originally quoted by Eric Finzi, of Belgo Fine Art Appraisers. “The reason somebody came out with that was because there was an appraisal on if all of his originals were reproduced — he wanted to do limited editions of 777 — and he would sell them to his fan base in order to build his monument, support kids and do other things. You multiply that by 150 originals, and if they sold for a few thousand dollars each, then you would end up with 900 million dollars.” Fair enough, though now Strong says he has gone to an appraiser in Chicago to get that value double-checked, and they arrived at an even higher estimate.
The story of Jackson’s art ends up being quite a simple one, though confused by so much hearsay and rumor. Strong and the Jackson estate will slowly reveal more works as time passes, and an exhibit is tentatively planned for L.A.’s City Hall. Negotiations with museums for a posthumous Jackson retrospective are still underway, but Strong has high hopes. He’s even talking of building a Michael Jackson museum that would house all of Jackson’s artwork.
Jackson’s sketch of the White House doors, to which he added the following quote from John Adams: “I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and all that shall inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men [MJ’s addition:] or women rule under this roof.”
We’ll leave you with Strong’s own description of Jackson at work, during the time where they shared a studio in a house in Pacific Palisades:
He was in a very light and happy mood most of the time. He would have the oldies on, and sometimes he’d hear some of his Jackson Five songs. He’d kind of move along to that, but most of the time he would change it and listen to a variety of songs. He liked classical music. His inspiration to create was that he loved life, and wanted to express his love of life in some of these simple compositions.
I came to the studio one day, and we had a Malamute. I came into the house, and I heard this dog barking and thought, Wow, I wonder what that is. I go into the kitchen, and I couldn’t help but laugh when I see Michael up in the pots and pans in the middle of the center island. He’s holding a pen and paper and the dog is running around the island and barking at him, and he says, “He wants to play! He wants to play!” He’s laughing, and I’m laughing about it as I’m thinking to myself, “I’m wondering how long he’s been up there.”
Michael Jackson’s dedication to art: so strong that he’ll end up perched on a kitchen island.
“Michael Jackson continues to inspire people in every corner of the world as someone who chose to use the extraordinary gifts and talents he was blessed with to deliver messages of hope, love and peace. Michael’s legacy is more than his remarkable artistic accomplishments. It also includes an indescribably unique spirit that still connects Michael today with countless fans in a way that knows no borders, no cultural barriers and which speaks a common language of unity and compassion. Our thoughts and prayers are especially with his children as we fondly remember the Michael Jackson whose friendship, humor and kindness joyously touched so many lives.”
Remembering Michael Jackson: The Global Humanitarian
One of the most generous humanitarians to ever have graced this planet with their physical presence returned to the essence 2 years ago, today. Although much mention is not made of it – while still physically alive, the generous Michael Jackson donated millions of dollars, as well as countless hours, to numerous charities and other organizations which assisted many others in need…
Read more >>> Hip-Hop Wired
Those “Crazy Michael Jackson Fans:” Maybe we should listen?
By Rev. Barbara Kaufmann
Read article > >> InnerMichael.com
Michael Jackson Tribute Poem, “We Had
Recited For the First Time by Legendary Author Maya
Los Angeles, California – The Michael
Jackson Tribute Portrait has released rare footage of Maya Angelou reciting “We
Had Him,” the poem she wrote for Michael Jackson at the time of his passing. The
reading of this beautiful and powerful poem was staged exclusively for The Michael Jackson
Tribute Portrait as a gift to fans worldwide on the occasion of the one year
anniversary of Michael’s passing.
This beautiful and powerful poem was first read at the
Staples Center Memorial one year ago by Queen Latifah, but it has never been
read for the public by the poem’s author, Dr. Angelou, herself … until now!
When Dr. Angelou recently heard about The Michael
Jackson Tribute Portrait (a one-of-a-kind, interactive work of art made from
hand drawn dots – one dot = one
fan), she contacted artist David Ilan to express how much she loved
it. She invited him to
her home in Winston-Salem ,
North Carolina , so she could
endorse the tribute and make an announcement to fans worldwide to commemorate
the one year anniversary by getting their free dots in Michael’s Tribute
Portrait. The Monday before the July 25 one year anniversary, David Ilan
traveled to Dr. Angelou’s home from
Angeles with Michael’s
In a prestigious and touching ceremony, Dr. Angelou was
presented with a dot in her name next to Michael’s dot in the portrait. This is
the area of the portrait reserved for family and friends. She spoke about
Michael in front of the Tribute cameras and, as a gift to the Tribute and to
fans around the globe, she recited her poem “We Had Him.” This is the first and only time Dr. Angelou has
recited her poem for the public.
The video of Dr. Angelou reciting her poem for Michael
has just been released on YouTube. The announcement of its release was made
simultaneously to Michael’s fan clubs around the
In this never-before-seen video, Maya Angelou states, “I
don’t believe that Michael would be surprised to find this gigantic tribute, the
largest in the world. I think he would be delighted, I think he would feel
humbled, I think he would be humbly over the moon to know about this tribute,
but I don’t think he would be surprised.”
Jerry Biederman, the Co-founder and Executive Producer
of The Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait said, “It is our goal to have this great
video be seen by every person on the planet who loves Michael Jackson. You can
help us by sharing this far and wide to your friends, on Facebook, MySpace,
Twitter … you name it. It starts with us, and with luck and faith, this video
will travel the globe many times over for generations to come! Michael’s legacy
is in our hands.”
To get YOUR dot, go to http://www.MichaelJacksonTributePortrait.com
* * *
The Michael Jackson Tribute
June 13th marked five
years since Michael Jackson was acquitted on ten accounts of child molestation. Apart from family and fans, not many from the
general public will pay much attention to this date. For most, it is just another day. For some of us, though, it is our yearly
reminder of a lot of things: of reflection, of redemption, of justice…but also
of human nature, and the damage it can sometimes do when unleashed.
Few understand just how biased the media was in their reporting of the trial
and just how calculated and sensationalist they were throughout it. That negativity sells is something everyone
already knows, but in the 2005 child molestation charges against the world’s
most famous person, there seemed to be something that ran far deeper. There was malice and a blood thirst there
that seemed out of the ordinary even by tabloid measurements. And it brings up the very interesting
question of what it is that can make thousands of people gang up so completely
on one individual. What primal instinct,
what fear…can cause us, as a race, to turn into a pitch-fork mob, salivating,
and orgasming at the thought of lynching someone and literally destroying them?
In 1993, the European Council
approved Resolution 1003 on the Ethics of Journalism; which recommends
journalists to respect the “presumption of innocence”: in other words; you are
innocent until proven guilty. In the
case against Michael Jackson, however, this, apparently, was no longer relevant. Although the accuracy of the term
”journalism” in association with tabloids can be debated, The Society of
Professional Journalists’ code of ethics mentions that good journalistic
practice includes for a journalist to do the following:
* Show compassion for
those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with
children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
* Be sensitive when
seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or
* Recognize that
gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for
* Recognize that
private people have a greater right to control information about themselves
than do public officials and others who seek power, influence, or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify
intrusion into anyone’s privacy.
* Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
* Be cautious about
identifying juvenile suspects or victims of sex crimes.
* Be judicious about
naming criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.
* Balance a criminal
suspect’s fair trial rights with the public’s right to be informed.
It seems in the
Michael Jackson case – and tabloid journalism in general – these rules did not
apply. Statements were taken out of
context, facts were twisted, and more focus was put on Michael Jackson’s
appearance, than on the proceedings of the ongoing trial.
The question in all of
this is not how people became so caught up in preferring fiction over truth,
the question is why. Why was it that
someone had apparently decided that Michael Jackson did not deserve to be
treated like a human being? What was it
that made people so provoked by him, and when was it decided that he did not
deserve privacy, respect, or compassion?
Was it when his face started changing?
When he became too androgynous for people to apply the set-in-stone
rules of gender roles to him that we worship and follow so religiously? Was it when he became the biggest selling
artist in history, or when he gained wealth and financial freedom, while the
rest of us went to our day jobs that we hated?
Was it when he shunned the public eye because of the chaos that would
rear its ugly head whenever he stepped foot outside? Was it his creativity and his passionate and
intense outbursts on stage? Or, was it
simply, that he mirrored our own mistakes back to us?
Most of us have, upon
one time or another in our lives, come across a person that we have felt an
immediate aversion to. More often than
not, that aversion springs from how we feel about ourselves while in their
presence. Michael Jackson was an avid
spokesperson for children’s rights. His
charity work spanned the globe, and he donated millions on a yearly basis. He spoke frequently about love and respect as
the healers of our broken planet – and most of all, he believed in it. He pointed out the suffering and the
wrongdoings on the planet, wrongdoings that largely exist because of our own
indifference to them. Having someone
mirroring our mistakes and idleness back to us is frightening, and by looking
at his generosity and childlike nature; we were reminded that we had lost our
This was something
that was incredibly provoking to many, and when provoked and insecure, we are
designed to reject. By rejecting the
thing that makes us uncomfortable, we hope for the feelings it creates to go
away. So Michael Jackson was rejected. Again and again, he was rejected and mocked
and crucified by people that were too insecure in their own skin to be able to
accept anyone that stood out, and that didn’t fit the mold.
Michael Jackson danced
with an injured back, he toured until he fainted, and he stayed up entire
nights at a time, for one reason, and one reason only: the hope that we would
finally love and accept him the way he so desperately yearned for. But we would not, and we kept pushing him
Jackson was born with
an extraordinary sense of musicality. In
her book” My Family, The Jacksons,” Katherine Jackson writes:
”It dawned on me that
Michael was no run-of-the-mill kid one day in 1960. I was standing in front of my washing
machine, checking the load, when I happened to turn around and see my one-and-a-half-year-old
son practically under my dress tail. He
was holding a bottle and dancing … dancing to the rhythmic squeak of my washing
While musicality can
be trained to a certain extent, it cannot be taught. It is either there, or it is not. In Michael Jackson’s two year-old mind, and
in his body…it was very much present, and his parents quickly noticed.
Jackson often spoke of
how he felt he could not take credit for his songs, as they ”would just come to
him”, and all he did was write them down.
He cited God, and felt that the music was simply being channeled through
him by a higher power. To anyone that
has ever watched him on stage, his presence is undeniable. In many ways, he may well be considered a
creative and musical genius. Those are
few and far between, but instead of being fascinated or in awe…we were provoked. We didn’t understand it, didn’t understand
his animated way of behaving or his childlike nature, we didn’t understand his
visions or his appreciation for the simple things…so we rejected him. Fear is born out of ignorance, and the world
was ignorant. And because he already
seemed so different from most of us – again, geniuses are few and far between –
it made sense to most people that he was very likely ”strange” in the ways that
the tabloids reported, too. He was a
thirty-something man that loved water balloon fights; a forty-something that
enjoyed climbing trees. Seemed plausible
he would also sleep in a hyper barbaric chamber and try to bleach his skin.
As a society, we worship
our social norms so much, that anything that strays for them by definition
becomes wrong and undesirable. Michael
Jackson did not fit into any of the molds set by society. He was born with dark skin, which whitened
with time. He was born with a large,
wide nose that he had altered to a small and narrow one. He had long hair, a high-pitched voice, and a
soft, compassionate side. He was the
antithesis of what society defines as”male,” and expects a man to be.
We raise our sons with
toy guns, scrubbed knees and the notion that boys don’t cry. Michael Jackson was not afraid to show his
emotions in every aspect of his life, and he was not an image of the macho
culture that we so seem to love. His
shyness and softer side was cute when he was little, and possibly also in his
early teens, but in a fifty year old man?
No, that can’t possibly be right.
TV told us that’s not how men are supposed to behave. Reject.
Although the child
molestation trial became the final blow to Michael Jackson’s heart, there had
been a steady stream of atrocities being written about his private persona for
decades, one more vicious than the next.
During the twenty years that Michael Jackson was persecuted by the
media, no one ever stopped to question the likelihood of what they were reading. Somewhere along the way, we put logic and
critical thinking aside and decided that if it’s in print, it must be true. It must be true, because why would anyone lie? What people should be asking themselves is
why would they not? The media is a profit
business. It is naive to think that we
live in a world devoid of corruption and greed, and the days where the media
was a direct reflection of the truth are long gone. What we are left with, are innuendos and
cleverly fabricated stories that speak to the morbid fascination and pack
animal in all of us, and that are just basic enough to not require reflection.
In retrospect, a vast
majority of what was written on Jackson seems laughable and bizarre. According to the press, this is someone that
was born a black man but really wants to be a white woman, sleeps in a hyperbaric chamber to be able to reach the age of two hundred, rides the roller
coaster in his backyard alone in the middle of the night, bought the remains of
Joseph Merrick (also known as”The Elephant man”), and takes female hormones to
maintain his high-pitched voice. Yet no
one ever reacted. No one ever for a
second thought” hang on a minute, this can’t possibly be true.” The reason?
They wanted it to be true. They
needed it to be true, so they could feel collectively part of something. Asking your colleagues or friends if they’ve
heard what that Michael Jackson has done now, makes you the center of
attention, and it makes you feel part of a group. We are pack animals; we thrive off of others
and do not well on our own. We want to
belong, to be accepted, to feel appreciated.
That was all Michael Jackson ever wanted, too. The only difference is he was never let into
So why, then, did an
entire planet decide it was okay to throw another fellow human being to the
wolves and enjoy watching his demise? As
a human race, we are not all good. We
can be vindictive, manipulative, greedy, and selfish, and all of us WILL put
ourselves first if we are put into a life or death situation. We’d just like to believe differently. Michael Jackson… believed differently. It is funny how the one man that for so many
years experienced nothing but the absolute worst of other people was also the
one that, unlike the rest of us, never became jaded. For someone to be subjected to so much
hatred, prejudice, greed, and malice, and still not lose faith in humanity…is
astonishing. It would have been so easy
for him, as it is for all of us, when hurt, to withdraw from the world and grow
bitter and cold. The fact that he not
only refrained from that, but kept loving this world and everyone in it even
more, says everything about the person that he was. And lying about him, judging, hounding and
persecuting him and standing by, doing nothing, as he perished….says everything
Martin Luther King
”History will have to
record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not
the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good
We must never be
silent. Blind obedience and sheep
mentality is the reason why bullying exists.
It is, when taken to the extreme, the reason the Holocaust happened, and
it is the reason Michael Jackson is dead.
There is a predator in all of us, and we are all capable of giving in to
the urge of preying on the weak for our own self-gratification – some of just
make the effort to try to control it. To
quote the well-known Michael Jackson song: “If they say “why, why?” / Tell them that it’s human nature.”
Never be silent.
Sandra Sasvari – The Comment Factory
Thank you, thank you dear friends, from the bottom of my heart,
for such a loving and spirited welcome, and thank you, Mr. President,
for your kind invitation to me, which I am so honored, to accept. I
also want to express a special thanks to you Shmuley, who for 11 years
served as Rabbi here at Oxford. You and I have been working so hard to
form Heal the Kids, as well as writing our book about childlike
qualities, and in all of our efforts you have been such a supportive
and loving friend. And I would also like to thank Toba Friedman, our
director of operations at Heal the Kids, who is returning tonight to
the alma mater where she served as a Marshall scholar, as well as
Marilyn Piels, another central member of our Heal the Kids team.
I am humbled
to be lecturing in a place that has previously been filled by such
notable figures as Mother Theresa, Albert Einstein, Ronald Reagan,
Robert Kennedy and Malcolm X. I’ve even heard that Kermit the Frog has
made an appearance here, and I’ve always felt a kinship with Kermit’s
message that it’s not easy being green. I’m sure he didn’t find it any
easier being up here than I do!
As I looked
around Oxford today, I couldn’t help but be aware of the majesty and
grandeur of this great institution, not to mention the brilliance of
the great and gifted minds that have roamed these streets for
centuries. The walls of Oxford have not only housed the greatest
philosophical and scientific geniuses – they have also ushered forth
some of the most cherished creators of children’s literature, from
J.R.R. Tolkien to CS Lewis. Today I was allowed to hobble into the
dining hall in Christ Church to see Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland
immortalized in the stained glass windows. And even one of my own
fellow Americans, the beloved Dr Seuss graced these halls and then went
on to leave his mark on the imaginations of millions of children
throughout the world.
I suppose I
should start by listing my qualifications to speak before you this
evening. Friends, I do not claim to have the academic expertise of
other speakers who have addressed this hall, just as they could lay
little claim at being adept at the moonwalk – and you know, Einstein in
particular was really TERRIBLE at that.
But I do have
a claim to having experienced more places and cultures than most people
will ever see. Human knowledge consists not only of libraries of
parchment and ink – it is also comprised of the volumes of knowledge
that are written on the human heart, chiseled on the human soul, and
engraved on the human psyche. And friends, I have encountered so much
in this relatively short life of mine that I still cannot believe I am
only 42. I often tell Shmuley that in soul years I’m sure that I’m at
least 80 – and tonight I even walk like I’m 80! So please harken to my
message, because what I have to tell you tonight can bring healing to
humanity and healing to our planet.
grace of God, I have been fortunate to have achieved many of my
artistic and professional aspirations realized early in my lifetime.
But these friends, are accomplishments, and accomplishments alone are
not synonymous with who I am. Indeed, the cheery five-year-old who
belted out Rockin’ Robin and Ben to adoring crowds was not indicative
of the boy behind the smile.
come before you less as an icon of pop (whatever that means anyway),
and more as an icon of a generation, a generation that no longer knows
what it means to be children.
All of us are
products of our childhood. But I am the product of a lack of a
childhood, an absence of that precious and wondrous age when we frolic
playfully without a care in the world, basking in the adoration of
parents and relatives, where our biggest concern is studying for that
big spelling test come Monday morning.
Those of you
who are familiar with the Jackson Five know that I began performing at
the tender age of five and that ever since then, I haven’t stopped
dancing or singing. But while performing and making music undoubtedly
remain as some of my greatest joys, when I was young I wanted more than
anything else to be a typical little boy. I wanted to build tree
houses, have water balloon fights, and play hide and seek with my
friends. But fate had it otherwise and all I could do was envy the
laughter and playtime that seemed to be going on all around me.
There was no
respite from my professional life. But on Sundays I would go
Pioneering, the term used for the missionary work that Jehovah’s
Witnesses do. And it was then that I was able to see the magic of other
Since I was
already a celebrity, I would have to don a disguise of fat suit, wig,
beard and glasses and we would spend the day in the suburbs of Southern
California, going door-to-door or making the rounds of shopping malls,
distributing our Watchtower magazine. I loved to set foot in all those
regular suburban houses and catch sight of the shag rugs and La-Z-Boy
armchairs with kids playing Monopoly and grandmas baby-sitting and all
those wonderful, ordinary and starry scenes of everyday life. Many, I
know, would argue that these things seem like no big deal. But to me
they were mesmerizing.
I used to
think that I was unique in feeling that I was without a childhood. I
believed that indeed there were only a handful with whom I could share
those feelings. When I recently met with Shirley Temple Black, the
great child star of the 1930s, and 40s, we said nothing to each other
at first; we simply cried together, for she could share a pain with me
that only others like my close friends Elizabeth Taylor and McCauley
I do not tell
you this to gain your sympathy but to impress upon you my first
important point: It is not just Hollywood child stars that have
suffered from a non-existent childhood. Today, it’s a universal
calamity, a global catastrophe. Childhood has become the great casualty
of modern-day living. All around us we are producing scores of kids who
have not had the joy, who have not been accorded the right, who have
not been allowed the freedom, or knowing what it’s like to be a kid.
are constantly encouraged to grow up faster, as if this period known as
childhood is a burdensome stage, to be endured and ushered through, as
swiftly as possible. And on that subject, I am certainly one of the
world’s greatest experts.
Ours is a
generation that has witnessed the abrogation of the parent-child
covenant. Psychologists are publishing libraries of books detailing the
destructive effects of denying one’s children the unconditional love
that is so necessary to the healthy development of their minds and
character. And because of all the neglect, too many of our kids have,
essentially, to raise themselves. They are growing more distant from
their parents, grandparents and other family members, as all around us
the indestructible bond that once glued together the generations,
has bred a new generation; Generation O let us call it, that has now
picked up the torch from Generation X. The O stands for a generation
that has everything on the outside – wealth, success, fancy clothing,
and fancy cars, but an aching emptiness on the inside. That cavity in
our chests, that barrenness at our core, that void in our center is the
place where the heart once beat and which love once occupied.
And it’s not
just the kids who are suffering. It’s the parents as well. For the more
we cultivate little-adults in kids’-bodies, the more removed we
ourselves become from our own child-like qualities, and there is so
much about being a child that is worth retaining in adult life.
and gentlemen, is the human family’s most precious legacy, its richest
bequest, its golden inheritance. And it is a treasure that is handed
down from one generation to another. Previous ages may not have had the
wealth we enjoy. Their houses may have lacked electricity, and they
squeezed their many kids into small homes without central heating. But
those homes had no darkness, nor were they cold. They were lit bright
with the glow of love and they were warmed snugly by the very heat of
the human heart. Parents, undistracted by the lust for luxury and
status, accorded their children primacy in their lives.
As you all
know, our two countries broke from each other over what Thomas
Jefferson referred to as “certain inalienable rights”. And while we
Americans and British might dispute the justice of his claims, what has
never been in dispute is that children have certain inalienable rights,
and the gradual erosion of those rights has led to scores of children
worldwide being denied the joys and security of childhood.
therefore like to propose tonight that we install in every home a
Children’s Universal Bill of Rights, the tenets of which are:
1. The right to be loved without having to earn it
2. The right to be protected, without having to deserve it
3. The right to feel valuable, even if you came into the world with nothing
4. The right to be listened to without having to be interesting
5. The right to be read a bedtime story, without having to compete with the evening news
6. The right to an education without having to dodge bullets at schools
7. The right to be thought of as adorable – (even if you have a face that only a mother could love).
foundation of all human knowledge, the beginning of human
consciousness, must be that each and every one of us is an object of
love. Before you know if you have red hair or brown, before you know if
you are black or white, before you know of what religion you are a
part, you have to know that you are loved.
years ago, when I was just about to start my Bad tour, a little boy
came with his parents to visit me at home in California. He was dying
of cancer and he told me how much he loved my music and me. His parents
told me that he wasn’t going to live, that any day he could just go,
and I said to him: “Look, I am going to be coming to your town in
Kansas to open my tour in three months. I want you to come to the show.
I am going to give you this jacket that I wore in one of my videos.”
His eyes lit up and he said: “You are gonna GIVE it to me?” I said
“Yeah, but you have to promise that you will wear it to the show.” I
was trying to make him hold on. I said: “When you come to the show I
want to see you in this jacket and in this glove” and I gave him one of
my rhinestone gloves – and I never usually give the rhinestone gloves
away. And he was just in heaven.
But maybe he
was too close to heaven, because when I came to his town, he had
already died, and they had buried him in the glove and jacket. He was
just 10 years old. God knows, I know, that he tried his best to hold
on. But at least when he died, he knew that he was loved, not only by
his parents, but even by me, a near stranger, I also loved him. And
with all of that love he knew that he didn’t come into this world
alone, and he certainly didn’t leave it alone.
If you enter
this world knowing you are loved and you leave this world knowing the
same, then everything that happens in between can he dealt with. A
professor may degrade you, but you will not feel degraded, a boss may
crush you, but you will not be crushed, a corporate gladiator might
vanquish you, but you will still triumph. How could any of them truly
prevail in pulling you down? For you know that you are an object worthy
of love. The rest is just packaging.
But if you
don’t have that memory of being loved, you are condemned to search the
world for something to fill you up. But no matter how much money you
make or how famous you become, you will still fell empty. What you are
really searching for is unconditional love, unqualified acceptance. And
that was the one thing that was denied to you at birth.
me paint a picture for you. Here is a typical day in America – six
youths under the age of 20 will commit suicide, 12 children under the
age of 20 will die from firearms – remember this is a DAY, not a year –
399 kids will be arrested for drug abuse, 1,352 babies will be born to
teen mothers. This is happening in one of the richest, most developed
countries in the history of the world.
Yes, in my
country there is an epidemic of violence that parallels no other
industrialized nation. These are the ways young people in America
express their hurt and their anger. But don’t think that there is not
the same pain and anguish among their counterparts in the United
Kingdom. Studies in this country show that every single hour, three
teenagers in the UK inflict harm upon themselves, often by cutting or
burning their bodies or taking an overdose. This is how they have
chosen to cope with the pain of neglect and emotional agony.
In Britain, as
many as 20% of families will only sit down and have dinner together
once a year. Once a year! And what about the time-honored tradition of
reading your kid a bedtime story? Research from the 1980s showed that
children who are read to, had far greater literacy and significantly
outperformed their peers at school. And yet, less than 33% of British
children ages two to eight have a regular bedtime story read to them.
You may not think much of that until you take into account that 75% of
their parents DID have that bedtime story when they were that age.
Clearly, we do
not have to ask ourselves where all of this pain, anger, and violent
behavior comes from. It is self-evident that children are thundering
against the neglect, quaking against the indifference and crying out
just to be noticed. The various child protection agencies in the US say
that millions of children are victims of maltreatment in the form of
neglect, in the average year. Yes, neglect. In rich homes, privileged
homes, wired to the hilt with every electronic gadget. Homes where
parents come home, but they’re not really home, because their heads are
still at the office. And their kids? Well, their kids just make do with
whatever emotional crumbs they get. And you don’t get much from endless
TV, computer games, and videos.
cold numbers which for me, wrench the soul and shake the spirit, should
indicate to you why I have devoted so much of my time and resources
into making our new Heal the Kids initiative a colossal success.
Our goal is
simple – to recreate the parent/child bond, renew its promise and light
the way forward for all the beautiful children who are destined one day
to walk this earth.
But since this
is my first public lecture, and you have so warmly welcomed me into
your hearts, I feel that I want to tell you more. We each have our own
story, and in that sense statistics can become personal.
They say that
parenting is like dancing. You take one step, your child takes another.
I have discovered that getting parents to re-dedicate themselves to
their children is only half the story. The other half is preparing the
children to re-accept their parents.
When I was
very young I remember that we had this crazy mutt of a dog named “Black
Girl,” a mix of wolf and retriever. Not only wasn’t she much of a guard
dog, she was such a scared and nervous thing that it is a wonder she
did not pass out every time a truck rumbled by, or a thunderstorm swept
through Indiana. My sister Janet and I gave that dog so much love, but
we never really won back the sense of trust that had been stolen from
her by her previous owner. We knew he used to beat her. We didn’t know
with what. But whatever it was, it was enough to suck the spirit right
out of that dog.
A lot of kids
today are hurt puppies who have weaned themselves off the need for
love. They couldn’t care less about their parents. Left to their own
devices, they cherish their independence. They have moved on and have
left their parents behind.
Then there are
the far worse cases of children who harbor animosity and resentment
toward their parents, so that any overture that their parents might
undertake would be thrown forcefully back in their face.
don’t want any of us to make this mistake. That’s why I’m calling upon
all the world’s children – beginning with all of us here tonight – to
forgive our parents, if we felt neglected. Forgive them and teach them
how to love again.
weren’t surprised to hear that I did not have an idyllic childhood. The
strain and tension that exists in my relationship with my own father is
well documented. My father is a tough man and he pushed my brothers and
me hard, from the earliest age, to be the best performers we could be.
He had great
difficulty showing affection. He never really told me he loved me. And
he never really complimented me either. If I did a great show, he would
tell me it was a good show. And if I did an OK show, he told me it was
a lousy show.
intent, above all else, on making us a commercial success. And at that
he was more than adept. My father was a managerial genius and my
brothers and I owe our professional success, in no small measure, to
the forceful way that he pushed us. He trained me as a showman and
under his guidance I couldn’t miss a step.
But what I
really wanted was a Dad. I wanted a father who showed me love. And my
father never did that. He never said I love you while looking me
straight in the eye; he never played a game with me. He never gave me a
piggyback ride; he never threw a pillow at me, or a water balloon.
But I remember
once when I was about four years old, there was a little carnival and
he picked me up and put me on a pony. It was a tiny gesture, probably
something he forgot five minutes later. But because of that moment I
have this special place in my heart for him. Because that’s how kids
are, the little things mean so much to them and for me, that one moment
meant everything. I only experienced it that one time, but it made me
feel really good, about him and the world.
But now I am a
father myself, and one day I was thinking about my own children, Prince
and Paris and how I wanted them to think of me when they grow up. To be
sure, I would like them to remember how I always wanted them with me
wherever I went, how I always tried to put them before everything else.
But there are also challenges in their lives. Because my kids are
stalked by paparazzi, they can’t always go to a park or a movie with
So what if
they grow older and resent me, and how my choices impacted their youth?
Why weren’t we given an average childhood like all the other kids, they
might ask? And at that moment I pray that my children will give me the
benefit of the doubt. That they will say to themselves: “Our daddy did
the best he could, given the unique circumstances that he faced. He may
not have been perfect, but he was a warm and decent man, who tried to
give us all the love in the world.”
I hope that
they will always focus on the positive things, on the sacrifices I
willingly made for them, and not criticize the things they had to give
up, or the errors I’ve made, and will certainly continue to make, in
raising them. For we have all been someone’s child, and we know that
despite the very best of plans and efforts, mistakes will always occur.
That’s just being human.
And when I
think about this, of how I hope that my children will not judge me
unkindly, and will forgive my shortcomings, I am forced to think of my
own father and despite my earlier denials, I am forced to admit that me
must have loved me. He did love me, and I know that.
little things that showed it. When I was a kid I had a real sweet tooth
– we all did. My favorite food was glazed doughnuts and my father knew
that. So every few weeks I would come downstairs in the morning and
there on the kitchen counter was a bag of glazed doughnuts – no note,
no explanation – just the doughnuts. It was like Santa Claus.
would think about staying up late at night, so I could see him leave
them there, but just like with Santa Claus, I didn’t want to ruin the
magic for fear that he would never do it again. My father had to leave
them secretly at night; so as no one might catch him with his guard
down. He was scared of human emotion, he didn’t understand it or know
how to deal with it. But he did know doughnuts.
And when I
allow the floodgates to open up, there are other memories that come
rushing back, memories of other tiny gestures, however imperfect, that
showed that he did what he could. So tonight, rather than focusing on
what my father didn’t do, I want to focus on all the things he did do
and on his own personal challenges. I want to stop judging him.
I have started
reflecting on the fact that my father grew up in the South, in a very
poor family. He came of age during the Depression and his own father,
who struggled to feed his children, showed little affection towards his
family and raised my father and his siblings with an iron fist. Who
could have imagined what it was like to grow up a poor black man in the
South, robbed of dignity, bereft of hope, struggling to become a man in
a world that saw my father as subordinate? I was the first black artist
to be played on MTV and I remember how big a deal it was even then. And
that was in the 80s!
moved to Indiana and had a large family of his own, working long hours
in the steel mills, work that kills the lungs and humbles the spirit,
all to support his family. Is it any wonder that he found it difficult
to expose his feelings? Is it any mystery that he hardened his heart,
that he raised the emotional ramparts? And most of all, is it any
wonder why he pushed his sons so hard to succeed as performers, so that
they could be saved from what he knew to be a life of indignity and
I have begun
to see that even my father’s harshness was a kind of love, an imperfect
love, to be sure, but love nonetheless. He pushed me because he loved
me. Because he wanted no man ever to look down at his offspring.
And now with
time, rather than bitterness, I feel blessing. In the place of anger, I
have found absolution. And in the place of revenge I have found
reconciliation. And my initial fury has slowly given way to
decade ago, I founded a charity called Heal the World. The title was
something I felt inside me. Little did I know, as Shmuley later pointed
out, that those two words form the cornerstone of Old Testament
prophecy. Do I really believe that we can heal this world that is
riddled with war and genocide, even today? And do I really think that
we can heal our children, the same children who can enter their schools
with guns and hatred and shoot down their classmates, like they did at
Columbine? Or children, who can beat a defenseless toddler to death,
like the tragic story of Jamie Bulger? Of course I do, or I wouldn’t be
But it all
begins with forgiveness, because to heal the world, we first have to
heal ourselves. And to heal the kids, we first have to heal the child
within, each and every one of us. As an adult, and as a parent, I
realize that I cannot be a whole human being, nor a parent capable of
unconditional love, until I put to rest the ghosts of my own childhood.
what I’m asking all of us to do tonight. Live up to the fifth of the
Ten Commandments. Honor your parents by not judging them. Give them the
benefit of the doubt.
That is why I
want to forgive my father and to stop judging him. I want to forgive my
father, because I want a father, and this is the only one that I’ve
got. I want the weight of my past lifted from my shoulders and I want
to be free to step into a new relationship with my father, for the rest
of my life, unhindered by the goblins of the past.
In a world
filled with hate, we must still dare to hope. In a world filled with
anger, we must still dare to comfort. In a world filled with despair,
we must still dare to dream. And in a world filled with distrust, we
must still dare to believe.
To all of you
tonight who feel let down by your parents, I ask you to let down your
disappointment. To all of you tonight who feel cheated by your fathers
or mothers, I ask you not to cheat yourself further. And to all of you
who wish to push your parents away, I ask you to extend you hand to
them instead. I am asking you, I am asking myself, to give our parents
the gift of unconditional love, so that they too may learn how to love
from us, their children. So that love will finally be restored to a
desolate and lonely world.
mentioned to me an ancient Biblical prophecy, which says that a new
world and a new time would come, when “the hearts of the parents would
be restored through the hearts of their children”. My friends, we are
that world, we are those children.
said: “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the
strong.” Tonight, be strong. Beyond being strong, rise to the greatest
challenge of all – to restore that broken covenant. We must all
overcome whatever crippling effects our childhoods may have had on our
lives and in the words of Jesse Jackson, forgive each other, redeem
each other and move on.
This call for
forgiveness may not result in Oprah moments the world over, with
thousands of children making up with their parents, but it will at
least be a start, and we’ll all be so much happier as a result.
And so ladies and gentlemen, I conclude my remarks tonight with faith, joy and excitement.
From this day forward, may a new song be heard.
Let that new song be the sound of children laughing.
Let that new song be the sound of children playing.
Let that new song be the sound of children singing.
And let that new song be the sound of parents listening.
Together, let us create a symphony of hearts, marvelling at the miracle of our children and basking in the beauty of love.
Let us heal the world and blight its pain.
And may we all make beautiful music together.
God bless you, and I love you.
I’ve lost the use of my heart
But I’m still alive
Still looking for the light
And the endless pool on the other side
It’s the wild wild west
I’m doing my best
I’m at the borderline of my faith
I’m at the hinterland of my devotion
I’m in the front line of this battle of mine
But I’m still alive
I’m a soldier of love
Every day and night
I’m a soldier of love
All the days of my life
I’ve been torn up inside
I’ve been left behind
Tall I ride
I have the will to survive
In the wild, wild west
Trying my hardest
Doing my best to stay alive
I am love’s soldier
I wait for the sound
I know that love will come
I know that love will come
Turn it all around
I am lost but Idon’t doubt
Tall I ride
I have the will to survive
In the wild, wild west
Trying my hardest
Doing my best to stay alive
I am love’s soldier
I wait for the sound
I know that love will come
I know that love will come
Turn it all around
I’m a soldier of love… Soldier of Love ~ Sade
publishes content that is more suitable for tabloid publications.
Part 1 — Professionalization of Journalism. Many occupations require
licensing; for example, doctors, lawyers, architects, and accountants
must be licensed in all 50 states. To qualify, one must graduate from
an accredited university and pass a rigorous board examination. A
license doesn’t guarantee a doctor, lawyer, architect, or accountant
will be competent. However, licensing prevents a plumber from operating
on a person, a homemaker from arguing in court, a dog groomer from
designing a building, or a student from maintaining the books of a
Is it no less important that those entrusted with reporting world
events be licensed? Reporters should not be allowed to call themselves
journalists unless they graduate from an accredited university with a
degree in journalism (including at least one course in journalism
ethics and one course in communications and media law) and pass a
rigorous board examination.
From June 30, 2009
ARMOND WHITE remembers Michael Jackson’s pop open-mindedness
by Armond White
Michael Jackson made the best cinema of 1991 with the music video
“Black or White,” which was easily superior to any short or
feature-length film released to the public that year. To find a
comparable example of visual montage, you have to go back to one of
Alain Resnais’ time-shifting études, the marriage scherzo in Citizen
Kane or the chase-trial fugue in D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance. I combine
musical and filmic values because “Black or White” ’s visionary
approach to egalitarianism—ending with a still-miraculous sequence of
genetic morphing and counter-balanced by a solo dance of frustration
and rage—was a singular feat: Its constant rhythm was accompanied by a
stacking-up of thrilling, provocative ideas.
The night “Black
or White” premiered on FOX was one of those memorable moments when
Michael Jackson brought the world together through his art. That
unification is, of course, MJ’s legacy. But not merely in a lovey-dovey
sense. MJ’s command of popular attention was always unexpected and
challenging. Each cultural/historical marker demonstrated his unique
sensibility, mostly superb taste (pardon his penchant for horror-film
tropes), his simple yet probing, agitating intellect and his seemingly
boundless talents: a great singer, songwriter, dancer and, in movie
This career of milestones hasn’t
ended with Jackson’s death last week at age 50. Despite media vultures
striking new lows in their ongoing scavenger hunt, Jackson’s loss
started unprecedented Internet traffic that experts say diminished the
cyberspace and twittering exchanges about Iran’s recent election. His
personal incarnation of modern cultural and political change began with
11-year-old Michael’s first national television appearance on ABC’s The
Hollywood Palace, performing the still-astonishing “I Want You Back”
with his brothers in The Jackson Five. Child prodigies and splashy
debuts are commonplace in show business, so who could imagine what
Jackson’s brash, playful introduction augured?
extraordinary achievements that followed dwarfed the careers of stars
who attained greater esteem in single pursuits; MJ epitomized for all
the greater social benefits of liberated black American expression. As
MJ pushed R&B forward, adding to the emotional definition of
cultural consumers’ lives, it first seemed like showbiz as usual. The
records “ABC,” “The Love You Save” and “I’ll Be There” exemplified
youth culture’s new energy and power. Then MJ confounded convention
with the startlingly poignant “Ben.” It was a strategic movie tie-in
theme (for the 1972 horror flick of the same name, a sequel to Willard)
the same year Diana Ross sought to infiltrate Hollywood with the biopic
Lady Sings the Blues. But MJ took his B-movie opportunity so seriously
that it quietly permeated the zeitgeist. People who don’t appreciate
“Ben” don’t really appreciate pop culture and remain clueless about MJ.
His tender, profound emotionality taught teenagers everywhere that they
could feel more deeply than they realized.
Here’s the beauty
part: “Ben” wasn’t just for black fans (such as those who identified
with the Jackson Five’s “Mama’s Pearl”) but white listeners also
responded (and I know many of them), recognizing and assenting to MJ’s
heartfelt pledge. This is why, 25 years after “Ben,” when MJ publicized
himself as “The King of Pop,” the tagline stuck. It had been denied him
by the Elvis-worshipping racist media, but MJ snatched it from the
selfish claws of industry bias. Some scoffed but listeners and sharp
observers knew it was true.
Going beyond hubris, MJ made the
self-assertion that black artists were usually too modest (or
underfinanced) to dare. Since childhood, MJ gained an understanding of
how the record industry and the mainstream media work. He aimed for
cultural domination, achieved it then moonwalked across our
consciousness—strutting and gliding as if the crown was no heavier than
a bon vivant’s fedora. Little Michael started out singing about desire
with a profound sense of urgency. Both “Ben” and “I Want You Back”
offer the sense of immediacy special to great pop, holding witnesses in
an intense private moment. It is not ironic that these records
incarnate youth’s illusion of immortality. It’s a gift.
Most people have a favorite MJ song or performance that exemplifies the
ways we come to understand and share joy and sadness, celebration and
isolation. MJ mediated these things—as certified when the recent movies
13 Going On 30 and The Wackness paid tribute to MJ. Awareness of his
art is a natural part of the modern experience. MJ was such a fact of
life for the past 40 years that the newsmedia’s disrespect—as in
journos’ demeaning “Jacko”—deprives the world of appreciating the
wonder and depth of Jackson’s art. Critics readily grant hero status to
particular artists, but if Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain, P.J. Harvey and
Eminem are pop’s “geniuses” what word can adequately describe the
world-changing creativity, astounding craft and miraculous precision of
Jackson’s output? His personal issues don’t justify denying it.
Mainstream tastemakers find it difficult to accept the intellectual,
spiritual and aesthetic progress of MJ absorbing Fred Astaire, Gene
Kelly, Billy Eckstein, Sam Cooke, James Brown and Bob Fosse, continuing
their work and matching it in his own style.
originality to reflect on: whether the race-defying polemic “Black or
White” or many innovative music-videos like “Scream,” “Bad” (Scorsese’s
best post-’70s film) and the redoubtable “Thriller,” which many people
admire and first showed MJ’s unique flair for combining popular
extravaganza with personal anxiety. Go back to 1971’s “I’ll Be There”
(its essence appears even in MJ’s late work). This early classic was
more than a love song: The youngster’s earnestness conveyed a cherubic
purity in the uncanny lyric, “You and I must make a pact/ We must bring
salvation back.” The religious evocation isn’t cloying; it recognizes
spiritual need in romantic ardor. The innocence of Jackson’s voice
confirms it as natural, basic. Jackson inherited the pop song tradition
like catechism; as a devout, he grew into his own sincere
articulation—as when echoing Billie Holiday in the “Ain’t Nobody’s
Business” refrain of 1988’s “The Way You Make Me Feel,” yet updating
and owning it.
On the 1980 “Lovely One,” sung with his brothers,
the paean to mother Katherine Jackson becomes an ode to womanhood—the
romantic ideal. MJ doesn’t fatuously evade distinctions, but in pop’s
great emotional imperative, social boundaries dissolve in the funk and
ecstasy of singing, jamming. “Check out this feeling!” he exhorts to
all who will listen. The fact of feeling in his music, singing and
brotherly harmonies, proves the goodness of loving. Through the
vivified funk of “Lovely One,” Jackson demonstrates that
You-Must-Dance, rhythmic mastery that goes beyond intellectualizing.
Maybe it will never make sense to tight-asses. Pity is, they often have
Rev. Al Sharpton was right to remind people that,
before Tiger Woods, Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama benefited from mass
self-congratulation, Michael Jackson was a crucial figure contributing
to—encouraging—the liberal world’s enlightenment. As a product of the
Civil Rights Era, he was an invaluable inspirator of pop
open-mindedness. Part of MJ’s social uplift comes from his
determination to exceed the social and professional limits of the black
social pioneers who preceded him. His funky, elegant stage and studio
precision derives from the Northern industrial aspiration passed
forward to the Great Migration’s later generations. This remains
mysterious to many pop music scholars still stuck in the patronizing,
sentimental perception that uneducated, earthy Negroes are “authentic”
blacks. President Obama’s grudging condolence suggests that this
snobbery still exists in high places. As a Motown artist, MJ defied
that stereotype as a way of guaranteeing his own cultural achievement,
but it also laid a spiritual and material foundation for
success—acceptance and satisfaction—that lasts.
Inherent in all
the MJ trailblazing is belief—proof—that the Civil Rights Era-promises
of equality are realized in the open and creative expression of group
and individual feelings. Artists confide a special faith in their
public expression: that what they have to say will be heard and
understood. (“Beat It” changed more hearts than the Iowa Caucus.)
Through the audacity afforded by exceptional talent, this becomes more
than a hope and you can grasp it personally—whether or not anyone else
concurs—in “Ben,” “Billie Jean,” “You Are Not Alone” or, as in the
challenge posed by “Black or White”: “Don’t tell me you agree with me/
When I saw you kicking dirt in my eye.”
MJ had the audacity to
believe that he could also create that communication on a larger scale
in sincere anthems like “We Are the World,” “Earth Song” and “Man in
the Mirror.” It’s a wonder of pop art when you can’t really separate
the gravitas of an anthem from a love lyric. That flash of emotional
truth in MJ’s art makes it possible to set aside scandal. What genuine
artist has avoided it?
Last year’s pop wonder The Ting Tings
have eulogized MJ perfectly: “Michael Jackson, the Pop Giant. His
controversial life is now over. His great music will outlive us all.”
As the soulless media returns to its routine of hateful recrimination,
this cultural fact remains: We all live, dance and cry in Michael
New York Press
Keep Moving November 18, 2009
Michael Jackson may not have been a film star, but ARMOND WHITE explains his music videos as art
Liz Taylor was right in her now famous Tweet
about Michael Jackson’s This Is It. My Lincoln center program about MJ’s
music videos (Keep Moving: Michael Jackson’s Video Art at the Walter
Reade Theater, Nov. 22) was planned before This Is It, but it ought to confirm Dame
Liz’s enthusiasm. It’s designed to show film enthusiasts who wonder: “What
happened to the movie musical?” or “Why wasn’t Michael a film star?” Despite
race, class and puritanical obstacles, Jackson advanced the movie-musical genre
his own way—working with the best, trusting his instinct and raising the promo
film to an art form every time out.
taken-for-granted cinematic passion was
ahead of Hollywood in visualizing the complexities of sex (“In the
Closet”) race (“Black or White”), ecology (“Earth Song”) and that
aspect of our
cultural heritage that wrestles with mankind’s aggressive instincts
(“Smooth Criminal”). Put MJ in proper
context with Singin’ in the Rain, Shall We Dance and The Band Wagon
as serious expression, not trivial daydreaming. Too busy finger-sapping to
consider “The Way You Make Me Feel” ’s exploration of courtship ritual? In This
Is It, MJ turns masculine drive into iconography that studies eroticism and
social custom—all of it beautifully sung and imaginatively choreographed.
MJ’s music video legacy shames contemporary
Hollywood’s inability to sustain the music video as an expression of mankind’s
dreams. He displayed rare understanding of how music and images can edify the
human condition. That’s why Liz’s all-out defense and confirmation matters. She
tweeted: “[This Is It] is the single most brilliant piece of filmmaking
I have ever seen. It cements forever Michael’s genius in every aspect of
creativity. To say he was a genius seems so little…I truly believe this film
should be nominated in every category conceivable.”
Liz, of course, is totally right. She challenges
the Motion Picture Academy and the upcoming parade of Oscarheads to see past
tabloid demonization to the significance of MJ’s art; to make right the
mainstream’s neglect of a great artist.
Get Armond White’s new book Keep Moving: The
Michael Jackson Chronicles from firstname.lastname@example.org
"The Gloved One Is Not A Chump" – The City Sun, November 21, 1991
"…the triumphant image of Jackson held aloft by the Statue Of
Liberty (he strikes the pose of his BAD video), negating Barbra
Streisand’s narcissism in Funny Girl, announces a new level of
symbolism. As the image widens, Jackson is seen surrounded by the
Eiffel Tower, the Sphinx, the Taj Mahal, the Acropolis, Big Ben, and
other wonders of the world in a vivid fantasy collage. It’s obvious
that he is speaking to the world at large, but the less superficial
meaning of the image shows that he is equal to these wonders: equally
famous, equally legendary, equally ‘big’…"
Winner of the 1992 ASCAP Deems Taylor Award in Music Criticism/Journalism
Also seen in the book, "THE RESISTANCE: Ten Years of Pop Culture That Shook The World" by Armond White
early in my career. He was an incredible artist. Talented beyond your
wildest dreams. Extremely generous, and a hard worker. I actually went
from a staff assistant at the Hit Factory in NYC to freelance engineer
under Swedien and MJ. They were due to start in Los Angeles when the
Northridge earthquake hit so they moved to New York. One room was all
Bruce, the second room was the writing room. I started assisting
Bruce’s writing partner Rene Moore. I would track stuff with Rene, and
Bruce would come in and tell me what I did wrong, sit in for a few
hours and set us straight.
After a couple months MJ arrived and the
entire tour rig was moved in along with Brad Buxer, Andrew Scheps, and
Eddie Delena. I continued to assist them until the whole crew moved to
L.A., they decided to take me with them. I would assist Bruce during
the day, and help out every where else at night – assisting,
engineering, programming, and on one song playing guitar. We had two
rooms at Record One, and two rooms at Larrabee where I met John. At one
point in NYC we had just about every room at the Hit Factory. The crew
was great, and I learned so much from all of them. I learned to
engineer from Bruce Swedien, John, and Eddie, and got to sit in with
producers like MJ, Jam And Lewis, Babyface, David Foster, Teddy Riley,
and Dallas Austin.
I was actually asked to leave the project early on because there were
too many people around and MJ didn’t know me. Luckily, I was rehired
about 10 days later. At the wrap party MJ apologized profusely, and
expressed his gratitude. Truly the most sincere man you will ever meet.
Some random memories:
One morning MJ came in with a new song he had written overnight. We
called in a guitar player, and Michael sang every note of every chord
to him. "here’s the first chord first note, second note, third note.
Here’s the second chord first note, second note, third note", etc.,
etc. We then witnessed him giving the most heartfelt and profound vocal
performance, live in the control room through an SM57.
He would sing us an entire string arrangement, every part. Steve
Porcaro once told me he witnessed MJ doing that with the string section
in the room. Had it all in his head, harmony and everything. Not just
little eight bar loop ideas. he would actually sing the entire
arrangement into a micro-cassette recorder complete with stops and
At one point Michael was angry at one of the producers on the project
because he was treating everyone terribly. Rather than create a scene
or fire the guy, Michael called him to his office/lounge and one of the
security guys threw a pie in his face. No further action was needed . .
. . .
During the recording of "Smile" on HIStory, Bruce thought it would be
great if Michael would sing live with the orchestra. But of course, we
didn’t tell the players that. We set him up in a vocal booth off to the
side. They rehearsed a bit without vocals in, then during the first
take Michael sang, just about knocked them out of their chairs.
His beatboxing was without parallel, and his time was ridiculous.
His sense of harmony was incredible. Never a bad note, no tuning, even his breathing was perfectly in time.
Once, while we were taking a break, I think we were actually watching
the OJ chase on TV, there was a news program talking about him being in
Europe with some little boy. I was sitting next to the guy while the
news is making this crap up. He just looked at me and said this is what
I have to deal with.
I spent close to 3 years working with him, and not once did I question
his morals, or ever believe any of the allegations. I wasn’t even a fan
then. I saw him interact with his brothers kids, other people’s
children, and at one point my own girlfriend’s kids. I got to spend a
day at Neverland with them. A completely incredible human being, always
looking for a way to make all children’s lives better. Every weekend at
Neverland was donated to a different children’s group – children with
AIDS, children cancer, etc., and most of the time he wasn’t there.
He was simply living the childhood he never had. In many ways he never grew up.
I was assisting Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis while they recorded the
background vocals for "Scream" with MJ and Janet. The two of them
singing together was amazing. Super tight, no bad notes. One part after
another. When they took a break they sang the showtunes they used to
sing as kids. Again, perfect harmony. Mj refused to sing the "stop
f*ckin’ with me part" because he would NOT curse.
I was the tape op for the recording of the background vocals on
"Stranger in Moscow". Scared the hell out me. Michael was dropping in
and out on syllables, rearranging the notes and timing as he put it
down. No Pro Tools at the time, just 2" tape, and my punches.
I erased a live keyboard overdub that he played one night. He came in
the next morning, replaced it, and never uttered another word about it.
I was there when Lisa Marie was around. They acted like two kids in
love. Held hands all the time, and she hung out at the studio for quite
a while. I never questioned their love for each other.
We recorded a Christmas song during the summer of ’94 that needed a
children’s choir. Michael insisted that the entire studio be decorated
with Christmas lights, tree, fake snow and a sled for their recording. And
he bought presents for everyone.
The last weekend of recording on HIStory he came to me and Eddie
Delena, and said "I’m sorry, but I don’t think any of us are going to
sleep this weekend. There’s a lot to get done, and we have to go to
Bernie on Monday morning". He stayed at the studio the entire time,
singing, and mixing. I got to spend a couple quiet moments with him
during that time. We talked about John Lennon one night as he was
gearing up to sing the last vocal of the record – the huge ad libs at
the end of "earth song". I told him the story of John singing "twist
and shout" while being sick, and though most people think he was
screaming for effect, it was actually his voice giving out. He loved
it, and then went in to sing his heart out. . . .
Later that night, while mixing, everyone left the room so MJ could turn
it up. This was a common occurrence during the mixes, and I was left in
the room with ear plugs, and hands over my ears, in case he needed
something. This particular night, all the lights were out and we
noticed some blue flashes intermittently lighting up the room during
playback. After a few moments we could see that one of the speakers
(custom quad augspuergers) was shooting blue flames. Mj liked this and
proceeded to push all the faders up . . . .
MJ liked hot water while he was singing. I mean really hot !!!!! It got
to the point that I would melt plastic spoons to test it.
Bruce and I were talking about walking to the studio everyday in NYC,
and what routes we took. Michael looked at us and said we were so lucky
to be able to do that. He couldn’t walk down the street without being
harassed. It was a sad moment for all of us.
The studio crew got free tickets to the Janet show so we all went right
from work one night. About halfway through the show we see this dude
with a long beard, dressed in robes dancing in the aisle behind. I mean
really dancing . . . it was Mj in disguise. Kind of like the costume
Chevy Chase wears in Fletch while roller skating.
He got one of the first playstations from sony in his lounge . . . we
snuck in late at night to play the games that hadn’t been released yet.
A couple people on the session hadn’t seen Jurassic Park while it was out, so MJ arranged a private screening for us at Sony.
He was a huge fan of Nine Inch Nails Downward Spiral . . . .
I was lucky enough over the course of 3 years to have access to the
multitrack masters for tour prep, videos, and archive purposes. To be
able to pull these tracks apart was a huge lesson in production, and
songwriting. A chance to look into the minds of geniuses.
Of all the records I’ve worked on, MJJ was the only company to give platinum award records.
One day we just all sat in the studio listening to his catalog with him
for inspiration. He loved the process, he loved the work.
(16-12-2009) After watching Michael Jackson’s ‘This Is It’
award winning writer Barbara Kaufmann posted her thoughts about the
film on her online blog. This was seen by an editor for Nature’s
Pathways magazine, who contacted Kaufmann and asked her to write a
follow up guest column in their December 2009 issue. The full text of
Barbara Kaufmann’s article The Man and the Mirror: A Tribute to Michael
Jackson and ‘This Is It’ can be read below:
Jackson was a world messenger with a spiritual message — make a change;
make the world a better place. This Is It, the film about his planned
comeback concert, features Michael living his mission not only in what
he is saying, but in who he is being. It features a man whose artistry
and talent was too forceful for him to contain and too big to hide,
someone who was ahead of his time and anything but understood. The film
is a kind of event horizon — the place where the creative process
leaves the creator’s mind, meets imagination and emerges in birth. The
world’s biggest mega-star, lost in the act of creation, artfully wields
his incredible talent in the spirit of politicians spending political
capital. It is clear Michael Jackson was called; his work was a
calling. There is no turning away from a calling for it will hound and
haunt until expressed. This Is It was stirring and inspiring and begged
the answer to what compelled him to step up and into a life mission
that was anything but easy?
While I liked Michael Jackson, I
can’t say that I ever met the definition of fan. I didn’t pay close
attention to his career; maybe I should have. Much of my own work as an
artist, messenger and writer has been about embracing the spiritual —
with empathic impulse, evocative emotion to change the world and make
it a better place with words. I recognize that impulse of calling. With
Michael it was more than impulse — it was Force. It is there to see for
anyone watching Michael in his last performance.
I left the
theater a believer; there is more to this man called Michael. The movie
dashed any of my doubts about his character, personality or creative
process. The filming was intended for Michael’s private library, and
that made me a voyeur, disturbing because he is gone now. But I am
richer for that stealth and for the process bequeathed me now by
Michael. I revisited accusations, slurs; the vitriolic tabloid insults
that impaled Michael Jackson for years and, despite being proven not
guilty, impale him still, even beyond death. Was he a master at
commanding attention? Yes. Was he capable of what some accused him of?
If you want an answer, ask silently in your heart and go see the movie.
met the Michael in the music more than the music in Michael. I watched
a master of transcendentalism building a meditation in magic. I saw
Michael in the role of artist, leader, teacher, master and guru. I saw
his infinite patience and I didn’t miss his kindness in dealing with
his musicians, dancers, singers and crew, his long breaths of tolerance
toward solicitous blather designed to impress. Stunned by his
allegiance to the brutal taskmaster of message, I even glimpsed his
vision. I admired his translation, his explosive embodiment of the
music in motion, emotion, majesty and metaphor. I know the man’s soul.
drove Michael? What kept him loyal to his message through some of the
most laser focused unkindness, betrayal and ridicule I have ever
witnessed in the world? What sustained him? What did he tap into? The
film reveals his source when Michael, knowing he is rehearsing, holds
back from performing full out, and you get a feel for the tide he is
stemming. Watching his body move because it can’t NOT move, the light
dawns. Whatever it was, it didn’t come from Michael; it came through
His talent painted feelings, conveyed sensation, became a
portal for the vision of what is possible if we all just recognize what
drives us, breathes us, what gives us life and being.
was obviously an empath. When Michael felt, it was acutely,
exquisitely. He may have been synesthesic as well processing through
more than one sensory neural channel at a time: “and the pain is
thunder.” Maybe Michael Jackson was following light that we couldn’t
see, music that we couldn’t hear, and feelings that we couldn’t access
and perhaps simultaneously. Michael’s lyrics are prayer.
may even explain his grounding of the music in his body in the lower
chakras (energy centers), as that is where the seat of emotion lives.
said dancing brought him in touch with the Divine impulse. That is not
the first time the world has heard of that phenomena – Kundalini,
spiritual energy that ascends the backbone to the brain, originates in
the lower groin area; Sufis and dervishes whirl to create a vortex for
spiritual energy: indigenous cultures use drumbeat and dance.
Man in the Mirror is a Gandhi-esque message to be the change you wish
to see in the world. I “got it” courtesy of Michael: about the mirror;
about shadow; about reflection of self in the world. We see in the
world as who we are being. For some, Michael was their everything, for
others he would never be enough. And still others will see the
reflection of their own darkness. Michael Jackson embodied Light,
Shadow, Bright Shadow, the Divine Feminine, the aggressive masculine
He was born into a world too far gone from
innocence to embrace it; too distant from naiveté to tolerate it in an
adult; too cynical to believe Michael’s own words; too tainted to
embrace the sensitive Peter Pan man who understood too well the world’s
intolerance to blemish – he wore it in his face. How did he live in a
world where dark minds made him things that he never was and couldn’t
imagine? How did he show up for life … in a world with so much
shadow? When that shadow turned on him? How did Michael never give up
on the world? On us? And how is it that Michael was coming back to try
one last time saying This Is It? Is the irony of that clear enough?
now will be our planetary human cheerleader? Our global humanitarian?
Who among us can amass millions to catch the vision and carry it
forward? Who now in our world is capable of that? This is it? See the
movie and then tune to your inner Michael. Whatever you thought about
Michael Jackson is correct because it is more about who you are being
than it is about Michael because he wasn’t just the man in the mirror,
he was the mirror.
Barbara Kaufmann is an award winning writer,
artist and poet whose passion is “writing to simply change the world.”
Read more of her thoughts about Michael Jackson below…
Saturday, October 31, 2009
again I stand guilty of not appreciating someone enough until they are
gone never to return. And so it is with Michael. I call him by his
first name now because I know him personally—but only so after his
passing and only after seeing his movie “This is It.”
understand Michael the man, both the human being and the creative
genius, and I see the incredibly wide love for people and the planet…
that came from this singular figure.
One listen to the lyrics of his songs will tell what the man was made of…
“Heal the World
Make it a better place
For you and for me and the entire human race.
There are people dying
If you care enough for the living
Make a little space
Make a better place.”
“When they say why, why? Tell ‘em that it’s human nature.
Why, why do you do me this way?”
“I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change.”
sat in the parking lot and cried for most of an hour after leaving the
movie. I didn’t know why. The tears were not voluntary. In the theatre
I didn’t want it to end. I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to leak
the magic. I didn’t want him to be gone.
I felt the finality of
that curtain call and realized that I couldn’t have another chance with
him—to rescind my doubt. I wanted forgiveness for ever having it. I
felt immobile with sadness—in betraying him, in overlooking him, in
dismissing him, in questioning him, in doubting him. The tears were
because… there are no do overs. Because the world lost something
un-named and un-namable with his passing. Because it was something
bright. Because Michael held so much love. Because I felt his
loneliness. His vulnerability. But mostly I grieved for the light gone
out in the world. I still do.
I had always wondered if Michael
was guilty of the things people accused him of doing. I had agonized
over my own feelings, my own repulsion if the accusations were true.
Over the what ifs. You see, I grew up with the Jackson 5 and my
children gew up with Michael’s music. I felt if Michael was guilty it
would be a personal betrayal and a betrayal of my children. I rejoiced
when he was finally found “not guilty” but not everyone accepted his
innocence and I confess, in the back of my mind in a little corner, I
always wondered. Accusation does that- creates doubt.
seeing “This is It” I now know the truth. Michael Jackson never
deliberately hurt anybody. Ever. I didn’t miss his incredible kindness
to musicians in his band; his “we’ll get it done” assurance to his
musical director who wanted his contribution to be perfect because it
was, after all, Michael Jackson he was trying to please. I saw his
infinite patience with the singers, musicians and dancers as he worked
hands on with them to polish their performances. I heard the
patronizing tones in the voices of people addressing him and his
gracious and patient replies. I heard Michael the leader, teacher and
master who used metaphor to help them feel his intentions. I heard
Michael the guru who urged them to share the spotlight and shine with
their own talent. I saw his hands say what his words could not and I
watched the tender and not so tender genius in those gestures and those
was beloved and adored by millions– fans and friends. That love and a
kind of artist-to-artist admiration beamed from the sparse audience
that made up his cast and crew for the concert tour that was to be
"This is It." Michael was teaching them as well as rehearsing. His
absolute clarity was stunning. His understanding of transcendentalism,
mystery, creative tension and especially using magic and metaphor to
take people to places beyond ordinary awareness and through the tunnel
of emotion– to a place they had never been and never imagined was
genius. All of us have that talent somewhere inside us but convention,
tradition, condition and cultural boundaries can prevent us from going
there. Performance anxiety runs much deeper than stage fright. His
clarity in performance and leadership was humble perfection.
of his early recognition and financial success, very few of the limits
and demands of everyday life that press upon us and drain juice from
our imagination, wonder and creative impulse touched Michael. Michael’s
stardom began very early in life; his childhood was anything but
average. And with his talent, he cultivated unrestricted access to most
of the world and certainly to the creative realm of wonder and
invention. Living most of his life without healthy boundaries brought
great aspirations and ambition but also intense pain, betrayed trust
and the anguish of being constantly misunderstood. Michael pushed the
envelope; he pushed relentlessly and hard. He was showman, businessman
and genius. The grand genius of his works, and especially his concerts
were the transcendental experiences. "Transendental" takes us somewhere
else beyond the personal self, to a place where the self and the world
become something more and we become something more. Michael was loved
for what he showed us was possible. He was the man in the mirror and
the one holding it up for us to look.
always loved his dancing but wondered why the sexual “beyond innuendo”
in some of it. Watching him in the act of creation—I now understand
that it comes from the passion of someone who “rocks it” not because he
wanted to or had to but because that was what came through him, through
his body. The driving beat of Michael’s music carries an intensity that
demands the body move, gyrate, leap, growl and grind. The intensity
centers in the groin and solar plexus because it comes from the “seat
of emotion.” Intensely emotional, it is the language of pure passion.
Hindis have a name for that passionate grinding, grounding energy that
rises from the place in the human body where spirit meets matter, where
physicality meets soul. It’s the energy of gestation, birth, genesis,
of force and forceful release—that rises into and becomes creation.
It’s the impulse energy that rushes hot and upward along the backbone
from the groin and solar plexus. It is the place of the Kundalini
force, the juice of life. And it’s explosive. Like orgasm, that
creation energy sends waves of physical earthquakes up the backbone. It
is obvious that Michael felt it in his music; it exploded through the
music, through him and through his body.
“This is It” left me with some questions:
do you live with the paradox that millions of people around the world
love you but you cannot leave your home? How do you never push a cart
down the aisle in a grocery store? Never enter a music store where your
recordings are on sale? Never go to a baseball game, a parade, a zoo or
picnic in a park with your children? How do you never be left alone yet
be so very, very alone? How do you write so well of loneliness? And
when you’re with people, how do you sort out if someone is being
authentic with you or playing to your public persona? How do you be so
painfully shy and have such massive talent that it cannot be contained?
How do you never say no when and because the music hounds and haunts
until it comes through you? How do you rehearse for hours to exhaustion
because you can’t NOT share the bigness of your creative genius with
the world? How do you stand up and be a superstar in a world with so
much shadow? How do you keep writing lines that highlight or attack
that shadow? How do you survive when the shadow turns on you? I
understand now it was a calling—the kind that no one could turn their
back on because it possesses them. Oh yes, Michael was called. Look at
his lyrics—most of them are prayer.
And how do you live so naked
in public light knowing that for some, you are everything and for
others, you will never be enough? How do you remain steadfast in the
the beacon called “public scrutiny” allowing yourself to be a larger
than life target for opportunists? How do you bear continuing
vilification perpetuated by unscrupulous exploiters when the
unthinkable accusation doesn’t even live in your consciousness, your
world? How do you come to show up for court another day to listen to
them excoriate you, shred your very personhood, destroy who you are
being? How do you get out of bed? Out of your pajamas? How do you
reconcile being accused alone even if found “not guilty” of unspeakable
acts to children when you have always loved children because of their
wonder, their innocence? How do you trust ever again after someone
gained your confidence and left the best part of you on the cutting
room floor and called the remainder tabloid film a documentary of your
life? How do you survive a mad dog mentality in the legal system bent
on destroying you? The very system that is supposed to protect you? How
then do you gather up the carelessly flung about pieces of your life?
And in the midst of it, or in its aftermath, how do you even show up
Maybe you become a recluse and look for something
to dull the pain and make the brutality and exhaustion go away. Maybe
to make the world go away for awhile. Maybe you even find a doctor or
two who will give a little something that helps to ease your
woundedness while you try to heal yourself. Can the missing chunks of
flesh chewed by those who wanted a pound, be patched? How deep is the
wound? Weary soul deep or just weary bone deep?
How do you bear a
lifetime of insults, slurs and lies too many to address and too
tormenting to allow inside because it would paralyze you? How do you
not let it harden your heart? How do you bear comments about your face?
My god, your face! The only thing you can be in, express to the world,
telegraph your emotions with. How do you live with Lupus, a disease
that wants to consume your body and Vitiligo, a disease that mars your
face? The face that presents you to the world, the face you make a
living with? How do you live under umbrellas because the sun makes the
blotching of your skin that much worse? When you do the best you can
with the treatments that are necessary but that bleach your skin
whiter, how do you navigate being the butt of thousands of jokes and
unkind remarks that impale you? How do you survive without one single
day in the sun romping at the beach? I wish "we" could have loved and
accepted you just the way you were. I wish we could have cradled you
and your face with our minds. But the world is not kind to blemish and
imperfection. But you knew that didn’t you Michael? Being the
perfectionist and artist you were, you kept changing your face. You
always empathized with the dowtrodden, disabled and disfigured– you
were closer to them than any of us knew. You hid it from us so well.
do you explain to a world that is too far gone and will never be
innocent enough again to understand that boys loved to hang out with
you because you are a legend? A bigger than life greatness that gives
them hope in the descending despair of childhood and adolescence, a
someone who gives them something undefined to aspire to? That, yes,
they see the Peter Pan in you, love you because of it, and want to be
close to you because you embody that unabashed joy and wonder that they
feel slipping from them. The thing that the world-in-becoming-grown up
lost when it lost the innocence of simple “believing?” How do you
explain that boys are hanging out to hang onto something so gossamer
that it can’t be defined? But you too, know what it is and want them to
have it just a little longer. How do you explain that they are
beginning to discover that if they let go of you, (more what you
represent) they will have to confront the despairing reality that they
don’t care much for this world the way it is either.
do you pay for children’s’ artificial limbs and transplants in an
unknown act in an unknown hospital in an unknown country meanwhile
bearing an accusation of deliberately causing harm to children? How do
you navigate the vitriolic damnation of some who haven’t heard you were
found not guilty? Or couldn’t hear it because of their own shadow? When
it would never occur to you to hurt a little boy because you, yourself
conspire to always embody the magic and wonder for the "boy" in all of
them and for the sake of all of them? We all have to bear sometime that
one searing and rending wound, the loss of innocence. Was your
innocence so great that it took that to destroy it? Did it require that
much shadow to cover the light that you were? How do you ever return to
Neverland? I guess you don’t.
yes you were eccentric, Michael. And sheltered. Creative geniuses
usually are. Yes, you marched to your own drummer. Only because you
didn’t like the beat or the vibe of this planet, the one you landed on
at birth. Yes, you were Peter Pan in the flesh but only because the
world was not a place where you could live, where your fragile spirit
could be nourished or thrive. Peter Pan held more sanity than the real
world. Yet up until the very end, you were still trying to make it a
better place! It would have been so much easier to turn your back on a
world that didn’t understand you. It would have been understandable.
Even expected. But then you always were a master of the unexpected. How
is it, Michael that you could or would continue to care?
Michael Jackson was truly a contradiction is understated but evident in
his last appearance. His humility, clarity, unassuming and egoless
private persona certainly “contradicts” the moments he “rocks it.” His
shyness contradicts his superstar status. In “This is It,” Michael is
truly being Michael— the contradiction. The glory. What if that Michael
truly never understood the dark energies that come from minds that
cannot comprehend true innocence and genuine naiveté? The creative or
creation impulse? What an incredible gift to the world yet the world
didn’t appreciate him well—both lion and lamb. Yes,the world crucified
yet another of our lambs who was a (oh yes he was!) light unto the
world. And then again, perhaps Michael did understand. He sang, after
all, about “human nature.”
And maybe we never knew him until
now. Until he was gone. Until “This is It.” Were he still here, I would
not have met the real Michael. I would not have known him. I would not
have seen the genius, the creative impulse, the clarity of leadership,
the ownership of the awesome power and responsibility that he knew he
held. I would not have known the Michael in the Music as well as the
music in Michael. I wince when I think about the number of times the
man put himself out there not knowing if what would return would be
revulsion or love. And yet he was staging a comeback—he was willing to
give the world and us another chance. And it would have brought him
back to us and us back to him; of that I am sure. Would the world have
appreciated that magnanimity of the risk, the gift? We will never know.
At least he never gave up on the world. On us.
wonder who now will take over his role– not as the "King of Pop" but
as the world’s cheerleader and hummanitarian? What language will she
speak? How will he get the world’s attention? Michael spoke in the
language of music. It was because of the language he spoke that he was
able to reach the masses. Because he was so widely beloved, Michael was
able to mobilize forces, bring people together, and create story in the
most unusual and spectacular ways. He was a man with a mission and
because of who he was, he was able to command audiences of millions. He
used music- a popular and universal language to trumpet his message. He
used it to reach just the right audience- youth. Michael understood
that young people hold the hope for the future and the world. And his
message was about healing the world, caring for children and that "we
are one." He was able to spread it universally to many generations and
peoples around the globe. Who now is capable of that? We know in a
quiet and secret place that there will never be another Michael. We,
the world, didn’t cherish him enough, in fact we didn’t treat him very
well and now he is gone.
Watching the movie, something Michael
never intended for release, made me feel a little like a voyeur
watching a man preparing to expose his soul to judgment. I felt like I
had trespassed into sacred space. But I am grateful for it. I feel like
I now know the soul of this man called Michael. He loved big. Oh, I
always loved his talent, but I didn’t love Michael, the man. It wasn’t
And my final gift from Michael is the realization that
“Man in the Mirror” which has to be my favorite song, has an even
deeper message than “be the change you wish to see in the world” of
Gandhi. There are some people on this planet who saw his light earlier,
longer and who never doubted because they had to have seen in Michael,
the reflection of their own light. Just like those to whom he reflected
their darkest shadow. I wish it hadn’t taken his death to bring me the
bright light that was Michael Jackson and the mirror of mine. I just
didn’t love him as much as he loved me.
Goodbye Michael- a tribute
Thank you Rev. Kaufmann!
Barbara Kaufmann. An award winning writer, poet and
artist, Barbara’s work was recognized as “art in the service of
humanity” by Lawrence University International Studies Program. Her
credits include award winning short stories, multiple worldwide network
venues, national magazines, chapbooks, news organizations and
anthologies. She freelances for a variety of outlets with short
stories, poetry, articles, features and commissioned marketing
materials such as web content, brochures, fliers and newsletters. Her
work in studio arts and as an Impresario and performer has led her to
places that without the muse, she could have never imagined. Known as
“One Wordsmith,” www.onewordsmith.com, Rev. Barbara Kaufmann is an ordained Minister and practicing Shaman.
By Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY
SANTA FE — Artist David Nordahl was at home painting in February 1988 when the phone rang at midnight. A voice said, "This is Michael Jackson."
Yeah, riiiight, he thought. But he quickly realized the call was no prank.While visiting Steven Spielberg‘s
office, Jackson had admired one of Nordahl’s paintings of Army troops
invading an Apache camp as a young corporal shielded two Indian
children. Now the singer was reaching out to the painter. For art
lessons. "He asked if I taught drawing and painting," says Nordahl, whose realist oils of 19th-century Apaches are highly prized. "I told him I didn’t, but that I’d think about it. I was really busy." Their hour-long conversation sparked a close
friendship and working partnership that led Nordahl to abandon renown
in the art world for a cloistered vocation as Jackson’s portraitist.
From 1988 to 2005, Nordahl completed thousands of drawings and roughly
a dozen epic commissions, seven of which were among 2,000 Jackson items
in Julien’s authorized auction, which the singer sued to stop last
spring. Many canvases encapsulate Jackson’s grandiose
fantasies and fairy-tale worldview. In a massive triptych, he is
crowned and knighted in royal robes. Along the sunlit path in Field of Dreams, he leads children of all nationalities (plus sister Janet, AIDS activist Ryan White and actor Macaulay Culkin). His firstborn son snoozes on an oversized golden throne in Prince, The Boy King.
Nordahl, 68, became not only Jackson’s favorite living artist (Michelangelo led the historic ranking) but a trusted adviser and confidant who designed Neverland carnival rides and joined family outings.
He ducked the media for years, "because they
wanted to talk about negative stuff, and I don’t know anything bad
about Michael," the soft-spoken Nordahl says, sitting with artist/wife
Lori Peterson and frisky cat Scooter in a living room crowded with
paintings by the couple. He’s speaking now in hopes of brightening a
picture darkened since Jackson’s death June 25.
"I always thought of him as normal," he says.
"He’s the most thoughtful, respectful person I’ve ever met. In 20
years, I never heard him raise his voice."
Early days: Brainstorming
Nordahl’s Jackson period began after the singer invited him to the Denver stop of the Bad tour in March 1988.
"I didn’t know what to expect," Nordahl says.
"He was sweet. We went to galleries, bookstores and a private showing
of the King Tut exhibit. We sat around and laughed and talked and drew."
Jackson demonstrated talent but was stretched
too thin to pursue visual arts. Instead, the two began hatching ideas
for Nordahl to paint. The artist conceived the inaugural work, Playmates for a Lonely Child, a 41-inch-square oil of Jackson in a sylvan storybook scene. Next Nordahl embarked on a far bolder statement, Field of Dreams, a 36-by-104-inch oil study for an unfinished work that would have measured 12 by 38 feet.
He labored non-stop: large portraits, mythical
tableaux, 10-foot charcoal drawings, a plaque on the Neverland gate.
Nordahl billed Jackson in line with his earlier gallery rates, up to
$150,000 for large pieces, and says he was always paid.
His duties expanded to amusement park design
after Jackson began developing the ranch north of Santa Barbara,
Calif., and Nordahl juggled several projects while adapting to
Jackson’s enchanted lifestyle. At Neverland, the two tested rides and
tended the exotic menagerie.
They took trips to Disneyland and spent time at
billionaire Ron Burkle’s La Jolla, Calif., estate, where Jackson’s
insomnia often meant Nordahl was enlisted for wee-hour practical jokes
and beachside chats. (He also was a victim of Jackson’s notorious
tricks, once finding his briefcase stuffed with bubblegum.)
He discovered the unglamorous Jackson, who in
the late ’80s often drove by himself in a Chevy Blazer (and relieved
himself in a bucket because he couldn’t risk being mobbed at gas
stations) and lived in a two-bedroom Los Angeles condo.
"I expected a penthouse with maids," Nordahl
says. "There was a grand piano pushed into the kitchen, a popcorn
machine and a good sound system. The other furniture, you couldn’t have
gotten 50 bucks for it at a garage sale. Before the kids, Michael lived
What fueled this bromance?
"I grew up in a difficult home, and he did too," says Nordahl, whom Jackson thanks in liner notes for 1991’s Dangerous and 1995’s HIStory. "We had no playtime growing up. We’re both fanatical about work.
"There was a bond."
Nordahl’s youth troubled, too
Born in Albert Lea, Minn., Nordahl left home at
12 and supported himself through high school by working on farms,
pinstriping cars and selling his art.
"I can’t remember not drawing," he says. "I had
an abusive, alcoholic father, and drawing is something that takes you
out of the real world. I was always interested in cowboys and Indians.
I sold drawings of the Lone Ranger to my classmates."
He began specializing in Apaches after moving to
Steamboat Springs, Colo., in 1977, and his detailed, meticulously
researched depictions soon lured collectors.
"His work had a lot of integrity, and he was one
of those rare artists who was humble but extremely talented," says
prominent Santa Fe art dealer Ray Dewey, who held lotteries to
determine buyers of Nordahl’s work because of high demand.
"His technique took a long time, so he was not
prolific. When he talked to me about leaving to paint for Michael
Jackson, I had over 200 people on a waiting list for his work. It was
an interesting decision on his part.
"I think what Jackson saw in David was a
complete artist," Dewey says. "He was a perfectionist. He choreographed
everything. Jackson also may have seen his commitment to family. David
primarily painted the Apache people’s culture and lifeways, but he
painted a lot of children, not just warriors. And he painted animals
beautifully, especially horses."
What Nordahl saw in Jackson was a wounded and misunderstood genius who felt spiritually obligated to help children.
Though Jackson was acquitted in his 2005 child
sexual abuse trial, it "broke his spirit," Nordahl says. "Michael would
never molest a child. He always felt so bad for kids who were
mistreated or sick. He spent so much time with critically ill kids. If
a mother called about a dying child somewhere, he’d jump on a plane.
"People talked about Neverland being his private
amusement park. It was always meant for kids. The last time I was at
the ranch, they put up a big Sony JumboTron across from a condo building for sick children, so if kids woke up at night, cartoons would be on."
‘Michael was a real dad’
Nordahl was bewildered that Jackson seemed to elicit more mockery than sympathy.
"People accused him of trying to be white, which
is ridiculous," he says. "When I first met him, his vitiligo (a skin
disorder that causes pigmentation loss) had gone to the right side of
his face and down his neck. Most of his right hand was white. Stark
white patches. He used makeup because he had to. Without it, he was
speckled all over."
Nordahl never witnessed drug use by Jackson but
was keenly aware of pain problems that lingered after the star’s hair
caught fire on a Pepsi ad soundstage.
"When they were trying to repair that burned
spot, he had a balloon under his scalp that was inflated," Nordahl
says. "He let me feel it. It was a huge mound. As the skin got
stretched, they cut it out and stitched the scalp. He was in
Jackson seemed an unlikely addict, Nordahl says, noting his avoidance of cigarettes, alcohol, soft drinks and sugar.
"He was mostly a vegetarian," he says. "When he
was on tour, the cooks would make him eat fish and sometimes chicken.
He loved little chicken wings. He always drank water. I shared wine
with him only twice, once with (ex-wife) Lisa Marie (Presley) and once
at Ron Burkle’s house. Michael had one glass."
The clearest evidence of Jackson’s responsible nature emerged in his parenting of Prince, Paris and Blanket.
"Michael was a real dad, not a Hollywood dad,"
he says. "He’d get up at night to feed them bottles. He’d change them,
bathe them, everything a mother does.
All the time I spent with those kids, I never
heard them beg for anything or throw a fit. I never heard them cry.
They were so well-adjusted."
Jackson took pains not to spoil his children,
says Nordahl, recalling a modest eighth birthday party in L.A. for
Prince. (Jackson’s mother, Katherine, and sister Rebbie came over but
skipped the festivities because of their Jehovah’s Witness beliefs, he
"I was curious to see what Prince was going to
get," Nordahl says. "I figured it would be pretty extravagant, but he
didn’t get one thing that cost over $2. He got Play-Doh, little action
figures, things we’d call stocking stuffers.
"The kids were not allowed to watch TV or DVDs
or play video games" except through points earned by their schoolwork.
"Nothing was given to them. Michael said, ‘I want them to grow up as
close to normal as possible.’ Those kids were so respectful and
courteous, just sweet."
Surprise visit to Santa Fe
Nordahl grew close to all three. Typically, the
artist spent time with the Jackson brood on the West Coast. But over
Memorial Day weekend in 2004, the star and his tykes surprised Nordahl
by visiting Santa Fe via Jackson’s plush private bus (with a 60-inch
plasma TV). Jackson suggested a movie outing.
"I thought we were going to a screening room,"
Nordahl says. "His driver pulled into DeVargas Mall. He was friends
with (Roland Emmerich), the director of The Day After Tomorrow,
and it was opening weekend. The mall was jammed, and there was no place
to park. I took the kids, got the tickets and popcorn, and we went in.
Michael came in after the lights went down.
"The lights came up, and nobody noticed him. He
had on a baseball cap and these Chinese silk pajamas. The kids had no
masks on. Any of those rags would have paid $100,000 for that picture."
Paintings’ future unclear
He last saw Jackson in 2005, when the singer
moved to Bahrain and vowed never again to live on U.S. soil. Accustomed
to lulls when Jackson was overseas or overextended, Nordahl resumed
painting Apaches and presumed he’d be summoned once Jackson found a new
home and showcase for his treasures.
The fate of Nordahl’s Jackson paintings is in
limbo, though they may be part of a touring exhibition of the singer’s
memorabilia proposed by the estate administrators. "I would like to see
them in a Michael Jackson museum," Nordahl says. "That was always
Michael’s goal. He was very self-effacing, but he understood he was a
Nordahl, represented by Settlers West Galleries
in Tucson and Sherwoods Spirit of America in Santa Fe, has returned to
painting Apaches and other subjects.
Whether his extended hiatus from the public eye
damaged his authority or reputation "is difficult to gauge," Dewey
says. "I don’t know if it furthered his career. An artist who does
commissions for one patron often is just isolated unless the patron
publishes or exhibits the work. David’s always been independent, and
he’s never sought publicity."
And how many patrons are the King of Pop? "We got to be such good friends that I forgot who I was hanging out with," Nordahl says. "Then he’d break into these dance moves, quick as lightning, and it would dawn on me: He’s the best entertainer in the world."
by Charles Thomson
it emerged yesterday that two weeks go Evan Chandler, father of Jordan
Chandler, shot himself in the head, few tears were shed despite the
media’s best efforts to eulogise him.
Most media outlets are
touting Chandler as ‘the father of the boy who accused Jackson of child
molestation’. Wrong. Chandler was the father who accused Jackson of
molesting his son.
The initial allegations against Jackson were
made not by Jordan Chandler but by his father Evan, in spite of
Jordan’s insistence that Jackson never touched him inappropriately, a
stance that the boy maintained for several months.
between the boy’s father and Jackson had soured in early 1993 when Evan
asked the popstar to build him a house and Jackson politely declined. A
failed screenwriter, Chandler contacted Jackson shortly afterwards and
asked him to negotiate three scriptwriting deals on his behalf. If
Jackson did not comply, he said, he would accuse him of molesting his
son. Jackson didn’t comply – and the rest is history.
revealed by Mary Fischer in her 1994 GQ article ‘Was Michael Jackson
Framed?’ – Jordan Chandler only claimed to have been molested by
Jackson after Evan – a dentist by trade – plied him with a mind-bending
drug called sodium amytal, which is known to induce false memory
Even once Jordan Chandler began to toe his father’s
line, his testimony was so unconvincing that DA Tom Sneddon took his
case to three separate grand juries and none of them allowed him to
bring charges against Michael Jackson. Contrary to widely reported
myth, Jordan Chandler did not accurately describe Jackson’s genitals.
Among other inaccuracies, he claimed that Jackson was circumcised while
police photographs proved that he was not.
of this information has made its way into the mainstream media’s
reportage of Evan Chandler’s death. Instead, Chandler’s suicide is seen
as another opportunity to sling mud at Michael Jackson and perpetuate
the same, tired old myths about the 1993 allegations – particularly
with regard to the settlement.
News outlets the world over are once more reporting that in 1994 Jackson paid the Chandlers a settlement. This is total fiction.
documents from the time state clearly that Jackson’s insurance carrier
"negotiated and paid the settlement over the protests of Mr Jackson and
his personal legal counsel."
Jackson didn’t even agree with the settlement, let alone pay it.
the publications that rehashed this age old nonsense was The Sun, to
which I often contribute as a Michael Jackson expert. I was contacted
yesterday and asked to provide information about Evan Chandler and the
1993 allegations, which I did. However, none of my information was used
– most likely because it reflected too well on Jackson. Myths that
imply Jackson’s guilt are evidently more important than truths which
Noticing that The Sun’s article on Chandler’s
suicide contained several factual inaccuracies (most promintently that
Jordan initiated the claims of molestation and that Jackson paid the
family a settlement) I contacted two members of staff at the newspaper
– my usual contact and the journalist who wrote the article. Neither
email was replied and the article was not changed.
The Mirror ranked several places higher on the adbsurdity scale as it
attempted to portray Chandler as a martyr of some kind. ‘Michael
Jackson sex case dad Evan Chandler wanted justice but ended up
destroyed’, read the headline.
Evan Chandler had wanted justice, why did he contact Jackson and ask
for a three-movie script deal before he went to the police? If he
wanted justice, why did he accept a settlement from Jackson’s insurance
Indeed, the settlement included a clause which stated
that accepting the payment in lieu of a civil trial would not affect
the family’s ability to testify in a criminal case. So if Evan Chandler
wanted justice, why didn’t he allow the police to press ahead with
The headline, along with much of the article, is nonsense.
taken Jackson’s insurance carrier for just under $15million (not the
$20million usually alluded to by the press), in 1996 Evan Chandler
tried to sue Jackson for a further $60million after claiming that the
star’s album HIStory was a breach of the settlement’s confidentiality
clause. In addition to trying to sue Jackson, Chandler requested that
the court allow him to produce a rebuttal album called EVANstory.
the man who The Mirror claims only ‘wanted justice’ thought that the
best course of action after the initial media storm died down would be
to release an album of music about the supposed abuse of his
The Mirror alluded to the fact that relations
between Jordan and his parents were strained after 1993, but laid the
blame at Jackson’s door, claiming that the trauma of the case had
driven them apart.
In actuality, Jordan Chandler went to court
when he was 16 and gained legal emancipation from both of his parents.
When called to appear at Jackson’s 2005 trial, he refused to testify
against his former friend. Had he taken the stand, Jackson’s legal team
had a number of witnesses who were prepared to testify that Jordan –
who now lives in Long Island under an assumed name – had told them in
recent years that he hated his parents for what they made him say in
1993, and that Michael Jackson had never touched him.
evidence surrounding the 1993 allegations overwhelmingly supports
Michael Jackson’s innocence. It is for this reason that during the
lengthy investigation, which continued for many months before Jackson’s
insurance carrier negotiated a settlement, Michael Jackson was never
arrested and he was never charged with any crime.
overwhelmingly suggests that Evan Chandler masterminded the allegations
as a money making scheme, believing it would help him to achieve his
dream of working in Hollywood. Tape recorded telephone conversations
heard him dismiss the boy’s wellbeing as ‘irrelevant’ and claim that he
was out to take Jackson for all he was worth. (Click here for Mary
Fischer’s GQ article, which contains transcripts of the telephone
Mary Fischer’s evidence shows that as well as falsifying
the sexual abuse of his own son in an elaborate extortion plot, when
Jordan refused to play along Evan plied him with mind-altering drugs in
a bid to trick him into believing that he was molested.
drugging a child as part of an extortion plot wasn’t Evan Chandler’s
lowest point. That came when he petitioned the court to allow him to
release an album of music about the supposed sexual abuse of his own
If Evan Chandler wanted justice, he got it two weeks ago.
for the media, this latest incident cements once more the industry’s
almost total unwillingness to report fairly or accurately on Michael
Jackson, particularly on the bogus allegations of sexual abuse that
were levelled against him. None of the aforementioned information and
evidence was included in any article about Chandler’s suicide that I
have read so far, despite the fact that I personally delivered it to at
least one newspaper which has repeatedly paid me as a Jackson expert on
Exculpatory facts are overlooked in favour of
salacious myths. A black humanitarian is tarred as a paedophile and his
white extortionist is painted as a martyr.
As for Jordan
Chandler, maybe with his father gone he will find the courage to do the
honourable thing. Perhaps he will surface somewhere and tell the world
what he’s been telling his friends for over a decade now – that Michael
Jackson never laid a finger on him. Until then, I suspect he will live
with the same torment that it seems eventually claimed his father,
suspiciously soon after the demise of the biggest victim in all of
this; Michael Jackson.
Charles Thomson Journalist.blogspot.com
In Exclusive Interview, Jackson Tells Robin Roberts Brother’s Death ‘Felt Like a Dream’
Nov. 16, 2009 Speaking out five months after Michael Jackson’s death, Janet Jackson placed blame on Dr. Conrad Murray, saying the doctor should no longer be allowed to practice medicine.
"He was the one that was administering," she told ABC’s Robin Roberts. "I think he is responsible."
Michael Jackson’s personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, remains the
focus of a manslaughter investigation into the pop star’s death. Murray
has admitted to administering the anesthetic propofol, but has denied
giving Michael anything that should have killed him.
Jackson, who has walled herself in silence, fiercely guarding
her private thoughts about the death of her beloved brother, Michael,
opened up to Roberts in an exclusive interview that will air,
Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 10 p.m. ET.
"It’s been a tough year," she said. "You have your days where
it’s just really — it’s hard to believe. And a day doesn’t go by that
I don’t think about him."
Jackson recounted the details of the morning of June 25, before
she learned that Michael had collapsed, and her world turned upside
"I was at my house in New York. You know, another day. Another morning.
And I get a call … [my assistant] said, ‘Your brother’s been taken to
the hospital. It’s on CNN right now,’" she told Roberts. "I called
everyone’s. There’s a line busy or — someone wasn’t picking up. I
spoke to mother. I spoke to Tito. I spoke to my nephew Austin. I spoke
to my sister La Toya."
"I told them to call me when they got to the hospital. And I remember
thinking nobody’s calling me back, so I tried calling again, and that’s
how I found out that he was no longer … I couldn’t believe it," she
Jackson said the she and the entire family were in a state of disbelief.
"It just didn’t ring true to me. It felt like a dream," she
said. "It’s still so difficult for me to believe. It’s, you know, you
have to accept what is. But it’s hard. You have to move on with your
life. You have to accept what is and I understand that."
"My brother’s favorite song is ‘Smile.’ And I thought Jermaine
sang it beautifully, beautifully. And that’s his favorite song as well.
…There being some sort of a closure, I suppose, at that time," she
said, getting emotional.
Growing Up Jackson
Janet, who has sold 100 million records and became a five-time Grammy award-winning artist, was the youngest of nine children in the brood. Growing up, she said that she was always closest to Michael.
"We were incredibly close," she said, "A lot of similarities, his love
for children and me being a baby. …We would practically do everything
together from morning to night every day. Everyday."
She recalled how the two would play after school, feeding the
animals together at the family’s Hayvenhurst compound in Encino, Calif.
"We’d feed all the animals, took care of the babies. All the animals —
giraffes, mouflon sheep, deer, they had fawned. All kinds of animals,
all kinds of birds. And I remember I would come home from school with
the hay like I’m going to a ranch," she said.
In later years, she famously wore the key to the animal cages in all her music videos — a memento from her youth.
But Jackson does not look back on all of her childhood memories as fondly.
Living in the shadow of the Jackson 5, then the most famous family act in America, her father Joe Jackson took the reins when it came to her career.
Jackson, who once had dreams of going to college to study
business law and pursuing an acting career, said her father changed her
father said, ‘I think you’ll make more money singing than as an
actress… And that was it," she said. "Obviously, he saw something.
And it’s sad that it takes away your childhood. If I had to do it all
over again, would I go about it the same way? I would really have to
think about that."
Joe Jackson, the patriarch and the driving force behind his
children’s success, has been accused by Michael and others of being an
abusive stage father.
When asked by Roberts if her father was "abusive" or "old
school," she said: "You have to keep in mind that I’m the baby…I
think it’s old school. And that may extrapolate into — a — being a
little abusive. Do you understand what I’m saying?"
In a July 2009 interview with Chris Connelly,
Joe Jackson addressed accusations that his children sacrificed a normal
childhood for life on the stage. Joe Jackson denied allegations of
beating Michael, but admitted to spanking as a form of physical
discipline. He said he did not regret any part of Michael’s upbringing.
"I was very young, very young. I can’t remember the exact age,
but very young, younger than ten, younger than nine. …I remember when
I had called him daddy, and he said, ‘No, you call me Joseph, I’m
Joseph to you.’ Never said it again," she told Roberts. "…We called
mother — everybody called mother, mother. So I don’t know, I don’t
know why. And I’ve never asked. I’ve never questioned it. It is what it
is, and I just let it go. Joseph."
Jackson Childhood: No Birthdays, Cartoons
The Jackson children had a unique childhood. As devout Jehovah’s
witnesses, they did not celebrate birthdays or Christmas because of
"I would love to have experienced what it would be like to celebrate
Christmas and birthdays. …I had my first birthday party when I was 23
years old. And I’d never celebrated my birthday before then," she said.
"You kind of feel like you missed something. But then again, you have
to, to say to yourself, it’s like a catch-22 — well, how can you miss
what you didn’t have? You know? I — we grew up pretty quickly."
Two days before her 43rd birthday was the last time Jackson saw Michael.
"We had a lot of fun, laughing. …I was being silly, acting
silly. And he was sitting in front of me and just cracking up, laughing
at me," she said. "I was being loud. And he thought it was so funny. I
was just being stupid, acting silly."
Janet Jackson: Family Not Naive About Michael’s Drug Addiction
Nov. 18, 2009
Exclusive: Jackson Tells Robin Roberts Family Staged Drug Interventions, But ‘You Can’t Make ‘Em Drink the Water’
Janet Jackson told ABC’s Robin Roberts that her family was not naive about Michael Jackson’s drug problem, saying that she reached out to her brother throughout the years, but was unsuccessful.
"I did," she said. "Of course, that’s what you do. Those are the things that you do when you love someone. You can’t just let them continue on that way. And we did a few times. We weren’t very successful."
Jackson, who stood by her brother through the low points in his life — the molestation trial and his addiction to painkillers — shared her private thoughts about the death of her beloved brother in an exclusive interview to air Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 10 p.m. ET.
Jackson said Michael understood that the family’s motives for the interventions were out of love.
"How do I say this? Understanding. I guess that will be the best way to — understood that it was out of love, because of caring. But when it’s something like that, people can tend to be in denial," she said.
When asked if her brother was in denial about his addiction, she replied, "Possibly."
"I wish he could answer this question for you and not me," she said. "I felt that he was in denial."
"You can’t make ’em drink the water. … I’m a true believer in prayer, a big believer in prayer — but it’s, it’s something that you can’t do for them. Something they have to do for themselves," she said.
Toxicology results have shown that Jackson had lethal amounts of propofol — a powerful sedative typically used in operating rooms — in his system when he died, along with a cocktail of other prescriptions. His death was ruled a homicide.
Michael Jackson’s personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, has admitted to administering propofol but has denied giving Michael anything that should have killed him.
Murray is still under investigation in Los Angeles.
Motown’s 25-year anniversary celebration Michael Jackson moonwalked his
way right into the hearts and souls of millions. Questions like, "Did
you see that?" and "How did he do that?" rang around the universe. And
neither was his own family immune. They were as dazed and amazed as
anyone else at the jaw-dropping stunt. Without a doubt, it was a most
memorable occasion, nothing short of miraculous. And, speaking of
miracles, if you ask ten people to define the word "miracle" you’d
probably get ten different answers. The Bible immediately comes to mind
when some think of a miracle. Take for instance the story of Jonah and
though the Bible doesn’t specifically say it was a whale, skeptics
think the story a bit fishy anyway. (Jonah 1:17) In actuality, that a
man can be swallowed whole by a great sea monster is well within the
bounds of reality. Take the whale shark for example. In quoting
National Geographic one magazine recounts: "’The whale shark’s unusual
digestive anatomy,’ reported National Geographic magazine, ‘lends
itself to Jonah stories,’ referring to the Biblical incident about the
prophet Jonah being swallowed by a great fish. Whale sharks have ‘a
nonviolent way of getting rid of large objects of dubious digestibility
they swallow accidentally.’" (As quoted in the December 2009, issue of
Awake!, a magazine that Michael Jackson used to distribute from door to
a miracle doesn’t have to be restricted to events (or persons)
chronicled in the Bible record. According to the American Heritage
Dictionary, a "miracle" can be "One that excites admiring awe." By this
definition, Michael Jackson was a moonwalking "miracle." Furthermore,
the sheer magnitude of his charitable acts–both known and unknown–are
‘miraculous’ in and of themselves. The following is the last in the
three lists of "miracles" published in this column that Michael Jackson
performed before what many see as his untimely, orchestrated,
19, 1993: Michael is one of the stars that performs at the Presidential
Inauguration of Bill Clinton. Before he sings Gone Too Soon he draws
attention to the plight of AIDS victims and mentions his friend Ryan
26, 1993: At a press conference held at Century Plaza Hotel in Century
City, Los Angeles, Michael is presented with a $200,000 donation from
the National Football League and Super Bowl sponsors. He gets another
$500,000 from the BEST Foundation for his "Heal The World" Foundation.
At this occasion the foundation of "Heal L.A." is officially announced.
1993: In association with computer game giant Sega, Michael launches an
initiative to distribute more than $108,000 of computer games and
equipment to children’s hospitals, children’s homes, and children’s
charities throughout the U.K.
1993: Michael donates $100,000 to the Children’s Defense Fund, the
Children’s Diabetes Foundation, the Atlanta Project, and the Boys and
Girl Clubs of Newark, New Jersey.
October 22, 1993: Michael visits a hospital in Santiago, Chile.
28, 1993: Michael makes it possible for 5,000 underprivileged children
to visit the Reino Aventura Park where the whale Keiko ("Free Willy")
November 5, 1993: Michael is guest at a children’s party at the Hard Rock Cafe in Mexico City.
1993: With the backing of funds provided by Michael Jackson the
Gorbachev Foundation airlifts 60,000 doses of children’s vaccines to
21, 1996: Michael donated a four-time platinum disc of HIStory in aid
of the Dunblane appeal at the Royal Oak Hotel, Sevenoaks in England.
18, 1996: In Soweto, South Africa Michael lays down a wreath of flowers
for youngsters who have been killed during the fights involving
1996: Michael Jackson is a special guest at the first Sports Festival
"Hope" event held for orphans and disadvantaged children. Up to 3,000
children and an additional 600 volunteers take part in the festival
6, 1996: Michael visits the children’s unit of a hospital in Prague.
Though details are unclear, it appears that while there he launches the
Michael Jackson International Book Club, which is part of his new Heal
the Kids charity. The book club aims to promote childhood reading and
encourages parents to return to reading bedtime stories to children.
15, 2002: Michael donates 16 exclusively autographed items consisting
of CDs and videos (as well as two cotton napkins since there was
nothing else to write on) to aid in the support of the victims of a
severe flood in Germany. These items are auctioned off for charity and
manage to raise several thousand dollars.
12, 2002: In showing his respect for the sacrifices military men and
women make in behalf of their country Michael Jackson invites more than
200 Team Vandenberg members and their families to his Neverland Ranch.
Vandenberg Air Force Base is relatively close to Neverland Ranch. Those
invited have recently returned from overseas deployments.
November 21, 2002: Michael donates a jacket to The Bambi Charity Event in Berlin, Germany. The jacket goes for $16,000.
25, 2002: Michael Jackson performs at a fundraiser for the Democratic
National Committee at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, helping to raise
nearly $3 million dollars towards voter registration.
2003: The Wolf family, who experienced serious damages to their
belongings during the flood in Saxony, Germany in August 2002, is
invited to Berlin by Michael while he’s at the Bambi Awards. He then
invites them to Neverland where they spend three days meeting with
Michael and his children.
it comes to Michael Jackson’s enduring charitable works toward all
God’s children I’m reminded of the Scripture text that reads: "God is
always fair. He will remember how you helped his people in the past and
how you are still helping them. You belong to God, and he won’t forget
the love you have shown his people." (Hebrews 6:10, Contemporary
English Version) Neither will the persons who were on the receiving end
of his charity forget his love.
finally, won’t it be heartwarming when the words of Revelation 21:4
come to pass? Speaking of those who are suffering the pain of losing
Michael (and countless others), it says that God "will wipe every tear
from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or
pain. All these things are gone forever." (New Living Translation) In
the meantime stay up. Stay strong. And keep the faith. Amen.
Written by Niele Anderson, (Sentinel Religion Editor)
is a story in the bible taught by Jesus that gives an example of what
it means to truly love your neighbor beyond religious belief, ethnicity
or gender. Michael Jackson not only revolutionized music, erased color
lines he also loved his neighbor.
The story of the Good Samaritan is found in the book of Luke Chapter 10
starting with verse 25 when an expert asked Jesus "what must I do to
inherit eternal life?" Jesus replied in verse 27 " ‘Love the Lord your
God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your
strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself".
Jackson spent his adulthood helping and remembering the forgotten. Not
only with words but with deeds of contributions to various
organizations that include AIDS Project L.A., American Cancer Society,
Angel Food, Big Brothers of Greater Los Angeles, BMI Foundation, Inc.,
Brotherhood Crusade, Brothman Burn Center, Camp Ronald McDonald
Childhelp U.S.A., Children’s Institute International, Cities and
Schools Scholarship Fund, Community Youth Sports & Arts Foundation,
Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Dakar Foundation, Dreamstreet Kids,
Dreams Come True Charity, Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation, Juvenile
Diabetes Foundation, Love Match, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Minority Aids
Project, Motown Museum, NAACP, National Rainbow Coalition, Rotary Club
of Australia, Society of Singers, Starlight Foundation ,The Carter
Center’s Atlanta Project, The Sickle Cell Research Foundation,
Transafrica, United Negro College Fund (UNCF), United Negro College
Fund Ladder’s of Hope, Volunteers of America, Watts Summer Festival,
Wish Granting, YMCA (28th & Crenshaw) plus many more. Michael
Jackson also helped set up Heal The World Foundation just to name a few.
in the Good Samaritan story in verse 29 the expert asked, "Who is my
neighbor"? Jesus replied "A man was going down from Jerusalem to
Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of
his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest
happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he
passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the
place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he
traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on
him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.
Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care
of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the
innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will
reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the
hands of robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had
mercy on him." _ Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."
only did Michael Jackson do likewise, he brought people together to
help on world issues. He never saw color; he never let religion become
a barrier to help others.
often times was persecuted for his unique way of showing love and
helping others. Michael Jackson humanitarian endeavors reached all
seven continents and brought so much joy and love to all people.
Written by Olusheyi Banjo (Contributing Writer)
On June 25 the world lost a true talent named Michael Joseph Jackson. Jackson
not only influenced pop music and r&b music, but he also influenced
gospel music with such songs as the gospel infused “Man In The Mirror”
from his “Bad” album, “Keep The Faith” and “Will You Be There” from his
“Dangerous” album and more. Jackson also had an influence on gospel
musicians and other industry insiders as well.
Gospel singer J MOSS told eurweb.com “In
my interpretation, a legend creates a path for others to walk and that
legacy continues as others trot it. An icon is someone that comes along
and changes the game. Michael Jackson in his journey was able to
accomplish both. From the percussive breathy undertones in vocal tracks
to the thunderous above and beyond presentations pushing the envelope,
Michael Jackson has influenced me in many facets of my profession. May
we all continue his legacy and keep his family lifted in comforting
Dewanye Woods stated “I am deeply moved by Michael
Jackson’s passing. This nation, this world has lost a musical
foundation that all of our careers as artists have been affected by in
some way, shape or form. His artistry transcends racial, political, and
social barriers and has given hope to so many. He was a legend before
his time who will live on in the music that he created and in the
hearts of his fans.”
Daryl D. Lassier, a renounced gospel
publicist said “I saw Michael the first time as the World did as a
six-year old with "The Ed Sullivan Show". It changed my world as I
along with most black boys of my youth tried to sing, dance, dress and
act like MJ.I last saw him live at the 1993 American Music Awards.
Still my favorite show of all-time was his "Bad" tour of 1988 at
Atlanta’s Omni. Yes I have all the albums, 8-tracks, cassettes, 45s,
CDs, music videos and more from the Jackson 5.As a kid, we used to
sharpen our pencils on Fridays in middle school so we could go to the
grocery store on Saturdays and use the pencils as knifes to cut out the
45 which was the back of the Sugar Smacks Cereal boxes…if you are too
young to know what a 45 is – research it. In my junior year of High
School, "Off The Wall" was a big hit and I would wear the white shirt,
black bow tie and black pants rolled up with the shiny socks to band
practice. And in college, "Thriller" was released and we all went
crazy. I remember how many people bought their first VCRs because they
wanted to see the 60-minute Thriller long form video. I got to play his
songs in the marching band and then later on the radio when I was an
announcer/program director. Later, I began producing music videos and I
always wanted to do a video like one he did. Many people today are
still doing the Thriller dance at weddings and commercials, but I was
in the marching band in college as that song was a top-10 song and we
did the dance on the field when it was a hot song…it was
incredible…Yes I stood in lines at midnight in 1991 for “Dangerous”,
in 1995 for “HIStory” and again in 2001 for “Invincible.” But my uncle
Jerry bought me the “ABC” album in 1970 and I bought all since. My
brother can tell you that I would ask for a Jackson 5 record as my
Christmas gifts. He was my boy and I will never forget this day.
D.A. Johnson of Malaco Music Group stated "The
question for years to come will be, "Where were you when you heard the
news that Michael Jackson passed?" For me and my family were in a hotel
room in NYC just getting back from attending our daughter’s High School
graduation; our son was on face book when he read the news Michael
Jackson had experienced cardiac arrest and was rushed to the hospital.
We quickly turned on the television to CNN and within moments they
announce that the LA Times had declared he had passed. My wife began to
cry because she was a devout Michael Jackson fan since childhood. It
still hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m just at a lost for words."
group 21:03 says, “Michael Jackson will always be remembered as musical
royalty. He has influenced us and impacted our musical approach
tremendously. His legacy will live on through the careers of the
artists he touched. Our prayers are with his family.”
Brian Courtney Wilson says, “My condolences go out to the family and
friends of Michael Jackson. I pray that Michael rests in peace. He gave
us everything he had to give.”
Mary Mary facebook page says
“Last night (June 25) we received some good news from Terri
McFaddin-Solomon who is good friends with Sandra Crouch. Three weeks
ago Sandra and Andre’ spent some time with their close friend, Michael
Jackson. Michael asked Andre` to play, "It Won’t Be Long And We’ll Be
Leaving Here." Michael then prayed with Sandra and Andre and accepted
Christ into his heart. Now he’s singing in the heavenly choir! Our
One of Michael’s closest friends Rev. Al Sharpton
states “A friend of Michael’s for the last 35 years, I call on people
around the world to pray for him and his family in this hour. I have
known Michael since we were both teens, worked with him, marched for
him, hosted him at our House of Justice headquarters in New York, and
we joined together to eulogize our mutual idol, James Brown. I have
known him at his high moments and his low moments and I know he would
want us to pray for his family.”
MC Hammer sums up everyone
feelings via his Twitter page “I will be mourning my friend, brother,
mentor and inspiration…He gave me and my family hope. I would never
have been me without him.”
Michael Jackson Slept Here
At a difficult time in his life, the King of Pop was looking for a safe haven—and wound up at our house.
By Del Walters Published Wednesday, July 22, 2009
On his final night in Loudoun County, Jackson hosted a gathering at the
house, where he introduced his three children to the Walters family and
posed with Taylor, 15, McClaine, 13, and their mother, Robin. Photograph courtesy of Del Walters
This is the story of how Michael Jackson—the King of Pop and at the
time one of the world’s most wanted men—hid out at my family’s house.
Among his staff, Jackson was referred to as the Principal. In our
family, he was known as the Secret—one we kept for nine days five years
ago. We believed then, and do now, that not revealing Jackson’s
whereabouts was the right thing to do. Now that he’s gone, I can tell
why and how we did it.
It was March 2004. The previous year, Jackson had appeared on TV
explaining why he believed it to be normal for adults to share their
beds with children, that it was the most loving thing you could do.
What he saw as innocent a Los Angeles district attorney saw as
criminal. Rumors were swirling that Jackson would be indicted on
charges of child molestation by an LA grand jury. The King of Pop
became a subject of ridicule. Gone was the cute boy who had swooned his
way into the hearts of generations. He was replaced by a man-child, a
In April 2004, Jackson was to receive an award from the African
Ambassadors’ Spouses Association for his humanitarian work. But few of
the journalists seeking credentials for the event cared about his work
in Africa—they wanted to ask him about what had happened at Jackson’s
Neverland Ranch. So a routine trip to Washington became anything but
routine. Jackson needed a place to stay, and those closest to him were
finding that there was no acceptable room in a Washington hotel.
The real-estate agent assigned to locate lodgings for him was running
out of options. Stopping for a bite to eat, she saw the April 2004
Washingtonian. It featured a “Great Places to Live” article with me, my
wife, and our two children on the cover. The story talked about how we
had designed a house near Leesburg with no walls and plenty of open
space. The agent knew us well enough to pick up the phone and ask
whether we’d consider allowing Michael Jackson and his children to stay
in our home.
What would you have done if a friend had called out of the blue and
suggested that Michael Jackson might be interested in staying at your
home? We first assumed she was joking. But she was serious.
On the previous Sunday, the sermon delivered by our minister, Reverend
Dr. Norman A. Tate, had been about the Good Samaritan. Reverend Tate
was the first person we consulted. Should we offer Michael Jackson safe
haven? That night, following a lengthy family discussion and vote, we
ironed out the details and began preparing for the Jackson family’s
Michael Jackson traveled with an entourage of 14. There were two cooks,
three nannies, three children, personal assistants, tutors, security
men, and Jackson himself. He moves in, you move out. (We stayed at a
hotel.) Those who surrounded him called him the Client or the
Principal. Rarely was he referred to by name. There were stretch
Hummers and Suburbans that suggested a visit by a head of state—which
is what our neighbors suspected.
Before he moved in, the house had to be prepared. His entourage covered
all glass windows and doors. He was to have white bed linens and towels
only. His favorite scent, a mountain fragrance, was sprayed everywhere
and lingered for weeks after his departure.
Then, under the cover of darkness, he arrived. His private jet flew in and out of the Leesburg airport.
That evening as he moved in, we dined at a local restaurant, courtesy
of the entertainer, and wondered whether he was enjoying our house as
much as we did. We wondered whether he admired the views of the Blue
Ridge Mountains from the deck and whether he took a stroll and noted
the seven species of birds that call our acres home. Did he play the
baby grand piano? Did his children frolic in the small dance studio?
Would he enjoy the pool and hot tub and five acres, or would he just
hole up and hide?
The next morning brought invitations for us to attend several events,
including a BET reception and the African ambassadors’ reception.
Before Jackson’s arrival at the BET affair, a who’s who of Washington’s
African-Amercan elite waited patiently. There were plenty of nasty
remarks; some couples talked about how they wouldn’t let their children
anywhere near Jackson. Then he arrived and the stampede began. Those
who had ridiculed him the most were first in line.
His assistant ushered us to the front of the receiving line. We were
told Jackson wanted to meet us first to thank us for allowing him and
his children to use our home. He talked about the family pictures on
the walls and how comfortable the place felt.
It was all very pleasant, but you could tell there was something
unsettled about him. You could tell what he coveted most: He’d grown up
without a childhood, and our house is filled with the kind of childhood
memories money can’t buy—baptisms, first-birthday parties, family
To keep his stay at our house secret, we arrived there in the morning
in time for the school bus to pick up one of our two daughters. We were
always met by one of Jackson’s bodyguards dressed in all black. I
finally told him that if he wanted Jackson’s presence to remain secret,
he shouldn’t meet us every morning looking like Mr. T.
Reporters were in high gear searching for Jackson. We feared a media
circus in our neighborhood. Our daughters, then 13 and 15, went to
school each day wondering if their world would unravel.
On day eight, we were surprised Jackson wasn’t ready to leave, as the
agreement had called for. That night, he arranged for a private
wine-and-cheese reception at our own house so our children could meet
his. He was more than gracious. While I worked, my wife and daughters
were greeted by Jackson and his three kids. They spoke of childhood and
normality. His children were very talkative; he was soft-spoken but
playful. My wife described him as a gentle soul who obviously loved his
children and they him. He also was willing to discipline his kids. He
posed for pictures and agreed to autograph many things, including CDs.
By day nine, Jackson and his children were gone.
The empty wine bottles hidden around the house hinted at a man we now
know was deeply tormented. There were other signs, but my wife and I
have agreed they will remain secret. We knew from his representatives
that Jackson tended to live nocturnally, sleeping during the day and
roaming the house at night.
A visit by guests to our house now always leads to a conversation about
Jackson’s visit. His picture, taken when he was standing by our baby
grand piano, sits atop a table in the living room. Almost everyone sees
it and wonders what it was like to talk to him and have him live in our
I’m always asked why I’ve never talked about Michael Jackson’s stay at
our house. I say I met Jackson three times in my life—twice face to
Most African-Americans of my generation were introduced to a young
Michael Jackson through the radio or by a friend who had one of his
records. For me it was a 45-RPM played at Sonny Mason’s barbershop in
my hometown of Wheeling, West Virginia.
The second encounter was in 1984 when Jackson and his brothers kicked
off their Victory Tour in Kansas City. I stood out among the other
reporters covering it because I didn’t appear to care about Michael
Jackson the celebrity as much as I did the revenue the tour represented
in the cities it visited. That night, I received two tickets to attend
the concert and a private reception at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium.
In a receiving line for the Jacksons following the concert, I met
Michael in person for the first time.
The third time was the Washington visit.
I, too, wonder why I’ve never talked before about his stay in our home.
Was it because Jackson and I were the same age or the fact that, like
so many African-Americans, I liked to remember the little kid from
Gary, Indiana, more than I did the man with another reputation?
Perhaps, as Reverend Tate suggested, it was just the right thing to do.
As word of Michael Jackson’s death on June 25 spread, my family mourned
the man we’d met not as the King of Pop but as a person trapped inside
a world that was and was not of his own creation, a man who came to us
through his representatives in need of a place to stay. As I sat on our
deck and looked west toward the Blue Ridge Mountains, I hoped he now
was seeing what I see each and every night—a perfect sunset.
This article first appeared in the August 2009 issue of The Washingtonian.
Don’t say goodbye to me
There is no need to
Don’t say goodbye to me
Because I’m still with you
Don’t say goodbye to me
Don’t shed a tear
Go light a candle
And say a prayer
Scream out ‘Victory’
Because love is still there
Smile at the memories, yeah
All through the years
Because I’m still here
Take all I’ve given you
Keep it inside
And when you feel lonely
I’m right by your side
And when the storm comes, yeah
Have no fear
Because I’m still here
So walk with your head up
And be strong
Just remember that you’re not alone
I’m smiling down on you, my dear
~ R. Kelly
Kelly was extremely humbled when he saw Jackson dancing to "Ignition" and felt compelled to put the footage in his show.
"I cried the first time I saw him on YouTube and I couldn’t
believe he was in the backseat of the car. He was jamming [to my
song]," he said. "You can tell he was into it. He was feeling it. It
was like, ‘Wow, he’s doing my music. He’s singing to my music.’ It was
unbelievable. I knew I made it when I saw that. You can sing songs
forever. I’ve written a lot of songs and they went around the world.
I’ve won all types of awards, but let me tell y’all something —
nothing, nothing told me, I didn’t know I made it until I saw Michael
Jackson in the back of that car performing and dancing to my song
‘Ignition.’ That’s when it became official. I’ve been in the game 20
years, but that’s when it became official to me that Kells is here
baby, for real."
"I do dedicate a segment of the show to Michael Jackson.
Michael Jackson is one of the biggest reasons R. Kelly is in the game
right now. It’s amazing," he explained. In the tribute he says his death, "is like our musical breath, being taken away".
Kelly sped up his wardrobe change so that he could watch the video every night from backstage.
"It made me feel like he was still alive," Kelly smiled. "It
made me feel like I still have the chance to go to the level that
Michael took it to. It brings me back to what real music is and how it
touches and pierces the soul. That’s what my mission is to do to."
the Sony documentary chronicling rehearsals for Jackson’s infamous
2009 London shows that never happened.
To like this film, you don’t need to have considered Jackson a misunderstood saint. You don’t even have to dig his music.
You only have to appreciate witnessing someone already at the
pinnacle of his game strive to be better. You have to possess a
voyeur’s curiosity as to how things work, and be utterly intrigued
with the spooky notion of a person so focused on their artistry that
they literally become it.
It’s long been established that Michael Jackson was arguably
one of the greatest entertainers of all time. "This Is It" illustrates
just what a ridiculously magnificent talent the man was.
That illustration, despite what critics rave of the film, doesn’t come from watching Jackson direct his rehearsals. Every
serious musician, whether leading a small town church choir or
putting a lounge trio through its paces, knows that rehearsal is about
being clear on what you want from your players and respectfully
While Jackson does that, in the film the point of his
baddness is made simply by watching him move. Because, in observing
him dance–especially in rehearsal and not full-on, when you get to
observe the delicate mechanics of his brilliance–you realize that
while you were busy living your life, Jackson was perfecting his
wildly intuitive skills as a performer.
While you were going through your divorce, even as monstrous
sales figures of “Thriller” solidified his place in pop music
history, Jackson was spending most Sunday afternoons at home dancing
before a mirror to exhaustion (this is the truth), trying to conjure
something new. While you were busy flip-flopping about things, MJ was
breaking the glass ceiling of his physical and funky limitations. His
was a greatness borne out of a work ethic so dynamic and single-minded
that the results seem abnormal. The idea that other aspects of his
life were said to be such a mess make Jackson’s onstage mastery all the
And at the same time, while watching "This Is It," you realize
that no one becomes the mighty entertainer Jackson was by even the most
diligent practice sessions. The man was the recipient of a gift. A
gift he came to nurture relentlessly at the expense of nearly all else
in his life.
If you haven’t seen the documentary, here’s some advice in
viewing it: don’t look away. Even the most informed Jackson devotee
thinks they are mesmerized simply by the man’s trademark gestures–the
kicks, spins and moonwalk emulated by a multitude of Jackson
impersonators–when they are actually seduced by Jackson’s entrancing
It’s the instinctive physical attitude and sexy rhythm that
occurs in the nanosecond when Jackson’s body is on its way from one
show-stopping move to the next; the stuff you’ll miss if you blink
(or as I did during “This Is It,” try to take notes). Indeed, it is
his funky subtlety that turns impassioned, joyful, physical
expression into sheer magic, and during “This Is It,” many of the
film’s best moments are Jackson’s sublime subtlety–the kind of groovy
mini moves that had Jackson fans taping his televised performances
over the years so they could relish the man’s swaggering mettle over
The truth is that it was Jackson’s ingenuity
as an entertainer–his verve as a dancer, his stylistic vocals that
peerlessly homogenized pop and soul interpretations–that ultimately
made anyone care about what went on in his personal life.
Consider that Jackson’s beyond-eccentric public persona would
have overwhelmed the formidable careers of lesser lights long ago. His
abstruse, seductive dazzle as one of the greatest showmen of modern
time was and continues to be the primary reason for the world’s
fascination, worship and when required, sympathy for Michael Jackson.
We only gaped in wonder at Jackson’s complex private life, often
ignoring and/or forgiving what we might find, in hope that
something–anything–would help shed any measure of light on how a man
can do what Jackson did on a stage with such soulful agility, fury
and grace. “This Is It” is as close to an answer as we’re going to
It is fitting that a film about the live pop music performance
would be the last thing Jackson left us, in an era when the true art
of singing, dancing and musicianship is all but folklore. “This Is
It” is required viewing for anyone who (A) wants to be in show
business or (B) is already in show business. Even if you make your
living behind the scenes–as an entertainment executive, manager or
attorney–see this film to remind you (or introduce you to the concept)
that there is no substitute for absolute and unyielding talent.
Posers, fakers and that hideous Auto Voice be damned.
By the way, after viewing “This Is It"–seeing and hearing
all the truly skilled musicians, singers and dancers–the likes of
Lil’ Wayne should never again want to go onstage holding a guitar
unless they can actually play the thing. Stop disrespecting the guitar
by wearing it as a fashion accessory. Either dedicate yourself to the
task of seriously learning to play or cease your molestation of the
In fact, that–truly getting ones shit together–is the main
thing I took away from “This Is It.” Matters not what you do or pursue
in this life. After witnessing Jackson’s dizzying onscreen
craftsmanship and indefatigable dedication to his thing, if you aren’t
left with the irrepressible desire to step up your own game, then you
missed MJ’s most dynamic move ever.
MICHAEL JACKSON’S ‘THIS IS IT’ PROVES A WINNER: King of Pop is the gift that keeps on giving.
Michael Jackson’s THIS IS IT, they’re going to have Michael back, just
for a little while.” – Travis Payne, THIS IS IT choreographer
*Who would have thought it
possible that we could be distracted from the gut-wrenching reality
that Michael Jackson is, physically, no longer with us? But for one
hour and fifty-one minutes, in the shelter of a dark theater,
transfixed by the larger-than-life presence on the screen – making all
the moves we have come to know so well – delivering the music that
remains permanently etched in our psyche, here he is.
The man we so lovingly crowned the “King
of Pop” years ago is alive … well … and in all his fantastical
glory. Michael Jackson’s THIS IS IT is a tangible gift the world can
hold on to.
The best “All Access Pass”
fans could ever expect to obtain, Michael Jackson’s THIS IS IT reveals
an MJ we could never otherwise have experienced; in a way we will not
And this was just the rehearsal.
Crafted with undeniable love
and respect by famed director Kenny Ortega, the film shows that, had
the concert become a reality, MJ would most likely have accomplished
exactly what he set out to do “Give them something they’ve never seen
When asked why it was so important for him to direct this film, Ortega says:
“It became a responsibility
for me. Who else was going to do it? I was there, and I felt that I
could protect his ideas and the integrity of his last theatrical work.
But the real reason it became so important to me is that I heard an
outpouring from fans, people who said, ‘I had tickets to the concert,
tell me, what was it going to be like?”
Ortega and Jackson have been
friends for more than twenty years. The two first met in the 1980’s
when Michael called the directors’ home and was greeted by the screams
of Ortega’s niece, who answered the phone. They have always wanted to
Sometimes it can take decades for the right “something” to come along. Jackson was sure that
THIS WAS IT.
“We had a heart-to-heart
connection,” Ortega says of his relationship with Michael Jackson – and
in the film it shows. “We truly loved each other … We loved theater
and film, adventure, sci-fi, even horror films. We loved Broadway and
pop music and classical and opera. When you’re with a good friend, you
never struggle for conversation.”
THIS IS IT will undoubtedly
be a lot of different things to a lot of different people; but to
Michael Jackson’s creative partner Kenny Ortega – who upon signing on
to direct the film called friends who were knowledgeable about various
genres of entertainment for guidance; this film is a mosaic.
“This is the show that no one
was ever going to get to see,” Ortega admits. “At the time we didn’t
know we were making a film – we were in the process of building our
show. So this film is like a backstage pass, a private peek into a
world that otherwise no one would have seen, a glimpse into the
creative process of Michael’s final theatrical work.”
With this project, Jackson
meticulously assembled some of the best in the business; and will
executors John McClain and John Branca serve as executive producers on
THIS IS IT. Some of the cast and crew include old friends and
collaborators from years’ past- people that Jackson obviously felt very
comfortable with. Like choreographer Travis Payne, who danced with
Jackson for a while prior to choreographing his ‘Dangerous’ number for
his American Music Awards appearance in 1992 and the subsequent tour.
Payne credits the icon with launching his career; and Randy Phillips,
the THIS IS IT film producer and AEG president who has known Jackson
for 25 years; and Paul Gongaware, who also works with AEG, and oversaw
production and tour direction of Jackson’s last two tours.
But it is director Kenny
Ortega that comes across the film throughout as an exceptionally
sensitive and simpatico creative collaborator. The exuberant cast
clearly devours every opportunity to show their love, gratitude and
unabashed devotion to and for their idol. That is, of course, when
they’re not busting their asses!
The film opens with the cast
and crew giving statements of how Jackson has influenced them; some of
them, unable to communicate clearly beyond tears of pure emotion and
adrenaline as they recall how Jackson literally changed the direction
of their lives. We often get glimpses of the cast and crew standing on
the sidelines watching, applauding, laughing and encouraging Jackson as
he goes through his various altered states onstage. Sometimes thinking
out loud, ‘I’m protecting my voice here’ – and other times intercepting
a musician, “No, that’s too soon, it’s got to simmer.’ And yet other
times, pointing that long skinny finger as he contorts his body to
become one with the music … ‘tat-da-da-dat-dat-dat!’
At one point in the film
Michael is channeling the mood for a particularly intricate scene. In
an exquisite use of sheer cinematic genius, he and Kenny Ortega have
managed to incorporate their shared passion for Old Hollywood in a
segment where Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’ from the BAD album is the
backdrop for him to co-star with movie greats Humphrey Bogart and Rita
Hayworth. At one point we hear Ortega’s voice offstage asking, “But
Michael, how will you see when the marquee lights up? After an almost
uncomfortable minute of dead silence on the set Jackson, unfettered,
responds, “I’ll feel it.”
And no one doubts that he will.
In THIS IS IT Jackson holds
nothing back to get what he wants from his cast and crew. While he
shows obvious respect for the skill and talent he has assembled, he is
clearly the articulate, directing force behind every aspect of this
project. Every breath is his. It is his vision that everyone else has
to catch up to. Gone is the sweet, soft, tentative and shy voice so
many took pleasure in mimicking over the years. In this film, the
butterfly has emerged; and its voice has developed into a beautiful
full timbre that bellows throughout whatever space it inhabits.
What makes THIS IS IT so
stunning is that we are all right there as Michael Jackson is getting
there and his journey is a lesson in itself – the stuff that college
curriculums should be made of.
Somehow, from materials never
meant to serve quite this purpose, Ortega has artfully weaved together
a variety of rehearsal footage to create performances that honor his
late, great friend’s legacy. When asked what he thinks made Jackson
such a remarkable talent, Ortega recalls all the great, classic artists
who inspired a young Michael: James Brown, Bob Fosse, Sammy Davis, Jr.,
Fred Astaire, Diana Ross and Quincy Jones. He is sure to point out that
Jackson never imitated any of them, and was always true to himself, but
responds, “…he was inspired, and he learned, and he built and
imagined himself into an artist that was like no artist we’d ever seen
or perhaps never will. He was an entertainer’s entertainer. I’ve worked
with so many greats, but Michael, without a doubt, was the greatest of
On a number of occasions
captured in the film, Jackson has to remind himself not to go all-out
as a singer or dancer, yet in the end he simply cannot help himself
from being great.
Who would have thought there’d be anything more one could do to enhance THRILLER?
But in THIS IS IT, Michael Jackson does just that.
Who would have thought that
the man we have glimpsed occasionally riding around town in a
wheelchair over the past few years would still have the moves he had
when he was in his prime?
But in THIS IS IT, Michael Jackson clearly does.
THIS IS IT producer Randy
Phillips, who was also Michael’s concert promoter and the person who
brought the idea of Jackson doing a series of concerts at the O2 Arena
with his company, AEG Live, says:
“This is a man very much in
command of his art and his craft and what he wanted to do. In many
ways, everything that was the purpose of his life appears in this movie
in some way.”
Phillips says it took two
years to convince Jackson to do the concert. At first, he actually
turned them down. He recalls the final night they were together, the
last rehearsal on the evening prior to Jackson’s death.
“I was transfixed – he was on
stage, dancing and singing and I got goose bumps. And when we left to
go to our cars, he put his arm around me and said, ‘Thanks for getting
me this far. I can take it from here.’”
The world was given the gift
of one Michael Joseph Jackson on August 29, 1958. That gift, even now,
keeps on giving. Thank you, Michael, with THIS IS IT the still-aching
hearts of those who love you, can rest a bit easier.
DeBorah B. Pryor has written for numerous publications over
the past decades and for four years served as an editor at the former,
Black Radio Exclusive (BRE) magazine. She is the founder and president
of THE ART OF COMMUNICATION and provides workshops and private
consultation for professionals challenged by anxiety, shyness and an
inability to be their professional best. Her CD, “Public Speaking for
the Private Person” was released in August of 2009. Contact her via the
Chris Tucker Salutes His Buddy Michael Jackson / Will.i.am / 70+ year olds dance in honor of Michael Jackson
from every walk of life all over the world truly enjoyed the artist Michael Jackson.
Jackson’s long-time friend reveals the King of Pop‘s creative fuel and what to expect from his concert documentary This Is It
‘He wanted to share what he loved
with his children – and now we have this film for his children. He
wanted to get out there and reconnect with his fans and sing the songs
that they wanted to hear – and now they’re going to hear the songs they
wanted to hear.”
Kenny Ortega, the longtime creative partner of Michael Jackson and
director of This Is It, a document of the preparations of the King of
Pop’s intended career-bowing series of 50 spectacular concerts at
London’s O2 Arena, talks about the motivations behind those concerts
and the most anticipated big-screen event of year – a film dubbed by
some as “Dead Man Moonwalking.”
Everybody’s talking about This Is It, but nobody’s seen it. What is it?
It celebrates the last four months of Michael, while he was invested
in his last theatrical work, and going through the creative process of
conceptualizing, rehearsing, interacting with all the design teams and
the creative teams.
How stressful was it for Michael, preparing for the London concerts?
It wasn’t stressful for him. It was something that he enjoyed. It
was nourishing, it was invigorating. It was something he was very
excited about, that had great purpose behind it.
How did that project come about?
For two years, Michael and I had been discussing, day-dreaming and
lunching on potential ideas. And then one day I got a telephone call
from him and he said “This is it, this is the one.” This was going to
be his final curtain call. Together we invited artists from all around
the world to join us – he inspired all of us to think outside of the
box and to take the journey with him.
And how well does this film get across the idea of that journey?
You get a really good sense of it. There’s much more music and
staging than I ever imagined. In the beginning, I thought I was going
to have more of a documentary. In the end, what I have is a sort of
hybrid between documentary and concert film.
How truthful is it?
You’re getting an unguarded, raw, truthful version of Michael.
You’re getting remnants – this is a mosaic, really stuck together,
trying to do our best to give everybody a really grand-scale idea of
what his dream was.
He was in the room with me the whole time helping me make decisions.
[Laughs]. How I really feel about his, I mean, is that Michael wasn’t
there [for the making of the film]. I’ve done my best to channel, and
to include him, and, as his friend for so many years, my best to
protect his integrity.
The integrity of the concert series has been called into question. Was Michael up to it?
No one put this on Michael. Why do people have to take the integrity
of Michael away now that he can’t fend for himself? This was his idea,
his choice. This nourished him, excited him – he was looking forward to
this. Why do we want to take that away from him?
The thought is that he was pushed into it, to help clear his debt.
Isn’t that a consideration for all of us in life? Why should that be
any different with Michael than anybody else? Give him credit. If
anything was responsible for hurting this man it wasn’t his creative
work. It’s sickening to me that that’s where the focus wants to be. He
wanted to be there more than any of us.
Will this film show that?
Of course it will. Whether or not it will quiet [the salacious
speculation] or not, you know, there are people out there who have an
agenda – and they always will. That’s just life. You can’t create for
everyone. That’s what Michael would say. If you tried to, you wouldn’t
get anything accomplished.
A Minute With: Kenny Ortega on the ‘It’ in "This Is It"
After Jackson’s death, Ortega was
hired to edit together 80 hours of video taken on stage and behind the
scenes of the "This Is It" rehearsals for the 111-minute movie. Many of
the recent interviews with Ortega have been about Jackson’s sudden
death and the events around it, so Reuters took a minute to talk about
the movie and what fans will actually see.
Q: How about for a change of pace, we focus on the movie:
A: (laughs). Thank you.
Q: It has been called part documentary, part concert film, but what does that mean? What’s the "It" in "This Is It"
It’s such a unique idea. I call it a "musical mosaic." We took the
remnants of what we had and constructed a musical story that I think
will help fans appreciate what Michael was putting into "This Is It",
what his dreams for it were, what his goals were for it."
Q: Does it have a plot or themes? What happens onscreen?
It doesn’t have a plot line. There is not a narrative, however there is
definitely a story. It is a story of a master of his craft, a great
genius in his final theatrical work and creative process. You see him
interacting. It’s a privileged path to observe Michael as the creative
architect and mastermind behind his work. And this is something that I
don’t think people knew he did, let alone ever seen him do.
Q: So, we get a picture of Michael as a creative force.
A: Yeah, as the conductor.
Not only in music and dance, but also in his own words as he’s talking
about the show and his reasons for including different songs or staging
A: That’s right, and in other people’s words,
too … Nowhere near the 80 hours did we have Michael in rehearsal.
However, we had enough to be able to cut together a pretty big portion
of what Michael was planning for the tour. The film is somewhat
wall-to-wall music. The band, the singers, Michael live. You see it,
you really feel it, you sense it. It’s raw, unguarded, it’s a unique
behind-the-scenes look at the creative process of putting a show
Q: When you were sitting in that dark, editing room
looking at the video, were there times where you said to yourself, "I
have to show that. That is pure Michael"? And what were they.
Absolutely. First of all, when I assumed this and took on the
responsibility to direct this … I realized it was my responsibility,
the journey wasn’t over, and then I called upon Michael immediately,
and I was just like, "you’re not letting me go in there alone." And
everyday, I really did bring Michael with me as best I could. And never
forgot he was there. He was in my mind and in my heart, Michael, along
with some of the other creative friends that worked with us on the
We started to look at the footage and we had two things
in mind: most importantly Michael’s integrity and secondly, what is
going to serve the fan base. And the footage talked to us. It jumped
out at us. There were times, I swear, when we heard Michael say "Use it
all; do it all." And I’d look at (my collaborator) and say, "did you
just say that?" And he’d say, Michael said, "Do it all." And I’d say,
"that’s what I thought. I thought I heard Michael say "do it all."
Q: The opposite question is, were there parts of Michael you didn’t want to show?
It’s unguarded, and it’s raw, and it’s real and it’s truthful, and it’s
not always pretty and he’s not always lit, you know. We weren’t really
overly protective. It has soul and heart and truth and warmth and
magic. The real answer to that question would be "no."
Q: For all that has been said and written about Michael, what don’t people know that comes through in the movie?
That he did it all. He did it all. He wrote the music. He understood
the music. He knew every part that everybody was supposed to play. He
could sing you the bass line or the guitar part. He could play the horn
line or the string line. He knew the harmonies, he sang them all.
think what we walk away with, for those that might have forgotten … I
think this will remind people, I hope it will remind people, of this
incredible talent that existed, you know, and the tremendous legacy he
left for us.
(Editing by Deena Beasley)
Kenny Ortega Interview, Michael Jacksons This Is It
Posted by: Sheila Roberts
MoviesOnline sat down to talk to with producer/director Kenny Ortega about his new film, the highly anticipated Michael Jackson’s THIS IS IT. The
film offers Jackson fans and music lovers worldwide a rare,
behind-the-scenes look at the performer as he developed, created and
rehearsed for his sold-out concerts that would have taken place
beginning this past summer in London’s O2 Arena.
Audiences will be given a privileged and private look at Jackson as he has never been seen before. In raw and candid detail, Michael Jackson’s THIS IS IT
is the last documentation of Michael Jackson in action, capturing the
singer, dancer, filmmaker, architect, creative genius, and great artist
at work as he and his collaborators move toward their goals of London,
the O2 and history.
Dubbed the Billion Dollar Maestro by Daily Variety, Kenny Ortega has
conquered feature films, television, stage, concerts and massive live
events such as the Olympics with equal excellent. As Michael Jackson’s
director and creative partner on “This Is It” as well as the previous
Jackson concert tours Dangerous and History, Ortega has been a friend,
trusted colleague and collaborator of Michael Jackson’s for over 20
The multiple Emmy Award winner famously directed and visualized
Disney’s billion-dollar High School Musical franchise of films both for
television and as a feature film. Ortega directed the Hannah
Montana/Miley Cyrus “Best of Both Worlds Tour” featuring The Jonas
Bros. He also directed to tremendous praise the Opening and Closing
Ceremonies for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Kenny Ortega is a fabulous person and we really appreciated his
time. Here’s what he had to tell us about his new film and his historic
collaboration with Michael Jackson:
Q: Have you had any sleep?
KO: You know, I haven’t had any sleep for the last few months. I
haven’t. During the rehearsals, I worked pretty late hours and then we
did the memorial and then we started up on the film and the film was 14
hours a day, seven days a week, every week since we started and then we
handed the movie over and it was like mixing. We just came back from 10
days out on the road starting in Chicago with Oprah and back here for
the premiere. It’s just been an absolute whirlwind. Like the wind last
night, I was like ‘nothing new to me.’
Q: Was syncing in post a nightmare?
KO: Not a nightmare. Fortunately, we had everything being recorded.
We had our monitor guys. You know when Michael’s talking, when he’s
going, ‘I’m not trying to be difficult. I realize you guys are trying
to do your job but I’m having a problem. It’s like somebody sticking
their fist in my head.’ He’s talking to the monitor guys who are over
there recording everything. Not everything was recorded where we had
separate stems. Some things were just in two track so we didn’t have
the ability to bring Michael’s voice out as much as we would have liked
to. We did our best and other times we had it as good as in a recording
studio where you could pull it out and mix it so we were able to get a
greater sort of mix. But everything you heard was happening right there
in the room. That’s Michael’s band playing all that music. Those aren’t
records. He wanted it like the records as he made very clear, but those
were his singers singing live. That was his band playing live. That was
Michael up there obviously. If anybody needed to put that concept to
rest, I mean you saw him. He would just start to improvise and start to
sing out of nothingness and suddenly the band kicked in and we were
into a rehearsal. That’s how organic that process was for us.
Q: Had he ever done Jackson 5 songs as an adult before?
KO: Oh yeah. Since I’d started working with him which was back
during Dangerous and HIStory and many one offs that we did, in Korea
and Germany, many places, JFK Stadium in D.C., Michael loved to pay
tribute to those years, to the songs and to his brothers more
Q: The rawness accentuates the fact that it was never meant to be seen.
KO: It wasn’t, it wasn’t. But also, we had three big chunks of
footage that we worked with. You saw the big films that we incorporated
into the storytelling. Those were 10 short films that Michael and I
developed and produced together that were incorporated into the
concert. So those were always intended to be a part of the concert.
Those were made for the live show and ultimately down the line when we
filmed the live show in London which was a plan, those would have been
a part of that. Then we had the behind the scenes, interviews, the
making of, because Michael had intended to film the concerts in London
so he wanted to have a nice behind the scenes to be able to attach to
that. So that’s where you got the dancers and band members talking and
seeing the scenic shots. Then you had what I call the miracle footage
which was the footage that we use. It was a tool for us to videotape
the rehearsal so that we could at any time we wanted to go back and
look at something and say, ‘Why don’t we open this up musically or you
know what we should do here with the lights? Or why not bring the
dancers out at this moment?’ That it offered us an opportunity to kind
of after the fact step back, look at something and be able to make
creative adjustments. We’d done that ever since we started working
together. We didn’t always turn those cameras on and there were only
two of them and sometimes one. You can imagine the complication of
trying to tell a story and cut this movie together. There were times
where I was on the floor banging and kicking and screaming because we
didn’t design this to be shot as a film. We never planned it. There was
no script. I didn’t say, ‘And now go in for the close-up and can we do
one more take of that?’ That was never part of it.
Q: Were any musical numbers left out because the footage wasn’t there?
KO: Yeah, mm hmm, yeah. The day that Michael died, we were waiting
for him to come in to block him into Dirty Diana, which was at the end
of Dirty Diana, he stepped into an illusion and before your eyes went
up in smoke and then suddenly appeared completely on the other side of
the stage rising up on the cherry picker and out over to the audience
for Beat It. He was really looking forward to it. The night before, he
had said to me he was very happy. He saw the dream coming to life on
the stage. The only thing he wanted me to say to anybody creatively,
dancers, creative team was, ‘I love them. Everybody’s doing a great
job. I love you, Kenny. I’ll see you tomorrow. Thank you.’ He left and
we were invigorated. We came back that next day and we were all up on
the stage really excited working with our illusion makers, working with
our technicians. We had our aerialist, Danielle, on the stage and Tony
Testa, one of our associate choreographers was standing in for Michael.
It was just like we were getting everything ready for him to walk in
and step into what was going to be one of his favorite days because he
loved illusion. When we discovered that, in fact everything stopped.
Q: Did your Hocus Pocus background help reinvent Thriller?
KO: It didn’t hurt. It didn’t hurt but it also came from my
background of loving Michael Jackson’s Thriller and being a huge fan of
all of his short film work. But it was one of the first ideas that
Michael and I talked about was let’s create a 3-D experience in an
arena for the fans. Of course, people were like, ‘What?’ The
technology, they were really racing to get it finished. We had the
first HD 3-D screen up and we were creating these films. There were
people that were not even sure it was going to work. When we first
tested the 3-D on the screen in the arena, it was mind blowing. Then
what we were planning on doing was Michael had all these other ideas.
We had Michael Curry who designed The Lion King was one of our scenic
designers and puppeteer designers. We had giant illuminated characters
dropping out of the ceiling over the heads of the audience and these
beautiful puppets that were coming down the aisles and moving out of
the vomitoriums. Michael was so excited about it. He liked to call it a
4-D experience. So, you were going to have a 3-D movie, the cast on
stage and then the smoke billowing off the edge of the stage into the
audience and all of these elements dropping in over your head and your
3-D glasses on.
Q: Did you ever want to add something reflecting on the emotional background?
KO: You know, the only reason why I didn’t do it was because I
didn’t want anyone to ever say that we fabricated anything. We didn’t.
There is absolutely nothing in this film that wasn’t created from the
time Michael Jackson announced that he was doing the concerts until the
day that Michael died. We didn’t want to touch it. It was like I called
it sacred final documentation and if we went back in to shoot the band
or anything, then we left ourselves open to people going, ‘That really
wasn’t how it happened. They tried to color it differently.’ However,
in the DVD series, there is a tremendous, I would say, three to four
hours of information that’s not in the film that comes again from that
source, but also now post source. So that we did go back and now talked
in hindsight about the experience of working with Michael and we
completed some ideas that Michael had blessed and signed off on that we
didn’t have quite finished by the time Michael had died. So you’re
going to see an even sort of completer picture and come to understand
more detail about all the elements of what we had planned for the show.
Q: How would you like Michael to be remembered as an artist and as a person?
KO: I think people were saying it last night. They were echoing
everything that I felt in my heart. People coming up to me and saying,
‘We didn’t get it. We didn’t get the closure from CNN. We didn’t get to
say goodbye properly from CNN.’ Not meaning that they were being
irresponsible. It was just that the information wasn’t there and that
people were saying that not only did we get to have these final moments
with Michael as the artist, but we got to come to know him better than
ever before as a man. You really came to appreciate his kindness and
his sweetness and his generosity and the wonderful collaborative spirit
that he was about and the way that he worked with people, never wanting
to offend anyone. My God, if he thought that he embarrassed somebody,
it would just knock him to his knees. That’s why you always saw him,
even in the deepest frustrating moments for him, he would say, ‘With
the love. That’s what the rehearsal’s for’ because he really
appreciated us so much. He said to me, ‘Kenny, go out and find the best
artists in the world. Invite them to come and join our journey and then
let’s inspire them to go to places that they’ve never been before.’ So
Michael knew who was in front of him and he had the greatest admiration
and respect for everybody. Even if he had a little debate or a
disagreement with someone, he never wanted it to get to the place where
that person might have thought that he didn’t care for them or that he
didn’t respect them.
Q: Shouldn’t he have done movie musicals?
KO: Yeah, we were going to do a couple of films. Before we even knew
that we were going to do This Is It, Michael and I were already in the
early development stages in talking about doing a Legs Diamond musical
and a full length 3-D Thriller motion picture. Michael was not
intending to resign from the business. He wasn’t retiring. However,
this was what he was calling his final curtain call for live touring.
What he thought was he’ll do the 50 shows in London and then he really
said, ‘If it works and I still feel good and I still have the energy, I
would love to go to Africa. I would love to go to India. I would love
to go to Japan.’ Travis (Payne) and I saw it. Michael was intending to
go out there with his children and see the whole rest of the world,
share that experience with them, meet the fans, take one more grand bow
and then he wanted to pull the plug on his live performing because he
said, ‘I don’t want to be out there doing it when I can’t do it with
the integrity that I’m known for. However, let’s make movies and great
albums and develop projects together.’ So he was excited about so much.
He had so much more in him still.
Q: What did you discover about Michael and yourself and your friendship doing this?
KO: Well, you know, Michael just gave me such trust. From the very
moment that we began, it’s like he threw the clay in the middle of the
table and he said, ‘Put your hands in it with me right now.’ He loved
creative jousting with me. He loved it. He loved wrestling down ideas.
Whatever stuck to the wall the next day, we didn’t even remember who
came up with it. We so didn’t care. It was such a partnership. It was
so easy, out of our ego, and it was so about what belonged in the
storytelling. Michael had for a couple of years been entertained by so
many people with ideas and he would call me every once in a while, we
would have dinner, we’d talk on the telephone. He’d come to visit me on
set and he’d say, ‘There’s nothing out there that has enough purpose
behind it for me to want to do it,’ meaning in the live arena. He’d
say, ‘Keep thinking.’ I was doing my films and suddenly I got this
phone call, after two years of us talking about the possibility of
maybe doing something live, and he said, ‘Kenny, this is it.’ I swear,
that’s what he said. ‘This is it.’ Then during the conversation while
we were talking, he said it like five times and I laughed and I said,
‘You should call the tour This is It because you keep saying it.’ What
happened when we got together right after that was, before any
conceptual ideas, he started talking to me about the reasons why, the
reasons behind wanting to go out and do it. Here’s why we need to do
this and now let’s create the show that gives worth to these reasons.
That is what I’ll take with me. His sense of responsibility, that it
wasn’t enough to just go out there because he could. It had to be
important. It had to have worth. It had to have reason, raison d’etre
as Gene Kelly used to say to me all the time. What’s the reason for
being there that’s going to inspire me to get up every day and want to
put on my costume and get on that stage and be Michael Jackson.
Q: How do you respond to theThis Is Not It website? Would you take legal action?
KO: I don’t. I mean, everybody, the way I look at it is they’re all
fans. Everything is coming from a sense of loss. There are some fans
out there that are just looking to sort of point at something, to point
to the reason why we don’t have Michael anymore, put blame. All I would
say is Michael didn’t live that way. That’s not the spirit of Michael
Jackson. Michael didn’t assume. There were an awful lot of people
though that did assume about Michael Jackson. They created scenarios
and they speculated and even persecuted him and demoralized him. I
would just say to anyone, if you don’t know what you’re talking about,
if you weren’t there, if you don’t have the information, don’t put that
information – – don’t. Don’t do it. See the movie. Look at the movie.
The movie speaks for itself. It’s Michael. It’s Michael talking,
Michael doing, Michael sharing. It’s pretty clear. It’s pretty honest.
It’s pretty raw. It’s pretty unguarded. That Michael wanted to be
there. He was doing this. This nourished him. It invigorated him. It
excited him. He wanted to do this more than anything other than spend
time with his children. This is what he wanted to do.
Q: What do you look for in artists to participate?
KO: Collaborators and people that are not afraid to go on a journey
and get outside of their head and that are less concerned about an idea
being theirs and more concerned about being a part of a team that
arrives at something that’s special.
Q: What’s going on in High School Musical land?
KO: I’m not going to do High School Musical 4 but I hear that they might be doing an all new cast, all new.
Q: What happened to all the sets?
KO: All of it’s in storage. All of it’s in storage. Some of it is
spectacular. Somehow maybe in the future we might be able to pull it
all into some kind of idea. I don’t know. I hope it’s not just going to
sit behind closed doors.
Interview: This Is It Director Kenny Ortega On His Last Work With MJ
By Katey Rich: 2009-10-27
Even though he’s an experienced film director, with High School Musical 3 and Newsies
behind him, Kenny Ortega didn’t start his last adventure with Michael
Jackson with the camera in mind. He signed on as the director of "This
Is It" with the intention of taking the entire show to London, and had
cameras on hand during rehearsals to provide references points for
himself and Jackson, as they worked with the rest of the crew to put
together the best live concert imaginable.
Of course, nothing turned out as planned. After Jackson died on June
25, Ortega and his team were left with a production that would never go
live, but also 80 hours of footage from the rehearsals and behind the
scenes, documenting the final days of one of the world’s most beloved
musicians. It was clear that, in some way, the show could go on after
Tomorrow This Is It,
a concert movie and documentary about those rehearsals in the Staples
Center in Los Angeles, hits theaters nationwide. Last week we talked to
Ortega about putting the film together without Jackson, where he was
when he heard that Jackson had died, and what he learned about the King
of Pop that none of his fans have ever been able to know. Check out our
You edited down a lot of material–we heard it was 200 hours– to make this. Does that mean there will be a second film?
It wasn’t two hundred hours. It was eighty. Most of that was film
footage that Michael and I had produced for special content to appear
in the concert. Part of it was behind the scenes, extensive interviews
with everybody behind the scenes, the sets going up, the show being
built and then part of it were these cameras that were capturing
rehearsals. They might do an enhanced, a bigger version, an extended
version someday but I do know that the DVD that’s coming out next year
has a tremendous, weighty additional footage. I’ve seen it and it’s
powerful and emotional and moving and fantastic. I would hope that does
the trick, personally.
Can you tell us about your reaction when you found out Michael had died?
We were expecting Michael to come in that afternoon to rehearse with us
and we were really excited. Michael and I had seen each other the night
before. Our phones started going off and text messages and phone calls
and ‘Is it true? Have you heard? This station is saying that –’ and for
quite some time I just kept thinking to myself that the gardener could
be going to the hospital, that anything could be happening. Knowing the
media and the way that it works around Michael, I just didn’t go there
at all. I didn’t allow it to be that. Then it got more intense and more
intense and then eventually I got a phone call from my family and then
some pretty well known journalists and then from the hospital itself,
from one of our promoters who said, ‘Michael in fact is here and it is
Michael. We’ll let you know when we know more.’
So all of us got together, the entire company stopped and we all came
together and we put Michael into the circle and all of us just imagined
him back with us and in good health and wanted to believe that the
circumstances would end up bringing Michael back to us. Time stood
still. I received a telephone call from one of our promoters that said
Michael in fact had died. I made him repeat it three times because I
thought that I was hearing voices. It didn’t feel real. It was surreal.
Then I said, ‘You know what, I’m going to hang up and I’m going to call
you back and if this is really you then you’re going to answer the
phone and then I’m going to know it’s the truth.’ I was helped into a
dressing area and was really going through some kind of a shock. We
called him back and he answered the phone and I said, ‘Tell me
something that only the two of us would know.’ He said, ‘Kenny, it’s
me. It’s Paul. Stop it. Stop it. Michael’s dead.’ It just felt like
everything inside of me, like a building collapsed, the foundation.
Everything inside of me just collapsed like a bomb had dropped. It was
surreal beyond things. It was dark and painful and everywhere I looked
I just saw people holding each other up and falling to their knees. It
was really horrible. No one expected it. As much as it has been said,
as much as it’s been said in these weeks, we as a family believed in
our hearts and in our minds that we were going to London and this was
How do you direct Michael Jackson? Can you say no to him?
You don’t tell Michael no. You disagree. You don’t ever have to
criticize Michael. What you always get with Michael is an open mind and
that’s all he expects back from you. He would say to me, when he really
believed in something that I wasn’t on the same page with him about,
he’d say, ‘Please, please, just promise me that you’ll keep it alive in
your mind for five minutes. I know you’ll come to agree with me.’ I
would say, ‘Oh, you’re wrong there, mister.’ Michael loved that about
our relationship. He called it creative jousting and he loved that. He
rolled up his sleeves and we wrestled ideas and it didn’t matter. I
know that Michael kept inviting me back time and time again because I
didn’t just yes him, nor I did I boss him. We had a wonderful repartee.
I know that Michael trusted me that I would get the work done. He would
say to me, ‘You build the house. I’ll rock it down.’
How did This Is It begin?
He picked the phone up and called me. We had been talking for two years
off and on. I’d say, ‘What are you thinking?’ He’d say, ‘You know, it’s
not enough that you can do something. You have to do it. You must.
We’ll do it when it’s right and we’ll do it when I know that it’s
important enough that I must do it as opposed to it’s just something
that’s out there that we can do.’ He was being offered situations like
Celine Dion had in Las Vegas and he’d say, ‘I’d rather make a film. I
don’t see any reason to do that right now in my life.’ So then I get
this phone call and honest to God this is what he said to me; ‘Kenny?’
I said, ‘Yes.’ And he said, ‘This is it.’
And that became the show?
Yeah, and he said that five times during the conversation. I said, ‘You
keep saying "This is It".’ ‘It is. This is going to be my final curtain
call. This is it.’ I said, ‘You should just call the show that. It
makes perfect sense.’ As we went along over the weeks, everyday he’d
say, ‘This gives another meaning to "This is It". "This is It", a call
to arms. We have to all realize how important it is to invest ourselves
and pumping more love back into the world.’ He just kept finding more
and more and more reasons behind the titles of ‘This is It’ to nourish
the fact that he was doing this and that it was important and that we
How much were you involved in directing the music of the film?
I’m all about improvisation. Michael was extraordinary at that. The way
that I worked with Michael was that you just paid attention. He led the
way. Michael would say, ‘Stop,’ and everyone would stop and there would
be a collective holding of your breath, like [inhales] and he’d say,
‘Watch me. Don’t jump the gun. I’ll lead you. I’m sizzling right now.
Let me sizzle.’ We’d say, ‘Okay, okay. Everyone just let Michael
sizzle.’ That meant, ‘I might want to work the moment. I might want to
shake my shoulders. I might want to look over there, over there. I
might want to take my time.’ He was an expert at timing. He understood
how to work an audience as good as any other entertainer that I have
ever seen or worked with in my entire career.
Now you have to work without Michael being there. How do you do that?
I had to sort of call myself to attention and snap out of what I was
going through emotionally to take on this responsibility and to
continue forward with this journey in terms of now becoming the
filmmaker. The one thing though that I did every single day, is I would
say, ‘Michael, boy do I need you to be with me today. Please, don’t
disappear.’ I would walk into the editing room and Michael would be
there with me, as would Travis Payne, as would Michael Bearden and then
we’d all talk.
Michael talked about working on a move that was going to beat the Moonwalk into the ground. Did you ever see that move?
He was just starting to go to that place. Through his improvisational
work, towards the last weeks of rehearsals you started seeing things
coming out of Michael and you just went, ‘What is that?’
Was there a particular move that he was tending towards?
He did this slow motion thing that he did in "Billie Jean" and in "Beat
It," he started jumping up into the air. He looked like he was in slow
motion, and when we were watching the film it looked like we had slowed
him down. So he was playing with stuff. He was really working with it.
The dancers who were less than half his age, I mean we’re talking
eighteen to twenty one year old dancers, twenty two year old dancers –
Michael is fifty years old on that stage. These were eleven of five
thousand seven hundred kids from all over the world that were the best
dancers on the planet that we had picked to be on the show and they
were brought to their knees watching Michael Jackson during the
What’s it going to be like to work after this?
I don’t know
what the future is going to be like, not getting the phone calls, not
hearing the new ideas, not getting the invitations. Handing the movie
off at the beginning of October and saying, ‘Here –’ was the hardest
thing that I’ve ever had to do. It really was like giving a child away.
That was the first time that I was taken aback, realizing that this was
really the end of something. Now it’s just about how do we turn this
all around and make it mean something and make it worth something, keep
his messages alive, do the work that he is no longer here to do and
hopefully this film helps a little bit.
Ortega: MJ never thought he lost his crown
He said he hopes the
film will continue the work Jackson started as well as set the record
straight regarding the singer’s much-publicized life.
"Michael was going through a lot of drama in his life, as you know,
and I just remember during that period of time just praying for him
because I had spent so many days with him. We toured. We traveled to
different places in the world. I went into the orphanages with him. I
saw what he did for children. I saw the way that he was around
"I just remember I felt so lonely for him and I remembered praying
that he would survive this. And I couldn’t imagine how he was going to
survive this. … I just thought: ‘This has to be the most difficult
thing in the world. How do you manipulate your way through this kind of
energy?’ He was being persecuted and I just prayed for his redemption
and his saving," Ortega, who had previously worked with Jackson on his
"Dangerous" and "HIStory" concert tours in the 1990s, told UPI in New
York Thursday, while promoting the documentary.
Ortega said he and Jackson had been trying for a couple of years to
find a project on which they could collaborate before deciding to work
together on the "This Is It" concert series.
"I walked into his dressing room one day and I was feeling so good.
We had been having a great week of rehearsals and I said: ‘Michael, I
can’t wait for that curtain to open up in London … I cannot wait to
hear that reaction. You are going to triumph. You are going to show the
world. You are going to be validated, my man. You are going to get your
crown back,’" Ortega recalled.
"And he giggled at me and, without trying to make me feel small, he
just looked at me like I was a little boy and said: ‘Kenny, you’re so
silly. God bless you.’ Because that man did not live to be validated.
His investment was coming from a purer place."
Asked if he thought Jackson ever felt he had lost his crown, so to
speak, Ortega replied: "No. I think that he knew it had just been in
safe keeping; that it had been maybe sort of knocked off. I asked him,
‘How do you feel about the way the dancers look at you?’ And he’d say:
‘Beautiful, beautiful. I love them so much.’"
Ortega said he also asked Jackson how it felt to have his 50 London concerts sell out so quickly.
"I said: ‘Are you surprised? You don’t have a record out. You
haven’t been on stage in over 10 years …,’" Ortega said. "And
(Jackson) said: ‘I wasn’t surprised. I know my fans.’ He knew they were
there. He believed that they were there. He knew they would come."
The director also contradicted rumors claiming Jackson found the
rehearsal schedule grueling and feared he wasn’t up to performing 50
dates over the course of nine months.
"He was never out of breath (at rehearsal). He never left tired,"
Ortega remembered. "He always left invigorated. He always left
nourished, enthused, excited and looking forward to having a good time."
As for the concert schedule, the director said it had been Jackson’s
intention to take the show on the road after his O2 residency ended.
"What he really wanted to do was to go off to the rest of the world and share this with the rest of the world," Ortega said.
I’m happy for Michael says director Ortega
This is It director Kenny Ortega told an audience at an Entertainment Weekly
event in Los Angeles Monday night that he’s “happy for Michael” that
the film, which opened to $101 million worldwide last weekend, is now
the highest grossing concert film in history. “Michael had filmmaking
in his future,” Oretga said at EW’s tribute to the legendary
director and choreographer at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. “So I’m
just glad that this film—even though he didn’t get to have that
experience—has in fact made him a movie star.”
Ortega, who choreographed Dirty Dancing and directed all three High School Musical
movies, was rehearsing Jackson’s planned 50-concert event in L.A. last
summer when the singer died suddenly. (In the wake of that death, Sony
bought the rehearsal footage and Ortega ultimately decided to direct
the film.) Ortega, 59, had worked with Jackson in the 1990s and knew
the singer well. Speaking to an audience of approximately 200 in the EW
lounge — part of this week’s American Film Institute Festival in
Hollywood — Ortega gave Jackson credit for helping resurrect the movie
musical through his short-film style music videos for songs such as ThrillerSmooth Criminal. “We wouldn’t have movie musicals this day if it wasn’t for Michael Jackson,” Ortega said. and
The director also recalled personal memories of Jackson, including
that Jackson had two or three personal colognes that he frequently
used, and that during rehearsals for This is It, dancers
would line up to get hugs from Jackson just because of how good he
smelled. One afternoon, when Ortega had been working hard all morning,
and was covered in sweat, he went to Jackson’s trailer to talk to him.
As Jackson approached Ortega to hug him, Ortega said, “You don’t want
to hug me. I’m sweaty. I stink.” Jackson replied, “That’s ok,” whipped
out a bottle of his cologne, and spritzed Ortega with it. Ortega smiled
at the memory. “That whole rest of the day, everybody just was hugging
me and saying ‘You smell like Michael!’” he said.
Screening ‘This Is It’: Part of the Healing Process
By Sharon Waxman Published: December 01, 2009
It’s pretty rare to screen a concert film that ends in a standing
ovation, but that’s what happened tonight when TheWrap screened “This
Is It” to an overflow theater at the Sherman Oaks Arclight.
The director of the film, and of the abortive Michael Jackson concert,
Kenny Ortega, was greeted with applause and viewers on their feet. It
may just have been a concert film, but it was of Michael Jackson in his
final moments as an artist and as a performer.
The film shows what the overwhelming noise of gossip columns,
tabloids, and endless cable tv obscured: Michael Jackson was a vibrant,
thinking, and still supremely talented performer, fully in touch with
his muse up to his sudden death in June.
Ortega was visibly moved by the show of love and enthusiasm for the
film and for its subject, his friend Michael Jackson. We’ll have more
on his interview after the screening tomorrow, but for tonight, it’s
enough to know that this film touches a nerve in Hollywood.
As one audience member, who with a few dozen others mobbed Ortega after
the q&a to ask such questions like – does he dream about Michael
Jackon? – said, “This is part of our healing process too.”
debt of thanks to him,” Ortega said.
“He’s my angel. Whenever I said
yes to him, I came out on the other end benefitting greatly.”
Jackson’s musical message of social and political equality amongst
races the world over influenced the political and social thinking of
many around the world with a liberal ideology of progress, change,
human emancipation and equality. Significantly, during the height of
the Cold War, his song “We are the World” was popular in Eastern Europe
and the USSR, to say nothing about the heart-beating popularity of his
music album “Thriller” amongst the youth of these countries. Given his
talent and creative genius, it is therefore really no surprise that
Michael’s music vibrates from places as far apart as Kohima or Dimapur
in Nagaland, India to Alice Springs in the heart of Australia to Addis
Ababa in Africa to the up-market streets of New York. Hence, in the
light of the immortality of the man’s music his mortality on June 25,
2009 has left the world with a physical void as it missed out on his
last shows “This Is It” planned for July 2009 to March 2010.
Michael Jackson, the man, was laid to rest on September 4,
2009 (nearly two months after his death) amongst the greats of
Hollywood like Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, W.C. Fields and Red Skelton at
Forest Lawn, Glendale, California in a hidden mausoleum made of marble
and mortar. While we grieve that we did not see him perform his magical
shows for the last time, with the benefit of hindsight one can argue
that it was perhaps meant to be that way…his sudden passing away has
left the world with a desire to practise what he so ardently believed
in his lifetime: a peaceful world order based on human equality.
While controversies ravaged this brilliant and unusually gifted
musician in the later years of his life, the tipping point of which was
the child abuse cases of which he was finally acquitted in 2005, the
world at large will perhaps remember Michael as a man and a musician
who inspired, cajoled, enlightened and provoked many of us to rethink
our political and social notions on race, colour, poverty, the politics
of nations, poverty, the underprivileged and the health of our planet
itself through such songs as “Man in the Mirror” (1988), “ Heal the
World” (1991), “Earth Song” (1996), and “Black or White” (1991). The
last song urged the world to fight against discriminations based on
race and colour by boldly portraying people from all countries as
equal, be it India, the US, Kenya, Ethiopia, China or France in its
video with a common notion of humankind: the progress of thought and
human spirit. That he firmly believed in the lyrics and tenor of these
songs was more than evident in his concerts where despite being such a
perfectionist regarding matters of artistic style and dance, Michael
would passionately request his audience directly to “make that change”
and help prop up the destitute and those less privileged than
Michael Jackson’s commitment to the cause of African Americans in
the US, the poverty in the developing world, and his anguish at the
killing fields of Africa, at the nature of violence and the destructive
capabilities of weapons were astounding, to say the least. In “Earth
Song”, he sang:
What have we done to the world, Look what we’ve done,/What about all
the peace. That you pledge your only son…/ What about flowering
fields, Is there a time, What about all the dreams,/ That you said was
yours and mine…/ Did you ever stop to notice, All the children dead
from war, Did you ever stop to notice,The crying Earth, the weeping
In 1985, along with fellow artist Lionel Richie, Michael composed the song “We are the World” to address the limitless despair, conflict and poverty in Africa. The song became one of the best-selling singles of all time, with nearly 20 million copies sold and millions of dollars donated to African famine relief. Michael thereafter donated all the profits from his hit single “Man in the Mirror” to charity and went on to form the “Heal the World Foundation” in 1992. He also addressed the issue of HIV/AIDS and his song “Gone Too Soon” was a poignant heartfelt response to the death of American teenager Ryan White due to HIV/AIDS.
It is indeed not a surprise that the man, who lived of, for and by his audience, has now come back to public memory after his death with millions worldwide downloading his songs from the internet since June 25, 2009.
Ironically, his own country, the USA, was rather cool to him since the late 1990s-2000 due to the charges of child molestations and the huge financial debts ("they" say) he incurred. In fact, there were no major shows given by Michael in the US since the 1990s and his 50 concert series “This Is It” that were planned from July 2009 to March 2010 were to be staged outside the US. Michael’s popularity outside the US was such that on popular demand, he had to increase his originally planned 10 shows to 50, shows that were never to be performed as we now know.
In a press conference in March 2009 in London, Michael Jackson had rather tenderly but firmly stated to his fans that “This Is It” was the last time he will be performing on stage reminding them that the curtain had to fall on his musical performances, that his fans had to learn to live a life post-Michael Jackson. A rather prophetic statement from the singer given two months before he was gone forever.
There are many ways that the legacy of Michael Jackson can be remembered: as the first cross-over African-American mainstream pop artist with dizzying worldwide fame; as a creative genius whose music and dance is unparalleled: his “Moonwalk”, inaugurated in Motown in 1983, is imitated by young and old the world over—from the slums of Mumbai to the remotest corner of the Americas and Africa; or as the artist who created the perfect music album of all times, “Thriller”.
There is, however, a more telling personal legacy we need to remember him by. Watching him perform his last number “Man in the Mirror” on the 30th anniversary London concert in 2001 with passionate zeal and conviction, one got this strong sense that Michael Jackson perhaps wanted to leave a message for us all through his music and dance…of a man who wanted to see important political, economic and social changes in the world so akin to the ideas of the father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi’s “greatest good for all’.
And Michael’s voice will ring on…..
(If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place), Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A Change, (Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A Change) / I’ve Been A Victim Of A Selfish Kind Of Love, It’s Time That I Realise, That There Are Some With No Home, Not A Nickel To Loan,/ Could It Be Really Me, Pretending That They’re Not Alone?/ (If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place), Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make That Change!
Dr Namrata Goswami is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. The views expressed here are those of the author and not of the IDSA.