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101 Facts About Michael Jackson

101 MJ Facts

To celebrate Michael’s 54th birthday tomorrow, some random facts and trivia about Michael:

  1. Michael helped launch the careers of Wesley Snipes [Bad Video], Weird Al [parody “Eat It”], Sheryl Crow [Bad Tour singer], Alfonso Ribiero [1984 Pepsi commercial].
  2. Wesley Snipes said that he once spent three hours speaking with Michael “about metaphysics, psychology, ‘how the black man is treated,'” saying, “people don’t know about Mike on the real, Mike had a consciousness that could blow your mind and he could recite things that could blow your mind as well.” [Source]
  3. Michael went skinny dipping with Jane Fonda in 1981. [Source]
  4. Michael has directly intervened in at least two attempted suicides, Janet’s husband James Debarge in the mid 80s who threatened to jump from their roof [Source], and a fan who was threatening to jump off the roof of a hotel across from him in 1992. [Source]
  5. When Michael heard his friend and burn victim, Dave Dave, had attempted suicide because he felt his life wasn’t worth living, Michael hired him at Neverland to run odd jobs, to ensure he would feel as if his life had meaning. [Source]
  6. A friend of Michael’s in the 90s suspected Michael was having an affair with his wife because Michael would spend so long on the phone talking to her, so he set about taping the phone conversations and his son ended up selling them in 2005. [Source]
  7. Michael wanted to sign Lauryn Hill after seeing her in Sister Act 2, but she was already signed with the Fugees. [Source]
  8. Michael had a library of 10,000 books and one of Michael’s favorites was Jonathan Livingstone Seagull. Michael recommended this book to people like Kobe Bryant, Anthony Jackson, Frank Cascio. [Source]
  9. Michael’s family had a jokey nickname for him, “Doodoohead”, Lisa Marie had her own tongue in cheek take on that, “Turd,” which MJ would sign some of his notes to her as. [Source]
  10. At an after party in 1974 Michael taught David Bowie the Robot. [Source]
  11. One of the only happy memories Michael says he has of his father was of Joe buying the kids donuts to eat because he knew Michael liked them. In the Give In To Me demo Michael sings, “love is a donut.” [Source]
  12. Michael was a notoriously bad driver, Janet said he drove like Ray Charles.
  13. When Michael took off his sunglasses at the 1984 Grammys one fan yelled from the balcony, “Take it all off!”
  14. Some of Michael’s disguises: a fat suit, beard and dark make up, prosthetics, a Sheikh outfit, and covered in bandages. [Photos]
  15. Michael would write all over things, like on the back of paintings, clocks, mirrors, jewelery boxes, tables, figurines and stick notes all over his walls.
  16. Not realizing he was being taped, Michael can be seen flicking through a Playboy during an interview when he was 12. [Source]
  17. Michael was always visiting the Playboy Mansion in the 80s, when LaToya asked him why he was there so much, he said it was “to see the animals.” [Source]
  18. Director of Thriller John Landis didn’t think Michael knew what a Playboy even was, though Michael would go on to tell Ola Ray that he chose her because he’d seen her Playboy photos. Ola had also listed him as her favorite singer during the 1980 shoot. [Source]
  19. Michael once had a giraffe at his home in Encino but the neighbors complained so they had to get rid of it. [Source]
  20. Lisa has said she wouldn’t have married him if the sex hadn’t been good and that he was the one who made the moves with her. [Source]
  21. Michael’s kiss with Lisa Marie at the 1994 MTV awards was not his first public kiss. He’d kissed a fan at a concert in 1981, been kissed by the costar of The Way You Make Me Feel onstage in 1988 and kissed Iman in Remember The Time in 1992.
  22. Michael would wear the color red a lot because he felt it gave him energy.
  23. He had a whole wardrobe full of red shirts/black pants which he would wear all the time, one of the reasons why was so that it would make photographs of him worth less as it would be hard for anyone buying a magazine to see the difference between photos from different weeks.
  24. Michael would always dance in the studio while recording music, a lot of the percussive sounds he made while dancing were worked into the songs. [Source]
  25. Michael was good friends with Sammy Davis Jnr, who considered Michael like a son to him. His daughter once walked in on Sammy, Jesse Jackson and Michael praying in his office to give thanks for putting Sammy’s cancer into remission.[Source]
  26. Many people have said Michael had a photographic memory. He could remember names, stories, info relating to encounters with people many years before.
  27. Michael had initially turned down doing the 1993 Superbowl performance, and only agreed to do it once they agreed to donate his $100,000 fee to charity. At this, other sponsors then chipped in until the donations reached $2,000,000. [Source]
  28. Michael wasn’t often home at Neverland but would always keep it running so that sick children, children from inner city schools in LA and children from the Los Olivos area could visit it in his absence. 
  29. Billie Jean was reportedly inspired by a fan who claimed Michael was the father of one of her twins, when Michael ignored her she sent him a photograph of herself and a gun, that she told him to use on himself on a certain date. Michael was so scared of her he carried this woman’s photo everywhere, memorizing it in case he ever saw her. [Source]
  30. After the song came out another mentally unstable fan would change her name to Billie Jean and spend her entire life stalking him, staging regular break ins to both Encino and Neverland, suing him for spousal support and even after his death, suing and demanding custody of his children. [Source]
  31. When LaToya did Playboy Michael told a friend that at least people would finally stop saying that they were the same person. [Source]
  32. Muhammad Ali had been a friend of the Jacksons and Michael since the 70s [Source], he and Michael bonded especially over their mutual love for magic tricks. [Source]
  33. When Michael heard Magic Johnson had HIV he made sure to hire him for a role in his video, Remember The Time. [Source]
  34. Michael’s Billie Jean video broke the racial barrier on MTV. Prior to that no black artist had ever been put on medium or heavy rotation. But this was no easy feat, despite Thriller being a huge success at the time in order to get the video on MTV CBS owner Walter Yetnikoff had to threaten to pull the entire CBS music catalog from their station if they wouldn’t play it. [Source]
  35. In Michael’s bedroom they found an article on the G spot and another on the Second G Spot. [Source]
  36. Some of his internet logins were: BigMike, Privacy696, Tut777, Dr Black. [Source]
  37. Michael had a large photo of Diana Ross’ picture from the cover of When Fools Rush In on his bathroom wall at Hayvenhurst. [Source]
  38. Michael knew how much his sister LaToya wanted to take their mother to Europe, so in the early 80s Michael got them both tickets and an envelope, inside was $10,000 spending money and a note with the lyrics from one of Katherine’s favorite songs, Moon River. [Source]
  39. Michael was a secret biker; he owned a Harley and would ride it around late at night in parks. It had to be in secret or else it could jeopardize his insurance. [Source]
  40. He also gave his second wife Debbie Rowe, another ardent biker, a bike after they married, and included her in a painting in 1991 with black biker wings. [Source]
  41. Michael used to steal his mother’s jewelry and give them to his favorite female teachers as gifts in elementary school. [Source]
  42. Michael said he would only buy jewelry for three people: his mother, Elizabeth Taylor, and for any girl he was interested in at the time. Michael gave Elizabeth Taylor a 17 carat gold diamond ring, Brooke Shields an 11 carat and Lisa Marie Presley a 10 carat ring.
  43. One of Michael’s favorite gifts to people during the late 80s/early 90s was huge big screen TVs, two of the people gifted them were Jackie O and Elizabeth Taylor. When delivering Jackie O the TV they had to dismantle it first to get it inside the elevator.
  44. Freddie Mercury would refer to Michael as “little brother.” [Source]
  45. Michael was an opening act for strippers as a five year old.
  46. While being driven to a show Michael once saw prostitutes standing on a street corner in 1984, he thought they looked good so he stuck out his white gloved hand and waved to them, then stuck his head out to confirm it had been him, leaving them shell shocked while he drove off laughing.[Source]
  47. Michael is King of an African village in Gabon on the Ivory Coast. They claim he’s had his DNA tested and has been found to have descended from the area. [Source]
  48. After Michael bought the Sony catalog in the mid 80s he gave Little Richard back the rights to his songs. [Source]
  49. Michael helped pay for the funeral of Temptation’s lead singer David Ruffin. [Source]
  50. In 1984, a U.S. library accused Jackson of owing it over $1 million in overdue book fines. Officials said they would scrap the fines if he returned the books autographed.
  51. Michael enjoyed plays on words and used them in his songs, like Streetwalker which is slang for prostitutes, In The Closet which is slang for gay men who aren’t public about it (reversing it and making it about a secret relationship he had with a girl), and Eaten Alive, which seems to be a play on oral sex on a woman.
  52. He wrote Eaten Alive and Muscles for Diana Ross. Muscles was the name of Michael’s large… python.
  53. Michael had an albino python named after Madonna in the early 90s. [Source]
  54. At the Oscars in 1991 Madonna and Michael’s entrance at an after party caused such a scene that even celebrities like movie legend Jimmy Stewart stood on a chair to get a good look at them. [Source]
  55. Lisa Marie was so devastated by his death that she went to see a psychic to contact him on her birthday the first year after he passed. [Source]
  56. Liza Minnelli and Flo Anthony have said Michael proposed to a non famous woman with an African name before Lisa Marie Presley, she turned him down and he was devastated. [Source]
  57. To keep the women Michael was seeing a secret Michael would give them code names. [Source]
  58. Michael had wanted to get the roles of Spiderman [Source], Edward Scissorhands [Source] and the Phantom of the Opera [Source].
  59. Stan Lee has said that Michael was a friend of his and described him as “one of the nicest guys ever.” [Source]
  60. Michael was one of the few people who intimidated Freddie Mercury.
  61. When Freddie Mercury and Michael did some demos at Michael’s place, he didn’t have a proper drum kit, so Freddie’s assistant took a mic into Michael’s toilet and used the toilet door there for percussion.
  62. In August 1993 Michael was in Bangkok with his Dangerous World Tour sponsored by Pepsi. The second concert got cancelled because Michael was suffering from acute dehydration. Next day the rescheduled concert got cancelled again because Michael had not fully recovered. Pepsi’s rival run ads reading ‘Dehydrated? There’s Always Coke.’
  63. The gold leotard Michael wears during his Dangerous World Tour is actually a fencing outfit and was designed by Versace. [Source]
  64. Michael wore the white glove to disguise the beginnings of his vitiligo. [Source] Michael’s eldest son now also  suffers from that same rare skin disorder, with it also beginning on his hand. [Source]
  65. As well as vitiligo, Michael suffered from discoid lupus, another autoimmune disorder. [Source]
  66. Michael once told a friend he wore the mask because he felt ugly sometimes. [Source]
  67. Michael called scouting for hot women “fishing” so that people around him wouldn’t know what he was talking about. [Source]
  68. At its peak Thriller was selling 1 million copies a week. [Source]
  69. Eddie Van Halen performed his Beat It solo for Michael for free. [Source]
  70. Some music you might not have expected Michael to be a fan of: Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, Guns’n’Roses, Jimmi Hendrix, Yes. One of Michael’s favorite songs was Owner Of A Lonely Heart by Yes, he even samples it in D.S and had Trevor Rabin play some things on They Don’t Care About Us. [Source]
  71. Michael had a lamb named after a character Sidney Poitier played, Mr Tibbs.
  72. Michael loved playing phone pranks on people, and would often dial random numbers and prank them without their ever knowing it was him, as well as doing it to his friends.
  73. Michael drank a lot of Red Bull and ate a lot of KFC.
  74. Michael once showed up a party PDiddy was throwing just to meet the “girl with the derriere” aka Beyonce and dance with her. [Source]
  75. The demo title for the song “Bad” was “Pee”, likely because it was due to be a collaboration with the musician Prince and “Pee” was code for his initial “P”. [Source]
  76. There are two naming traditions in the Jackson family: naming a son after yourself and the name Prince. There is a Jackson son named after every male member of the Jackson family (Sigmund, Marlon, Toriano, Stevana/Randy, Jermaine), and Michael had a grandfather and great grandfather named Prince. This is why Michael named his sons as such.
  77. Many of Michael’s most famous outfits are borrowed. His black sequin cardigan for Billie Jean was something he took from his mother, his white Thriller suit was something he asked to borrow from the photographer, and many others.
  78. This seemed to rub off on Blanket, once when a fan asked Michael to autograph his hat, Michael said that Blanket liked it and asked if he could keep it, so in exchange Michael and Blanket signed Blanket’s tee shirt and gave it to him [Source]
  79. Star of the first season of America’s Next Top Model, Giselle Samson, was featured in men’s magazine “Stuff” in early 2003 during the show and she said there that she idolized Michael; reading this, Michael then gave her a call and invited her to Neverland. [Source]
  80. Michael believed dancing and music was a way the universe had of expressing itself. [Source]
  81. Michael was a huge fan of art, especially the Renaissance artists and the Pre-Raphaelites.
  82. Lionel Richie’s band the Commodores were a support act for the Jackson 5 when Michael was just 12.
  83. As a kid on tour Michael would prank Lionel with itching powder in his hats, ice in his shoes, and buckets of water over his door. Lionel says the Commodores staged a pillow fight with the Jacksons in revenge for all their pranks. [Source]
  84. Michael was fascinated by the Ancient Egyptians and Tutankhamen, one of his online email addresses was even KingTut777.[Source]
  85. Michael once had the police called out in 1989 because he was wearing a disguise while shopping for a ring and they suspected he was a possible thief. [Source]
  86. Michael was detained while driving his Rolls Royce in 1981 because they thought his car looked “stolen.” Michael later told his mother he was just excited to have been inside a police cell. [Source]
  87. Michael loved the album What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye, and kept the sleeve framed on a shelf in Encino.[Source]
  88. Michael believed Stevie Wonder was a “musical prophet” and was there throughout a lot of the taping of his album, Songs In The Key Of Life. [Source]
  89. Sometimes Michael would go out in disguise during Halloween trick or treating with friends and his kids and it would be the one time of the year he could blend in.
  90. In 2008 while at a Halloween party with his kids, people thought he was a Michael Jackson impersonator and played Thriller when he walked in. [Source]
  91. Marlon Brando’s son was a bodyguard and close friend to Michael throughout his life. He can even be spotted in the cinema watching the movie with him during Thriller. [Source]
  92. Michael loved the PBS documentary about Jack Johnson and the racism he endured, “Unforgivable Blackness”.
  93. Michael has had fans break in and stalk him relentlessly throughout the years. Some would be found sleeping in his loft, his kitchen, his bushes, by his garbage, would park outside his house and sleep there, others would turn up at Neverland with suitcases announcing they were about to move in before the police would be called. When Michael found one fan who had been living in his kitchen, Michael let her have something to eat with him before his bodyguards took her away.
  94. Michael’s mother was the same way and when fans would come to their home in the early 70s she would let them sit and eat with them, sometimes they’d be there till the middle of the night at the kitchen table because Katherine would be too polite to tell them to leave.
  95. Michael would get in trouble for feeding the rats and mice who lived in his home as a kid.
  96. Michael wrote the lyrics to Black or White 20 minutes before he had to sing it. [Source]
  97. Michael composed some of the music for the SEGA video game, Sonic 3, but at the time game consoles had poor sound quality so Michael didn’t like the result and therefore wasn’t credited. Brad Buxer has confirmed that one of the pieces would later inspire the song Stranger In Moscow. [Source]
  98. There’s lots of footage of Michael in the studio that has never been released, footage of him singing with Paul McCartney, singing some of the Bad and Dangerous albums, and all of the Invincible studio sessions.
  99. MJ told his bodyguards that one of the things he would have loved to have been able to do was just walk into a bar and say, “Bartender, give me a beer.”  [Source]
  100. Blanket keeps his hair long to remind himself of his father; Paris sleeps with a jacket of Michael’s under her pillow; Prince likes listening to Arabic prayer because it reminds him of being in Bahrain with his father. [Source]
  101. After Michael’s passing fans got together and raised money to create a children’s home named “Everland” in Liberia, to house 50 orphaned children. [Source]
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Michael Jackson’s Experience of Racism

[EXPAND KKK Paraphernalia left out for them when they arrived to perform in Mobile, Alabama, January 3rd 1971 ]

“You Are Not Alone,” by Jermaine Jackson

If there was one city that didn’t totally put out the Jackson-mania welcome mat, it was Mobile Alabama. We had looked forward to this date because it returned us to Mother’s roots, but there was no home coming. The fan reaction wasn’t the problem – that was typically raucous. It was the reception outside the arena that provided a sober lesson in the rich diversity of America. Our parents had warned us about the infamous prejudices of the Deep South and how black communities were still awakening after the Montgomery bus boycotts of the 1950s, and the civil rights and that had brought violence from the white supremacists of the Ku Klux Klan. We had seen images of grown men walking around with sheets on their heads, and we had seen them burning crosses, but our knowledge of history was scant until our first hand experience in Alabama, in January 1971.

The first difference we noted was when the white driver of our limousine was cold and abrupt, not talkative like other drivers we’d had. At our hotel, he refused to get out of the cat and open our doors, and no staff came out to help us with our bags either. This wasn’t a spoiled kid expectation, it was just an observation of a sharp difference in our treatment. It was as we pulled our bags out of the trunk that one of us noticed some KKK paraphernalia clearly intended for our eyes. We froze. It was like one of those moments in a thriller movie when you realize your driver has been the killer the whole time; it felt that sinister. We stayed quiet and kept our heads down. At the hotel reception, we faced the same old awkwardness. “We don’t seem to have got any rooms booked for you,” said the man at the front desk, all curt and stern. Suzanne de Passe, or someone, argued that this was a long standing booking; we were the Jacksons 5 and there must be a mistake.

“No mistake. We have no rooms booked,” he repeated.

We effectively begged for a room, which we were eventually given – facing an alley and trash cans. Michael was, typically, the first to question what had happened when we got to the basic quarters of our second rate room. “Why would someone treat us like that because of our skin color?” he asked. It confused him because he knew our fans were both black and white, and it was the first time we had been made to feel unwanted, let alone unpopular.

It made us more determined to kick some butt onstage, because we soon recognized the importance of being black kids performing for black fans who could now identify with us. We were carrying the torch for our forefathers, winning respect for every black kid with a dream. The screams and cheers that night felt like a lot more than just Jackson mania: they felt like defiance and victory. As Sammy Davis Junior had said in 1965: “Being a star has made it possible for me to get insulted in places where the average Negro could never hope to go and get insulted.”

[/EXPAND] [EXPAND Michael beaten in a store while repeatedly being called “nigger” after being accused of stealing, late 70s or early 80s ]

“Growing Up In The Jacksons” by LaToya Jackson

Trouble seemed to stalk him. Ironically, my brother’s most terrifying encounter was with someone who didn’t even know who he was. He and Michael were visiting her mother and stepfather in Alabama, accompanied by Bill Bray. Michael and Bill went driving one afternoon, and stopped at a gas station. While Bill used the restroom, Michael browsed in a small shop next door. When Bill came out, he was surprised to find Michael gone. “Where are you, Joker?” he called out, using his pet name for my brother.

Suddenly he heard, “Help! Help!” It was Michael, yelling from inside the store. Bursting through the door, Bill saw my brother curled up on the floor and a white man kicking him viciously in the head and stomach, screaming with blood curdling venom, “I hate all of you! I hate you!” Over and over he called Michael a nigger.

Bill, a tall, middle aged black man, subdued the attacker and helped up Michael, who was crying and bleeding from several deep cuts. “What’s going on?” he demanded.

“He tried to steal a candy bar!” the man claimed, pointing at my brother. “I saw him put something in his pocket!”

“No, I didn’t!” Michael protested.

“Yes, you did!”

“Wait a minute,” Bill said skeptically. “He doesn’t even like candy and he doesn’t steal. Why would he steal a candy bar?”

It was obvious then that Michael’s attacker had no idea who he was. As far as he was concerned, this was just another black person – another nigger – to abuse. Bill rushed Michael to a local hospital to have his cuts and bruises tended to.

Mother called us from Alabama to tell us what had happened and we all cried in anger and sadness. How could this kind of thing still happen? If Bill hadn’t been with Michael, he might have been killed. Jermaine was livid, threatening to fly to Alabama and take the law into his own hands. It took some time to persuade him that vigilantism was no way to handle the matter.

Instead, a lawsuit was filed against the store owner. Two girls standing outside had witnessed the beating and one offered to testify on Michael’s behalf. We felt very strongly that racial violence must be stopped, but unfortunately, justice did not prevail in this case. The racist harbored no regrets. In fact, discovering that the black man he’d assaulted was a celebrity only inflamed his hatred. Now he threatened to kill Michael. Bill convinced us that this person was mad, that the threat was quite serious, and that it was better for everyone to drop the action. None of us was happy about this, but there was really no choice.

[/EXPAND] [EXPAND Michael invites Tatum O’Neal to be his date to the premiere of his movie The Wiz but she turns him down because her agent didn’t want her seen at a premiere with a “nigger”, October 1978 ]

Tatum O’Neal, “A Paper Life”

Unfortunately, my friendship with Michael came to an abrupt ending. He’d played the Scarecrow in The Wiz, the urban remake of the Wizard of Oz, which starred Diana Ross as Dorothy. For the film’s premiere, Michael invited me to be his date. I asked my dad, who didn’t care one way or another if I went, but my talent agency was dead set against it. I was told, in exactly these words: ‘You can’t go to a premiere with a nigger.’ Hollywood!

[/EXPAND] [EXPAND Rejection letter from Rolling Stone in 1979 – as it stands Britney Spears has been on the cover of Rolling Stone on more occasions than Michael has ]

Michael Jackson's Experience of Racism, Rolling Stone, racist

November 27, 1979

Dear Norman [Winter]:

Michael Jackson has, in fact, been on the cover of ROLLING STONE, contrary to your statement in your recent letter to me.

We would very much like to do a major piece on Michael Jackson, but feel it is not a cover story.


Jann S. Wenner
Editor & Publisher

cc: Walter Yetnikoff

At this point in time Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough and Rock With You had both recently been released as singles from his Off The Wall album and both had charted at number one.

Joe Vogel recently spoke about Michael’s feelings about Rolling Stone’s rejection and how he had been told that black musicians had never sold well on the cover of the magazine. That opinion seems reflected in how many cover stories have featured him in total versus other white musicians of his status:

Jackson was well-aware of this history and consistently pushed against it. In 1979, Rolling Stone passed on a cover story about the singer, saying that it didn’t feel Jackson merited front cover status. “I’ve been told over and over again that black people on the covers of magazines don’t sell copies,” an exasperated Jackson told confidantes. “Just wait. Some day those magazines will come begging for an interview.”

Jackson, of course, was right (Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner actually sent a self-deprecatory letter acknowledging the oversight in 1984). And during the 1980s, at least, Jackson’s image seemed ubiquitous. Yet over the long haul, Jackson’s initial concern seems legitimate. As shown in the breakdown below, his appearances on the front cover of Rolling Stone, the United States’ most visible music publication, are far fewer than those of white artists:

John Lennon: 30

Mick Jagger: 29

Paul McCartney: 26

Bob Dylan: 22

Bono: 22

Bruce Springsteen: 22

Madonna: 20

Britney Spears: 13

Michael Jackson: 8 (two came after he died; one featured Paul McCartney as well)

Is it really possible that Michael Jackson, arguably the most influential artist of the 20th century, merited less than half the coverage of Bono, Bruce Springsteen, and Madonna?

[/EXPAND] [EXPAND Michael was stopped and detained while driving his Rolls Royce because the police officer didn’t believe the car was his, 1981 ]

“My Family” by Katherine Jackson

Michael usually drove himself to Kingdom Hall and his field-service routes. He’d finally gotten his driver’s license in 1981, at the age of twenty-three. Initially he didn’t want to learn to drive.

“I’ll just get a chauffeur when I want to go out,” he said when I began nagging him about getting his license.

“But suppose you’re someplace and your chauffeur gets sick?” I reasoned.

Finally, he relented and took some lessons.

After he began driving, Michael decided that he enjoyed being behind the wheel, after all. The first time he took me for a ride, he ventured up to Mulholland Drive, a winding road in the Hollywood Hills. It was a hair-raising experience.

“I’ve got a crook in my neck and my feet hurt,” LaToya, who was also in the car, complained afterward. “I was putting on the brakes’ with my feet and ‘steering’ the car with my neck trying to keep it on the road. I was so scared!”

It was white-knuckle time for me, too. Michael drove fast. He also had the same habit that I have: driving right up to the car in front and stopping on a dime.

After that, Michael started going out by himself.

“You shouldn’t go out alone,” I told him. “Get Bill Bray to go with you.”

But Michael wouldn’t hear of it. “I’m tired of having security with me every time I go someplace.”

When he began driving, Michael told me that he would never go on freeways; he thought they were too dangerous. So I was shocked one day when Michael suddenly drove us onto a freeway ramp.

“Wait a minute, Michael, what are you doing?”

“I can drive the freeways now!” he said, laughing. He had changed his mind about freeways when he saw just how long it took him to get around Los Angeles without using them.

Michael’s first car was a Mercedes. Then he bought a black Rolls-Royce, which he later painted blue.

It was in the Rolls that he was stopped one day — not for fans outside the gate, but by a Van Nuys policeman.

“This looks like a stolen car,” the officer said. He didn’t recognise Michael, who wasn’t wearing a disguise that day.

Michael explained politely that he did, indeed, own the car. But the officer went ahead and ran a check on the car, and found that Michael had a ticket outstanding.

The next thing Michael knew, he was sitting in the Van Nuys jail.

Bill Bray bailed him out. I didn’t even know what had happened until he came home.

“You should have asked the officer what a stolen car looks like,” I said after he related his adventure. Perhaps the cop had felt that a young black man didn’t belong behind the wheel of a Rolls.

But Michael was not only put out by the experience, he professed to be happy.

“I got to see how it felt to be in jail!” he exclaimed.

[/EXPAND] [EXPAND After hearing that Elvis Costello had called Ray Charles and James Brown “niggers” Michael kept away from him when they met, 1982 ]

The incident where Costello said this is recounted here:

In 1979, Costello was touring America in support of his album Armed Forces, which had become his biggest hit in the States. One night that spring, the tour reached Columbus, Ohio. It was a pretty good week for rock shows in Columbus — Stephen Stills and his band were playing at another venue and staying at the same hotel as Costello. In the hotel bar, Costello and some of the Attractions got into a discussion about music with a few of Stills’ bandmates, including backup singer Bonnie Bramlett. A 1979 People magazine story describes the substance of the conversation:

“Someone asked him what he thought of the old guys, like Buddy Holly,” reports one eyewitness. Costello replied with an obscenity. “What about Elvis Presley?” Costello snapped another obscenity. “Then he said American people are second-class white people, compared to first-class English people.”

Bramlett, a longtime paladin of rhythm-and-blues whose backup bands once included heavies like Leon Russell, Duane Allman and Rita Coolidge, kept cool until, she says, Costello “called James Brown a jive-ass nigger.” Next, according to an onlooker, “Bonnie said, ‘All right, you son of a bitch, what do you think of Ray Charles?’ He said, ‘Screw Ray Charles, he’s nothing but a blind nigger.’ That did it. Bonnie backhanded him, slapped him pretty hard, because she’s a healthy chick.”

What People didn’t report, but what has been frequently noted in reports of the incident in succeeding years, is that Costello really didn’t want to talk to anybody in the hotel bar, and was trying to get rid of Bramlett and the others. In 1982, Costello told Rolling Stone that the discussion started as “joshing” and “gentle gibes,” but got nastier and nastier the more intoxicated everyone got. And finally, “I said the most outrageous thing that I could possibly say to them — that I knew, in my drunken logic, would anger them more than anything else.”

Walking away from the bar that night, Costello figured it was just another bar fight. He didn’t expect what happened next: Bramlett called reporters to tell them about it. Within days, Costello ended up facing the press himself amid accusations of racism. He apologized, but went only as far as saying he was sorry “if he had offended anyone,” without actually apologizing to either James Brown or Ray Charles. He received death threats and eventually required extra bodyguards. His American record deal was even in jeopardy for a while, as Columbia reportedly considered whether to drop him. They didn’t, but they also stopped promoting Armed Forces, releasing no more singles, not even What’s So Funny (‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding), which might have become a breakthrough hit. The Armed Forces tour ended quietly, and it would be two years before Costello returned to the States.

For his part, Ray Charles was gracious, saying only: “Drunken talk isn’t meant to be printed in the paper.” In 2004, Costello told Rolling Stone that he never got the chance to speak to Charles about the incident. He insisted that he pays still a price for it:

I have to live with it, with every Afro-American musician I meet. Do they know? Do they think, “The guy’s being nice to me, but secretly I know he’s a racist”? I’ve heard people mutter it under their breath as they pass by, because they read it somewhere. What can I complain about? It happened. But if people don’t hear the respect by now, they’ve got their ears the wrong way around.

Even before he ever met Bonnie Bramlett at the Holiday Inn, Costello had been active in Britain’s Rock Against Racism movement. Some Costello fans blame Bramlett for using the incident to hype her own career. Costello’s track record in the 30 years since that night indicates that the incident did minimal harm to his career and reputation. And so, like most everything in life, the “Columbus Incident” was a lot more complicated than it looks.

Elvis Costello spoke about Michael’s reaction to meeting him in the September 2, 1982 edition of Rolling Stone in an article entitled “Elvis Costello Explains Himself”

I’m not saying I wasn’t responsible for my actions; that sounds like I’m trying to excuse myself. But I was not very responsible. There’s a distinct difference. I was completely irresponsible, in fact. And far from carefree – careless with everything. With everything that I really care about. And I think that inasmuch as it was said that we fed ourselves to the lions, you could say that whatever the incident was, it was symptomatic of the condition I was in, and that I deserved what happened regardless of the intentions of the remarks.

But it was only quite recently that I realized that it’s not only the man on the street, as it were, who’s never heard of me otherwise, who’s only read People – that it’s not only people like that who know only this about me. When we were recording Imperial Bedroom, Bruce Thomas was in the next studio while I was doing a vocal. Paul McCartney was there, and Michael Jackson came in to do a vocal – everything was nice until somebody introduced Bruce as my bass player. And suddenly – there was a freeze-out. Michael Jackson was – “Oh, God, I don’t dig that guy… I don’t dig that guy.”

He had heard about it third hand, from Quincy Jones. Two guys I have a tremendous amount of admiration for. It depressed me that I wouldn’t be able to go up to him – I wouldn’t be able to go up and shake his hand, because he wouldn’t want to shake my hand. Or James Brown, for that matter. But what could I say? What could I say? How could you explain such a thing? But there is nothing I’d like more.

[/EXPAND] [EXPAND In depth look in to the racial climate of MTV in the early 80s and how Billie Jean was a breakthrough for black musicians, 1981-1983 (quotes about this racial divide from MTV execs, record label execs, music journalists, Rick James, David Bowie, Keith Richards, Bob Seger, Bob Giraldi, etc) ]

“Inside MTV” By R. Serge Denisoff, published in 1988

Rick James, Michael Jackson, Versus Narrowcasting

Music publishers at the California Copyright Conference held in January 1983 repeated the controversies of the first Billboard Music Video gathering. The major issues were payment for clips and black music.

Ben Begun (Warner-Amex’s legal affairs vice president) was bombarded with questions concerning black music, especially by Jay Lowy (of Motown) and publishers with minority artists in their portfolios. Begun’s reading of a short list of urban contemporary acts rotated on the music channel only heightened the tension. The audience was unpersuaded. The heat was building on the MTV “corporate philosophy” and narrowcasting.

The MTV racism controversy that arose in the early months of 1983 was a case of economic interests wrapped in the mantle of civil rights. The rhetoric did not always point to the underlying monetary motivations pulling in some very well intentioned persons, such as David Bowie, Bob Seger and New York Times television writer John O’Connor.

A&M’s Jeff Ayeroff had told John Sykes (MTV promotions director) at the 1981 Billboard Video Music Conference, “Just try playing the [Rick] James video and see what happens,” and MTV ignored the suggestion. Bob Pittman (founder of MTV) stuck to his format philosophy: “You can’t go too far into black music or country music or you’ll alienate your target audience, which is interested in rock.” The demographically and geographically defined cable viewers of the network were white males in the suburbs and rural areas. The response was predicable, in light of radio’s fragmentation and cable’s narrowcasting structures. “Rick James is great. So is Parliament Funkadelic,” he told the writer, “but we turned down Rick James because the consumer didn’t define him as rock.” He cited the statistic that 85 percent of the targeted audience prefers rock adding, “But we do play black artists – Joan Armatrading, Gary US Bonds, Jimi Hendrix – because they fit in with rock and roll. So it has to not with race, but with sound.” He could have added the Bus Boys, and Phil Lynott, then a hard rocker from Ireland (he died in 1986). Variety got the same reply with one caveat: “We hope to find more black musicians doing rock and roll and new music.”

After MTV turned down the “Super Freak” video, “Slick” Rick James finally got into the fray. He told the Los Angeles Times that MTV was “racist.” His main objection was clear: “I figure if they played my video I could probably sell hundreds of thousands more records than I do now.” Slick Rick had a point. Black Entertainment TV in 1982 had about 2 million subscribers – 20% of that of MTV. Worse yet the RIAA estimated that the urban contemporary market accounted for about 2 percent of record and cassette purchases.

At a Los Angeles television studio James would expand views. “I’m hoping my speaking out in public about MTV’s discriminatory policy will make other acts go on record about it.” “I’m just tired of the bullshit,” he later told Rolling Stone. “I have sold over 10 million records in a four year period… and I can’t get on the channel. I watch all these fluffed up groups who don’t even sell four records on a program that I’m excluded from. Me and every one of my peers – Earth, Wind and Fire, Stevie Wonder, the Gap Band, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson – have great videos. Why doesn’t MTV show them? It’s like taking black people back 400 years.”

Rick James was a gadfly. Pittman cordially complained to a New York Times writer, “Why doesn’t anyone talk about all the music barriers we have broken down, like the areas between punk and new wave and mainstream rock?” The rhetorical query really didn’t address the charges, but was a defense of the format.

At the same time AC Nielson brightened the MTV picture. The television polling firm found that MTV viewers spent an average of 4.6 hours per week watching the channel. The October 1982 survey also found that 85 percent of the target audience watched the network. Record buying decisions were found to be equally affected, as 63 percent of the 2,000 respondents answered that they did purchase an album after seeing an act on MTV. Eighty one percent indicated that their first exposure to some acts was via the music channel. The most significant finding was that 68 percent of the sample rated MTV as important or very important, surpassing radio’s 62 percent.

A demographic profile from the same study showed that the typical viewer was around twenty three years old with an average household income of $30,000. More than 50 percent of those over eighteen in the viewership were college educated. These were the kind of numbers record companies and advertisers notice. The findings released in February underlined the import of MTV exposure – a fact that further fueled the black music polemic.

Veejay Mark Goodman, after conducting one of his usual fluff interviews with David Bowie, found the roles reversed. Bowie peppered the puzzled veejay with questions. “Why,” asked the superstar, “are there practically no blacks on the network?” Goodman, who merely introduced the clips and announced concert dates, explained: “We seem to be doing music that fits into what we want to play on MTV. The company is thinking in terms of narrowcasting.” Bowie pressed on. “There seem to be a lot of black artists making very good videos that I’m surprised aren’t being used on MTV.” Goodman placed in the uncomfortable position of defending a format totally beyond his control, echoed the company’s demographic policy: “We have to try and do what we think not only New York and Los Angeles will appreciate, but also Poughkeepsie or the Midwest. Pick some town in the Midwest which would be scared to death by… a string of other black faces, or black music.” He went on, “We have to play music we think an entire country is going to like, and certainly we’re a rock and roll station.” The exchange got hotter. Bowie asked: “Don’t you think it’s a frightening predicament to be in?” The intimidated veejay resorted to the radio analogy, “Yeah, but no less so here than in radio.” The British singer pounced on the reply: “Don’t say, ‘Well, it’s not me, it’s them.’ Is it not possible it should be a conviction of the station and of the radio stations to be fair… to make the media more integrated?” Leaving Bowie’s hotel suite Goodman may have had second thoughts about “meeting his idols” In all fairness, Goodman was in a very difficult position. Had he agreed with Bowie it would become a matter of disloyalty. Statuswise he was no match for the international superstar. Offending David Bowie was not the thing to do. Reportedly Entertainment Tonight was planning a segment on the inflammatory debate.

Looking back on the James charges, John Sykes, almost with resignation says: “Once the racial issue steps in everyone forgets everything else; it becomes a show of prejudice versus liberalism. Then everyone reads into it who is being held back.”

James’ allegations would create one of the biggest unsolved mysteries in the development of MTV. This is an industry where any significant move hits the “street” before actually occurring.

Epic Records, a subsidiary in the CBS Group, geared up to equal the success of their Off The Wall. Produced by Quincy Jones over a prolonged period of time with some of Los Angeles’ top session people, the nine cut Thriller album contained a duet with Paul McCartney (The Girl Is Mine), Eddie Van Halen picking high powered guitar solos (Beat It), and a Vincent Price narrative in the title song. Several Jackson biographers estimate the studio costs surpassed $500,000. CBS had a hefty commitment to the effort, going in.

Off The Wall had been an 8 million, multiplatinum crossover album of the year in 1980. To obtain this sales status a wide appeal to those beyond the urban contemporary market had to be established. If Thriller was to parallel or transcend this, the first Epic release had to reach the AOR and MTV audience. Neither were airing artists with Michael Jackson’s sound. Although it is widely believed that the network practiced a quota for black artists (an unproven allegation), MTV appeared an easier vehicle to promote than tackling the resistance of the myriad of nationally scattered AOR stations. There was also the question of the good will of music directors.

Michael Jackon’s Thriller, his second solo effort, bulleted up the Billboard chart to the number one slot by the last week of February. Billie Jean the single from the LP, reached the same position on the Hot One Hundred a week later on March 5th 1983. Both had been on the trade charts for at least seven weeks. A video clip of Billie Jean was commissioned to support the single and the album. Steve Barron of Limelight Productions directed the visual. The “concept” video cost considerably more than average, which at hat time was in he $8,000 o $20,000 range. Estimates are that the label spent $60,000 to $75,000 on it.

CBS Records’ aggressive promotion vice president Frank Dileo took the clip to MTV, “the music video” network. He recalls, “In the beginning they did not know what would be acceptable to their audience,” which was an understatement at best. MTV’s response was generally negative. Bob Pittman: “We chose rock because the audience was larger. The mostly white rock audience was more excited about rock than the largely black audience about contemporary rhythm and blues.” Les Garland echoes his superior’s view: “You cannot be all things to all people. You cannot play jazz and country music and funk. You lose your focus.” Privately, Pittman was labeling his critics as being “ignorant” of the format.

CBS was adamant. Dileo went back to MTV on several occasions to restate the label’s case. MTV continued to repeat: “It’s the format” and the decision had nothing to do with race.

Pittman’s argument was consistent with his past pronouncements. Originally he shunned “golden oldies” even if the clips were available, saying: “I don’t think our audience is very interested in the past.” The same applies to futuristic videos: “Musically, those songs do not fit into MTV’s format. They’re too avant garde.”

While enjoying some support from within the broadcast community, MTV was rapidly being pushed into a public relations corner. The perception was becoming, for some people, the reality. CBS Records, as many have discovered is a company that is willing to extend its clout. Epic did have an argument. Billie Jean with its chart position, was an obvious crossover hit appealing to both races. Thriller’s success only reaffirmed the contention. This view did not seem to originally persuade most of the MTV brass.

The March 2 MTV playlist had Billie Jean as an add-on. This 180 degree shift led to considerable speculation. None of the individuals reportedly involved will directly discuss the about-face.

In late February an informal meeting had been arranged at Black Rock, where some top executives met to consider their options with MTV. Persuasion was not working. One executive suggested having Michael Jackson appear on the CBS Morning News and repeat James’ charges of racism. Several participants indicated that the ploy had little effect in the Slick Rick situation. Several other strategies were discussed and dismissed. Finally, the ultimate weapon was introduced: curtail MTV’s supply of free videos – especially of name acts, such as Billy Joel. This was a step Motown never dreamed about, as their roster and market share were limited. “What could Berry Gordy do, threaten to pull the Dazz Band video?” noted Rock and Rock Confidential (RRC). The CBS Group, with almost 25 percent of the recording market, could withhold Journey, Pink Floyd, Billy Joel and many other artists aired on MTV. Allegedly Waltner Yetnikoff played this card and won. One CBS company employee cautiously noted, “All I can tell you is if that story is in fact true it was a helluva gamble. Chuzpah! MTV could have held firm. Then what?”

In light of the record companies’ experience with radio and the home taping issues, the outcome could have been quite different. Many broadcasters refused to go along with the labels’ “friendly persuasion” to halt playing entire albums without interruption. Record label executives at that time conceded that withholding product service would be counter productive. Pulling the plug on MTV, at the time, could have similar consequences. One CBS artist stated, “I was on MTV at that time. It was definitely helping record and concert sales.” The implication was that he would not have been overjoyed with an MTV boycott, especially with the state of AOR in early 1983. “Walter Yetnikoff and I never had a discussion about Billie Jean,” says Pittman. Dileo was negotiating the matter with MTV executives representing Pittman’s views. Deniability is a practice common in organizations outside the confines of the intelligence gathering community. It is doubtful Pittman or Yetnikoff would have been directly involved. Still, given the stakes even corporate vice presidents were not individually empowered to make he kind of hard decisions that situation invoked.

MTV put the best face on the turn around possible. “By the time we put that video into rotation,” John Sykes told a writer, “there was really no way for us to ignore Billie Jean. It had moved beyond being a “black music” hit; it was an across the board smash, pop, black, dance charts, you name it. It was a rock song, a pop song… it fit our format.” Veejay JJ Jackson said, “I think we all wanted to see Billie Jean on the channel.” Garlend would later deny any coercion: “No that’s absolutely untrue.”

The addition of the clip has been cited by many as the racial “breakthrough.” The debate raged on. Radio broadcasters privately and in trades had misgivings. Formats by their very nature had borders. One program director observed, “Jackson’s a universal, maybe Prince, but what happens if one of the biggies decides an urban contemporary artist should be on AOR?” Off the record another retorted, “I didn’t realize affirmative action applied to playlists.”

Jeffery Kelly, operations manager of WDMT (Cleveland), went public on the controversy. He wrote in Billboard that artists “have expressed their view that MTV should play ‘all’ contemporary music that is hot and on video. But isn’t it true that, like radio formats, this type of television programming is segmented. MTV doesn’t air Rick James’ video; it doesn’t air Neil Dimond’s video, either. MTV is a rock format… [it doesn’t] play black or soft rock or country music, because it doesn’t appeal to their segment of the audience.” Kelly went on to suggest that in the future an urban contemporary network would appear “appealing to that active, black, music loving public.” Dave Marsh in his monthly newsletter, without referring to Kelly, condemned MTV and the AOR radio fragmentation. “MTV’s racism is more dizzying in its complexity and dimensions simply because the channel is nation wide.” The cause for the writer was radio. “MTV’s programmers – Bob Pittman, Les Garland, and Lee Abrams – all learned their tricks at AOR, a true school for scandal.” Marsh’s newsletter piece would later be reprinted in the mass circulation Record magazine.

Michael Jackson's Experience of Racism, black musicians, Billie Jean, Rick James, Prince, MTV

Racism Charges Resurface

The race issue hung on. The “is” versus “ought” dialogue continued. Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue” appeared on MTV. Grant, an iconoclastic funk fusion artist, originally dropped by Epic in 1980 only to be resigned for the Killer album on Portrait, was sanguine about the MTV issue. He informed Record’s Anthony DeCurtis: “I’ve never bowed to format or whatever it is, because, I don’t understand it. I understand only one thing: how to make music. And I make the music, and if people like it at the radio, or the TV, or whatever, fine. If they don’t, well that’s fine too. Because I’m used to it both ways.” Some of Grant’s urban contemporary’s were no so laid back over the issue. He was on MTV, and they were not.

Prince’s Little Red Corvette continued to complement Billie Jean on the cable network. On April 23, Garland Jefferys had two songs, What Does It Take and El Salvador on the light rotation; Beat It from Thriller, directed by Bob Giraldi and costing nearly $150,000 started on the “heavy” or most repeated category.

Beat It was perceived as the Stairway To Heaven of music videos. Thriller, prior to MTV, had sold some 3 million units. With video exposure it was in the 800,000 per month category.

Prior to James’ comments in the Los Angeles Times, the “racism” debate remained in the trade magazines and specialty publications such as Video. This was “inside baseball” material, as its termed in journalistic circles. A locally sponsored music video six hour symposium in Atlanta, April 16, found Les Garland denying “racism” charges and rattling off the black artists on MTV. Consultant Dwight Douglas prematurely objected, “I’m sick of the press jumping on MTV about this ‘racism’ business, it’s not true. You have to remember that MTV has a very expensive format to protect. If they broke their narrowcasting pattern, somebody could come along and blow them out of the water.” Douglas, president of Burkhart and Abrams, was hardly an objective observer.

Manny Sanches, the marketing director for Franklin Music, retorted: “Forget this black/white thing. The issue is ‘green.’ We need to get on with the business of selling records. That’s what we’re here for.” In May the nonexistant “press coverage” would surface. Ed Levine in The New York Times Magazine would write a lengthy piece on MTV published May 8: five days later ABC TV’s Nightline addressed the same subject, music video. Casey Kasem and Rick Dobbis of Arista Records, were joined by Rick James. James, it appears, was apparently incensed by the inclusion of other black artists. According to several insiders James felt even more personal discrimination because of the addition of other black artists. He would again exclaim his displeasure. The show opened with generally high praise from industry executives and even Ted Koppel, not known for his verbal generosity, commented, “It has done wonders for the sagging record industry. It has made overnight stars out of rock groups whose records had been gathering dust.” James dissented. The Motown artist complained that MTV “has refused to play five of my videos.” After some elaboration Koppel asked, “What’s wrong – I mean we tried to get a representative of MTV to come on the show; they wouldn’t. But they’re saying in effect, ‘Hey, Bloomingdales’s has its market, Nightline has its market….’ Why not?” James responded, “Well, then they shouldn’t call themselves Music Television.” The discussion continued;

Koppel: That’s their privilege, isn’t it?
Rick James: Yeah, but why call yourself Music Television then? I mean, why not then call yourself ‘We Play Sometimes Black Music Television.’ See, number one, you have a lot of black people out there and white people – they all buy records, they mix it up. You’ve got urban contemporary music happening, which is a form – the basis of it is black music form. That’s where it comes from. The beat, the tribal beat, as they say, or whatever, you know, all that crap… This show has a very strong impact on the market. What about all the white kids out there who have a Rick James and a Michael Jackson or – excluding Michael, who’s on the show. They didn’t put him on the show until he went number one. And then I also heard that Columbia almost threatened to take off every video on MTV until Michael was put on that show. When you have a record company threatening a cable show, telling them that if you don’t play this act, we’re going to pull all our videos – that means something. It means something for us to get our music to people, and it means something for us to get our visual concepts to people.

In retrospect, Pittman and associates mishandled the Nightline show. Addressing the guests Koppel concluded, “You’ve reached a few people tonight who may never have heard anything about you before.” The ABC host was right. The Jackson episode went unanswered. Rick James’ fiery rhetoric went unchallenged. Les Garlend’s belated denial was unconvincing as it came at a time when the CBS “video boycott” story had become conventional wisdom in the industry. John Sykes, who could have appeared on the program, might have diplomatically treated the topic as in the past.

Blacks increasingly were added to the MTV playlist, such as Donna Summer’s She Works Hard For The Money. The clip did not satisfy everyone. Speaking at the American Film Institute, scriptwriter Keith Williams charged he was instructed to use a white family in the clip.

Detroit’s hard rocker Bob Seger complained to Musician, “The thing I hate about it is that there’s no black music or R&B on it unless it’s syrupy stuff.” Seger found an ally in John J O’Connor, venerated television columnist of The New York Times. After describing the network as an important presence in programming and record sales, the journalist entered the debate. He wrote that MTV appeared to be “bent on returning the black musician to the status of ‘invisible man.’ … Critics have wondered if this ‘oversight’ is intentional, a demographic ploy for making MTV more palatable to the suburbs of middle class white America. MTV executives, for their part, have insisted, not a little arrogantly, that their product is focused on rock and roll, an area of music that supposedly is not frequented by black performers. Roll over, Chuck Berry.” O’Connor outlined the broad scope of music prior to returning to the race issue. He suggested that Michael Jackson, Donna Summer, Musical Youth, and Prince were merely “promotional spots for MTV” or are being “used prominently in commercials for the format.”

The racism controversy was fueled by idealism, self interest and stubbornness. John Sykes’ original statement concerning “left out” artists had merit. Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire, a fusion act, complained on ABC-TV’s 202/20 that “I have trouble getting to play on it [MTV]. Even though our music has broken all barriers they consider our music R&B so they say they’re only playing rock music, which I don’t believe.”

The MTV high echelon, especially, Bob Pittman, was (or at least appeared) intransigent. Rick James was considered by most people in and outside of the industry as urban contemporary. Michael Jackson was an entirely different matter. He had clearly demonstrated a pluralistic market appeal. Pittman played directly into the hands of the critics by the original rejection of Billie Jean with the “it’s he format” rationale. The widely held belief that CBS forced the video clip on MTV only made matters worse. MTV’s arguments for the expansion of the playlist for more minorities because they were moving into rock music had a hollow ring to it. Rick James’ tactic failed. He admitted, “It hasn’t gotten any better for me… Michael Jackson was forced on MTV… [he’s] sold millions of albums… I still don’t like MTV.”

Belatedly the Rolling Stones Keith Richards joined in the fray. The “first thing I said after I watched a bit of MTV, you’re lucky to see one black every two hours, if that. Michael Jackson gets played; I heard MTV was playing the Bus Boys a few months ago, but it’s real tokenism. When you consider the contribution black people have made to American music, it’s disgraceful… it’s a little bit one sided.” MTV would remember these observations.

One year after the Billie Jean affair, Pittman would tell Variety’s Richard Gold, “Of the new artists being exposed on the service, some 25 percent are from the black music field.” Later senior research vice president Marshall Cohen would explain a ratings downturn with “we really got a huge benefit from playing the [title] clip from Michael Jackson’s Thriller at the height of Michaelmania.” He added that the ratings dropped “due to no Thriller.” Pittman concurs with Cohen’s assessment, but prior to the so-called “lull” he used Thriller’s title song for other purposes. At a roundtable discussion at Cablevision’s offices chaired by Victor Livingstone he observed:

“The record was out fifty three weeks before MTV played Thriller. Radio had the opportunity to make Thriller a single, but chose not to. CBS had the chance to push Thriller, but chose not to. Sales dropped about 250,000 a week from summertime levels of 1 million, 1.2 million. The first week MTV played it, sales jumped from 250,000 to 657,000 copies, next week to a million, and the third week in excess of a million.

You’ve got to figure that if they sold an extra 3 million albums at $2 an album, they make $6 million. Spending even 1 million on a video was a damned good investment, even if they didn’t get a penny of it back by selling the video.”

By mid-1986, Rick James remained absent from MTV’s playlist, but the tempest he had instigated smoldered.

In the fall of 1983, Robert Pittman was sick of the sniping at his format and the demands being made on MTV. The Acquisitions Committee had added Michael Jackson, Eddy Grant, Prince, Musical Youth and other black performers. This silenced some concerns but others persisted. David Marsh’s Rock & Roll Confidential, beginning with its first issue in May, urged: “If you’re as sick of this bullshit as we are, why not write MTV… and call your local cable outlet.” The same issue accused MTV of “deceptive advertising.” The next issue accused MTV of a “significant marketing failure” and continued to attack: “We billed them for a subscription to R&R, sent them the first issue, and still haven’t been paid.” Next issue contained: “Number of black performers with MTV concerts or specials in the history of the channel is still zero… MTV honchos like Bob Pittman aren’t lying… when they claim that black and white music has ‘always’ been segregated.” In the following issue David Bowie was urged to “withhold videos and interviews until the channel opens up.”

Despite the inclusion of Lionel Richie’s All Night Long, Bob Giraldi portrayed MTV as “racist bastards.” They “can say all they want,” he noted, “about over the line, across the line – they are obviously racist and there’s nothing else to say about it.”

Since the beginning of music broadcasting and record marketing segregation had been rampant. Billboard at one time labeled it “race music.” In the early years of white rock and roll, black artists were “covered” by the likes of the Crewcuts, Pat Boones, and a host of crooners. The Penguins’ Earth Angel stopped this practice when the original black version outsold the watered down release by the Crewcuts. The late Muddy Waters was an embittered man when the Rolling Stones popularized his music. Only then did he receive the attention he richly deserved.

[/EXPAND] [EXPAND President of CBS Records Walter Yetnikoff has confirmed this sequence of events over Billie Jean ]


Walter Yetnikoff, the president of Jackson’s record label, CBS, approached MTV to play the “Billie Jean” video. He became enraged when MTV refused to play the video, and threatened to go public with MTV’s stance on black musicians. “I said to MTV, ‘I’m pulling everything we have off the air, all our product. I’m not going to give you any more videos. And I’m going to go public and fucking tell them about the fact you don’t want to play music by a black guy.'” MTV relented and played the “Billie Jean” video in heavy rotation.

[/EXPAND] [EXPAND Seeking to buy a llama, Michael was first asked if he was looking for work, told they didn’t sell any, told he couldn’t afford them and then challenged to produce ID, 1983 ]

michael jackson, llama, louie, michael jackson's experience of racism

“You Are Not Alone,” by Jermaine Jackson

One day, Michael decided he wanted a llama. He asked me to take him to nearby Agora and we ended up at this lot packed with hay and horse trailers. From the car, we eyed four llamas out back. I parked between two trailers, unintentionally shielding my Mercedes from view. It was the only parking spot available. When we walked into the office – two kids dressed casual but smart in T shirt and jeans – this guy, bent across a counter doing some paperwork, didn’t even look up when he said, “We’re not hiring.”

“We ain’t looking for no job,” said Michael, wearing his shades. “We’re here to buy a llama.”

The man looked up. Not a flicker of recognition on his face. It took me about two seconds to know that his musical taste ventured nowhere near the Thriller album. “We don’t have any llamas,” he said. The look on his face said it all: you can’t afford it.

“You have four of them out back,” I said, trying to keep calm.

“You know how much they cost?”

Michael smiled. “We know how much they cost.”

Then came an incredible bombardment of questions, fired by the man’s prejudices and assumptions. “Can you afford a llama? What do you boys do to afford a llama? Where will you keep it? Have you ever thought about this?”

Ever patient, Michael explained that we had a house with grounds and were serious customers. “I know how to look after all kinds of animals,” he added.

The man begrudgingly asked to see some ID. Michael handed over a bank card. I handed over my driving license. And then night became day.

“You’re those Jackson boys?” said the man, his face lighting up. He began to back-pedal about how he had to be careful and he couldn’t sell to just anyone; you understand how it is. Bu we didn’t understand: we saw right through him.

“So you’re happy to accept me because now you know who I am?” Michael asked. The biggest misconception people had about my brother was that his legendary shyness made him timid, but he was a man of principle, especially where his roots as a proud black man were concerned and he wasn’t afraid to speak up on this when riled. Michael took back his ID and came right out with it: “You are an ass, and we don’t want to spend our money in here any more.” Then we walked out to the Mercedes the man had failed to spot when we arrived.

On the drive home, Michael was exasperated. “Can you believe that? What is this area about? What are they teaching their kids?”

We had always been told by our parents that no one is born with a prejudice. It is something that is taught, ignorance passed down from generation to generation. The more Michael brooded, the more fired up he became. He told me to drive to Tito’s.

That afternoon, Tito’s acoustic guitar and our free styling lyrics captured an angry inspiration for a song we called “What’s Your Life?” That was how Michael liked to work. When a true experience inspired a song, he liked to get it down on his tape recorder or in the nearest studio. We recorded that song within an hour at Tito’s studio, also in Encino.

[/EXPAND] [EXPAND Louis Farrakhan calls on black youth to boycott the Jacksons Victory Tour because he believed Michael to be too “sissified” as a black man, April 1984 ]

[Seemingly based on the idea that men, especially black men, need to aspire to a macho ideal.]

Michael Jackson called “sissified” by Farrakhan, Gaineseville Sun, April 12 1984

Louis Farrakhan, the controversial leader of the Black Muslim sect, has called on black youths to reject the “female acting, sissified” image of award winning entertainer Michael Jackson.

Farrakhan blamed the 25 year old Jackson, recent winner of eight Grammy awards, for his style that “actually ruins your young men and makes your young women have nothing to look up to as a real man for their own lives.”

Farrakhan’s criticism of Jackson was made in a March 11 radio broadcast. The Chicago Tribute recently obtained a copy of the Farrakhan broadcast and published details about the Michael Jackson statement Wednesday.

In the broadcast, Farrakhan said: “… we have today a Michael Jackson who is winning all kinds of awards because he is a great and marvelous performer. But the image that he projects to young black men is an image that we should all reject.”

Farrakhan said, “This… Jehri-curl, female acting, sissified-acting expression is not wholesome for our young boys, nor for our young girls. Certainly the man is a great singer, certainly, he’s a powerful entertainer. We cannot and we would never try to take anything away from our brother.”

He went on to contend that Michael Jackson is setting a poor example for black youth. “This is a shame. But, of course, men like this will live to die of old age, because they threaten nothing.”

A spokesman for Michael Jackson, whose latest album, Thriller, has sold more than 25 million copies, said the singer would have no comment. The spokesman in Los Angeles described Jackson as very religious and added, “I just don’t think he would subscribe to any way of life other than a very deeply religious lifestyle.”

[/EXPAND] [EXPAND Don King told him that to the rest of the world he would only ever be treated as “another nigger”, 1984 ]

Michael Jackson's Experience of Racism, Don King, Michael Jackson

As quoted by Taraborrelli in Magic and Madness, pg 377

King’s final comments on the subject [of the Victory tour] failed to ingratiate him to Michael Jackson. He went on, “What Michael’s got to realize is that Michael’s a nigger. It doesn’t matter how great he can sing and dance, I don’t care that he can prance. He’s one of the megastars in the world, but he’s still going to be a nigger megastar. He must accept that. Not only must he understand that, he’s got to accept it and demonstrate that he wants to be a nigger. Why? To show what a nigger can do.”

Jermaine Jackson “You Are Not Alone”

Don [King] didn’t win awards for tact and diplomacy, and his giant ego was the reason he was a promoter. He was brash but effective. Had you seen him – the loudest mouth – and Michael – the quietest soul – interacting, you might have thought, There’s the kid with the embarrassing uncle that he can’t help but find funny. I’ll never forget being in a meeting when we were discussing something about the show’s direction and Michael was talking about how he wanted to pay back the fans and keep pushing higher.

“Michael!” said Don, cutting dead the monologue. “Remember this. It don’t matter whether you’re a rich nigger, a poor nigger, or just a nigger. No matter how big you get, this industry’s still gonna treat you like a nigger.” In other words, and in his opinion, you’ll always be a servant to the music industry, so don’t ever think of becoming more powerful than that.

Everyone in the room froze. If the music industry blew smoke up everyone’s ass, Don blew in an icy blast of straight talk.

It was Michael who was the first to laugh, cracking the suspended silence. He found it funny, in a shocking way, and wasn’t offended. None of us was. A black man had been addressing black men, and that kind of talk was hardly foreign to someone from Gary, Indiana.

[/EXPAND] [EXPAND Foxboro Massachusetts officials banned the Jacksons Victory tour from their stadium claiming that too much of an “unknown element” would show up, a move residents believed to be racist considering many other famous white musicians had been allowed to play, June 22nd 1984 ]

Jackson Fans Angry At Foxboro, Herald Journal, June 22nd 1984

Radio station switchboards were jammed with angry calls Thursday and a state legislator branded town officials as racists following their decision to turn away two concerts by superstar Michael Jackson and his brothers.

“We have an awful lot of people who were upset with the town of Foxboro,” said Mark Williams, a producer of Boston radio station WRKO-AM’s morning talk show. “The switchboard is overloaded with calls.”

The yelps of protests from Jackson fans came after the three selectmen in this community 30 miles south of Boston voted Wednesday night to reject permits for two concerts at Sullivan Stadium.

Residents had complained the concerts would attract vandals, disrupt business and create traffic problems.

Many callers questioned to reject the black group while permitting stars like David Bowie and the Police to play the stadium last year.

“A lot of people think it’s a racist thing,” said Charles Laquidara, the morning disc jockey at WBCNFM. “It’s unfortunate because the man cuts across all color lines. You can hear Michael Jackson on every station on the dial.”

Foxboro officials “feel the town is going to be the ‘Mecca for Minorities’ when all the evidence is directly opposite said Sen Royal Bolling, a black legislator who traveled to Los Angeles earlier this year to persuade the Jacksons to come to Sullivan Stadium, the largest arena in the Boston area.

Bolling proposed legislation to limit the power of Foxboro selectmen to turn down concerts and said he would lead a multicultural march of thousands of Jackson fans to the concert site if Foxboro officials don’t change their minds.

The selectmen declined to comment, but town counsel Richard Gelermen called the charge of racism a “scurilous thing to say.”

“That was absolutely not a consideration and it reflects very poorly on the town of Foxboro,” he said. “The truth is that at the last two major  concerts there was disruptive behavior in the neighborhood and Michael Jackson has the capacity of drawing many unticketed people into the area.”

Stadium owner Charles Sullivan executive vice president of the National Football League New England Patriots wanted to bring Jackson and his five brothers to the 61,000 seat stadium on August 11 and 12.

Sullivan reportedly has guaranteed the Jacksons $40 million in exchange for the right to promote their summer tour across the country, winning the job through efforts to get the group to play at the Foxboro stadium.

“Naturally we’re quite disappointed,” said Michael Chamberlain, president of Stadium Management Corp. which is handling the tour. “The ironic thing is he wound up getting the whole tour and the first and only city that has turned down is Foxboro.”

Chamberlain said there would be no attempt to challenge the decision.

The Jacksons Victory Tour opens in Kansas City on July 6th and will include 39 concert dates in 11 cities. The main attraction will be Michael Jackson, whose hits like Beat It and Billie Jean made his Thriller album the biggest seller in history.

Chamberlain said Stadium Management offered to provide round the clock security to businesses near the stadium to win over the selectmen Sullivan even promised a black of the $30 tickets for Foxboro residents. But the selectmen turned down the concert despite the $50,000 the town would receive from the concerts.

Selectman Stephen Hickox told the 150 people who attended the meeting he shows would attract and “unknown element”to the town of 14,5000. Chairman Richard Thompson said safety officials feared traffic jams could black fire tracks and ambulances.

“I do not think that any security plan would be able to handle the large number of non ticket holders that may show up,” he said.

A caller to the radio station complained that Western Union refused a telegram to the selectmen calling them “low life scum.” Another radio station hired a limousine to transport live chickens to the selectmen.

[/EXPAND] [EXPAND Co-Star of Michael’s video The Way You Make Me Feel, Tatiana Thumbtzen, says she was told that MTV thought their music video was “too ethnic”, 1987 ]

Michael Jackson's Experience of Racism, The Way You Make Me Feel, ethnic, Tatiana Thumbtzen


David Banks, the co-writer of The Way You Make Me Feel, was a relative of Eddie Griffin. David had shared with me how MTV had complained about our video, saying that it was too “ethnic”. David had said to me, “He’s Black. What do they expect?”

[/EXPAND] [EXPAND Michael penned a letter to his videographer for the Bad Tour, William Pecchi Jr, sharing how hurt he had been on hearing how “Pecky” had been racist as he’d grown up in Texas, 1988 ]

From the Julien’s Auction website:

Three-page handwritten letter from Michael Jackson to William Pecchi Jr., written on Capitol Tokyu Hotel stationary c. 1988. The letter is affectionately addressed to “Pecky.” Pecchi was a camera operator on Jackson’s film Moonwalker (Ultimate Productions, 1988). After Moonwalker, Pecchi was asked to travel abroad with Jackson during the Bad tour. Pecchi rode to and from venues to capture the crowd’s reaction to Jackson. It was during these rides that Pecchi and Jackson talked at length and one such conversation in Tokyo provoked this correspondence. The letter discusses Michael’s goals for the film, encouragement to Pecchi, reactions to conversations about racism and Jackson’s vision of the world, signed, “love M.J.”


I very, very seldom write letters, but in this moving occasion I couldn’t help myself. I want to thank you for putting the effort forward to capture the magic and excitement of the people of the world. What you do is a very personal and powerful medium to me. It is the art of stopping time, to perserve a moment that the naked eye cannot hold, to capture truth spontaneous truth, the depths of excitement in human spirt. All else will be forgotten, but not the films. Generations from now will experience the excitement you’ve captured; it truly is a time capsule.

I will not be totally satisfied until I know you’re at the right angle at the right time, to capture a crescendo of emotion that happens so quickly, so spontaeously. What you have done was good, but I want the best, the whole picture, cause and effect. I want crowd reaction wide lens shots – depths of emotions, timing. I know we can do it. It is my dream and goal to capture TRUTH. We should dedicate ourselves to this. The person who makes a success of living is the one who sees his goal steadily and aims for it unswervingly. That is dedication. There is no other way to perfection than dedication, perseverance. Just tell us what you need to make it happen. Take the leadership to direct the other cameramen.

I enjoy working with you that is why I asked you to come, you have a gentle spirit that’s very likable. Maybe I look at the world through rose colored glasses, but I love people all over the world. That is why stories of racism really disturb me. You hurt my heart and soul when you told me of your boyhood in Texas. Because in truth I believe all men are created equal. I was taught that and will always believe it. I just can’t conceive of how a person could hate another because of skin color. I love every race on the planet earth. Prejudice is the child of ignorance.

Naked we came into the world and naked we shall go out. And a very good thing too, for it reminds me that I am naked under my shirt, whatever its color. I’m sorry to bring up such past news, but in the car I was hurt by what you said. I’m so happy that you have managed to overcome your childhood past. Thank God that you’ve graduated from such beliefs of ignorance. I’m glad I’ve never experienced such things. Teach your kids to love all people equally. I know you will.

I speak from my heart saying I love you and all people, especially the children. I’m glad God chose me and you.

Love M.J.

[/EXPAND] [EXPAND Michael’s speech against racism, Sharpton’s National Action Network headquarters in the Harlem neighborhood of New York, July 9, 2002 ] [youtube]5OBUgE6EDFo[/youtube]

“I remember a long time ago in Indiana, [when I was] like 6 or 7 years old, and I had a dream that I wanted to be a performer, you know, an entertainer and whenever I’d be asleep at night, and my mother would wake me up and say, ‘Michael, Michael, James Brown is on TV!’ I would jump out of bed and I’d just stare at the screen and I’d do every twist, every turn, every bump, every grind. And it was Jackie Wilson; the list goes on and on you know, just phenomenal, unlimited, great talent. It’s very sad to see that these artists really are penniless because they created so much joy for the world and the system, beginning with the record companies, totally took advantage of them. And it’s not like they always say: ‘they built a big house,’ ‘they spent a lot of money,’ ‘they bought a lot of cars’–that’s stupid, it’s an excuse. That’s nothing compared to what artists make. And I just need you to know that this is very important, what we’re fighting for because I’m tired. I’m really, really tired of the manipulation. I’m tired of how the press is manipulating everything that’s been happening in this situation. They do not tell the truth, they’re liars. And they manipulate our history books. Our history books are not true, it’s a lie. The history books are lies, you need to know that. You must know that. All the forms of popular music from jazz, to Hip Hop to Bebop to Soul, you know, to talking about the different dances from the Cake Walk to the Jitter Bug to the Charleston to Break Dancing—all these are forms of Black dancing! What’s more important than giving people a sense of escapism, and escapism meaning entertainment? What would we be like without a song? What would we be like without a dance, joy and laughter and music? These things are very important, but if we go to the bookstore down on the corner, you won’t see one Black person on the cover. You’ll see Elvis Presley. You’ll see the Rolling Stones. But where are the real pioneers who started it? Otis Blackwell was a prolific phenomenal writer. He wrote some of the greatest Elvis Presley songs ever. And this was a Black man. He died penniless and no one knows about this man, that is, they didn’t write one book about him that I know of because I’ve search all over the world. And I met his daughter today, and I was to honored. To me it was on the same level of meeting the Queen of England when I met her.

But I’m here to speak for all injustice. You gotta remember something, the minute I started breaking the all-time record in record sales—I broke Elvis’s records, I broke the Beatles’ records—the minute [they] became the all-time best selling albums in the history of the Guinness Book of World Records, overnight they called me a freak, they called me a homosexual, they called me a child molester, they said I tried to bleach my skin. They did everything to try to turn the public against me. This is all a complete conspiracy, you have to know that. I know my race. I just look in the mirror, I know I’m Black. It’s time for a change. And let’s not leave this building and forget what has been said. Put it into your heart, put it into your conscious mind, and let’s do something about it. We have to! It’s been a long, long time coming and a change has got to come. So let’s hold our torches high and get the respect that we deserve. I love you. I love you. Please don’t put this in your heart today and forget it tomorrow. We will have not accomplished our purpose if that happens. This has got to stop! It’s got to stop, that’s why I’m here with the best to make sure that it stops. I love you folks. And remember: we’re all brothers and sisters, no matter what color we are.”

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Michael Jackson Disneyland Visits Sightings


[EXPAND Trying To Think Of Things To Say While Queuing For a Ride With Michael Jackson, by Kilter, Date: 1975 ]

HeyKilter blogspot, 6th July 2009

(All of the news about Michael Jackson’s death has jogged my memory into recalling how I met Jackson personally back in 1975. So here is the account, which I also posted to my Facebook page. The accompanying pic is exactly how he looked back then. Enjoy!)


My first roommate from college lived in the Los Angeles area. In the summer after my sophomore year I visited him — a good excuse to hit the west coast.

His summer job was at Disneyland. Yes, Walt Disney’s original playground in Anaheim. I liked to kid him about his glamorous job. He worked the night shift as a cook at a Fantasyland restaurant.

On that particular day, June 20, 1975, I cruised in with him, getting into the park for free on one of his guest passes (naturally). The plan was for me to wander around the attractions, go on rides, etc.

Basically, I was “waiting for him to get off work.” Seeing how Disney provides nonstop stimulation, that was no problem.

In particular, I remember enjoying the evening’s musical attraction — The Four Tops. They sang their classic soul repertoire with lush harmonies and in tight dance formation.

Halfway through “Standing in the Shadows of Love,” though, they got upstaged. A commotion rose from the front section of the crowd. Word spread: “It’s the Jackson Five! . . . See? There’s Michael!”

Through all the standing and screaming, I saw nothing. The group never came on stage. Truth be told, nor did I care much.

As a jaded, stubble-faced 21-year old, I considered the Jackson Five passé. Their career was in a lull. It had been a year since they scored with “Dancing Machine.” Rumors abounded that Michael had lost his sweet falsetto now that he was stuck in his awkward teenage years. The group recently left Motown and signed with CBS. They even had to use a new name, “The Jacksons,” because of a contract dispute.

The Jacksons stayed for several songs, then left. This prompted more commotion and screaming, though as I noted in my journal that night, it served only as a distraction to be shrugged off. After the show I moved on to more rides.

At 12:45 a.m. (the park didn’t close until 1:30 a.m. back then) I was standing in line at the Matterhorn Bobsled ride. I had saved the biggest thrill for last. The rollercoaster lines wouldn’t be so long now, and it was almost time to retrieve my friend.

Suddenly the same commotion ricocheted through the crowd – screaming girls leading an increased frenzy. “So where did the Jacksons resurface now?” I thought, and turned around.

Standing DIRECTLY behind me was Michael Jackson. Behind him was his younger brother, Randy. Behind both boys was their father, Joe.

They were going on the Matterhorn Bobsled ride. Same as me. And they were standing RIGHT behind me.

Suddenly, I forgot all about being a jaded 21 year-old. I forgot about being critical and negative. This was a close encounter of the first kind with the actual, real Michael Jackson. In fact, by the end of the night he converted me into a fan.

Quick — What could I say to him? How much did I know?

Unfortunately, not much. He grew up in Gary, Indiana. One of nine brothers and sisters. My favorite rockers were “Mama’s Pearl” and “Sugar Daddy.” My favorite ballad was “Never Can Say Goodbye.” And can’t forget Michael already had two solo hits: “Ben” and “Got to Be There.”

Even so, I couldn’t think of a single thing to say. What do you say to an international star that’s four years younger than yourself? What kind of chit-chat would his next door neighbor make?

How could I be cool without being a fool?

The girls pressed closer, sighing and gasping. Michael had gotten much taller since his Motown days. He was lean as a stringbean, sported a large Afro, wore silky clothes, and had ultra white teeth.

I remember being impressed with his behavior. Despite the spotlight being squarely on him, he bounced around good-naturedly, enduring all the photos, hand shakes, and autographs with a smile. He never once lost his sense of humor, nor his rapport with the crowd. He accommodated all — right down to throwing his arm around a girl in a wheelchair.

I wrote in my journal later, perhaps cynically, “I think he enjoys being a 16 year-old star.”

Michael’s brother, Randy, three years younger, was the newest member of “The Jacksons,” having replaced Jermaine who decided to stay at Motown. Randy patiently allowed himself to play second banana to his bro. I broke the conversation barrier with him.

“Did you guys come here tonight because of the Four Tops?” I asked, speaking loudly in order to capture his ear.

“Yeah, they’re our friends,” he said. He asked me to throw away his empty popcorn container into the trash can next to me.

I also made it a point to speak with the old man, Joe. “Did you hear the Tops play ‘Bernadette’? Same quality vocals as ever,” I said.

“Never gets old,” he said. “Never gets old.”

As for the Matterhorn ride, it was designed for two people per “sled.” I couldn’t believe it when the operator pointed to me and said, “Just one? Get up front here. Michael, get behind him.”

Michael and I nodded, and got in the exact same car.

Quarters were tight in the fake bobsled which was welded to a track. The metal sides reached up to our necks as we sat down low, for safety, and got belted in. Michael could’ve hugged me. His legs straddled my torso. I could see both his shoes when I looked down.

Behind us, in the following car, Randy and Mr. Jackson climbed aboard. The girls were still screaming.

Don’t ask me what I remember about the ride itself. Were the twists and turns scary? Was it pitch black inside the mountain? I couldn’t tell you. My mind was only thinking, “I can’t believe — I’m on a ride — at Disneyland — with Michael Jackson.”

The deboarding area was relatively free of fans as Michael and I got out. This was my now-or-never moment. I NEEDED to say something, to validate our meeting — especially since I had no camera, no pen, no paper.

In my mind Michael and I were already buddies, yet had exchanged no words.

I said, “Hi Michael, how’s life? I might as well meet you, too. You’re a great singer and I respect your talent. Keep pushing forward, man. I’ll be curious to see what you do next.” I stuck out my hand. “My name is Ken.”

We shook. He said shyly, “Ken. Okay. Hi.”

I said, “I wanted to say hello back there, but didn’t want to get run over by Michael Mania.”

He laughed. “Oh, they’re good people. I don’t mind. Fans are fans. I love each and every one of them.”

By now his father and brother finished their ride and joined us. The four of us nodded goodbye. The Jacksons walked off into the night. They were more anonymous now that they were on the move instead of stationary.

I felt exhilaration, jealousy, astonishment . . . everything except proper appreciation for the experience. I wrote in my journal, “For a guy, his handshake was too dainty. Long fingers, awfully chapped . . . he’s all bone and no muscle.”

I think I figured Michael Jackson’s best days were behind him, that his star would soon begin to fall back to earth.

Little did my ken reveal!

My former roommate got off work and listened with bemused detachment to my excited news.

“So you met Michael Jackson? Famous people breeze through here all the time,” he said. “Know who ate at our restaurant last week? Tiny Tim. C’mon, let’s get some tacos.”

So I guess back in 1975 it wasn’t such a watershed event. But seeing how it has grown in stature over the years makes me glad I can still tell it now.

Thank you, Michael Jackson, for living life off the wall.

[/EXPAND] [EXPAND At McDonalds Disneyworld, by Janice Frogel, Date: 1984 ]

MJTPMagazine, October 1st 2011

“It was at a McDonald’s near Disney World in Florida, back in 1984. The restaurant was packed. I was in the far, right line and I turned to the left. Michael was just walking in. He wore a hat, but not really any disguise. We had direct eye-to-eye contact. I smiled at him, and he gave me this huge smile back, then he got in line three rows over from me. I so wanted to go and talk to him, but I did not want to take the chance of giving him away. So I turned back around. A couple minutes later, Michael was there standing next to me, facing me. He had the biggest smile on his face! I turned toward him, and we are standing there face-to-face smiling at each other. Then he winked at me. Based on that, I knew he wanted to stand in line with me, so I moved over a few steps and we stood together in the same line. I noticed there was a man on the other side of him. I assumed it was a bodyguard. Then he turned toward the counter and pulled his hat way down on his face. I turned straight too. I wanted to talk to him so bad, but I didn’t think I could without him feeling obligated to answer me back, and I knew if anyone heard his voice, it would be very bad for him. We were in line for over ten minutes.

I felt bad for him as I could tell he was very nervous—the line was so slow. We were almost up to the counter when then there was this loud scream. I turned around and saw this little girl (who couldn’t have been more than six or seven) standing by a booth. She yelled, “There’s Michael Jackson!” I turned to Michael, but he was already about five feet from me running to the door. Then there was a stampede of people. It all happened so fast. I put my arms up in front of me and pushed my way through all these bodies. I can remember being surrounded by people coming at me, and all the pushing and shoving. I never even thought to run after Michael, I would never do that to anyone.

I made it to the counter and leaned back against it as most everyone in the restaurant ran after Michael. After they passed me, I had a good view of it all out the window. It was scary! I saw Michael running for his life and this mass of at least seventy or eighty people running at him. I can remember to this day, how my heart was pounding so hard and so fast. I was very afraid for Michael’s safety. Had one of those people pushed him down onto the pavement, he would have likely been trampled from all the people trying to get a piece of him. Michael did make it to the car, and got away. I was so thankful and relieved. I truly saw Michael in a different way after seeing what he had to go through.” [/EXPAND] [EXPAND Dressing Up As Disney Characters, by Robstyle, Date: Circa Captain EO Release 1986 ] therpf, 05-02-2011 robstyle

Captain EO, oh man, I was there opening weekend back when. Not sure how many know this but MJ used to be a regular at Disneyland, in disguise of course. A friend used to work there and told us he would enter through the employee entrance, get done up in disguise and just go about the park. He even told me more than once he was allowed to dress up in a Disney costume and be escorted for pictures just like the other costumed characters.

JB, if your in town and want to have drinks with a friend, he will talk for hours about MJ as they were very good friends. By talking to people who knew him personally, the legal issues are pretty much shot out. They really shine a new light on his tarnished reputation. [/EXPAND] [EXPAND At the Candy Kitchen, by ExCandyMaker, Date: Mid 80s ]

Micechat, 25.6.2009
I saw him quite a few times in the mid 80’s when I worked in the candy kitchen. He was usually there mid-week when crowds where small. He always had shades and the surgical mask on (like that fooled anyone). He liked to sit on the rocker that was on the little porch on the other side of the street (I can’t remember what store that is, China Closet maybe?) and watch the crowds go by. The thing that sticks out in my mind was that it seemed he had very little security, mostly just a plaid, sometimes a uniformed security guard and maybe a dude in a suit, and that nobody really hassled him or even paid that much attention to him. [/EXPAND] [EXPAND Sneaking In To See Captain EO And With Hooter and Geex, by a Disney photographer, Date: 1986 ]

link to tumblr

This was the first time that I photographed Michael Jackson! Boy was I nervous! This was at the height of his career! And, the Disney publicity department wanted me to shoot black & white, color negative and color slides! I had to put him through all of those different films! Just crazy to ask him to oblige. Michael arrived as if the President of the United States were arriving. He had his entourage and bodyguards, and some friends. It was quite nerve racking. All of that said, once I put the camera up to my eye, it was just another very fast publicity photo shoot. What you don’t see in this photo are the THOUSANDS of Michael Jackson fans, down below of the berm that we were shooting on. It was pretty unbelievable. After the shoot, we went to see Captain EO together as a group! After the show loaded with guests, and their 3D eyeglasses were on, our group including Michael slipped into the back of the darkened theater, unnoticed. We sat in the last row of the theater, about a dozen of us! It was one of the coolest moments of my career working for Disney. I actually sat with Michael and watched the show in which he starred in, Captain EO!!! Can you imagine if the guests knew that he was in the audience with them? We left the theater just before the show ended. Nobody in the theater had any idea that we were even there. Michael was a nice guy. He loved Disney World and DIsneyland. I photographed him on 2 other occasions during my tenure as a Senior Photographer with Disney. May he rest in peace. On the technical side, I shot this with a Hasselblad, Plux X film, ASA100, Metz flash.” [/EXPAND] [EXPAND Dining At The Blue Bayou Restaurant, by OrangeFlash, Date: 1986 ] Micechat, 01.07.2009
I saw him in early 1986 if I recall correctly, around the time Captain EO was being produced. I was in a boat on the Pirates of the Caribbean with several friends; he was dining at the Blue Bayou Restaurant with a group. He sat at the head of the table in his signature fedora and glitter glove, facing the boats going by. He was sitting low, and the other people on either side of the table were higher up, partly out of their chairs, shielding him from the other diners. (I have seen this body language before in groups with a celebrity in them.) None of my friends saw him, even though I blurted out, “Look, there’s Michael Jackson!” They were skeptical.Later I read in an interview that he’d been visiting Disneyland about every week during that time, and I felt vindicated. [/EXPAND] [EXPAND Disneyland in Anaheim, by Robin Randol, photo, Date: 1987 ]

MJJPhotos on Twitter

1987 (Disneyland Anaheim) – When Robin Randol exited the “Captain EO” attraction at Disneyland, she saw a man wearing a fur-lined coat and a top hat. The King Of Pop starred in the film. Her dad insisted it was Michael Jackson. “No one was around him but my dad insisted it was Michael Jackson,” Randol said. “I remember not believing it was him as it seemed too coincidental to run into him just after watching the show.” She said her father walked past Jackson, who wasn’t surrounded by security at the time, and snapped this photograph. Randol said that when her father took the picture, “Michael said ‘hi’ in his famous soft voice.” “It was a moment I will never forget,” Randol said.  [/EXPAND] [EXPAND Watching the Christmas Parade, by Rocker, Date: December 25th 1989 ]

Micechat, 25.6.2009

I don’t remember it, but me and my Mom came to Disneyland on Christmas Day 1989, and it turned out that he was sitting on the apartment on Main Street watching the Christmas Parade. [/EXPAND] [EXPAND Helicopter flew in backstage at Videopolis, by Not My Real Name, Date: 31st of December 1989 ] Micechat, 01.07.2009
I saw MJ at DL way back in 1989, New Year’s Eve, at Videopolis, as it was called then. The other guests and I heard a helicopter come in and land backstage, just north of the DRR. The next thing we heard were people coming inside the park through a gate in the shrubbery. Someone saw them and screamed, “Michael Jackson!” About 25 of us raced over to the back of Videopolis and there he was, in the center of a large group of people, about 12 or so. Everyone with a camera started firing away. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a camera. I have since started bringing a camera every time I make a trip to DL, ’cause you never know, you know? [/EXPAND] [EXPAND Maybe With Janet, by Deanna, Date: Christmas 1989-1991 sometime ]

Micechat, 25.6.2009
Oh gosh, I did see him once. My sister and I were there, so it would’ve been Christmas break of ’89, ’90, maybe ’91. We had ridden Splash, and we were about where the train crosses over you. There was this commotion, people started running past us towards the Splash exit, and we heard someone say, “It’s HIM.” We looked at each other, and figured why not, we’d go see who it was.We stayed way on the fringes, didn’t join the mad rush, just got close enough to get a look. We’re both tall, so that helped. He was surrounded by his people (and probably Disney security), and we watched them move him from the Splash exit to the backstage door just opposite (don’t know if it’s still there, it was when I was in high school, my marching band went every year, so we were familiar with a lot of the backstage doors). We’d seen celebrities before, and neither of us was a fan of his, but we were both pretty stunned to have seen Michael Jackson. There was a woman with him but we didn’t get a good view of her, it looked like it may have been Janet… [/EXPAND] [EXPAND “There was nothing strange about him,” posted by Bluebirdsinging, Date: December 31st 1990 ]

Link to post
But since I am now pretty much completely packed and it’s the middle of the night, here is my definitive MJ story.

It was New Year’s Eve 1990 in Disneyland. The Washington Huskies were about to play for the national football championship the next day in the Rose Bowl. I was by myself and fiddling around in the magic shop of Main Street. If you know that part of Disneyland, I was just a few steps from Mr. Lincoln’s show and almost directly across the street from the fire station.

Now, it’s New Year’s Eve in Disneyland. The park is crammed to the Under the Sea gills. But here I am seriously looking at a magic trick, and really thinking about buying it. And I suddenly noticed something. I was the only one in the magic shop. What the?!?!?!
And it was almost at that moment that Michael Jackson came in with Macaulay Caulkin. And he walked up to me and said, “I’m sorry for this.”

OK, just play that scene in your head. I am looking at some stupid magic trick and suddenly two of the biggest stars in the universe are standing there. So I said, “No problem.” And went back to seeing if I really wanted to buy this magic trick.

The story gets kind of surreal after that.

Wow, that sounds almost kooky.

But I stood around the magic shop for like 15 minutes with me, Michael Jackson and Macaulay Caulkin and a couple body guards and like 10,000 people outside trying to catch a look.

But here’s the thing, and I’ve said it from one minute after the whole thing was over and he escaped into the firestation exit…he looked great! Can tell you to this day he was the most normal sounding and looking person I may have ever met who was famous. He was wearing a gorgeous deep blue silk shirt and a really nice pair of designer jeans with an awesome belt buckle. He also had a black leather jacket and a fedora. There was NOTHING strange about him as I stood three feet away all that time and listened to him talk. (If you know the Disneyland magic shop, you’ll know there wasn’t a lot of room in there with three of us and a bivvy of security types.)
So they got done and MJ turns to me again and says, “Thanks for being patient.”

Me? “No problem.”

And then we all got kind of shoved out through the crowd towards the fire department.

It was just surreal.

Now, try going and meeting up with your group and explaining while they were on Space Mountain, you were talking to Michael Jackson. The great thing is that by then, the whole incident had kind of spread through the park and Main Street was a zoo.

I swear, I was telling this story to a friend the other day, and he just didn’t believe it.

“Why didn’t you ask for an autograph or something?”

Honestly, I was thinking, “Leave him alone. Leave him alone. He just wants to the quiet of the damn magic shop. Let him have it.”

“Why didn’t you take a picture?”

I didn’t need to. The real thing is in my head foreever. I really never thought of it. I’ve listened to him talk. I’ve seen him. I’ve smelled him. Why have a photo? I really thought that as I was standing there for what seemed like two hours with him explaining magic shop tricks to the Home Alone kid.

“Did he buy anything?”

Not that I could tell. But I was thinking about that at the time. That has always seemed odd to me. He picked one of the most crowded park times of the year to go to one shop with the Home Alone kid. It was like a “just because I can” moment.

So that’s my MJ story for the most part. Other stuff kind of happened with the crowds and getting jostled around and herded, etc. But I got both an apology and a thank you.

Me: “No problem.”

(And, frankly, it was kind of cool.) [/EXPAND] [EXPAND Mobbed at Knotts, by AlohaStitch Date: 1991 ]

Micechat, 25.06.2009

I never saw him at Disneyland, but did see him when I was a stagecoach driver at Knott’s. It was actually sad. He came in through the front gate with his bodyguards, and was heading in the queue for StageCoach when he was recognized and mobbed. It was so bad that security ushered him out of the park. This was in 1991 and he was there maybe five minutes. I just felt so sorry for him. [/EXPAND] [EXPAND “That Looks Like an MJ Impersonator Just Passed Us,” Posted by MuscleJunkie, Date: 31st of December 1991 ]

Seems as if I am as excited as many about the upcoming Captain EO Tribute at Disneyland. Thought it might be interesting to start a thread about experiences meeting Michael Jackson in person at Disneyland (or sightings).

I’ll start off while I can still remember all the details.

I have been a Michael Jackson fan ever since I was like 5 or 6 years old when Michael came out with the “Off the Wall” album.

Being a big fan I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in some cool MJ things such as the promotion of the History and Blood On The Dance Floor albums while I was overseas (AFRTS, etc).

I also was so lucky to actually have met Michael Jackson on December 31st of 1991 at Disneyland. My ex-girl friend and I went to Disneyland to celebrate New Years Eve. Well about 9:30 – 10:00 pm, she and I were walking down this path that went around the backside of the ride “Big Thunder Mountain” going toward the “New Orleans Square” part of the park. As many of you know back then (and even maybe now) during the holiday season at Disneyland, there are groups of singers that go around the park (Dressed nicely) singing Christmas music. As we were walking down this path, in the distance I saw a group of suited people walking up toward us. When I saw them, I assumed they were a group of the singers and didn’t pay much attention to them nor was anybody else. As we passed this group of suited people, I noticed that in the center of the group were some differently dressed people. As we passed by, one of these people I thought to myself looked like a Michael Jackson impersonator. If you ever have seen MC Hammer’s video 2 Legit To Quit – there is a scene at the end with someone that looks like Michael from behind about the 7 o’clock position – that is what he looked like as we passed by) I quickly told my ex that “THAT looks like a Michael Jackson impersonator that just passed us” Then I thought, “OH MY GOD, THAT WAS MICHAEL JACKSON” Realize, all of this happened very quickly. Well, when I came to the realization that it was Michael, I grabbed my ex by the hand and ran to get ahead of this group of individuals that were with him. All of the other people who were walking around didn’t even notice that Michael Jackson was right there in plain sight. I guess it may have been that there were so many of these suited people (I am assuming who were Disney Security) you really could not see him in the center of this group too well. We got ahead of Michael right before the exit of the ride “Big Thunder Mountain” At this point, I impulsively pushed my way in-between two of the suited men and stuck out my hand and yelled “MICHAEL” Well, one of the suited men started to pull me away, but then Michael grasped my hand and all of a sudden I was in the center of this group holding Michael’s left hand with my right.

Exciting right? That doesn’t even describe it. There I was standing face to face with Michael Jackson. I just could not believe it. Many of you know living in Southern California, it is fairly common to see and even meet famous celebrities. But Michael Jackson – this just blew my mind. The thing that I noticed though is that Michael had an incredible presence not like of which I have ever experienced with anyone before. Sometimes, very tall or big people will have a presence because of their size or people that are extremely outgoing will too. But, I have never felt such a strong presence or I guess you could say AURA with anyone than at that moment. I was about 5’10” at the time and Michael seemed to be the exactly same height. He was wearing black pants and if I remember correctly and black shirt, black satin jacket and black fedora with the trade-mark curls of hair hanging down over his face. He had a very light complexion and I noticed that he had a lot of scarring from what appeared to be childhood acne. He didn’t have too much makeup on. It also struck me that he had extremely long fingers as I was standing there with him holding on to my hand. He had a small child with him who was dressed EXACTLY like him and I think some other people too. Apparently, he was going to ride “Big Thunder Mountain” and they were heading toward the exit (As you probably guess, Michael does not wait in line…LOL)

As I was standing there in front of Michael Jackson, he did not make eye contact at first and I started going on and said I was a big fan and I loved his new song (Black or White) and I thanked him for being such a wonderful entertainer. He then looked up smiled and said Thank You….. and flashed that trademark Jackson Smile.

Well at this time, the people passing by started to realize that Michael Jackson was standing there and they started freaking out. You heard people scream out “OH MY GAWD – ITS MICHAEL JACKSON” Suddenly, just as if they had rehearsed it a thousand times, Michael and his group wooshed away into the exit of the ride and were gone just as quickly as they were there. I was just there kinda in shock, because I had no idea that I would ever meet Michael Jackson, especially at Disneyland of all places. My ex took my hand and noticed that it smelled of aftershave or something. Years later I remember reading that Michael Jackson was known for wearing TONS of cologne – hence the smell.

Later that night we saw him once again with what seemed like a hundred other people outside (while he was inside) a glass shop? (on the left as you are leaving) on Main Street browsing around.

I would have to say this is my most memorable experience at Disneyland ever. That is saying a lot considering I practically lived there after school when I was a kid.

Yes, I have heard the thing about the disguises as well. That night he was not wearing any sort of a disguise. Since that was at the time of the Dangerous Album (Black or White had just been released the month before) he had already had extensive surgery. But in no way did he look freakish or strange. My ex thought he looked quite attractive but you could see some acne scaring (like pits?) in his cheeks. I assume it was because he wasn’t wearing too much makeup. But he didn’t look bad or weird at all and he was dressed quite well as I described before. [/EXPAND] [EXPAND Chatting With The Operator Of The Ride, posted by TJSKI, Date: Early 90s ]

Micechat, 25.6.2009
I got to meet Michael when I was working BTM back in the early 90’s. I was working Spur side Unload and security came down and cleared out that side of the station, next thing was he came down the exit with a group of folks. it was no big deal to me, we used to see famous people all the time. As a train was coming in, I took my spot at the Unload podium and ushered folks out, next thing I see is Michael standing next to me watching me unload folks.He asked me for my name and then started asking questions like whats it like to work at the Park, if I was married and had kids and if I bring them to the park. It was very weird because he wanted to know what it was like to be a cast member! I felt sorry for him since he never had a real life outside of all the glitter & fame. He also asked what my son name was and I told him it was Mychal (not named after him) and he liked the spelling. All this took about 5 minutes until we got him on the train, then he was off onto the ride.

A few months later I was working Star Tours and he came in through the exit, he recognized me and came straight up too me and asked how my wife and son were doing, he even remembered their names. And we chatted briefly before I loaded his party onto Cabin 1 for the flight.

One thing that sticks out to me is that he remembered my family and everyone he seemed to talk to on the attractions he seemed to want to know about them and he remembered things people told him. He was always kind and I got the feeling that he just wanted to be a regular guy. [/EXPAND] [EXPAND Riding Dumbo With Michael, by Stephanie Mazzuca, Date: December 1983 ]

MJ twitter photos

“I was 10. At Disney with my parents and uncle waiting in line for the Dumbo ride when all of a sudden a huge crowd surrounded us. A lady in a big white hat asked me if I wanted to cut the line. I, of course, said yes. Within seconds I was in the elephant waiting to “take off” when all of a sudden Michael Jackson appeared. It was a dream come true. One that was so overwhelming I still remember so clearly today my struggle to find words to speak. A lot of “uh hu’s” and head nodding. Michael asked me my name, how old I was, where I lived, etc, etc.. Told me he loved Disney. I asked him questions about his video’s and I think Madonna. That 3 minutes seemed like an eternity, but at the same time flew by. One of Mj’s assistant took this photo and mailed to me with a Thank You Card. I cherish my pictures and memories from my “3 minutes with Michael Jackson”. It was, and still is, my best trip to Disney World ever.”

[/EXPAND] [EXPAND “I told him I didn’t believe any of those nasty news stories about him”, posted by Ladyonwheels, Date: Mid 90s ] Re: Autograph Stories, December 13, 2009
a former poster to this board gave me permission to post in this thread on their behalf. if you recognize them that’s great, but if not don’t worry about it. she met peter cullen who is the voice of eeyore and also optimus prime.

i saw michael jackson once at disneyland and it was kind of funny. i was waiting outside the restrooms for my friend and i saw a bunch of people in black walk out of the mens room. then michael came out and i recognized him because his skin was so pale. he looked angelic almost and he was taller than he looks in photos with cartoon-like proportions. i gave him a big smile and he gave me a big smile right back. he was patient when i started typing on my dynavox and i told him i didn’t believe any of those nasty news stories about him and that i love his music(and i really very much do). he said ‘oh thank you so much.’ and bent over to give me a big hug. he felt so small even under a winter coat. then he signed my park map pamphlet before i even asked and winked at me with a ‘see you around, beautiful’ as he walked away. i can’t ever forget how he looked sad until i told him i didn’t think he was guilty and hope for a minute it made him feel like the whole world doesn’t condemn him. my friend who was in the bathroom got a picture of us and he is kneeling down looking up at me, it is so sweet.

the autograph and picture means even more to me now that michael is gone. i would share it except i don’t feel comfortable posting my image online.

sorry about the ramble. that memory is very dear to me:) [/EXPAND] [EXPAND Sneaking Off The Small World Ride and At The Parade of Lights, by Loretta Natowitz, Date: 1994 ]

MJTPMagazine, December 24th 2010

“Yes, I was very lucky to have met Michael when I was twelve, in 1994, at Disney World in Florida!

I was there on a trip with my family, and had no idea that he was there. The first time we saw Michael was on the “It’s A Small World” ride. Once we were seated and the ride had started, we noticed that there was a man all alone in a boat ahead of us. The boat in front of him was empty, the boat behind him was empty, and then we were in the next boat. When I noticed him, he was sitting in the back seat with his arm resting along the back, wearing a black fedora hat and a maroon jacket. Halfway through the ride I happened to look ahead of me, and noticed that the boat was empty. I asked my Mom, “Wasn’t there a man sitting in the boat up there?” And she told me, “Yes.” We then both looked over the side, as if he may have fallen in or something. We didn’t think too much of it for the rest of the day.

Later on, I learned that they had secret exits where Michael would disembark so that he would not have to face the crowd.

The second time I saw him that day was at the end of the evening. My family and I were watching the Parade of Lights, and moving toward the exit of the park, as my Dad did not want to get caught up in all of the traffic. At one point we stopped to look at something. Someone walked in front of me and I had to take a step backward. As I did so, I felt a hand brush my back so I turned around, and it was the same man that was on the ride earlier that day. His hat was pulled down to the tip of his nose, and his hand was partly outstretched as if he was going to tap me on the shoulder or something. He just froze there and didn’t move. I couldn’t see anything past his mouth as his hat was pulled down so low. He kind of startled me, so I took a couple of steps back. Then he smiled at me….and that smile was the most beautiful smile I had ever seen in my life; I will never forget it. I smiled back, and then my Mom grabbed my arm and said, “Come on or we are going to lose your Father!” We took a few steps; I looked back…and he was gone. The reason he smiled at me? I happened to be wearing a Michael Jackson “Thriller” t-shirt that my Mom had picked up for me in North Carolina, on our way down to Florida.”

[/EXPAND] [EXPAND Michael Shopping With Lisa Marie at the Emporium, by 1karenhb, Date: 1994 ]

Findadeath, 30th June 2009

When I worked at Disneyland I talked to a fellow worker who worked at the Emporium (the parks big store on Main Street) the night MJ and Lisa Marie came in during a private party they had. She said MJ walked throughout the store saying he wanted to buy practically everything and Lisa Marie followed him continually saying NO. She said it was really funny to watch. [/EXPAND] [EXPAND Shopping In Disguise At Disneyana, by Fanarc, Date: Easter 90s ] alt.disney.disneyland, July 24h 1997

I was working Splash Mountain a few years ago when Michael Jackson came to ride.  The ride broke down when they were trying to put a log on with him in it.

I was also in the Disneyana shop a few years ago on Easter when Michael Jackson came in with a disguise. He had a sparse, scraggly fake beard on and buck teeth. He just started pointing things out to the cast members that he wanted to buy. I later asked a cast member who was working that day how much he spent and she told me $18,000. [/EXPAND] [EXPAND Last Day Of Captain EO, by Andrew Rich, Date: 1997 sometime? ] alt.disney.disneyland, July 25th 1997

On what was going to be the last day of Captain EO (it was held over for another month, but they didn’t know that at the time) I saw MJ in the most obvious “incognito” outfit (a bright red turban completely covering his head, and robes covering the rest) in Tomorrowland heading toward the theatre. Somehow I knew it was him, I guess it was the walk or body shape, and later found out that his visit had caused Security some major headaches that day. [/EXPAND]

Personal Stories

[EXPAND John Landis on visiting Disney World with Michael, 1984]

“After Thriller we went to Disney World and I have this photograph in my library that I really treasure which is a really silly photo of Michael Jackson, Mickey and me. The guy took like two pictures when I heard this deafening noise and I looked and I saw this security guy freaking out and talking into his microphone. I turned around and I don’t really know how to explain it but it was the only time in my life that I was truly terrified and I thought, “We’re dead”. It was a sea of people and they completely surrounded this island of grass and they were held back by this little chain and by when I saw a sea of people, it was people as far as you can see in every direction. There were thousands of people, all of whom were hysterical. The kind of hysterical like Beatles, Elvis, Sinatra-hysterical. They were Michael Jackson hysterical. I looked and I thought, “Oh my God”, and it got louder and the screaming and you had to shout to hear the person next to you. And at Disneyland, the characters in those costumes, they’re never allowed to speak and then Mickey looks at me and goes, “Holy shit!” And I don’t know how long it was but out of nowhere this Cadillac limousine, I’ll never forget it, I don’t know here it came from… just *poof*… it was Disney magic, and the security people grabbed Michael, Mickey, and I and throws us into the car with Mickey’s giant head and slams the doors and the chains broke and it was like the ocean, like surf. This wall of people, you know, like the Sorcerer’s apprentice, surround the car. And Mickey and I are just platzing, the driver was like, “I don’t know what to do,” and I said, “Don’t drive you’ll kill somebody!” and Michael was like, “Hi…, Hello”, totally not phased!” [/EXPAND] [EXPAND The Bench on Main Street, Miko Brando ] Miko Brando, Larry King Live, June 29, 2009

Michael Jackson Disneyland Visits Sightings, Miko Brando

Some of the best times I spent with Michael were just sitting on a bench at Disneyland’s “Main Street.” We would just sit there and people watch. Sometimes Michael would be in a getup so people wouldn’t recognize him – but they always did. When he was in a bad mood or a little down, I’d just say “Michael, the bench,” and that would bring him out of it. If I knew he wanted to have fun, or just get away, I’d say “let’s go to the bench,” and we were gone.

Of course, Michael Jackson in a public place like Disneyland was bound to draw crowds, and sometimes we would have park security with us. But they weren’t there to protect Michael, they were there to protect the crowds. He was never really concerned about himself, but that someone would get hurt in the crush of people that wanted to see him. People would just go crazy when they saw Michael Jackson. [/EXPAND] [EXPAND Michael The Arab Sheikh, “Simply The Gest” David Gest autobiography ]

We would go to Disneyland. We both loved rollercoasters. Sometimes we would go on them twenty times in a row.

Often, Michael would wear disguises. Once, he was a sheikh and I was his translator. We would go into a place called Carnation Restaurant in Disneyland where they served great tuna salad and sandwiches. Michael was eating organic food only, although, at that time, he had a rather strange idea of what organic was. We would go to KFC, Michael reckoned if you took off the skin it became organic.

Anyhow, at Carnation on this particular day, there were two elderly women and a gentleman in their eighties from Croydon. We started talking in our mock Arabic to each other.

When the two ladies looked over, I turned to one of them and explained, “The Sheikh Majolini wanted me to tell you that you are a beautiful woman and so is your friend,” I said.

These two ladies probably hadn’t been paid a compliment like that in the last couple of decades so they started smiling. We then got talking. They asked what the Sheikh was doing here and I said he had just got divorced from his 97th wife and was now on his 154th child.

“He has 154 children?” they asked, looking shocked.

“That he knows of,” I said. “He has had 97 wives…” and I started naming them, “Jada, Jami, Shakira, Vera…” with Michael saying them in mock Arabic.

There was nothing malicious in it. In fact, Michael picked up their bill. He was like that, always pulling practical jokes on people. [/EXPAND] [EXPAND Leaving Their Mark On Wendy, “My Friend Michael” by Frank Cascio, Peter Pan’s Flight, Disneyland Paris 1995 ]

Michael Jackson Disneyland Visits Sightings

We joked around, reminiscing about old Gary and the nutty songs he used to write and about the time Michael and I were at Disneyland Paris, taking the Peter Pan ride, when we paused in front of the animatronic Wendy.

“She’s so beautiful,” Michael had sighed, and then we looked at each other and we instantly knew what we had to do. I’m not proud of it, and it was wrong, but it had to be done. To show our admiration, we lifted up Wendy’s skirt and left our signatures on her, shall we say, animatronic person. And I am sure that, to this day, on the Peter Pan ride in Disneyland Paris, if anyone should ever be so bold as to life poor animatronic Wendy’s skirt, they would find my signature and Michael’s signature, staking our claim. Actually, I lied when I said I wasn’t proud of this moment. Actually I am. [/EXPAND]

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