(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 CLOSE ENCOUNTER WITH MICHAEL JACKSON
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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?
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…
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.)
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
http://www.vimeo.com/6569868 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
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
“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!”
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.
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.
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.