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Archive for August, 2010

We love you and we miss your smile every day. But we also know that you have not really gone anywhere.

You were Earth’s heart and your absence leaves a gaping wound that pierces her to her molten core. She staggers and gasps as you are ripped from her embrace. The chasm you leave behind still bleeds, the veins and arteries cry out to be grafted and sutured. The pain of the incision is just as sharp as the day it was inflicted. There is no lessening of my sense of loss, no surcease of my hearts’ tears.

I know you are still here. I feel your presence when I take the time from my frantic schedule to be rocked in your rhythms or soothed in your angelic voice. I hear your irrepressible giggle in my dreams, tickling my subconscious mind with your sense of humor. I see your blazing, radiant smile in my granddaughter’s uninhibited dance of joy as she discovers your music and connects with the spirit that you placed within it. I sense your presence when the scent of one of your favorite colognes wafts around my recumbent body permeating my room with its aromatic essence. I feel your touch in the unexplained drop of moisture that falls on my cheek from a cloudless sky or the breeze that ruffles my hair on a still day. I gasp in surprise as a black and red butterfly alights on a branch inches from my face pausing in its flight to make sure I am paying attention or a cardinal dressed in his finest red vest warbles in the branch above my head. In those moments, I greet you as the dearest friend of my heart – as my teacher – as my mentor – as my angel. You left us so much of yourself behind to comfort our broken hearts. We are so grateful for your generosity.

Be well – be inspired – be always an instrument of music in whatever sphere you inhabit. Know that you are in our hearts always.

Jan

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Michael Jackson has been described as an enigma by many – a mystery – unfathomable. However, for those who knew him, even from afar, there was nothing mysterious or enigmatic about him. He was an open book, not at all devious. He wore his heart on his sleeve. His whole being glowed in the presence of children; the smile that lit his face was radiant, pure. Genuine tears filled his eyes at the sight of suffering of any kind. He spoke often of the things that were important to him; he was not ambiguous or unclear about the things that attracted and held his attention. It was the world’s suspicion that created the mystery; it was the world’s doubt that caused his pain and eventual death. His emotions were clearly visible in his eyes, his facial expression, his body language, as was noted by Martin Bashir in the outtakes filmed by Jackson’s cameras and left lying on the cutting room floor in Bashirs severely cut and edited tabloid expose`.

Many have spoken of him or written about him as if he held some deep, dark secret, most without benefit of personal knowledge of the man or spending one moment in private conversation with him. He’s been psycho-analyzed by psychologists for hire to render opinions on his mental health without ever spending one moment in his presence (unethical at the very least, if not illegal); he’s been prodded, poked, and barbecued until he squirmed. His facial structure has been diagnosed by surgical experts paid by various entertainment shows or reporters to give opinions on the number and extent of his facial surgeries; his pallor examined and questioned by experts who never had the pleasure of treating Jackson for anything. Few subjects in recent memory have raised the avalanche of biased, baseless, frivolous, unproven and untrue copy as has Michael Jackson.

But who was he, really? Is there no way to discover the real man behind the rumors, innuendos, speculations, and outright lies? Of course, there is. Michael Jackson, more than any other artist in centuries, left his essence within his work – within his art and within the memories of thousands of children he touched with his humanitarian ideals. Much of what we read focuses on the agonized, tortured soul … and there is truth in that view, for he was no stranger to being ill used by our world … but it is one-sided and leaves all the other Michael Jacksons unrecognized. We do see the pain and the pathos and we don’t discount them. This website, like its predecessor, is devoted to dispelling the untruths amassed over a period of decades. However, concentrating on the negative, skewed reports of Michael’s life, we overlook the joy, the ecstasy and the accomplishment which also inhabited his person. Which would he have us remember?

Michael Jackson was without doubt the greatest entertainer our world has ever known; his larger-than-life achievements have inspired at least three generations of young dancers, singers, musicians and filmmakers. But he was much, much more. He was the 21st century equivalent of The Renaissance Man – a Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci of our time. The world of fine arts has changed enormously since the 13th and 14th centuries but the earmark of a Renaissance Man hasn’t. His interests were multi-faceted and all he put his heart and soul into became reality. An avid reader, he pursued his own line of inquiry, but he was far from uneducated. He manifested his dreams through the strength of his faith, will and passion, leaving us a legacy of real magic and incomparable beauty through hard work, dedication, and an uncommon commitment to excellence.

Yes, Michael Jackson was a singer of songs. He was a breathtaking dancer – the best! He made mad, whirling, ecstatic, passionate love to an audience like no one ever has before or will again. On stage with a hundred thousand people crushing forward, he was pure, unadulterated, unashamed, unapologetic, defiant sexual allure! (He so enjoyed teasing us; he reveled in it!) He coupled with thousands of us simultaneously with extraordinary kinetic energy … for two hours! … sometimes more … and left every single one of us not only satisfied, but impregnated with his dreams of peace, love, healing, unity and environmental responsibility (even those watching or listening across decades or continents via television transmission or videotape.) He turned on and lit up stages on every continent, in every country … but only after spending hours recharging his own generators comforting children in hospitals and orphanages prior to scheduled performances with his presence, his smile, his loving touch, and his monetary donations, improving each corner of the world he visited just by being there! He opened his home and his heart to disadvantaged or ill children from Los Angeles for regular monthly play dates whether he was physically present or not … and he continued this practice for nearly all the years he lived at Neverland Valley Ranch until he was driven into a nomadic existence by the violation of hatred, suspicion, bigotry, greed, and betrayal.

Michael Jackson was a songwriter, a composer, a poet, an inventor, a choreographer, an actor, an architect of creative stagecraft. He was a classic example of what used to be referred to as a “whirling dervish,” a modern Sufi mystic, receiving ecstasy from his higher power and channeling it through his body undiluted to his audiences in song, rhythm, melody, and body movement in a clear symbiotic relationship. He nourished those audiences with high-powered, technical choreography and characters brought to life by his soul-filled voice and pyrotechnic explosions. When his collaborators expressed concern about his sleeplessness, lack of appetite and loss of weight, Michael explained that he was “channeling ideas” all night for his stage production … ideas like replication of the world’s largest waterfall, for example. He always credited God for the concepts; he was just a glorified stenographer, transcribing the concept into reality. “Don’t worry about me,” he told his creative partners just hours before he died. “Just put the people out there, crushing against the stage. They are my fuel. They are my food. Their love will get me to the end.”

He was honored by three Presidents for his achievements. President Ronald Reagan honored Michael Jackson as “Entertainer of the Decade,” President Bush awarded him an “Ambassador of Light” for his humanitarian efforts, and President Jimmy Carter partnered with him to “Heal the World.” He was asked to perform for his inaugural celebration by a fourth, President Bill Clinton. He was greeted by heads of state from England to South Africa, marched with armies in former eastern bloc countries, and lead marching bands in the shadow of the Kremlin. So, in addition to being recognized by the music, recording, and film industries, Michael was a good will ambassador to the world not on behalf of any one nation but on behalf of his Creator on a global mission of healing and spreading love and unity through the love of music.

He was a silent political activist not just in his home nation but the world over. He didn’t pound on a lectern; he didn’t carry a picket sign or march in the streets. He followed the dictum that created Radio Free Europe during the most recent world war. It was founded on the premise that to conquer the enemy, “first, win their hearts and minds.” Michael Jackson’s voice and music won the hearts and minds of young people on a planetary scale – created a comfort level – giving them permission to love a man from a different racial or ethnic or national group, breaking down racial, cultural, national, territorial, generational, denominational boundaries without aggression or one shot being fired. Realistically, who could view Michael Jackson as the enemy? His small, wraithlike, fragile body threatened no one. His soft voice and manner and expressive doe-like eyes disarmed decades-long-held beliefs that only weapons of mass destruction could ever re-unify their populations. He made it acceptable for Caucasians to love an African-American, for Soviet Socialists to love a Western capitalist, for Latinos to embrace someone from north of the border. At home, that comfort level encouraged white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestants to vote for a young, energetic black man to be the President of the United States, a thing that would have been unthinkable just fifteen years earlier.

In the mid-1980’s, when his voice and music crossed the Iron and Silk curtains, they cracked a door ajar which had been locked and barred against invasion since the end of World War II. That door remained ajar for his short films to enter, followed in short order by his face and his person arriving for concert performances. That comfort level made it possible for East Germans to drop their guard with West Germans, for Moscovites to forget their distrust of foreigners, for concert-goers to assemble peacefully on both sides of the Berlin wall to dance to the music each of them cherished, for audience members to clasp hands held high in the air in unity with neighbors from other creeds, hemispheres or ideologies. At the end of the Michael Jackson Decade, the Berlin Wall was dismantled and the divisions that had reigned for decades were disassembled as each stone was removed.

We often hear about the many records Michael Jackson shattered with his music sales from his earliest days with Motown at eleven years old through his last breaths on this planet … and beyond! Michael is still breaking records – albeit from beyond the grave. The videotaped recordings of his rehearsals for his concert tour, This Is It, and the accompanying soundtrack of the same title broke sales and attendance records around the world. On March 16, 2010 an announcement was made that Mr. Jackson’s estate had entered into the most lucrative music contract in history with Sony Music for a record-breaking $250 Million dollars over a period of seven years (yes, indeed, nine months after Mr. Jackson became immortal.)

However, it is important to note that he also broke records in concert attendance, television viewers, and, more importantly, number and sheer monetary value of his enormous humanitarian endeavors over the four decades of his career as enumerated in The Guinness Book of World Records. He is on record as supporting 39 separate and distinct charities. Beyonce Knowles at the World Music Awards telecast in 2006 stated that he had “given more than $300 million” to those various charities over his lifetime. Those are just the known contributions. The anonymous assistance and emotional support he leant without publicity would push the figure well beyond priceless. As far back as 1984, Jonathan ‘Sugarfoot’ Moffett, drummer for the Jackson’s Victory Tour (as well as several of Mr. Jackson’s solo tours including This Is It), reports that Jackson “worked hard … sweated under all those lights … hundreds of lights for all those shows and for all the rehearsals to get to those shows … he worked hard … breaking his body down … for not a dime. For all those months, he did it for free. He gave all of his $5 million to charity. I think that aspect of Michael is just as impressive and remarkable as his musical side.” Jackson was tireless in finding inventive ways to give back to a world which he considered had been hugely generous to him with courage, style, and considerable zeal.

He was a film maker of exceptional vision, whose films pioneered and nurtured an entire genre of visual arts while allowing Michael to give full flight to his nimble imagination. In his short films, he sang and danced with animation and claymation figures, werewolves and zombies, Transformers and street gangs, Egyptian pharoahs and runway models, basketball megastars and winged angels. Even the famous artist, Maxfield Parrish, was immortalized in one of Michael’s short films. [Ref: Look up Maxfield Parrish’s “Daybreak” – then go and watch Michael Jackson’s short film for You Are Not Alone.] When the tools he required to relay his message did not exist, he invented them. He would not accept what others tried to tell him was impossible; he made the impossible appear effortless, fluid, beautiful, and graceful.

He was a connoisseur of art … a patron of the visual arts. His friends Nate Giorgio and David Nordahl painted numerous portraits of him in different historical periods and personages at his request and with his direct input. Their paintings are prominently displayed in Michael’s second published work Dancing the Dream and in the Official Michael Jackson Opus published on December 7, 2009. Many of them are evocative of the Renaissance genre of art and are identifiable as such even though containing modern elements. In addition, Mr. Jackson was an amateur artist, himself. His line drawings graced some of his albums’ enclosures.

Which of these Michael Jacksons is the real Michael? All of them! And there are more. Like all of us, Michael Jackson embodied a complex abundance of facets … all as accomplished and brilliant as those found in the rarest diamond. He was a businessman of exceptional discernment and acumen, an artist, a child of God, an instrument of nature who personified humility, purity, and innocence in all his guises. Yes, humility! Although our media tried for years to paint Jackson’s ego as disproportionately huge (with rumors of proclaiming himself the ‘King of Pop’ and demanding exclusive rights to perform at President Clinton’s Inaugural), the facts are clearly visible in his recorded rehearsals for his last concert series. The man was egoless, soft- spoken, sensitive, undemanding and sincerely respectful of everyone around him! He drew the best out of those who shared a stage with him by pouring the best of himself into the production and encouraging them to do the same.

The affection in which he was held by the young (nearly 30 years his junior) dancers, vocalists, band members, videographers, and collaborators speaks volumes. Misha Gabriel, one of the eleven principle dancers for This Is It refers to his mentoring power, “I’m a dancer; I eat, breathe, and sleep dancing but I never felt that I danced as good as I did when I was behind Michael. Not because I was afraid or I felt that I had to work harder to keep up. It was the energy you felt from him.” Devin Jamison, another young dancer said, “He brought out the best in everyone. He brought us all to our fullest potential.” Yet another, Timor Stephan, proclaimed, “He was an instrument of music. If you were deaf … you could not hear music … you could see the music playing in his body.”

Michael Jackson inspired multiple generations with his relentless dedication to excellence in everything he did. It had to be the best … the most innovative … state-of-the-art – if he was involved. His perfectionism is legend. Generally, this kind of perfectionism accompanies a prickly, hard-to-please personality. Not so in Michael’s case. He preferred to use humility and tolerance, praise and encouragement to bring out the very best in those who shared a stage, a recording studio, a dance studio, or a film studio with him. His good friend, Brett Ratner, speaks of Michael Jackson in glowing terms,

I have hours of footage of us, sitting around in our pajamas, with me asking him about what kind of music he loved as a kid, what kind of books he had on the wall as a kid. When you were with him, you really felt like God was within him. He was an amazing, superhuman kind of person, but he always treated you as an equal. He would be your friend and he never asked for anything in return.
He was the most inspirational person in my life. His one dream was to cure all the sick children in the world. And when I’d say, ‘Isn’t that impossible?’ Michael would just start to cry. He was very emotional about things that moved him. I guess you’d have to say he was a pure innocent in a world that wasn’t so innocent anymore.” (L.A. Times, June 29, 2009)

He didn’t bother to break down barriers for this would imply an aggressive force being applied. He simply refused to accept that an obstacle existed and moonwalked right through it. Michael Jackson was MAGIC in every sense of the word.

Whatever else Michael was, there is no denying his charm, charisma, and magnetic attraction to young and old, rich and poor, black and white, gay and straight, male and female, Christian or Jewish or Muslim. He embodied a personal magnetism of exceptional force. People gravitated toward Michael Jackson like planets orbiting a dense star (especially children)! But he also emitted power like an electrical substation that raises the hair on your arms as you approach it. In addition to drawing in, he radiated out … love and compassion and generosity of spirit and kindness. Karen Faye, Jackson’s make-up artist for three decades reports that he was always “giving energy” as opposed to sucking it from others and that she never felt depleted after working with him – she felt inspired. Often during a stage performance, he accomplished both types of magnetism … simultaneously – which must have felt a little like being torn apart by elephants. No wonder his favorite on stage stance was with his arms thrown out to embrace the world, his legs akimbo and his head thrown back to bask in the glow of the spot light.

In his autobiography, Michael wrote that he had always wanted to be a storyteller, to be able to weave a tapestry with words that would draw listeners in and transport them to another place and time, to engage them emotionally, to transcend reality. I believe he was unaware of his special talent in this regard; this is exactly what he did. He took us all on a four-decade roller coaster ride through his dreams and wishes for us as a people, using his mastery of song and dance and film and emotion and his prolific songwriting ability to remind us of our indebtedness to ourselves, our neighbors, our children, and our world. Instead of using the outline of the fairy tale, he employed the briefer ‘parable’ to relay his meaning.

A parable is a short story that has multiple layers of meaning and a moral or lesson embedded firmly within its fabric. Michael Jackson was a master of the parable. He dealt with a myriad of social issues in his parables. In Beat It (gang violence), Black or White (racial equality), Smooth Criminal (domestic violence), BAD (macho stereotypes, urban culture), Blood on the Dance Floor (promiscuity), Man in the Mirror (being the change you want to see in the world), Ghost (mob mentality and intolerance), Earth Song (ecological responsibility and world peace), Jam (striving for excellence), Why You Wanna Trip on Me, Privacy and Tabloid Junkie (tabloid journalism), Another Part of Me (unity), We Are The World, Heal the World, We’ve Had Enough, What More Can I Give (social responsibility and compassion), The Lost Children (well, you can use your imagination on that one) and numerous others, the parable comes into its own in the 21st century … an unexpected art form for our times.

Michael Jackson admitted to being a perfectionist, never satisfied with himself or something he had done. Those who worked with him all describe a highly professional, extremely intelligent, fully aware, prodigious talent who never flaunted his position in arrogance or false superiority; who always treated every person he met – whether gardener or CEO of a Fortune 500 company – child afflicted with a catastrophic disease or one whose father had wrapped him in a blanket, doused it with kerosene, and burned him over 90% of his body – with respect and dignity, graciousness and extreme courtesy. This innate courtesy harkened back to a much earlier era when manners were not thought of as superfluous. His collaborators report that Michael always advised them to “never settle for anything less than great” (Teddy Riley, The Official Michael Jackson Opus) in the music or in themselves. Michael Bearden reported, “He would come up with a great idea and then he would ask ‘okay, now, how can we do that better?” And R & B star Usher reports, “The one thing that he always said to me was, ‘Be mindful of history. Be conscious of history. Don’t get caught up in just the moment. Understand that each moment is a piece of history and you should approach it that way.”

A timeless reminder of all that is good in the human spirit and that our modern culture has relegated to irrelevance, Michael was surely ahead of his time in so many, many ways … yet represented the very best of bygone eras like the age of chivalry. His protectiveness of the downtrodden and his heartfelt pleas for our children and our planet compare well with the code of conduct espoused by Arthur and his knights.

Considering all of the above, he would surely more than warrant the reverence and affection that many in the world accord him. Admiration of such a paragon is not “rabid” or “obsessive.” It is recognizing one who aspired to perfection and refused to believe that such a goal was unattainable.

But our portrait is still incomplete. We have yet to discover the most important and, arguably, least provable contribution he made to our culture and our world. Michael Jackson was … and perhaps made his greatest contribution to … our world as a spiritual messenger … as we are all intended to be. Many of his lyrics speak directly to our common humanity and our obligation for stewardship of our planet. He raised the banner of ecological and social consciousness long before it became trendy. His last stage production was a barely-concealed attempt to remind us, once again, to care for our children and our planet through the use of audio, video, and performance media integrated into the excitement of a stage production that would have blown any other out of the ball park. From three-dimensional films to state of the art pyrotechnics to full scale earth movers shattering the rain forest before rumbling onto the stage to full scale airplanes taxiing down a runway and taking off over the heads of the agape audience, this production would have clearly cemented Michael Jackson’s well-deserved place in history books.

Although our world’s media hounded and pursued him relentlessly, he reached out through them to touch us all with the truth about his life repeatedly. He was labeled a recluse, but at no time did he shut himself off from us completely like a Howard Hughes or Prince. Often he tried to explain to us who he was, what moved him. Often he invited us into his world. Sylvia Chase, Ed Bradley, Oprah Winfrey, Diane Sawyer, Barbara Walters, Molly Muldrum, and Martin Bashir were just a few of the reputedly respected interviewers to whom he opened himself and his home and his heart. In the latter case, his trust was well and truly betrayed. The yellow journalistic faction painted him as a liar, but the man couldn’t lie effectively to save his soul … those incredible eyes gave him away each and every time. The tabloids painted him with a brush that bore no resemblance to the man whatsoever and, at times, threatened his very sanity. Yet, he still reached out to us. Even through his deepest humiliation, he didn’t give up on us.

Not even in death has he let us go. He is still reaching out to many of us on the planet, inviting us to make a change and to change our world for only we have the power to do so. He is holding us close with his music and his indomitable spirit “with a tender touch we know so well.” As his friend and creative partner in his recent ventures, Kenny Ortega, relates in the Special Features of the This Is It DVD, released in January of 2010:

He was an angel walking the planet. He was just the loveliest soul. I always came out the other side after having had an experience with Michael looking at the world differently, looking at myself differently. No matter how hard, sometimes, the world came down on him, he only reacted with more love. Often, when we were working together – or we would be in a meeting and there would be a little tension or a little anxiety – he would always say, ‘Do it with love. L.O.V.E. Love.’ He was a king … king of hearts … king of entertainers … king of imagination … king of fathers … king of friends. If I could’ve, I would’ve crowned him myself.

How does one define a life well-lived? By what standard of measurement do we make such a judgment? May I suggest that one looks again at this post? I think you might find your answer there.

Jan

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As my regular readers already know, in December of 1995 I had managed to acquire a number of tickets for the members of the Michael Jackson Internet Fan Club to attend the tapings for a concert being billed as One Night Only and scheduled to be televised by Home Box Office. Those who have read Collector of Souls on this website are aware that the tapings never occurred as Michael was taken seriously ill three days before, shattering my dreams of ever being an audience member at one of Michael’s concert performances. My disheartened friends and I flew off to New York City anyway to lend him our support and wound up singing on the street corner behind our huge banner which, interestingly enough, passersby would stop and sign as we sang You Are Not Alone and Smile to our idol laid up in intensive care at the Beth Israel Hospital on New York’s lower east side.

After returning home we all dove back into our own pedestrian lives as mothers and housewives and career women and preschool teachers – which paid for our secret lives as ‘groupie wannabes’ in Michael Jackson’s entourage and as amateur biographers and authors in his behalf. A couple of my friends were able to jet off to various locations around the world to be audience members for full-blown concerts, but I was still raising children and working a full-time job and found that Budapest, Hungary and Hawaii were just not included in my itinerary of homework and church and job. Some of those same friends even attended the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction ceremony for the Jackson 5 in Ohio and were lucky enough to have a room just down the hall from Michael’s on the same floor! I am still in touch with one of those friends and I will try to get her to write up her experience on that occasion (Hint, hint – Mary??) and offer it to my readers at some point right here on my own little blog (with her permission, of course).

However, In February of 1997, I was fortunate enough to attend Elizabeth Taylor’s Birthday Gala entitled Celebration of Life in Los Angeles, California. One of the fan club friends I mentioned before somehow got tickets to this $1,000 per ticket affair! The following is a brief summary of my one and only – drumroll, please – Close Encounter of the Michael Kind! However, a word of warning – my readers must allow me a little – um – artistic license to tell this story in my own, perhaps, slightly inimitable, perhaps even idiosyncratic fashion.

The boisterous crowd greeting celebrities as they alighted from their limousines grew strangely quiet between arrivals. As each new star walked down the red carpet towards the doors of the theater, he or she paused, posing for the cameras or talking with the reporters lining the way three or four deep. Inside, the lobby of the historic, Art-Deco Pantages Theater on Hollywood Boulevard in the heart of tinsel town was packed with people in evening gowns and tuxedos. Red velvet rope barriers defined a walkway for the artists who would be performing as well as for the Hollywood bigwigs to get to their seats.

Milling around in the crowd were four women, dressed and coiffed as formally as they’d been able to manage within their budgetary constraints and with the limited space at their disposal in their crowded, art-deco-appointed hotel room at the Hollywood Wiltshire Hotel. Their hearts pounded in their ears, nearly silencing the crowd’s intermittent outbursts.

They were here in these rarified surroundings, hobnobbing with the beautiful, the rich and the famous on a fluke, really. One of them had, by hook or by crook, obtained four tickets to Elizabeth Taylor’s Birthday Gala benefit being billed as A Celebration of Life, the proceeds of which were being donated to Ms. Taylor’s AMFAR Foundation. They still couldn’t believe their luck. Somehow, their friend had avoided paying the $1,000 per ticket cost of admission and here they were. They’d flown in from different parts of the country a day earlier and were scheduled to spend the weekend in southern California before jetting home to their families and careers, resuming their rather ordinary lives as busy housewives and mothers and career women. Their eyes and ears were taking in every detail in a dazed stare, but the detail that they were holding their collective breath for hadn’t yet arrived.

Steven Seagall, David Copperfield, Hugh Grant, and Elizabeth Hurley had already arrived, but these four women didn’t seem terribly impressed with the cream of the Hollywood elite. They were waiting for Michael Jackson to escort Elizabeth Taylor into the auditorium. Three of them had seen Mr. Jackson before … had attended concerts or performances around the country and even in Europe at various times with their fan club. One of them had not. Familial obligations tied her pretty close to her home in Illinois. She’d been on hand for the stillborn One Night Only concert to be held in New York at the Beacon Theater, but had ended up singing outside a large metropolitan hospital to a man who probably didn’t even know they were there when Mr. Jackson was hospitalized with dangerously low blood pressure and dehydration three days before the performance. She, unlike the others, could barely credit that the man who she all but worshipped could actually exist … be a flesh and blood, corporeal human being. She knew that he existed intellectually but had never had the opportunity to experience his existence within her heart. Her stomach seemed to be inhabited by butterflies the size of Mac trucks and she swallowed frequently to still them so that she could concentrate on the bedlam around her.

Suddenly, the air was flayed by eardrum-splitting, roof-raising, heart-stopping, fear-inducing screams. The four women cringed against the cacophony and looked at each other, eyes wide. Mary smiled at each of her friends and whispered, “Michael’s here,” in the kind of sing song voice one uses to a toddler while playing “One Little Piggy” with his toes. They all responded by positioning themselves as close to the velvet rope barricade as they could get without trampling anyone else in their paths. Flat screen monitors high in the corners of the cavernous lobby showed what was transpiring outside. They watched Michael Jackson exit the vehicle, then turn and offer his hand to Elizabeth Taylor to help her alight with a gesture straight out of Lancelot and Guinevere accomplished with easy grace and little thought. When she was on her feet, he laced his long, elegant fingers through hers placing his forearm below Ms. Taylor’s to give her more support … without appearing to support her … as they stepped over the curb and onto the red carpet.

He was poured into very tight black pants and a black, torso-molding jacket with white flowers studded with rhinestones appliquéd over his right shoulder, his jet black hair skimmed his collar and his flesh appeared so pale as to be almost transparent. Ms. Taylor’s outfit was a shimmering mint green velvet floor length dress and her diamond studded fingers, neck and ears gleamed as the cameras flashed and the reporters called out, “Michael, one question. Ms. Taylor, give us a smile.” As the stretch limousine pulled away from the curb, Michael kissed the first two fingers on his free hand and flashed a peace sign at the throng of fans waiting for his acknowledgment across the busy street. Then, Ms Taylor and Michael Jackson turned and smiled for the cameras, proceeding slowly into the lobby.

The four friends gazed with rapt attention at the monitors and then at the walkway outlined by the barriers as Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor approached. Everyone … both outside and inside the elegant Pantages Theater … was reacting to their presence in some way except the four friends. They were still and quiet. They knew that the type of pandemonium now being re-enacted before them had always frightened Michael a little. He was always worried that someone would get hurt in the crushes that had attended his every movement since he was 9-years-old.

With extreme focus, Michael spanned the demarcated walkway, scanning the crowd cursorily with his free hand lifted in a desultory wave. They passed into the auditorium without stopping, but had had to walk by the four friends awaiting their arrival within mere inches of where they stood directly behind the rope barrier on the right side of the outlined path.

Jan found that the rumors she had heard for years were true. The air fairly crinkled around Michael Jackson – one could feel his presence – his dynamism was palpable, raising gooseflesh along her arms and raising the hairs on the back of her neck for the few moments it took for him to traverse the walkway in front of her. She was close enough to him to reach her hand out and touch his shoulder. She didn’t because she didn’t want to breach the etiquette of the gathering, but she could have easily.

She found herself dismayed, dumfounded. From the videotapes she’d watched for years, his strength, stamina and endurance in performance and her own near obsession with Michael Jackson, she expected him to be Herculean – 100 feet tall and broad. But he wasn’t. He was 5’9” tall and thin to the point of disappearing. His hips couldn’t have been 18 inches across at their broadest point. His legs and arms were thin and firmly encased within the black sleeves of his jacket and pants legs as if they were painted onto his frame. His shoulders were broad tapering to an almost waspish waist. Close up, his face was breathtaking in its beauty – pale with high, taut cheekbones and a sharply defined nose, huge dark brown eyes and crow’s wing eyebrows framed by black hair. All she could do as he passed was breathe, “Michael. That’s Michael Jackson,” repeating the litany over and over as he walked in front of her and her friends.

As the parade of elite Hollywood passed, the four friends waited their turn to enter and find their seats in the first tier of balconies about five rows from the front and a little to the left of center stage. They all settled into their seats watching Michael and gazing around them at the assembled throng. Jan was seated next to a transvestite dressed in a voluminous prom-type dress and diamond jewelry. But she hardly noticed as she only had eyes for Michael.

He was seated in an area that had been reserved for Ms. Taylor’s party completely alone and isolated. He seemed uncomfortable. He kept scratching his ear … or adjusting his collar … or scratching his ankle … like a mischievous youth whose parents had told him to sit still and not get dirty. Jan wished she had a pair of opera glasses or her camera with its telephoto lens so that she could see his facial expression more closely. She closed her eyes and whispered a little prayer. “Relax, Michael. Remember, you are beautiful.” Perhaps, it was her imagination or wishful thinking, but he did seem to settle back in his chair a little more comfortably.

At one point, a man and a woman left their seats and approached, apparently asking him if it was okay for them to take his photograph. He nodded while speaking with them and they flashed his picture and returned to their seats. Occasionally, he would glance around the standing room only crowd to see if he could find anyone he recognized. His fidgeting was contagious. Jan felt his discomfort very clearly even though she was seated at least a hundred feet from him and up one flight. She commented on it to her friends whose eyes were also glued to him … as if he were a magnet and they were paperclips.

At exactly eight o’clock, the lights dimmed and the show began. The first to enter was Elizabeth Taylor as a voice announced her. “Ladies and Gentlemen, Elizabeth Taylor.” The crowd roared its approval and Ms. Taylor entered from stage left. Michael rose from his seat and with an impossibly gallant gesture offered his hand to his friend, assisting her to her seat. They sat through performance after performance. Hugh Grant, Whoopi Goldberg, David Copperfield, the Bacon brothers, the list seemed almost endless. Michael watched and applauded everyone, sometimes commenting to Elizabeth or nodding as she spoke to him.

The only time he left Ms. Taylor’s side, he vanished into the left wing of the stage. The four women, who called themselves MAGIC (an acronym for Michael’s American Gypsies in Concert) knew that he was preparing to perform. Sure enough, the lights dimmed and Michael’s slender form walked slowly and gracefully toward a single microphone placed center stage to perform the song he’d prepared for Ms. Taylor. He’d removed his wonderfully appliquéd jacket and pulled his shirt tails from his waistband, opening the buttons so that the white silk haloed around his torso and hips in the slight breeze from the fans at the front of the stage. After waiting for the audience to calm, he began to sing so quietly that they had to strain to hear his voice. By the end of the approximately three or four minute performance of Elizabeth, I Love You, he was twirling and spinning, his voice rising to an almost impossible crescendo as a blinding light descended from above to caress his slender form within its focused beam. It appeared that a super nova had landed on the stage as he stood in one of his classic poses with his right arm extended toward heaven, his shoulder-length hair blowing in the wind of his passage and his head thrown back to bask in the glow of the down light. He nearly disappeared in the intense light – only his outline was visible until the spot was doused.

The audience erupted in a thunderous ovation, as Michael approached Ms. Taylor’s seat to kiss her. She told him that she loved him and he responded, “I love you more,” with a shy smile. Microphone still clasped within his left hand, he placed both hands behind his back and slowly walked from the stage with the crowd’s accolade still ringing in his ears. It took a few minutes for him to tuck his shirt tails back into his waist band with the huge golden buckle, don his appliquéd jacket from backstage and compose himself to sit through the rest of the show at Elizabeth’s side, laughing easily at Lily Tomlin’s parody of BAD.

As the last performance of the evening faded and the lights were dimmed, Ms. Taylor and Michael Jackson exited the theater. The audience shuffled from its seats, collecting “goody” bags prepared for all the attendees by Ms. Taylor’s staff at the door. MAGIC walked back to their hotel several blocks away without incident and went quietly up to their room to don pajamas and remove makeup and talk about the evening’s events. Pulling on a pair of comfortable jeans and her “Michael’s Bunnies” t-shirt and grabbing her voluminous tote bag, Jan excused herself, saying she wanted to go to the lobby bar for a drink. It wasn’t a lie. She had just witnessed a thing she’d never expected to see … a live performance by Michael Jackson. It wasn’t a full concert, but it was him and it was live. She needed to absorb it alone … to drink it into every pore of her body so that she would always remember this night.

My readers will have to forgive me for, quite frankly, not remembering many more of the performers or their performances. I am sure most of you can relate to the following statement: If Michael Jackson is in the room, there ARE no other performers.

During the trip, my friends  and I also drove out to Neverland Valley Ranch to drop off some gifts at the front gate. We were not allowed into Michael Jackson’s compound on this particular occasion, but three of us did get to visit Neverland in all its glory on another occasion. I picked up a good-sized rock from just outside the gates of Neverland and brought it home to have something tangible as a remembrance of the event. It caused some serious questions at the security check point at the airport, but that’s another story. I hope Michael didn’t miss it!

Later, after arriving home in a small town in the Midwestern United States, I was thrilled to discover that the event had been taped for broadcast and I was able to videotape the performance as a souvenir of my Close Encounter of the Michael Kind!

Jan

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His Life was Beautiful!!

The above words were spoken by Berry Gordy, Michael’s mentor and friend, at his Public Memorial Service in July of 2009. When I heard them from his lips, my heart leapt up into my throat and cried out, “yes, it was!”

If I hear one more pundit or talking head describe Michael Jackson as a tragic figure or read one more byline that refers to him as controversial or his life as dysfunctional, I think I am going to lose it. There was nothing tragic or dysfunctional about Michael Jackson. His life was beautiful.

Don’t get me wrong. I am aware of the challenges he faced, the obstacles he overcame, the road blocks placed in his path. I’ve written reams and reams in protest of those challenges (both back in the 1990’s and currently), including The Caricature for the Voices Education Project curriculum on Violence and Words linked on this website. I’m also aware those challenges were not of his making and that he faced them head on with humility, grace and dignity. How can that qualify as tragic? Yes, he was ill-treated by some of the world’s population (a certain district attorney in Southern California comes to mind aided and abetted by much of the world’s media) and no, it wasn’t fair but he moved forward with strength and purpose, never losing sight of his goal and made use of his God-given, innate abilities to benefit humanity despite the myopic view of the world’s media. How is that dysfunctional?

He set his goals and, in the words of Paul Gongaware of AEG, “was relentless in getting to that vision” in his performances, the real challenge becoming “giving him what he wanted and still having it make sense in a business sense.” In other words, his visions and goals would have been too expensive or too technically difficult as he envisioned them. I can see that. How would you recreate Victoria Falls on a concert stage? That would be difficult, at best – at worst, impossible.

Kenny Ortega relates a story about Michael calling him in the middle of the night during rehearsals for This Is It and saying, “Fireflies. We need fireflies.” He wanted Kenny to figure out a way to make him bioluminescent – not just lighting tricks which he had been making innovative use of for a long time – he wanted to BE bioluminescent! LOL! Gotta love him! Didn’t he know he already was?

Michael Jackson was no stranger to achieving the impossible using little more than his talent, his faith and his sense of purpose. He was told numerous times that what he envisioned was impossible. It didn’t stop him! Some of his best friends, including Quincy Jones, told him that selling 100 million copies of Thriller was impossible. Nonetheless, Michael wrote “100 million copies” with his sister’s lipstick on his mirror in his bedroom. He decried their lack of faith in Moonwalk. It became the largest selling album in the history of recorded music long before it reached that unattainable goal – but guess what – it had sold 104 million copies as of the date of the World Music Awards in 2006! Hmmm! Impossible! He had to have been so over-the-top thrilled when that goal became reality!

During the filming of Thriller, he was told that making a 14-minute feature-type-film music video with costumes and make up artists and dancers and movie sets was impossible because it would be too expensive and Sony/Epic didn’t want to spend that much money. Sony/Epic wanted to pull the plug on the shoot. What did Michael do? He paid for the film, himself!  The film and its accompanying “making of” behind-the-scenes footage became the biggest-selling short film in history and added even more fuel to the monster that the Thriller campaign engendered.

Michael was told by everyone around him that the lean he wanted to do in Smooth Criminal, both in the short film and for concert performances around the world, was impossible. He didn’t want it ‘faked’ or ‘canned.’ He wanted to DO the lean! So, he studied the mechanics of what made the lean impossible. By doing this research, he discovered that the major problem with the lean was that at a certain point his heels would lift from the floor, throwing the balance of his body forward and causing him to end up ass over appetite on the floor. So, he dreamed up a way to defeat those mechanics; he invented a stiff boot that provided padded support to his ankles and calves in both front and back of the foot and a slot in the heel to attach the boot (and the person wearing it, coincidentally) to a hook that rose from the floor of the stage and was retracted after the lean was accomplished. Michael Jackson holds the patent on the devices he invented to this day. As a result, one of the main impediments to the lean was overcome and it became an integral part of the short film and a staple of each subsequent performance of the song. Instead of accepting that the idea was impossible, he invented the solution that made it not only possible – but fluid, graceful, beautiful.

Of course, the other component of the move was at least as important as the mechanical component. It required incredible lower back, upper thigh, calf and ankle strength and control; without the human component, the mechanical component was superfluous. With research, imagination, ingenuity and hard work, Michael Jackson bent the natural laws which govern this planet – physics and gravity – to his will (or, at least, appeared to – which works out to be the same thing.) That kind of dedication and positive thinking is not an illusion – it is MAGIC, pure and simple – a fact which did not escape the attention of one of our foremost metaphysical authors’. Dr. Wayne W. Dyer dedicated his treatise Real Magic to Michael Jackson. Upon hearing of Michael’s immortalization, Dr. Dyer had the following words to say:

“…the truth is, he already had the magic—the power he needed to dream and create and give. Michael was dedicated to ending world hunger and helped create the 1985 “We Are the World” celebrity sing along that brought together some of the biggest names in popular music to raise funds for famine relief in Africa. I didn’t have to explain “real magic” to Michael because he was already a spiritual being, already kind, loving, and ready to use his musical gift to create miracles. Along with millions of people around the world, I say, thank you, Michael, for sharing your amazing talent to lift our spirits. I’ll remember you as a beautiful human being with a heart as big as the sky.

Michael Jackson knew no limits – accepted no boundaries – bowed to no one’s idea of impossible – and found that impossible is an arbitrary concept – not absolute at all. It’s a lesson we must all take to heart – an example we must all assimilate. We are often told that the issues our world faces are impossible to solve. We are admonished that world hunger is impossible to eradicate, that deadly disease is impossible to eliminate, that global warming is impossible to reverse. But we are going to have to do something about all of them if the human species is going to continue to evolve on its home world. And that means that somebody, somewhere is going to have to do the research, study the mechanics involved with imagination, apply ingenuity and figure out a solution and implement it before it’s too late.

Stephen Hawking, one of our world’s greatest minds, spoke recently and recommended that we develop and implement our forays into space much more rapidly than we are currently invested in doing. This planet, he posits, cannot and will not, in his opinion, continue to sustain human life – or any life – in its current state of continual exploitation and abuse. In so doing, he has reiterated the message a master of pop music and culture, Michael Jackson, sang and performed on concert stages on a global basis and in short films that were severely criticized at the time they were released more than 20 years ago! He has confirmed Michael’s fears for us and the planet and offered his solution which is abandoning our Mother Earth in her death throes and finding another place to live! I wonder what Michael would have thought of his solution. I know he was fascinated with space travel and badly wanted to experience the view of our planet from the perspective of space. But I can’t help but think that his compassion for our Mother would have rebelled vehemently at such a route.

Yes, Michael Jackson’s life was beautiful. He realized all of his childhood dreams, as Gordy announced proudly to a packed audience at the Staples Center in July 2009. “He wanted to be the best and he was willing to work and do whatever was necessary” to achieve that goal. Michael sang, “Have you seen my childhood? I’m searching for that wonder in my youth like pirates and adventurous dreams of conquest and kings on a throne.” From the first time I heard Childhood I wanted to respond, “Yes, Michael, we all saw it – and it was beautiful!” Throughout his sojourn on this planet, that never changed. He led an extraordinarily public life from the age of nine-years-old and while he may have yearned for the ordinary things that children – and adults – enjoy, I believe he was grateful for the opportunities he was given to lead humankind into the next step in its evolutionary process.

He, like most of us, had an idyllic idea of childhood that very seldom resembled the realities we lived. Those of us who experienced nothing but love, encouragement, and faith in our abilities during our formative years are very rare. Most of us, including at least one of my readers, experienced our childhoods differently. We lived with constant fear. We lived with relentless criticism, sometimes unjust. We lived with spankings and beatings and spent those formative years longing for adulthood when we could finally live the lives we knew we were meant to live with all its speed bumps and roadblocks. For others, disease or poverty or neglect or alcoholic parents or substance abuse or hunger or war invaded childhood, making adults out of children very quickly.

Just as all of us have been required to face and release issues from our pasts – whatever individual ghosts each of us has had to vanquish – Michael had physical and external challenges to bear and overcome. As we matured, most of us, hopefully, realized that without our individual burdens, we would not be the people we turned out to be; some of us have even achieved a level of gratitude for those challenges with maturity because they helped us realize our fullest potential. Just as a smooth, well-rounded stone is not produced without being pummeled over rapids, rough edges abraded along the riverbed or tumbled in the lapidary’s workshop, most lives require some misfortune to achieve the brilliance for which they are destined.

Another analogy which can easily be applied to this phenomenon is the process known as alchemy. One of my internet colleagues, whom I deeply respect, has posted an entry on her website this weekend that mentions the alchemical component of Michael’s work and I am grateful to her for prompting me to think about that alchemical process. You will find a link to her website at right listed under Inner Michael.

Alchemy is defined by the American Heritage College Dictionary as follows: A medieval chemical philosophy having as its asserted aims the transmutation of base metals into gold, the discovery of the panacea, and the preparation of the elixir of longevity or a seemingly magical power or process of transmuting.

Did my reader catch the paradox in the above definition? Chemical? Philosophy? In the same sentence? Chemistry has very little to do with philosophy in our modern world. As a matter of fact, the two could be considered polar opposites. But, in the middle ages, they were closely related in the minds of the common people who were largely uneducated. Alchemy was a process that blended chemistry and philosophy – or science and sorcery, if you will. But while it was concerned with turning base metal (like iron or steel) into gold, the process was also a metaphor for the spiritual journey of the practitioner or alchemist.

The physical or chemical process consisted of reducing the elements of the experiment to the very purest, least corrupted or least contaminated essence – often using heat – and mixing the purest essences together in a crucible or sterilized container to distill those essences into perfect purity.

Metaphorically, we are all alchemists in our own rights. The goal of alchemy is to transmute base material into more refined, purified essence. And, really, what else are we all doing here? Our journeys all have the same goal – to move us all into purer, less contaminated union with God or spirit or the infinite field of all possibilities or whatever you want to call our Source. That refinement or evolution requires heat (translate heartbreak) and a crucible (translate pain) to contain the various elements that we are trying to transmute into finer, purer, more sanctified essence. The crucible, the heat – these are the challenges and obstacles that refine us and move us further along the path of the spiritual evolution we are all destined to realize – and they are as necessary to the alchemical transformation as the boot and hook invention that allowed the lean in Smooth Criminal or the muscular tone and strength and control that performed it. They are the river bed that abrades the rough edges and the water that pummels the stone into roundness, eliminating the sharp corners.

Unlike some of us, Michael didn’t get bogged down in holding grudges or resentments, didn’t sit around and wallow in self-pity, didn’t allow the challenges to his personhood and obstacles to his achievement to sidetrack him from his greater mission. Rather, he focused on his goals – and achieved them! That is not tragic. It is not controversial. It is not dysfunctional! That is exemplary!

As noted in my previous blog entry, Michael Jackson was very in tune with the process of creating that MAGIC and enjoyed what I believe was an uncommon connection to that field or spirit or Source. He communicated it in his music and performance and imagination and humanitarian efforts  – he communed with it regularly and with unassailable gratitude for that connection. He wrote about it in Moonwalk and Dancing the Dream. He spoke about it in every interview he granted and every award acceptance speech he made. Through his example and inspiration, he led some of us into more conscious awareness of that field or Source. Through his music and short films, he provided us a roadmap to experience our own connection to that infinite sea of all possibilities. I, for one, am deeply grateful for that roadmap.

How much more beautiful can a life possibly be? What more could have been asked of him – or any of us, for that matter?

Jan

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Just THAT Kind of Song

You and I must make a pact

We must bring salvation back

Where there is love

I’ll be there

I’ll reach out my hand to you

I’ll have faith in all you do

Just call my name

And I’ll be there

Have you ever had a song grab hold of your heart and never let it go? Have you ever been driving along in your car, in a rush because you don’t want to be late, impatient with the other drivers sharing the road with you because they are in your way or forget to turn on their turn signals or are riding their brakes or going too slowly? Sometimes, you want to just pound on the steering wheel or the horn and let them know that they are annoying you, don’t you? Then suddenly that song – the one that grabbed hold of your heart years ago – comes on the radio and your tense, stress-filled body just relaxes, your stomach unknots, you take a deep breath or two and you just can’t help but sing along? The funk that you were nursing just disappears and the song takes you to a completely other place. Has this ever happened to you?

You may not remember the first time you heard this special song – what you were doing or where you were going or who you were with – but you do remember that the song has always had a special place in your heart. It resonates somewhere deep inside you. It strums a cord that vibrates in tune with your heartstrings. It brings you peace in the midst of conflict or anxiety, solace in times of sadness or fear. It expresses your solidarity with the human experience, your understanding of the sentiment expressed. It calms your nerves. It’s just that kind of song.

I’ll Be There is one of those special songs for me. I first heard it approximately forty years ago, the lyrics being sung by a child – a child! It was the fourth in a string of four consecutive number one hits from a new Motown group called the Jackson 5 and the lead singer of the group was an eleven-year-old boy! The song can be interpreted in so very many ways – a simple love song, a prayer, a call for action, an encouragement toward agape, a reminder of Jesus’ words to his disciples, (“wherever two or more are gathered in my name, I am there,”), God or your guardian angel speaking to your heart and letting you know that She is with you, wrapping you in Her wings and protecting you. All of the above could apply, depending on your mood at hearing. There are layers upon layers of meaning. Perhaps, you know of some that I’ve missed.

Since that first experience with the song, I’ve probably listened to it deliberately and heard it by accident thousands of times. Its effect on me remains the same today as it was forty years ago. It’s just that kind of song.

Whether I hear it in its original version with that sweet little boy’s beautiful, clear voice singing it with so much feeling – or in any of its live permutations from concert performances the world over – or the last time it was sung by Michael Jackson during his rehearsals for This Is It, the child’s voice replaced with an adult’s clear, beautiful tenor, I’ll Be There forces me to stop for a moment, listen, take a deep breath and allow myself to be comforted and calmed because I’m worth it. It’s a spa break in a conflicted life. It’s a visceral thing – automatic – not something you think about – it just happens – like breathing or your heart beating or your hair growing. Here’s another one:

There’ll be no darkness tonight

Lady, our love will shine

Lighting the night

Just put your trust in my heart

And meet me in Paradise

(now is the time)

Girl, you’re every wonder in this world to me

A treasure time won’t steal away

So listen to my heart

Lay your body close to mine

Let me fill you with my dreams

I can make you feel all right

And baby through the years

Gonna love you more each day

So, I promise you tonight

That you will always be

the Lady in My Life.

In my humble opinion, The Lady in My Life is the best song on the Thriller album. Yes, I know that the entire album is complete and utter perfection, with not one B-side or less than perfect track. I mean every song is outstanding. But when I listen to The Lady in My Life it’s like pouring soothing balm on a stinging wound or Aloe on a sun burn. It just immerses me in healing, comforting, loving emotion. It puts me in touch with something much bigger than myself. No anger can trespass on my soul when that song is playing – it’s impossible. And it hasn’t changed in the more than twenty-five years since the release of the album – I don’t think it ever will.

While I was examining this phenomenon and trying to figure out what it is about these songs that grabbed hold of my heart so many years ago, I realized that there are a number of songs that have the same – or similar — affect on me. An overwhelming majority of them were released by Michael Jackson. A partial list would have to include: One Day in Your Life, Music and Me, Dreamer, Will You Be There, Lady In My Life, You Are Not Alone, Fall Again, Smile, Human Nature, You Are My Life. Sure, there are one or two by other artists, but none with the consistency of Michael Jackson.  While he may not have written all of the above, he sure sang the heck out of all of them – and his voice has become integral to the song in my soul. I’ve heard some of them sung by others, but they just aren’t the same when anyone else sings them (example Jennifer Hudson singing Will You Be There at the memorial service at the Staples Center in July 2009 – no! – or Liza Minelli singing You Are Not Alone at the 30th Anniversary celebration in 2001 – oh, my!) I do not take a nosedive into an ocean of emotion when they are not being sung by that beautiful voice in the inimitable way that only Michael Jackson can! I don’t’ know why, I just know it is the truth. He had a unique quality, tone, inflection, emotion, spirit that he imparted that there is no way to define or duplicate. I’ve heard it referred to as “binding his soul to his art.” I think that is such an apt way to describe it.

While that sweet little boy’s voice changed over the years – as boy’s voices do – it never really changed. It remained expressive, emotive, clear and able to turn my heart into bean dip with very little effort right up until the very end of his physical life. It appears that mine is not the only heart he grabbed with these songs. Several of them remained massive crowd-pleasers whenever they were performed regardless of locale or decade, drawing thunderous applause and shrieks and whistles at every show, tens of thousands of people clasping hands held high in the air and waving to the beat. While I never saw The Lady in My Life performed live (which is probably a good thing – I don’t think my heart could have taken it,) I can imagine it would have been the same. Here’s another one:

Another day has gone

I’m still all alone

How could this be

That you’re not here with me

You never said goodbye

Someone tell me why

Did you have to go

And leave my world so cold

Every day I sit and ask myself

How did love slip away

Something whispers in my ear and says

You are not alone

I am here with you

Tho you’re far away

I am here to stay

You are not alone

I am here with you

Tho we’re far apart

You’re always in my heart

And you are not alone.

Okay! This one, I have to admit it, grabs me within the first four bars of the musical introduction – and then his voice comes in — with the beat commencing after the first line and I am reduced to a mass of gelatinous material, quivering in anticipation of the rest of the song like a Jello mold in a strong wind. It doesn’t matter that I’ve heard the song thousands of times since its release. It doesn’t matter that the song is approaching twenty-years-old just as it doesn’t matter that I’ll Be There is approaching forty. It’s the spiritual equivalent of walking out on that stage and being held in his arms as we’ve seen so often from concerts around the world, our heads cradled in his over-sized, elegant left hand against his heartbeat as his right pats us gently on our backs in time to the beat and his voice sings the lyrics into his head microphone and our ears at once. It’s a spiritual embrace – a joining of souls – a communion – a eucharist – a sacrament! It’s just that kind of song! Here’s another one:

Feels like a fire … that burns in my heart

Every single moment … that we spend apart

I need you around for every day to start

I haven’t left you alone.

Something about you … it’s there in your eyes

Everything I’m looking for I seem to find

All this time away … is killing me inside

I need your love in my life.

I wanna spend … time ‘til it ends

I wanna fall in you again

Like we did … when we first met

I wanna fall in you again

Fought in a battle … where nobody won

Left ourselves a mountain to be overcome

You can’t run away … The past is said and done

I need us to carry on.

You’ve tried everything … you never thought of before

When you live and you love and you give it your all

You can always give it some more

Nothing means anything … without you here

I can’t breathe … I can’t bleed … I can die in my sleep

You’re always here in my dreams.

I had never heard Fall Again until after June 25, 2009. I didn’t know it existed. On the night of the Memorial Service, I turned off my television set after being literally drenched in tears for over two hours, went to check on my granddaughter across the hall, and looked in my CD holder to find some small part of Michael Jackson to wrap around myself like a well-beloved cashmere shawl. My reader can imagine my surprise, dismay and rage at discovering that my CD holder had been cleaned out and pawned without me even realizing it. If you have read the Collector of Souls page on this website, you realize that at the time, I had been on a 7-year-long hiatus from my music and videos trying to convince myself that I needed to grow up. I did still have HIStory: Past, Present and Future: Book 1, but the majority of my CD’s were gone. I quickly flipped disc two into my stereo and immersed myself in You Are Not Alone for about an hour and a half.

After that night, I was able to recover some of what I had lost by visiting my local pawn shop and re-buying my own music. I had to search for some of it on Amazon.com because I couldn’t find it at the pawn shop. In searching on line music sources, I ran across a number of things that I didn’t know existed, one of which was The Ultimate Collection. This collection spoke to me a number of times before finally I broke down and let it have its way with me. My reasoning for ignoring it up to this point was that I already had almost all of the music and I had taped the Bucharest concert at the time it was shown on HBO, but the track listing did show a number of songs listed as demos that I was unfamiliar with. How good could a demo possibly be? I mean, really!

I should have known that Michael Jackson’s demos would be better than anyone else’s finished, polished, released music! I had had enough experience with Michael by this time that I should have given in to him immediately. I know better than to underestimate him like that. He was nudging me to buy The Ultimate Collection from the moment I became aware of its existence.

When the package finally arrived, I ran upstairs and popped the CD’s into my player to see what these demos were all about and encountered Fall Again for the first time. It was one of those magic moments that a person remembers for a long, long time. I imagined that Michael had put that song on the compilation just for me – that he was aware of my seven year absence – that he knew and shared my feelings of loss of our special relationship – that he wrapped his arms around me and comforted me – that he forgave me (because I was guilt-ridden that I hadn’t been paying attention for so long!) I know all of that is as illogical as anything I’ve ever said or written, but I don’t care. That’s what the first listening felt like – and, once again, it hasn’t changed! The opening guitar chords just take me into an entirely different reality – one in which white rabbits are late for tea – and cookies cause sudden and earth-shattering changes in size – and famous and enormously-popular rock stars know common, ordinary, rural matrons intimately enough to speak the exact words they need to hear to assuage their guilt and grief. This reality – the one where CD’s walk out of the house and are found in pawn shops –  fades away – and my spirit is joined with the soul who has bound himself to his art. I sat on my footstool and re-played the song and cried – in grief for the loss of such genius – in gratitude for my re-awakening awareness of that genius!

I believe that we are all connected within a field of energy – of consciousness. This belief is currently being borne out by new discoveries in the field of quantum physics. In August of 1993, when the first shocking headlines were being splashed across the tabloids about Michael’s alleged improprieties with a young child, that field of consciousness or awareness opened for me and transported me for several heartbeats half way across the world,  making it possible for me to hear his primal scream of pain and rage (when logic would indicate that such a thing was just not possible) – to see him pacing his hotel room in Bangkok, Thailand, half a world away, like a caged black panther (when science would demand empirical data to prove the hypothesis) – to understand his heartbreak and disappointment because he thought the world knew him better than to believe such tripe – and to react by sending a telegram to his next tour stop in Singapore. It was only seven little words: We believe in you, Michael. Happy Birthday! I do not know if Michael ever read my telegram. I do know that he stayed at the hotel I sent the telegram to. I saw video of him waving to fans stationed below an upper story window of that hotel.

It is that field of consciousness within which the songs I’ve examined in this article provide an intimate, unseen but deeply-felt connection to the soul who recorded them and bound his spirit to them. It is that field of energy through which Michael Jackson walked on a daily basis, and from which he acted, experiencing a deeper connection to it than anyone has in several centuries. He manifested that deep connection to the infinite field of all possibility in his voice, music, composing, imagination, short films, dance, performances and charitable and humanitarian endeavors. It was that field from which he drew strength and purpose, music and dance, endurance and stamina, courage and innocence and the all-pervasive, unconditional love he demonstrated so freely and without ever counting the cost. He was an open-channel receiver/transmitter of that field in his performances and it was that energy that he radiated as a pebble thrown into a pond radiates outward in ripples into infinity.

It is that field of consciousness, which encapsulates, inhabits, connects and encircles all of us, I experience when those special songs grab hold of my heart, once again. A sharing … a bonding … a union … an exchange occurs that binds me to the spirit of Michael Jackson who bound himself to his art. And I Fall Again!

While I am conscious that Michael Jackson is no longer physically present and available to us in this materialistic, relativistic, dualistic realm, he still walks that universal, infinite field of awareness of which we are all part. His beautiful body resides in cold marble, but his spirit strides free there (those stage-eating strides we know so well) – and he made sure that we were all given backstage passes to commune with that spirit as needed. Some of us can connect to that field without external aids or user identifications or passwords. Some of us write it – or paint it – or play it on a musical instrument – or meditate that connection. We recognize it when we lose ourselves – become unaware of time passing in our bliss because we are engaged in what we were sent here to do. Some of us still require those external aids and Michael made sure that they were abundant and readily available to all of us. Your list of songs may be different from mine, but I’ll bet you have one, don’t you?

He asks us to USE him to get there where he promised repeatedly to join us when he sang I’ll Be There. He is at our beck and call – at our service. All we have to do is learn to play the easiest musical instrument ever created  – the ON button to our stereos – to immerse ourselves in that beautiful energy that resides in the music because he placed it there. It has the ability to bind us to him more firmly than a handclasp, an embrace or a kiss. The beautiful part of all this is that we can avail ourselves of Michael Jackson’s services at our whim – or when circumstances become more than we can easily bear – or when our grief and disbelief at his passing becomes too heavy a burden for us to carry.

“I can hear your prayers. Your burdens I will bear. But first I need your hand. Then forever can begin.”

Jan

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One Day In Your Life

Have you ever wondered what a day might have been like in the life of a famous and enormously popular rock ‘n roll idol? Or what that life might have looked like from the perspective of the most famous man in the world? Have you ever imagined riding along on Michael Jackson’s shoulder as he moved through the moments of his life – those very public events – as well as those more private, quiet, unpublicized occurrences that few of us ever got to witness up close and personal?

Well, I have and I’ve written some of those imaginings as stories with descriptive scenes, lots of dialog and casts of characters. The block quoted excerpts below are derived from a short story that I wrote in the early days of my obsession with Michael Jackson. Much of what you will read in this post was written in 1995 at about the time of the stillborn One Night Only concert at the Beacon Theater in New York scheduled to be broadcast on HBO.

The cast of characters includes Michael as himself, of course; Bill Bray, head of security since Michael’s Motown days and Stacy, an Epic executive who accompanies Michael as a representative of his record company. Her assignment is to spy on Michael’s activities and report back to Thomas at Sony. Stacy starts out thinking Michael is a megalomaniacal, spoiled brat who has gotten too big for his britches and requires taking down a peg. She is stunned to discover otherwise as she follows him from place to place and sees him in all kinds of different circumstances, experiencing his life firsthand. Needless to say, this learning experience influences her to change her mind about this man she understood so little when their relationship began. As they move through the days, they become close friends and we catch a glimpse of daily life for the superstar and his entourage – at least daily life as one who has not experienced it imagines it might have been.

The purpose of revisiting some of these imaginary events is to try to put ourselves into the story because while we may know – intellectually – that such events occurred regularly in Michael Jackson’s life – to observe them from a first person perspective changes them somewhat and allows us, as observers, to experience them, even if only in our fertile imaginations.

This post is filled with lots of little imaginative interludes, so … Ladies and gentlemen, the Captain has lit the “No Smoking” signs and has turned off the seat belt warning lights. You may now move about the cabin as you will. You may recline your seat backs and close your eyes for these little flights of fantasy. You are in safe hands. Consider me your flight attendant. I have shown you the emergency exits, explained the flotation devices in the seats and described the masks that will drop down from overhead compartments in case of a sudden loss of air pressure. “Anybody here like games?”

Michael finished dressing and they ate a hurried breakfast of fruit. Then they marched down the hall toward the elevator. All of the security guards that Stacy had seen running down the hall earlier surrounded them as they neared their destination. They stopped about ten feet short of the doors and Bill glanced nervously around to be certain that everyone was alert. As the doors opened, Bill and another guard entered and checked the elevator. When they were assured that Michael would be safe, Bill motioned for him to come forward.

Stacy had never witnessed such a display. She turned her head to look at Michael, but he wasn’t even paying attention to the precautions taken to ensure his safety.  Stacy, on the other hand, was stunned.  She had never considered searching an elevator. What was Bill looking for? Did he really expect to find someone lurking in the empty elevator?

Michael felt Stacy’s tension and was puzzled.  He looked at her, raising his eyebrows as if to ask, “What’s wrong?” but there were too many people around for her to ask him about this odd behavior. Instead, she shook her head and smiled up at him, reaching for his hand to give his fingers a squeeze with her own.  The contact with his flesh and his fingers closing around hers calmed Stacy a little. She would wait until they were alone to ask him about this. Little did she know that her day would be filled with similar incidents.

The elevator’s motion stopped, but one of the guards held his finger on the button which kept the door closed as Bill looked around at all the guards to be certain that each was ready. Then, he looked briefly into Michael’s eyes. “Ready?” he asked, winking at Stacy. The guards nodded briefly. “Okay, let’s go,” Bill said. The guard released the door and the double doors slid back to reveal the lobby of the hotel. It was empty of all but guests. It seemed that Stacy could hear everyone’s sigh of relief.  Hurriedly, the group bustled towards the rear exit into the underground parking garage below the hotel. An armored van was waiting for them, the chauffeur relaxing against the back of the driver’s seat. As he noticed the approaching group, he sat up stiffly and started the engine.

When they were seated in the armored vehicle, Stacy quickly decided to ask about the elevator incident. She turned to face Bill across the back of the van.  “What were you looking for in the elevator?”

Bill Bray looked at Stacy … then at Michael, before he responded, “Mike, normal everyday people don’t take the security precautions that I take with you.” Michael nodded slowly. “Michael is an internationally- known figure, Stacy. Internationally-known figures live a little differently from the rest of mankind. They are often the target of threats, death threats.” Stacy’s eyes got wider as Bill continued, “In addition, Michael’s fans frequently hide in elevators or in corridors waiting for him to leave the hotel.  Although they really don’t intend to hurt him, it causes problems when too many of them mob him at once.  I’m sure Mike doesn’t even notice my caution anymore, but to someone unaccustomed to checking and rechecking, my behavior might appear intimidating. It’s my job to protect him from overzealous fans and from lunatics who might want to make a place for themselves in history by killing Michael Jackson. I’m not one to take my responsibilities in this matter lightly and Mike knows it.”

Michael nodded slowly as Stacy inquired, “Someone has threatened to kill you? Why?”

Michael answered her question with a graceful, casual shrug of his shoulders. “I was ten or eleven years old when I got my first death threat. I was attending school in Los Angeles when my parents were called to the school by the principle.  He demanded that they remove me and my brother, Marlon, from the premises because they couldn’t afford to upset the rest of the students or their parents.  I’ve been threatened so often since then that I’ve lost count of the times.  Bill, can you remember?”

Bill just shook his head calmly. “Lots,” he exclaimed.

An edge of panic and disbelief colored Stacy’s voice.  “Recently?” she asked softly, “has this happened recently?”

Michael’s eyes turned towards Bill as he shook his head, but Bill faced him down and steadily, calmly replied, “Mike, you know she has to know what she’s facing if she continues to travel with you. She can’t be allowed to move forward until she has seen the path she travels. We wouldn’t be protecting her that way.” Bill’s eyes turned towards Stacy as he spoke, “Last Wednesday was the most recent threat against his life.  He performs tonight, so I expect that someone will call before the performance.”

“My God, Bill … Michael … you’re not serious!” Stacy roared.  Her panic had overtaken her.  She envisioned Michael lying on a stage, the side of his head bleeding into the hard wood beneath him and the vision shook her to her very soul. “How do you live like that?”

Michael took her shoulders gently between his hands turning her to face him, gentling her fear with his calm. “Stacy, I’m still here and this has been going on for a very long time. I ignore it.  And I trust Bill to protect me. Fear will kill your spirit faster than any bullet can kill your body.” he whispered. Turning to Bill, Michael winked, “Are we going to have time?”

Bray glanced quickly at his watch before he spoke.  “A little, maybe, Mike.  Not long. You’ve got the theater reserved for rehearsal until just before the show and the gang is probably already there – maybe half an hour.”

Michael rested his head against the back cushion of the car seat. “Stacy, we’re going to make a short stop before heading for the theater. You don’t have to come in, if you don’t want to, but you’re welcome, if you do.”

Stacy looked from Bill to Michael’s resting profile. “Hospital, right?” she said, “Of course I’m coming in, Michael.” She studied him quietly until the van stopped again at the back entrance of a large metropolitan hospital and they were whisked inside and straight up the elevator to the pediatric wards and private rooms. As Michael passed beside the beds talking to the children, shaking their hands and touching their faces and heads, Stacy watched each of his movements. The kids were excited that he had come to visit, calling out to him, their eyes lighting up as he spoke to each of them quietly.  A white clad nurse approached Michael and talked to him briefly. Michael followed her out of the large ward and down the corridor to a private door. Stacy couldn’t hear what they were saying, but there was an urgency to their conversation.  She glanced over toward where Bill stood, leaning against the wall. Slowly, she trailed after Michael and the nurse. They still talked quietly in the hall, the nurse’s hand resting on the closed door.  Michael nodded and glanced back to where Stacy approached. He held his hand out for her, silently inviting her to join him. Stacy clasped his fingers and held her breath as they entered the darkened room.

Intravenous equipment made small beeping sounds in the room and respirators hummed mechanically.  A small bandage-swathed head rested against the pillows. Mylar tubes ran from the child’s mouth and nose, connected to the breathing apparatus beside the bed and mingling with smaller tubes connected to the child’s pallid hand, resting bonelessly on top of the blanket. The child’s eyes were closed and her body was still. The nurse said, “She’s been like this for two weeks, not stirring, being fed intravenously.” Michael raised his finger to his lips, motioning the woman to silence. He released Stacy’s hand as he approached nearer to the comatose girl and looked down at her in silence. He turned back to the nurse and asked, “What’s her name?”

“Katherine,” she responded.

He turned back to the child, picking up her tiny, fragile-looking hand with his, placing it gently in his other hand as his fingertips stroked her pale flesh. “Katherine, this is Michael Jackson. I know you can hear me where you are. Listen to me. Hear the sound of my voice, Kat, and turn back. You’re headed in the wrong direction. Follow the sound of my voice. The nurse told me that before you fell into your deep sleep, you asked if she knew me, if she thought I might come to visit you. Well, Kat, I’m here.” Michael stopped speaking briefly as the door to the room opened very silently and two people entered, a man and a woman. Michael released Katherine’s hand and placed it back on the blanket. He approached the pair and spoke to them very softly. “The nurse told me about your daughter. I hope you don’t mind me coming in to visit her.”

They were stunned to be face-to-face with Michael and very tongue-tied. “No, we don’t mind. She’s a big fan of yours,” Katherine’s father replied extending his hand to offer it to Michael.

“Thanks,” he replied, briefly shaking the man’s hand.

Michael returned to the child’s side and placed her tiny hand in his again, stroking her limp fingers with his. “Kat, keep following my voice. Your mom and dad are here with me and they’ve been very worried. It seems you’ve kind of lost your way. I think, maybe, if you follow my voice, it will help you get back. Stacy, come here and grab hold of my hand. As a matter of fact, I could use all of your hands linked together. I’m going to ask the nurse to open the curtains so that you can see the light, Kat. Maybe it will guide you back.” Stacy had grabbed his outstretched hand. Soon, she felt the child’s mother’s fingers holding her left hand firmly and her eyes were blinded briefly as the curtains were raised and sunlight flooded the room. Michael’s voice could be heard clearly above the mechanical beeps, whirs, and hums as he continued talking to the child in a soft, calm voice. “Kat, I don’t want you to be afraid. You’re fine, just a little lost. I want you to return the way you came when you wandered away. If you listen very hard, I know you can hear me and see the sunlight pouring into the room. Follow the light and my voice, little one. We’re all waiting for you.”

Everyone within the room was holding his breath except Michael. He turned to Katherine’s father and said, “My mother’s name is Katherine.  What’s her favorite song?”

Katherine’s father shrugged, but her mother quietly responded, “She loves Heal the World, Michael.”

He smiled easily at the child’s mother, “Thank you. Kat, did you hear your mom’s voice. She’s here with me and she really wants you to come back to her. I don’t want you to be afraid, little one,” he said as he gently kissed the child’s forehead. Then, Michael began to sing to her so softly that Stacy had to strain to hear his voice.  When he had finished the song, he released the child’s hand and kissed her again. Michael turned to the child’s parents and said, “Talk to her and sing to her. She needs a focal point, a loved one’s voice, something to help her find her way back. Please call me at the Four Seasons when she comes around.  I’ll come back.”

The parents smiled and nodded.  As Michael led Stacy out of the room, she watched as a small tear escaped his eye. Stacy pulled him to a halt in the quiet corridor outside of Katherine’s room. “Michael,” she said quietly, “please stop.” Michael stopped, looking down into her eyes. “Michael … I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that before in my life.  Have any of them ever come back?” she inquired, thinking of all the children’s hospitals he had visited through the years.

“It happens,” he replied, “not as often as I’d like, but it does happen. Stacy, miracles happen every day.  It’s the person who recognizes them, believes in them that attracts them. It’s like a paper clip being attracted to a magnet, kind of. I believe strongly in these kids … and they believe strongly in me. That’s why the rumors and speculations are so painful to me, because they shake the kids’ faith. In the cases where the kids have come back because they heard my voice, the explanation lies less in my voice than in their faith in me.  Do you understand?”

“No, I don’t think I’ll ever understand this, Michael,” Stacy said quietly, “but each moment I spend in your presence, I learn something new and shocking about you. And I love you very much … more each minute.”  Stacy rose onto her toes to kiss him lightly and fleetingly on the cheek. She wondered what the news media would make of this visit to a children’s hospital which had so hurriedly been added to Michael’s itinerary for the day. Even more, she wondered what a reporter would make of Michael’s brief visit to Katherine’s room.

Michael and Stacy crossed the room speaking to the kids, laughing with them and touching them.  Michael had had several boxes of toys distributed to the children while he was visiting Katherine and the evidence of his passage was obvious to all as paper and cardboard cartons littered the ends of the beds.

At the end of the large room filled with children playing with their new toys, Michael turned and smiled that beautiful, open, honest smile.  “Bye, guys!  I’ve got to go to work.”

Their caravan left the hospital precincts as quietly as it had arrived with no fanfare, no announcement.  Their ride to the theater was very quiet.  Michael calmly looked out the tinted window as Stacy rested against the back of the seat, contemplating what she had just witnessed, still trying to reconcile this Michael Jackson against the accounts of his life she had read.  She relived moments with the kids and heard his soft voice calling out to a lost little girl in a hospital in New York.

Suddenly, she was jolted from her quietude by a loud noise that grew louder as they neared their destination.  Bill came swiftly and decidedly to attention as he said, “OK, Mike, we didn’t make it.  You know the drill.  Stacy, you are now, according to a certain mutual friend, my responsibility. So, please, don’t try to be brave. This is going to be scary. Don’t fight it. Just follow my instructions and you’ll be all right. Stacy, are you listening to me?”

Stacy nodded, “Don’t worry, Bill. I’m a firm believer in giving the experts full credit in matters of their particular area of expertise. What is that?”

“That is a sea of people who are waiting for our friend, Michael,” Bray replied tersely. “Stacy, I want you to remember what I am saying to you, so, please, look at me.” Stacy’s eyes were huge in her head as the noise rose to several decibels above painful and the van had not stopped yet. She turned slowly to look at Bill as he continued, “I know you are not used to this, but this is his life. Fear is not the problem. Don’t be ashamed of it. Don’t try to hide it. Don’t fight it. We will protect you. I have a dozen of the best personal body guards ready to keep them off of you. It’s important to protect your eyes, your face. Keep moving and you’ll be OK.  Are you with me?”

Stacy nodded, “Yes, I understand. Keep moving and leave the rest in your hands. But, Bill, can you tell me, exactly what are we going to do?”

“Why, Stacy,” he replied laughing, “we’re going to do what any sane, level-headed man would do in the same circumstances.  We’re going to hurl ourselves through the middle of that crowd that you hear. God, what a life!”

“Oh, boy,” she said, distinctly worried, “I can’t wait!”

Bill’s voice rose above the clamor surrounding her as she heard pounding on the outside walls and windows of the van. “Good, coz you won’t have to.  We’re here.  Mike?”

“I’m Okay, Bill,” Michael’s voice was calm. He looked down into Stacy’s upturned eyes and said, “If it comes to a choice, Bill, you know what to do.”

“Mike,” Bill was shouting now to be heard above the pounding and screaming outside the van. “It’s not going to come to a choice, for God’s sake.”

Michael just raised his brows, “Bill … you know what to do?”

“Yes,” Bray shouted, “Yes, I know what to do.”

The van rolled to a stop and was pummeled by a thousand fists and the screaming was enough to bring tears to Stacy’s eyes. They waited until the vehicle was surrounded by Bill’s men. Then the door opened and Bill exited first and shouted as Michael descended from the van, “Michael, I’ll get Stacy. You get inside. Understand?” Michael nodded. “Okay, let’s go,” Bray grinned.

Immediately, they were engulfed by a jumping, screaming, grabbing mass of humanity and they trotted directly into the midst of the turmoil surrounding them, a phalanx of six brawny bodyguards parting them as they went. Stacy lost a shoe as she ran within the cordon of bodyguards surrounding her.  She remembered Bill’s words about protecting her face too late to avoid a scratch. In just a few moments, they were inside the theater with the doors bolted against the mob, still jostling and screaming outside.

“Now, see, wasn’t that fun?” said a voice by her side. Shaking, she turned to see Bill’s hand stretched out toward her. Inside it rested her shoe.

“Funny man,” Stacy said breathlessly. “How often do you have to do this, Bill Bray?”

Bill laughed out loud. “Oh, not often. Just every time he goes outside … except when he is inside the gates at Neverland, that is.”

“Stacy, are you Okay?” Michael asked from close behind her.

“Yes, Michael, I’m fine.  Just a little shaken,” she replied turning towards him.

“You’re bleeding, Stace,” he said softly, blotting a drop of blood from below her left eye with his finger.

“Nothing. It’s nothing. Just a scratch, Michael,” she said, trying to smile up at him, but failing miserably.  “Really, I’m fine. Just let me catch my breath.” He reached out to cradle her head against his heartbeat and rock her in his arms.

“You’re shaking, woman,” he said, brushing the top of her head with his lips.  “Are you sure you’re okay?”  She nodded into his chest. She fought the tears with all her strength. There was no doubt in her mind that she was going to have to toughen up considerably if she expected to continue to travel as part of his entourage.

“Yes,” she finally responded.  “But I think it’s time for a visit to the little girl’s room.”

“Bill, stay with her?” he asked.  As Bray nodded, Michael turned to go backstage. Stacy rushed into the ladies room and sank gratefully onto the couch in the foyer. How did this man take the emotional turmoil he lived with daily?  No one could be that strong, that determined. Her mind recoiled as she contemplated his life from the age of ten years, when he had almost been choked to death when the fans had grabbed a scarf wrapped around his neck and pulled. He’d had to insert his hands between the scarf and his neck and scream for help. He’d always lived like this … death threats … running through masses of screaming teenagers … yet, he was a sea of calm and peace and serenity.  Surely, he had been scared to death at ten, must still be scared to death.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Captain has requested that all food and drink be stowed in the kitchen. Please return your seats to the upright position and stow your dinner trays in the locked position in the seat in front of you. We are about five minutes from our destination. The weather in reality is hot and humid. The Captain has lit the fasten your seat belts signs and we are preparing for landing. We hope you have enjoyed your flight with us today and will plan your next trip with us. This imaginative interlude has been brought to you by withachildsheart. Thank you for flying with us.

Jan

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Captain EO


We’re on a mission for the everlasting light that shines
A revelation of the true enchantment of our minds
So long, bad times
We’re gonna shake it up and break it up
We’re sharing life brighter than the sun
Hello, good times
We’re here to stimulate, eliminate, congregate, illuminate
We are here to change the world!

So, just surrender ‘cauz the power’s deep inside my soul
Sing it!
We are here to change the world!

Filmed in three-dimensions and extending for 17 minutes, Captain EO, was yet another example of Michael Jackson’s long-form music videos that he liked to call “short films.” EO is a Greek word that refers to “dawn” or the “dawning of a new age.” It received a very limited release at the Disney Theme Parks in Anaheim, California; Orlando, Florida; Paris, France and Tokyo, Japan. A prominent feature of Tomorrowland, it played for an extended run of over a decade (from 1986 through 1996). The exhibit was re-opened after Jackson’s death in 2010.

The film, itself, is a science-fantasy-themed romp through Michael’s imagination. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by George Lucas, it focuses on a spaceship hurtling through space, manned by a misfit crew of ne’er-do-wells and captained by a Thriller-era Michael Jackson. Their mission is to deliver a gift to the Supreme Leader of a dark planet that more resembles a junkyard, but the rag-tag crew led by Captain EO could “screw up a one-car funeral.”

By sheer luck (because Hooter has eaten the map), their ship crashes into the landing beacon and they are captured by the Supreme Leader’s Sith warriors and delivered to her headquarters where they are sentenced to being turned into trash cans while Captain EO faces one hundred years of torture in her dungeons for “infecting her world with his presence.” As Captain EO accepts his punishment, he explains to the Supreme Leader (magnificently overplayed by Angelica Huston) that he has come to bring a gift to “someone as beautiful as you.”

Well, anyone seeing this film is now wincing in his seat because Angelica Huston is anything but beautiful in the guise of the Supreme Leader of this planet. She mostly resembles a spider suspended from the rafters by cables and hoses, her face and hands horribly distorted by the evil she personifies. She asks Captain EO if he thinks her beautiful and he responds, “Very beautiful within, your highness, but without a key to unlock it.”

“Show me this gift,” the Supreme Leader commands. It is at this point that Captain EO unleashes his powers. After a slight mishap when Hooter accidentally trips on EO’s cloak and knocks over the keyboard, his crew members magically transform into band instruments and begin to play. Captain EO draws his power from the music and with blinding flashes of light erupting from his wrists, transmutes the Sith warriors into dancers as he leads them in a precision-choreographed dance routine to the strains of We Are Here to Change the World (see partial lyrics above.)

The Supreme Leader calls for her “whip warriors” who challenge EO to a duel. With sparks flying back and forth between EO and the whip warriors, Fuzzball ties the whips together which ends the duel. Captain EO transforms the whip warriors and several dark warriors who have been encased in the steel and iron architecture of the Supreme Leader’s stronghold into dancers and levitates up to caress the Supreme Leader with the light-show dancing from his hands. Angelica Huston is revealed as a beautiful queen attired in flowing, diaphanous robes; the stronghold becomes a Maxfield Parrish painting of Greek columns and marble staircases through which can be seen a paradise of verdant pastures and trees. The dark planet morphs into a Garden of Eden as the Supreme Leader waves goodbye to her visitors. Captain EO strides off in time to the music of Another Part of Me and the credits roll.

Captain EO is another audio-visual extravaganza born in the mind of a master storyteller with layer after layer of meaning and purpose. While the screenplay is attributed to Francis Ford Coppolla and Disney Imagineering, it has unmistakable earmarks of Michael Jackson’s wit, humor, philosophy and message. Jackson’s love of all things Disney and strict adherence to excellence made the marriage between Jackson and Disney a match created in heaven. To this day, more than twenty-four years after the making of Captain EO, no other so-called ‘rock star’ has been asked to team up with the Disney Theme Parks on a project of this scale or magnitude.

The healing messages brought out in the film play well alongside the messages that Disney Imagineers have been embedding in their films throughout their tenure. The fact that EO – and Michael – could see beauty behind the most dire of people and circumstances should not go unnoticed. The message that we all have beauty inside us – that we all contain a spark of divinity – regardless of our outward appearance or our own ignorance and mistreatment of that spark – is very clearly one of Michael Jackson’s firmly-held beliefs. He spoke of that belief in Dancing the Dream –Wise Little Girl (pgs 98-99). He embodied that belief by befriending horribly disfigured children whose fathers had burned them beyond human recognition, by inviting them into his home and his life, by promising that he would take care of them. He didn’t pity these children – for that would imply a judgment – and Michael never judged these children –to him they were beautiful souls-in-the-making and, as such, he just loved them from the bottom of his heart. He exemplified that philosophy by visiting hospitals and orphanages around the world, by bringing light and love into the lives of catastrophically-ill or abandoned children around the world. He cultivated that belief in his music and films and speeches and performances throughout his four-decade-long career.

Secondly, the message that we are here to change the world is one that jumps out at us from the screen and from the music that accompanies the images. It’s a responsibility that Michael Jackson took very, very seriously. He reiterates the message countless times throughout his career – from In Our Small Way (see earlier post on this website) to We Can Change the World (The Jacksons Victory album) to We Are The World (with Lionel Ritchie) to Man in the Mirror, Another Part of Me (BAD album) to Heal the World and Keep the Faith (Dangerous Album) to Earth Song (HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book 1) to – well, the list goes on and on! He never tired of the message! He died attempting to kick it into overdrive and deliver it just one more time!

This is not a popular message – it makes us responsible for our own fates – it takes the guesswork out of the equation. We would rather believe that we are powerless to make any significant difference in our lives (personal or collective) because it leaves us off scot-free – we have no obligation. We would rather blame our circumstances on a “God” who is angry with us over some slight or because we’ve acted in ways we think our Higher Power would not approve. So, HIV/AIDS becomes a scourge visited upon us by a vengeful Creator rather than the result of our own stupidity and cupidity; tsunami’s and earthquakes become God’s judgment and punishment rather than the result of our own exploitation of our earth, spewing poisons into our atmosphere and changing the climate of our world. The fact that Michael Jackson saw and sang about making a difference and being the change we wish to experience in our world over twenty-five years ago speaks volumes about his concern for all of us and for our planet, and his devotion to getting the word out long before it was popular or trendy.

That devotion even extended to continuing with the project at all costs, including the risk of personal injury. Yes, Captain EO is another project during which Michael Jackson was injured. During the filming of the “whip warrior” duel, one of the flying whips from which he was twirling and dodging in desperate attempts to escape opened a gash beside his mouth which is clearly visible in the dance studio rehearsal footage for the sequence during We Are Here to Change the World. Jackson made light of the injury and continued filming.

Michael Jackson was a powerful messenger because he had an unparalleled platform from which to broadcast his messages. He used multiple media to get his messages across to worldwide audiences. He catered to visual learners with his films and stage presence, to auditory learners with his songwriting abilities and vocal virtuosity. He was, arguably, the greatest entertainer the world has ever known, co-creator of the biggest-selling albums and singles in history, a world record-holder in concert attendance, a visionary collaborator in the largest-selling video compilations in the history of the genre, an inexhaustible warrior for peace, unity, compassion, and unconditional love (and against no one and nothing) and the most vocal and outspoken champion for children and children’s issues the world has ever known, using his personal appearances as venues to speak to a world that just couldn’t – or wouldn’t – hear.

God bless him! The world will never know another like him! One scrawny, skinny, fragile-looking man did the work of millions during his short sojourn among us. May he rest in the unconditionally-loving arms of his Higher Power’s embrace. He’s earned it!

Jan

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