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Global MJ Pilgrim "I'm with the doll"

World Cry and the case for ‘Cry’

large-rippedA combination of memorial service and charitable fundraiser, World Cry was the dream of an American Michael Jackson fan named Amber Sipes. [1]

It brought fans together by the glow of candlelight, to read poems and messages for Michael on the anniversary of his passing, and to sing along to Michael’s recording of ‘Cry’ from the ‘Invincible’ album. [2]

‘We all cry at the same time tonight.’ [3]

The first time I participated in World Cry was on 25 June 2010, at Piccadilly Circus in London.  Like many other fans, I’ve done it at the same time every year since, either in a group or a quiet space of my own.

The most memorable was in 2013 when I planned to be at Neverland, presumably by myself, to remember Michael in private outside the gates of his former home.  Only it turned out that I wasn’t to be alone.  Lonjezo from Malawi and Marge from Toronto also arrived to pay their respects.  Although they hadn’t known about World Cry, both happily joined in with me in a close circle as I spoke a quiet introduction and prayer/mediation intention, and then turned on the song on my phone.

An incredible thing happened.  Michael sang ‘Somebody shakes when the wind blows…’ and the branches of the Neverland oaks stirred overhead in the wind, their leaves sighing like the sea that can be heard in the recording.

As the song reached its impassioned crescendo, our close circle became a spontaneous group hung.  It was an experience both inexplicable and wonderful.

cry‘Cry’ is a very special song.  Joe Vogel refers to it as a universal lamentation. [4]   When used in solidarity with others during World Cry on 25th June each year, it becomes a prayer for healing for both the planet and our own wounded souls – and for Michael, whose reputation has been constantly under attack from many sources since his passing.

When his album, ‘Invincible’ was released in 2001, the song almost seemed to go un-noticed, or was dismissed as messianic.  Even generally favourable album reviews often seemed to miss the heavier material, like ‘Cry’.

‘On “Invincible” he goes back to what he does best—breaking down musical barriers while fighting to get the girl.’ [5]

This quote from PopMatters appeared on the Michael Jackson social media accounts on 7 Oct 2016.  It’s fairly typical of some of the positive reviews the ‘Invincible’ album received on its release, and seems to saying ‘Hooray!  The king of pop has gone back to entertaining us rather than wanting us to help him change the world.’

These reviews, despite being complimentary, make me wonder how many times the author listened to the album before penning the review.  What about ‘All the Lost Children’ which, although having a sweet melody, is about a serious subject, and what about ‘Cry’?

‘Cry’ seems to me to be very much a plea from Michael, who had earlier in his career encouraged us to ‘make that change’ and ‘heal the world’ and who now begs us to help him get on with the job of making it happen: ‘we can do it if we try’.

This track is an obvious successor to ‘Earth Song’ and sung with such passion, it’s difficult to believe Michael didn’t write it himself.  The composer was R. (Robert) Kelly who also wrote ‘You Are Not Alone’ and ‘One More Chance’.

It doesn’t really matter.  In performing the song and producing with Kelly, Michael makes it his own.  Here is an artist, globally adored, who has willingly taken on the mantle of healer – to use what he saw as his God-given gifts, to make the world a better place; to heal the children; to save the planet.

But, despite ‘Heal the World’, despite ‘Earth Song’, the world and many of its children, were still in trouble.  No matter how sweetly he sang, or how passionately he raged into the microphone in the dark of the recording studio, not enough of us had taken up the mantle to make the world a better place.

‘I can’t do it by myself’. [6]

In using ‘Cry’ as a memorial song on the fateful date of June 25th once a year, we are acknowledging our pain and loss over the death of Michael Jackson.  But we are also joining him in his plea for the planet.  We WANT to make it a better place.  We WANT to share the load that he took up when he first started writing and singing songs that made us think about important issues.

When he found his personal voice, and put his fears, longings and prayers into words and music, Michael Jackson willingly shouldered the mantle of light-bringer, to shine a light into the dark corners of global society, so we could see for ourselves what work needed to be done.

Every time I listen to ‘Cry’ I find myself thinking, in response to Michael’s plea, ‘You are not alone in this.  We are here to share the load with you.  We will carry on the work for you.’  And, if we have our way, we will let everyone know that it was Michael Jackson who inspired us and showed us the way.

‘Change the World’. [7]

Kerry Hennigan
January 2017




[3] ‘Cry’ by R. Kelly

[4] Vogel, Joseph “Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson!


[6 and 7] ‘Cry’ by R. Kelly

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A bitter-sweet sort of agony – On being an MJ pilgrim

Story and Photos* by Kerry Hennigan

A Michael Jackson pilgrim is what I call a fan who travels the country or the world to visit places relevant to Michael’s life or to attend special events honouring his art and legacy. They are a culturally diverse group of individuals from many countries, and since June 2010 I’ve been fortunate to consider myself one of them.

While many people think of pilgrimage in terms of traditional sacred journeys to places like Santiago de Compostela in Spain, following in the footsteps of Jesus in the Holy Land, or travelling to other sacred sites like Lourdes, there are also many types of secular pilgrimage.  Michael Jackson pilgrimage belongs in the latter group, of course.  We love and admire Michael as a human being; we don’t worship him as a god.

California locations like Neverland in the Santa Ynez Valley and Forest Lawn, Glendale are the most obvious places of pilgrimage for MJ fans. In Hollywood his star is on the Walk of Fame and just down Hollywood Boulevard is Pantages Theatre where he filmed scenes for “You Are Not Alone.”  Michael’s final rented home in the Holmby Hills part of Beverley Hills and the Jackson family compound in Encino are examples of other places to include on any LA-based ‘Michaeling’ holiday.

There are no ‘rules’ to follow – like any journey taken by choice, the itinerary should be what the individual pilgrim wants it to be.

Some of us travel to see monuments and statues of Michael – in China, London, Hong Kong, Rio and other places. Happily more are cropping up around the world as Michael’s legacy continues to grow.  When I attended the unveiling of the magnificent statue of Michael by Lu Zhengkang in the Guangzhou Sculpture Garden in China (photo above), I was in the company of hundreds of fans from China, Hong Kong and Macau, didn’t understand the language (except when my HK friends spoke to me in English) and yet had an absolute ball interacting with everyone as much as I could!

We had Michael in common.  What more did we need?

The author in Guangzhou, China with local Michael Jackson fans for the unveiling of Lu Zhengkang’s statue of MJ – 1 January 2011.

By contrast, being a solitary visitor to this statue’s twin in the sculpture garden at the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Garden in Kansas years later was equally as moving, but in a more personal way. Luckily some US visitors came by and offered to take some photos of me with the statue in case I ever needed to remind myself I had really been there!

Some pilgrims will take in costume and artifact displays like the MJ FanFest (in Las Vegas in December 2011) or the collection that was housed at the MJ Galley at Ponte 16 in Macau. I used to love visiting Ponte 16 and enjoyed staying in the hotel there on two of these occasions. Sadly, I couldn’t ever afford to book their special MJ-themed suite!

Not surprisingly, considering the many cities he visited on his world tours, Europe has plenty of opportunities for Michaeling: the HIStory statue located in Best in the Netherlands, for instance, and the fan-created street memorial in Munich, Germany, opposite the hotel where Michael stayed when visiting that city.

Photos posted on social media of other places fans have encountered provide plenty of items for the pilgrim’s ‘wish list’.

There are numerous artifacts to view at Hard Rock properties all over the world, and at the Hard Rock Cafe in Penang, Malaysia, a large seated statue of Michael reminiscent of the Lincoln Memorial in Washing DC is a permanent fixture right at the entrance (but there is none of his memorabilia inside, unfortunately).

Michael’s statue in front of the Hard Rock Cafe at the Hard Rock Hotel resort on the Malaysian island of Penang.

Big tribute shows like Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson the Immortal World Tour, and their resident Michael Jackson One show in Las Vegas have also been successful in attracting fans from far and wide.

Over one extremely heady period ranging from Dec 2011 to October 2013 I saw Immortal in 5 different cities on three continents for a total of 14 shows.  Only the last of these was in my own home town.  My favourites were opening night in Vegas, Saturday night at the O2 in London, and Saturday night in Hong Kong, when the local fans hosted a large group from mainland China who came in especially for the occasion.

I sat with the mainland Chinese fans in seats down on the arena floor and was amazed at how they sang, ‘Earth Song’ word for word – like an actual chorus accompanying Michael! None of them spoke English (and most of them didn’t speak Cantonese – the language of Hong Kong).  It was an unforgettable moment and a wonderful reminder of the truly international appeal of Michael Jackson, world citizen.

When it was screening at the various Disney parks around the world, I would plan my travels to be able to see Michael circa 1986 in the lighthearted 3D space adventure ‘Captain Eo’.  I was eventually able to catch it at every one of the venues in which it had ever screened – Disneyland California (where I had first seen it in 1987), Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disneyland and Disney World in Orlando. It took some effort over a few years, but was certainly worth it, especially considering it’s now no longer screening at any of the parks.

With pals Queenie, Yoly and Jessica (from Hong Kong) at the Captain Eo Theatre in Tokyo Disneyland.

Of course there are other shows – like Adrian Grant’s long-running Thriller Live in London’s West End and in Las Vegas the MJ Live tribute show currently at the Stratosphere (formerly at Rio – where I saw it) plus numerous other tributes which can enliven the travels of the MJ pilgrim.  While you probably wouldn’t plan an overseas trip around these types of shows, they are good entertainment and great places to make some new friends among the fans attending the event. Thriller Live’s home at the Lyric Theatre in London also has a small memorial to Michael in the form of a plaque mounted on the wall in the lobby.

As Michael fans we are blessed indeed to have so many places to visit and, occasionally, exhibitions to view and special events to attend. All are a testament to the man we admire and love, the incomparable King of Pop and king of our hearts, and the source of some incredible moments of personal ecstasy as we enjoy, share and celebrate his legacy.

The author with celebrated photographer Greg Gorman’s 1987 portrait of Michael Jackson, temporarily exhibited at the Museum of Photography, Berlin, Germany.  *Photo by Yoly Leung, May 2016.

So where, you might well ask, does the ‘agony’ come into it?

The more you get to know some of these places and the more fans you meet, the more you discover to add to your wish list. It’s frustrating being on the other side of the world, for example, and not having the time or wherewithal to see or do everything when Michaeling opportunities arise.

That’s one sort of bitter sweet agony.  The other, which is more acute, is knowing that as a pilgrim you have fallen short of the real prize, which is now unobtainable. This is the agony of us late-comers to MJ fandom who never saw Michael perform live, much less had a chance to meet him. We never made the ultimate pilgrimage – to attend a Michael Jackson concert, or to see him when/if he was visiting our own part of the world.

For us, this lack of first-hand experience of Michael has driven us to travel the world ‘in Michael’s footsteps’ (as my friend Nena calls it) as if attempting to make up for what we have missed.

There can be no adequate compensation for never having seen Michael in person, so it’s just as well to have a pilgrim’s wish list that is ‘bottomless’.

Like mine.

The author with Britto’s mosaic portrait of Michael Jackson at Espacio Michael Jackson, Santa Marta favela, Rio de Janeiro, where Michael filmed parts of ‘They Don’t Care About Us’.

An earlier version of this article was posted on Facebook in October 2013:

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Michael Jackson, Shiva and the Cosmic Dance

[The similarities in Michael’s poem ‘Heaven is Here’ and the story behind the great bronze sculptures of Shiva performing the cosmic dance have long fascinated me. The photos and video footage of Michael dancing in a raging desert sandstorm from the ‘Dangerous’ television commercial also remind me of the Shiva bronzes. They are some of the most powerful images of Michael I have ever seen.

What follows may be just a piece of imaginative fantasy on my part – but I tend to favour synchronicity over coincidence, especially considering the insight Michael has granted us into his creative processes over the years. As we all know, when it came to his art he left nothing to chance. – Kerry Hennigan]

In “Dancing the Dream”, his 1992 book of poems, song lyrics and reflections, Michael Jackson gives us a poem called ‘Heaven is Here’. In this striking piece of prose he writes (in part):

You and I were never separate
It’s just an illusion
Wrought by the magical lens of

There is only one Wholeness
Only one Mind
We are like ripples
In the vast Ocean of Consciousness

Come, let us dance
The Dance of Creation
Let us celebrate
The Joy of Life

The poem is indicative of Michael’s many works on ‘oneness’ and ‘wholeness’ not just with each other, but with the Creator, by whatever name we call Him/Her or the divine Force. The dance as an act of creation and an analogy of creation itself, reflects ancient wisdom – especially that of Eastern philosophies.

From the time I first read it, this poem, accompanied in the book as it is by photos of Michael dancing in the desert (stills from the promotional video for the ‘Dangerous’ album) reminded me of the great Chola bronze depictions of the Hindu god Shiva as Nataraja, Lord of the Dance – the cosmic dancer who performs his divine dance to both destroy world weary views and herald the arrival of a new world in its place.

The dual nature of his dance are the Lasya (the gentle form), associated with the creation of the world, and the Tandava (the violent and dangerous dance), associated with the destruction of weary perspectives and lifestyles.

In essence, the Lasya and the Tandava are dual aspects of Shiva’s nature; for he destroys in order to create, tears down to build again. [1]

He holds a drum in one hand, with which he makes the first sounds of creation, and fire in the other – the fire that will consume the universe. At the same time, with his lower right hand, he makes a gesture that allays fear. Beneath his feet he tramples a small figure that represents illusion, which leads mankind astray. Shiva’s front left hand, pointing to his raised left foot, signifies refuge for the troubled soul. The energy of his dance makes his hair fly to the sides. The symbols imply that, through belief in Shiva, his devotees can achieve salvation. [2]

10915272_10203757583715226_6884599099477970321_nNow Michael Jackson was no Hindu deity; he was as human as you or me, except, he was an enormously talented, highly intelligent and inquiring individual who believed he had been blessed with such gifts for a purpose. He consciously used these gifts to inform, influence and create change.

He can be seen to be a benevolent, all embracing (but deceptively harmless, perhaps) pied piper of nations in the first part of the short film for Black or White – and then becomes ‘dangerous’, ‘violent’, sexually charged and ‘subversive’ in the controversial black panther dance that follows the song in the full length version of the video.

In an interview given in 1992 when asked about the black panther dance, Michael explained “Anger and rage are the prelude to a shift in consciousness. Unless we feel rage at some of the inequities and injustices of our society, there is no hope for transformation.” [3]

As with Shiva, there is an important purpose to this dual vision of the song’s writer/choreographer – in order to create a harmonious existence for everyone regardless of race, creed or colour, one has to recognise, acknowledge and dance/stamp out the ignorance. It should not be a solo act either, but a performance that draws the attentions of others to the problem(s).

I don’t know whether Michael made the connections I have made with the cosmic dance of Shiva – whom he certainly knew of in the form of Nataraja (Lord of the Dance). Michael had help from his friend Deepak Chopra in preparing “Dancing the Dream”, and as fans we’ve come to understand that there was little Michael did in terms of his art that was not deliberate, and planned, fine-tuned and perfected so as to get his message across.

In 2009 after Michael’s passing, Viraf Sarkari, co-director of the event management agency Wizcraft told the Times of India about Michael’s 1996 visit to India on his HIStory tour. “We first met him in Los Angeles to confirm the concert. We were told he is very keen on performing in India. We’d presented him with a Ganesha, a Nataraj and a sherwani. And without requiring any explanation, he said, “Yes, that’s Ganesha, the god of luck.” Even when politician Bal Thackeray presented a silver statue of Shiva as Nataraj to Michael he didn’t need the politician’s explanation and said, “Yes, I know that’s the god of dance and art.” [4]

Shiva has other identities too, and one of them is as a Guru, or teacher of all types of knowledge (including music). In this form, called Daksinamurti, Shiva personifies the ultimate teacher – the embodiment of knowledge and the destroyer of ignorance. So, even in this seemingly benign form, the duality of his nature and intentions remains.

With knowledge comes awareness and enlightenment as a result of self-realisation. The outcome is freedom – from ignorance and fear. In ‘Heaven Is Here’ Michael tells us to not be afraid to know who we are…

You are much more
Than you ever imagined

You are the Sun
You are the Moon
You are the wildflower in bloom
You are the Life-throb
That pulsates, dances
From a speck of dust
To the most distant star

And you and I
Were never separate
It’s just an illusion
Wrought by the magical lens of Perception

Let us celebrate
The Joy of Life
Let us dance
The Dance of Creation

One of Michael’s friends and creative collaborators told me in the year after Michael’s passing that we can never lose him; in his spiritual form he is all around us and inside us. He is a part of us, and we are part of him.

It’s as Michael wrote in his poem “you and I/Were never separate/It’s just an illusion/Wrought by the magical lens of Perception.”

It is Michael Jackson speaking, but it could just as easily be Shiva, the ultimate teacher.

In his poems, songs and his dancing, Michael has interpreted Shiva’s cosmic dance for the enlightenment of his global audience.

Heaven is Here
Right now is the moment
of Eternity
Don’t fool youerself
Reclaim your Bliss


Conceived and written by Kerry Hennigan.  Originally published on Facebook on 17 January 2015:

10931510_10203757587835329_1228745484215141078_n[1] Wikipedia
[2] The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Excerpts from “Heaven Is Here” are from the book “Dancing the Dream” by Michael Jackson, originally published by Doubleday 1992, reprinted 2009.

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What is it about ‘Blood on the Dance Floor’? or: Michael Jackson as alpha male

By Kerry Hennigan


It’s the thumping, Latin-infused beat; it’s the grit and growl of Michael Jackson’s vocals; it’s the violent tone of the subject matter; it’s Michael’s sharply defined, mature features in the short film; it’s the ruby red ensemble he wears; it’s his shiny black locks caught back in a French braid which he whips about his shoulders as he dances.

It’s “Blood on the Dance Floor” – song and short film. And it’s almost guaranteed to send some of Michael’s female fans into near orgasmic ecstasies. (Just ask me, I’m one of ‘em!)

The song had its genesis as early as 1990 as a collaboration with Teddy Riley. Seven years later the demo was revisited and re-recorded by Michael with his 4-man creative team at Mountain Studio in Montreux, Switzerland in January 1997, during a break between the first and second legs of his HIStory world tour.

Teddy Riley’s 2-track recording was completely re-created as a big multi-track, according to Brad Buxer, as there was no way to mix Riley’s original. When the team played the new “Blood on the Dance Floor” the first time, Michael’s comment was “This is delicious!”[1]

The track continued to be augmented by Michael and Brad Buxer back in Los Angeles. It was finally released on 21 March 1997 as the first single from the (then) forthcoming album “Blood On The Dance Floor: HIStory In The Mix.” [2]

This song speaks to something primeval in our psyche. But it’s not the psyche that resides in the rational, reasoning parts of our brain; it’s the earthy, solar-plexus dwelling, dangerous thinking that arises from our inner depths. In fact, you could quite bluntly say that, for some of us, it’s Michael speaking directly to our deepest, darkest hidden desires.

We’re not talking about enduring, sentimental love here. “Blood…” is the antithesis of heartfelt ballads like “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” and “You Are Not Alone”. This is passion and lust without any excuses.


Doubters just need to read some of the comments posted under the short film for the song in various forums. For example: “I wish I had his number…” “He is Fierce… OMG!” “So sexy!” and, my personal favourite to date: “Hot, hot, HOT! He is so alpha male in this. Whew! Be still my heart…..”[3]

Of course, Michael’s fans were aware of his animal magnetism long before the release of “Blood on the Dance Floor”. Going back to his 1987 album “Bad” with songs and short films like “Dirty Diana” and the title track, it was obvious that a more mature, aggressive edge to Michael’s songs and performances was emerging. In the film “Moonwalker” when he strutted his stuff in shiny black leather pants to the tune of the Beatles’ hit “Come Together”, Michael was clearly pushing up the temperature.

(An interesting aside to this is the fact that a movie still of Michael performing “Come Together”, combined with a 1997 photo by Bill Nation, provided the model for Will Wilson’s painting for the “Blood on the Dance Floor” album cover.) [4]

In asking what is it about “Blood on the Dance Floor” that sends some of us fans into raptures, we have the answers right in front of us, whether we’re listening to the track or watching the short film. It’s Michael dark and dangerous. Brad Buxer revealed at one of his “In the Studio with Michael Jackson” guest appearances that “when he was in his dark mode [as in “Blood on the Dance Floor”] – that’s the best Michael.” [5]

There’s no doubt that Michael was a complicated musical genius who created, sculpted and honed his public persona over the decades to meet his own constantly growing expectations of excellence. From a young age Michael had set himself the goal of perfecting his art until he was the best at whatever he did. He worked at it until he achieved it, and then he set the bar higher.[6]

For self-preservation, there had to be a layer of emotional ‘protection’. While he frequently presented a sunny, child-like nature in public, and was delighted by simple things (playing games, making prank calls to his friends), beneath that veneer there were very adult emotions and sensibilities to which Michael gave full voice in his songs, concerts and short films.

Being a complex, creative individual means we can’t neatly label Michael as “dark” or “light” (or, speaking metaphorically, “black” or “white”- if you don’t mind a bad pun). This too has been stressed by those who knew him from working closely with him on his various recording, filming and concert projects. That word – “genius” – comes often from the lips of these individuals in attempting to describe Michael.

The person we see in the “Blood…” short film is Michael the performer. He is playing a part – that of a man attracted to a woman with a deadly reputation. He flirts with her and dances with her, but is he going to be stabbed in the back by her – whether physically or emotionally? He’s willing to take that risk, despite the fact “the girl is dangerous…” The femme fatale is a recurring theme in Michael’s music.

The question is, who is going to get burned most by this experience – the woman with the bad reputation, the man who desires her and pursues her (on to the dance floor, at least) or the listener/viewer, who may need to monitor their blood pressure.

If you look at some of the few rehearsal photos we have for “Blood” you will see Michael apparently laughing and having fun with his fellow dancers. This is Michael “off stage”. When the cameras roll, and the call is for “action” he is seriously hot, sexy, and yes – definitely an “alpha male”.


Michael actually “hated” the short film we love so much, according to Brad Buxer. It didn’t tell a story like some of his other music videos. Michael just didn’t get the fact that he was “cooler than cool”. [7]

The launch of the short film on VH1 was cause for comment on ET which noted it was his first video release since becoming a father. The commentators are (typically) preoccupied with his appearance:…

The album “Blood on the Dance Floor” was released on vinyl and CD in May 1997, two months after the release of the single.

In the chronology of Michael’s musical canon, the “Blood…” album comes at an interesting time. It is preceded by the raging emotional highs and lows of “HIStory: Past, Present & Future, Book 1” – a towering achievement that gave us “Earth Song”, “They Don’t Care About Us” and Michael’s incredible vocal performance on the Charlie Chaplin classic “Smile” among other memorable tracks.

It is succeeded by 2001’s “Invincible” which re-visited, up-dated and incorporated so many different musical styles and displayed Michael’s broad range of vocal capabilities (e.g. contrast “Butterflies” with “2000 Watts) and gave us the gem, “Speechless”.

Between these two considerable achievements “Blood on the Dance Floor” comes as a full-blooded assault on the senses, with the remixes of some of the “HIStory…” tracks fitting perfectly “in the mix” with the five new tracks premiered on the album.

Of the latter, there are some that would have been stand-outs even on an entire album of new tracks: the songs from Michael’s short film (long form) “Ghosts” for example, and especially “Morphine”. This would have made an incredible short film of its own, if Michael had cared to make one. (Just imagine the publicity that would have generated!)

The “Blood on the Dance Floor” album is an excellent example of how Michael Jackson was forever moving forward in his music and the performance of it. This trend continued right up to the planning and rehearsing for “This Is It”. During that time he worked on new songs to be introduced via his O2 concerts. These were reputedly to be released sequentially as digital downloads that would provide the fans with a full album of new music by the close of his 50-date London tenure.

Throughout his career Michael Jackson willingly sacrificed himself in the cause of creating great art. He did it over and over again, with each new, ground-breaking project. That was the real “blood on the dance floor”; it wasn’t a song, a short film or an album. It was his life as the consummate artist and showman.

The Song:
  • Blood on the Dance Floor – album title track and single (1997)
  • Blood on the Dance Floor – remixes – TM’s Switchblade Mix – Refugee Camp Mix – Fire Island Vocal Mix – Fire Island Dub – T&G Pool of Blood Dub – Refugee Camp Dub – Acapella – TM’s O-Positive Dub
The Videos:
[1] Author’s personal notes from Brad Sundberg’s “In the Studio with Michael Jackson” seminar at Thriller Villa, Las Vegas, 10 October 2015, with guests Brad Buxer and Michael Prince.…
[2] Joseph Vogel “Featuring Michael Jackson” Baldwin Books 2012.
[4] MJJ Magazine Issue #7
[5] Author’s personal notes from “In the Studio with Michael Jackson” seminar at Thriller Villa, Las Vegas, 10 October 2015.
[7] Author’s personal notes from “In the Studio with Michael Jackson” seminar at Thriller Villa, Las Vegas, 10 October 2015.
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The Doctor: a Victim of Circumstance or His own Incompetence?

‘The Doctor’ in the title of this article doesn’t refer to anyone as enduring as the BBC’s famous Doctor i.e. Dr. Who.  It refers to Michael Jackson’s personal doctor for the ‘This Is It’ concert rehearsals and the O2 residency that was to follow.

Even now, nearly eight years after Michael’s death, I am loath to type the man’s name. However, in the past week, 12th – 16th June 2017, Conrad Murray (there, I’ve written it!) has been making fresh headlines in the media, albeit a long way from the scene of his downfall in Beverly Hills, California.

Reports surfaced on more than one regional media website in the Caribbean that Conrad Murray has reputedly been treating patients at a private medical clinic in Trinidad without the required licence.

The Jamaican Observer reported on June 14th that Murray was the subject of a probe on the matter by the Ministry of Health in liaison with the Council of the Medical Board of Trinidad and Tobago.

According to the Observer, “Over the last weekend, the Sunday Newsday reported that Murray had been attending to patients at a private medical facility in central Trinidad.” (1)

I am always reluctant to read comments posted on news articles, given that they are often just an excuse for people to rant and proclaim their own views on the subject, often without recourse to verifiable facts!  But, I was curious in this instance to read if Murray was garnering any sympathy for his apparent predicament.

In this instance, the consensus seemed (logically) to be that the man needed to be properly licensed to practice in their country.  For sure, I thought.  One comment however suggested that given Murray had acquiesced to Michael Jackson’s desire for propofol to prompt sleep, he had been “a victim of circumstance” in the matter of Michael’s death.

The comment was not accusatory of MJ, but it was certainly ignorant of Murray’s culpability for what happened and sympathetic to his current situation.

Just as I normally avoid reading comments on public news sites, I also rarely respond to them. However, I could not let this comment on Murray pass without having my say.  I subsequently submitted the following reply:

Murray did not follow required medical practice, kept no medical records, mislead the paramedics into what he had given Michael, and delayed calling them far longer than he should have. He also lied to the police as revealed by his phone records and other evidence that came out in his criminal trial. Irrespective of what he was asked to do, it was his failure through negligence to properly monitor and assist his patient that was/is and always should be a criminal offence. He has always (in media interviews) denied responsibility for his own actions – this is unconscionable. The judge’s summation at Murray’s sentencing hearing is a damning indictment of this ‘doctor’s’ failure in his duty of care and attempts to cover it up. I suggest anyone with doubts about Murray’s guilt listen to what Judge Pastor has to say...

15 June 2017 – posted in ‘comments’ on the Jamaica Observer article. (2)

Initially I believed that, in taking on the job of Michael Jackson’s personal physician, Murray had just been totally out of his depth, despite his credentials as a cardiologist with clinics in Nevada and Texas.  But, that didn’t absolve him of not taking due care in treating Michael’s insomnia, or any other ailments.  If you’re not up to the job, get out and let someone better suited do it.  Someone, for example, who doesn’t leave his sedated patient unmonitored while he leaves the room to make phone calls!

However, Murray, in his actions prior and after Michael’s death, has displayed a desire for money that explains why he was willing to do what he did for Michael. Murray’s need for a big pay cheque was acute!  The man had serious financial problems before he took the job.  He asked for more money than Michael was prepared to pay, but still accepted a more reasonable figure and promptly closed his clinics and abandoned his patients to relocate to Los Angeles as the personal doctor to the world’s greatest music icon.

His financial plight explains his actions, yes, but it does not excuse them.

We must remember that at his criminal trial Murray waived the opportunity to speak in his own defence; yet while incarcerated by the State for the crime of involuntary manslaughter, he gave interviews to the media from his cell, and on release began the rounds of the media to tell his version of the story.

He would talk to the media – for a fee – but he wouldn’t talk to the jury to save himself from a prison sentence.  Why?  Because his story, as he would have us believe it in his documentary, in his television interviews and, most shameful of all, in his supposed ‘tell all’ book, consists of fabrications and obfuscations.

Murray had no defence that justified his actions in the way he treated (or mistreated) Michael Jackson, at least none that could have changed the minds of the jury.  Certainly, he had no defence that would stand up against the evidence that had been gathered by the prosecution.

Murray’s willingness to talk about his famous former patient outside of the court room, in return for financial reward, is shameful behaviour for a medical professional, irrespective of his role in that patient’s demise.

If it is indeed true that Murray has recently been treating patients at a clinic in Trinidad without the appropriate licence from the health authorities of that country, it is just the latest example of him revealing his true colours in terms of his lack of respect for his own profession, not to mention the trust patients have placed in him.

It is not a scenario that makes any sense, either, given the savage blow dealt his career by his conviction.  You would think that if he wanted to rebuild credibility he would be diligent in ticking all the right boxes, signing all the right forms, and acquiring the appropriate approvals to practice in the region in question.

If he has failed to do this, it is further proof of his flagrant disregard for correct medical procedures in the treatment of vulnerable persons.  You’d think he’d have learned his lesson.

michael jackson smile london 2009Lest we forget, here’s an extract from an article in the Telegraph of 7 November 2011 following the jury’s verdict:

[Prosecutor David] Walgren said: “Michael Jackson literally put his life in the hands of Conrad Murray. That misplaced trust cost Michael Jackson his life. He died alone in his bed. Conrad Murray left this vulnerable man, abandoned him, to fend for himself. It violates not only the standard of care, but decency from one human being to another.” (3)

Personally, while I detest what he did, I can’t bring myself to ‘hate’ Conrad Murray.  It serves no purpose to waste intense emotions on him – especially not if they give me an ulcer!  Rather, over the years since his actions of 25 June 2009 (and those leading up to that day) I have just wished him to disappear from public view.  I wished he would quietly redeem himself in the eyes of his Maker by doing charity work in some needy part of the world – out of our sight!

But no, as he has repeatedly surfaced with some comment, some statement, some tall tale or promotional plan or two, to keep our emotional wounds raw and weeping.  And now he’s making headlines again.

I think we’ve all bled enough, Dr Murray.  I wish you’d be gone.

Kerry Hennigan
June 15, 2017


Postscript, June 23, 2017:

According to an article published on the Trinidad Express website on June 17, Conrad Murray insists that he has been fully registered with the Medical Board of Trinidad and Tobago since 2000.  Murray’s medical licences for California, Texas and Nevada in the US have been suspended but he is adamant that he is properly licensed to practise in T&T.  A letter from Murray’s attorney to the MBTT claims that the Medical Board, its servants and/or agents and/or employees are “disseminating erroneous information with respect to my client’s registration status.”  The letter indicates that legal action might be forthcoming to solidify Murray’s status as a licensed medical doctor in T&T.

The article explains that while it is not necessary to renew a medical licence annually, an annual fee is required to be paid.  However, according to Murray’s attorney, the MBTT has refused to accept Murray’s fee.  This will be the basis for any legal proceedings against the MBTT.  He also added that action for defamation will be taken against Newsday for the “blatant falsehoods” printed in its reports.  Checks by the Sunday Express revealed Murray’s name is indeed listed on the MBTT’s National Register of Medical Practitioners. Dr Randall Rampersad, owner of the medical centre where Murray has been retained as a cardiovascular consultant, told the media that he will also be filing separate lawsuits next week against various entities, as his clinic has been brought into disrepute.

Rampersad cites Murray’s plans to establish an “acute stroke and vascular intervention centre” in Trinidad and operate a charitable foundation for people in need of surgeries who are on a waiting list in the public health sector as the reason for Murray being a target.  The attorney claims that people in the medical fraternity see him as a “threat” to their work, the extent of which is further detailed in the Express article. Murray believes “It is clearly an attack from the medical cartel.” (4)

While this news may make us re-think our opinions on Murray’s work in Trinidad, it does not change my sentiments as expressed above in relation to his actions associated with Michael Jackson nor the lack of remorse he has shown from those actions to date. – KH,  June 23, 2017


(2) Ibid






“Missing” Michael Jackson – as expressed by his fans – MJ Studies Today, June 2017

Abstract: Kerry Hennigan looks into the phenomenon of how Michael Jackson is missed by so many people when they have never met him personally or seen him in concert.

Column by Kerry Hennigan, editor of the monthly newsletter, A Candle for Michael, and administrator of the widely-subscribed Facebook group, Michael Jackson’s Short Film ‘Ghosts.

Is it possible to miss Michael Jackson if you never met him?

This is a question I have asked myself whenever I see fans post comments like “I miss him” in response to a photo or social media item about Michael Jackson. Yet we know they haven’t actually met him, and perhaps never saw him in concert…

Log in to continue reading:


Hennigan, Kerry. “MJ Studies Today XVIII (14-06-2017).” The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies 4, no. 2 (2017).

The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies asks that you acknowledge The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies as the source of our Content; if you use material from The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies online, we request that you link directly to the stable URL provided. If you use our content offline, we ask that you credit the source as follows: “Courtesy of The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies.”

Michael Jackson: Searching for Neverland – a review of the TV movie

First Impressions – a review by Kerry Hennigan, June 2017

Before watching this Lifetime tele-movie based on the book ‘Remember the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson in His Final Days’ by Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard with Tanner Colby, I had not only read the book (some time ago) but seen numerous excerpts, previews and promos for the film itself.


I’ve also met its star, Navi, a couple of times on visits to London for MJ events, so I kind of knew what to expect from him, too.  Navi loves Michael Jackson, and he also makes a living impersonating him.  I don’t doubt he took part in this project with the very best intentions for Michael’s legacy.


I thought Navi did an excellent job, despite not being a professional actor and having a British accent.  Like anyone playing a famous historical person, we need to put aside expectations of the actor being able to create anything more than an impression of that person.  The rest is just ‘smoke and mirrors’ (i.e. hair, make-up, costumes etc).


Still, Navi’s is a reasonable impression for the most part, and in rare moments, appearance wise, it’s quite uncanny.  But there are times when play-acting Michael Jackson becomes too much like a parody regardless of the best intentions.  The same is true when tribute artists attempt to represent MJ in a live performance.  It’s a fine line, and a difficult balancing act for anyone.


While this is a better bio-pic than anything we’ve seen previously (which is not saying very much, let’s face it) that doesn’t mean the bodyguards’ book and the film ‘Searching for Neverland’ are a true depiction of Michael or his family.


One of the glaring omissions from the film is any hint that Michael was continuing to work on his music once he arrived back in the US.  We are left thinking that he wasn’t working at all, while continuing to spend money seemingly heedless of unpaid bills (and wages).  This just isn’t true, as anyone who has heard his musical collaborator and friend Brad Buxer interviewed, can confirm.  Michael was working on new music while living in Las Vegas, and on songs like ‘Best of Joy’ right up to the end.


Because the period when Michael was in rehearsals for ‘This Is It’ in LA occurred after the period covered by the book and film, at no time do we have a chance to factor in Michael’s insistence on creating his greatest ever show for the O2 engagement.  Or the fact that, as it started to come together and he regained some of his self-confidence and love of performing, he began talking to his team about taking the show around the world.


If anyone was driving Michael Jackson hard, it was Michael Jackson himself.  We know he could never settle for anything less than perfection in his art.  Remember, this is the man who said: “Work like there’s no tomorrow.  Train.  Strive.  Really train and cultivate your talent to the highest degree.” (1)  This is an image completely at odds with the picture we are given via the bodyguards of Michael as a tragic figure -which I reject.  Nor do I believe he was the agent of his own demise, despite how hard he pushed himself.


Yes, he was haunted by the false accusations, emotionally and physically shattered by the gruelling 2005 trial, hounded by the media everywhere, and misguided in some of the people he trusted to look after his business and his money.  He was human, after all.


But, getting back to ‘Searching for Neverland’ – some curious aspects of Grace’s behaviour that were mentioned in the book have been left out of the movie, which has me wondering if they had decided for some reason to purposely sideline her character. There’s quite a bit in the book about Grace that is absent from the film.


Also absent (from both) is the third bodyguard, Mike Garcia, who disassociated himself from the book (2) and, more recently, the movie.


I could go on at length about the things I think could have been in the film – and in the book.  But it is the bodyguards’ viewpoint after all, and we need to remember they weren’t necessarily privy to everything that Michael did when they weren’t required to be by his side.  We should also expect a degree of ‘dramatization’.  Others have taken their doubts considerably further, however, in terms of the book’s so-called ‘revelations’. (3)


Another, and more important factor, is Dr. Murray’s responsibilities as Michael’s personal physician.  While Murray’s engagement in this role occurred outside the period of Whitfield and Beard’s time working with Michael, the film leaves the matter open to conjecture as to whether Murray was the cause of Michael’s death.


In my mind, there’s no doubt.


In talking about the film with a friend before either of us had seen it, I stated my belief that I didn’t think ‘Searching for Neverland’ was anything for us fans to worry about in terms of its impact on Michael’s legacy.  Now that I’ve seen it, I can say there are some aspects I am uncomfortable with… as was true for the book.


lifetime posterIn terms of the film, for us fans, Navi can never be completely convincing as Michael Jackson (irrespective of his accent) simply because he isn’t Michael; and the bodyguards’ version of events is just one of several that surfaced after the tragedy of 25 June 2009 which we have digested, debated and found incomplete or unconvincing in the years since then.


In the end, it doesn’t matter.  ‘Searching for Neverland’ is just a TV movie, and probably not the last one to be made about Michael Jackson.  We can expect more in the years ahead, and not all are likely to be as ‘benevolent’ as this one, or Michael portrayed by someone who cares about their idol as much as Navi does.


Having said that, though, I have to admit that, like reading the book, watching the film once is probably enough for me.  For the time being at least, my curiosity has been sufficiently satisfied.


Kerry Hennigan
4 June 2017

Navi talks about Michael:

(1) Michael Jackson “Moonwalk”


(3) by Belinda O.

Photos: Navi as Michael Jackson in ‘Michael Jackson: Searching for Neverland’ Lifetime (2017) (USA) (TV) (cable)



Michael Jackson – perceptions of a Cuckoo’s Child – MJ Studies Today, May 2017

Abstract: Kerry Hennigan describes why she had the feeling Michael Jackson was different from his siblings when she visited the Michael Jackson One show in Las Vegas.

Hennigan, Kerry. “MJ Studies Today XVII (14-05-2017).” The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies 4, no. 1 (2017).



Britain’s ancient landscape as painter’s muse at Salisbury Museum – Museum Crush

Source: Britain’s ancient landscape as painter’s muse at Salisbury Museum – Museum Crush

Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song” – an anthem for Earth Day and every day – MJ Studies Today, April 2017

14th April 2017

MJ Studies Today XVI

Abstract: In this column, Kerry Hennigan analyses Earth Song, the meaning and importance of this classic in Michael Jackson’s catalogue.



“We are here to change the world” – Chasing Captain Eo across the continents (and Disney parks)

Opening at Disneyland in September 1986, the 17 minute feature film Captain Eo represented landmark technology for its time.

Shot in 3D, executive produced by George Lucas of Star Wars fame, and directed by his friend Francis Ford Coppola (Apocalypse Now, the Godfather etc.) it starred Michael Jackson, fresh from the global phenomenon of his Thriller album.

Rusty Lemorande, who produced the film, co-wrote the story with Lucas and Coppola based on an idea by the artists of the Walt Disney Imagineering company.

The Imagineering team originally suggested that John Landis direct Captain Eo on the strength of his success working with Michael on the Thriller short film.  But George Lucas brought in Coppola instead.

At the entrance to Disneyland Paris, June 24, 2010.
Captain Eo theatre in Discoveryland, Disneyland Paris, June 2010.

The late James Horner, probably best known these days for his magnificent score for the movie Titanic, provided the score, with Michael penning two songs for the production, “Another Part Of Me” (1) and “We Are Here to Change the World” written with John Barnes, (2)

Michael reportedly came in with different versions of his songs on a daily basis, which has the ring of truth to it given what we know of Michael’s hands-on creative process and insistence on the highest possible standard in his art. (3)

In Captain Eo, Michael was accompanied by a cast of characters who seemed straight out of the Star Wars cantina scene – the pint-sized Fussball, two-headed Idey and Ody, the robot Major Domo and his mini-me Minor Domo, and everyone’s favourite critter, the elephant-like Hooter.

Captain Eo’s evil nemesis, the Supreme Leader of a decaying planet, was played by Anjelica Huston.

Though it opened in 1986, it was 1987 before I had the opportunity to see Captain Eo in Tomorrowland at Disneyland, California.  I remember being dazzled not only by the film, but by the in-theatre effects that accompanied it – lasers, lighting effects etc.  I came home telling everyone that it was like having Michael Jackson dance down the middle of the theatre right in front of me.

Captain Eo in Disneyland’s Magic Eye Theatre, Anaheim, California July 2010.

Looking back, that was obviously a fanciful exaggeration, but reveals the sort of impression that Captain Eo made on my memory – as one would expect for a project that cost US$23.7 million dollars. (4)

The theatre in Tomorrowland, Disneyland, just after one audience has filed out, and the next is waiting to come in.  July 2010.

Captain Eo closed at Disneyland, California on April 7,  1997 and lasted until August 16, 1998 at Disneyland Paris.  Thereafter it became another of the many Disney ‘lost attractions’ that were never expected to re-surface, expect perhaps as a nostalgia item on DVD or the Disney cable channel. Technology and special effects had evolved to a point where those in Captain Eo had become outdated and were at best described as “quaint” or, at worst “kitsch”.

Then, in 2009, Michael passed away, and there was a groundswell of support through the internet from MJ fans petitioning for Captain Eo to be returned to the Disney parks.  Questions were asked about it at the D23 Expo in September 2009.  At the time, Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger was quoted as saying that Disney was considering the possibility but that “It’s the kind of thing that, if we did it, would get a fair amount of attention and we’d want to make sure we do it right.” (5)

In the lobby of the Captain Eo theatre, waiting for the next screening, Disneyland Tokyo, March 2014.

Iger reportedly had legal and public relations folk warning him of the possible backlash to the attraction because of Michael’s controversial legal problems in later years.

Captain Eo song lyrics in English and Japanese inside the theatre at Tokyo Disneyland, March 2014.

Nevertheless, there was an executive review of the film in its original Tomorrowland theatre at Disneyland, followed by another screening for Michael’s children and family, in September 2009.  According to one report, “they loved it.” (6)

In 2010, Captain Eo finally re-opened in the Disney parks with the name on the attraction changed to read: “Captain Eo Tribute”.

I was planning to be in the UK in June 2010 for events related to the first anniversary of Michael’s passing when the news broke that Captain Eo would be reopening in Disneyland Paris on June 12.  I quickly booked a Eurostar daytrip from London to take advantage of being so close to the park.  Besides – it meant I would be travelling via the ‘chunnel’ (channel tunnel) which would be an adventure in itself.

My visit to Disneyland Paris took place on Thursday June 24, 2010.  I’m not likely to forget it – being the first time I’d seen Captain Eo in 3D on a big screen since 1987 – and my first ever visit to Disneyland Paris.

I remember thinking that the in-theatre special effects weren’t quite as I remembered them (in fact they were modified from the original presentation) but while it didn’t seem that Michael danced down into the theatre, I was stunned by the larger-than-life close-ups of him on the big screen.  I sat through three straight screenings that first time around.

Outside the Captain Eo attraction at Epcot, Disney World, Florida, October 2015.

Afterwards I chatted to a friendly female staffer manning the merchandise stall outside the theatre.  We both marveled at how, in Michael’s extreme close-ups, you could see the beginnings of a five-o’clock shadow emerging through his make-up!  (It’s true!  This is what impressed me!)

In the lobby of the Captain Eo theatre, Epcot, Disney World, Florida, October 2015.

And, of course, I bought up big on Captain Eo merchandise!

The trip to Disneyland Paris was just one part of a round-the-world Michaeling odyssey in June-July 2010 which eventually brought me to Disneyland in Anaheim, where the good Captain had returned to the Tomorrowland theatre on February 23 of that year.

On July 1 it also opened in Tokyo Disneyland and on July 2 in Walt Disney World’s Epcot.

But on this trip I only got to see him in Paris and Anaheim.  I was to return to see him for repeat screenings at Disneyland each subsequent visit to the US over the next three years, including Christmas 2011 and the night of Mickey’s Halloween Party in 2012 – a great time to be at Disneyland AND to see Captain Eo!  (The Haunted Mansion ride broke down while Litte MJ and I were on it… which seemed only appropriate given the occasion.  The ghosts were having the last laugh… after all, it was THEIR night!)

July 2013 was to be my final opportunity to see Captain Eo at Disneyland in Anaheim although I didn’t know it at the time.  But by the time of my next visit, December 2014, the theatre in Tomorrowland was being used for screening promotional clips for new Disney films.  Fortunately I followed my usual practice of attending multiple screenings each day I was in the park in 2013 – for which I was later grateful. Never let it be said that I didn’t always make the most of every opportunity!

Early in 2014 some good friends of mine in Hong Kong alerted me to the closing of Captain Eo at Tokyo Disneyland.  They suggested we go see it before its final screening, scheduled for June 30 that year.  Consequently, on the evening of March 15, 2014, Yoly, Queenie, Jessica and I duly joined the queue outside Tokyo Disneyland’s Captain Eo theatre.

It was bitterly cold outside, but there was a warm press of bodies in the theatre lobby where we eagerly awaited admission to the next screening.  The lyrics of Michael’s songs from the film were emblazoned on the walls of the theatre.  They really know how to pay tribute to someone in Japan!

We didn’t do much else that night except view Captain Eo repeatedly.  When my friends eventually returned to Hong Kong, I relocated to a hotel close to the Disney parks (Disneyland and DisneySea – the latter being even more spectacular than its neighbour) and spent three days just exploring them and, of course, seeing Captain Eo again.

The author and Little MJ with Captain Eo poster at Disneyland Paris, June 2010.

It’s worth noting that on its last day of screening at Tokyo Disneyland, there were queues up to 45 minutes long to get in to see Captain Eo.  MJ fans packed the theatre, many wearing Captain Eo t-shirts, and gave the film a standing ovation send-off. (7)

That left just Disney World in Florida, where Captain Eo continued to screen at Epcot until December 6, 2015.  I made it to the park in October of that year, and got to celebrate Halloween at “Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party”, where, to my delight, “Thriller” played over loud speakers a couple of times throughout the evening.

The author and Little MJ with portrait of Michael Jackson as Captain Eo at Disneyland, California.

Needless to say, I had a great time travelling and visiting the different Disney parks in the course of my quest to see Captain Eo everywhere I could. In the process of this journey over the years, I met other fans of Michael Jackson and his little 3D space odyssey.

So, on behalf of all the fans who did – or didn’t get to see Captain Eo in 3D at a Disney park, I hope you think I ‘done good’ for a gal from Down Under in managing to see Michael’s film in every Disney park in which it screened.  (I’m still visiting Disney parks whenever I can.)

Meanwhile, until the good captain and his delightfully odd-ball crew return to a Disney theatre or are unleashed on DVD/Blu-Ray or some other medium, in the immortal words of Captain Eo’s buddy Hooter:

“See ya later, trashcans!”

Kerry Hennigan
April 2017

All photos by Kerry Hennigan except photos of Michael Jackson with Captain Eo characters at Epcot, Walt Disney World, Florida (official Disney publicity photos).


(3) Wade Sampson, “More Untold Tales of Captain Eo”,
(4) ibid
(6) ibid


Forest Lawn, the Rose Bowl, Shambala, Vasquez Rocks and Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana – 2 & 3 December 2016

Part 1 – California/Nevada Road Trip – December 2016

In 2016 I undertook a three-week solo road trip covering parts of Southern and Central California and Nevada in the pre-Christmas weeks of December.  The route was planned for the usual ‘Michaeling’ (i.e. Michael Jackson-related) opportunities and to take in new or seldom-visited locales.  The result was a holiday that was both exhausting and incredibly satisfying.

15259499_10208012343641565_3165428888215488673_oIt began with a visit to Forest Lawn, fresh from LAX after I’d collected my rental car. Here I ordered flowers for Michael for Christmas, and bought a small bouquet to leave by the entrance of Holly Terrace with the tributes of other visiting fans.  I took photos, paid my respects at Michael’s earthly resting place and spent some minutes in quiet meditation and contemplation before taking in an exhibition at the Forest Lawn Museum.

The exhibition featured some artworks – paintings and sculpture – by Eyvind Earle who provided the concept art for Disney’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ animated feature, which I had been enamoured of as a child.  I still have a copy of the vinyl soundtrack LP, and the movie has only recently been reissued on DVD.  Thank goodness – because my VHS copy is unplayable due to many years of viewing!

I was surprised – and pleased – to discover that photography with a mobile phone was permitted in the museum, whereas previously there had been a total prohibition on picture-taking.  So, I tucked my big camera away in my bag and happily snapped away guilt-free with my phone.

15289063_10208011160411985_2176085410641540710_oFrom Forest Lawn it was a relatively short hop to the Rose Bowl Stadium, which, as all Michael Jackson fans will know, was the location for the Super Bowl XXVII game where Michael performed his landmark half-time show.

The date was 31 January 1993 and the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Buffalo Bills 52-17, not that many people remember that.  The stat that made the history books was for the TV ratings of the half time show, when Michael’s mini concert boasted more viewers than either half of the actual game.  He also started the trend for the appearance of big name artists at the Super Bowl and set a performance standard that others have been attempting to top ever since. (1)

Although no appearance fees are paid to Super Bowl halftime performers, in 1993 the NFL and sponsor Frito-Lay agreed to donate $100,000 to Michael’s Heal the World Foundation, as well as providing airtime promoting an appeal for the foundation’s Heal L.A. campaign.  The campaign – a pre-curser to the Heal LA student charitable group co-founded by Michael’s eldest son Prince at Loyola Marymount University in 2016 – aimed to provide health care, drug education, and mentorship for Los Angeles youth, particularly children affected by the aftermath of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. (2)

I’m not sure why I haven’t been to the Rose Bowl before… but this was definitely the year to tick that off my ‘wish list’.

Arriving in LA just prior to the first weekend in December also enabled me to attend Parents Day at Tippi Hedren’s Shambala Preserve for big cats in Acton, Ca. on the first Saturday of the month.  Michael Jackson’s tiger Sabu, formerly of the Neverland Zoo, had turned 18 years of age on 20 November 2016.  As his sponsor, who has visited him every year commencing 2011, I didn’t want 2016 to close without seeing him again.

Tippi herself lives at Shambala and is usually there on Parents Days to give us all a warm greeting and to sit and chat and have photographs taken with us.  This year though the windy weather kept her inside for the sake of her health.  But the rest of us toured the compounds and enjoyed the big cats being fed their treats by the animal crew before we retired lakeside for our potluck lunch.

sabu-2-dec-2016    sabu-dec-2016

Sabu was no longer where I had always seen him previously – in the enclosure he’d shared with his sister Thriller (who died of lung cancer in 2012).  Now he was next door, so photographic angles were a little different from what I was used to.  But, thanks to having a zoom lens on my camera, I was satisfied with the results (see two of my images above).

More importantly, of course, was Sabu’s apparent good health despite his maturity.

Not far from Shambala lies the scenic area of Vasquez Rocks, a popular movie location and the place where the scenes in Michael’s ‘Black or White’ video featuring the Native American dancers were filmed.  I came here last year in October, but filming at the base of the rocks prevented me from getting to the other side – the spot where Michael danced.  This year I simply drove through the rocks to the car park on the far side and walked back through, photographing everything as I went.

Being a weekend, and great weather for hiking, climbing, biking and whatever other outdoor activities take one’s fancy, there were plenty of folks about enjoying the spectacular scenery.  A couple of guys were flying a drone over the rocks to get aerial shots, and there was even a fashion shoot in progress against the dramatic sandstone backdrop.

15369047_10208019237173899_2044835975682944359_oVasquez Rocks has a fascinating geographical and anthropological history, and if you have time, I recommend following some of the trails using the free leaflet from the Visitor Centre and reading about the Tataviam Indians who lived here from approx 200 BC to the late 1700s AD – the beginning of the Spanish period in California. (3)

In his Handbook of Indians of California (1925) Alfred Louis Kroeber wrote:
“They cannot have been numerous. Taken to San Fernando or San Buenaventura missions, they dwindled rapidly, and the few survivors seem to have been so thrown in and intermarried with people of other speech that their own language became extinct in a couple of generations.” (4)

These Native Americans weren’t like the familiar Plains Indians we saw dancing with Michael here at Vasquez Rocks.  In that instance the Rocks were standing in for an archetypal Wild West backdrop as they have done in many Hollywood westerns of yesteryear.  Only this ‘wild west’ location is just approximately 50 miles from downtown LA.

On the way back to the San Fernando Valley and our hotel, an premature exit from the freeway prompted a visit to the Historic Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana in Mission Hills, founded in 1797. (5)  It is a beautiful property (as you can see from the photo at the top of this story) with an extensive museum which is worth exploring.  In the mid-late 70s and 80s I made a point of visiting any of the historic missions that were within reach of my travels, but had never been to San Fernando Rey until now.

The legacy of the missions in terms of the local Native American tribes is understandably controversial.  The fate of the aforementioned Tataviam being just one example of dispossession, relocation and decline/loss of cultural identity or actual extinction.


Nevertheless, there were a couple of delightful surprises in store for us here… a Sweet Sixteen ceremony taking place in the mission church, and in one of the museum rooms, the old organ (on the left in the photo opposite) that was used in the classic black and white comedy movie ‘The Ghost Breakers’ (1940) starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard. (6)

Willie Best is wonderful in this film as Hope’s black manservant – a role that would definitely be considered demeaning and insensitive these days, and an example of how, historically, black actors were often typecast in dumb sidekick roles, secondary to the lead actors.  But, despite these failings, Best’s performance is a testament to his considerable comedic acting skills.  (He has the best lines in the film!)

Having arrived back at our temporary ‘home base’ of Sherman Oaks, it was time to pack in preparation for our early departure next day.  It was also time for any final photos to be taken of our surroundings – which, not coincidentally, happened to be the hotel where Kent Twitchell’s ‘Smooth Criminal’ mural of Michael Jackson was proposed to be installed. (7)

15230813_10208011185452611_3082354158303144322_nThe Courtyard by Marriott at Sherman Oaks has comfortable beds, friendly staff and a nice cafe where I got delicious, inexpensive meals on both nights of our stay here.  There are local stores within walking distance, and the Sherman Oaks Galleria is just one block away.

But that will have to wait for another visit, some other year.  After two days of busy activity, I was ready to head north – to Sacramento and California’s ‘Mother Lode’ country, where more adventures awaited my miniature travel companion and I.

Story and Photos by Kerry Hennigan
April 2017





(4) Alfred Louis Kroeber, Handbook of the Indians of California (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1925) pp. 613-614.







The ‘Pop Art’ of Michelangelo and Michael Jackson (as defined by LaChapelle)

The website for the UK’s Tate Galleries defines Pop Art as…“an art movement that emerged in the 1950s and flourished in the 1960s in America and Britain, drawing inspiration from sources in popular and commercial culture such as advertising, Hollywood movies and pop music. Key pop artists include Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Hamilton, Peter Blake and David Hockney.” (1)

Photographic artist David LaChapelle has a much broader definition.  He believes that ‘pop art’ is art that has crossed over from being for the very few to being for everyone – it is art that has become so recognisable that everyone can identify it – not just Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans, but Michelangelo’s David or something from Michael Jackson’s catalogue.

It is art that has transcended genre and outlived the era in which it was created.

LaChapelle equated the art of Michelangelo with that of Michael Jackson in a recent BBC video clip promoting an exhibition at the National Gallery, London.*  It’s a statement that may shock some, but which hardly comes as a revelation for Michael’s many fans. (2)

David LaChapelle, whose first job as a professional photographer was for Warhol, is famous for his own surrealistic photographic and film work employing popular cultural figures in exotic scenarios often inspired by Renaissance artworks and displaying Biblical themes.

In December 2016 he photographed Paris Jackson for her Rolling Stone cover feature where his use of religious iconography is prominent – along with plenty of nods to Paris’ father, of whom LaChapelle is a huge fan. (3)

Biblical themes dominate his series ‘American Jesus’ which featured three post-2009 images of Michael Jackson (achieved by using an impersonator plus some digital manipulation) respectively titled ‘American Jesus: Hold Me, Carry Me Boldly’, ‘The Beatification: I’ll Never Let You Part For You’re Always In My Heart’ and ‘Archangel Michael: And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer’. (4)

The first of these, ‘American Jesus’ features a pose clearly inspired by Michelangelo’s ‘Pieta’.

michael and david
Michael Jackson at the feet of Michelangelo’s ‘David’,  Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence, 1988.  (Photographer unknown)

Michael Jackson’s own appreciation for the art of Renaissance masters like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci is well documented.  He saw some of these masterpieces first hand while in Italy on his Bad world tour in 1988. (5)

Later, at Neverland, he had a painting of himself by David Nordal – called simply ‘Michael’ – which was inspired by Michelangelo’s monumental sculpture of David.

In his ‘Moonwalk’ biography, Michael explained his admiration for Michelangelo – “he poured his soul into his work.  He knew in his heart that one day he would die, but that work he did would live on.  You can tell he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with all his soul.  At one point he even destroyed it and did it over because he wanted it to be perfect.  He said, ’If the wine is sour, pour it out.’” (6)

This is a particularly memorable scene in the 1965 movie The Agony and the Ecstasy based on Irving Stone’s biographical novel of Michelangelo.  I wonder if Michael saw it and remembered it from there?  (I first saw this film in the cinema as part of a school group accompanied by the nuns who taught us.  Today I still own a copy of the movie on DVD, so I know it well.) (7)

Michael certainly knew the emotions involved in Michelangelo’s outburst – and undertook similar drastic measures.  When he listened to the completed Thriller album for the first time, he knew it wouldn’t work.  In ‘Moonwalk’ he explains that he felt devastated and angry, and declared “We’re not releasing it.”

After a couple of days off, and taking a deep breath, Michael and his team mixed the entire album all over again.  Afterwards everyone – including the record company – could hear the difference.  “It felt so good when we finished.  I was so excited I couldn’t wait for it to come out.” (8)

Michael’s instincts as an artist who – like Michelangelo – poured his heart and soul into his work were accurate – “if the wine is sour, pour it out.”

For Michelangelo, the outcome of starting afresh was his Sistine Chapel masterpiece.  For Michael Jackson, it was the biggest selling album of all time.

Like Michelangelo’s ceiling frescos, Michael’s album, singles and videos are indelibly stamped on popular culture – they are ‘pop art’ as defined by David LaChapelle.

Whether or not we agree with LaChapelle’s definition of the genre, to have Michael Jackson’s creative endeavours compared to those of Michelangelo is a testament to Michael’s work ethic and life-long commitment to perfecting his art.

I believe the comparison is justly deserved and one he would have loved.

Kerry Hennigan
March 2017

‘Art is Life… Life is Art’ pop art triptych features Michelangelo’s Pieta, photo of Michael Jackson (photographer unknown) and David LaChapelle’s American Jesus, digitally edited by the author.

*The Credit Suisse Exhibition “Michelangelo & Sebastiano” runs 15 March – 25 June 2017 at The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London.  For details visit:

For an examination of David LaChapelle’s images depicting Michael Jackson I highly recommend Annemarie Latour’s two part article “Redeeming the King of Pop: David LaChapelle’s Fine Art Portrayal of Michael Jackson” (link below).  Annemarie has also recently written on the iconography in LaChapelle’s portraits of Paris Jackson for Rolling Stone:


  2. BBC video
  3. Rolling Stone
  4. Annemarie Latour “Redeeming the King of Pop: David LaChapelle’s Fine Art Portrayal of Michael Jackson Parts 1 and 2
  6. Michael Jackson “Moonwalk” Arrow Books paperback edition 2010 p.220
  7. “The Agony and the Ecstasy” 20th Century Fox, 1965
  8. Michael Jackson “Moonwalk” pp 199-200

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