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Pictures At An Exhibition, Part 2: Portrayals Of Michael Jackson By Greg Gorman And David LaChapelle – MJ Studies Today, November 2017

Abstract: The November column of Kerry is part 2 of pictures, art made of Michael Jackson. Photos where he was the model himself and photos where he was not, but, as Kerry states, an image of an impersonator challenging the viewer, as Michael Jackson always challenged himself and his audience. He’s still doing so.


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.


Access the article here: http://michaeljacksonstudies.org/mj-studies-today-xiii-2/


REFERENCE AS:

Hennigan, Kerry. “MJ Studies Today XXIII (14-11-2017).” The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies 5, no. 1 (2017). http://michaeljacksonstudies.org/mj-studies-today-xiii-2/

 

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Book Review: Behind the Gates of Neverland. Conversations with Michael Jackson, by Ray Robledo and Lori Armstrong.

Behind the Gates of Neverland” (published November 2017) is a book that Michael Jackson fans will devour in little more than an hour.  It’s easy to read, respectful of Michael and provides an opportunity to gain insight into the day-to-day running of Neverland Valley Ranch.  It fits comfortably alongside other slim volumes of first-hand stories about Neverland, i.e. “Private Conversations in Neverland with Michael Jackson” by William B. Van Valin II MD and “Michael Jackson In Search of Neverland” by Gloria Rhoads Berlin.

51FFUDQARgLSome things just seem to be destined to happen – and what at first appeared to be bad news for Ray Robledo in 1989 when he lost his job without warning, paved the way for an exciting new job – as a security officer at Neverland.  At first, he didn’t know where or for whom he would be working.  The interview, the location, everything, in fact, was surrounded in secrecy until he turned up for the job.

Then he met his boss, “Mr. Jackson” of whom he says, “There was an undeniable sincerity about him.”

Through Ray Robledo we meet others who work at the ranch, including Marvin and Linda who looked after the animals in Michael’s zoo, and the animals themselves – the giraffe, the lion, the chimps and more.  From the time he takes over care and control of the amusement park, Robledo is told by his boss to “Call me Michael, please.”  And that is when their friendship began, says Ray.

Many of the staff did not acknowledge Michael when he was out and about on the property, and this seemed to bother him.  Ray knew that his boss was happy to have his employees say hello to him.  Robledo suspects that the problem lay with Michael’s so-called “inner circle” – people who thought they were in control of his life, and the staff handbook employees were given that instructed them not to talk to him.

Nevertheless, to Robledo, Michael spoke excitedly of his ideas for new features for the amusement park – like the water fort and the dunk tank.  Robledo writes that Jackson had a human side that was quite simple, “which was opposite to the strange portrayal of him by judgemental media.”

There were always a lot of preparations by the staff when Michael had guests, like the day the Jackson family arrived for patriarch Joseph’s birthday.  Michael had Robledo erect a banner that said, “Happy Birthday, Joe.”  Ray writes “I never heard Michael refer to his father as dad… always ‘Joe’.”  This comes as no surprise to Michael Jackson fans, I’m sure.

Robledo shares his feeling that Michael and his family, or certain members thereof, weren’t close, except for his mother, “but it was none of my business,” he writes, but “I still felt a sense of sadness for him.”

Later, Robledo told the story of his own childhood to Michael and eventually Michael opened up about his personal feelings and about what he wanted in life.  Robledo realised there was so much more to Michael Jackson than even his own family knew.

Anyone well versed in Michael Jackson’s life will have no trouble at all visualising many of the anecdotes Ray shares throughout his book.  And yes, we know he liked his music LOUD!  That included on the amusement rides, it seems.

Robledo relates his memories of visits from Elizabeth Taylor and Larry Fortensky who arrived by helicopter, and their subsequent wedding at the ranch.  Ray says Michael referred to Elizabeth as “Liz” which surprised me when I read it, as I had never heard of him using this derivative of her name.  He always seemed too respectful of her to do that, although calling her Liz doesn’t denote any disrespect by any means.  It just surprises me.

Ray Robledo worked at Neverland from 1989 to 1996, which puts his recollections in a timeline most fans are familiar with.  Some dating of events he relates would have helped these memoirs, and perhaps avoided what look to be – in the eyes of a fan, at least – obvious errors.

For example, Ray tells of a fan named “Billie Jean”, an African-American woman who managed to sneak onto the ranch and hide herself away before Ray spotted her.  Her name really was Billie Jean, we are told, “and shortly after Michael’s hit song topped the charts.”

Well, the song “Billie Jean” topped the charts in 1983 (having been released as a single in January of that year) and Michael Jackson bought his ranch in 1988.  Ray’s employment at the ranch began in 1989 after the amusement park had been built.  So, it’s not possible for Michael’s hit song of the same name to have post-dated the visit to the ranch of the fan named Billie Jean.  (Or, perhaps I’ve misread this part of the text.)

Another timeline problem comes with the story of Michael leaving early one morning on his “Bad” world tour.  Details of the tour are provided that read like they could have come straight from Wikipedia.  However, the mention of this tour comes after the story of Elizabeth Taylor’s wedding to Larry Fortensky at the ranch, which was in October 1991.  Michael’s “Bad” tour was September 1987 to January 1989.

Unless we’ve gone back in time from one chapter to the next, and unless Ray commenced his employment at the very beginning of 1989, it would have been the “Dangerous” tour (1992-1993) that Michael had set out on while Robledo worked there.  Later, we read about changes at the ranch and the staff being spoken to about the rumours circulating in the media about Michael (1993).  Then the Oprah Winfrey interview is mentioned (also in 1993).  So again, it seems it must have been the “Dangerous” tour that Michael had embarked on.

I don’t expect a former employee to have all of Michael’s tour details, hit songs and interview dates down pat – but some easy research by his co-author Lori Armstrong and editors/proof readers of the final text would have provided the correct information.

The changes that came to Neverland, and to Michael’s demeanour, following the false allegations that surfaced in 1993 resulted in some unfortunate changes at the ranch.  People were concerned for their jobs now that the “greedy ‘Yes’ people” from Michael’s “inner circle” of “corporate royalty” were running things.  As for Michael, Robledo reveals that “Where there was once a face of joy and hope, displaying a bright smile, there was now a face of utter sadness.”

But the trouble in paradise had been brewing even before the false allegations arose, with some of Michael’s property disappearing and some employees talking to the tabloids for big dollars.  It was no longer a happy or harmonious place when Michael Jackson wasn’t there.  And saddest of all, after the allegations, he wasn’t the same when he was there.

Nevertheless, it is blessedly reassuring to read the memories of one of the former Neverland employees who is so appreciative of his time at the ranch and especially of having known Michael Jackson.  He’s certainly not the only one, but we’ve been subjected to so much tabloid rubbish over the years, one could be forgiven for being cautious at first.  But, I happily forgive errors like those mentioned above when the important message has been put across so emphatically, which is “I had only experienced and witnessed a pure heart in Michael.  There was nothing I knew about Michael that would ever harm his genuine reputation.”

There is a list of Michael’s philanthropic activities over the years at the end of the book, and a list of awards that Michael received for his humanitarian work.  It’s a nice touch in line with Ray’s feelings about his former “boss”.

Review by Kerry Hennigan
14 November 2017

“Behind the Gates of Neverland” ebook for Kindle is available from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Behind-Gates-Neverland-Conversations-Michael-ebook/dp/B0752DC9HY

Photo at top by Harry Benson (1993) does not appear in the book, but is used as an illustration only for this review.  No infringement of copyright is intended in its use in this not-for-profit, educational exercise.

 

 

 

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“How Does It Feel?” – Media abuse of Michael Jackson conferred on a Second Generation, and history repeats at the Melbourne Cup 2017

In an interview he gave in 1996, Michael Jackson spoke passionately about his dislike of the nick-name “Wacko Jacko” originally foisted on him by a UK tabloid.  It was a name that haunted him throughout his adult life and one that has recently been applied to his daughter Paris by the press in Australia.

Nineteen-years-old Paris Jackson was invited to attend the 2017 Melbourne Cup – Australia’s richest horserace which attracts participants and VIPs from all over the world every November.  Known as “the race that stops a nation” the Melbourne Cup also has a high fashion content with the “Fashions in the Field” being a showcase for Australian designers and labels.

Paris, who is signed with IMG Models, was sponsored by Myer for this year’s Cup.  She arrived in Australia the day before the race and was photographed getting up close and personal with one of the Cup favourites, an English horse named Marmelo.  Her ‘tryst’ with Marmelo was depicted on the front pages of News Corp publications in each major capital city in the country.  It seemed that the Aussie media had fallen under her spell.

Next day, as the VIPs arrived at the track, Paris was one of the stars in her lacy rust-coloured boho-chic dress, ankle boots and crystal headband.  It was a cool, blustery day, but she managed to pose for the photographers graciously before disappearing inside the Myer marquee with the other VIPs.  [1]

In the following day’s post-Cup coverage in the media, she was pictured through the window of the marquee fooling around and pulling faces at the photographers outside (having fun – as I’m sure were many others inside with her).  Unfortunately certain media writers decided this was an example of “off the wall” behavior and subsequently labeled her “Wacko Jacko 2.0”.

Paris herself tweeted the journos directly, calling them “fxxxxx’ cowards.  Bet you don’t have the balls to call me that to my face…”  One of Michael’s friends, Brett Barnes (who is Australian, and still lives here) responded that “They’re a tabloid pretending to be a newspaper.  Your father always knew we’ve got some of the worst press in the world.” [2] [3]

Paris advised that she didn’t care less what they called her, “but adding ’2.0’ is their way of dragging in my father into it and THAT I will not stand for.”

She later reiterated that she didn’t care what they called her, but that – “it’s the principle”.

This situation is exactly what Michael Jackson anticipated when he spoke to Barbara Walters at the George V Hotel in Paris in 1997 and expressed how he felt about the “Wacko Jacko” nickname and how unfair it would be if the media passed it on to his son.  (Prince was the only one of his children to have been born at this time.)

“I want him to have some space…where he can go to school. I don’t want him to be called “Wacko Jacko” that’s not nice. They call the father that. That isn’t nice…right?…

They created that. Did they ever think I would have a child one day…that I have a heart? It’s hurting my heart. Why pass it on to him?” [4]

Of course, the media has long over-stepped the line of decency when it comes to Michael Jackson’s children – querying their parentage and anything else that will guarantee the sale of a newspaper or magazine, grab ratings or web clicks (and sell advertising).

While we might consider the media as an entity that encompasses many forms of communication – in print, on-line, on the airways, on TV – the stories and the accompanying headlines are all written by “journalists” and “editors” – i.e. someone given the platform to supposedly inform the public.  Such people are meant to have ethics.  We’ve always been inclined to champion “freedom of speech” and “freedom of the press” as a basic human right.  But that does not mean that verbal or printed abuse, bullying, harassment or character assassination is acceptable – from anyone, on anyone.  That’s just abuse/miss-use of freedoms for which some people have given their lives.

Writing for TheFIX on nine.com.au Julia Naughton provided information on the origins of “Wacko Jacko” as revealed by Joe Vogel in his article in The Atlantic in 2012 when he wrote “Even for those with no knowledge of [the nickname’s] racist roots and connotations, it was obviously used to ‘otherize,’ humiliate and demean its target.” [5] Naughton quite rightly suggests that “Resurrecting the nickname and applying it to a young woman – who also happens to be the daughter of the celebrated music icon – seems wrong and frankly, irresponsible.” [6]

When shared online, Naughton’s article comes with a subtitle that reads: “It’s time to retire ‘Wacko Jacko’”.

It’s a “retirement” that is long overdue.

Naughton’s article is one of the few exceptions tackling the publicity resulting from Paris’ Cup day appearance with any sympathy or objectivity.  The treatment of Michael Jackson (during and after his lifetime) and now his children is a sad reminder that while society attempts to call the bullies to account, some of the most strident voices can be the worst offenders.

Unfortunately the name-calling was not the only media harassment Paris Jackson suffered.  There was some attempts at character assassination, with one journalist suggesting Paris behaved like a “diva” at the Melbourne Cup in refusing to wear an outfit by a prominent designer (Alex Perry) that had been purpose-made for her, choosing instead the boho-style dress by Morrison.  This was denied by her management who advised that no such Alex Perry dress had been made, and that Paris had been given a selection of designs from which to choose.  She chose the Morrison.

Perry actually posted a happy snap of himself with Paris on Instagram and thanked her for wearing his design on the cover of Stellar magazine (an insert in the Sunday Herald, a Sydney publication published by Fairfax.) [7]

Other post-Cup tabloid pieces referred to Paris’ guest appearance as being accompanied by “much drama” (neglecting to clarify that it was of the media’s making) and while providing the explanation of her dress choice, still found it necessary to repeat her supposed “snub” of an Alex Perry custom design that never existed.  (The media never let the truth prevent them from repeating supposition and unsubstantiated gossip, as Michael Jackson himself experienced time and again.)

Paris’ partying antics in the Myer marquee were also reported as “bizarre behavior” when she pressed her face against the window and made faces – nothing terribly bizarre when one considers what many Cup Day punters where doing at Flemington and other race tracks around the country at the time (i.e. drinking themselves insensible, displaying behavior that lacked all decorum, and generally doing things they’d likely regret – if only they could remember anything!) [8]

That’s Melbourne Cup Day, and that’s the ugly, intoxicated aspect of Aussie culture, whether the rest of us Aussies like it or not.  It’s apparently acceptable to the tabloids, whereas a fashion preference and party hi-jinx by the King of Pop’s daughter are not.

A news.com.au article stated that it had turned down an opportunity to interview Paris because of restrictions on the questions they could ask (i.e. NOT about her family and not about her past problems).  One wonders what “off limits” questions they could have asked that she hasn’t already answered in numerous magazine articles.  Don’t they realize how tiresome it is reading the same questions posed to celebrities by different interviewers who obviously assume that everyone is as fathomless as they are about their subject?  It’s indicative of a lack of research, lack of information – or perhaps just lack of interest on the part of the interviewer.

Ashley Spencer addressed some of these issues in his article for TheFix titled “All the reasons why Paris Jackson was the absolute best part of the Melbourne Cup.”

“The look was all so perfectly Paris – who recently tweeted, ‘my daddy was a hippie and my mama was a biker chick the fuk u expect’ – and far more interesting than the parade of monochrome body-con frocks and wobbly pumps that annually descend on Flemington. Iconic.” [9]

Far from home and looking out-of-place “surrounded by a bunch of old strangers… in tiny hats” (a reference to the fascinators that many of the women wear for the occasion) Spencer was pleased Paris  found a friend to laugh and have fun with (Queensland-based former model turned tradie, Tyler Green); “And THEN! She gave us perhaps the greatest moment in Melbourne Cup history. She pressed her nose against the Myer marquee glass and proceeded to lick it.

Yesss, girl.”

As for the media article lamenting the “demands” by Paris’ team if she was to be interviewed, Spencer writes that “Paris has had to fight her whole life to be recognized as her own person outside of her family’s fame.  She’s worked incredibly hard to make a name for herself as a budding model, actor, and activist.”

“It’s not crazy to ask people to respect your career and your personal life – especially when the event you’re promoting has absolutely nothing to do with your past.”

Media rivalries do not help matters, with one journalist complaining that the Victorian Racing Committee had banned any rival media outlets “including yours truly” from interviewing Paris, “as one of the event’s sponsors is the Murdoch press machine, which has already interviewed her around five times at last count.” [10]

So, some sour grapes can be factored in to the tabloid headlines, it seems.

There’ll always be those who criticize while others totally “get it” that sometimes you just need to “be yourself”.  And how refreshing that is – as experienced by Rachael Finch who shared a conversation with Paris in the marquee for Channel 7’s live coverage of the Cup, and scored a spontaneous hug at the end of it. [11]

Throughout the whole post-Cup day, while seeing many of the articles and variations on the articles about Paris’ visit pop up on my news feed, I was reminded of something that happened back in 1965 when the Melbourne racing establishment had been similarly rocked on its foundations by a young woman in a pretty dress.

In that year, UK supermodel Jean Shrimpton appeared at Derby Day in a dress that was a whole 5 inches above the knee!  What a fuss there was from the stuffy old guard. Nothing changes much… Sadly Shrimpton succumbed to expectations on Cup day by wearing something considered “more suitable” to the occasion (a suit topped by a hat – how boring!) [12]

What’s changed between 1965 and 2017?  Not much, it seems

Kerry Hennigan
November 2017

Postcript: December 2017

The dress worn by Paris at The Cup and designed by Morrison, became a sell-out even before it hit the stores, the Daily Mail reported on Nov 13, 2017.

“The $600 Morrison dress Paris wore to the Melbourne Cup last week has already sold out – before even being offered in stores.

Founder Kylie Radford revealed that she has received pre-orders from all over the world for the rusty red bohemian dress beloved by the model.

Radford found new customers from the likes of Spain, UAE, the US, and Iceland after a highly publicised appearance by the 19-year-old daughter of Michael Jackson.” [13]

Alex Perry discussed the matter of Paris’ dress choice in this article in the Sydney Morning Herald on Nov 19, 2017.

“You can’t put her in an Alex Perry lady dress and strap her in and put a pair of high heels on her, it’s not right for what that girl is.” [Perry said.]

Describing it as “a fashion storm in a teacup”, he believes “a mistake was made by someone at some point saying she was wearing Alex Perry but it wasn’t confirmed”. [14]

 

Sources:

[1] Video of Paris fronting the media at the Melbourne Cup 2017 http://www.smh.com.au/video/video-life-and-style/video-fashion/paris-jackson-appears-at-the-races-20171107-4zs1s.html

[2] Tweet by Paris Jackson https://twitter.com/ParisJackson/status/928009291264675851

[3] Reply Tweet by Brett Barnes https://twitter.com/IAmBrettBarnes/status/928018860682354688

[4] Transcript of Michael Jackson-Barbara Walters interview 1997 http://www.allmichaeljackson.com/interviews/barbarawalters.html

[5] Joseph Vogel “How Michael Jackson Made ‘Bad’” The Atlantic https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/09/how-michael-jackson-made-bad/262162/

[6] The demeaning backstory behind that cruel Michael Jackson nickname
https://thefix.nine.com.au/2017/11/08/15/54/paris-jackson-melbourne-cup-wacko-jacko

[7] Alex Perry on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/BbL6sB5HknP/?taken-by=alexperry007

[8] http://www.news.com.au/sport/superracing/melbourne-cup/drunken-melbourne-cup-day-antics-begin-in-flemington/news-story/ac3e68e16bdece10f6bb57f69d26a776

[9] https://thefix.nine.com.au/2017/11/08/11/53/all-hail-paris-jackson-melbourne-cup-queen

[10] http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/celebrity/private-sydney/ps-cup-day-celebrity-wrangling-isnt-what-it-used-to-be-20171107-gzggs3.html

[11] Rachel Finch https://twitter.com/7horseracing/status/927763443049930753

[12] Melbourne Cup memories: The legs that stopped a nation http://edition.cnn.com/2012/11/01/sport/jean-shrimpton-melbourne-cup-fashion/index.html

[13] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-5075755/Paris-Jackson-s-Morrison-dress-Melbourne-Cup-sold-out.html#ixzz505HQKzr8 

[14] http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/celebrity/designer-alex-perry-dressing-paris-jackson-for-cup-day-would-not-have-been-right-20171117-gznbdf.html

Paris having fun on air with Hamish & Andy on Cup day:

http://www.hamishandandy.com/2017/paris-jackson-smells-andy-by-hamish/

https://twitter.com/hamishandandy/status/928167812383649792

Paris by the fashion mags: Vogue and Elle:

http://www.vogue.com.au/culture/racing+carnival/paris+jackson+melbourme+cup+interview,44839

https://www.elle.com.au/snapped/paris-jackson-melbourne-cup-shaman-14943

 

Images used in photo montage:

  • Michael Jackson (1997) Getty Images
  • Paris Jackson (2017) by Alex Coppel
  • Jean Shrimpton on Derby Day at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne (30 Oct 1965) Getty Images

No infringement of copyright is intended in this educational, not-for-profit, exercise.  Montage compiled by Kerry Hennigan

 

 

 

 

“Have You Seen My Childhood?” – Michael Jackson, James Baldwin And Childhoods Lost – Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies, November 2017

Abstract:  Though they were active in different decades, the famous American author James Baldwin and international music icon Michael Jackson both believed they never had a childhood.  This article looks at the similarities in their formative years, which influenced the art they created.


Op-Ed Piece by Kerry Hennigan, official columnist of The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies, and editor of the monthly newsletter, A Candle for Michael, and administrator of the widely-subscribed Facebook group, Michael Jackson’s Short Film ‘Ghosts.


REFERENCE AS:

Hennigan, Kerry. ““Have you seen my childhood?” – Michael Jackson, James Baldwin and childhoods lost” Opinion Piece, The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies 5, no. 1 (2017). Published electronically 07/11/17. http://michaeljacksonstudies.org/childhood/.


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.”



Access the article here: http://michaeljacksonstudies.org/childhood/.

 

One night in Hollywood – MJ Scream LA, 24 October 2017

To go, or not to go, that was the question I had to answer when I received an email saying I’d scored a priority ticket to the Michael Jackson ‘Scream’ event in Hollywood on Tues 24 October, 2017.

While it may seem strange to many other fans that I might have hesitated for a second, the fact was, my itinerary in the US was already mapped out for sightseeing and Michaeling, and deviating from those plans meant missing out on something I had been looking forward to, in order to return to the Los Angeles area earlier than expected.

In the end it came down to friends – specifically Yoly in Vancouver and Queenie in Hong Kong, and Marge in Toronto.  The former duo also had tickets and intended to make the trip to Hollywood for the event.  The latter had been to see Thriller 3D at the Toronto International Film Festival and urged me not to let the opportunity slip to (a) see it and (b) talk to the Michael Jackson Estate representatives who would be attending.

It meant cancelling hotel reservations and making new ones – both done without loss of deposits, I’m pleased to say (thank the Maker for Hotels.com) and bumping some planned excursions to some other year, God willing.

Hence the evening of 24 October found us lined up at the event meeting point in Hollywood, excited and happy to be mixing with fans similarly keen to make the most of the free tickets they had won for the event.

I am usually wary of large fan gatherings.  With so many different factions in MJ fandom, any event intended to celebrate Michael Jackson can quickly descend into heated discussions on contentious issues.  But on this occasion, that was not the case.  I guess it’s obvious really – anyone who didn’t WANT to be there (assuming they’d had the opportunity to attend) wasn’t.

So we were a noisy, harmonious crowd, following the event staff down the block and across Hollywood Blvd to the illuminated forecourt of the Chinese Theaters complex.  The forecourt, with its many hand and footprints of industry luminaries impressed in the concrete, was covered with red carpeting – with the exception of the two slabs representing Michael Jackson – the one in which his children had pressed his glove (and their hand) prints and the soles of a pair of his signature loafers; and the other the ‘Broken Heart Stone’ that Michael had impressed himself back in the 80s for a Las Vegas project that didn’t eventuate.

These two adjacent blocks were framed, but not covered by the red carpet, highlighting the fact that it was Michael Jackson who was being celebrated tonight.

A light show projected imagery from the new Scream compilation album around the facade of the theatre in a swirl of movement.  The music pumped out and the voices of all of us waiting our turn on the red carpet (for a photo opportunity) rose in volume – and excitement.

Inside, free popcorn and soft drinks awaited us at the candy counter and then we were directed to our seats towards the front of the theatre where the ‘priority’ or ‘fan club’ (as the staff referred to us) attendees were grouped.  So, we had superb seats, and were surrounded by like-minded souls all waiting for the show to begin.

It took awhile to get everyone in and seated.  In the meantime, quiz questions and answers relevant to the Scream album were projected on the screen, along with animated imagery reflecting the album artwork.  This played in constant rotation, interrupted by screenings of a preview of the forthcoming animated TV special ‘Michael Jackson’s Halloween’ which was to debut on Friday night (27 Oct) on the CBS network in the US.  It looked like it was going to be tremendous fun, and guaranteed to appeal to young potential fans – and hopefully most of us older ones too!

Finally the MC walked on stage –  Nick Cannon, himself a huge MJ fan – and introduced the full-length version of Michael Jackson’s Ghosts – which had never before been seen on the big screen in the US.  From the minute the Maestro (Jackson) appeared the crowd went wild; the start of the award-winning dance sequence to the tune of 2Bad sent them into an even greater frenzy.

As a champion of the Ghosts short film, and a lover of this era of Michael’s career, I was ‘over the moon’ at seeing my favourite ‘video’ projected in top-notch quality on the theatre screen.  For me, this was the highlight of the evening – never mind that it came at the very beginning.

We then had a newly composed Blood on the Dance Floor video that incorporated the original footage of Michael singing and dancing with new footage of Cirque du Soleil’s MJ ONE cast members doing what they do so well.  While I don’t understand the need for a new BOTDF video when the original is so great (see my article about it via the link here) I guess every new album release – Scream, in this case – is entitled to a new video or two.  If music video shows on TV don’t want to play the classics, give them something ‘new’ that remains true to the vision of the original.

Finally it was time for Thriller 3D, with director John Landis walking on stage to introduce his masterpiece.  He spoke briefly about it, and introduced some VIP attendees in the audience – the legendary SPFX/make-up artist who created Michael’s werecat character, Rick Baker (‘leave it to Rick to wear a white shirt’ Landis quipped, as Baker stood for appreciative applause against a mostly dark-clad audience) and Ola Ray, who plays Michael’s girlfriend in the video.  Ola still looks stunning, and it was good to see her at the event, happy and celebrating Michael now that her financial claims against him – and subsequently his Estate – have been settled.

Every seat in the theatre had been equipped with 3D glasses in preparation for the screening of Thriller, and while the impact of the 3D was minimal, the impact of the video, and especially the dance sequences on the big screen, was quite the opposite.  Like Ghosts, the cinematic quality of Thriller was clearly evident when projected in the larger-than-life format for the cinema screen.

After the cheers and applause following the show, we stood and talked in groups in the theatre, awaiting the bulk of the crowd to file out and on to the after party in the event venue upstairs.  When we got there, DJ Steve Aoki was pumping out thumping dance mixes of MJ tracks to a back-drop of swirling lights, while high up on the walls, footage of Michael’s videos relevant to the Scream album were played in constant rotation.

The VIPs had their own roped off area, but did not restrict themselves to the space – it was just somewhere to which they could retreat when the press of the crowd became too exhausting – which it was at times.

DSC_0284As reported in the media (and sighted by yours truly) Joseph and Jackie Jackson were in attendance, and well-known MJ impersonator Carlo Reilly made himself available for fan photos and joined Aoki on the stage for one number.

There was free food and drink – and no sign of the action, or the energy, slacking for the majority of the fans who were revelling in the celebrations.  That was the important aspect of the night – it was a CELEBRATION of Michael Jackson.

Whether or not one buys the album, supports its release, is interested in the respective short films or the animated TV special, this was first and foremost an opportunity for fans, VIPs and the Estate to come together in common purpose – acknowledging the genius of Michael Jackson and his art, and the many collaborators who helped him realise his vision and ambitions for some of his pieces.

Despite the volume of the music making conversations virtually impossible, I was determined to get a word with Estate co-executor John Branca.  We were able to attract his attention and he was happy to come over and talk with us.  I wish it had been under conditions that made a real conversation possible.  As it was, we talked briefly about Ghosts – which I told him was my absolute favourite – the new Blood on the Dance Floor video (the song is John’s current favourite – though he admitted his favourites change all the time) and the fact that next year Thriller 3D will be in IMAX theatres all over the world.

John also talked about the plans for Michael’s 60th birthday celebrations in Las Vegas in August 2018.  This is probably going to be the biggest event on the MJ calendar for the year, and one which those of us who are ‘travelling fans’ should prepare for in advance.  It’s going to be HUGE!  (I use that word without intending it to remind anyone of a certain individual currently occupying the Oval Office in the US!)

My friends stayed on to party a little longer, while I headed back to my hotel.  It had been a long day, preceded by an almost sleepless night, and a long day’s drive before that, and while the midnight hour was still about 75 minutes away, for me it was definitely time to call it a day!

One final footnote to the evening that made me smile as I walked past was witnessing Joe Jackson and his minders waiting for a hotdog to be prepared for him by a street vendor outside the cinema.  I guess Joe’s tastes are for more hearty fare than all the free food on offer at the party.

And that, dear friends and fellow fans, was my experience of MJ Scream Los Angeles, in Hollywood, on the night of 24 October 2017.  It was worth the effort it took to be there, that’s for sure.

Story and photos by Kerry Hennigan
October 2017

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Pictures at an Exhibition: artistic expressions of the cultural impact of Michael Jackson, Part 1: Ballarat and London – MJ Studies Today, October 2017

Abstract: In her October column, Kerry discusses art exhibitions that concern Michael Jackson. Artists from around the world are inspired by Michael Jackson and the National Portrait Gallery will exhibit numerous artists next summer.


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.


REFERENCE AS:

Hennigan, Kerry. “MJ Studies Today XXII (14-10-2017).” The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies 5, no. 1 (2017). http://michaeljacksonstudies.org/mj-studies-today-xxii/.


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.”

Access the article here: http://michaeljacksonstudies.org/mj-studies-today-xxii/

 

Queen of the Silver Camps, haunted hotels and Las Vegas – 8 to 10 December 2016

Part 3 – California/Nevada Road Trip – December 2016 

Tonopah, Nevada, was just an overnight stop on the way from Reno to Las Vegas on our road trip last December, but it has some fascinating history and is close to fabulous scenery and lots of ghost towns and other curiosities.

Tonopah is itself a historic mining town once known as the Queen of the Silver Camps. It was the site of one of the richest booms in the West, which took place on May 19, 1900. [1]

But there was more to see along the way before we even rolled into town on the evening of 8 December 2016, including a rest and refreshment stop at Churchill Springs Casino, and then a scenic pull-off to take a look at Walker Lake.

Walker Lake is a natural lake about 75 miles (120 km) southeast of Reno on US Route 95.  The area around the lake has long been inhabited by the Paiute Indians. However, the diversion of water from the Walker River and its tributaries for irrigation purposes has resulted in a severe drop in the level of the lake impacting the lake’s fishery which in turn is having a dramatic effect on the species of birds using the lake.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has been acquiring water rights to benefit the lake and has submitted applications to the Nevada State Engineer to transfer the water downstream to benefit the lake.  The Walker River Paiute Reservation touches the lake at one point, and you briefly drive through it on US 95 en-route from Reno to Tonopah.

15384520_10208082830163684_2878654508088646073_oTonopah looks exactly what it is – an old mining town with a colourful history.  Originally an Indian campground known as Tonopah Springs, it became the site of one of the richest silver booms in the West.  It was discovered by a local rancher named Jim Butler on 19 May 1900, when Butler’s mule wandered away and fell down a hole 15370009_10208082829563669_6492627037675288896_owhich, Butler discovered, contained an outcrop heavily laced with silver.  Or so the local legend goes.  It’s a good story, anyway.

In 1901 mines around the town produced almost $750,000 in gold and silver and for the next 40 years, the Tonopah mines were consistent producers until the Depression brought a slowdown.  Not much in the way of mining has happened since the Tonopah and Goldfield Railroad shut down and its rails torn up in 1947. [2]

I was staying the night at the Best Western Hi Desert Inn which sits immediately below the Tonopah Historic Mining Park on the hillside behind it (see photo above).  Less tired legs might have impelled me to explore the parts of the site that were open, but the day was drawing to its close, and I was looking to sit down for a nice meal.

The Best Western staff pointed to the joint opposite – the Tonopah Brewing Co’s Tap Room, which is famous for its BBQ.  I had the chicken – a huge plate of it, with salad and chips, at a modest price, and then hurried back to my room across the road, huddled against the chill of the descending desert night.

15391308_10208076211078211_4951149377376545090_oNext day we were off to Vegas – not a long drive, but there were some interesting places to see along the way. In particular, the semi deserted town of Goldfield was worth a stop and a chat with the lady in the gift shop who was enamoured of my travel buddy, little MJ. Afterwards I drove around town looking at Goldfield’s abandoned civic buildings and the somewhat infamous ‘haunted’ Goldfield Hotel which has been the site of some paranormal investigations, in particular by the television program “Ghost Adventures”.  When completed in 1908 it was said to be the most spectacular hotel in Nevada. Today it’s listed on the Nevada State Register of Historic Places and forms part of the Goldfield Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. [3]

15418584_10208076322400994_4945323313521946672_oAfter that it was onward to Beatty, and about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas on the 95 there is a view (and a turnoff, which I didn’t take) to the Amargosa Dunes, a.k.a. Big Dune – a 1.5 square mile area popular with dune buggy enthusiasts.  The name is self-evident given that it is, indeed, a big heap of sand sitting between the desert highway and the mountains, with its highest point topping 500 feet. [4]

15369066_10208076247199114_5241266489953603044_oNext stop was (don’t laugh!) at the Area 51 Alien Centre – in reality a big convenience store/truck stop with an extraterrestrial theme.  Worth a stop to look around.  (Just be aware there is a brothel out back!) [5]  After our Area 51 stop and shop, there was quick visit to a petrol station in Indian Springs.  One of the tyres on the rental car had started to go down, so I had to stop for air before tackling the last stretch into Vegas.

The GPS had done itself proud up until this last leg to Vegas, where it took me to Las Vegas Blvd North rather than South – and I didn’t twig until it had turned me around on the freeway a couple of times… what the??? Now, even though I usually drive in to Vegas from the direction of LA, I’ve been here often enough to know when I’m near the south end of The Strip, and this sure wasn’t it… nor was it anywhere near downtown.

Finally I just read the signs and used my knowledge of the place to find my way into Excalibur – at last! I guess after all the driving over recent days, it was bound to end with some tiredness and frustration – but in terms of the GPS, I learned a valuable lesson.  Of course, the day wasn’t over yet – there was the inevitable queue and seemingly interminable wait to check in to Excalibur (not uncommon at the popular hotels in Vegas around check-in time each afternoon) before finally I could head up to our room.

But one look at the view (pictured below) from our castle tower made the drive with a leaking tyre, the wrestle with the GPS – and the queue at check-in – all worthwhile.  It was, in Vegas parlance, a WINNER.

15392931_10208076165157063_892433432831528803_o

Story and photos (c) Kerry Hennigan
October 2017

Sources:

[1] For more info and a terrific promotional video, visit: http://tonopahnevada.com/

[2] History of Tonopah: http://www.tonopahnevada.com/history.html

[3] Goldfield Hotel: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldfield_Hotel

[4] Amargosa Big Dune: https://travelnevada.com/discover/26019/amargosa-big-dune

[5] Area 51 Alien Centre: https://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/40442

 

 

Not “Scared of the Moon”: Michael Jackson and the Space connection – to the Moon, Mars and the Stars

In 2014 Michael Jackson fans submitted the singer’s name for inclusion on NASA’s Orion spacecraft from Cape Canaveral on a two-orbit, four-hour test flight. Orion was built to take humans further into space than they’ve ever gone before. The test carried with it the names of all those who registered for a ‘boarding pass’ on the NASA website. Michael Jackson’s name was registered over 60 times by fans from Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Tunisia, UK and the US.

All in all it was a pretty good effort, I think – with thanks to the fans who first promoted the idea and posted the link – and is a reflection of Michael’s view of himself as a global citizen, one with an abiding interest in space travel, space movies and space real estate, apparently.

In 2017 the opportunity arose again to submit names for NASA’s InSight lander, which will study the deep interior of Mars to advance humanity’s understanding of the early history of all rocky planets, including Earth. [1]  Once again fans quickly responded to have Michael’s name included on the flight.

While the attraction of having Michael Jackson’s name on an operational NASA craft may be obvious to his fans, others may be wondering “What’s the connection?”  There are many, actually.

This is the man who loved movies like Star Wars and ET (as quoted in his autobiography), who provided the narration for the ET Storybook album (1982) and the song “Someone in the Dark” [2]; who starred as the leader of a band of intergalactic misfits (who would have been quite at home in Star Wars’ Mos Eisley cantina) in the 3D Disney feature Captain Eo. [3] [4]

At the end of his Dangerous tour concerts, Michael appeared to take off from the stage via a jet pack, and at the commencement of his HIStory tour concerts, “crash-landed” on the stage in a space capsule.

screammeditationOf course, his “Scream” video, which is famous for being “the most expensive music video ever made” features an ambitious recreation of a spaceship interior, and includes “zero-G” gravity scenes.

Meteorite hunter Rob Elliott sold a piece of meterioite to Michael Jackson in 2003 according to media reports and an auction listing. [5] [6]

We can confidently assume then, that space was a theme that interested Michael Jackson.

On his personal website, Uri Geller wrote in his tribute to Michael: “One exceptional memory will never leave me. Michael had a magical imagination, filled with Hollywood images and children’s dreams. The immediate thing that struck me when I walked into his hotel suite at our first meeting was the immense poster of E.T. bicycling over a full moon. Beside it stood an eight-foot cardboard cutout of Anakin Skywalker, peeping from behind the robes of Darth Maul. Michael adored the concept of space travel — even his trademark dance was called the Moonwalk. And when the prospect of a rocket voyage to the moon itself became a brief, tantalising reality, Michael was like a rich kid in a sweet shop — he wanted it all and he wanted it now.

“I have an answerphone message, recorded at about 3am, with Michael’s whisper barely audible above the transatlantic crackle: ‘Uri Geller, this is Michael Jackson calling. Please, I wish, I pray that we do the moon trip. I want to be the first one to do it in the pop world. All these people are trying to do it, I want to be first! Please! I love you.’” [7]

According to Jackson biographer Jos Borsboom, “Michael was already in advanced talks with a space scientist in a desperate bid to do the moonwalk on the moon.  Michael became obsessed with beating his pop star rivals into space.  He wanted to top them by actually making it to the moon to do his famous dance move – in a ten-year $2 billion… project.” [8]

Tributes to Michael Jackson following his passing in June 2009 included a moon crater named after him by the Lunar Republic Society, which promotes the exploration, settlement and development of the Moon.  According to one media report “The 13.5 metre-wide site, formerly Posidonius J, is in the Lake of Dreams, next to a 1,200 acre plot owned by Jackson, which he bought at the cost of $27.40 (£17) per acre.”

The article further explains that Michael Jackson “was reported to have been one of the largest lunar landowners, [having] bought his plot in 2005.”  He also owned a smaller parcel in the Sea of Vapours.

The news report advises that the Michael Joseph Jackson crater is visible from Earth using a typical home telescope under standard observational conditions, and that “Jackson’s work was heavily influenced by the moon, from his trademark ‘moonwalk’ dance, his autobiography called Moonwalk and an unreleased song called Scared Of The Moon.

“A spokesman for the society said: ‘The official designation of a Lunar crater is a singular honour bestowed upon only a select few luminaries.  Among those receiving this rare tribute over the past century are Leonardo da Vinci, Christopher Columbus, Sir Isaac Newton, Julius Caesar and Jules Verne.’” [9]

At least one group of fans, based in Adelaide, Australia, went a step further (as in further out in space) and submitted Michael’s Star to Sydney Observatory’s ”Name-A-Star” program to coincide with the second anniversary of Michael’s passing and World Cry event in 2011.  This project was organized by fan Helena Willcox in the knowledge that it was something that would have pleased Michael.

As one of those who submitted Michael’s name for NASA’s Mission to Mars Insight lander, I, too, do so in the expectation that it is something he would have loved.

Kerry Hennigan
October 2017

Sources:

[1] https://mars.nasa.gov/participate/send-your-name/insight/

[2] MJ Tunes Music Database “Someone in the Dark” http://www.mjtunes.com/modules/mydownloads/singlefile.php?lid=1353

[3] Brief overview of Captain Eo at the Disney parks. http://www.yesterland.com/eo.html

[4] Kerry Hennigan “’We are here to change the World’ – Chasing Captain Eo across the continents (and Disney parks)” https://kerryhennigan.wordpress.com/2017/04/12/he-came-to-change-our-world-chasing-michael-jackson-across-the-continents-and-disney-parks/

[5] Sunday Post article: https://www.sundaypost.com/news/scottish-news/meteorite-hunter-offers-10000-reward-for-parts-of-space-rock-that-fell-on-scottish-soil/

[6] http://www.mjworld.net/news/2011/08/04/michaels-meteorite/
With thanks to Sue Simpson fro this information.

[7] Uri Geller, “Uri’s Tribute to Michael Jackson” http://www.urigeller.com/uris-tribute-to-michael-jackson/

[8] Jos Borsboom “Michael Jackson: The Icon” Lulu Press 2011  https://goo.gl/5wTBK4

[9] Ben Leach, “Moon crater name after Michael Jackson” 9 Jul 2009 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/michael-jackson/5784734/Moon-crater-named-after-Michael-Jackson.html

Photo montage ‘not scared of the moon’ compiled and edited by Kerry Hennigan from professional photographs from Michael Jackson’s HIStory tour (far left) and Dangerous tour (far right).  No infringement of copyright is intended in the use of these professional images for this not-for-profit, educational exercise.  The central image is a pre-existing photoshopped compilation of Michael Jackson and a NASA astronaut found on Google images, and used here for the purposes of illustration only.  The superimposed image of Mars was sourced through Clip Art.

“Scream” video image of Michael Jackson © 1995 MJJ Productions Inc.

 

 

 

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