This article was written by Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard (Authors of Remember the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson in His Final Days) EURThisNThat/EURweb was granted exclusive permission to publish it. Look forward to our exclusive interview with the authors.
*For the last two and a half years of Michael Jackson’s life, we had the privilege of serving as his personal Las Vegas security team. The man we worked for and got to know — a kind and generous person and a loving father — was completely different from the cartoonish figure that the tabloids made him out to be. Here’s just a few of the things we learned that we think might surprise you:
1. Mr. Jackson had at least two secret girlfriends who lived abroad. We met them when they flew in to visit him during his summer vacation on a horse farm in Middleburg, Virginia. He kept their presence a secret from his family, his managers, even his children. We were the only two privy to their arrival, and even we were never told their real names; he referred to them only as “Friend” and “Flower.”
2. Michael Jackson may have been the King of Pop, but in his private time he listened almost exclusively to classical music. Bach, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky — that was the soundtrack running in his car and his house all the time.
3. Too famous to leave his house very often, Michael Jackson was a huge reader. He devoured books on history, art, science, you name it, often dropping five thousand dollars on a single trip to Barnes & Noble. In a 2007 visit to Los Angeles, he found a used book store he liked so much that he bought it for $100,000 cash on the spot and had the entire collection hauled back to his Las Vegas home.
4. With the incessant tabloid coverage of his life, in his final years Michael Jackson allowed almost no outside media inside his home. He wouldn’t watch broadcast or cable TV, only DVDs. He had no computer and would typically have one of us search the Internet and send emails on his behalf. On trips to bookstores and newsstands, we pre-screened the newspaper and magazine racks to make sure there were no Michael Jackson-related stories that he or the kids might see. The only American news Mr. Jackson consumed was The Wall Street Journal, which he read religiously every morning, because it was one of the few places he was unlikely to read crazy allegations about his personal life.
5. In 2003, a private conversation between Mr. Jackson and his lawyer was taped without their knowledge and shopped to the tabloids. After that, the singer lived in fear of being secretly recorded. Before he entered any hotel room or conference room, he would have us sweep the room for cameras or listening devices. If he even suspected that a room was bugged, he’d insist on changing rooms. When he discovered that a limousine company had failed to disconnect the security cameras mounted inside a car we’d rented, he had us confiscate the vehicle and hold it in the garage until the company agreed to turn over the recordings it had made so that they could be destroyed.
6. Much to our surprise, Mr. Jackson revealed to us that after OJ Simpson was acquitted for the murder of his wife, he allowed the disgraced football player to take refuge from the media at his Neverland Ranch.
7. After Santa Barbara sheriffs ransacked his house at Neverland in 2003, Jackson declared that he could never live there again and it was no longer a home where he felt safe. Years later, the estate was exactly as the sheriffs had left it: drawers ransacked, furniture overturned, everything gathering dust. Jackson and his children spent the remaining years of his life in hotels and rented homes.
8. By the time he returned to America from Bahrain and Ireland in late 2007, Mr. Jackson was almost completely estranged from everyone in his family except his mother. She would drop by unannounced and he always welcomed her. Everyone else had to have an appointment. On numerous occasions, his famous siblings would arrive, sometimes breaking through the security gate, only to be turned away.
9. Mr. Jackson took his children’s education very seriously. Due to his fame, he couldn’t send them to regular schools, but he made sure their homeschooling experience was the finest possible. He hired a professional teacher whose lessons met and surpassed all the state homeschooling requirements. He had a room in the house built out with desks and chalkboards and periodic tables and everything you’d find in any other school. He even made the kids wear uniforms, slacks and button down shirts for Prince and Blanket, plaid skirts and patent-leather shoes for Paris. Every morning after breakfast he would dress the children and then they went downstairs and they “went to school.” And every night, he would sit and help them with their homework.
10. In public, Mr. Jackson required his children to wear masks in order to hide their identities from the paparazzi. That wasn’t the only precaution he took. He also gave the children code names to use with each other and for us to use over the radio; they were never to use their real names outside of the house.
11. Despite the public enthusiasm he showed for “This Is It,” Mr. Jackson was not interested in going back to live performance, or even music. In fact, his real professional ambition at that time was to leave his recording career behind for a life producing and creating movies. His dream project, the thing he was working on before “This Is It” came up, was an epic, computer-animated film about the life of King Tut.
12. One of Mr. Jackson’s favorite pastimes was playing basketball. He and his brothers learned how to play at Marvin Gaye’s house back in the Jackson 5 days. During the months Mr. Jackson lived in Las Vegas, he would go out all the time and just shoot hoops by himself for a few hours. It would always help him relax and unwind. He had a pretty good jump shot, too.
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© 2014 Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard, authors of Remember the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson in His Final Days