*It has been five years since the passing of Michael Jackson and many, many stories of diverse natures have surfaced in the news since that fateful June 25, 2009. Now comes the new book, “Remember The Time: Protecting Michael Jackson In His Final Days,” written by Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard, who served as Jackson’s exclusive personal security team in the last 2-1/2 years of his life.
The two men were the only professionals with 24-7 access to the elusive star, and they bring a fresh perspective on life with Jackson – the father, the man behind the glove. Many of the experiences they share are supported by details so intricate and intriguing that they would be a challenge to the creative mind of even the best liars.
This book may well be the best gift ever to serious Jackson fans; many of whom are still struggling with the loss of the icon. It is they, who will most likely appreciate the many great stories that are told with no fanfare, just real – sometimes raw, often heartfelt sincerity; by two men who may have often had reasons to leave, but chose to stay out of loyalty to a family of three that they had grown to love.
But the stories in “Remember The Time: are not solely about Michael Jackson. What makes each one so compelling is how those who worked with, around, and for – all jockeying for his ear – are factored in. You will be sorely disappointed if you are expecting a book that talks about how great “The King of Pop” is…or not.
You will find no “King of Pop” here. In fact, any mention of that term is referred to as a “mode.” As in, “When he is in King of Pop mode.” And this happens closer to the end, after Jackson starts prepping for “This Is It.”
This book, is about a man named Michael Jackson…a completely different person. This man calls down to security to go to the store for more laundry detergent because “he ran out.” This man is pained because he has to ask someone to go to Walmart and buy his kids some cereal. He wants to do it his “damn self!” This man makes sure that he is at home each morning to have breakfast with his kids, no matter how late he stayed at the hotel with girlfriends, “Friend” and “Flower.”
The man in this book, listens almost exclusively to classical music in the car; he has no computer of his own, and only goes online to purchase from eBay. He doesn’t watch TV because he doesn’t care for the bullshit, instead, he’ll choose DVDs for him and his family. But boy does he love to unwind by shootin’ hoops…and he is even said to have a pretty decent jump shot.
As I said in the beginning, much has been written about the man we call, “The King of Pop.” But within the pages of this book, and the degree to which these two men choose to go in order to tell their story – as they say in some circles:
The shit just got real.
“That’s the man we want to depict, not ‘The King of Pop.’ Everybody knows that person,” says Whitfield, when asked about the striking and soulful photo that was used on the cover. It is the only photo you will see in the book, and it was one of four pictures that Michael Jackson personally gave to Whitfield.
When Bill, a professional in the personal security field who has provided services to many dignitaries; first learned about the job that would change his life, he was not given a name for the mysterious client he was set to pick up at the Las Vegas McCarran Airport on the evening of December 22, 2006.
Though he mentions in the book that he had been a long-time Michael Jackson fan, he didn’t seem to realize that the final passenger he saw deplane on that evening, following a gentleman, three kids and a woman; a man with a black veil covering his face, high-water pants and white socks was indeed Michael Jackson – who was just returning from his self-imposed exile in Bahrain.
“My mind thought it for a second…But I’ve been doing security for some time and I was like, ‘No’, where is this and where is that,'” explains Whitfield, who added that the Michael Jackson he thought he knew, always had an entourage. So he did not expect him to be alone.
“That’s like, if the president got off the plane by himself you’re like, ‘No.’ Because there’s no one around. None of the entourage.”
“Remember The Time” is surprisingly well-written. And though Whitfield and Beard were helped by professional writer, Tanner Colby, who shares writing credits with them on the book; the men say they had to go behind Colby in the first draft, because he wrote their language “too proper.”
“We see what you’re trying to do [as a writer],” Bill explained. “But we don’t talk like that.”
The end result has a conversational tone, clipped sentences that actually work (some sentences might be only three words long. And they work!); with language that is often raw and unapologetic without looking as if its trying to be. For example, after Whitfield arrived at the destination, a sprawling Spanish style private home at 2710 Palamino Ln. in Las Vegas – where the passengers in the car would live through 2009, he couldn’t help but ask the cousin who had referred him, who the VIP he had just escorted home was.
With the holiday traffic, it took us forty-five minutes to get to the house. Jeff was waiting. We pulled into the driveway; the gate closed behind us. My car stopped in front, and the mother car drove around the side to let the family out in private. I helped unload the luggage–there were at least thirty bags–and we brought it all inside. Then I went back out to the driveway.
Jeff came out of the house. Over the two-way radio, he said, “We good?”
“Code 4,” I said.
At that point I figured I was done. I got my subject from point A to point B. It’s a wrap. But the curiosity was killing me. I walked over to Jeff and said, “So tell me. Who is that guy?”
Jeff got this big grin on his face. “Didn’t you see him?” he said. I shrugged. “Sure. I saw a skinny dude, a chick, and three kids.”
Jeff leaned in and whispered, “That’s Michael Jackson.” I just stared at him. “Get the fuck outta here!”
You’ll also stories about an angry Michael Jackson who sings the hell out of the Bobby Brown classic, “My Perogative.”
“I made this fuckin’ money you didn’t!” Jackson is heard singing violently behind the partition of the SUV, following one of many meetings with industry folk trying to push him into doing 50 shows at London’s O2 Arena for the This Is It come back performances they say will bring him out of debt.
The man is clearly not happy as he shifts in the back seat; where upon the conclusion of the song he tells Whitfield to “play that again.”
But Bill tells his boss he can’t. Because its not a CD. It’s a song on the radio. To which Jackson responds, pull over at the next opportunity and buy it.
In an interview with EURweb editor, DeBorah B. Pryor, the authors speak frankly about their time with Mr. Jackson; not even for a second do they step outside of addressing him as “Mr. Jackson” or “The Boss.”
While Javon Beard says he was always a fan of Michael Jackson, he admits in the book that he “doesn’t have the same reverence for the Jackson family,” as his colleague, Bill; explaining that he is more from “the hip hop generation.”
Whitfield explains that when it came to telling people how he really felt, and laying down the law to some of the characters who would try to cross him, his boss just “didn’t have it in him” to be so ballsy.
But goddammit, that Michael Jackson could talk some serious shit venting out loud in private!
Instead of showing how pissed off he was at someone’s disrespect or arrogance where he was concerned, Jackson would say things like, “I should get Joseph to kick their ass!” And Whitfield, keeping his thoughts to himself in front of Jackson, tells us in the book, “Your father? Really? You’re a 50-year-old man.”
The intensity of some of the numerous stories will make your head spin. No, really, they’re that good!
For instance, once you go behind the hype of everything, have you ever stopped to really consider how Jackson got from one point to another? Since he rarely was able to go through the front door?
“We can all go into the lobby of these hotels and stop and just say ‘Wow! That’s nice. Look at that,’” Whitfield explains, adding that because of Jackson’s massive celebrity, he couldn’t enter through the beautiful lobby, he had to be escorted through the stink of back alleys overflowing with garbage or drab service elevators.
“He would ask, ‘does this hotel have brochures?’ and we’d be like ‘brochures?’ Yeah, I guess so,” says Bill, who admits he found that an odd question, until he and Javon later realized Jackson wanted the brochures so he could see what the hotel looked like.
Stories that show how frustrated Whitfield and Beard became when they were not paid on time (sometimes as much as four months went by!). One day, after months of not being paid, as they escorted Jackson on one of his many shopping sprees, this one at FAO Schwartz, Whitfield, who has a young daughter of his own who Jackson once bought a cellphone for was asked by Jackson, “You’re not going to buy a doll for your daughter, Bill?” To which Bill would remind him, “No sir, we haven’t been paid yet.”
Michael’s response, “Oh.”
In the book the guys tell how Jackson did not really equate the thousands of dollars he may have carried on his person; money that could easily have satisfied their salary, with expense money. That was money for him and his children…not bills.
But on the same note, your heart warms when a story is told about how Jackson’s manager at the time, Raymone Bain, brought mail to an Essence Magazine photo shoot. And two of the envelopes were addressed to Whitfield and Beard, who said, Michael jumped up out of the makeup chair, with the apron still on, and ran across the room so excited saying, “See guys, I told you I would get you paid!”
Sadly, they say in the book, it was only a partial amount of what was owed. But they didn’t have the heart to tell Michael that.
Javon speaks about where he was on the day he heard Jackson had passed. At this time, the men had remained in Las Vegas while Jackson traveled between London and Los Angeles, where he had moved on a fulltime basis. The two men had gone back and forth with Jackson’s new management – those who had been put in place to work with him on the comeback performances; and Whitfield and Beard were still negotiating with these people via fax on a new contract.
Though Jackson did call them personally to see when they would be back in his presence, with him now being “in King of Pop mode” things were no longer as personal.
“I was actually in Best Buy in Las Vegas…I was actually in the music section and…I was looking for some other CDs and one of the gentlemen was like, ‘Oh my god have you guys heard? Michael Jackson is dead.’ And then right when he had said that, my phone started ringing and ringing. I mean, off the hook,” Javon explains to Pryor.” He continues, “So it was my cousin at first, the gentleman who got us hired, he was like, ‘Mr. Jackson is um, he might be dead, but we don’t know yet. There are reports saying this but we don’t know’. So I panicked. Dropped the CDs. Left out of Best Buy and the first thing to come to my head is, ‘Oh my god. Where’s the kids?'”
After Beard rushed home and turned on the news to see what he could find out, he learned that Jackson had been pronounced dead.
“I was devastated. I kept thinking where are the kids because he is all they knew. Where are they going to go? Who’s with them? Who’s watching them?”
Javon, who writes that once Jackson’s death had been confirmed by the coroner he, “went in the bathroom by myself and I just broke down and started crying,” adds that at first he wasn’t even able to mourn Jackson right away because of his concern about the kids’ whereabouts. “Because the [Jackson] family and everybody wasn’t around at that time.”
When asked if MJ’s death was a total surprise, or if he saw any signs of decline over a period of time, Beard says.
“See, the thing is with me, he was always frail. It was a couple of times that it was obvious he seemed incoherent. But it wasn’t nothing out of the ordinary. For me it was just normal. That’s what was so shocking. We never seen him doing any propofol, whatever that stuff they’re saying that he did. Sometimes he’d be lethargic, but it wasn’t really nothing out of the ordinary…Sometimes he wouldn’t sleep and the next day he’d be kind of incoherent and tired and I’d be like, ‘OK, maybe he didn’t get enough sleep.’”
Whitfield, who says in the book, that he “just fell back on the couch in shock” following the sad news, has still not watched This Is It.
I asked him if Jackson ever (finally) got excited about ‘This Is It’?
“Excited to perform? Yes. Excited to do the number of shows that he was being asked to do or requested to do? No.”
I asked both gentlemen what they thought of the MJ halogram at the Billboard Music Awards.
Whitfield hesitates…”I tell you this. I’ve never seen This Is It…Because I’m aware of the behind-the-scenes. Its like seeing a magic show and you already know the trick.”
Beard says he was “unable to watch more than the first minute-and-a-half” of the performance. “It just got too emotional. I just knew that, as soon as it came on, anything that has to do with Mr. Jackson, he was such a perfectionist, he would want to be involved in and he wanted to have the final say so, so I turned it off.”
Beard says it was hard because it looked so real.
Even with the new music, Xscape, Javon says it is hard to listen to, because Michael did not have the final go ahead. “Even with …one song, he would do it over 150 times,” he reiterates. “He wouldn’t want nothing out without his say so. Nothing.”
In the book, for which the gentlemen say they took no advance (just enough to cover hiring an editor), both gentlemen express sorrow and even guilt, for not being there, and wondering, “What if…”
Bill Whitfield writes about his feelings today. “We were not supposed to be a part of that, the scenery of him passing away. Everybody that was part of that has to carry it for the rest of their lives.”
Javon Beard, who was unemployed for more than a year after Michael’s passing, says he is now working as personal security for a high profile actor that lives in Las Vegas. In a way, it was his former boss, Michael Jackson, that helped him get the job.
I asked Beard how or if having once worked for Michael Jackson has affected his resume. He says he decided to tell his current client who his former client was because, with the book coming out, he didn’t want the client to say, “Why didn’t you tell me you worked for Michael Jackson?” So when he told his current boss, who turned out to be a fan of Jacksons – someone who claims to have “met him twice and never believed” this incredibly nice guy “had did what the tabloids claimed,” hired him on the spot – ignoring the other three more experienced people waiting to be interviewed. Beard thanks Jackson, who he says is “still working miracles” on helping him get his new job.
“Remember The Time: Protecting Michael Jackson In His Final Days is published by Weinstein Books. The hardback book retails for $26.00 in the U.S. and $29.00 in Canada.
–This article was written by DeBorah B. Pryor