Jan 03 2014

UPDATE: Part III Now Available – August 2012 Interview with Reverent June Juliet Gatlin (MJ’s spiritual advisor) for Vanity Fair

Category: Friends,Interviews,VideosSeven @ 10:29 pm

Reverent June Gatlin (Michael’s spiritual advisor) has allowed me to share this interview, done with journalist Mark Seal of Vanity Fair in August 2012. I don’t read that magazine so am unaware whether any article resulting from this interview was ever published.

Rev. Gatlin describes how the title “This Is It” was given to her as a title of Michael’s “Book of Life” which she discussed with him before the shows / tour of the same name was ever conceived. She also talks about how exhausted Michael seemed to be and says that she didn’t believe he could do the 50 shows they signed him for. She discusses how he mistrusted Tohme Tohme along with many others around him and how he wanted everything new around him – that he was changing everything and in the process of taking complete charge of his life. Michael, she says, was puzzled as to why Jermaine would introduce him to Tohme and she expresses surprise (like many of us did) as to why Tohme jumped into the media spotlight after Michael’s death claiming to (still) be his manager even after he was clearly let go.

In Part II, she breaks down when talking about how she knew she needed to get to him on the morning of his death, but was unable to make it. I’ll write no more about the interview here except to say it’s worth a listen. Thank you Rev. June Gatlin for sharing this with us! As much as journalists tend to edit/twist/leave out facts, particularly where Michael Jackson is concerned, it was probably a good idea to record it!

Part I

Part II

Part III

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Sep 01 2012

Through more intelligent focus, many will actually see Michael Jackson again for the first time

Category: Academia,Books,Friends,Justice,VideosSeven @ 12:20 am

Tonight is a full, blue moon. It’s also the 25th anniversary of the release of Michael’s ‘Bad‘ album, and Mr. Spike Lee’s “Bad 25” film is out at a Venice film festival to fabulous and well-deserved reviews. Of course no one else could have properly created this documentary than Mr. Lee himself and of course he has done a fantastic job.

Prestigious universities are teaching classes about the human being and the genius Michael Jackson was. Great authors are researching, examining and publishing positive books about  his craft and creative processes. Finally, more people will see Michael Jackson – many for the first time, though they certainly knew his music and his name from media and tabloid stories. They did not however know who or what he really was. Now, they’ll have the opportunity to properly learn.

Thank You Mr. Spike Lee for creating a window through which the world will take a second look at Michael Jackson in ‘Bad 25‘. In the video above, Spike Lee describes his documentary film as “a love letter to Michael Jackson” and says “it’s time to concentrate on Michael’s music and let the other stuff go“. I certainly agree with that.

Thank you Joe Vogel for writing serious, well-researched books about Michael’s creative processes and his music.  Thank you Dr. Mark Anthony Neal at Duke University and Joe Vogel at University of Rochester for bringing Michael Jackson’s human nature, his genius and work ethic, the important nuances in his poor working-class African American upbringing, his struggles with race as an artist, and his cultural influence as the worlds greatest entertainer into the classroom for what absolutely merits serious study.  Thank you also to Sylvia J. Martin, Ph.D whose “The Roots and Routes of Michael Jackson’s Global Identity” is required reading for Dr. Neal’s course along with Joe Vogel’s ‘Man in the Music‘.

If you haven’t see this yet, here is an hour-long interview with Dr. Neal (done in 2009) about The Legacy of Michael Jackson (thank you David Edwards for locating this):

Video streaming by Ustream
All of these people are bringing a more intelligent, accurate and appropriate focus on Michael Jackson, who he truthfully was and what he meant in our society and our world. The phenomenon that was Michael Jackson is an important part of our cultural history. It should not be ignored or buried under media and tabloid bullshit. Now, because of these more realistically focused efforts, many people can (if they choose) see Michael Jackson for the first time, even if they thought they already knew who he was.

These are very positive changes. I just wish this had all happened over three years ago. Michael worked his skinny butt off at his craft all his life so he could give the world the very best of himself. He was honest and hardworking. He was overly-generous and idealistic. He was a driven genius. He was the best entertainer the world has ever seen. He really cared about this world, and I dare say he cared more than it cares about itself. The way things are going, it may be a good thing he’s not here anymore because the human race is destroying itself though he tried to enlighten us to save ourselves and each other through messages in his music.

I miss Michael and just wish he could have seen some of this when he was alive. I hope beyond hope that somehow his sweet soul can see it now.

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Aug 04 2012

“I laughed every day until he died”

Category: Art,Books,Friends,Quotes About MJ,VideosSeven @ 10:02 am

Michael to MLB: “I needed your help”

If you haven’t heard, Michael Lee Bush, Michael Jackson’s designer/costumer for 26 years, through the worst times of his life, and right up to the very end, has a book coming out.

The King of Style: Dressing Michael Jackson” is due out October 30th, and is undoubtedly a must-have for die-hard fans as well as the simply fashion-curious.

SOURCE: http://www.newsday.com/entertainment/michael-jackson-s-longtime-costumer-unveils-book-1.3872272

What most people don’t know about Jackson is he was a joker — a playful prankster who loved to laugh and often teased those closest to him the most.

[Michael Lee] Bush tells of meeting Jackson for the first time in 1983, when both men were 25. The King of Pop hadn’t retained a costumer yet, and Bush was up for consideration. Jackson had been holed up for hours in his trailer on the set of “Captain EO.” Bush could hear a monkey squealing as he approached. It was dark inside and “like 120 degrees.” Jackson was snacking.

Eager to please as he prepped the pop star’s clothes, Bush felt something hit him gently in the head. A cherry stem. A few seconds later, it happened again. When it happened a third time, Bush lobbed a cherry at the rising superstar. Jackson tossed a handful back, and thus began a close professional and personal relationship that spanned the remainder of Jackson’s life.

I think he wanted someone he could play with. He just wanted to see, ‘Am I going to have fun with this person?‘” said Bush, now 54, an almost sheepish, informally trained clothier from Ohio who learned his craft from his mom and grandmother, who made wedding gowns, prom dresses and quilts.

And I laughed every day until he died.

. . .

Jackson had a childlike fascination with rhinestones, Bush said.

Sometimes I’d drive three hours to retrieve loose rhinestones straight from the factory, just because looking at them in that raw form pleased Michael to no end. Every time I opened the swatch of white felt that encased the rhinestones, he’d gasp,” he writes. “He’d take them from me and delicately move them around with his fingertips and whisper… ‘Can you imagine being a pirate opening a treasure chest? And seeing all the glitter inside? What a fascinating life, to be a pirate like that.’

Speaking of pirate ships .. this portrait entitled “Peter Pan” was created in 1998 on Michael’s request and was presented to him in 1999. It is Michael’s very first commission from artist Céline Lavail. At first attracted by a preliminary sketch picturing him under the personification of JM Barrie’s famous character, Michael Jackson asked for a finalized portrait of him inspired by the Peter Pan theme. This artwork adorned Neverland Ranch’s walls and was reproduced upon Michael’s request on one of the golf carts he used to drive in his California property.

More about Céline Lavail and her Michael Jackson artwork here: http://www.mj-777.com/?p=6572.  Below, a video of Michael Lee Bush at work with Michael Jackson during the HIStory tour:

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{ Thanks to my friends at UK Loves MJ for locating and sharing this article about MLB’s new book and to Angela for finding the video! -Seven }

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Jul 28 2012

Michael’s old school, Montclair Prep, sadly closed down

Category: Friends,InterviewsSeven @ 10:09 pm

Michael at Montclair Prep

I learned just a few days ago that the preparatory school that Michael attended, Montclair Prep, has sadly closed down as of July 15th of this year. This school has had a long proud history of helping to educate some of the best-known names in Hollywood and the entertainment industry.

Quite a while back, I featured a piece on Michael’s time at Montclair Prep. An article I referred to in that piece, originally published in the Toronto Sun, referred to a Mark Simpson as the school’s principal who allegedly knew Michael.

However an inside source who was very close to Dr. Vernon E. Simpson, Executive Director and Founder of Montclair Prep, says that could not have been true. This source provided the following information in dispute of the Toronto Sun article (and thus my previous feature on the school as well):

It’s a lovely story and for the most part pretty accurate. But the man quoted, Mark Simpson, was never the “principal” of Montclair Prep. He is the nephew of this once great school’s founder, Dr. Vernon E. Simpson, who passed away in 2008. “Doc” as he was known, was very close with Michael and the Jackson Family. Mark Simpson wasn’t at the Prep in 1973. He was himself a high school age teenager at the time attending some school…somewhere…but NOT MCP. He didn’t hang around Michael. He wasn’t his classmate or his friend and wasn’t old enough to have possibly been on staff at the school…That dubious affiliation occurred more than 20 years later. Doc died and Mark, utterly without qualification (without even a college degree…let alone a PhD like his uncle) took over as “executive director” of the school, firing Doc’s hand-chosen successor Dr. Mike McDonnell – and by 2012, the 56-year-old “Prep”…once one of LA’s top prep schools, closed its doors…broke. I am sure that Dr. Simpson and Michael Jackson (RIP both) would equally as sad and angry as many of us. Another of life’s tragedies. We never seem to run out of them. Michael and his family wouldn’t know Mark [Simpson] if they tripped over him.

. . .

NO ONE wore uniforms at MCP in 1973. Michael as well as two other brothers (Marlon and Randy I believe) were given some latitude on the length of their hair (the Prep still had haircut standards then)but Michael dressed like every other boy on campus…Collared shirt…NO blue jeans…no jerseys, etc. But that stuff about being “excused” from wearing a uniform is bogus.

The source continued:

The school had a lot of interesting students:

Cher (I worked with Sonny back in the 1980s and 1990s) who got tossed out of school but would have been class of 1963 (I think Sonny, who was a good deal older, used to pick her up off campus/after school);
Frank Sinatra Jr., whose dad sometime made him hitchhike home without a nickel in his pocket; and people like
Danny Bonaduce (“Partridge Family”)
Eve Plumb (“The Brady Bunch”)
Steven Dorff (“Blade”, among others); and
-Oscar Winner Curtis Hanson (screenplay for “LA Confidential”); and
Paul Thomas Anderson (directed feature films: Hard Eight (1996), Boogie Nights (1997), Magnolia (1999), Punch-Drunk Love (2002), There Will Be Blood (2007), and The Master (2012). He has been nominated for five Academy Awards — There Will Be Blood for Best Achievement in Directing, Best Motion Picture of the Year, and Best Adapted Screenplay; Magnolia for Best Original Screenplay; and Boogie Nights for Best Original Screenplay.)
-The amazing pastry chef Nancy Silverton was in my class of 36 graduates. It was, to say the least, an amazing school.

I will tell you that the Jacksons took school seriously enough that Michael’s Mom was not above coming to campus for a sit down with Dr. Simpson if and when there was reason to do so. Doc treated ALL of his students alike. Michael and his brothers were expected to fulfill all of the same academic requirements as anyone else attending MCP. When the Jackson brothers professional commitments resulted in them missing too many days of school, Dr. Simpson (with a deep sense of regret) told them they would have to withdraw from the school if they could not meet the academic standards. And, so they left.

I spoke to Joe Jackson a couple days after Michael died ( I had been working on a deal for the 5 other Jackson Brothers to do some shows in the UK at that time…the deal ultimately falling apart) and we talked about MCP for a couple of minutes. Joe said it had been “good for him”.  I think time there might have allowed for Michael to be a normal teenager, at least for a little while. Jon Blosdale (http://fineartmanagementnews.com/artists-biographies/beatles-animation-art/) , mentioned in the article is still a friend of mine.

I can tell you that Dr. Simpson DID think he was a great kid and it saddened him that Michael’s life away from the spotlight was so difficult. I never got the details (though I do know about a few things from other friends of Michael’s) but Doc said that “(his) dad was very hard on him”…Pity….not very fair.

. . .for Michael, it was a refuge. Once place in the world where he was “just another kid”

Montclair was like a family. I am sure Michael would be saddened that “his old school” is no more.

So there you go, straight from a real insider at Montclair Prep who knew its founder very well. No doubt Michael would be very sad about this school’s closing.

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Jul 15 2012

“Come back and see me, and don’t bring him.”

Category: Friends,MJ Quotes,Photos,Quotes About MJSeven @ 12:06 pm

 

Michael with Hazel George, Walt Disney’s long-time nurse.

SOURCE: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2009389050_apusmichaeljacksondisney.html

(added emphasis mine)

“Hello, Bob, this is Michael.”

The wispy voice caused me to review the Michaels I knew. I was stymied until the voice asked, “Did you write a book about Walt Disney?”

I admitted I had authored “Walt Disney, An American Original.” I also recognized the voice by now – Michael Jackson – remembering he had a passion for all things Disney.

“I’d like to talk to you about Walt,” he said urgently, and I agreed. The date was set for the following evening at his family compound in the San Fernando Valley community of Encino, which is just a few blocks from my house.

I arrived at the property and announced myself to a receptionist on the other end of an intercom. A massive gate opened slowly and I drove down a narrow passageway and stopped in front of a building containing offices. I looked around and thought I saw a tall tree nearby. I looked again; it was a real-life giraffe.

An assistant said Jackson would be ready soon, and I spent 20 minutes inspecting a wall full of Jackson photographs with Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan, Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley and other celebrities.

Finally, Michael was ready. I was introduced to him in an elaborate dining room and then followed him upstairs to the library, which featured a life-sized studio portrait of Walt Disney.

“Do you mind if I record our talk?” he asked.

“Not if you don’t use it commercially,” I replied.

He started by asking a few questions and I explained how I approached an interview with Walt. When he ran out of queries, I provided some memories of Walt.

Toward the end of the conversation, Michael hesitantly asked whether Walt ever used a certain expletive. Without thinking, I replied I had never heard him utter it.

The interview was over and Michael escorted me to the photographs I had already perused.

He was busy in the mid-1980s and I didn’t expect to see him again. Yet a few months later he called. “Hello Bob, this is Michael,” he said. “Do you think Hazel George is still alive?”

I said I didn’t know but would find out. George was Disney’s longtime nurse who also exchanged studio gossip with him. I found out that Hazel was retired yet still living near the Disney lot in Burbank.

“I’d love to talk to her,” Jackson said. “Can you arrange it?”

I did, and a few days later, Jackson picked me up at my house in his chauffeured limo and I directed the driver to Hazel’s bungalow.

Hazel had aged since I interviewed her for the biography and I found that I would have to prompt her. I had recorded the stories she once gave me and had brought the tapes along, so I played them back and let her deliver the punchlines.

Jackson was fascinated but scarcely said a word. When we finished, Hazel said to Jackson, “Come back and see me, and don’t bring him.” She meant me.

A few months passed and then another call: “Hello Bob, this is Michael.”

He wanted to know more about Walt Disney and wanted me to join him at a San Fernando Valley recording studio. I arrived on time and waited an hour until he finished a session. We sat down in an office and he again asked questions about Walt, most of which he had asked in our first visit.

He also asked again whether Walt had ever used a certain expletive. This time I remembered that he had on at least one occasion and I proceeded to explain the humorous circumstance.

“Oh,” he said.

I never saw Michael after that.

Bob Thomas, Associated Press writer

UPDATE: I had a bit of a Twitter exchange about this with Joe Vogel. Joe said:

Great find, Seven. Buz Kohan spoke to me a bit about this but this fleshes it out much more. Fascinating.

I told Joe that I wondered what word it was that Michael had questioned Bob Thomas about, wanting to know if Walt Disney had ever used it. Joe’s response:

I think it was the N-word.

Don’t miss Joe’s latest book ‘Featuring Michael Jackson‘. It’s a must-have for fans and curious non-fans alike. Just like his other books, it’s extremely well-researched and well-written, giving readers a much better understanding of who Michael Jackson really was.

More about Buz Kohan:

To read more about Michael’s relationship with Buz Kohan or ‘Buzzie Wuzzie‘, as Michael called him, see Joe’s ‘Gone Too Soon’: The Many Lives of Michael Jackson’s Elegy in the Atlantic, written by Joe on the 3rd anniversary of Michael’s death. And don’t miss my  touching ‘Two Birds, A Remembrance‘ piece here on MJ-777.com from January 2012.

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