Jul 09 2012

Michael Gave Whitney Houston a Monkey for Her Birthday

Category: Friends,Photos,Quotes About MJSeven @ 10:51 pm

Michael with Whitney Houston

Does that sound strange? Well maybe it is. But before you judge such a gift too harshly, try to understand the life of the person it came from.

BeBe Winans wrote a book about Whitney Houston called ‘The Whitney I Knew‘. There are some exclusive excerpts of the book in an article on RollingStone.com. I want to share a few of them here in the interest of understanding what the Whitney Houstons and the Michael Jacksons of our society go through in order to share their gifts with us.  It’s heartwrenching that these people are so judged and crucified by our society and its tabloids and media as they  give our souls life through their gift of music or other talents. There truly must be a special place in Heaven for these people, monkeys and all.

Here are the excerpts, but please do read the entire article at RollingStone:

Hers was a tangible gift that audibly and even visibly set her apart. That’s what Whitney possessed. There was no gimmick to her, only giftedness. But with that giftedness came great promise and great responsibility, the weight of which can be too much for even the most pure in heart.

The world saw Whitney in the tabloids just like it sees Madonna or Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Our mistake is that we make our assumptions about the kind of people they are based on the manipulative lenses of photographers scrambling to land their photo on the front page of TMZ. We watch Being Bobby Brown and think that the scenes caught on tape constitute Whitney as a person, a mom, and a wife. True, the reality show was not Whitney’s (or Bobby’s) shining moment. But are we really that eager to remember someone for their worst moments when they’ve given us so many of their best?

The truth is, those images never constituted Whitney’s reality. Her life was not lived at the reality-show/tabloid level. And yet, because that’s all so many people saw, it’s all they allowed themselves to believe. The public formed their opinion of her through writers and photographers who never met her. To me, that’s a tragedy.

Imagine yourself in this situation. You can’t escape the expectations of the mob. And it kills you.

• • •

To give you an idea of how the media twists reality, allow me to expound on the Mariah Carey situation. Now, this story would probably embarrass Whitney a little, but I have to tell it. I think she’d understand that it’s all in good fun.

When Mariah debuted, I’m sure people in the media couldn’t wait to compare her to Whitney. I had heard of Mariah early on because my good friend, Rhett Lawrence, produced her first big single. I was at his house in California when he was raving about this new singer.

Well, as we all know, when Mariah came on the scene, she hit hard. And instantly the media created a “hate” between Whitney and Mariah. They were both going to be at the American Music Awards, and people were expecting some kind of fireworks because supposedly there was this massive tension between them. Again, this was a fabrication. They didn’t hate each other; they didn’t even know each other.

I could convince Whitney to do anything – pranks or whatever. We’d be hanging out and I’d tell her to do something, and she’d say, “You are not my father. Why do you think you my father? You think I’ll just do whatever you tell me?” To which I’d reply, “Shut up, I am your father” – all in good fun, of course.

Well, we were at the American Music Awards, and I had persuaded Whitney that after her performance and her category were over, we would go to dinner. I’d also informed her that when we exited our seats, she would be the last one out, and that we were going to pass Mariah Carey on the way out.

“Here’s what you do,” I said. “You gonna stop and you gonna put out your hand and you gonna speak to her.”

“I’m not gonna speak to her,” Whitney replied.

“Yes, you are. You’re going to be bigger than this whole situation.” “I’m not . . .” “Yes, you are.”

Her category finished and our little foursome started marching out to go to dinner – CeCe in front of me, Whitney’s assistant, Robin, in front of her, and Whitney at the end of the line – just like I said. And Whitney did exactly as I told her to do. I didn’t stop to listen to or watch their interaction; I just kept moving. The three of us piled into the car, and then Whitney blew in like a storm and slammed the door behind her. She was clearly upset and embarrassed.

“I’m going to kick your tail!” she said to me. “What happened?” “I’ll never listen to you again.” “Tell me what happened!”

“I did everything you said: I stopped. I put out my hand and said, ‘Hi Mariah, I’m Whitney.’ And when I stuck out my hand, she turned her head like she didn’t hear anything I said and looked up at the sky.”

“Oh no,” I said. “Tell me that’s not true.”

“Oh, it’s true. I was so embarrassed. There I stood, looking like an idiot. I’m never going to do what you tell me to do again.” Thank God the media didn’t see this. If they had, Whitney’s and Mariah’s brief exchange (or lack of it) would have been blown into epic proportions. They would have hated each other and not even known why – and all because it may have been so chaotic in that moment that Mariah didn’t even hear Whitney. Unbelievable. Well, my idea didn’t go very well, but we laughed at that whole awkward affair years later. And this incident didn’t end up stopping those two from getting together in the future . . . after some further persuasion. When Whitney was approached with the opportunity to record a duet with Mariah, I encouraged her to do it. She wouldn’t hear of it. “You crazy,” she responded. “You know what happened last time I tried to do something nice. You don’t know what you’re saying, boy. You’ve lost your mind.”

It wasn’t that she disliked Mariah; she just didn’t want to be embarrassed again. We talked a little more about it, but she finally said, “That ain’t going to happen, BeBe.” Then, only a few months later, she called me and sheepishly informed me of her latest news.

“Well,” she began, dragging it out a bit, “you said it a few months ago – that I should do a duet with Mariah.”

“No,” I interrupted, “don’t tell me you’re doing it!”

“Yeah, Babyface wrote the song, and it’s on.”

I could tell she was very happy about the whole thing.

“Wow,” I replied, “ain’t that something! That’s going to be incredible! But wait, you said you were never going to do something like that.” We both laughed and laughed. Oh, how Whitney loved to laugh. Finally the two superstars met – two musical powerhouses who knew who they were outside of the pop world. And when they performed that Oscar-winning song together (“When You Believe” from the Prince of Egypt soundtrack), it was the catalyst for a great friendship between them. When I looked at Mariah at Whitney’s funeral, all those memories came flooding back.

I share that story for two reasons. First, as an example of the gross exaggerations the media likes to spin on celebrities and also to communicate Whitney’s honest love for her peers. She loved other singers and was always up on who was new and fresh. Second, I wanted to depict the scene within the church the day of her funeral. Each person sitting in that sanctuary represented both the good and the bad of Whitney’s life.

When I say good and bad, I simply mean the wonderful make-up of this life in general. That’s what makes life so beautiful: the fun and the boring, the misunderstandings and the epiphanies. All of it mixes together on the canvas of our lives. When I saw Mariah at Whitney’s homegoing, I saw a specific brushstroke of Whitney’s life. That brushstroke touched other brushstrokes. Together the strokes formed a masterpiece.

All masterpieces have certain tensions or contrasts on display – that’s what makes the painting dynamic and memorable. Whitney’s life told a dramatic story filled with contrast and beauty, a life truly lived.

The seclusion of fame damages people the most. Fame causes its inhabitants to live afraid – to fear their reputation being marred – which makes seclusion seem the only real alternative. Look at how Michael Jackson faded into eerie reclusiveness, buying a monkey and other exotic animals as pets. For me, that seems far removed from reality and true human connection. But he also endured a level of celebrity that few people on earth can relate to.

One year Whitney threw an exclusive party – a BIG party. You may ask, who throws a party for their 26th birthday – complete with a who’s who of attendees, loads of food, a beautifully decorated tent, and excellent music? Well, she did, because she was on the road during her 25th birthday.

The invitation had a spectacular picture of Whitney on the cover. You had to be on a list, and there were different security checkpoints. CeCe and I just stayed on the sidelines of the party, watching her enjoy the evening and all the love as she mingled with everyone.

That was also the night we discovered that Michael Jackson had given Whitney a monkey as her birthday present. Everyone seemed amused, but I’m sure they were all thinking the same thing I was – This is crazy! Who gives monkeys to people for their birthdays?

The thought is funny and ridiculous at the same time. Of course Whitney didn’t need a monkey! It was all she could do to take care of her cat! But perhaps Michael was so far removed from people that he thought Whitney could use the companionship of a monkey.

Whitney couldn’t believe it. She read Michael’s card, looked at me, and said, “What am I going to do with a monkey?”

We both laughed.

“As soon as this party’s over, that monkey is getting dropped off at the zoo!” Did this gift make sense to Michael? I don’t know. Perhaps. The amount of fame that Whitney had garnered already as a 26- year-old had propelled her into a lonely way of life. But can you imagine thinking that another person would be so lonely that they’d need a pet monkey? This was someone’s reality?

This is what seclusion does to a person. Whitney didn’t struggle with the inclination toward extreme reclusivenes like Michael did, though I can see now how that gift from Michael was a foreshadowing of darker days ahead for Whitney.

• • •

Rest in Peace Michael and Whitney. At long last, Rest in Peace. ♡

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Jun 04 2012

Seen, Read, Heard . . .

Category: Art,Family,Friends,Interviews,Justice,Quotes About MJ,VideosSeven @ 2:06 am

I’ve got a slew of things to share today. You may have heard, read or seen some or all of them already, but I’ll put them here anyway. First, I want to share a touching interview that Piers Morgan (who is typically not one of my favorite people) did with Katherine Jackson a few weeks ago. Click here to see the entire interview (embedding is disabled). You can just see the emotional pain on her face during some parts of the interview. One of the most heartbreaking and touching things Mrs. Jackson said during the interview was the following – and during parts of this she appeared to break into tears:

Every morning, all through the day-I think about Michael. If  I wake up through the night, my mind is there. I just miss him, but being a Christian and believing in the Resurrection, I feel that I’ll see him again.  I’m sorry I just … When they told me that he had 50 shows going on, I was concerned about those shows, I thought it was a little bit too much, because Michael hadn’t been on stage for about 10 years. And I called him and I told him, ’cause the way they had it structured, they said every other night that he’d be working … I just kept calling him telling him they had to change that schedule … They didn’t care about him, all they cared about was money.

-Katherine Jackson

Though I generally dislike Mr. Morgan, this was a very good interview, although difficult to watch at times because the deep grief Mrs. Jackson still feels is very evident.

This next item has to do with a rather personal letter that Michael wrote to Lisa Marie Presley during their relationship. The letter suddenly surfaced at Juliens for auction. Someone tweeted a very surprised Lisa Marie Presley about the letter and she asked them where they had found it. When she found out it was at Juliens, she immediately acted to have it removed from auction. I witnessed myself the twitter exchange between her and the person who had asked her about the letter. I will not post the letter itself here but I will post a letter/message from Juliens to someone who inquired about the letter’s source ie: who gave it to them. They clearly state that, contrary to wild accusations against Lisa Marie Presley, they did not obtain the letter from her. Judging by her reaction to the person who presented it to her, and by the letter/message from Juliens, I personally find it more than a laboriously contorted fantasy to believe that LMP somehow gave the letter to Juliens herself for sale. Such an accusation doesn’t even make any sense, as there is no logical reason she would do such a thing.

I am aware of some incredibly narcissistic jealousy and anger directed at Ms. Presley because she was Michael’s wife, and because in the heat of hurt and anger after their breakup she publicly said terrible things about him. I am aware that some people will latch onto any further excuse they can find or manufacture to justify that continued jealousy and anger towards her. However, it is both unfair and juvenile to demonize someone for something they did not do, no matter how you may dislike them, how jealous you may be of them, or how angry you may be at them for something else completely different that they did years ago.

All of Michael’s life, people demonized him for things he didn’t do. It ought to be obvious why this is not fair, ethical, or moral – no matter who the target of it is. Here is the message from Juliens stating that the letter did not come to them from LMP:

Message from Juliens regarding MJ to LMP personal letter

…you can tell them that it did not come from her and I can guarantee it.

-Darren Julien

That ought to be enough said about this issue. Those who wish to continue manufacturing speculation about this or continue to go on angry tirades against LMP may do so on their own websites, blogs, facebook pages or twitter accounts, but I won’t approve such comments here.

Moving on to the next debacle, Michael Jackson’s estate released a letter to fans regarding concerns about the quality of the upcoming ‘BAD25’ DVD of Michael’s 1988 Wembly Stadium performance. Though the concert was filmed using proper equipment and that high-quality footage is out there somewhere, the estate has not been able to locate it. Thus, the DVD will be sourced from a VHS tape that belonged to Michael, instead. The estate’s statement read as follows:

It is great to see the overwhelming support and excitement in the fan community for the upcoming BAD 25 release. A few questions have arisen regarding the Wembley concert DVD. Although the press release wasn’t the place for background details, here is more information:

• We know that Nocturne captured on Umatic tapes the footage projected onto the JumboTrons at the various concerts including Wembley. These tapes were turned over to Michael’s crew and we have confirmed with Patrick Kelly (who headed Michael’s film crew for the European tour) that everything from Europe was sent to LA to be put in Michael’s storage facilities. The same procedures were followed for the US shows.

• Unfortunately, record-keeping in the storage facilities was sporadic, at best, so we do not know what happened to a tape once it was sent for storage. In most cases, once a tape was pulled from the box it arrived in, it was not put back in the original box and where it wound up doesn’t always make sense. As a result, 25 years later not all of the Umatic tapes from the various shows can be located, notwithstanding that we have conducted an extensive survey of all of the storage facilities. So while we believe that the Umatic tape for Wembley was initially sent for storage, we have not been able to locate it. And with regard to the Umatic footage of other concerts, the audio is extremely problematic and therefore these concerts are unusable.

• We know that VHS copies of the Umatics were made when Michael wanted to view a particular concert, but because of the lack of record-keeping, we also didn’t know which concerts existed on VHS. We ultimately did find Michael’s personal VHS viewing copy of the Wembley show attended by Princess Diana and Prince Charles, but not the Umatic. Even finding this VHS felt like a miracle to us!

• So while we continued the search for the Wembley Umatic master, we also researched the audio recordings that existed from all of the concerts including Wembley. Fortunately, the Wembley audio recordings were made using a sound truck, and appear to be the only multi-track recordings from the tour. The other audio/visual recordings that exist, whether Umatic or VHS, are “front of house” mixes, and therefore there are no separate audio recordings that can be used to create a high quality listening experience. It is for this reason that the Wembley audio is the only one suitable to create a live album.

• If we were going to include a live concert DVD in the BAD 25 release package, we had only one choice, Wembley. And there were only two options for visual – the Umatics for a different show or the VHS for Wembley. It would certainly be less expensive for the Estate to be able to create a DVD from a Umatic tape than to spend the time and money to painstakingly restore/enhance the VHS footage, but then we would not be delivering a truly authentic experience and we truly believe that watching this concert with the high quality audio will create a magical experience for all the fans as it has for us. We ultimately chose a lab that has developed its own proprietary technology for doing this kind of work (including restoration for NASA of VHS footage) in order to make the visual experience the best it can be under the circumstances.

We also could have chosen to release the Japanese concert from the first leg of the tour as there is a master of that show; but that concert was essentially a reincarnation of the Victory Tour with only two songs – “Bad” and “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” – added at the end. It isn’t what we believe the fans would want.

We could have elected not to release a DVD as part of the BAD 25 celebration (and hold out hope that someday we might find the Umatic of the Wembley concert) or we could share with the fans the chance to relive that magical night with pristine audio. We made the decision to go with the latter and provide the fans with the most authentic viewing experience. We believe that the fans will agree it was the right choice when the package is released in September.

John Branca/The Estate of Michael Jackson

It turns out that, contrary to what many of us had believed, ‘Dirty Diana‘ was performed at this concert. If you remember, Michael had initially considered omitting the song out of respect for Lady Diana who attended the concert, but it appears that he did in fact perform the song.

A previously unreleased song, ‘Don’t Be Messin’ ‘Round‘, will be accompanied by a June 5th CD release of ‘I Just Can’t Stop Loving You‘. This CD will be sold via Wal-Mart in the U.S. and will not be available digitally. More details about ‘BAD25‘ can be found here.

Speaking of ‘Don’t Be Messin’ ‘Round‘, Joe Vogel tweeted tonight that he will “have an article out on “Don’t Be Messin'” in the next day or so with fresh insights from those involved.” That is bound to be a treat, so if you haven’t yet, follow Joe on Twitter so you’ll know as soon as he publishes! If you haven’t heard it yet, here’s the demo, just as Michael left it:

If you haven’t read the interview MJJC did with DDA David Walgren yet, you might find it interesting. In case you didn’t know, DDA Walgren has now become a Superior Court Judge, so he’s moving up in the world. This man is extremely articulate and didn’t miss a beat during the Murray trial, so I’d not want to be a criminal in his courtroom! Here are a few quotes from that interview:

Before the trial, I had great respect for Michael Jackson as an artist and enjoyed his music. However, as I learned more about him and his life, I came to really enjoy two songs in particular: Human Nature and Earth Song.

• • • 

Prior to the trial, my perception of Michael Jackson was simply that he was a very gifted artist and, although I was aware of various media accounts regarding his personal life, I do not typically follow that type of reporting. Now that I have learned so much more about him as a person, I have come away with great admiration for him as a loving and dedicated father to his children.

• • • 

I have not been able to come up with any reason why Conrad Murray would have made and saved that voice recording other than, as Judge Pastor stated, it was to serve as an insurance policy that Conrad Murray could one day use against Michael Jackson.

Mark Ryden is an American painter born January 20, 1963. He was dubbed “the god-father of pop surrealism” by Interview Magazine.

There has been much speculation and suspicion about the meaning and symbolism of the Mark Ryden artwork on the cover of the ‘Dangerous’ album. Theories include messages about the occult to ‘Illuminati‘ and Freemasonry. I don’t personally subscribe to or pay much attention to all that, but the cover is certainly fascinating and it does, as Michael and Ryden evidently intended, leave people to wonder and interpret as they wish and they’ve certainly done that! This interview with Ryden is all over the internet, though I have been unable to find an original source for it.

Our friends at UK Loves MJ on Facebook has located one of the initial sketches considered for the cover. I’d never seen it before so thought I’d share it here:

One of the original 'Dangerous' cover sketches by Mark Ryden

I suppose the thing most people don’t know, and what surprised me, was how “normal” Michael Jackson was in person. His public image is so strange I did not know what to expect but when I met with him we had a very typical and relaxed conversation. We had many common interests we talked about. Maybe I am just a freak also.

-Mark Ryden, artist/creator of the Dangerous album cover

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May 23 2012

‘You can’t go to a premiere with a n**ger.’

Category: Friends,JusticeSeven @ 10:22 am

Michael with Tatum O'neal

Unfortunately, my friendship with Michael came to an abrupt ending. He’d played the Scarecrow in The Wiz, the urban remake of the Wizard of Oz, which starred Diana Ross as Dorothy. For the film’s premiere, Michael invited me to be his date. I asked my dad, who didn’t care one way or another if I went, but my talent agency was dead set against it. I was told, in exactly these words: ‘You can’t go to a premiere with a n**ger.’

-Tatum O’neal, “A Paper Life

“Boy, is that girl with you?”, “Yes, we’re one and the same!”  -from ‘Black or White’

Just to be perfectly clear, I publish such a tasteless comment only to illustrate what Michael had to deal with during his life, and to illustrate how little has changed, at least in the United States. The advent of having the first black President here has not budged the issue one iota, except to further incense those who are revolted by a black man in the Oval Office, causing them to continually demand his “papers“, even after three years and on the eve of the next election. And, even after they have been produced time and time again, they are still not accepted by certain factions. It’s sheer lunacy and a shameful history topped off by a shameful present-day, where these attitudes remain but only the methods change. The remark made to Ms. O’neal was over 3 decades ago.

_ _ _

{ Thanks to my friends at The Michael Jackson Academia Project, who tweeted this quote and photo this morning.  -Seven }

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May 20 2012

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?

Category: Friends,VideosSeven @ 10:36 pm

It’s heartbreaking today that another musical icon surrounding Michael, and another icon from many of his fan’s teen and young adult years has left us. In fact many of Michael’s friends have left us:  Elizabeth Taylor, Dennis Tomkins, Don Cornelius, Dick Clark, Whitney Houston, Donna Summer (Queen of Disco) just a few days ago and now, Robin Gibb of the BeeGees. It could almost cause one to become suspicious that wherever he is, Michael is gathering many of his friends around him with so many of them leaving us in such a short time.

Michael was fairly close to the Gibb Brothers, with Barry having named his own son Michael. And Michael Jackson was Michael Gibb’s godfather. Michael loved the BeeGees and their music. They understood each other, musically. His favorite song from the BeeGees (or one of his favorite songs) was ‘How Can You Mend a Broken Heart‘.  In memory of both Robin Gibb, who lost his battle with cancer today, and Michael, here’s that song:

And of course Barry, sadly the only Gibb brother left now, just a bit over a year ago released a very sweet song with video footage that he’d worked on with Michael, called ‘All In Your Name‘.

For those of us who grew up in the Disco era and with Michael Jackson, this is a particularly tough time. I know that Michael will welcome both Donna Summer and Robin Gibb home with open arms. My sincerest condolences go out to their families at this most difficult time. Little did we know that this was our Last Dance with these memory-makers. In Robin’s case, we had hoped that he would somehow pull through but this was not to be. Rest in Peace, dear Robin and Donna and thank you both immensely for the memories and the music.

Robin Gibb’s tribute to Michael in 2009:

We’ve not only lost a great friend in Michael but also lost a wonderful sensitive human being. The Bee Gees heard music with the same ears. Michael had a great voice and millions of people yet to be born will sing his songs.

This tragedy should teach us a lesson to value and praise those gifts while we still have them in the world. If even a small portion of the praise that is bestowed on Michael Jackson now in death was given to him last year in life, he might well still be with us. That is the sad truth. One consolation is that he will triumph by his legacy.

-Robin Gibb

Donna Summer sweetly sang ‘Smile‘ in memory of Michael after his death:

I hope that wherever all of these friends of Michael are, that they are together with him. As for the rest of us, all we have left are memories and — Words.

~~~UPDATE~~~

Monday afternoon (5/21/2012), Barry Gibb tweeted the link to this very touching video in memory of his brother Robin. “Bodding” was an affectionate childhood nickname for Robin:

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May 13 2012

Happy 2nd Anniversary Sunflowers for Michael!

Category: Friends,PhotosSeven @ 12:15 pm

 

A couple of years ago, when Lisa Marie Presley mentioned that Michael loved Sunflowers, a reader here (Sandy Lee Scott) got an idea to provide Michael with fresh flowers of all kinds each week, funded by his fans. I agreed to kickstart the program via this website and viola! – Sunflowers for Michael was born! That was exactly two years ago today. For the first couple of months, photos of each week’s delivery were posted here on MJ-777.com and Michael’s fan-mily were thrilled!

But due to the number of photos each week, this process became onerous for both of us, so Sandy re-opened her personal Facebook page, then subsequently a separate ‘Sunflowers for Michael‘ Facebook group to post the photos each week, to keep people updated on progress and changes, and to further promote the program. Now, this Facebook group is where you can find all the photos, news and updates about Sunflowers for Michael, straight from Sandy, its founder.

Happy Birthday Sunflowers for Michael – and HUGE hugs to our gorgeous angel Sandy, who thought up this whole idea of making sure Michael’s beautiful spirit has weekly reminders of how much his fans love him.

UPDATE: You can see all the photos of Sunday’s 2nd Anniversary “Special Delivery” at the Sunflowers for Michael Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.430744546944348.101542.100000264198606&type=1

Beautiful artwork for the occasion by Sunflowers for Michael's Christine Wallden. To see the full set, click on the image!

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