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:

_ _ _

{ 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 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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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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Jul 08 2012

“I was amazed at his natural ability to make it work, regardless of the circumstance”

Category: Photos,Quotes About MJSeven @ 12:20 am

Young Michael at work.

I am a former writer, producer, engineer for Motown Records. I had the honor of working with Michael and Jermaine Jackson while they were contracted to the label during the early 70′s both in Detroit and Los Angeles. I wrote and produced a song on Michael alone entitled `Label Me Love’ and to my knowledge it has never been released to date.

Michael himself was an enormous talent as a kid not yet in his teens, and I say this because the song I recorded with him I found to be in a tad too high a key. Initially, Mike had a problem adjusting his voice to the track [but he] figured a way to sing the lead without any changes to the key or the overall track. I was amazed at his natural ability to make it work, regardless of the circumstance.

The last time I had any contact with Mike was when my daughter Nicci got an offer from his MJJ Records label to do a record deal. When she called to tell me about Mike’s offer I felt she would get a real opportunity at getting a shot and I approved her decision to sign the girl group she called Brownstone to MJJ Records. Nicci was the lead singer and in the first group Mike signed to his label. With the grace of God, they received a platinum album on their first album release and gold Record on the 2nd and final release.

He was here on earth for many reasons and we should appreciate all he gave us before he was called home to complete his greatest performance.

-Clay McMurray, former producer at Motown Records from 1968-1975

SOURCE: (includes many more quotes from various music industry personnel about Michael) http://www.billboard.com/news/-1003990266.story#/news/-1003990266.story

On Michael’s death:

“This is just shocking,” said former Motown producer Clay McMurray. The Detroiter hadn’t been in touch with Jackson for a while but remembered him fondly. “He used to draw faces on the lyrics sheets I gave him,” he said. “I still have some of them.

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Jun 25 2012

Love Lives Forever

Category: Children,Justice,Prose/Essays,Quotes About MJSeven @ 6:09 pm

I want the same for Michael that he wanted for Ryan White: “I want the world to know who you are” . . . only then can the world understand why Michael Jackson is so missed 3, 5, 10 or more years later.

It’s why I have this website where I write about him. I’m a writer. Michael was a singer. When you want to give voice to someone’s memory, you use whatever talents or tools you have at your disposal to do it, if it’s important enough to you. And he was important.

He was as important to those who want the world to know who he was as the world was to him, especially the children. There lies the unbroken circle that even his death cannot sever.

Love Lives Forever.

___

You can read about the story behind Michael’s recording of the song that actually woke me this morning – “Gone Too Soon” – in Joe Vogel’s new piece he wrote for today in The Atlantic – it’s not to be missed!

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/06/gone-too-soon-the-many-lives-of-michael-jacksons-elegy/258933/

©2012 Seven Bowie

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