Mar 13 2011

Michael Jackson- The Driver (as told by his Mother Katherine)

Category: Family,MJ Quotes,Photos,Quotes About MJSeven @ 12:56 pm

Michael driving with his niece.

Michael driving with his niece.


He was Bad. Particularly at driving. And Dangerous.

I’ve posted before here about Michael’s bad driving habits. Today though, I became aware of yet another source which confirms that he was indeed a terrible driver. That source is his own mother and sister LaToya.

It also seems that years ago, Michael got pulled over and it was discovered by the policeman that he had an outstanding ticket for a previous violation. He was tossed jail for a bit over that, but his reaction to having been thrown in the clink may surprise you.

Here’s the story as told in Katherine’s book “My Family, The Jacksons“:

Michael usually drove himself to Kingdom Hall and his field-service routes. He’d finally gotten his driver’s license in 1981, at the age of twenty-three. Initially he didn’t want to learn to drive.

I’ll just get a chauffeur when I want to go out,” he said when I began nagging him about getting his license.

“But suppose you’re someplace and your chauffeur gets sick?” I reasoned.

Finally, he relented and took some lessons.

After he began driving, Michael decided that he enjoyed being behind the wheel, after all. The first time he took me for a ride, he ventured up to Mulholland Drive, a winding road in the Hollywood Hills. It was a hair-raising experience.

“I’ve got a crook in my neck and my feet hurt,” LaToya, who was also in the car, complained afterward. “I was putting on the brakes’ with my feet and ‘steering’ the car with my neck trying to keep it on the road. I was so scared!”

It was white-knuckle time for me, too. Michael drove fast. He also had the same habit that I have: driving right up to the car in front and stopping on a dime.

After that, Michael started going out by himself.

“You shouldn’t go out alone,” I told him. “Get Bill Bray to go with you.”

But Michael wouldn’t hear of it. “I’m tired of having security with me every time I go someplace.

When he began driving, Michael told me that he would never go on freeways; he thought they were too dangerous. So I was shocked one day when Michael suddenly drove us onto a freeway ramp.

“Wait a minute, Michael, what are you doing?”

I can drive the freeways now!” he said, laughing. He had changed his mind about freeways when he saw just how long it took him to get around Los Angeles without using them.

Michael’s first car was a Mercedes. Then he bought a black Rolls-Royce, which he later painted blue.

It was in the Rolls that he was stopped one day — not for fans outside the gate, but by a Van Nuys policeman.

“This looks like a stolen car,” the officer said. He didn’t recognise Michael, who wasn’t wearing a disguise that day.

Michael explained politely that he did, indeed, own the car. But the officer went ahead and ran a check on the car, and found that Michael had a ticket outstanding.

The next thing Michael knew, he was sitting in the Van Nuys jail.

Bill Bray bailed him out. I didn’t even know what had happened until he came home.

“You should have asked the officer what a stolen car looks like,” I said after he related his adventure. Perhaps the cop had felt that a young black man didn’t belong behind the wheel of a Rolls.

But Michael was not only put out by the experience, he professed to be happy.

I got to see how it felt to be in jail!” he exclaimed.

I know that feeling of “getting to see how it felt to be in jail“. I spent a night there once myself but not due to any trouble I was in. I used to live in a hurricane-prone area of the country and one place they would herd townspeople as a means of shelter during those intense storms was the jailhouse! So, during a hurricane I was forced – along with my family – to sleep in a cell on one of those hard, uncomfortable cots. I can’t say it was pleasant but I did “get to see how it felt to be in jail“.

I’m glad that Michael decided not to drive very much as the years went by, and that he mostly stuck to performing, songwriting, dancing, singing, moonwalking, tippy-toeing, and film-making instead. There were plenty of things Michael was incredibly good at at to keep him busy. Driving just didn’t happen to be one of them!

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30 Responses to “Michael Jackson- The Driver (as told by his Mother Katherine)”

  1. Vanessa Donovan says:

    Oh, god bless you MJ – what a lovely story..I once read somewhere that he didn’t like getting on freeways as he could never get off them, ended up going round in circles!

  2. Lady Robyn says:

    It’s nice to know that I wasn’t the only terrible driver in the world. My hero was too! LOL! For years, (just like Mrs. Katherine) my mom has been BEGGING me to get my license. I learned, but I was terrible @ it! Irony: I, too, was scared of taking “the expressway in my hometown, but while learning, I found it was the most relaxing place to be. But, I was still terrible. & I always had an excuse: “I can drive straight, very well,” I would say, “… it’s the TURNING that I have problems.” (Oh, good grief.) On top of it, I flunked the test… all 3 times. But now, my mom is getting older & she needs me to drive to take her to the hospital. On top of that, I’m tired of busses. So… it’s decided. If my hero can get his license, then I can get mine too.

    To those who believe that Michael’s car broke down near Rent-a-Wreck… I thought that Taraborrelli book said that Michael’s LIMO broke down & that his LIMO DRIVER went to get help. It wasn’t because of Michael’s driving, because HE WAS BEING DRIVEN… not the other way around as you think. & Besides, i still think his learning how to drive was a good thing because he became more independent & self-assured… something we ALL need… like me. & Driving helps w/ that. Also, I heard that in the end it was his license that was used to finally “i.d.” him.

    On a side note about MJ’s driving skills: Do you think he was his own inspiration for “Speed Demon”? I always thought it was James Dean thanks to the lines:

    Speed Demon, You’re The
    Very Same One
    Who Said The Future’s In
    Your Hands
    The Life You Save Could Be
    Your Own
    You’re Preachin’ ‘Bout My
    Life Like You’re The Law
    Gonna Live Each Day And
    Hour Like
    For Me There’s No Tomorrow

    Reason why for those who don’t know about James Dean:

    James was a very good friend of Michael’s friend Elizabeth. The pair worked on what would be his last film “Giant”. While filming the western/soap opera, James made a commercial w/ actor GigYoung about driving safely. Ironically, Dean would die in a car accident on his way to a racing event (his hobby) in Salinas, CA, a few days after he wrapped up his part in the films production. At the end of the clip, he says jokingly into the camera, “Be careful on the highway… the life you save, could be mine.” Oh the tragic irony.

    Here’s the clip:

    When I heard Speed Demon I was really getting into James Dean at the time, so I always wondered about the two. Who knows… maybe they are now friends… racing thru heaven.

  3. Seven says:


    AFLB and Raven experienced a power outage and are working to get the site live again. They’ve been offline for weeks.

  4. Joyce says:

    Hi Seven & Raven,

    Does anyone know what happened to the All for Love blog by Raven? I enjoy mj-777 immensely & miss the AFLB.


  5. Suzy says:

    @ Rosa

    Wasn’t Speed Demon written about Bruce Swedien? I think it was him, not John Landis. He used to ride a motorbike to work and that inspired Michael to write the song. So I’ve heard.

  6. Dialdancer says:

    I can see him sitting in jail asking whoever may have been in there with him about the story of their life or discussing heaven knows what. It is good to be reminded there were times of carefree laughter in his life. Michael would never have acquired good driving skills as he got older it was hard for him to even walk on the ground of his home without hundreds at the gate. Can you imagine what would have happened if he’d left out driving?

  7. Joyce says:

    Hi Sina,
    Thanks for the link to the tour’s website. I think Holland is beautiful. I spent a week there back in December of 1998 (can’t believe it was that long ago!). My husband was teaching a medical trauma course and I was along for the sightseeing, food, and enjoyment! We stayed in a great little hotel in Baarn which was such a wonderful, interesting little town and of course did side trips to Amsterdam and a few other places. I wish I could make another trip and come to see one of those shows! I’d love to go back when the Tulips are in bloom. Unfortunately, I don’t think I could fit it in my schedule or my bank account right about now! Thanks again for giving me a reason to remember the wonderful time I spent in Holland. I even dug out my old photo album!

    I also absolutely love the song “Be Not Always” from the Victory album. I have mentioned it here before because I think Michael expresses so much concern and emotion in it at such a young age. I just love all of Michael’s different sounds from early J5 through Invincible. I will never tire of listening and I keep discovering songs that are new to me!
    Thanks again!

  8. Sina says:

    Hi Joyce.
    I am not from the US, so you would have to come to Holland to see the show. Lol. You’re welcome though. Its a concert by the royal Dutch airforce orchestra and they are touring with it. Much of their repertoire are theme concerts, they also did a Sinatra tribute. Here is the link of the Mj concert on their website with little bits of the show.

    Thanks so much for the information about the song. Just listened to it on Youtube, so joyful. The booklet didnt say where it is from and I dont remember. My family had Ben, who didnt back then, but still dont know this one. I have some albums and compilations of Michaels and J5 early work that I still have to go trough . Right now Im much into the Destiny Victory and Triumph albums. With one of my favourites you or Seven mentioned in a previous post, Be not always.
    Michael has so much good music, enough for a lifetime.

  9. Joyce says:

    Wow, that sounds like an incredible show. Where was it performed? Do you live near the Airforce academy? I just saw where the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra was going to be performing a concert honoring Michael Jackson’s music. I don’t live near there either but I checked their website and it sounded like it would have been wonderful also. I think it was last weekend. I think I may have to send an email to my local Symphony and suggest they consider doing this for one of their upcoming seasons.
    The poem that you included from the program is from the song, “Greatest Show on Earth” that Michael recorded on one of his early solo albums, “Ben”, in the early ’70’s. It is also included on “Michael Jackson, Hello World: The Motown Solo Collection” which came out in late 2009 I think.
    It is a nice song and of course Michael’s voice is as amazing as ever.
    Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience. Michael’s music always brightens my day also!

  10. Hayat says:

    Haah the speed demon!
    I lov these stories too. Love how human he was.
    How much fun he could have being bad at something 😉
    I read how bad a driver he was before.
    I just wonder, since I’m from Europe, I just can’t help but imagine, HOW would he have driven a car with gearshift!!?
    I bet the car would have been freezing in the middle of driving a lot of times LOL!

  11. olmick says:

    So cute! So boyish!
    Love you Mike!
    Indeed you were not the best driver, but you are still THE BEST
    HUMAN BEING!!!!!

  12. roula nikolakopoulou says:

    That was a beautiful and funny story. It’s always wonderful learning new things about Michael, that you haven’t heard before. I imagine Michael behind the wheel, being so cute and funny. Thank you all for sharing this story. You made my day.

  13. Nancy says:

    Funny, I was thinking the same thing as Gavin and Monica. Michael’s desire for independence by driving himself led to the beginning of his exploitation. But it is cute to think of how coordinated and graceful he was on his feet, but could not handle the steering wheel! I have a friend whose boyfriend owns a gas station in Beverly Hills. One day in the late 80’s a big, black suburban drove up to the gas station. This was in the days where you could still have the gas pumped for you. My friend’s boyfriend approached the car, whose windows were tinted, including the driver’s window. As he approached the car, the customer rolled down the window just a few inches. The customer asked to have the tank filled and he also wanted to order several sandwiches and drinks from the gas station’s deli/small restaurant. The customer had ordered so many sandwiches, there was little left in the deli! My friend’s boyfriend filled up the tank and brought the bags of sandwiches to the customer, all the while thinking that voice reminded him of someone, but he wasn’t sure who. When the sandwiches were brought, the customer’s window had to be rolled down pretty much all the way. In the back seat there were several children and they were laughing and having a good time. My friend’s boyfriend took one look at the driver and knew why that voice was familiar…it was Michael! He was very polite and gracious and seemed very happy. When my friend’s boyfriend asked for his autograph, Michael gave him the customer portion of the credit card receipt. In those days carbon’s were used. As the suburban drove away, you could hear the laughter of the children from inside the car. I thought it was a cute story about how it was typical of Michael, always giving!

  14. Sina says:

    Fu-nny, I feel for Latoya and mama Jackson. I was on Mulholland drive last year. I knew Mulholland drive by name but had no idea thats what it was like. It was late at night and pitch dark, here I was sitting next to a very overworked tourist minibus driver who had kindly invited us for a private tour around Hollywood. I am a baaaad driver but the way this guy was driving on this particular road ,OMG I was scared to death and ready to take over the wheel. I had the same crook in my neck like Latoya .LOL.
    If Michael is as clumsy a driver as I am he is really a daredevil to go racing on Mulholland drive.
    And ending up in jail ,poor thing, was he in disguise then ?
    Got to love him.

    Today for me was a day with a silver lining that I like to share with you.
    I went to a beautiful tribute concert for michael performed by the airforce orchestra in the most beautiful concert hall in the city.
    It was a very entertaining and classy show, tasteful, no impersonators, no imitation ,but very skilled musicians , awesome singers/dancers, good choreography, beautiful costumes ,very nice arrangements. A fitting tribute.
    They performed songs from almost all Michaels albums and J5 .I got chills when Michael was reciting his poem ‘earth’ and with the rendition of Little Suzie. A song I somehow always skip on the cd.
    I didnt like the start of the show when you hear the actual CNN breaking news of Michaels passing. But the rest was 2 hours perfection . The audience was very enthousiastic and all ages,even kids.
    I love the programme booklet . It opens with this poem of Michael

    The greatest show on earth
    Love is like a circus
    and a carnival is beautiful to see
    Love can turn your mind around
    like ferris wheels and spinning carosels

    You’ll be a part of the world of make believe
    flying high like a man on a trapeze
    oh, every day is a holiday
    Get your tickets right away
    Love, Love,Love
    Is the greates show on earth

    Thank you Seven for the laugh and thank you Michael for making my day .

  15. rose says:

    Hello Seven

    I wanted to share a little bit of info with you and all your viewers. Did you all know that according to John Landis, SPEED DEMON was created when michael got pulled over for a traffic violation. According to Landis, Michael was upset but he took the advice of Quincy Jones who told him to take this experience and express it in his music and video.

    So guess what, Michael did just that and this is why folks we have the very funny video SPEED DEMON.

  16. Monica Fader says:

    Sad thing is that if he was not encouraged to drive, he’d probably still be alive today. The whole fiasco with the extortion attempt by the Chandlers started when Michael’s car broke down and he somehow ended up at the Chandler’s family business “Rent a Wreck” of something of that trailer trashy nature.

  17. Gavin Saunders says:

    The first time I read that Mike had to be coaxed into learning to drive, I was overcome with the thought that, whenever he did things solely to please others, invariably he’d end up paying a huge price. Like signing with Pepsi, the Victory tour or learning to drive only to one day find himself broken down and alone…… near that Rent-A-Wreck franchise.

  18. Johanna says:

    Thanks for the link to the underwear story. It was so good to read that again. And the other story too. Hadn’t read that before.

  19. Lisa MJJ1111 says:

    OMG..I was laughing so hard!! This is so funny!! Michael is so naturally funny..and looks at life’s small issues with a grain of salt and with such a sense of humor! I love this about Michael..And another sychronicity between me and Michael, out of hundreds! I hate driving on the freeway! I too think it is so dangerous..yet, I too got over the fear.. I now drive on the freeway..sometimes..LOL..And yes, Michael made a wise decision by sticking to dancing, singing, moonwalking, and standing on his tip tops..How funny! thank you Seven for making my day.. and night..

  20. Theresa Gallagher says:

    Oh he is just so precious! What a free spirit…like a thoroughbred horse after it has been penned up to long. I dare say that if Michael had put his mind into being an excellent driver, he certainly would had done it. Our Michael could master anything! Great stories! Thanks!

  21. TatumMarie says:

    I think this is too cute — I read this in Katherines book about the DWB. Michael can do everything else in the world perfectly except drive- that is so funny. This reminds me of myself alot.

  22. Michelle says:

    Thanks for the laughter! Michael’s such a silly goose.

  23. Nancy says:

    As told to me by David Nordahl. He and Michael were driving around on the property at Neverland one day in a beat up ?trailblazer?. They came to the top of a big hill. Michael said, “Hey, Dave, think we can make it?” David Nordahl said, “I don’t know, let’s find out!” And away they went…down the hill! Michael liked to have his fun. 🙂 Nancy

  24. Joyce says:

    Thanks for the laughter today! I did re-read your past post from Sam Parity about his experience with Michael’s driving skills! I then clicked on the link you had on that post to the original article that was written by Sam and laughed even more!!
    I think that Michael was just too creative and free spirited to be held back by the rules and structure that is required when getting behind the wheel!! He was probably trying to practice dance steps while driving and probably chewing gum!
    I just love reading these real, wonderful stories. Thanks for brightening my day!

  25. Bella Jackson says:

    What a lovely story. Keeps me wandering what the cops did when they found out who it was.

  26. Seven says:


    Yes that story of the parking attendant/go-fer is on this site! In fact it is linked to from within this story . . . just click on the link. It’s quite amusing.

  27. blythe5050 says:

    that is too funny. love you mikey

  28. Raven says:

    It’s always amusing to hear these stories about Michael’s bad driving (usually no one was hurt, although he did damagae quite a few vehicles besides his own). When I talked to Theresa Gonsalves last summer, she also told stories about Michael’s driving that were quite hair-raising, to say the least.

    I spent a night in jail when I was eighteen. That was back when our county and city were both still dry, and I was with friends who were drinking beer-and got caught. I wasn’t even drinking because back then I HATED beer but I was with them, so to the tank we all went. I definitely got to experience a night in jail and it was very scary for a teenager who had never been in any serious trouble in her whole life. I wouldn’t want to do it again, but I’m glad I had the experience-once, and hopefully only once, lol.

  29. Nikki says:

    LOL!!! I love this story!!!

  30. Johanna says:

    That is too hilarious – the mental picture of you spending a night in jail! 😀

    There was another story by a guy who was a parking attendant at a studio where Michael recorded Dangerous. He said that every car in that parking lot was dinged – by Michael. 🙂