Saturday, September 24, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor: A Longtime, True Friend of Michael Jackson (Part 1 of 3)

 Elizabeth Taylor was one of the movie stars of the golden era of the film industry. Her classic beauty as well as extraordinary talent made her a sought after actress by many producers, even at a tender age of nine when she started her film career. However, Elizabeth Taylor was also noted for being something else, a long time and true friend of Michael Jackson.

Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson initially met when Taylor had attended one of Michael's concerts and left early. Michael heard about this later, and called Taylor in tears asking what it was about his performance she didn't like. Taylor went on to reassure Jackson that is wasn't his performance that made her leave but due to bad visibility. What was supposed to be a simple call to clear the air ended up lasting a few hours, and was apparently the start of what was to become a beautiful, lasting friendship.

You can view an interview with Elizabeth Taylor on CNN "On Larry King Live", where she talks about this. CLICK HERE

Since Taylor was two decades older then Michael it goes without saying that their friendship was scrutinized by the press that dubbed them the "Odd Couple". But were they really that odd, think about this for moment where is it written that we can only be friends with people our own age? We develop friendships with people because of various reasons, which is generally not age related.  Many times our friendships come from finding common ground and things we can relate to in the other individual. There is no question that Michael and Elizabeth could easily find common ground with one another, they had both been thrust into the limelight at a young age, her nine and him at five. They both knew what it was like to have their every move dissected by the press, to be painted less than in a favorable way. Is it any wonder they found this common ground in one another which built this lasting friendship that lasted the test of time?

Also anyone who has seen Michael Jackson's private home movies would never be able to dispute the true friendship that existed between them. There is a sequence where Taylor gives Michael his first Christmas at Never Land Ranch, which is both sweet and funny at points. You could see the love and close bond that was there between the two of them coming through.

Then in another set of private home movies Taylor is presenting Michael with a special gift of an Elephant for his menagerie of animals. Michael would later name the elephant Gypsy in honor of Taylor who was dressed in a Gypsy style outfit that day. He would then give her a gift, which was a special rug created in her likeness that had his signature on it.

You can watch this video by CLICKING HERE.   

Then when Michael Jackson celebrated thirty years in the business at Madison Square Garden on September 10, 2001 in New York (yes, you read that date correctly, eerie when you stop to consider what would happen there the very next day in New York with the Terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center), it was Elizabeth Taylor who made the introduction at this concert. Of course she said wonderful things about her long time friend. (You can view this by CLICKING HERE)

When Elizabeth married her last husband Larry Fortensky, the wedding was hosted at Never Land Ranch. Also at Elizabeth Taylor's 65th birthday party Michael Jackson presented her with a special present, a song that he wrote especially for her that he called "Elizabeth I love you" .

You can view it by CLICKING HERE.

These were all beautiful and good times for the legendary King of Pop and his queen of the silver screen, but as in all true friendships, with the good there may come the bad and even the ugly. In my next blog entry I will go over the less then happier times for Michael and Elizabeth and how their friendship still endured that test of time. Stay tune.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Will the Real Michael Jackson Please Stand Up!

Over the years it seemed as if there were two Michael Jackson’s walking around amongst us. What I like to refer to as the evil twin syndrome. Why do I say this?  Well because the Michael Jackson that I saw on stage, talking candidly in interviews, and even in released home movies seemed like a down to earth kind of guy. He also seemed like a wonderful devoted father, a devoted son, a trusted devoted sibling, and a true devoted friend. He was also a true humanitarian, who not only gave money but also time and energy to various charities.

However, there seemed to be another Michael Jackson walking around, the one who was portrayed in the news media and by some who claimed to have been so called friends who worked for him at one time or another.

The latter Michael Jackson was apparently some sort of reclusive freak, who was stuck up, did strange things, was short tempered, and of course had this sick twisted behavior towards children.  Basically, a bad joke that went all wrong, (Wacko Jacko), he was known as.

Some of us have no doubt read the horrid nasty books that portrayed Michael Jackson as some psychopathic monster. There is the awful book written by Diane Diamond (yep, Michael’s nemesis) called "Be Careful Who You Love" I will delve more into this piece of fiction in a later blog, but let's just say for now that I couldn’t finish this piece of a sinister fairy tale gone wrong, that’s how bad it was. It’s enough to bring back book burning. The Michael Jackson portrayed in this piece of utter nonsense is so unrecognizable that I think I started thinking in terms of evil twin after reading what little I did of this ludicrous piece of fiction.

The Michael in this book would have to be his evil twin, that's the only way you could justify the person who was being described in the pages of this book. And, let me tell you it is definitely fiction!  I know this because the parts I read, clearly tell me that Ms. Diamond who always walked around voicing herself as a Jackson expert is nothing but a wannabe.  She definitely didn't know Michael Jackson.  In fact, I'm sure Michael would definitely agree with me if he could.

Then there is the book by former Michael Jackson employee Bob Jones and Stacy Brown, which we have referenced here before in a few other blog entries, "Michael Jackson: The Man Behind The Mask".  I wish to once again go on record as saying that although I can give some credence to some of the stuff that Mr. Jones states in this book, this thing really doesn’t portray Michael too favorably either. In fact, Mr. Jones stated that he didn’t write this book because he had an ax to grind over being fired, but it's all too obvious that this is exactly what he was doing. After all, if Michael was the horrible ogre that Jones painted him as in this book would he really have continued to work for him for thirty long years, I don’t think so. Let's face it, Jones never quit this job he was fired because of the fall out over the documentary, "Living With Michael Jackson", and the fact that as head of PR he didn’t protect Michael properly. After all, it was up to Mr. Jones to insure that this documentary didn’t portray his client in a bad light. One way he could have done this was to make it clear that the documentary couldn’t air without Michael’s approval of the finish product, which of course wasn’t the case. So Jones was dismissed after this fiasco, then in turn he wrote a scathing book. Yet, he says he doesn’t have an ax to grind. Yeah, right tell it to someone who's willing to listen, for I am not that stupid.

Then, of course there is the way Jackson was portrayed by the news media. It seemed as if everything he said was torn apart to make him look like some freak of nature. I could go on and on about the stuff that was said about him, especially in the tabloids.  Michael would tell you the same thing.  He stated once that just because it's written it doesn't make it the Gospel. He also stated during a rally event back in 2001' that when he hit success that was when they came in for the attack.  You can view this here on YOUTUBE at position 5:18.
(CLICKHERE to view)

The odd thing is when I heard or read this sort of stuff over the years my first reaction was always who is this person they are talking about? The Michael Jackson that I have known since he was a kid wasn't the monster that was being portrayed here. Yes, I never knew the actual man. But I know what his kids said about him, what his siblings said, what his true friends thought, and none of it added up to the monster that had been portrayed in the news media or in these scathing books.

So is Michael Jackson misunderstood and perfect? Well, no one is perfect, far from it. I think that maybe some of the stuff about Michael was true. (For example, that he would push people out of his life if they didn’t toll the line, so to speak). I think this could be true, and I’m not bashing Michael by saying this, just pointing out that Michael could have wanted control over certain aspects of his life, such as his career. Remember Michael was led around by the nose for most of his childhood, having his father calling all the shots, and maybe he wanted to have control, and there is no harm in that.  We all want control over our lives and career, don't we?

So who was the real Michael Jackson?  Many people who have been close to him had things to say that I found quite interesting.  One person in particular, Michael's second ex-wife Debbie Rowe stated in the 2005' trial that there was her Michael and there was the Michael that the rest of us saw.  (Interesting statement, don't you think)? And, Lisa Marie told Diane Sawyer, when Sawyer was depicting Michael not to favorably, that Michael didn't always let people see who he truly was. I think Michael’s long time friend, the late Elizabeth Taylor said it best when she said during the "Michael Jackson 30th Anniversary Special" back in 2001',

(CLICKHERE to view), and then in an interview back in the latter part of 2009' after Michael's death, she said and I quote, "if you want to see the real Michael Jackson, then go see the concert film documentary "This Is It." Since having seen this film I have to agree 100% with Taylor, for although Michael came across in this film as a kind easy going person, he also came across as someone who took his craft seriously and gave his input in all aspects of the process.  The many musicians who worked with him in the creation of the "This Is It" concert stated that he was a caring, giving, highly considerate, and very modest man. This to me is probably the real Michael Jackson. 

Whatever might have been said about him unfavorably by others I think I prefer to listen to the people who lived, worked, and were his true friends, then those who felt they had an ax to grind, or those who claimed they knew him but never had spent one minute with him, wouldn't you?

To quote a close friend of Michael's, (Brett Ratner, Director/Producer), "When you were with him, you really felt like God was within him. He was an amazing, superhuman kind of person, but he always treated you as an equal. He would be your friend and he never asked for anything in return."

So if you're questioning who Michael Jackson is, I think what Mr. Ratner stated is how I will always view Michael as being. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Donny Osmond: Michael Jackson's Longtime Childhood Friend!

Growing up in the limelight, and always touring with his brothers as one of the lead singers in the group the Jackson 5, Michael Jackson didn’t get many opportunities to make friends his own age. Ironically, though one of the true friends he did manage to make during those years was actually one of the lead singers of a rival singing group "The Osmond's", (Donny Osmond). Donny and Michael met each other when they were 13 and instead of being threatened by one another, they immediately bonded and became good friends. The two shared many things in common believe it or not. In fact it was almost eerie how similar their lives actually were. For not only were they the same age, and the youngest members of their group at the time, and who shared lead vocals with another brother (for Michael his brother Jermaine, for Donny it was his brother Merrill) they were also both from a family of nine children, and were both the seventh born child. It also turns out that their mother’s Olive Osmond and Katherine Jackson were born on the same day. How odd is that? Since Michael’s untimely death, Donny has done interviews sharing memories of his now departed friend. He talked about the appearance they made together at the American Music Awards many years ago. 

                              (YouTube Link Here where you can watch this).

He then went on to talk about the fact that after the awards show they were both hungry and went out for Tacos at "Jack in the Box". It was obviously a special memory for Donny that he never forgot. Over the years, though things changed for the two teen idols. Donny would go on to have a successful TV variety show with his sister Marie, and although Michael too tried a variety show with his family it wasn’t successful. According to Donny, this was no hardship to Michael, who confided in him that he hated every minute of doing the variety show. Donny would eventually marry a lovely young woman by the name of Debra Glen in 1978'. They would go on to have five sons together. As for Michael he would of course go on to achieve super stardom becoming a pop icon with a solo career that no one had ever been able to match. Personally, Michael would of course marry twice and divorce twice and have three children, two boys and girl. However, despite the fact that their adult lives took different paths Donny and Michael never grew apart, the bond between them remained. Over the years they would still talk over the phone and share stuff with each other.

Donny was even reported as visiting Michael from time to time at Never Land Ranch. During one of these visits in 1984' at the height of Michael Jackson’s success with "Thriller", Donny Osmond apparently went to his longtime friend for advice on how to get his own singing career back on track. Michael gave him two forms of advice, change your image and change your name. Was Donny offended? Apparently not, because he went on to follow Jackson’s advice. No he didn’t change his name. But in 1989' he released a different sound cutting edge song called "Soldier of Love" which was a totally different sound for him. Donny also didn’t let the general public know immediately that this song was being released by Donny Osmond. The song was released to radio stations as a mystery artist in order to let the public’s perception not be clouded by the fact that wholesome Donny Osmond was singing this song. The experiment paid off and Donny Osmond had yet another hit song, so I guess Michael wasn’t too far off with his advice to his longtime childhood friend.

So needless to say, that when news of Michael Jackson's sudden death came in June of 2009' it hit Donny Osmond hard. Donny would go onto say in an interview with "Entertainment Tonight" a year after his friend's untimely death that losing Michael was hard but that he would live on in his music. Donny would also go onto say that his favorite song of Michael’s will always be "Ben." Apparently with good reason, the song was actually written for Donny to record, but because he was on tour at the time and not available Michael was given the chance to record the song instead. When you listen to the lyrics of this song it sort of describes the friendship that was Donny and Michael over the years as well as the bond they shared. The last verse might very well describe how Donny might have felt while Michael was being persecuted by the news media for being some sort of freak. The final verse of "Ben" is as follows:

"Ben, most people would turn you away,
I don't listen to a word they say,
They don't see you as I do,
I wish they would try to,
I'm sure they'd think again,
If they had a friend like Ben."

You can watch Michael Jackson singing "Ben" on YouTube Link Here