By Jamie Foster Brown (from the May 2007 issue of Sister 2 Sister magazine)
I had the experience of a lifetime when I was invited to hang out with Michael Jacksonin Tokyo, Japan. I was the only journalist allowed to tag along with Michael, his mother Katherine Jackson and his three children Prince Michael (10), Paris(9) and 5-year-old Prince Michael II, whom everyone calls “Blanket.” I learned a lot about Michael and the hardcore fans who live to meet the King of Pop.
Today Michael surrounds himself with an African- American support staff, from security to his hair stylist, who keeps his ’do looking the best I’ve ever seen it. Publicist Raymone Bain leads the team, and she’s very kind to Michael’s adoring fans. Of course, I don’t think Michael would have it any other way. I learned that Michael is extremely appreciative and gracious toward his fans. He will do almost anything for them. I saw him pray with a lady who had a problem, take countless photos and sign hundreds of autographs.
When it comes to his kids, Michael is a devoted father. On my first night in Tokyo, we all went to Tokyo Disneyland because Michael wanted to show his kids the attractions. The folks at Disney did their best to keep Michael’s visit under wraps because they didn’t have the security to handle the thousands of fans that would show up if they just let him walk around.
First, we had dinner and watched fireworks at Tokyo DisneySea, an ocean-themed park next door to Disneyland. They tried to sneak him in through the back of the park and didn’t allow him to enter the streets of Disneyland until it was closed, but a handful of fans still found their way to Michael. These people seem to know Michael’s next move before he does. They’ve studied everything about him, and about eight people even booked the Four Seasons Hotel Chinzan-so, where Michael and his family stayed. How’d they do it? They know which hotels he prefers! They also thought they knew which attraction he would head to first at Disney, so some of them stood outside of the Peter Pan area for a long time. Others slipped into the backstage employee area where our vans were parked. I was shocked to see the kids from the hotel, running around freezing with no coats on trying to get a glimpse of Michael. When they approached the van, they weren’t shooed away. Raymone let them stand next to the van, but security kept them at a safe distance.
Michael greeted them before we went to see Mickey Mouse, and Raymone offered them a ride back to the hotel when they found out the trains had stopped running. Of course, these people were prepared to walk 30 miles back in the cold once they had seen Michael. They live to be next to him and inhale the air that he breathes.
They’re not rich people by any means. Some are waitresses, nurses and students who saved up all year to take a trip and share a moment with Michael. Some had been following him for 10 and 30 years! Michael even recognizes certain fans when he sees them again. I saw people faint and shake when they hugged him. One night they followed our vans in taxicabs, and when the vans stopped at stoplights the fans would dash through traffic to take pictures of Michael or get an autograph. It was surreal! I was frightened for them.
But back to Disneyland, Michael and I sang Mickey Mouse’s song for Mickey, “M-I-C-K-E-Y M- O-U-S-E.” And Mickey must have loved my singing, honey, because he hugged me and wouldn’t let me go. He also kissed me on the lips! I had never been to Disney, even in the United States, so I was completely blown away by everything. When I wasn’t gawking at attractions like Small World, I noticed how attentive Michael was to his kids. He bought toys for them at the gift shop and is raising them to be very polite, humble and, believe it or not, pretty ordinary. They are calm, relaxed kids who play jokes on their dad. At one point, Michael thought that his daughter had been rude to me and he got very upset. He’s raising them to be less pretentious than many children I have met. Blankethas long hair that flows down his back, and while I was around them, the kids wore scarves in public, but no masks like they used to do.
While in Tokyo, Michael held a fan appreciation event for $3,500 per ticket where VIP fans could spend up to a minute of one-on-one time with their favorite singer. Then he held an art competition for fans who couldn’t afford the VIP event. Three lucky winners were supposed to get to have a dinner with him, but when he saw the amazing artwork, he chose 11 because he couldn’t narrow it down. He also set aside time to meet for free with the handicapped and orphans, of course. Before he left Tokyo, Michael went to one of Japan’s many military bases and rode in a Black Hawk helicop- ter. About 5,000 troops and their families came out to see him.
While in Japan, I met a lot of Black people who make a good living as singers. They book shows singing at weddings and parties. One singer took me to a club where they often perform for very wealthy Japanese people. These customers can easily spend $7,000 in one night, eating sushi and buying bottle service. It was remarkable to see what Black life was like in Tokyo. They were really happy there.
The entire trip was amazing and I’m grateful to Michael’s family and management for allowing me to share private time with them. There were no interviews allowed, just relaxation and quiet observation of this superstar. I’m surprised that Michael Jackson is as gracious as he is and can find happiness despite all the negativity that encircles him every day.
Watch Michael perform for some of his biggest fans and hear their stories.