Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Rose From Michael

No new story postings for now but I just wanted to share this photo of a rose from Michael I came upon a few weeks ago while unpacking...

This was in November of 2008 when Michael had just come to Los Angeles and was staying at Hotel Bel-Air. He was living there for a while while recording new songs in the studio. On this particular day, there was just a few of us girls there and Michael sent us out a note. He also had Paris send out a little vase with roses in it.

This is one of the roses and I will forever cherish it. I book-pressed it but I should really research how to preserve flowers. :)

- Arus

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Photo of a Girl

In April of 2009, you might have seen Michael coming out of a building with a photo of a girl in his hand. It was on fan message boards for a while…and the question of who the girl is came up a lot. Well that girl was me and at the time I found it VERY embarrassing…but of course now I cherish it. People on the internet came up with different things like “It’s his girlfriend”, “It’s Blanket’s mother” and one gossip site even said it was a photo of the new face he wanted after surgery.
Just to give a little background, followers often gave photos of themselves to Michael. We gave Michael a lot of photos of us all posing together, alone, with him, etc. The more Michael saw you, the more he remembered who you were and your name and things you told him about yourself. I remember one of his bodyguards telling me, “Always include a photo with your letters. He likes photos and he remembers you that way.” I always carried stationary, pens, markers, stickers, gifts and photos in my trunk to always be prepared with something to give to him.
On this particular day I had emptied my stuff out for some reason and only had a few developed photos inside my car. I just really wanted to always give him something so I quickly wrote a note on the back of one of the photos and gave it to him when we saw him inside. We said our hello’s and parted different ways so I didn’t see him exit out the building.
After that he went shopping to a few stores including Off the Wall on Melrose and the Ed Hardy store. I don’t remember if it was during the drive to the Ed Hardy store or when I was done and going home but I got a call.
“Oh my God! There are photos of Michael holding your photo!”
I quickly went online to try and find it and sure enough it was all over the internet already. I got red in the face and was so embarrassed…and I got made fun of for it by my friends for MONTHS. But of course, now it is something I treasure. <3 So there it is, there is no real “story” behind the photo. Fans have fantasized some really weird theories about the incident. LOL I wanted to tell Michael about the photos and how funny it looked but I never got the chance to because I started seeing him less and less…I’m sure at some point I wrote about it in my letters but it wasn’t ever discussed. And I’m okay with it being that way…

- Arus

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

To Believe or Not To Believe

It was a Friday night sometime in the spring of 2009.  Somehow I came across an article by Robin Leach saying that Michael would be headed to Vegas the next day to see the Chris Angle/Cirque du Soleil show “Believe”. 

The next morning, before heading out to Carolwood, I threw a couple of things in an overnight bag and filled up my tank just in case there was any truth to the article.  While waiting outside the house, both escalades and another SUV drove out of the gates.  I don’t remember if anyone saw Michael or talked to him in the car but we were all certain he was in there with his entourage.  There were a couple of paparazzi guys there in addition to a handful of fans so a long line of cars started to follow the SUVs (that was the norm, more or less).  Shortly after leaving the house, everyone got trapped in a side street and we all lost the escalades in the “chase”.  We all scattered and took different routes but no one was able to find them.  I decided I would continue driving towards Vegas anyways.  I called Arus and told her the story and she quickly packed her overnight bag and decided to come with me.  She was on the way so I picked her up and we headed towards Vegas.   
We hopelessly drove up the 15 Fwy not knowing if Michael was even headed there or if we would be able to find him.  An hour or so before reaching Vegas, Arus miraculously spotted the two blue escalates just ahead of us and we started screaming like it was our first time seeing his cars. 

At some point we pulled up next to him with this sign that Arus had quickly scribbled. 

Others who were on the road were informed about our location and everyone caught up with us and followed until we reached the Wynn Hotel.  Michael, his kids and staff got out and went into the Tower Suites at the Wynn.  We all valeted our cars and checked in to the same hotel.  There was 8 of us and we shared one very expensive suite. 
Shortly after arriving Michael went to eat at Wing Lei (at the Wynn) with I Kenny Ortega.  Some of us missed him as he went into the restaurant but we saw him when he came out.  He was looking absolutely amazing (but I can’t remember what he was wearing).  At this point a small crowd had built up but he saw us and as he walked into the lobby area we followed and someone (I think Andres) asked “Are you going to the show” and he replied “ya, right now” while pointing in the direction he was walking in. 
Silly us, we ran out and jumped in cabs and off we went to the Luxor where Believe was playing.  We bought tickets and went inside assuming he’s on his way.  Arus chose to just wait out in the back.  The show went on and no Michael.  We left to go out back and join Arus and no sign of Michael.  Later we found out that he had gone to see La Reve at the Wynn.  We were complete idiots because he was walking towards the show while he pointed in the direction of the theater and said he was going there “right now”, but somehow we all believed the article and went to the opposite end of the strip assuming he was headed there too!  Needless to say we did not see him that night.
Next morning he left to go somewhere and a couple of the guys were downstairs and saw him leave but Arus and I were not there.  After he left we spent the ENTIRE day in the Tower Suites lobby waiting, assuming he would show up at any time.  The afternoon turned into evening and evening turned into night.  We couldn’t wait anymore, we had a long drive home and work/school the next day.  At 9:30pm we said bye to everyone and headed out. 

Angry, frustrated, tired, and disappointed, we walked outside and I handed my ticket to the valet guy.  We glanced to our left and about 50 feet away from us Michael had just gotten out of the car and was walking towards the other entrance.  I snatched my valet ticket from the guy’s hand and we turned around and walked back inside the door we had just come out of.  In the hallway we spotted Michael walking with Amir and Alberto.  Faheem had come in through our entrance.  There was no one else in that entire hallway.  No one.  We said “hi” as Michael walked in our direction to get to the hotel lobby.  I don’t remember the short exchange of words but I’m glad I managed to spit out “Can I give you a hug?”  And so I hugged him then Arus did the same. 

He walked through the doors into the lobby area.  Because I’m stupid, I was about to turn around and walk back out to the valet when Arus said “let’s go see him greet the others”.  So we walked behind him and I’ll never forget everyone’s faces as they first noticed him.  Everyone quickly greeted and hugged him and someone handed him a letter that we had written earlier that day. 
No amount of vegas winnings could bring me the amount of joy and excitement that this trip brought me. Arus and I drove home after that but it was more like we floated home on a cloud. 


Monday, December 27, 2010

Discovering Neverland - Part 2

We walked passed his large beautiful pool and finally came upon his "main residence", which was guarded by security.  It didn't look like what I expected it to be.  It was no modern mansion...even though it was quite big; it resembled a cozy cottage. We walked a bit more trying to discover the special parts of Neverland (at this particular visit we had full access to almost everything). We came upon a beautiful little Train Station in which I like to call "the Bakery.” I automatically recognized the Peter Pan and Captain Hook mannequins up in the ceiling from the "Living With Michael Jackson" special.  It was unbelievable to actually see them in person finally.  Especially when you have seen this stuff before on TV...finding yourself standing in front of it staring at it with your own two bare eyes is simply magical.  I also noticed a very narrow flight of stairs, which we did not climb yet. There were other various mannequins as well a huge Christmas tree.  Someone told me that Michael loves to keep the whole Christmas theme year round.  Being a Christmas lover myself, I just loved the idea.
Photos: Jim Wilson/The New York Times
After being treated to a few sweets, we walked to the amusement park by foot since the little train wasn’t working at the moment.  While walking…we came upon a cute little playhouse.  We walked up to it and read a sign saying something along the lines of, “Paris and Prince's House: Daddy loves you very much."  Inside the playhouse were several bins of toys. I was surprised at how unguarded it all was, the entire ranch was a free-for-all.  We continued walking towards the rides and started to enjoy some of them. One of the best feelings is riding the rides at Neverland while Michael’s songs are being blasted in your ears. That was truly memorable and my favorite ride was the Sea Dragon. We rode all of them except for the little kiddy ones.
After a good hour of fun, we walked around some more and found the Giving Tree. It was absolutely amazing to see it especially knowing all of the history behind. Yet again, another magical experience being right in front of something so special that Michael keeps close to his heart.  We also spent a few minutes sitting on the same bridge that Michael has featured in his “Gone Too Soon” video.  While we sat there, we talked about how much we loved him and tried to take the whole experience in.
Photos: Jim Wilson/The New York Times
We got in the mood for snacks so we went back to the Train Station/Bakery.  This time we did go up the little swirly stairs. Up there we found boxes of brownies, a TV, a comfy couch, a sculpture of Michael and some children in a glass case, and several board games and video games lying around. The whole experience seemed surreal as we found a comfortable couch and made ourselves at home while enjoying some milk and cookies. After a while, we noticed that we had better get going so we wouldn’t miss our buses, which were scheduled to leave at 2:00 am. We started to get going…but just before we made our way out, my friend found a small white teddy bear sitting on the train all alone and gave it to me. By then, it had already become the most special stuffed animal to me.  Little did I know that in a matter of minutes, the bear would be in my arms, as I would be hugging Michael...
As we were walking across the dark road back our buses, we noticed the same black Bentley pass us by with something very sparkly inside. It had to be Michael. We started following it as it went to the Main Residence Garage. We stood around waiting…staring at the black car. After a few minutes of waiting, Michael finally came out but we kept our distance.  It all seemed to be so surreal…all of it in slow motion.  As Michael walked away, we heard him say, “I love you…” As we continued walking, we came upon Michael opening a door (to what we found out later was his office).  He saw us and stepped away from his door and…gestured for us to follow him. I stood there staring at him and not believing my eyes.  I noticed he had no shoes on; only white socks. I thought it was adorable. I had seen Michael a week earlier at the Celebration of Love but I had yet to see him up close and meet him. He began making more “come here" hand motions for me to come closer. I was finally going to meet Michael.
I walked up the little steps to his porch, he came closer, reached his hand over to me…grabbed my head and pressed it against his shoulder.  He then gave me the most beautiful, strongest, tightest, most loving hug I ever received in my whole life.  Resting my head on his shoulder was true bliss. Nothing that came out of my mouth was making any sense but I managed to tell him that I loved him and thanked him.  He was so adorable and so SHY…giggling.  He was so unbelievably shy; he was just mumbling, “I love you”. A few of my friends took turns hugging Michael but I didn’t notice anything. No one was in my vision at that moment except for Michael.

We slowly walked away from the porch and said our goodbye's to him and went back to our bus and gave one final look at the beautiful, golden, stunning gates of Neverland…in hopes of one day seeing it again and experiencing all of the magic again.  That night...I held the little white teddy bear tightly in my arms as I laid in bed and thanked God for the wonderful experience he had given me.

- Arus

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Discovering Neverland - Part 1

People always find it hard to believe when I say that I became a fan in 2003 (when I was 18 years old) and have been one for only 7 years. I was never exposed to Michael as a child and didn’t know much about him until the Living With MJ documentary. I know it was a bad documentary that portrayed him in a very bad light but during one March afternoon with nothing else to watch on TV, I tuned in and became instantly hooked. Something about him during that interview really enticed me and I had never seen a more interesting person in my life. Where was this magical place he lived in? Was it possible to meet him? Did he have many fans left? I needed to know more about him and in that week I joined various MJ forums, found fan websites and participated in MJ fan chatrooms. I bought all of his music and while he quickly became my favorite musical artist, I did and always will love him more as a person…as simply just Michael.
Over the summer I looked up the address to Neverland and made several visits outside the gates to just hang out. I had heard of magical stories of Michael letting fans into Neverland and dreamed that someday it would be me. I felt that as long as I tried and put my mind to it, it would eventually happen. This was the advantage of living in Los Angeles…that we could drive to Los Olivos on weekends and make nice trips out of it. Nothing happened all summer long and I missed out on all the days (i.e. his birthday) that he let fans inside the gates. I was disappointed.

On September 9, 2003, I read a post at the old MJJFORUM (now MJJC) saying that they were giving away free tickets at 102.7 KIIS FM to go to Neverland for a charity after-party on September 13, 2003.  I immediately got a hold of all the phones I could find in my house and began dialing. After trying for about an hour, I finally got through.  When I got through they told me that they already had a winner. I told them that it was my dream to visit Neverland and started talking about what Michael meant to me and I believe the operator truly heard the sincerity in my voice and put me on hold.  I was put on hold for about a half hour and was told that I might soon be getting some good news.  The next thing I knew I was on air being granted 4 free tickets to Neverland. In my mind, I thought this day was the luckiest day of my life.  Little did I know that the luckiest day was yet to come…
September 13 came and we were told to meet at the KIIS FM studios in Burbank and we were driven to Los Olivos in a huge bus. When we got there, we had to sign several contracts, and then we were finally let into those big, beautiful, golden, stunning gates of Neverland that I had only dreamt of seeing. We then sat in the little train, grabbed some ice cream and were on our way to the amusement park. On our way there, we encountered some beautiful scenery. There was a huge lake in the middle of everything, with fields of large trees and vibrant flowers at every angle. There were little sculptures of children...and even classic Disney theme songs playing in the background of every corner.  It was like I entered a sweet fairytale.

Photos: Jim Wilson/The New York Times
We then arrived to the amusement park area and realized everything was free. Popcorn, cotton candy, ice cream, soda and drinks, snow cones, cookies and baked desserts, candy and chocolate, games and prizes to win, caricature drawings and rides.  I was in awe and couldn’t believe I was actually there.  We walked over to the movie theatre and found ourselves in front of a concession stand filled with every type of candy and popcorn.  Inside were beautiful red velvet seats and a good sized movie screen. We stayed for just a few minutes and left to explore more of Neverland.

Photos: Jim Wilson/The New York Times
We made our way to the dance club tent and just as we got there the host announced that Michael would shortly be coming out. The tent seemed to be filled with obnoxious drunk people and definitely not fans of Michael (there were very few real fans that day) so we easily worked our way up to the front row of the mini stage. He finally came out and he had never looked so good.  He was wearing a black button down shirt and black sparkly pants. He made a very brief speech in which he said:

"Thank you all for coming tonight. For in my opinion, in my opinion, this is a very special cause and the cause is our future and the future is our children. I will continue to fight for them for the rest of my life.”
Since his birthday was two weeks ago, they bought out a cake and we sung Happy Birthday to him. A few celebrities jumped up on the stage and had a little cake fight with Michael. It was adorable but before we knew it he got off stage and was escorted to his black Bentley. I managed to slip a little letter I had prepared inside his window before they drove off. I didn’t go to Neverland expecting to see Michael but seeing him and knowing he was there made me want to get closer. As I stood there watching the Bentley speed down the dirt road I wondered what we should do next...

Part 2 coming soon.

- Arus

Monday, December 20, 2010

My First Time

Every Michael Jackson fan used to dream about visiting Neverland one day.  For me this dream came true 7 years ago today…
As a child I always wondered where Santa Ynez was located, and as an adult it never once occurred to me to look up the address and drive there.  I assumed everything about Michael was top secret and confidential.  Back then I was kind of clueless and not very active online and the only fan friend I had was my good friend Paul who I had met in 1993 at the super bowl.  After the horror of the allegations in 2003, Paul called me one day to tell me about a party at Neverland.  Didn’t know any other fans or how to get on the list, but still decided to drive up there for the first time. 
Early Saturday morning, December 20th, 2003, I picked up Karin, my friend’s sister who I had just learned was an MJ fan, and we headed up north on the 101.  After a two hour drive we reached the gates and saw a few parked cars and news vans.  It was still early and no cars were going in yet.  While waiting, we met a few other fans.  None of us were “invited” so we stood around for hours while rows and rows of cars started showing up and driving inside.  Traffic was backed up all the way down Figueroa Mountain Rd. with cars full of fans holding signs and banners and blasting MJ music.  But of course not all of them were fans.  Some friends, some locals and some miscellaneous people were there also to support Michael as he was getting ready to face some tough times.
Knowing that standing out there was pointless, I decided to try and get in.  We got in line with the other cars and drove through the gates and pretended our names were on the list.  It didn’t work and Violet asked us to pull over to the side and wait for her.  Lucky for us this was a crowded situation.  There were 5 or 6 rows of cars just past the brown gates, getting checked in and signing forms.  Instead of pulling over to the side and waiting, we just moved a couple of lanes and continued forward until the next security came up to us with forms and passes.  We were in! 
We got our wristbands and passes and drove through the property for a little while then down the hill to the main gates.  We parked on the left, went through a security check point by the NOI and picked up a t-shirt.  Shirts were being given out near the big tent looking thing that read “Welcome to Neverland Valley Ranch”. Then finally, we walked through the main gates and we were INSIDE neverland!   I wanted to scream and cry out of joy.  I’d been dreaming about this moment for 15 years. 

To the right of us some people waited for the little train.  To the left of us some people were picking out ice cream from the ice cream cart which was placed outside of the little bungalow.  We decided to walk instead of waiting for the train.  I cannot even begin to explain the emotions that ran through me at that very moment.  The view, the atmosphere, the air, the trees, the bronze statues of children, the “Caution: children at play” signs were some of the things that immediately took my breath away. 
It was a long walk before we could really see anything.  We came up to the lake on our left and then walked to the main house.  In front of the house were 3 llamas and a giant snake.  Later we also saw some elephants walking around. 
Behind the main house and past the swimming pool is where the event set up was.  The stage was facing the house and white chairs were placed in front of it in rows and sections. 
We walked past the event set up and came up to the rides: carousel, spider, ferris wheel, zipper, swings, sea dragon, and some rides for younger kids.  We wanted to get on the ferris wheel to see the view from up top but it wasn’t running.  So we asked the staff and one of the other ride operators came over and turned it on for us.  Just as we expected, it was absolutely magical. 
We didn’t want to waste too much time in one place so that was the only ride we got on that day.  We walked back and went up to the train station.  I don’t even know if the big train was running that day but we didn’t have a chance to get on it.  The train station was probably my favorite thing at Neverland.  After a quick walk through, we came back down towards the guest house by the lake.  We saw Rebbie outside and Katherine, who was standing in the doorway, greeted us as we passed by. 
We made our way to grab seats for the event that was scheduled to start at 3pm.  Tons of celebrities were there.  The MC was Tommy Davidson and he first brought up Tisha Cambell who read a poem called “Footsteps in the Sand”.  Then an orchestra started to play during which Michael made his appearance.  He walked from the main house towards the event set up. 
The crowd went crazy and everyone was trying to get close to him.  He walked down the aisle closest to us as he was getting mobbed by the guests.  As he passed us I managed to reach out and touch his hand.  He was looking amazing in his light blue silk shirt (that he wore again for the Ed Bradley/60 minute interview).   
Facing the stage, in the front were 3 beige leather couches.  Michael finally made his way over and sat down on the middle couch.  The orchestra at this point had left the stage and the MC was back up there introducing the Jackson family.  The parents, most of the brothers and sisters and some of their kids and grandkids walked through the aisle and joined Michael on the couches.  Katherine sat on his right and Joseph on his left.  Karen Faye was also there sitting on the ground near Michael along with some of the nieces and nephews.  People kept crowding around from behind to see Michael and security was trying to control the chaos.     
Next on stage was the Andrae Crouch Choir and they sang “Will You Be There” and “I’ll be there”.  The staff at Neverland came on stage and one of them gave a speech and the other recited the same poem as Tisha Cambell had, “Footsteps in the Sand”.  This whole event was not meant to be entertaining so not very well planned.  It was actually drawn-out and boring but in the presence of Michael it didn’t make a difference. 
The emotional part of the night was when David Rothenberg gave a speech and talked about how Michael befriended him and employed him.  He was the burn victim whose father had set him on fire at the age of 6.  There was another guy that spoke who had a similar story but I don’t recall his name.  Once they were done they both walked over to Michael and gave him a hug. 
The show continued with Jermaine singing a song he had written for Michael called “The First Time”.  Others gave speeches including Robert Townsend, Eddie Griffith, MC Hammer, Rodney Jenkins, Darryl Strawberry with his two pastors Paula White and Rob Mallan, and a few others I didn’t recognize. 
Debbie Allan was there too with her dance crew.  She said a few words then the kids went up on stage to dance.  Michael absolutely loved this.  Up until this point he was sitting very still with very little reaction to what was going on.  But seeing these talented kids on stage made him smile, snap his fingers, and tap his feet. 
At some point toward the beginning of the event we had left our seats and had ended up on the side of the stage facing Michael.  He took a break halfway through the show during which we moved around and changed spots again so that we had a clear view of him and the stage.   
At the very end when everyone was done speaking and performing, the MC introduced Michael and he got up to head for the stage.  The screams and cheers were louder than usual.  As Michael approached the steps on the side, security let us run up to the stage.  Needless to say it was chaos and Karin and I were in the front, against the stage, being crushed.  The choir started singing “You Are Not Alone” and Michael waited on the side.  Once the song was almost over he made his way up the steps and grabbed the mic.   He said “thank you” and “I love you” and that was pretty much it.  Everyone that was on stage with him wanted to shake his hand and give him a hug.  Since there were a lot of people up there, security slowly moved him off the stage.  We ran to the side of the stage where 3 black SUVs were parked.  He climbed into one of them with his parents and they drove off. 
After Michael had left, we left that area to enjoy Neverland some more.  Back towards the main house, we played on the trampoline that was near the pool.  Then we headed over to the arcade, which was also by the pool.  Karin and I played the pinball machine for a few minutes then went upstairs to the second floor.  The arcade was too crowded so we left and headed back up to the train station.  TJ was there hanging out near the video game/couch area.  We walked up the narrow winding staircase to the cozy game room.  It was like a tiny family room with a fire place, a Christmas tree, and board games on the coffee table.  The windows overlooked the train tracks.  There was no one there so we sat down for a moment and tried to take it all in. 
After the train station, we walked back down past the main house and over to the bridge.  We sat on the bridge for a little while and enjoyed the surroundings.  The sun had set hours ago, sometime during the long event, so now it was dark and the gazebos and a few other areas were lit with white Christmas lights.  My god Neverland was so magical and breathtaking.  So unbelievably beautiful and impossible to put into words. 
We slowly made our way towards the gates and left Neverland around 8pm.  On our drive home, overwhelmed with everything that had just happened, we realized that we left voluntarily without anyone asking us to leave. 
This support event at Neverland was called “You Are Not Alone”.  It was the start of difficult times, but they were still beautiful memories. 

If you were also there on this day, please feel free to share your story in the comments.   

Friday, December 17, 2010

No Picture

I’d like to add to the New Years Eve story at Hennessy Ingalls Bookstore that Arus previously blogged about…

December 31st, 2008

So as mentioned before, we were inside the bookstore browsing for books and completely ignoring Michael.  At this point there were no other fans inside the store (just a few random shoppers) and no one had bothered him yet.  We came up to him at the end of one of the aisles.  It was just us two, Michael, and his two security guys.

Having never asked Michael for a picture, a little voice in my head said “do it NOW”.  For some odd reason I had my camera in my back pocket.  This was unusual because when around Michael we never took out a camera.  It was an unwritten rule.  So I managed to spit the words out “Michael, can we take a picture with you?”  He answered “Sure.  Like this?” referring to the fact that he didn’t feel presentable.  He was in his pajama pants, trench coat, a veil, surgical mask, and a fedora.  But his amazing eyes were exposed through reading glasses.  I’ll never forget looking into those eyes more than once that day.  

Sensing his discomfort, Arus and I stood there being indecisive about whether to take the picture or not. And Michael and his two guards stood there confused.  Arus finally said “no, it’s okay, next time”.  

Needless to say a few minutes later strangers and shoppers in the store had hovered around him taking pictures and asking for autographs. 

Are we the only fans who’ve had this opportunity and turned it down?  Probably so!  The next day I saw the two guards and puzzled by our decision they asked why we didn’t just take the picture.

Later that night I went to a New Years Eve party and my camera fell and broke.  I used to joke around and say that it broke because it got mad at me for not taking that picture.  For 5 months I was without a camera.  A week after I finally got it fixed I got the rare opportunity (again) and I took my first and only picture with Michael.