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My Brief Meeting with Michael Jackson

Categories: Entertainment

My boss came into my office one day and, out of the blue, told me, "We're shutting the gallery down."  I was a bit stunned.  I knew the economy was bad, but I thought we had been doing okay.  Then he told me the real reason.  "Michael Jackson wants to do some shopping."

Apparently, a Jackson associate had called our president, then come to the gallery to meet with him.  They came to an agreement so we closed our doors and waited.  About two hours later, our back doors opened and in comes Michael, three associates, three children, and our own escort.  Michael was dressed down - dark slacks, a dark sweatshirt with a hood pulled up over his head, a surgical mask, and athletic shoes.  No glove.

I stayed in my office, but I can see the entire gallery on security monitors.  I watched as Michael, holding two of his childrens' hands, entered the back of the gallery and started browsing through the art.  Initially, the chidren stayed right with Michael, and I was impressed at how Michael would bend down to their level in order to hear what they had to say, and to speak to them.  He gave them his full attention.

As they made their way through the gallery, they began to get near the front area which is all glass.  Our concern was that mall visitors would recognize Michael, and things might get out of control.  I continued to watch closely as Michael seemed to be getting too close to the glass windows.  Michael moved back into the gallery, and I could breath again.  About this time, his children apparently became bored with the art, slipped into a small viewing room in the center of the gallery, sat on the sofa, and talked.

It then occurred to me that we had a few small paintings by artist Steve Kaufman who had just completed several personal appearances at the gallery for the opening of his 2008 exhibition.  I thought it would be nice to give one of the paintings to each of the children.  I picked three out and went out into the gallery to find the children.  Just outside the viewing room was one of Michael's associates.  I told him I wanted to give the children a gift, and he stopped me.  "I'll have to check with their father first," he said.  He took one of the paintings and walked away.

Up until that point, it hadn't occurred to me that the three children were Michael's.  I felt kinda stupid at that point since Michael could afford just about anything the children wanted, and I was giving them these small paintings.  A minute or two later, the associate came back and gave me the green light.  I went into the viewing room, handed each child a painting, and started to tell them about the artist.  Their expressions were priceless - just like you might expect from any child.  Their faces said "So...?"  They didn't know who Kaufman was, and didn't seem to care.

Then Michael came into the room. "Thank you, thank you so much, thank you, thank you very much...", he repeated, bowing down slightly with his hands in a praying position.  He was within two feet.  I could easily have extended my hand, but I didn't.  That's not why I was there.  My intentions were to leave Michael alone so he could shop, and give the small paintings to the children.  Later, I was told that Michael's hand gestures were his way of avoiding shaking hands, so I felt good that I didn't embarrass either of us.

I went back to my office and Michael continued to shop.  I watched as Michael ventured all the way into the front entrance area to look at LeRoy Neiman art.  He was within a few feet of the glass doors.  I was more than a little concerned.  But I stayed in the office and watched.  His associates were always nearby.  The children stayed in the viewing room.

I started looking on the Internet for a good quality photograph of Michael, just in case I had the opportunity to get his autograph.  I know that entertainers always appreciate compliments on their work, but many also cherish their privacy.  I have a tendency to respect that privacy, but I thought I'd pick the photo just in case.  I printed the photo on my Canon i860 printer with OEM ink.

Video of me asking for Michael Jackson's autograph captured and compiled from 30 still images taken from a security camera at Centaur Art Galleries in Las Vegas.
After Michael had finished his shopping, they all began to exit through the back door, near my office.  As Michael came through the door, I rushed over and asked him if he had time for a quick autograph.  He was gracious, took the Sharpie and the clipboard with the photograph on it, and signed a large, beautiful signature (which is illegible except for the year - 2008 - apparently because the photograph was not a recent one).

"I love your music," I said as Michael and his entourage walked away.

"Thank you very much," Michael replied.  I think he meant it.

Michael and I are about the same age.  I remember little Michael when the "Jackson 5" debuted.  I was re-introduced to the "Jackson 5" and their incredible talent, particularly that of Michael, many years later when I was hired to transcribe the dialogue from old episodes of television's Soul Train for translation into other languages for foreign syndication.  Those shows from the first few years of Soul Train featured many great talents of the early seventies, including the "Jackson 5", and later Michael as a solo artist.  It was a real pleasure to be paid to listen and watch Michael and his brothers perform.

Our generation watched as Michael grew up, triumphed, stumbled, suffered, and withdrew.  He lived a life that few others will understand, and many condemn.  He had more than his share of challenges.

I had only a brief period of time to watch Michael with his children in a relatively personal setting, and only a few moments to speak with him.  Whatever Michael was or wasn't, he made a good first impression on me.  What I think I learned in my brief encounter with Michael was that 1) he was humble and down-to-earth, 2) he was a caring, attentive father, and 3) he was grateful for the blessings he had received in his life.

Thanks, Michael, for the music, the dancing, the fashion, the culture, and the lessons.  R.I.P.


User Comments:
Vancea Diana Maria - Jul 16, 2013 03:00:12 — Thank you very much for sharing your encounter with this magic man.  He was really special, but unfortunately people know the man that the media [portrayed] and not the real one.
Jonas - Jul 16, 2013 03:16:18 — Thank you.  I think you're right.

On a side note, I went to see Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson ONE show at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas recently.  I don't want to knock the show.  First of all, it was Cirque du Soleil, which are always well-produced shows.  ...more
Yoly Leung - Apr 4, 2014 10:57:06 — Thanks for sharing the sweet little story. meeting him in person will be something that won't be forgotten ... You are so lucky Did he look fine and good mood when he was at your gallery in 2008? He had only returned to the States for a short time. Was he in a good mood? I'm visiting Vegas at e ...more
Diane Anderson - Apr 5, 2014 10:13:07 — What a beautiful, heartwarming story about an unexpected gift of Michael's visit to your store. I always love to hear theses stories about the every-day, simple Michael doing ordinary things and touching peoples' hearts because that's just who he was. Without the glitter and the glamour he was stil ...more
Jonas - Apr 5, 2014 11:20:40 — Thanks for writing Yoly and Diane!

Yoly, MJ looked like anyone else you might see walking through the mall (except for the surgical mask).  I can't tell what kind of mood he was in. Most of the time, I was only watching him on the security monitors.  The little time I spent fac ...more
Morinen - Apr 7, 2014 10:56:49 — Thank you for this heartwarming story. But I have to say that Michael never EVER refused to shake hands with people. He gladly did it, he hugged people too and consoled them if they started crying overwhelmed with emotion. I'm baffled where people read all this crap about him being afraid of germs  ...more
Jonas - Apr 8, 2014 11:35:21 — Maybe people assume MJ was a germaphobe based on the surgical mask (not knowing why he really wore it).  I'm sorry to have propagated the rumor.  Thanks, Morinen, for clearing it up!
Mark  - Jun 7, 2014 02:53:01 — I just read about your experience, briefly meeting Michael Jackson. Im gladdened to hear of your kindness to him in that moment, as well as your perception in saying, "Our generation watched as Michael grew up, triumphed, stumbled, suffered, and withdrew. He lived a life that few others will ...more
Vulcan - Aug 14, 2015 12:31:33 — Every time I read a story of someone meeting with MJ it's pretty much the same: he was polite, humble, gracious. It's really always the same which cannot be in any other way than him being really like that at the core. And it's so outrageous that the media turned this kind, humble man into a mons ...more
Padmashree - Mar 18, 2016 10:30:40 — Wow! That's beautiful! Ur really lucky to have met such an artist...!
Jonas - Mar 26, 2016 12:40:24 — Yes, Padmashree, I am.  I just regret that I didn't stay and talk with him.  My mindset was to leave him alone and let him shop.  Oh, well...  What's done is done.  But it was a great moment for me.

Thanks for visiting!
Alexa - May 8, 2018 11:16:48 — I think he was a beautiful human being. His life story haunts me. I still miss him, and I just want to learn more about this mysterious gift of a man, this Starchild.

"If you can't say something nice, let's hear it!"   — Joan Rivers

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