Saturday, October 2, 2010

How The West Was Worn by Michael Jackson

It was August 29th, 2010, Michael’s 52nd birthday. Each day since Michael Jackson’s death I have thought about him. Today along with a couple of beautiful MJ fan friends we have decided to attend as many Michael Jackson events in Southern California as we possibly can to celebrate the life of Michael Jackson. I am elated because I don’t have to drive, being directionally challenged it is a joy to have someone with GPS, a good sense of direction and knowledge of California freeways transporting us from place to place.
First on the list is The Autry Museum with Michael Jackson’s new exhibit “How The West Was Worn by Michael Jackson”. I have been impatiently waiting to see this exhibit after seeing Michael’s good friends Michael Bush and Dennis Tompkins on the news talking about how he had personally approved of this project. This exhibit had Michael’s blessing and he, himself, hand picked personal donations for the museum. Also unlike the Grammy Museum this exhibit is permanent. The ladies with me are true Michael Jackson fans and in true ‘Michaeling’ form we left the ceremony part of the event to sneak in early to the exhibit when no one else was around to see MJ's clothes. They were AMAZING!! I took many pictures of every last detail and angle of each item, each just so fascinating to me, especially the shoes. However I truly wasn’t ready for the sense of emptiness I would feel at seeing his clothes so close and feeling he should still be alive, should still be here, in them. I am only one of millions who wish we had the power to turn back time and bring Michael Jackson back.

We spent at least a good 10 to 15 minutes alone looking at the exhibit. The security guard took our pictures with no one else present, telling us “Picture taking is allowed today only for the birthday of Michael Jackson.” Then just as we had finished taking pictures everyone came flooding in from the ceremony. So we escaped the throngs and moved on out to the front of the museum. My friends decided to stop at the crowded, ladies room, and I decided instead to meander over and nose around the gift shop.

This is another one of those God ordained Michael moments I have come to look at as little gifts from God for honoring his faithful servant. I had just started poking around when I heard men’s voices near me. I casually looked up to see who was talking and standing there RIGHT in front of me were Michael Bush and Dennis Tompkins. I said "Michael Bush! Dennis Tompkins! Oh My Gosh! HELLO!" Thinking back now I get a real chuckle about this “long lost friend” greeting to two people I had never met before. The very first thing that struck me about these two wonderful men was how amiable, gentle and kind they seemed. I found myself leaning against the counter where they stood and just openly talking like I had known them for years. I paid them well deserved compliments for the breathtaking, beautiful and amazing exhibit. Then asked them both about MJ’s participation in the exhibit and MJ’s knowledge of The Autry requesting his items for exhibit. They both gave an agreeing nod toward me and freely shared about MJ’s contribution and his feelings about this exhibit at the Autry. Dennis Tompkins nodded again as Michael Bush said “He was so excited they wanted a part of him... and Country Western… he loved this stuff.” He went on to share MJ had talked at length with them about what clothes to use and creating the exhibit and it was something he really wanted to see happen. Michael Bush said, in fact, Michael was so excited he said to him over and over, "They want a part of me! They want a part of me!!" Standing there talking to these two loyal, loving friends of Michael’s I felt as though I was at the end of the rainbow. I have never been a fan type person really, but personal stories about Michael Jackson are like gold to me. I will treasure this encounter with these wonderful men forever.

I stood there chatting with them for quite a while and inquired if Michael had kept in touch with them on a regular basis or if Michael had contacted them from Bahrain when he was away. Michael Bush smiled and chuckled and became animated as he shared “Oh yes. He called all the time from all over the world. His phone bill was ENORMOUS! Just HUGE! There would be times he would just call me from the back seat of his car while traveling and sing to me. Just sing something he had in his mind and say “Tape over” and hang up. That’s it! Just sing, say “Tape Over” and hang up.” I smiled openly picturing MJ in the back of his Escalade calling Michael Bush and singing over the phone some perfect little bit of a song that was running through his genius mind and thought what an incredibly privileged lot in life Michael Bush was destined to live as friend and confidant to Michael Jackson.

All three were so modest and self effacing. The most wonderful time was talking to Michael Bush one on one, off to the side and we discussed Michael in concert. He said "Oh Yes, when Michael was on stage he was total energy! So much energy!" Then he said "Well did you know he glowed?" I said "So it is true what Orianthi and others said about him glowing?" Then Michael Bush said and I will never forget this, "Yes Michael glowed. He glowed. He could light up a room, a stage, an arena. You could be standing in a room alone and with no sound, he would enter and the feeling in the room would change. You could just feel him. You could have your back to him and you knew he was there with no words. He lit up the room." I pictured MJ and his beautiful face and I know my eyes were so wide open as I blurted out "Oh my God! How can a person do that? ONLY God could have done that to Michael!" Then he was called away to the autograph table but as he walked off he looked me in the eye, smiled, nodded and said "YES", and then again looked back at me smiled and nodded again saying, "YES." I felt as though he knew, I now knew the essence of Michael. It was an amazing moment.
Karen Faye arrived and all the fans began to buzz and greet her. She too is a beautiful, gentle and kind lady. I looked at all three of these special people knowing from talking to Michael and Dennis just moments earlier they had all been very close friends of Michael’s for over 35 years. Michael Jackson loved them all very much. I was standing in a room with people who were part of Michael Jackson's heart. Yes each had a job to do for him but it was more than that, they truly, deeply, cared for and loved this man. I could see the same quiet reserve, spirit of love, gentleness and kindness in each of them, that same quiet reserve, spirit of love, gentleness and kindness that Michael Jackson emulated throughout his life. I could see why Michael kept them so close and trusted them beyond measure.
I was so impressed with Karen Faye’s grace. As the three friends sat together later I could also see their friendship and camaraderie but beyond that I could feel and see the heartbreaking grief and ‘missing of Michael’ heavy on their hearts and wondered how they have survived such pain. This realization only made me admire them more.
Dennis and Michael had shared with me that the gift shop had items for sale in honor of MJ’s exhibit and a portion of the proceeds would go to help support Tippi Hedren’s wild life sanctuary, “Shambala Wild Animal Preserve”, where Michael’s cats from Neverland now reside. Although not fair to the tigers, my heart sank as I thought about MJ’s cats out living him, especially since tigers have a much shorter life span than humans, another clear reminder that MJ should not be gone from this earth.

Michael Jackson's Tigress, Thriller, doing the Moonwalk.

I bought the hardbound book, “Michael Jackson A Life In Pictures” from the “How The West Was Worn by Michael Jackson” display for them each to sign and was thrilled later when Karen who had taken her time and thought a bit before signing, beautifully wrote “To Betty, LOVE Turkle” with a large heart under her name. I know it was a little thing, this signature, but I felt very blessed to read this later and felt a bit of Michael in that signature, for this was MJ’s favorite nick name for Karen.

I continued to just stand and observe all the hoopla and frenzy, in between getting pictures with all three. They clearly were not accustomed to the limelight and Michael Bush who does not like to be photographed, joked about taking a picture of people taking his picture and then did just that in one of the group photos. It was very interesting to watch all three of them interact with the fans. Both Michael Bush, who seemed very shy, much like MJ, and Dennis Tompkins said to me at one point “We aren’t used to all this attention. We have been behind the scenes all these years. We have never been the ones signing autographs. That’s what Michael did. We are more comfortable behind the scenes.”

Later as all three sat at the autograph table they all three laughed and shared with us about how much more comfortable they were doing MJ’s makeup, dressing him, getting him all ready and then pushing him out the trailer door while they stayed behind.

The fans slowly diminished, leaving enjoy birthday cake and watch the Thriller Zombie dance but I could not pull myself away from this moment in time. It was quiet inside once again. Karen was still standing and signing autographs for a few fans but Michael Bush and Dennis Tompkins were sitting at the autograph table next to where I stood. It was fun to watch and listen to them banter good naturedly back and forth. I stood around a bit more observing until almost all fans were gone and then I too left for the festivities.
I saw them in the court yard before they left taking in the crowd from behind the scenes where they are most comfortable. It was a wonderful experience I will always treasure. I felt like I had touched Michael Jackson, just a little in shaking their hands. Those hands that touched Michael Jackson so many times over the years as they dressed him, tailored clothes for him and applied his makeup. Those hands that dressed MJ and made him up for the very last time, their dear, precious friend Michael Jackson, those hands that lifted him so lovingly into the coffin. My heart breaks for these lovely people. They are truly kind and gentle souls. It was so amazing meeting Michael Bush, Dennis Tompkins and Karen Faye. These three loving people took pain staking steps to care for and love Michael Jackson for more than half his life. This was a day, a moment in time, I will never forget.

If you would like to support the care of MJ’s cats you can copy and paste this url into your web browser. You can buy coffee, the Roar Blend :)) or just donate:
(Update as of 2015... Thriller has passed away from Cancer. Sabu still resides to live out the rest of his life at Shambala)


  1. Betty, this is an amazing blog. I loved reading it. You had such a wonderful time and expiriences that will be in your memory forever. I'm going to post this now on my site. I think the fans would love to read it. :-)
    Thank you Betty for all you do.

    God Bless You,

    Love Bonnie

  2. Dear Betty - What a wonderful & memorable experience this must have been for you! Thank you so much for sharing it here with all your heart and the emotions of the day. I can only imagine what it felt like to meet these lovely people who meant so much to Michael. And the hands, yes the hands that so lovingly cared for him all those years. You know he trusted them implicitly!

    And OMG, the story about Michael glowing!!! I can't stop crying! And Michael Bush's response to you as he was walking away says it all. I've often wondered what it would feel like to be in his presence. Well, your description here gives me all I need to imagine it.

    Thank you, dear friend, for sharing your heart!

    LOVE and Hugs to you,
    Charlene ;~)

  3. Betty,
    Thanks so much for writing about your wonderful experience at this exhibit. So many of us are unable to travel to Southern California on a regular basis and seeing the photos and reading your words to accompany them brings us all a little closer to Michael.

    I love the way you describe being moved to write about Michael and to learn more about him. I know so well that feeling because I, too, have been moved in the same way. Both back in the 1990's and again now, when we have lost the closest thing this world has had to an angel in many, many years. And such an uncommon angel at that! He glowed! I love that!

    That blue fringed shirt is AWESOME! I want it! LOL!

  4. Betty,
    This was so much fun "Michaeling" with you......It brings back all of the memories of my trip and all the things we did that involved Michaeling! It was awesome my friend. Still trying to get my pics off my camera and post on FB especially the ones of all the beautiful rocks that you did and we placed on the trail, it was all for L.O.V.E. I LOVE you more! xoxo

  5. Hello Betty,

    Thank you so much for this posting - in particular I loved the YouTube videos of Thriller & Sabu.

    I'm almost as big a fan of the big cats as I am of MJ so I really appreciated that!

  6. Beautiful writing Betty as always. I was also there that day and it was a wonderful. experience. I do have to say reading your memories of that day have me in tears...I miss him so much!!!! <3

    1. It was such a beautiful day and I'm happy the story touched your heart, Karen. Michael will always be with us. His LOVE lives forever through us... his loving fans.