Sunday, December 5, 2010

Icons & Idols - Michael Jackson

It had been a long week at work already, although it was only Wednesday, and I was feeling a bit down, tired and already stressed. The holidays just have a way of doing that sometimes. Feeling the pressure of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the twist commercialism puts on Christmas is just wearing sometimes. This is the time of year when we should be filled with the most joy and celebrate the birth of Jesus, his LOVE, his peace. I was just leaving work and contemplating the bah-humbug Christmas poem a friend had shared with me about working our tails off, running here and there to keep up with the Joneses, shopping, parties, functions, dinners and on and on with stress as the main course served up daily for the last month of the year. It was then my cell rang and on the other end I heard the high, excited exuberance of my dear friend telling me “Betty, You just HAVE to go to Julien’s Auction House in Beverly Hills. They have SOOO much Michael stuff on display. YOU JUST HAVE TO SEE IT!!” She went into detail about her day seeing MJ’s belongings and suddenly, magically as Michael has done so many times I felt my whole being change. Michael just has a way of doing that to those who love him. I most certainly couldn’t deny I wanted to see anything… simply ANYTHING… that belonged to Michael up close and personal, but there was a gnawing in the pit in my stomach. My heart began to ache, like so many times before, as I thought of what Michael endured over the last two decades of his life. Those that wanted what was his, those that used him, the hangers on, the opportunists, the greedy, those that plotted, planned and put into motion schemes that would lead ultimately to Michael’s death. In that process many items which belonged to Michael had vanished, apparently showing up at auctions and then disappearing again.There has been so much controversy and speculation about where Michael's belongings have gone.
Holding a private conversation with the main man in my life I prayed, “Dear Lord, are these some of those items and if so what gives me the right to go and gaze upon them?” Encouraged by my friend’s exuberance I simply felt I needed to go and see for myself the next day. One of Michael’s gold fencing shirts from the Dangerous Tour was on display. That in itself was the final straw… the magnet that drew me toward Beverly Hills. I placed my desire to see MJ’s items, my car and the California freeways in the Lord’s hands and asked Him to guide me there, as I set out on my Michaeling mission.
Once the car was parked which was an adventure in itself and I might say to the inexperienced here, be forewarned you need to take a fist full of bills to park in Beverly Hills, I made my way to my destination, as I opened the doors and entered from the cold, dark night into the warm, bright light of the showroom, it seemed as though I stepped into another time zone. Yes in fact it was the Julien’s Auction show room zone. The nicely suited attendants greeted me and an invisible force drew me to the display of the “Beat It” jacket, the sequined glove, make up case and so much more than I can list. Most all items signed personally by Michael Jackson. I looked at his famous signature and thought of Michael’s hands, and seeing each item the thought that he had touched, used or had worn almost every item there suddenly hit home. An attendant walked with me and I asked the burning question in my heart, “Where did all these things come from?” As I looked around and witnessed with my own eyes he assured me “Almost every item here was signed my MJ and given freely to people as gifts or to auctions by MJ, to be sold to raise money for charity because that is just how Michael Jackson was. He was always giving away his things to make people happy.”

Now I was drifting from display to display effortlessly, no more stress, or holiday pressures… what holiday? I had now entered the world of Michael Jackson’s closet as I gazed at his jackets, jumpsuits, hats, “The Belt” he wore on his 45th birthday, this belt along with many other items designed and tailored by Michael’s very good friends, Michael Bush and Dennis Tompkins, a sequined white glove, and YES the gold fencing shirt... which… oh yes indeed… I smelled! Up close and personal I sniffed this outfit. YES… that’s right, I freely admit it... I smelled MJ’s fencing shirt and I have to say… but can’t be sure… I may have detected a hint of Bal a Versailles. Ok… I know only a die hard MJ fan would go sniffing for traces of MJ’s sweat and cologne, but then how many times does someone like me get to see up close and personal the stage costumes or clothes of Michael Jackson?! Was it just wishful thinking… another sniff… No I really think it…

I took many, many pictures. I asked to see the secret backroom. The Executive Director, Martin Nolan, who was lovely to me and so much fun to joke with, wanted to know how I knew about the secret back room. I told him I couldn’t reveal my sources… only that, “Fans just know these things.” He shook his head at me, not for the first time that night, rolled his eyes and we laughed and then he asked one of the attendants, Allen, to escort me to the back room. Others, Julien family members, who were working there also came along as they were surprised to learn about the back room items as well and wanted to take a gander. To my surprise on display were full sized, soft rubber, wax looking statues of Indians and cowboys, which MJ had set up in the Indian Village at Neverland near the train tracks. I must say the Indian sitting cross legged with the peace pipe made me step back. He was a bit scary looking but I am sure in the outdoor, tee pee setting he fit quit well. They were simply amazing to view, like a secret peek into Michael’s longing for his boyhood and his wonderful childlike, fun imagination.

Returning to the main floor the pedestals outfitted with MJ’s jackets were being strategically placed for Saturday’s auction, a world wide event where anyone, any where can bid on items by phone, online or in person. The chairs were in place, the sound system was being set up, podium at the ready, display cases lit and organized, computers were up and running. There were many items from other iconic legends like Marilyn Monroe, Rock Hudson, Madonna, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, The Beatles and many, many others. The jacket… I mean “The Jacket” that John Lennon wore on the Sgt. Peppers album was on display and was later to sell for $240,000. It was amazing to see this piece of history from my teen years up close and personal…and did I detect a hint of Marijuana, good ole’ Mary Jane on this one? So many cool and interesting items… yet I continually was being drawn back to MJ’s things.
John Lennon's Sgt. Peppers Jacket:

My friend who had raced against time and rush hour traffic to arrive before closing popped in the door and I greeted her with a big hug. The stress of the road melted from her shoulders as we began to peruse the displays together and take more pictures of one another. We posed grinning from ear to ear next to MJ’s “Beat It” jacket. I was so thrilled to see a jacket from the world’s BEST Super Bowl half time show EVER signed by Michael and a game football signed by both Michael and Troy Aickman, an original Michael Jackson doll from the 80’s with the original price tag of $14.95 on the box, gold records, platinum records, J5 memorabilia signed by all the Jackson 5, The original Motown contract the J5 signed as children, This Is It tickets, Victory Tour memorabilia, a signed Smooth Criminal hat, a Hungarian military hat signed with a written note from Michael saying “Thanks for your support. All my love, Michael Jackson, 1994”, there were 3 black, stage worn, signed fedoras with Michael’s name printed inside, and the Julien’s Auction catalog from April 25, 2009 signed in gold by Michael Jackson. This one stopped me short and my heart sunk, as I read the date and realized, two months later to the day Michael lay dead. I felt a wave of nausea come over me and I felt the anger rise. Still there is NO justice! God hear our prayers!

The Julien’s director, Martin, allowed me the privilege of roaming the displays with the catalog in hand. I was juggling the camera, the catalog, my purse and sweater when I realized the other catalogs were chained down and then asked how much they were. He smiled and said “For you, $100.” I laughed and then made my way back to the desk and gingerly put it back on the stand like I didn't want to break it. As I set it back on it’s easel he said to me, "I have one just for you." I thought again he was joking and meant if I paid the 100 bucks. Later just before I left he handed me a catalog with both hands and slightly bowed like he was handing over the crown jewels to the queen, royally presented me with a catalog. I felt very much honored and thanked him. Later the next day checking online I realized he wasn't joking they really do cost $100. All I could say was “Wow!! It was definitely my night!!” If you are reading this Martin, again I thank you for your generous kindness.
I had taken 100's of pictures, a fact that Martin did not miss and approached and commented in his Irish brogue, “Well gone are the days when the Instamatic took 24 pictures and that was it and you had to take them into Rite Aid or the drug store for development.” I realized suddenly maybe I was crossing boundaries saying “Oh I’m sorry! Do you want me to quit?” He laughed and said “No you go right ahead and take your pictures. I guess then all that photography we worked so hard on in the catalog is not good enough?” I then revealed “Well I write stories and like to use my own pictures.” He laughed out loud and shaking his head again gave me a jovial, “Oh! NOW you tell us!”
MJ fans are still fiercely protective of MJ, his children and mother, so after checking out every last item including the back room three times I went to the main desk where Martin was working and where Darren Julien was standing close by and again voiced my concern about the source of all the MJ items, with an ache in my heart for MJ I inquired of Martin, “Please answer this question for me. I need to know, are any of these things taken from MJ? What is the source of all these items? What about the family?” He assured me saying “All items are donated and they were gifts from MJ to fans and friends. Some were items MJ donated, when he was alive to other auctions to raise money for different charities and causes. They did not sell and were returned to Michael Jackson and are now in this auction. Some are from the family, the estate and Katherine and the family all gave their blessing, all except Joe. The items belong to others and were freely given on consignment for this auction.” There have been many false rumors and it felt good to hear the family had given approval for this auction, well all except Joe, so for me it was the majority. I believe it is just like that in large families, not all members agree on everything or join in each venture. It was also very clear that the vast majority of items displayed for auction were clearly signed and had been given to others by MJ and that supported Martin’s statement.

Then Martin began to tell me about the previous auction at the old Robinson’s May in Beverly Hills where Michael’s beautiful, ornate Neverland gates were being offered, as well as many other items from Neverland. I had heard several media rumors about these items. I felt so blessed to hear from someone who personally had witnessed these very gates being restored to their original home at Neverland. Martin assured me that “The Gold Gates” were reinstalled at Neverland. That he personally was present on the property at Neverland to witness the restoration, sadly and ironically the very weekend of the week Michael died the gates were reattached to their original place of honor at Neverland. They are there and working just as they did when Michael lived there.
A sudden burst of hope leaped in my heart spurring me on to ask, “MJ’s Carousel?” Martin’s response filled me with even more hope and again put to rest yet another untruth as he assured me, “You know MJ himself hand painted some of the horses on that carousel. It has special meaning. MJ made sure to dismantle it and store it carefully in a warehouse on Neverland where it still is today, untouched.” My heart was over flowing and like the unashamed MJ fan that I am I blurted out, “Really? Oh my God! It’s STILL there? Really there? At Neverland?” which elicited Martin to reveal, “Yes, there is a huge, massive warehouse on the property at Neverland where MJ’s things are stored. Safe and protected.” Astounded I slapped the desk happily and heard myself exhale with great enthusiasm, “Thank God! Another rumor put to rest! There are so many false rumors!” I then thought about the other Neverland treasures that had also been on auction like the train and all the bronze statues MJ so lovingly collected and had displayed about Neverland. I had read they were all gone now, just a memory of past glory days. I needed to know, “What about all the bronze statues that had been on auction? Were they sold? I read they are all gone now.” Martin’s quick emphatic response dispelled all previous stories as he said “No, NONE of them were sold. They were returned to Neverland and are also in storage.” In a ‘Need to Know’ voice I added, “And the train? What about the train? Michael would not have wanted to sell the train!” He again emphatically replied “No. The train was never on auction. You know Michael named that train after his mother, Katherine?” I shook my head up and down as he continued, “He would never sell that train. It was special. No, it too is stored away.” So many rumors went…puff… up in smoke, vanished in one short conversation. Maybe the one positive rumor of Neverland being restored is not so impossible after all. Yes in my heart and mind there is definitely hope now. I do not want to think about the people who partially own Neverland now or how they were involved in anything horrible that happened to MJ… yet that thought looms large in my mind. My hope and prayers for MJ3 are that all that is rightfully theirs will be restored to them.
It was a great evening at Julien’s Auction house in Beverly Hills. Every one of the people who work at Julien’s are wonderful, warm, friendly and accommodating. I smiled all the next day every time I thought about MJ’s belongings still safely stored away and that I was able to be so close to so many items MJ owned, wore, performed in and gave to others in love. It’s a funny thing when someone dies how their belongings become so much more important. It was like that with my mom…just a piece of her near me. MJ’s generous giving heart was so apparent in many of these items, and in every signature I saw. The thought of how many thousands of times he must have signed his name to make others happy just makes me love him all the more. Of course thoughts of how wonderful it would be for the MJ3 to be able to acquire Neverland and all of their father’s belongings, which really should rightfully be theirs anyway, allowed for hope to spring anew. I know Michael was so crushed at Neverland and expressed his deepest hurt about that when he said “I won’t live there again. It’s a house now. It’s not a home anymore”, but this was the children’s first home with their father and in protecting them MJ never let them see his broken heart and spirit while living there. For them I am sure there will always be many wonderful Neverland family memories.
Two days later I contemplated if I should attend the Saturday auction personally or take part from home on the computer. I opted to save the headache of parking and stayed home. As I watched and listened I wondered how the auctioneers were able to get so many words, facts, and details out so quickly. Although the internet auction was full of energy and moved quickly through thousands of sales I thought Michael’s section would never come, finally the time arrived. His section was last and certainly the most exciting. Even over the internet I could feel the mood become very much energized as the auctioneer’s voice rose and he exclaimed, “Now we have Michael Jackson’s items. Michael Jackson had a relationship different than any other entertainer in the world with his fans. MICHAEL JACKSON, the greatest entertainer of all time and he will NEVER be replaced! Michael Jackson who transformed music! You see why he transformed music and why he was the KING OF POP! Nobody will EVER be like him! Everything he did he did to be the best!” Although I have no idea if this man is an MJ fan, even sitting at my computer I felt he was a kind person who truly loved MJ and who also knew my heart and the heart of fans around the globe. I felt a rush as I witnessed the first flurry of bidding on the 4th item, a signed black and white, 8x10, glossy picture of the Jackson 5, soared quickly to sell for $10,625.

I thought, “Ok… Heerree we go!” I was not disappointed. I simply couldn't resist and bid on several items but was out bid which my wallet and budget thank God for. My MJ love wishes so much I would have won. I about died as I noticed the gold fencing shirt was coming up just two more down on the list. I reached for the key board to be ready, grabbing it randomly I hit a key and suddenly the screen read in bright green, “You are the top bidder” and I realized in shock I was now accidently bidding on a 2nd Neverland Golf Cart. The 1st one had sold for only $1,200 so in my clumsiness I just put myself in the running for the 2nd one at $2,250. Quickly realizing the other one went for less, I prayed “Dear Jesus, please let someone else bid. I really don’t need a golf cart!” In slow motion the auctioneer began to say in a parent “Peanuts” voice “Theeee… wiinnnner… issss…” then my prayer was answered and someone else bid, with many others jumping on board, a flurry of bids took place making the winning bid $8,750. Of course it could have been much worse and I could have accidentally bid on a $40,000 item. I would have just fallen out right then and there with no one around to revive me, in the end though, once the shock wore off, I actually felt sort of sad as I thought about taking the grand kids and friends on rides in MJ’s Neverland golf cart. How cool would that have been?
I was shocked to see that the gold fencing shirt only brought in $37,500 as I had really expected to see it sell for much, much more. The highest item sold was the white, sequined glove which was sold to an international bidder for $330,000, chills covered my body as I watched the flurry of bids on this one. Not to demean MJ’s love for mankind or in anyway compare dollar signs to love but I just couldn’t help but see in all this the love and attention from fans all over the world for Michael.
Oh how I pray MJ sees how much he is loved and thought about as he watches down from heaven. It was all very interesting but several times I could not help but think about how MJ would feel about this auction. I just kept feeling like maybe MJ would have wanted all this money to go to charity…. as Allen, the attendant said, “…because that is just how Michael Jackson was.” Yes the facts prove Michael Jackson was one of the kindest, most generous, caring humans on this planet. We will be missing you forever MJ!
A random sample list of great items with end sale prices:
3 black, stage worn, signed fedoras:
1 - $53,125
2 - $31,250
3 - $72,000
White Smooth Criminal, stage worn fedora, signed: $72,000
Hungarian military hat, signed: $8,960
MTV award statue: $72,000
Helmsley Palace doorman’s jacket which MJ wore many times, signed: $31,250
Bubbles’ MJ matching racing outfit, signed: $9,500
Beat It Jacket, signed: $96,000
Beat It sheet music signed by MJ, signed: $6,500
Studded, Bad, black leather arm guard: $31,250
Military style jacket MJ wore when he met Nelson Mandella, signed: $60,800
Gem encrusted football bag, gift to MJ by Katherine Baumann, with MJ’s name: $1,750
MJ’s make up case, signed: $5,760
The belt MJ wore for his 45th birthday party: $12,800
Promotional Invincible sign, signed: $1,664
Neverland Valley T-shirt, signed: $1,500
Michael Jackson doll, original box, signed: $1,625
I am so thrilled to know that two wonderful Michael Jackson fans were the winners of the both of these amazing items. The Neverland T-shirt signed "Love, Michael Jackson" and the studded belt Michael wore on his 45th birthday!! It is so wonderful to know these treasured items will be cherished for all time by people who love Michael Jackson!!!!
Deborah Soroky from Glendale, California wins the Neverland T-shirt signed by Michael!!
Final winning auction price: $ 2,100
Debbie Jackson from Auckland, New Zealand wins the studded belt
Michael wore to his 45th birthday party, final winning auction price: $12,800!!

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  1. Hi MJBliss,

    I loved this virtual tour! Especially being that I'm from Australia and have no plans to visit the US any time soon. So THANK YOU so much for sharing this in a blog!

  2. Betty, I have not read any of your writing before. Thank you so much for taking us with you on this adventure! I am so happy to hear that the items were signed and rightfully available for auction. The news about Neverland is especially heartening, as I have an unexplainable love for Neverland, and I am sure it will someday once again be a place for children to enjoy.
    L.O.V.E. Brenda

  3. Oh my God, so I missed getting to see these items? I am in California and would have liked to have seen them. It kills me if I missed them. At the same time, it makes me so sad to think of these items being sold, whether for charity or not. I just cannot imagine parting with something that he'd given me. I am glad to know many of the other items are still at Neverland. It just kills me that nothing seems to be happening with Neverland. We need Neverland back--fully restored to help Michael's legacy.

  4. I loved reading another of your MJ adventures, Betty. I also love being a part of it. It was a great night and I'm so happy that I got to experience it with a friend. MJ brought us together because he knows how much we LOVE him and will fight for him. I'm so glad I went back and "touched" the gold fencing shirt....I think I was too nervous to smell it though...hehehe. It was bittersweet to be there seeing everything for "sale" but it is the closest we'll ever get to Michael. I know he was there with us that night on Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills. Thank you for sharing your MJ adventures with everyone!! L.O.V.E. Donna :)

  5. @ Gatorgirl Oh I'm so sorry you missed it.
    Are you on Face Book? Look me up, Betty Byrnes,send me a private msg and and we'll keep in touch about MJ events coming our way. There will be more exhibits with Juliens. The London and Tokyo exhibits will be coming to Los Angeles.

  6. @Donna I loved sharing my MJ adventure with you. It was so fun! Yes it is so bittersweet. Missing MJ forever. I felt his love there too! I wonder where the Lord will lead me on my next MJ adventure? hee hee

  7. To all of you. Thank you so much for your beautiful comments. I hope the news about Neverland and this auction will bring peace to many. I know it did me. I was so elated to learn MJ's items were safe and protected at Neverland. We can hope for a restored Neverland to honor Michael one day. He deserves nothing less.

  8. Betty, this is a wonderful story and I was right there with you the whole time. I could even smell a little bit o'sweat and cologne on that fencing shirt!! Thank you so much for sharing this. You are our eyes, our ears, our smell, our touch and even our taste of all things MJ in So. Cal. - a wonderful blessing for me, I know, and for many others I'm sure. I, too, felt a huge sense of relief to hear about the items stored at Neverland! And I also hope that one day it will be restored to honor him in some way. I just can't imagine it being anything else! I hope his kids will see it that way, because they really do need to accept it in their hearts if it is to be. I wouldn't want them feeling betrayed in any way over this if someone else were to do it against their wishes.

    Much Love and God's Peace to you dear...
    ~ Char ~

    P.S. Do you know where the money from these sales went?

  9. Charlene, It was very clear all these items were signed gifts to individuals and previous auctions. Also Martin Nolan, the Exec Director of Juliens confirmed all items were on consignment from private donors, so the profit would go to them with a fee to Juliens for selling them at auction. Like I said though, in my heart if MJ were here he most assuredly would have wanted the money to go to charity, but these things were freely given away to make others happy by MJ. What they do with them is their prerogative. There is no way of knowing why or what the need was to sell these things. Maybe the individuals were in need of money too. In any event it was not the Estate selling off MJ's personal items. Thank God!