Sunday, December 11, 2011

MJIWT and Fan Fest Las Vegas

I’m a small town girl from the far reaches of northern Los Angeles County. I prefer the quiet small town life but when offered the chance to view Michael's belongings up close and see the Michael Jackson Immortal World Tour again I jumped at it. Vegas was on my radar. I hadn’t been so excited about going to Vegas since my drinking days in the 70’s. I won’t go there now because back then whatever happened in Vegas stayed in Vegas. Now on the other hand whatever happens in Vegas must be shared.

I had not long ago been completely blessed to visit Montreal with 14 other MJ fans for one of the final rehearsals of MJIWT and once there I knew I just had to also see it in Vegas. Even the drama with the ticket agency attempting to put the kibosh on my ticket turned into gold for this trip. One ticket became two which enabled my dear friend Robyn to attend with me. I had reserved a room with two beds knowing there may be a fan who would need a bed for the weekend and sure enough my instincts had been right. Leaving work early with my heart already in Vegas I pulled up to my house to find Robyn waiting in my drive way just as we had planned. Our bags quickly tossed into the trunk and we were ready to roll. Destination: Vegas BABY!

The four and half hour drive passed quickly as we talked non stop about Michael, fan happenings, and of course the victorious GUILTY verdict and sentencing of the monster Conrad Murray. This trip and this weekend seemed the perfect way to celebrate the victory for JUSTICE for Michael. The sun set over the Nevada desert just as we approached the State Line and not much later like a magnet the lights of downtown Vegas pulled us in. I totally understand why Michael loved Vegas... a land where there is no time, brimming with artistic creativity, entertainment and show business at every turn. The city that never sleeps.

I had read a very surprising Vegas related article in Hip Hop Silver Edition Commemorative magazine shortly after Michael died. The chief of staff for Louis Farrakhan, Leonard Muhammad was interviewed. He had headed up the security staff for Michael during the trial in 2005 and for a short time after in 2006. It was a joy to learn that although Michael had been deeply wounded by the trial he had not just retreated to deep depression but had his hand in many projects the public did not know about. He never stopped creating. This story changed my memories of seeing the beautiful water shows in Vegas forever. Now they will always have Michael’s touch on them. It is no wonder they are so beautiful and always draw a crowd, especially at night. 

Part of the interview:
Q: Were you ever able to experience first hand the (MJ’s) artistic process or creative talents?
LM: I saw his artistry because he had a studio he had put in the house, that he was staying in at the time, and we would sometimes observe him. And from time to time people would come by who were co-writers or musicians and played the music that he would write and I saw a little of that.... but also to listen to him talk about his future as a developer, as someone who wanted to do theme parks and there are water shows and that sort of thing right now in Vegas that were designed right now by Michael Jackson that people don’t know that he in fact designed these spectacular water shows that you see when you drive down the strip in Las Vegas. Many of these things were designed by Michael, but it’s not known in the public.

So here we were in Vegas in Michael’s water wonderland of creativity and fun. Here he didn’t have to sleep... no one does unless they want to.

There was a gathering of some fans from MJNYFC, the New York fans, for a party on Friday afternoon we had been invited to a party at the Palms where Michael loved to stay and had stayed with his children many times. We missed that party because work came first for me but at least I was in Vegas now and we were headed to meet the fans at the second fan party at the WYNN hotel. We had parked the car and opted to use a taxi the entire weekend because of my penchant for getting lost. It was hilarious to me the next day when on the way to the Mandalay Bay Hotel the taxi driver was lost but I recognized my way and corrected him. There may be hope for me after all. In any event the taxi ride to the WYNN was a quick jaunt down the strip. The WYNN hotel is simply gorgeous and there is one room which so reminded me of Michael with giant ornate, glass, umbrella shaped, decorations hanging from the ceiling. It was simply beautiful. I was thrilled to see and meet up with several fans I’d met over the last two and half years. We opted not to go to the party after the long drive but instead returned to the room early (how my life has changed since the 70's) so we could be rested and fresh for the big day, the Vegas FAN FEST and MJIWT red carpet premier.

We were up and out early into the very cold, windy desert winds. The taxi pulling up was a welcome sight and we piled in grateful for warm air and escape from the wind. We had seen the MJIWT Mandalay Bay sign at night on the way into town but as we rolled up to the gold glimmering front doors we were hit by an absolute presence of Michael. As I stepped out of the taxi and took my first look I was taken aback, stopped dead in my tracks. It was as if Michael were here in concert himself. As if he was billed for a personal appearance. My heart sank. I was stuck at the front doors for sometime overwhelmed, tears brimming, heart racing, snapping pictures and trying to grasp reality, wanting my wishes to be the reality I was about to enter. If only he could be here. If only... taking a large cleansing breath we forged on through the front doors to find our way through the giant rooms filled with slots and tables leading to seemingly never ending vast corridors and alluring stores and shops. The air changes inside. I have heard that oxygen is pumped in to pump up the patrons, to keep then hopping at those gambling tables. We are not gamblers; however we didn’t need much help at getting pumped up. Everywhere we turned there were different types of signs with Michael’s picture leading you to Fan Fest or the concert hall for MJIWT. Every sign seemed to boost our energy level and spur us on. We secured our tickets from Will Call. Sadly there were many other fans learning that their tickets had also been sold out from under them or were simply not there. The greed surrounding anything Michael Jackson still astounds me. I will from now on always be sure to buy my tickets only from Ticketmaster.(will explain later)

Soon we thankfully sank down into a comfy chair in the close by Starbucks to nosh and drink our breakfast. As I was savoring the yummy, fortifying splendidness of my mocha latte I was so pleased to look up and see beautiful Raquel approaching me. She is the founder of the Las Vegas MJ fan club, and holds the MJ Fan Convention in Vegas every year through her group MJSUNIFC. We happily hugged each other hello. I was so happy to see her again after meeting her in Montreal. Her enthusiasm and energy is contagious. We shared for a minute or two and then she was on her way.
On to Fan Fest... not sure what to expect but remembering we had been promised in Montreal it would hold some wonderful items from Michael’s personal collection including the Neverland arch we all thought was gone forever, and that we would definitely be able to walk under it. I couldn’t even imagine that. Also the Scream set from the video would be there along with some of Michael’s own personal glove collection. It wasn’t long before we walked through the doors of the MJ Vegas Fan Fest. The lights were dimmed, Michael’s beautiful voice was singing to us. He was talking to Dick Clark on a huge screen and singing his little heart out with the Jackson Five. We entered the doors and then took just long enough to get pics at the Fan Fest Sign before moving slowly on to the main attraction. I felt myself holding my breath in  anticipation of what was to come. It was very emotional and sad for some fans. Tears were brimming and rolling down cheeks. Some came to tell me they needed to leave and would come back later, yet still found it difficult to pull themselves away from anything Michael and ended up staying. On display were Michael’s personal belongings that he wore, he touched, he treasured. What was on display held us in awe and rapture. We all slowly moved from item to item completely captivated. Memories flooding our minds. I would stop to talk to other fans and we all had the same look on our faces. There were no words to describe this feeling. For some it was too much. 

A beautiful friend approached me. I was so happy to see her there then as I saw the sadness in her eyes she collapsed in my arms and began to sob, gut wrenching sobs, heartbroken tears. My heart broke for her and it broke for Michael all over again. As I held her I wondered if this feeling, this missing Michael, this emptiness without him in this world... will it ever pass? We can’t seem to get enough of Michael Jackson. The need to be closer to him, to anything that is or was of Michael. I travel all over Michaeling. I take visiting fans and friends from all over to Michael spots, yet each time finding ourselves once there never quite able to conquer the feeling of emptiness, of missing him... it’s just not ever enough. Not enough because nothing we do will ever bring him back. Time has helped. In some ways this blanket of overwhelming grief seems to have changed, lifted, evolved, yet never seems to leave. Will there ever be closure? I believe I have come to accept... no; just the missing of Michael blended with the joy of the person Michael was on this earth and all he gave this world. Michael is our inspiration, our beauty, our enchantment, our ecstasy. It is the grief, the missing MJ that brought us all together... but the love of the human being that keeps us here. This day we celebrate the greatest entertainer to have ever lived on this planet. 

I won’t go into great detail about every item. There are a few that brought me to tears and took my breath away beyond description. There was a This Is It display that I refused to visit until the very end. It was too painful I just couldn’t face that one at first. Along with everyone else I oohhhed and ahhhed and gasped over and over and over again. The enormity of realizing I was standing in front of those shoes... the well worn loafers that clearly show the form of Michael's magical feet. One foot worn more than the other from spinning. Or the tank that MJ himself stood in front of in concerts around the world as he sang Earth Song or the ‘Castle’ that was housed in Michael’s living room at Neverland, it was mind boggling. Here in this room there is a feeling, a joy and it isn’t just the oxygen levels. Here you can feel Michael’s spirit. I have been to a few Julien’s auctions where Michael’s belongings or gifts from Michael to others were up for sale, albeit it was amazing and exhilarating as a fan to see these items up close but none of those visits can compare to what was felt at Fan Fest this day. Michael’s spirit was in this huge room. A room so large that his limos and the Neverland arch were on display with room to spare, yet it felt so warm and so filled with LOVE. Only Michael can do this. Only Michael can bring fans together from all over the world and then fill the entire room with awe and wonder. 

We walked on further to each display and were astounded at the walls filled with awards and honors and realized that this huge room filled with so many awards and items is only about 1/100th of all the awards and belongings that are still Michael’s. I want to say this right now because I know many fans are upset at the selling of some of Michael’s things. I am hoping that this knowledge will bring some comfort. I was told by Juliene's sometime ago that most of the items sold by Juliene’s are NOT from Michael’s personal collection. The personal collection is still very large and held by the Michael Jackson Estate. 

I turned at one point and saw John Branca and Karen Langford walking toward me so I moved over toward them. It was so wonderful to meet up with them again. Karen took on the giant task and responsibility of putting together the Fan Fest event. She did an amazingly spectacular job and I wanted to convey my appreciation for her hard work. John Branca has endeavored to create an experience for the MJ fans with both MJIWT and the Fan Fest event that honors Michael Jackson's legacy in a superb way that Michael so deserves. He has not fallen short. I am very impressed with his warm sincerity and it is very apparent to me that he deeply loves Michael and highly respects and values Michael’s fans just as Michael did. 

 After spending much time at the re-creation of Michael’s library and so wishing I could have just sat one time on the couch with Michael and discussed the latest book he may have just read or look through the same telescope he viewed the amazing Neverland stars thru we move on to the cars. The beautiful Rolls Royce limo and the Bentley both dark navy blue with Michael’s crown emblems adorning them in many places. The Bentley we are fascinated to learn has beautiful hand blown glass vases and mini chandelier type lights attached on the side walls in the back, along with gold trim and burl wood everywhere. Not just tinted windows but also curtains and tapestry pillows. These cars were made exclusively for Michael Jackson and you can see his touch in every detail. 

A friendly Fan Fest guard approached us and shared a wonderful Michael story. One of the women working for Fan Fest whose job it was to unpack boxes and set up displays found when she began opening the cars and unloading the boxes she was over whelmed by a feeling of Michael's presence. Upon opening the car doors Michael's scent was unmistakable. Each box she opened Michael's scent wafted out. At one point feeling overwhelmed she needed to take a break. She went upstairs to her room to relax, turned on the radio and heard Michael’s voice singing. She then said “Ok Michael I’ll go finish.”  There was no escaping Michael, his spirit was everywhere. I then asked if I could get in the limo to smell Michael but was told no. Yes ladies I tried. We stood and talked to this lovely man for a while and then I asked his name and wouldn’t you know it... wait for it... yes it was... ‘Michael’. We of course said, "ahhhhh... Michael." He gave us a strange look but seemed to be amused. I think he liked it. He told us we needed to make sure and take a close look at the Smooth Criminal suit from the This Is It display as it had a stain on the lapel. The stain he said was from Michael. Painfully I listened as a knife cut through my heart to hear that the stain was from Michael throwing up because he had become dehydrated and was feeling ill. I told him I just couldn’t look yet but would later on near the end.

Then I meandered over and took my time admiring the wonderful fan art that was on display including a ‘thumbs up MJ Mickey Mouse.’ Only a tiny microcosm of the fan art Michael collected and received from fans around the world. I have heard but don’t know if it is true, that there a several huge warehouses full of fan art. I don’t doubt it. Two wonderful stories came to mind when I was looking at this art. One from the owner of Youngs Art Gallery in Los Olivos about a time he was delivering art for Michael at Neverland. As he stood in Michael’s office talking to the ranch manager he looked over to a room that was haphazardly filled to the top with boxes and items. He commented about it all and was told that what he was looking at was only a few days worth of presents for Michael and it would be cleared and taken to a warehouse to make room for more mail that would inevitably arrive daily. Michael loved to receive art and presents from his fans. Michael truly loved his fans.

The other story which sprang to mind as I looked closely at the fan art work was one John Branca had shared in Montreal. John had shared that after Michael passed away the MJ Team took on the task of going through his things and were elated to find huge stacks of video tapes. They were even more elated to learn these were personal tapes of Michael’s from concerts he gave from around the world. Thinking these might hold unseen concert footage they were all amused to learn when they watched video after video that these tapes were filled with footage of nothing but Michael’s fans watching him at concerts. He loved to watch his fans watch him on stage. To Michael seeing his fans in the audience was just as fascinating and entertaining as the fans watching him on stage. Yes, that was our humble, loving Michael.

After moving to the back of the hall where some very interesting MJIWT costumes were on display It was now time for me to finally see the TII display. I slowly approached and tried to just take in the genius and creativity of Michael with this display. The spider was absolutely amazing and I could just see Michael coming out from under it. I wanted to get under it to be where he had been but it was chained down or believe me I would have tried. Hee Hee I looked at the fine detail of Zaldy’s creations and wondered how on earth Michael as frail as he was could have worn those beautiful but heavy designs and danced in them. The pant legs were so skinny, so thin. My heart broke for Michael. Then I took a very up close look at the stain on the Smooth Criminal outfit. Sadness flooded my heart as tears filled my eyes once again for Michael. He wanted so much to show the world all he had been creating. I needed to move away and digest my thoughts and feelings so I moved to sit on the TII stage. I had only sat there for a few moments when I turned to see my wonderful friend Wendy moving toward me saying my name, with a huge beautiful smile on her face. I reached out and gave her a giant hug. I was so happy to see her and admire her so much proving, yet once again the deep sadness of loosing Michael is continually, paradoxically accompanied with great happiness and joy. This thought immediately went straight to my heart like an arrow as do all things Michael, leaving me to wonder if Michael himself had not experienced this contradictory feeling throughout his amazing life. He suffered so much at the hands of humans but on the other hand was blessed beyond comprehension with the life God gave him to live, for he surely was chosen for an extraordinary life. I suddenly thought as I stood in front of the TII display with people I love dearly who always bring joy into my life every time I see them... is this a tiny thimble full of what it was like to be around Michael? 

We now had seen everything at least twice. I went back yet again now and took more pictures of the displays as the fans had thinned out near closing. We had arrived before it had begun and like many MJ events stayed until we were told we had to leave. Now we had gravitated back to the library. It was so warm, comfortable and cozy. What struck me was that it was so simple, not ostentatious in any way, very earthy but beautiful. Most especially strikingly beautiful was Michael’s desk. There is a bronze bust of Walt Disney on the mantel which evokes ahhhs. The pictures over the fire place old school fox hunting pictures, very simple and a stark contrast to Michael’s beautiful desk. I wondered if they had come with the ranch when Michael bought it and with the huge collection of art he owned why he never chose to change the pictures out for more Neverland type paintings, such as the ones Dave Nordahl had done for him on so many occasions. Maybe one day I'll find out.  I could just see Michael sitting on the brown, leather, diamond tuck, button couch accepting his awards on TV as he had done so many times. One time in particular with Chris Tucker popped in my head and I could see Michael laughing at Chris’ jokes, giggling up a storm and most likely eventually rolling on the floor in gales of laughter. It was about then I noticed Miko Brando approaching us. Miko is still a beautiful, staunchly loyal friend to Michael. At the Julien’s auction where the Thriller jacket was for sale I had asked him what he thought of the auction and he very understandably shook his head sadly and firmly stated, “I could never sell anything that Michael gave me.” Miko is a quiet, kind man whose grief at the Julien’s auction was absolutely palpable. My heart broke for his loss and although I wanted to ask him many questions, as I always do to those I meet who knew Michael, I simply could not bring myself to intrude on his private sorrow. A surreal feeling enveloped me as he casually stood next to me just between the Neverland arch and Michael’s library and we talked. Robyn and I asked about the magnificent desk in Michael’s library and we were thrilled to learn it was made of mahogany inlay and real gold. He also shared that Michael really loved that desk and had it special ordered. We remarked about the incredibly beautiful chess set and Miko explained in Michael's library it was displayed on a high table which enabled Michael to play chess while standing up. We had run into a local Las Vegas performer, Bella, from Hungary who was also taking in Fan Fest and said Michael had attended a circus he ran many years ago in Vegas which made perfect sense since Michael loved animals. He had shared how Michael loved to watch the large cats at the circus and Miko talked about how Michael loved the large cats and had written a song for 'Siegfried and Roy'. Hysterically Bella had thought I was ‘someone’ famous and kept asking my name. I was tempted to tell him I was Bea from Mayberry but stopped myself. Yes I know that ages me but I am old. HA! Google Mayberry RFD. I assured him I was no one, just an MJ fan, but later when he approached Miko as I stood next to him I informed him that Miko was definitely ‘someone’ special. That he was a huge part of Michael’s life. We told him about all the videos and movies Miko was in with Michael and named them one by one; Thriller, Moonwalker, You Rock My World and that he was even married at Neverland. As we talked I thought about a life time of memories that must daily over flow in Miko’s heart for his best friend. There I was standing next to someone who so loved and supported Michael unfailingly through simply everything for several decades. It was in fact Miko who was there to protect Michael and make sure the fire was out during the Pepsi disaster. It was Miko who placed his body over Michael to put out the flames with his jacket. Bella said he knew Michael because he'd seen Billie Jean and Thriller and Miko said, "That wasn't Michael. Billie Jean was someone he played on stage." So many fans believe they know Michael because of what they have seen on stage or in videos but Michael was a performer and transformed on stage. It is always so wonderful to speak to someone who knew the man Michael truly was. As I stood next to Miko again I wanted to ask so many questions but this time it was just simply enough to stand and talk with him about ‘stuff.’ The desk, the couch, the books, the telescope. He shared that he and Michael spent many times together in the library at Neverland. Yes he confirmed that Michael certainly did use the telescope and loved to look at the stars over Neverland through it. My star gazing at the gates of Neverland will never be the same now as I picture Michael peering through that giant telescope. I noticed the red and gold ‘Team MJ’ jacket he was wearing and asked about it, hoping somehow it might be available for purchase. He told me that all those who came together to support Michael after his death with the Estate became the 'Team MJ’ and each were given a jacket. He wore it proudly.

It was now time to go. We had spent four hours visiting Michael’s things and feeling his magic in this Michael wonderland, taking a very up close look at his personal belongings including the famous crown, stage costumes, awards, cars, arcade games, Michael’s bling; his amazing jewelry, pins and belts. It was simply incredible and hard to believe four hours had passed so quickly but it was time to go. There was a red carpet event down stairs we wanted to attend before the show. So off we went to the red carpet which turned out to be, as Robyn put it, "Just a room with a red carpet that went no where." It was for media only behind close doors. It's Vegas and apparently the illusion of a Red Carpet entrance is what works. The MJ fans were not to be deterred though and we stood very close to the doors so we could be supporting MJIWT in whatever way we could. We all took this privacy as a way to protect Michael’s children who were attending the premier and were making a showing inside the room on the red carpet.

The red carpet turned out to be a very private affair and Mandalay Bay people were not happy about MJ fans being there, to the point of great rudeness. We were not dismayed though and stood our ground. Soon Jackie and Tito Jackson came by, not stopping but saying a quick hello as they went inside. As I was standing there near the entrance table I suddenly felt a hairy thing like a dog under my hand and realized the lead dancer of the show, who is simply amazingly talented, and Bubbles were passing just inches in front of me. That was a surreal moment to know I had just petted Bubbles without even trying. Bubbles actually is a man dressed like Bubbles and he does a spot on imitation of a chimp. We didn’t have to wait too much longer when Travis Payne and Stacy Walker both choreographers and dancers who worked with Michael made sure to come by to see the MJ fans and visit with us. The Mandalay Bay workers tried hard to deter them from visiting with us and to send them the other way but they were so friendly and kind and spent several minutes with the fans taking pictures and saying hello. Travis’ jacket was absolutely amazing and looked as if it was most certainly a Zaldy design. They both looked just stunning. Travis kindly took a picture with me as Robyn told him, “I LOVE your jacket, Travis!” He responded with, “You do? Well you can have it then” as he laughed and took off down the hall for his red carpet interview. It was very chaotic in the hallway as the Mandalay Bay staff decided to hold a national cheer leading rally right in the middle of the hall way during the same time as the red carpet proceedings. All was not lost though as I looked up and saw Jeff Jampol and the staff from the MJ Online team looking very handsome and dapper for the premier night as well as Karen Langford and John Branca all coming our way. John had told me earlier that his children were enjoying themselves at Fan Fest and he now had them in tow for the red carpet as well. Simply stunningly, beautiful children with gorgeous blonde hair. He glowed with pride as he walked through the crowd with them heading for the red carpet. He too along with his team made sure to greet the MJ fans much to the chagrin of the Mandalay staff. The Red Carpet was not for the fans and actually pretty disappointing but the show was about to begin so we moved on making our way through the cheerleaders as they yelled, cheered, jumped and performed their routines while all their supporters clapped and cheered along. As they all yelled "YAYYY!!" I wanted so badly to chime in "YAYYY Michael!!!" but held my tongue. Somehow I wondered how MJ fans quietly standing in a hallway could be so distracting in comparison to the boisterous cheer leading squads. We also passed many cow boys and their cow girls since there was also the yearly rodeo happening on this same weekend in Vegas. The crowd was a baffling mixture of cheering sports groups, cowboys and MJ Fans we all got along famously except for the Mandalay staffers who seemed to not get along with anyone who wasn't a celeb or media. We moved on up the stairs away from the chaos to the concert hall to find our seats. Let the show begin! 

 I could hardly contain my excitement and had been anxiously waiting to see MJIWT again. My ticket had gone south on me when the agency I bought it from sold it out from under me and forced a later show and different seat location on me. To say the least I was not happy about this but as God always does with the seemingly bad he turned that ticket into two for the early red carpet show which enabled Robyn to attend with me. The seats were higher in the nose bleed section but we were perfectly happy with that. I had already seen from rehearsals the higher seats afford a better over all view of all that is Cirque. I brought binoculars just in case though and celeb watched while we waited for the show to begin. Michael’s children and Katherine were there in the front row and not far away were Tito and Jackie and many cousins were with the children. John Branca and his family were right behind Katherine and the children. Then also many MJNY fans and other fans I know were behind or near them in floor seats. Very cool for them to be so close to the stage and all those dear ones Michael loved so much.

The show began and Michael’s music and voice filled the arena. The Neverland gates and Michael’s bronze statues came alive before our eyes. It's at this point that it was reported Paris put her head on her cousin’s shoulder as memories flooded in from her childhood, her home at Neverland. The amazing miniature hot air balloon which held a animatronic MJ as a child floated over the crowd without a hitch as Michael’s heart glowed red beating inside little Michael. I was so completely thrilled to see that the idea I had shared in Montreal for Michael’s silhouette had come to life as Michael’s Billie Jean image in different poses projected onto a giant curtain. As it moved slightly in the breeze, my heart skipped a beat as it even gave the feeling that Michael himself was there. The cirque staff are amazingly talented and so creative. I was disappointed that the top of the giving tree was not there and later learned they had to forego it because of injuries to the acrobats. I'm hoping all problems are worked out and it reappears in Los Angeles. However for me the show was just amazing in spite of that. I whooo hood and danced in my seat to Michael’s music. How can you not? Many cried and Robyn and I shared tissues with a fan from Japan we sat next to and I’m not even sure she spoke English but we definitely all spoke the language of LOVE for Michael Jackson. There were many ahhhs over and over again from the audience and some just couldn’t help themselves but had to stand and dance at their seats. Robyn and I simply had to move to the music in our seats. I lost my voice yelling whooo hoooo and yayyyyy and clapped like crazy after each segment. Who could not? Yes I left my voice in Vegas and it took all week for it to return to normal but was totally worth it. The MJIWT is a journey through Michael’s musical career and simply crammed with so much of his music. Kevin Antunes and Greg Phillinganes and the band did a spectacular job on the music. Robyn was amazed and astounded when she realized what we were listening to was the real kick ass live band, the real singers and not track. The MJIWT Cirque show IS the tribute to Michael we have all long been waiting for. Michael’s voice, music and spirit filled the arena. He spoke his beautiful words in sections which also brought ohhhs, ahhs and tears. I tire so much of the critical fans who are just never pleased by anything. Those that refuse to even open their minds to this wonderful tribute to Michael and sit and criticize without ever having seen it. This IS a simply amazing show which brings so much honor to Michael. We need to embrace and support it. I am so very pleased with the MJIWT Cirque show and I am looking very forward to seeing it again when it comes to Los Angeles. Once or twice is simply not enough. Hee Hee

It was non stop Michael music the entire time and even pyrotechnics. The pole dancer was an incredible show stopper and the brilliant grace and beauty of the trapeze dancers was beyond amazing. The ‘Is It Scary’ segment with the contortionist worm who comes out of the book is one of my absolute favorite parts of the show as well as the show stopping Billie Jean finale performance with the light up suits which Michael would have pioneered at the O2.

We laughed and we cried and we left elated. Then on our way out as God would have it we ended up walking out with the heads of staff of the resident Immortal Cirque show which will be a permanent show at Mandalay Bay in 2013. I spoke to Wilby from Cirque who I had met when we all brain stormed in Montreal at the Cirque du Soleil corporate offices and was so shocked to know he recognized and remembered me right away. He introduced me to Jack Kenn, the VP and General Manager of the resident Cirque du Soleil shows. Also another on the creative end of things was a very shy and unassuming gentleman from France, Michelle. Wilby introduced me as a ‘Super Fan’ and yes that fits me very well. I will wear that label proudly, yes I am and always will be a Michael Jackson Super Fan. I was so honored. It was awesome again to give my input to their questions as we walked. They were so kind. I also look very forward to the permanent Immortal show.

The final consensus of the MJIWT Cirque du Soleil show from audience members walking out of the show that night, all that I heard speak on the way out, was that it was just fabulous. After spending the day at Fan Fest and seeing the show all else pretty much fell flat for me. I was floating on a cloud in Michael land.

The next day before leaving Vegas I just simply had to visit Michael’s favorite antique store in Vegas, the Regis Galerie in the beautiful Venetian Hotel which was just a brisk walk down the strip from our hotel. The Venetian Hotel now stands where the old Sands Hotel of the ratpack era stood which would explain all the ratpack memorabilia mixed in with fine jewelry, glass, painted bronze collectibles and antiques in the store. I was not surprised at all to see it packed full of antiques and unusual items. Michael seemed to like the small packed antique stores. In the front windows the Bashir interview played. The interview when visiting the store Michael says, “You Whooo! You Whoo!” (I just love that). The clip plays on a continuous loop on two separate TVs in both windows to either side of the front entrance of the shop with a statement saying “Our Dear friend Michael, You Will Be Missed.” I stood for quite a while waiting to get a clear shot of the store front and was pleased to see so many tourists stop to watch the video of Michael. Robyn and I walked through the down stairs portion of the store, the upstairs is blocked off, looking at all the beautiful and unusual treasures. We stood at the 'You Whooo' stair well and the tables along the wall reminded me of Michael's library desk and I wondered if he had special ordered his desk from the Regis Galerie. In the center of the main floor we discovered a framed picture of Michael on display which shows him admiring a beautiful re-creation of the crucifixion of Christ. The framed picture sits on the table in front of the same re-creation Michael is looking at in the picture. It is a breathtakingly beautiful piece. We met one of the owners of the store and he said that Michael was not just a customer but also a friend and he would come into shop and they would often go to dinner or lunch at the near by restaurants in the Venetian Hotel. We went inside a restaurant he pointed us to and clearly it would be a place where Michael would feel comfortable. All seating is hidden upstairs away from view over looking the canals where gondolas glide by and gondoliers sing the most heavenly songs, their beautiful voices echoing off the walls creating a ethereal effect. I vowed the next time I am in Vegas to eat at this wonderful restaurant.  The inside of the Venetian is painted like the out doors of Italy. It is just simply stunning. In the main entrance section the ceilings are a reminder of the Michelangelo ceilings Michael loved so much.

It was time to make the long trek home from the city that never sleeps.
I am still unwinding from this trip. Everything feels somewhat dull now as reality sets in and I am forced back in to my everyday life. I do however wonder what my next MJ adventure will hold and I am so looking forward to January when MJIWT Cirque du Soleil comes to Los Angeles. Will you be there? 

Neverland Valley Sign - Good Bye For Now
Videos courtesy of Melanie Freeman - MJ fans of NY

Great blog post on Seven's blog 777 about Miko Brando and a great read from Miko about Michael and their friendship.


  1. Wow! Betty this was amazing! I feel like I went there in person. You had an awesome time. I sure wish I could have gone too. It sounds like a once in a lifetime event. Thank you for putting your heart into this blog. You did a fantastic job. (BTW, you look great) - Love, Bonnie

  2. Thanks Bonnie. I can't wait for the day you will be out to this side of the states. Hopefully you will get to see MJIWT one day soon. LOVE you, Betty

  3. Oh my gosh. Thank you sooooooo much for letting us experience this through you. Blissings and MichaeLOVE to you forever, Betty! <3

  4. Your welcome Leigh. Very happy you enjoyed it. <3 LOVE to you too and Merry Christmas!

  5. This is amazing and you are fantastic. I felt like I had really missed out on something huge, not having been able to attend this event, but you have changed that completely. I am SO grateful to you for your wonderful wonderful pictures and all the details and emotion you shared with us. Thank you so much, Betty.

  6. Your very welcome Siren. It's such a blessing for me to share. I feel He puts me in these situations so I can write about them for those who can't be there. LOVE to you so happy you were able to feel a part of this experience.

  7. I live in Australia, so to be able to read this blog, and see all of Michael's belongings is wonderful. I doubt I will ever get to one of his fan fests all though I did see him live in concert in 96. I wonder if they will ever have another like this with the Estate executors there. I really admire Branca for what he has done for Michael. Cheers from down under.