“Those are moments when fate is unsealed. Nothing is impossible, we can soar, we can fly, walk on fire, navigate the sky” ~ Michael Joseph Jackson
“When all life is seen as divine, we all grow wings.” ~ Michael Joseph Jackson
I will forever be counting backwards from June 25, 2009 the day my life changed forever. I never met Michael or attended a concert which I deeply regret. Maybe this is the motivating factor that pushes me to all things Michael. I simply can’t get enough Michael Jackson. An overwhelming need to be where he once was fills my days, a force pushing me to strive to be closer to him in whatever way possible even though he is gone. At first the grief over Michael’s loss was so devastating and unrecognizable for me I simply didn’t understand what was happening to me. How do you explain to your family that your heart is shattered and your life has come to a complete halt over the loss of someone you don’t even know and have never met? I couldn’t explain because like millions of other MJ fans I didn’t understand it myself. All I knew is my heart was broken, simply shattered, my life’s axis forever altered, never to be the same.
God knew what I felt. God saw my heart and touched my life in those months following MJ’s death. My mind became filled with words. I had not written in many, many years and such overwhelming sorrow for Michael resulted in words filling my mind non stop pouring out from my broken heart. I simply had to write... write about Michael. I felt the Lord leading me to go places where Michael went. I watched online as thousands of people who felt just as I did also poured out their broken hearts and my heart broke with them and for them because they were so far away from where Michael lived here in Southern California. At least I had that. I could visit Forest Lawn, Hayvenhurst to drop off flowers, Carolwood, the MJ Hollywood Star and many more MJ places and feel some sort of connection to Michael. I felt an urging a prodding from the Lord as if to tell me I must go and walk in Michael’s footsteps and write about my Michael adventures so that others could also feel closer to Michael. I felt maybe in some tiny way possibly this would help bring a bit of healing to a few of the broken hearted. Consumed by grief with no idea of what to expect or what was in store I could never have imagined in a million years how my life would change with the decision to step out and follow the Lord’s leading. Michael’s compassionate touch brought healing and joy to so many people when he walked this earth. For me even in death Michael still continued to touch my life and change me. It’s been a long road in the grieving process for myself and millions of others around the world and I have been privileged to watch as so many have taken steps to heal and grow through this process.
I could never have believed my life would be filled with so many wonderful and amazing people since Michael’s death. All I wanted to do was to feel Michael in my heart and erase the pain of missing him. A true analogy for me since Michael’s death is a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. For many years I lived a shell shocked life wrapped securely in a church cocoon, protected, licking my wounds, shut off from the outside world healing from a deeply massive pain caused by the devastation of abuse in my life. I really felt I could not go on living at times the emotional pain was so great but God had other ideas for me. I struggled through life and spent every moment I could in church as it was the only place where the pain lifted. I had grown so much and healed so much. Then Michael Jackson died. An overwhelming feeling of devastation inexplicably hit me. A tsunami of grief I could not control took over my life. I was in the process of reading ‘The Shack’ when Michael died. An amazing book which deals with the unfathomable pain of a father helplessly watching as his little girl gets kidnapped and then is later found horrifically murdered by the abductor. Not surprisingly the emotional pain had ended the father’s life as he once knew it. Not to compare that horrific experience to mine but he too like me was no longer living but just existing surrounded daily by a dull shell of pain. A war shocked victim of this cruel world. Then God stepped in took over and healed him. I could relate this pain to Michael and all he experienced on this earth. This book is so beautifully visually descriptive and teaches of a God who deeply LOVES all people on this planet beyond measure. New realms of thinking had opened for me, completely different ways of looking at the Trinity and God as my source and loving Father. Then... Michael Jackson died and I put the book down unable to finish it... unable to continue... but then everything in my life came to an abrupt halt when Michael died. The world as I knew it ended when Michael died. Looking back with 20/20 hind site I now realize my good and loving Father God prepared me for Michael’s death with this book. Prepared me for the incredible changes that he wanted to bring and mold into my life.
There have been times when other MJ fans have shared dreaming about Michael. They share their dreams and I am amazed and I have to say although happy for them and enthralled by some of the dreams they share I feel a bit jealous because when Michael died all my dreams stopped. The only dreams I have had since his death are a few nightmares about work...Ugh! I won’t go there and another dream I had after praying, “God please give me a dream about Michael.” I had this dream only a few days after praying this prayer and woke up wondering “What? Why Lord after no dreams for soooo long then I have a dream about my boss?” A boss who in my large company would not know me from Adam. Nice guy but another Huh?... UGH! Then I realized his name... yup you got it “Michael.” Yes God has a sense of humor. Reminding me yet once again you must be very specific in your prayers. So I prayed specifically for dreams about Michael Joseph Jackson the King of Pop, "Any kind of dream but please make it about Michael Jackson, Lord.” Yet still no dreams... after all this time still no dreams.
I bought my ticket to the MJ Cirque Immortal show in October 2010 not long after the first announcement was made that they were available early for MJ fans. I had to wait over a year for that show but I didn’t care. I had my ticket. I clicked and clicked looking at the best seating for the Staples Center until I found the seats I wanted with the very best view middle stage in the loge section left, for the price I could afford. I found them and thought they were just perfect. Then amazingly in September of 2011 I was invited via Bonnie and MJ-Upbeat to Montreal to view one of the last rehearsals of the Immortal show before it’s big premier in Montreal. No I wasn’t dreaming... this was real life. I flew to Montreal by invitation of the Michael Jackson Estate and saw the show with 13 other fans and sat almost exactly in the same spot where I had purchased tickets for the future show in Los Angeles, January of 2012. John Branca had remarked to us that the location of the seats we were in to view the rehearsal in Canada afforded the absolute best view in the house of the show. I had to agree and was simply ecstatic to know I had almost the exact same seat location for L.A. in 2012.
Friday, January 27, 2012 finally arrived and last night I attended that show. Excited like a kid at Christmas I couldn’t wait to get there. My dear friend Robyn attended with me. We found our seats and found many other fans we knew were also there. It was like a huge MJ party. We waved from across the stadium to our friend Debra who drove in with us as her seat was separate from ours bought at a different time. Another friend from Italy found us and we reconnected. It seemed everywhere we looked we saw beloved MJ fan-amily. Another MJ friend who had just danced in the Thrill the World Flash mob approached and was surprised to find familiar faces as she took her seat next to me on the end of the row. Then as were waiting for the show to start we happily sat talking about Michael and recent MJ events when I was surprised to see John Branca walking up the stairs where we were seated and sit down just on the opposite side of us. Not long afterwards the members of his team all came in and sat down directly across the isle. Now a days I am a celeb watcher at these type events, so I had my binoculars out perusing the crowd for both MJ fan friends and celebs. We were told by excited MJ friends that Usher was in attendance and looking really fine in a blue suit and that Tito and Jackie Jackson were also there, as well as Michael’s children and Katherine. The front row end stage seats were empty so we were curious and hopeful to see if the children would be seated there just like in Las Vegas. Then all those seats filled up but not with the children and Katherine. Also there was no sign of Tito and Jackie. Then as I looked through my binoculars Tito and Jackie's faces suddenly loomed VERY large through my binocular lenses... in fact they were right in front of me and along with them was Jackie's son Siggy and Chris Tucker and his son. I laughed and commented, “Well I sure don’t need binoculars at Staples” and quickly stashed them in my purse. We all curiously watched to see where they would be seated. I joked with Robyn and those around me “Wouldn’t it be funny if they sat right here in our row?” The man in front of me cynically chuckled, “Yeah and Chris Tucker can sit right here” as he nodded to the two empty seats next to him and directly in front of me. We all chuckled about it and then simultaneously our eyes grew bigger and bigger as Chris Tucker and his beautiful son, as well as Jackie, Tito and Siggy Jackson and their girl friends all walked up the isle towards us. Chris Tucker and his gorgeous little boy taking the seats right in front of me that the man had just nodded to. The man smiled at me with an incredulous look of complete disbelief and I looked back at him sharing the same astonished look. Then first Siggy, then Jackie and his girlfriend and then Tito’s fiance and Tito all walked in front of us in our row and over to their seats. The ladies were just beautiful. Those handsome Jackson men certainly do attract some gorgeous women. They weren’t seated long before I couldn't resist saying hello to Tito and asked, "I hope you don't mind if I scream. I get rather loud at the Immortal show." He smiled and said, “No not at all. Go a head and enjoy yourself” which only triggered the Jackson song "Enjoy Yourself" in my mind. I smiled and resisted reminding him of his own song. I wasn’t sure if he was being polite or not but I simply couldn’t contain my rapturous joy as I was unable to stay in my seat hopping up several times to clap and whoo hoo. Even with all the celebs around I just had to be me and danced in my seat, clapped, laughed, waved my arms, sang along and cried. At one point in the show I yelled out "Michael we miss you! Michael we LOVE you!" I think I might have scared Chris Tucker a bit but then again I think he knew exactly how I felt. It just had to be said in the house where Michael last practiced, in the house where Michael's memorial took place. It just had to be said. It was an emotional roller coaster ride the entire night. Chris Tucker was rockin’ out to MJ’s music in his seat in front of me and singing along so I wasn’t alone. Robyn and all those around me also were dancing at their seats. Others around me also jumped to their feet once and awhile and by the end of the show the band had gotten the entire arena to their feet clapping and enjoying Michael’s Cirque show.
When first seated before anyone had arrived we met two cute young girls from Canada who were sitting behind us as we talked about the show and the MJ hand and footprint ceremony on Hollywood Blvd. the day before and they were already fascinated and wanting to know more about our MJ fan activities saying, “You lead such interesting lives. We love Michael Jackson but we don’t ever get to do anything like that.” Then when they saw Tito and Jackie Jackson and Chris Tucker come and sit down I turned around to them and mouthed the words “Oh My God!” Wide eyed they looked like two fawns caught in headlights. I was smiling and grinning from ear to ear seeing their priceless expressions. Yes this is my life. I don’t need to dream. They later said it perfectly “I think I’m in a dream. Is this really happening?” I said “Yes and I have asked myself that same question many times over the last year or so.”
Across the isle from me was, Jeff who I had met in Montreal. He heads up the MJ Online Team for the Estate. He was surprised to see me when I waved at him to say hello and laughed, “You two again? Everywhere I go there you are!” I laughed as I retorted, “Well there’s no way I’d miss the Immortal show in my own home town. I bought my tickets over a year ago.” We exchanged some fun conversation as I joked, “I didn’t realize I’d be sitting in the VIP section.”
Then I just sat there drinking in the joy. God is always treating me to the most delightful things. He perfectly knows the little things that bring me great joy. Anything Michael of course. My affordable seats which I had scrimped to pay for were ‘good seats with a great view of the show’ now suddenly became 'VIP seats with celebs and a great view of the show.' Ironically I had just prayed the same day about stepping back from the MJ fan life for a while to concentrate on ‘me’ as I had lost my temper with a fan, be-lie-ver, just the day before at the hand and footprint ceremony. I had just told God I didn’t want to be that person. Michael is about LOVE and the LORD is about LOVE and I don’t want to be that person who rips someone’s head off because they are sick or sadly mixed up. My patience for those who believe Michael is alive or living somewhere in some warehouse as a slave music maker for Sony is just plain gone. Yet still I don’t want to be a person that hurts others. I keep my distance from them but don't like to lash out. So I was telling God maybe it’s time for me to step back and if so give me a sign. This thought was still in my mind when I heard my name called and turned to hear, “Betty, I want you to meet someone.” I turn around, look up and see Siedah Garrett looking back at me. Unbelievable! Of course I squealed like a crazy fan... something I always tell myself I’ll never do and proceed to tell her how much I love her and admire her and gush on and on. Thankfully I got out something intelligent about how wonderful her new project is. She gives me a hug and thanks me and then returns to her seat. The gentleman with her was smiling at me really big so maybe I wasn’t too far over the top... hopefully. I have never been the star struck type until Michael died and now... well I admit it... the previous words tell you how I’ve changed; however these people are so special. They worked with Michael. They knew, respected and still LOVE Michael. Now I could probably meet any other celeb and it just would not be the same. I’d be impressed and I’d just say, “Hello and nice to meet you” and go on about my business unfazed but these people are special uber talented, beautiful people Michael chose to work with. That says it all. Michael chose them.
The show begins and although I am a star struck fool it is not at all hard to focus on the show. The main character, a mime dancer, Salah from France which I feel Michael would have so enjoyed takes us on a journey through Michael's genius. Salah’s amazing abilities and talent are showcased throughout Immortal, here at the very start he begins interacting with the audience. My heart skips a beat and tears come when the Neverland gates and bronze statues come to life before my eyes. The band is spectacularly, “kick ass” amazing. There are changes in the show from the very first moment which make it feel like I am watching a completely different show. Later as we talk to Stephane Mongeau, Executive Producer of the MJIWT Cirque du Soleil, we compare the ever evolving Cirque way of perfection to Michael’s perfection and his now iconic This Is It phrase, “Let it simmer.” Daring aerobatics have been added and amaze. Stunning backdrop curtain effects make each act bigger than life. Then the most surreal moment happens as the Jackson 5 music plays and I just simply can’t resist a big smile as I look down the row at Tito and Jackie to my right. They smile back at me... now that is an awesome memory. The show is simply spectacular. The music is of course electric and Michael’s beautiful voice moves me to tears more than once. The show ends with everyone on their feet giving a thunderous applause and cheers for each cast member. This was the most magnificent tribute to Michael in the very house where he last practiced before his death. As Michael's drummer Jonathan Moffett, Sugar Foot, phrased it this morning: Last Night, "The Immortal", "M.J.'s Return" INVADED Staples Center and "Took Hollywood and L.A. by STORM" and it was 'ELECTRIC'!!!
I was completely taken off guard and gob smacked when I was told during intermission I was invited back stage after the show. Immediately following the last applause we stood from our seats and began to move across the main floor to the back entrance of the arena where we met the Cirque cast, directors, producer and the band. Steve Perry from Journey was there as a guest. Chris Tucker was now mingling as were Jackie, Tito and Siggy and their group.
I had met Greg Phillinganes in Montreal with the other fans but this night I also met his beautiful girlfriend, Jory Steinberg, who is also a sensational singer in the show. She was wearing a stunning Swarovski crystal chain and lace out fit from the show. When I first saw Jonathan Moffett I gleefully yelled out "Sugar Foot!!" Although he smiled and seemed to like hearing "Sugar Foot" I felt a little embarrassed to say the personal name which Michael used to call him having never met him before, so then called him Jonathan instead. He was gracious and kind and posed for a picture with me while still holding his drum sticks and before going to change. Travis Payne who I met as a fan in Las Vegas I teased again about his jacket as he wears the most gorgeous jackets. He was gracious and kind as always. The extremely hot and incredibly talented Cellist, Tina Guo, was also very humble, sweet and kind and it was such a pleasure to talk to her. So many from the incredible Cirque du Soleil cast were present and everywhere were their familiar faces. I was thrilled to be able to thank the lead dancer, Salah for his incredible, stunning, moving and inspirational performance. One cast member I so wanted to meet was Cameron McKinlay, a French one leg dancer from Canada, originally from Vietnam. His performance never fails to amaze and inspire. I managed to get a picture of Cameron and beautiful Shantal Tremblay, Director of Creation. All these talented genuinely gifted performers bring so much of Michael’s heart and drive for precision to this fantastic show. The LOVE they have for Michael is so evident as we talked to several of them a heartfelt look of admiration and respect for Michael glows on their faces as they respectfully pat their chests over their hearts as we thank them for honoring Michael’s legacy. Although I felt out of place in my comfy, bull dog sweats I normally always wear. It was simply surreal to be so close to so many extremely talented people.
It was a night of amazing and special memories... yet another incredible night to add to the list of dreams I have lived since Michael’s death. That being said ultimately I’d give up all of these wonderful experiences in a heart beat to have Michael Jackson back on this earth again with his family. I have come to accept that Michael has found his forever bliss in heaven. This night was a magical and beautiful celebration of Michael's amazing legacy, his genius, music and LOVE which he generously shared with this world.
God knows the desires of our hearts and is only too happy to fulfill those desires. Thank you God for the gift last night of a very blessed and magical Cirque du Soleil and thank you to Jeff and the Estate for your kindness and generosity on such a special night.
... and I'm so very sorry Chris Tucker and Tito for Woo Hooing so loudly in your ears.
“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4