Sunday, December 16, 2012

The King of Style: Dressing Michael Jackson

 "I love experienced people. I love people who are phenomenally talented. I love
people who've worked so hard and been so courageous and are the leaders in their fields.
For me to meet somebody like that and learn from them and share words
with them — to me that's magic. To work together." ~ Michael Jackson

Michael Bush had traveled the world on tour with Michael Jackson many times over the near twenty five years he worked for MJJ as his dresser and artisan of many of his costumes and clothes. He had recently again traveled the world from Japan to Europe and back to the U.S. on a whirl wind book signing tour for the poignant, beautifully written and amazingly stunning book, “The King of Style: Dressing Michael Jackson.” There have been several close friends to Michael whose books I have also relished to read; however I was very much looking forward to this book in particular. Michael Bush was the closest to Michael in a very personal way as Michael’s dresser both on and off stage. Following him along online as he traveled the world on his book tour I realized that the biggest perk for the MJ fans was to  talk with Michael Bush one on one. I had so many questions.

So it was on this clear brisk fall November morning my dear friend Robyn and I embarked on a Michaeling journey as we typically do. We hit the California freeways early to attempt to beat the traffic. Eager to garner a decent parking spot we arrived early to Julien’s Auction showroom in Beverly Hills. Emerging from the elevator to the Julien’s lobby we excitedly chuckled to ourselves over our anxious and a bit too early arrival. Anticipating the need to wait out on the patio until opening we turned the lobby corner from the elevators to pleasantly see neatly suited guards amiably open the glass lobby doors as they ushered us in. Yes! Happily they were expecting eager fans just like us. Darren Julien the owner, and Martin Nolan the Executive Director warmly greeted us, waving us in. We said our hellos to Darren and Martin now familiar friends as we have spent many hours visiting Julien’s for past auctions and preview parties. They have graciously allowed us long hours of perusing up close and personal Michael Jackson’s items and costumes understanding that for so many of us this will be the very closest we would ever get to Michael Jackson. I very much appreciate and honor our friendship with Julien’s. They are always welcoming and friendly to MJ fans and very protective of Michael Jackson and his legacy. 

Standing at the counter in a gold tone and black zebra, psychedelic print jacket with metal studded cowboy boots and spurs was Mr. Michael Lee Bush. These awesome cowboy boots I found such an appropriate statement for the kick ass way he has taken on and promoted his beautiful book in spite of the unnecessary, cruel mudslinging he has had to endure in the process. Yup Bush was ready to kick some book signing butt and with a grin on his face and twinkle in his eye greeted us ready for the MJ fan filled day.

This was Monday, Nov. 19, 2012. The first day of Michael Bush’s book signing in Los Angeles which I had marked on my calendar for sometime. The culmination of the tour would be the Tompkins-Bush VIP Preview Party on Wednesday, Nov. 28th. Then the final auction of the costumes on Sunday, Dec. 2nd. Fans from all over the world were flying in. Today however was our day to see up close and personal Michael Jackson’s exquisitely designed and scrupulously handcrafted costumes by Dennis Tompkins and Michael Bush the designers and crafters of much of Michael Jackson’s wardrobe. Both of these wonderful men created right along side MJ forming THE most dynamic, iconic, fashion trio in history. The purveyors and innovators of style who brought to fruition MJ’s magical fashion icon history. The three masters weaved a magical hold on the world throughout the 80s and 90s branding Michael Jackson via his clothes into the mind set of the world's eye. No one had ever accomplished this before and no one ever will again. For decades this man, Michael Bush, was close to Michael Jackson on a daily basis as he traveled around the world. I remember watching the TV fascinated, stopping everything to watch in curiosity and awe as Michael Bush explained Michael’s wardrobe on Entertainment Tonight during the History tour. I sat mesmerized and remember thinking, "Damn... that was not a long enough interview. They should have showed more!"

We stood for only a moment inside the front doors saying hello when Martin asked, “Have you met Michael Bush?” He in turn warmly smiled, greeting us with handshakes. Happily we responded, “Hello Michael!”, like we had just run into an old friend. He is such an easy person to talk to. I can readily see why MJ felt so comfortable with him as he is gentle, kind, patient, funny and very giving of himself to the fans. He dove into conversation with us revealing that Michael called him, Bush. He proudly displayed his exquisite book filled with amazingly superb, high quality pictures and wonderful heartfelt stories of precious memories of the years with his beloved boss and friend. 

I have to say that spending time with Michael Bush is like a warm hug.

I was nervous to ask many questions... however they all disappeared from memory as I stood in front of him. Yet... the conversation flowed so freely it didn’t matter. I just let them all go... and we just talked. He shared about the Dirty Diana shirt and how MJ had on a jacket that just wasn’t working with the wind machine. It was too heavy and didn’t flow during rehearsal so he left the stage, went back stage to ask for a different one. Then looked at Bush spying the white shirt he was wearing, which Dennis Tompkins had made for him. Thus the Dirty Diana shirt was born... off the back of Bush onto the stage with MJ. Yes we all have to agree it flowed purrrfectly with the dance and MJ’s wind machine. In talking to Martin I learn the Dirty Diana shirt is actually there at the exhibit... in the back. Martin takes us to it so we can see it in person as he tells us it can't be put on display and needs to be redressed as MJ wore it for proper display, the material is also voile and over the years has become delicate. However we are very lucky to get an up close look at "THE Dirty Diana" shirt. (full story on page 61 in the book)

Autry Museum 2010
Reminding him I had met him, Dennis Tompkins and Karen Faye at the Autry Museum when their exhibit first opened to the public for MJ’s birthday celebration only a year after his passing we talked about that exhibit. It was good to learn it will be there indefinitely. That was an amazing day as well. Freely speaking with him that day for a brief period he shared about MJ’s “glow” and how MJ would just call him randomly from the back seat of his SUV somewhere in the world, at anytime of the day or night and sing a bit of genius song running thru his ever creating mind and then just hang up. I simply love these wonderfully gilded MJ stories. Years before at the Autry Michael Bush had been very reserved, uncomfortable, shy of standing front and center, and only freely shared one on one. His grief was palpable and decidedly to me, he more so than both Dennis Tompkins and Karen Faye was very uncomfortable being photographed especially in a group or talking to a group of fans. Today he reiterated how he would dress Michael all those years and push him out the door into the public. His/their place was behind the scenes and that was where he was always much more comfortable... in the back ground. Now though here he stood a different man. He had just traveled the world on book tour, he had grown, his grief not so heavy on his shoulders and heart. Here the man I was looking at was healing from his deep sorrow and loss. This creative venture, a sharing of his heart and a rebirth of his creativity expressed for both Dennis and MJJ had clearly been a healing and cathartic process for him. He shared how MJ enjoyed meeting with the fans and looking into their eyes, confiding he never wanted to be out in front but now he enjoyed it as he now understood what MJ saw in their eyes, how MJ felt when he looked into the eyes of the fans around the world and saw that look of love and admiration in their eyes. Today I looked into Michael Bush’s eyes and he was not the starkly grieving man I met on that day at the Autry. His eyes this day had a renewed sparkle, life after deep sorrow not only over loosing Michael Jackson but his partner Dennis Tompkins.

His desire to tell this story himself is totally understandable and made perfect sense to me, having experienced the recent losses in his life. There is no one better to tell it than Michael Bush. Definitely no one I’d rather hear it from. This was the twinkling eyed, quiet man with the warm smile, silly sense of humor and quick wit the world watched for years attentively, humbly assisting Michael on stage. It was a pleasure and comfort to see he had survived his grief and regained his joy. Creating is such a cathartic process and clearly had been just that for Michael Bush as he fulfilled Michael’s wish to create a book about Michael’s clothes. The book that together both Dennis Tompkins and Michael Bush had begun many years before when Michael was still alive. They had both worked on this book after Michael’s death. They had worked together talking about it with MJ; however there were always pressing projects and issues, other priorities which pushed it to the back burner. Now it was Michael Bush’s honor and privilege to bring it beautifully to fruition for both of them. Much like many people around the world who visit loved ones who have passed away he was honored and blessed to visit both MJJ’s and Dennis’ graves at Forest Lawn Glendale, share his heart, reading to them from the book. A project complete, come full circle. Sharing the joy of a beautiful job birthed and completed out of pure LOVE, in conjunction with the wishes of both his dear beloved friends. What an honor!

We walked along with Bush through the exhibit listening to his stories. Many he confirmed were in the book. I had not fully read the book yet, so to hear him personally bring them to life as we gazed at the glorious wall of impeccably crafted MJ jackets was simply incredible. We listened as he talked, stopping and laughing as he shared with us a funny Michael story about how he loved to do little things on stage to mess with him. Michael knew he didn’t like the spot light. However part of his job was to assist Michael on stage with costume changes. Bush would come out on stage to assist MJ as he stood back from the spotlight between songs. He’d undo his straps on his leg guards or help him with a jacket change. This particular time he was down on one knee in the shadows aiding Michael and MJ purposely moved a few steps into the spot light where Bush had to move along with him to get his work done, suddenly Bush was in the bright spot light too! Seen by the audience, wide eyed and frozen in fear. Of course the minute MJ stepped into the spot light the crowd would roar. Michael Bush’s eyes grew big like a deer in headlights and he became red and flustered. Michael laughed! He thought it was hilarious and giggling uproariously at the look on his face. Bush was not pleased. Although now today he readily laughs about it.

When we had first entered the showroom the public relations people brought out his beaded jacket with the MJ faces on it that will be donated for auction at the end of the tour. He handed me his zebra psychedelic jacket to hold while he slipped it on. Suddenly I was the clothes assistant. Just inside the collar the Dennis Tompkins and Michael Bush label was sewn and stood out in contrast to the bright royal blue satin lining. I was so happy I had met Dennis Tompkins at the Autry that first summer after MJ’s death. He was so down to earth and just the nicest man with a great sense of humor. Silly to some maybe but for me holding that jacket allowed me to feel closer to MJ and Dennis somehow. I walked around with his jacket for hours that day unable to put it down. Many people tried on Michael Bush’s beaded jacket for pictures with him including the children. Once the children tried it on I felt free to ask. Finally I reluctantly relinquished my clutch of the zebra jacket as Michael Bush helped me try on his beaded jacket. I’m sure I seemed like a crazy, stalker fan who might abscond with his zebra jacket although I’d never do such a thing. Ahhh well it gave Robyn and me something to laugh about later, and we certainly did. As Michael Bush helped me into his jacket I was thinking these are the skilled hands that helped Michael Jackson countless times into all those jackets all those years and now here he is helping me try on his jacket. It was mesmerizing and an honor. Michael Bush’s generosity of spirit with the MJ fans was not ever more clearly shown as when he lit up with the children as they tried on his jacket. He remarked about the children with a twinkle in his eye, “This is what it’s all about. This is gold for me”, forever cementing my admiration for Michael Bush.

The one thing that is certain when it comes to our Michael Jackson adventures there is always laughter. The joy of Michael Jackson we share goes deep, which is such contrast as to why we were brought together or why we attend these events. Even as we stood overwhelmed, senses overload by all we were looking at and listening to I could not help but think of the life that Michael lived, the paradoxical extremes. On stage the polarizing commanding force over 100,000 people became a painfully shy man one on one off stage. The funny prankster who loved to laugh and joke whose heart broke and dissolved to tears for the disadvantaged, down trodden, the environment, the earth and animals. The world traveler sharing music and LOVE around the globe several times over who was unbearably lonely and isolated, a prisoner of his own fame. In his death those extremes clearly are still a roller coaster of emotion. Elated joy and celebration of a genius life so well lived surrounds all things Michael Jackson, every adventure, every journey coincides with feelings of a broken heart, a deeply cutting absence, a missing of the man of music and love which will never leave. We are just people drawn together over the loss of Michael Jackson, yet here beautiful friendships and great joy have blossomed. This is the cycle of life. This is the wish of Michael brought to fruition... to heal the world, bring LOVE into the world. MJ’s wish fulfilled aided by God’s masterful touch, the maestro joining lives together, connecting and intertwining hearts in LOVE around the globe. 

Michael Bush shared about the very painful experience when he dressed Michael for the last time... for his burial. As he talked his eyes were a window to the pain he still carries in his heart about that experience. “Who else could do it? I did it for my friend. I had to be the one to dress him for the last time. No one else could dress him.” He revealed MJJ’s favorite jacket, the pearl jacket from the History tour could not be found so he and Dennis set to work crafting a new one. This one however held a special gift for MJ. He shared with us as we stood in the Julien’s showroom that Michael from the beginning of their long relationship had always loved the bling, the dust, the sparkly, the magic.

His favorite Disney character was not in fact Peter Pan but Tinker Bell because that is where the magic started. It was Tinkerbell’s magic dust that made it all happen. Michael simply LOVED Tinker Bell and her magic dust. He would show up in the designers room and say, “Bush dust me!” "Bush sling some dust!" Michael Bush would pull out the sparkly glittery sequins and MJ would just brush through them with his fingers watching the sparkle effect, enthralled by the light, transcending to another magical place. He’d play with the stones and discuss the magic of the dust. When Michael would try on clothes he’d say, “Bush sling some dust.” Michael Bush knew exactly what that meant... there needed to be lots of sequins, crystals, glitter and bling on that jacket or costume. So Dennis Tompkins and Michael Bush ‘Dusted MJ’ just as he would have wished by creating something very special for Michael, sewing it into his very last favorite pearl jacket. A beautiful, shiny, crystal rhinestone Tinker Bell sewn inside the left side jacket. Tinker Bell rests here for all eternity over MJJ’s heart. As Bush dressed MJJ for that one last time he carefully closed Michael’s jacket over his chest where Tinker Bell and her Magic Dust now lay directly over Michael’s heart protecting him and bringing him Tinker Bell's Magic Dust... For All Time.

As Michael Bush shared this story I could feel his pain yet also his pride in the fact that he personally gave this gift to his friend, a gift of such a deeply resplendent personal wish one last time. I believe simply no one else on God’s earth could have accomplished such a beautifully meaningful gesture providing such a personal crowning gift of LOVE for Michael Jackson. Hearing this story blessed me deeply. We all stood frozen. My feet felt riveted to the floor like lead. Unable to speak at first picturing Michael laying fastidiously dressed in his resplendent pearl jacket with Tinker Bell protecting his heart for all eternity. Tears collectively filling our eyes we all seemed to take a deep cleansing breath at the same time, including Michael Bush. To hear this story from someone, one of the last of a creative trio which will be known for all of entertainment history as the trio who created “The Fashion Icon - Michael Jackson” was mind blowing to me. To know that MJ was lovingly, sensitively cared for as the King he most assuredly was in those last hours as he was dressed for eternal splendor brings a deep lasting comfort and for me.  Brings some level of the closure which I personally have been searching for.

While telling this story Michael Bush’s eyes welled up with tears as did ours. MJ had endured so much on this earth. God bless Michael Bush as he was a man so blessed to accompany and live an extraordinary life so very close to the King of Pop, Rock, Soul and LOVE and through the years brought him so much joy and happiness in the beautiful clothes he designed with Dennis Tompkins and as he dressed MJ on a regular basis. He knew MJ well.... very well. He protected him until the very last day possible. Yet here he stood with us average MJ fans sharing the same broken heart. His humbleness, friendliness and generosity of spirit was so apparent.

I was reminded of Greg Phillanganes’ story to the fans at Siedah’s breakfast at Westlake about how when MJ would perform in concert many times he performed just for the band. He loved to see their reaction. How he would inevitably perform a move or serious of moves that shocked and blew the minds of band members and singers, leaving them to look at one another and ask, “Did you just see that? What was THAT? How did he do that?” So much so that many times they’d forget what they were doing and freeze, having to catch themselves and remind themselves where they were and to continue playing. Here too in his stupendous time living near this extraordinary man Michael Bush was also left so many times with his mouth hanging open as Michael pushed him to learn, to stretch, to reach forever deeper to a greater creativity. To profoundly achieve at a sensationally, spectacular, worldwide level the personal best visions, ideas and dreams of Michael Jackson. For me as I stood speaking to Michael Bush it made perfect sense to me that he write this book. Absolutely no one could write it better, explain it better or share these stories. I feel Michael Jackson and Dennis Tompkins would be very proud and approving of this wonderful cathartic result. 

The fan interviewing Michael Bush asked about the military jackets inquiring why MJ settled on that look. Bush divulged a conversation MJ had with him about the reasoning behind the sensational military style. First and foremost the conclusion was every man looks great in a uniform. A uniform commands attention. Michael also stated to Bush, “If I can win the women I’m in.” As he said those words we looked at one another and laughed, voicing, “Well MJ certainly succeeded in winning the women!” Bush continued telling us that many military style jackets were created not just one military look taking MJ's broad shoulders and enhancing them with the military style along with his narrow waist. One military jacket in particular, black with braiding was another of MJ’s favorites. He wore this one to meet President Bush Sr. at the White House. On the chest near the heart he wore his ‘dust’, a large, cluster, star burst pin. This pin became much discussion between MJ and Elizabeth Taylor as she loved it and insisted on having it. So MJ had one just like it made for her which thrilled her and she cherished. 

We stayed as long as possible and listened to story after story, just following along as fans talked, filmed and interviewed Michael Bush. I finally personally was able to sneak in a question about how many colors of the bad shirt there were as it has been a topic of discussion in the MJFSC group recently. Bush’s answer was there were several: silver, black, red and royal blue very similar to the lining of his zebra jacket I was holding. He explained that they settled on the silver color as the main color worn by MJ on tour because the black color receded, disappearing on stage. The effect in the black color from a distance for the audience allowed them to only see MJ’s head dancing around the stage. The silver showed him up much better just like glittery socks at a distance on stage. MJ was always concerned about the fans at the back of the audience and wanted to give everyone a great show.

 The Beat It jacket was discussed. There were different Beat It jackets over the years including the incredible eel skin Beat It jacket above. The plastic Beat It jacket was too hot for MJ at the end of the night because it didn't breath when he danced. Michael Bush pointed out the wear from many performances on one particular Beat It jacket. It was really ‘beat’ so to speak. Michael gave his Beat It jackets a whipping on stage taking them off and slamming them to the stage and stomping on them as he danced in his performance. After each show he would say to Bush, “You’ll need to fix my zippers tonight.” Bush would stay up many late nights and early mornings painstakingly repairing the zippers which took the beating on stage restoring them for the next night’s show. As he pointed to the favorite of MJ's Beat It jackets the neoprene with the glittery effect in the material and with zippers showing wear he explained that MJ was a perfectionist and insisted that all his jackets and costumes needed to be just as they were in the very first show, for every show. That way everyone received the same high quality performance. That was how Michael Jackson always performed giving his very best to every show and every audience. Michael Bush clearly beamed as he explained how he took pride in his beautifully detailed work. He smiled at me as he stressed he didn’t mind doing those repairs spending many, many late nights repairing those zippers. Saying yes he’d be bleary eyed and it was tedious work fixing them over and over; however he clearly took pride in the fact that he was a part of helping MJ give the very best show possible each time. (full story on page 94 in the book)

The royal blue jacket with gold accents I had never seen before. Michael Bush told us it was a dinner jacket which MJJ wore to greet visitors at home and when he was on tour in hotels. In essence MJJ's comfortable parlor jacket.

The leather yellow looking Thriller jacket he pointed out glowed in the dark during concerts which brought to mind many memories of seeing MJ on stage singing Thriller, then disappearing in a fiery magic box only to reappear on the cherry picker moments later.

Michael Bush shared when MJJ wasn't wearing loafers he wore street boots and MJJ always had Bush make them with a one inch lift to make him look taller. Always loved these boots on MJ.... sigh. 

Robyn Starkand's beautiful video of the Tompkins Bush Exhibit:

Remembering finally one of my many questions which had evaporated from my mind I asked about the suits designed for the 2005 trial. They were simply exquisite. I asked if MJ had requested anything special. Michael Bush said they had used all sorts of materials including a shower curtain for the vests to bring color and happiness into MJJ’s life during the trial, to lift his spirits. MJ had requested not to use plastic again as it was too hot in the courtroom and didn't breath. He also shared the D.A. insisted the beautiful jewel chain with the crowns and charms which hung near MJJ’s waist be removed. He was forbidden to wear this into court stating they were giving some sort of imagined message to the public. The 777 was also not allowed to be worn in any fashion as it was considered too close to the numbers 666 and was also supposed to be giving some sort of message to the world. The ignorance and persecution MJJ had to endure was absolutely shameful. It brought me comfort to know these two loving gentleman continually looked after Michael and endeavored to make each day he endured throughout the trial just a bit brighter. We all know how regal and noble MJ looked in those meticulously designed suits. Previously at the Autry Michael Bush shared that dressing him each morning in those suits they were able to at least bring some happiness to MJJ and a smile to his face before he stepped out to endure each day of court during the trial.

A spectacular look into MJ’s genius was revealed as Michael shared about the plan for the Beat It jacket in TII. MJ’s plan was for it to literally go up in a whoosh of flames. There was much discussion and work done to create a jacket that would burn but not burn the floor or anything else. We see Michael talk about this in the TII rehearsals, “Let it BURN!” The fire department was called on to take part in this plan, sprinklers would need to be installed and everything needed to be up to fire code. There was a plan to have the fire department stand by for each performance. The material needed to be specially treated, fire retardant. It had to be ‘Michael Jackson Fire'! Only Michael Jackson would stage ‘beat’ his jacket, set his jacket on fire in a big way and yet not burn a thing! Michael Jackson Genius and Magic! 

There were many things that Michael Bush was working on for This Is It with Michael Jackson. They were creating a gamut of fashion marvels and magic for the fans. He shared that these costumes were in process when MJ died and many went uncompleted. This was a day of sighs... impulsively, spontaneous big sighs... If only...

Michael Bush revealed that everyone was hoping with all their hearts that Michael would make it to London where new doctors would have been assigned while Conrad Murray went about his normal playing around and womanizing. There would have been competent medical staff caring for Michael and many believe if he had made it to London MJ would still be alive today. Again sadness gripped my heart... If only...

There again... the heart ache... the tears... the disappointment... the emptiness. My eyes met Michael Bush’s eyes when he shared this... no words. Only a deep, heart breaking, gut wrenching sigh. The possibilities of ‘What If’ clouding my mind and heart. He nodded recognizing the pain. Yes Michael Bush was Michael’s confidant, designer, dresser, creative fashion facilitator and friend for close to twenty five years; however clearly he was also very similarly like us, a huge fan and his heart has been broken on levels we fans could never imagine. We will never know the degree of loss he feels and has felt for his dear beloved friend. God bless you Mr. Bush. 

There was a time when MJ generously gave away a jacket and then asked for another just like it to be made. That is when both Dennis and Michael decided they needed to photograph each item extensively in case it ever needed to be replaced rather than panic trying to remember the details of the gifted item. This is when it became their practice to photograph each item in detail. They also started the practice of making two, three and sometimes four of the same jacket for back ups. When Michael saw these photos of his clothes he was thrilled. Michael told him many, many years ago when the clothes first started to be photographed, “Bush I have given you the tools. You need to write a book.”  The result the stunning coffee table book “King of Style” which we were all there to purchase and also have Michael Bush sign. Also set to raise money for specific charities in both Dennis and MJ’s memories. I was very happy to spend the money on this book knowing that the suffering and needy would be aided from my purchase. That their lives would improve or become more joyful as a result of my small purchase. What an honor to support Michael Bush, to be apart of something so beautifully altruistic in Michael Jackson’s and Dennis Tompkins’ memories... so Mike Like.

Dennis Tompkins and Michael Bush both worked on "King of Style" together over the years. After Michael’s death they both decided they needed to complete the book which had been the idea of Michael Jackson. The photographs which had been taken were gathered and the core idea of the book had taken root and been discussed. Over and over it had been put on the back burner as tours and concerts or the trial where new costumes or clothing became the priority, needing to be crafted. Always something else more important took precedence. Truly and sadly a book like this can be completed for a person of the level and stature of Michael Jackson only after his death. For in life the story never ends... the creating never ends... the fashion never ends. So it was that Dennis and Michael followed MJJ’s wish after his death and worked to complete this labor of love in his memory. Michael Bush brought this book to fruition not only in memory of Michael Jackson at his directive to “write a book”, but also for his dear partner, Dennis Tompkins, who passed away on December 2, 2011. This tribute book to both MJJ and Dennis was released in conjunction with a full exhibit of the costumes they crafted for MJJ. Ultimately to be auctioned off at one of the most successful Julien’s auctions ever held. However and notably this auction did not take place before Michael Jackson’s children chose which costumes they wanted to keep for their personal collection. Also a museum is set to be established by the Estate of Michael Jackson at Mandalay Bay in Vegas along with the permanent Cirque show of Immortal in 2013. 

Ultimately and appropriately Dennis Tompkins picked the date of the auction two years before the auction took place. Coincidentally and fittingly the day of the final auction of the costumes fell on the anniversary date of his passing. I can see him smiling now.

Martin Nolan, Michael Bush, unknown happy lady sandwiched in and Darren Julien
Jalles Franca and Michael Bush
 There was joy as always at every MJ gathering.
Jalles Franca an MJ Vegas impersonator,
his beautiful wife Kaylan and Debbie Jackson.
The VIP Preview party fell on Wed, Nov. 28th. It was a very happy, crowded fun affair. As usual Julien’s went all out to embrace the MJ fans. There was a crush, a sea of people to preview the costumes, meet Michael Bush and happily imbibe in the excellent hors d'oeuvres and drinks. There were not only MJ fans present but also serious collectors, museum curators, charity representatives and celebrities. It was so much fun mingling. Seeing so many familiar friendly faces who had traveled many miles to attend. Especially Debbie Jackson from New Zealand, my good friend who is just a hoot! As well as sweet, caring Irina from Moscow, Russia. There was a long seemingly never ending line of party goers holding Michael Bush’s beautiful book in hand waiting for his autograph and a few words with him. He was so gracious and patient with us all pressing in on him... pushing forward, taking pictures. Time after time he patiently took a few moments to speak to each one, asking questions, answering questions.
I was drawn back to this jacket over and over. The design and craftsmanship is just spectacular as it is on all of the costumes and jackets. This is one of the simpler jackets; however I just kept looking at and picturing MJ in it just like this... his broad shoulders and big gorgeous smile... a happy time for him.

While mingling I took the time to take a second close look at each superbly crafted jacket just as I had done on the day of the book signing earlier in the week. In each jacket and costume I saw MJJ’s face... saw him smiling, waving, saw his broad shoulders, his slim waist and long dancers legs, his big smile and warm brown MJ eyes, his curls. Eliciting again the sadness of why we were gathered in the first place. The bittersweet over shadowing the feelings of joy. A roller coaster of emotion hit me then I forced myself to snap back to the here and now, the celebration of MJJ’s life and what these costumes and the money they raise will mean for the charities involved.

There are two main charities which have great meaning to Michael Bush and will benefit from the sale of these items, Guide Dogs of America and the Nathan Adelson Hospice in Las Vegas This time honored practice of auctioning off MJJ items and clothes for charity was established by MJJ himself. He became very notably the biggest celebrity philanthropist in Guinness world history giving a record setting $billions to the most charities in the world. Michael Bush continues to carry this tradition forward with this auction in MJJ’s memory. 

Michael Bush and guide dog in training Fred.
Lorrie Bernson from Guide Dogs of America, Carter and Michael Bush
Lorrie Bernson and sweet Carter
--- To my delight the Guide Dogs of America were present and I was able to speak with their different representatives at length. This is when I met Lorrie Bernson who is legally blind and her entrusted seeing eye guide dog, Carter, as well as another guide dog trainer, Glyn, and his beautiful guide dog in training, Fred. Fred who seemed to have just outgrown the roly-poly puppy stage is a puppy in training for only 9 months now. He will spend a total of two and half years in training before he graduates to aid a human in need. He will learn many phenomenal everyday life saving skills. Both Golden Labrador Retrievers, Fred is a soft and regal soul. Carter is noble, staunchly loving, protective and steadfast. Both, including puppy Fred, have a look of chosen nobility and appointed purpose in their eyes. These wise and gentle dogs are keenly aware of the environment and activity around them and of the job at hand. Even young dog, Fred, seemed to know his job is of the utmost importance and that he has a special assignment to attend to in life, ready, faithfully determined to fulfill his calling. I thought to myself if only humans could be less self absorbed and show such commitment to caring and love, the world would be a much better place. I could have spent hours down on the floor with just these dogs petting them and getting to know them. However they had a job to do at this party. They are not just pets but on the job 24/7. I asked Michael Bush if I could have a picture with him and the dogs. He immediately popped down on one knee and looked Fred in the eye, his face lit up and he beamed with joy. The happiness radiating from his face saying it all. The same light in his eyes as when the children were giggling and trying on his jacket. Clearly he has a love of animals and children so similar to MJJ.

Michael Bush commented to me, “Not only did MJJ give me the tools to write the book but to raise money for people that can't pay medical bills or for medicine and to be able to support the seeing eye dog foundation affording puppies for blind human beings that did not get the gift of sight that I did and have every morning I wake up. The people that will never get to see Michael dance and entertain them. These people struggle through out life on a daily, hourly basis. I hope the first puppy we get we can name him ‘Thriller’ not only in MJJ’s honor but for the 'thrill' the person will get indirectly from MJJ’s gift of music and dance.”

I was thrilled myself to learn there was a guide dog graduation on Dec. 15th which Lorrie and Hillary from Julien’s invited me to. Hillary a member of the Julien’s staff attends these amazing guide dog graduations on a regular basis. I will share more about this after I attend. I’m really looking forward to this day. 

---  The second charity I was pleased to learn from Nan and Michele, who were very good friends of Dennis Tompkins and Michael Bush is the Nathan Adelson Hospice in Las Vegas ( This hospice has been in place helping the suffering and terminally ill with support, care, assistance and pain management for over 30 years. The money donated to this hospice will go to help those who can’t afford medical care or to purchase medicine. This charity too is very dear to Michael Bush’s heart. 

--- A third charity benefiting from the sale of every King of Style book purchased a portion of the sales of the book will also be donated to MusicCares, a nonprofit organization operated by The Recording Academy, which provides services and resources to members of the music community in times of need.

--- A fourth charity benefiting from the sale of the book King of Style in conjunction with the publisher, Insight Editions is Roots of Peace. It is wonderful to know that the purchase of this book will help the environment. This is something I feel MJ would definitely approve of.

As printed at the back of the book:
"Insight Editions in association with Roots of Peace will plant two trees for each tree used in the manufacturing of the book. Roots of Peace is an internationally renowned humanitarian organization dedicated to eradicating land mines worldwide and converting war-torn lands into productive farms and wildlife habitats. Roots of Peace will plant two million fruit and nut trees in Afghanistan and provide farmers there with the skills and support neccessary for sustainable land use."


Auctioneer, Tim Luke, gives fair warning for last bid of $160,000
for the crystal glove by bidder 462
MJ's Madonna Date Night Academy Award Jacket
MJ asked Dennis and Bush to find out what she was wearing
and had it made to match Madonna's dress.
Final bid on White House Jacket, bidder 462

Julien's Tompkins Bush King of Style Window Display

The auction was held on Sunday, Dec. 2. After bolstering my morning self with a couple of savory caffeine enhanced Frappuccinos I arrived at Julien’s to find my friend Debbie from New Zealand had saved me a place in the front. I checked in, collected my paddle and catalog. Having planned ahead I hoped to try to win one of the sewing machines. Jackets and most of the items were out of range for me but the sewing machines were right up my alley. For me it would have been absolutely awesome to own the machine Michael Bush and Dennis Tompkins worked endless hours on as they created the beautiful costumes for MJJ. The item where they turned the creative ideas magically from sketch and pattern to reality. I laughed to myself as I thought about how I could only hope just maybe some of that talent would flow through the machine to me like MJJ's magic pixie dust. The auction was long, no breaks given this time as there was a lot of ground to cover. It was exciting and exhilarating to watch live the bidding on MJJ’s jackets, gloves and items bring in over $5 million. The reality and totality of this dollar amount simply doesn’t penetrate my brain. It’s hard for the average everyday person to wrap their head around that number; however I am thrilled for Michael Bush, Julien's and all the charities which will benefit in MJJ's memory.

Many times over bidder 462 out bid all the rest for iconic jackets and glittery gloves. After a few wins in a row I turned to suss out who bidder 462 was, attempting to give a congratulatory smile. I found him somber, not even needing to raise his paddle while bidding but only giving a small nod. There was no emotion, no eye contact with anyone except with the auctioneer when a bid was raised. He kept his head down, he was all business only conferring quietly with his friend at his side. I decided he must be a representative for Donald Trump or Justin Beiber, both MJ lovers, when it was whispered that he was representing for a New York bidder and his dollar limit seemed to be bottomless. Debbie and I concurred if not representing for them then he was definitely a buyer sent by someone influential and wealthy. Surely he was not a fan or MJJ lover as no one could win so many amazingly iconic items and never even bat an eyelash or show any emotion. I laughed and chuckled to myself deciding he was the 'auction hit man'. He was definitely there to do a job which only made me wonder with concern if MJJ’s items would be purchased by someone who would respect, love and care for them. With each iconic jacket or item he bid on the energy in the room exponentially rose, the air filled with electricity as the price climbed higher and higher and higher. There was no out bidding him. If he wanted an item he shot down every opposing bid and he won it. That was that!

Later I was amazed to learn on Face Book that I had been present in the room watching and experiencing this moment in history as Lady Gaga the person from N.Y. he represented euphorically won all the MJJ booty. 
Congratulations Lady Gaga!

Not long after the auction Lady Gaga’s representative (the auction hit man), Brandon Maxwell, tweeted:
Brandon Maxwell ‏@BrandonVance
Amazing to represent @ladygaga today, a woman who will love, take care of, and preserve the 55 historical pieces she collected today!

@BrandonVance @ladygaga I was at the auction today! Was amazing to watch 462 in action! Congrats! So happy some1 who LUVS MJ hz his things!

Lady Gaga a huge Michael Jackson fan also expressed her love and respect for Michael Jackson when she tweeted her picture and a statement:

Lady Gaga ‏@ladygaga
 The 55 pieces I collected today will be archived & expertly cared for in the spirit & love of Michael Jackson, his bravery, and fans worldwide

Finally my time for the sewing machine came. I had originally told myself I wasn’t going to bid on anything. Then I rationalized the amount of money I had to spend and that a portion of it would go to help very worthy charities. I readied my paddle #99 on the chair next to me reminding myself I had a very minimal amount of money to spend and could not get carried away. Strategically planning to myself... I’d wait until the last bid fair warning alert, raise my paddle at the last minute, then let the chips fall where they may. You never know unless you try. The bidding started. Then it was over before I could raise my paddle. I felt like I was moving in slow motion, the air thick like glue my hand went for the paddle... or did it? Like lighting, leaving me sitting there in a daze I heard, “Sold!”. The sewing machine was gone. Again I readied myself for the second of the two sewing machines I wanted to bid on and then again the stud attachment machine... the same thing. Both disappearing before my leaden arm could raise my paddle. I thought, “What? Am I made of stone?” I picked up my paddle to see if my arm actually worked... yes it did. Then the auctioneer commented to the winner, “And, Sir, you may be the only one who knows how to work that machine. Congratulations!” I thought, “NO! I do but you go too damn fast!!” This was the first auction I’d ever tried to bid in and clearly I have a lot to learn. I laughed at myself thinking, “NOVICE! Note to self... change of plan... next time make the first bid not the last! Duh!” It was all over so fast it made my head spin. Seriously though I know everything happens for a reason so I accepted it and cheerfully moved on. The day was full of energy and very exciting. My friend, Debbie, was thrilled to win two robes. One a beautiful red Michael Jackson robe and a blue Heal The World robe to add to her personal museum in Auckland, New Zealand. They will go nicely with the other two black MJ's Dangerous robes which she won at a previous Julien's auction. 

Me in my MJ History Tour jacket a couple of days later at the gates of Neverland
That is the 'new guard' Gunner I'm speaking to.
A beautiful dog, a Long Haired Griffen from the UK,
belonging to one of the guards.
I was not supposed to win those sewing machines and clearly God had another idea. I found out why two days later while out Michaeling with Debbie on Hollywood Blvd. when I found the most amazing original History Tour jacket calling my name. This time I was not going to let it get away from me. God always has a plan. Merry Christmas to me! So my donation to the charities will take place separately from the auction and every time I give I will give in memory of MJJ and Dennis Tompkins. Heal the World!

In the end, the Julien’s final tally for the Tompkins and Bush Collection raised more than $5 million.  A new record... MJJ still setting records. WoW!!
And this may very well be another Guinness World Record for Michael Jackson! He would be proud of that I'm certain. What an amazing tribute to both Michael Jackson and Dennis Tompkins made possible by Michael Bush and Julien's. Thank you!
An excerpt from the Julien’s Auction website from Michael Bush:
“You know Dennis picked the date of this auction when we first began this process and ironically it was the exact date in which he passed two years ago. It’s as if Michael is still working his magic from up above,” said Michael Bush, fashion designer and author of King of Style: Dressing Michael Jackson. “I am so honored to know that museums, respected collectors and the fans were able to obtain a special piece of Michael Jackson today at Julien’s Auctions as I know they will be cherished for many years to come.”

To purchase "King of Style: Dressing Michael Jackson"
please go to th
is Amazon link:


An interesting article written in tribute to Dennis Tompkins after his passing:

You may enjoy reading the story on 'Michael's Heart' about Dennis Tompkins' and Michael Bush's exhibit at the Autry Museum in June 2010: How The West Was Worn


  1. What a great day. Thank you Betty for sharing this with us. Beautifully done. - Love, Bonnie

  2. This was such a beautiful story. I absolutely love it! Would you mind if I reposted this on my blog?

    Thanks for your consideration.

    1. Who are you and what is your blog. I would rather that you post the link to my blog so that it isn't dissected. Thank you for asking.

  3. I am absolutely blown away by your account of your experiences, meeting Michael Bush, seeing all those iconic costumes, the book signed, the auction; so much effort and heart you have put into it. I am seriously tempted to buy this book now when I was against it before because I felt Michael was not in it, but actually he is. Also Michael Bush deserves recognition and reward for all his efforts to fulfill Michael's sartorial wishes, his suggestion to write such a book and raise money for worthwhile charities.

    1. You will not be disappointed with this book. It is absolutely amazing and filled to over flowing with wonderful back stories about MJ's genius, creativity and fun spirit.

  4. aww Betty thanks again for your've touched my more time..what an incredible journey..what a fantastic time you shared..and emotional rollercoaster for sure.I can't stop crying while I was reading your experience..I admire MLB with all my heart..soo thankful to him for all those years of confidence,,,hard work and friendship he shared with MJ..what an honor..I just want to say thank you Betty for sharing your journey with us..I felt I was there with you..(I wish) was soo delightful to read all those precious memories Mr Bush shared with the fans and all those stories behind every single costume..I loved every single detail of your story..Love you soo much..

    1. Thank you so much Marcela. These stories are only a sprinkling of the stories Michael Bush has so freely shared with the MJ fans around the world in his beautiful book. He is wonderful. He didn't have to do that. He could have kept all the clothes and stories to himself but he chose to share them and bless us. It is such a wonderful gift he gave us. Happy you enjoyed the blog story. God bless you.

  5. Meeting and talking with Bush among you and Robyn that Monday morning in November was a truly positive experience! To directly hear the truth from someone that had intimate access to MJ's private life was special. It only reaffirmed what many of us in the fan community already appreciate about The King: he was a genuine, warm and loving soul. God bless Bush in standing up for the true character of MJ and honoring his legacy through his (and Dennis) 25 plus years of artistic genius!

  6. Yes it was such a positive and special experience. Bush has been most generous with his cherished memories. He did not have to do that... he could have kept them all and the clothes to himself. Instead he created an artistic testament to his time with MJJ. God bless him for the positive he has put out into the universe on behalf of MJJ. He refused many publishers because they wanted negative insisting... "Then there is no book because there was no negative." He has stood firm in LOVE of MJJ. God bless him always.

  7. Thank you for writing about your experience that day. I was there too and saw you, but I didn't know you and was shy to introduce myself to you. Michael Bush was so generous with his memories and so easy to talk to. He was such a humble, unassuming man, and his love for Michael gushed from every pore. Yes, God bless him always.

    1. Your welcome Jill. Next time come and introduce yourself. I just roam and wander at these events and get lost in the moment. Would love to meet you. :)
      Yes God bless Michael Bush always. He is so deserving of our love and respect. A beautiful man.

  8. The style of Michael Jackson was very different from others. I love the jacket which he use to wore in his album Beat it. This jacket was inspired me so much that i've bought a same replica jacket.
    michael jackson shirt

  9. Michael always be our mind as a fashion sensational also. I you wanna look like wear as him, visit at Pure Blue Japan.