Lisa Robinson writes about MJ in her autobiography

morinen

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Journalist Lisa Robinson has a lengthy chapter on Michael in her new autobiography There Goes Gravity: http://www.amazon.com/There-Goes-Gravity-Life-Rock/dp/1594487146

Some select quotes:

On February 5, 1975, we met at the Warwick Hotel in New York City. He was, by then, sixteen, but it’s possible I still thought he was fourteen. He was self-conscious about his acne, and admitted that his brothers teased him about it. We talked about Dancing Machine, the first album that Motown had allowed the brothers to produce themselves. “I got to sing free,” Michael said. “It was the first time I got to do my own thing. Our persistence in continually telling the record company we didn’t want other writers, was what finally changed their mind. You’ve got to remember,” he said, “I’ve been around studios since I was a child, and I just picked it up.” He talked about Stevie Wonder; he admired him because he was always able to “sing free” and insisted on recording where he wanted to record, rather than the Motown studios. “Only a producer-singer knows what he’s doing,” Michael said, “because he sings also. When you’re being told what to do, it’s not free.” What had he previously been told to do? “Sing this word this way, this line this way, go up and down —like that,” he said. “It’s not being ‘you,’ and you’re trying to get the ‘you’out. Like Gladys Knight; she sings freely and look how great she is.” He talked about the Jacksons’ concerts and said, “There’s no reason why we can’t do anything we want to do onstage. We really would like to do something like Emerson, Lake and Palmer or some of those rock groups do—like when the piano turns around in the air. We have lots of ideas like that and we intend to do them in future shows.”
Once again I asked him what he did in his “spare” time. He said because they traveled so much for their shows, he liked to stay at home and read. “The dictionary, adventure books, all sorts of things,” he said. “I had four weeks off and stayed home.” He told me he hated parties, unless it was a party where you could just talk. “And when there are other entertainers there, it’s even better.”
We talked about whether or not he could go out to concerts, and he said whenever he went out, there was always a problem. “But,” he added, “that’s the only way you can really tell what’s happening.” He said he always wanted to work with Barbra Streisand, and that he wrote a ballad he thought would be perfect for her. “Ballads are more special,” he said. “You can have a pop song that will be known for three weeks and after that you hear nothing about it. But if you do a good ballad, it’ll be in the world forever. Like Stevie’s ‘Living in the City’—it’s a great song and I love it, it opens up the minds of a lot of people. But it won’t be around as long as a song like ‘My Cherie Amour’ or ‘You Are the Sunshine of My Life.’” *

***
In February 1977, we talked on the phone about interviews. “People talk to you and they want to know about you,” he said, “but interviews help entertainers one hundred percent. I don’t [only] mean promotion-wise. I mean, when they ask you questions, it helps you to think about your life, to look at your future. It makes you think about what you’re going to be doing in the next ten years.” I asked him if he ever got bored. Only when he was stuck inside a hotel room with too many fans outside, he said. But, he was quick to add, sticking to the script that demonstrated his early Motown media training, he felt an obligation to his fans. “They made you who you are. They’re the ones who buy the records. If an entertainer did a concert and nobody showed up, he wouldn’t do the concert. So he owes it to them.” I asked if he resented never having had a normal childhood. “No,” he said. “There’s such a thing as talent, and I was taught that this was given to me. If I didn’t like doing it, if it [felt like] work, I don’t think I would have lasted this long. I’d probably go crazy.”

***
Michael, along with all of his brothers and his sisters LaToya and Janet, answered a Rock & Soul questionnaire when he was eighteen years old. Among Michael’s questions and answers: What do you do in your spare time? Read, think, write songs. Would you like to get married? Later in life. What kind of girl would you like to marry? Kind. How many children would you like to have? 20, adopted, all races. What would you do if someone gave you a million dollars? Invest. Of all the places you’ve been to in America, which one would you like to go back to and why? Hawaii. Wisconsin. I love it. What was the biggest thrill of your life? Finding what I was searching for. Who has helped you most with your career? My father. Experience. Of all the performers you’ve worked with, who do you admire the most? Fred Astair [sic]. Stevie Wonder. What do you like most about your work? Learning. What do you dislike about your work? Arguing. What is your most prized material possession? A child. Words of wisdom. Who is your favorite actor? Heston, Brando, Bruce Dern. Who is your favorite actress? Garland. Bette Davis. Do you have a nickname? Nose. (And then, crossed out, niger [sic]). What do you daydream about? Future.

***
Towards the end of 1977, when I asked Michael if he still liked meeting his fans, for the first time, a more independent, even slightly cynical tone crept into his conversation. No longer spouting the Motown party line, he said, “I enjoy all that sometimes, seeing people who love me, or buy my records. But sometimes, people think you owe your life to them. They have a bad attitude—like ‘I made you who you are.’ That may be true—but not that one person. And, if the music wasn’t good, they wouldn’t have bought it. Some of them think they actually own you. They’ll say, ‘Sit down,’ ‘Sign this,’ or ‘Can I have your autograph?’ and I’ll say, ‘Yes, do you have a pen?’ And they say, ‘No, go get one.’ Honestly. I’m not exaggerating. But I just try to deal with it.”

***
In October 1977, there was a party for Michael at Studio 54. On hand were the dancers from The Wiz, his mother Katherine, sisters Janet and LaToya, and brothers Marlon and Tito. Also present were Epic Records executives, CBS Records president Walter Yetnikoff, and assorted drag queens. Michael and I sat together on one of the sofas on the side of the dance floor. He told me that he loved New York City. “It’s the perfect spot for me,” he said. “When I’m in New York I get up early and I have a whole schedule. I’m going to see this play, I’m going to have lunch, I’m going to see a movie. I like the energy. Whenever I come back home, I look forward to going back to New York—I love the big stores, I love everything.” He said he had the time of his life in New York filming (the flop movie) The Wiz, and now, what he really wanted to do, more than anything, was make more movies. “I can go on tour and it’s exciting, but when it’s done, it’ll be lost to the world. If I do a movie, it’s a moment captured for eternity. The stars die—like Charlie Chaplin—but his films will be here forever. If he did Broadway and plays while he was alive, he would have been lost to the world.” I asked him about working with Diana Ross—who he adored—in The Wiz. Michael said, “It was incredible. I learned so much from her. We’re like brother and sister. She made sure I was okay on the set; she was very protective. I just loved the world of movie making; I love it more than reality. Sometimes I just wish I could wake up in the morning to a big production dance number.”

***
In 1979, after he recorded his smash solo album Off the Wall, he talked about his producer Quincy Jones. He said that Quincy had worked with all the greats— Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington—and, he said “I wanted to watch and learn from a giant. I wanted an album that wouldn’t just consist of one kind of music, because I love all kinds of music. I don’t like to label music. It’s like saying this child is white, this child is black, this child is Japanese—but they’re all children. It reminds me of prejudice. If somebody has a wonderful song that’s right for me, I’d love to do it. That’s what I enjoy most about doing solo albums. With the Jacksons, we were just doing our own thing in our little private world. That’s why I didn’t want the Jacksons to produce my album. I don’t want the same sound. Mine is different.”

***
In the 1980s, in a lengthy talk to promote her solo album Control, Janet Jackson told me that the nasty tabloid press coverage of Michael was just part of show business. “Michael told me that when you hear bad things about yourself,” she said, “just put your energies into something else. Put it into your music—it’ll make you stronger.” Still, I told Janet, people think he is weird, what with all that plastic surgery, the chimpanzee companion, the hyperbaric chamber and whatnot. Janet defended the facial reconstruction. “So many stars do that, but the press picks on certain people. I think if more people could afford it they’d do it too. I see nothing wrong with it. Aging is a sad thing. I don’t see anything wrong with staying young as long as you can.” Michael’s older brother Marlon, to whom he was closest when growing up, told me, “Sometimes [the stuff they write about Michael] hurts. But the main thing is they’re keeping the name going. Regardless if it’s good or bad news. If they stop talking about you, then you’re in trouble.” As for the constant stories about Michael having had no fun as a child while the other brothers participated in sports and dates, Marlon disagreed: “That’s not true, he did the same things we all did. But we all rehearsed constantly, we rehearsed together, and that’s how we got to where we are today.”

***
Michael had a completely different voice (the high, whispery one) when talking in public than he did when he was talking to a lawyer or a record company executive (normal, forceful). I heard both. During the 1980s, I was friendly with CBS Records Group president Walter Yetnikoff, who often told me that Michael called him incessantly about his record sales, marketing and promotion. “Possessed” was the word Yetnikoff used to describe Michael’s involvement in his day-to-day business.

***
On August 4, 1984, I took Van Halen’s lead singer David Lee Roth—then at the height of his band’s success—to see the Jacksons’ show at Madison Square Garden. Before the show, we met Michael in a private area of the Garden’s rotunda. I was surprised at how different Michael looked since the last time I had seen him. I was taken aback too, by how much makeup he wore—it rubbed off on my clothing when we hugged hello. But mostly, I was amused by how fully aware he was of just exactly who David Lee Roth was— probably even down to the number of records Van Halen had sold and their chart positions.

***
Michael had a keen eye on the competition. He’d often pick my brain about other shows I’d seen and the musicians I talked to. When Michael had his own solo success and moved away from the family, he was far more candid about his feelings and our talks became more conspiratorial. If Michael told me his brothers were married but please don’t print that, I didn’t print that—even though we both agreed that it was ridiculous. I was, after all, initially writing about him for a teenage fan magazine. In 1982, Eddie Van Halen played a guitar solo on “Beat It” on Michael’s Thriller album. It may have been producer Quincy Jones’ idea. Then again, it very easily could have been Michael’s. In 1987, Michael used Billy Idol’s guitarist Steve Stevens on “Bad.” And in 1992 for Michael’s Dangerous album, Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash did the solo on “Black or White.” These were all guitar players I knew well. It showed how much Michael was aware of other scenes—especially rock. In 1987, Steve Stevens told me, “One of the things I stipulated about doing the track with Michael was that he be there in the studio when we did it. The first thing Michael said to me was that he liked my suit. He was really musically literate, down to things that most people might leave to the engineer. He knew exactly what he wanted.”

***
On February 15, 1985, in a phone interview from Los Angeles, Michael asked me why I didn’t come to L.A. more often. I told him it was too bright, that I wore black clothes and the lint became too noticeable. He was surprisingly candid about his dissatisfaction with many aspects of the Jacksons’ “Victory” tour. I asked him if, especially after his massive solo success, working with his family again had been a problem. “Well . . . it depends,” he said. “I never really wanted to use a lot of the people we had, but it became a voting thing. It was unfair to me, you know? I was outvoted a lot of times. I always like using A-1 people who are considered the best in their field, I’ve always tried to do everything first class. But it was a different story with the family. And the fact that it was the biggest tour that ever happened, and my success has been so overwhelming, it’s as if they’re waiting to throw darts at you. You know [Barbra] Streisand once said—I taped it, on 20/20—she said when she first came out, she was new and fresh, and everybody loved her. They built her up and then . . . they knocked her down. And she felt, ‘Oh, is that it?’ You know, she’s human, she can’t take it, she can’t just forget about it.” I said that backlash often follows success. “Yes,” he said, “and Steven Spielberg’s going through that. . . . But I’m a strong person. I don’t let any of it bother me. I love doing what I do.” I mentioned that some of his fans were upset because the ticket prices on the “Victory” tour were high. “You know, none of that was my idea,” Michael said, exasperated. “I was outvoted. I mean, mail order tickets—I didn’t want that. Our production was so big it had to pay for itself, but still, even then, I didn’t want the ticket price so high. But I was outvoted. Don King . . . all of it. It’s tough, especially when it’s your family. It’s hard to see your brothers and look in their eyes and see they’re upset with something. Or they won’t talk to you. But I’m going to do bigger and better things in the future. I’m compelled to do what I’m doing and I can’t help it, I love performing. I love creating and coming up with unusual new things. To be a kind of pioneer. You know, innovative. I get excited about ideas, not about money. Ideas is what excites me.”
I asked Michael if he was as insulated and isolated as people thought. “Well, a lot of that is true,” he said, “but I get a chance to have fun. I show films and I play games and have friends over sometimes. I love children and stuff. I get to play with them—that’s one of my favorite things to do. Performing is fun, I miss that, but I’ve been writing a lot of good stuff lately and I’m excited about the songs I’m coming up with. I put my soul, my blood, sweat and tears into Thriller. I really did. And not only Thriller, I was doing the E.T. [soundtrack] album at the same time. That was a lot of stress. And [when we first] mixed the Thriller album, it sounded like crap. It was terrible. I cried at the listening party. I said, ‘I’m sorry, we can’t release this.’ I called a meeting with Quincy, and everybody at the [record] company was screaming that we had to have it out and there was a deadline, but I said, ‘I’m sorry, I’m not releasing it.’ I said, ‘It’s terrible.’ So we re-did a mix a day, we rested two days, then we did a mixing. We were overworked. But it all came out okay.”

***
Talking about their friendship, Freddie [Mercury] said, “Three or four years ago Michael used to come and see our shows at the L.A. Forum. I guess he liked us and he kept coming to see us and then we started talking and we used to go out and have dinners. Now, I think he just stays home and doesn’t like coming out at all. At least that’s what he says. He tells me whatever he wants, he can get at home. Anything he wants, he just buys it.” I said I thought that kind of isolation was scary. “I know,” Freddie said, “and that’s not me. But that’s his bag. I’d be bored to death. I have to go out every night. I hate staying in one room for too long anyway, I just like to keep moving. Maybe it’s because he started very young. I mean sometimes when I’m talking to him I think, my god, he’s only twenty-five and I’m thirty-seven, but he’s been in the business longer than I have, because he started so young. So, we can talk to each other on a very good parallel, because he has the same sort of experiences that I have.”

***
On February 23, 1988, I went to Kansas City for the opening night of Michael’s “Bad” tour. His manager Frank DiLeo arranged for me to visit Michael’s suite at the Westin Crowne Hotel after the show. Alone. There were no handlers present, no family members, no animal companions, no child companions, no bodyguards—unusual for a Jackson visitation. For Kansas City, his suite was lavish, the size of a small apartment. But as I entered, let in by a security guard who waited outside the door, Michael was nowhere to be seen. “Michael?” I called, as I walked around. After a few minutes, I heard giggling from behind a door. The twenty-nine year-old Michael Jackson was playing hide-and-seek. Finally, he appeared, wearing black trousers and a bright red shirt, his semi-straightened hair pulled back into a loose ponytail with a few strands falling over his face. He hugged me. He was taller than I’d remembered, taller than he appeared in photos. And while his giggling continued, I remember thinking at the time that his hug was a hug from a man—not a boy. There was nothing sexual about it, it was just strong. Then he pulled back, looked at me and said, in the lower and more “normal” of the two voices he could produce at will, “What’s that smell? What’s that perfume? I know that smell.” I laughed and said, “Oh Michael, you don’t know this perfume. It’s an old drag queen perfume from the 1950s.” At the words “drag queen” he started giggling and repeated it: “Drag queen . . .
hahahahahaha!!! No, I know it. It’s ‘Jungle Gardenia,’ right?” I was taken aback. How did he know that? I told him that the only people who ever recognized this perfume were Bryan Ferry and Duran Duran’s Nick Rhodes. Well, I said, I guess you’re not as la-la as they say you are. The words “la-la” cracked him up and he repeated it . . . “La-la . . . hahahahaha!” A week later I sent a case of twenty-four bottles of “Jungle Gardenia” to his hotel suite at New York City’s Helmsley Palace. And on March 2nd, I stood backstage in the wings at the Grammy Awards live telecast in Radio City Music Hall, while Michael waited with a gospel group, about to perform “Man in the Mirror.” Looking at me he whispered, “Thanks for the smells. . . . I’m wearing it now.”

***
In 1996, Diana Ross told me, “I haven’t seen Michael or spent any time with him in years and I know nothing of who he is anymore. I know the little boy that I introduced on the Ed Sullivan show, so [to talk about him now] is hard. Careers can just be devastating for young people. They’re forced to live with security around them all the time. If you look back at child stars, well, it takes its toll.”

***
Smokey Robinson told me, “I’ve known Michael since he was ten or eleven. He is the best who ever did it. The singing and the dancing and the records, the whole package. But somewhere . . . he just got lost. It’s easy to do.”

***
Watching This Is It, the hastily thrown together film of the rehearsals for the tour Michael never did—even with all of the obvious flaws and trickeration—you still see a glimpse of the entertainer that was Michael Jackson. He knew if a note was a millisecond off. His head movements, his rhythm, his directions to the band—“You’ve got to let it simmer”—here was a man who still had this . . . thing inside. “I want it the way I wrote it,” he instructed the keyboard player. “It’s talent,” he once told me. And no matter how hard Chris Brown or Usher or Britney Spears or Madonna or any of them tried—they don’t have that talent. Don’t even come close. He just couldn’t help it. He was a natural. There are certain people you can never imagine getting really old: John F. Kennedy Jr. will live forever in our minds as the three-year-old boy saluting his father’s coffin. Michael was almost fifty-one when he died, but still retained the aura of that kid on the Ed Sullivan show who sang “ABC” and “I Want You Back.” The young man who did the hysteria-inducing performance of “Billie Jean” on the Motown 25 TV special. Some people, far more religious than I, felt that Michael was an angel sent to earth who, like Marvin Gaye, was vulnerable, couldn’t last, did what he was supposed to do and left. Quincy Jones told me that he thought Michael had “been here before.” Those close to the family have told me that Michael was the most misunderstood person on earth.
 

lil'bit

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Lisa Robinson recalls interviewing Michael Jackson throughout the 70s and 80s. Includes audio clips from some of her interviews with Michael. 10 minutes. There's some noise in background, or tape defect.

http://youtu.be/I7fokSWHq3M
Michael Jackson talks to Lisa Robinson
 

HIStory

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These make me sad:

Do you have a nickname? Nose. (And then, crossed out, niger [sic]).

In 1996, Diana Ross told me, “I haven’t seen Michael or spent any time with him in years and I know nothing of who he is anymore. I know the little boy that I introduced on the Ed Sullivan show, so [to talk about him now] is hard. Careers can just be devastating for young people. They’re forced to live with security around them all the time. If you look back at child stars, well, it takes its toll.”
 

ivy

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I bought the book. Yes there's a full chapter about MJ - chapter 5. What morinen posted are the best parts. There are some commentary or choice of words that isn't necessarily all positive towards MJ or Jacksons such as

While it’s hard to imagine Freddie, who once reportedly celebrated a birthday hanging naked from a chandelier, having much in common with Michael, there is no question that they had a real mutual affection. Freddie smoked. Michael didn’t. Freddie slept with boys. Michael, supposedly, did not. (Once, when I asked Michael if he was dating anyone, he said no. He said he liked girls, but that he wasn’t interested . I expressed some mild surprise, and he said, “Oh , you think I’m one of those? No, I’m not.”)Michael and Freddie respected each other’s talent and theatricality.

At some point in the 1990s, either Michael himself, or Elizabeth Taylor, anointed him with that ridiculous title, the “King of Pop.”

(about Murray criminal trial) The trial was less sensational than Michael’s child molestation trial; Michael wasn’t there to dance on top of a car. But as usual with any Jackson family gathering, it was a sorry lot: his beloved mother Katherine, who, according to some who know the family well , was an enabler who, by her silence, let her husband Joseph get away with whatever he could get away with. And that father , Joseph Jackson, got away with plenty. There were longtime rumors of physical abuse to his children and marital infidelity to his wife. wife. The night after Michael died, Joseph showed up on the red carpet at the BET Awards with a young woman he introduced as his “new act.” Someone close to the family told me that he once made a deal with a soda company for a Jacksons soft drink, but turned it into “Joe Cola.” He thought he could be Berry Gordy. He couldn’t. On hand at the trial too, were some of Michael’s deadbeat siblings, to whom he was, and still is, the perennial meal ticket. Naturally Jermaine was there, hawking a new book he had written about Michael.

On display were photos of Michael’s messy bedroom in his rented “mansion” at 100 North Carolwood Drive in L.A. Photos of his slovenly bathroom. A baby doll on the bed. Cannisters of oxygen. And on his bedside table, vials of Lidocaine, lorazepam, diazepam, midazolam— there were enough medications on that bedside table alone to keep even the most doped-up rock band on tour in the 1970s. There was testimony about 250 vials of propofol having been ordered, and there was enough Benoquin cream in that bedroom to bleach a whale. Michael would have died all over again at this invasion of his privacy— no, of the secrecy—which had become his way of life.

---

Anyway just so you know. some comments such as "bleach a whale", "ridiculous title", "supposedly" and so on were a little disturbing to me.
 
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Petrarose

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My goodness, the parts Ivy wrote are really disturbing. Where did the person get this part: and there was enough Benoquin cream in that bedroom to bleach a whale. The cream was there yes but why give the impression there was loads of it. I wonder why the attack mode was inserted into her memories of him. I am really sick of these people now, can't they just state real facts. By the way who is this Lisa person. Is she a famous reporter who will get lost of sales for her book?
 

morinen

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Yes, the chapter isn't very nice overall. I wouldn't call Lisa a hater, but she is not very understanding or sympathetic either - she is of the common "such a cute boy-wonder, how did it all go wrong" stance. I quoted parts that are most substantial and telling of Michael. The rest is mostly her not particularly enlightening commentary.
 

ivy

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By the way who is this Lisa person. Is she a famous reporter who will get lost of sales for her book?

She's a journalist and music columnist for decades and this is her memoir.

Like Morinen, I wouldn't call her a hater but yes she's not sympathetic either. There are nice stories as you can see and there's also not so nice commentary as well. It looks like her contact with Michael ended in the early 90s.
 

GreenEyes

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Lisa Robinson was also in the Bad 25 Documentary. She was the music journalist they interviewed and she commented about Michael's finger snapping and also made a reference to his inspiration from West Side Story in the Bad video.
 

Petrarose

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When you guys say she is a music journalist, does that mean she studied music, or she just talks about musicians/singers. Does she understand music such as notes, compositions, the elements of the orchestra?
 

Petrarose

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The tone of the entire piece was snarky and slightly condescending. I didn't care for it (or her) at ALL.

Me either, and when someone shows their personal opinion of another in that way, I wonder what they were thinking about the person all the time. I was reading the amazon comments and she got some good reviews. I wonder what she said about the other artists. She maybe had the same type of disdain, although some of the under 5 star comments mentioned what she said is already known and there is nothing new. It is interesting we have all these people who have disdain for michael but they end up talking on Michael projects like Lisa, Wade, and many others. One wonders who really has regard for Michael Jackson except maybe his mother.
 

dewey

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When you guys say she is a music journalist, does that mean she studied music, or she just talks about musicians/singers. Does she understand music such as notes, compositions, the elements of the orchestra?

I had to look her up since I've never heard of her, but I believe she has written about/had access to famous musicians for a very long time...like a journalist for a newspaper reporting "news"...not necessarily trained in music composition.
 

Petrarose

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I had to look her up since I've never heard of her, but I believe she has written about/had access to famous musicians for a very long time...like a journalist for a newspaper reporting "news"...not necessarily trained in music composition.

Oh I see, so basically she is just a reporter who follows what the musical artists do. I guess she follows them around and write exclusively about their actions and what they are doing--sort of like a groopie, but unlike the groopie who follows for love of the artist or music, she follows for information and to get interviews.

I love how you made Michael turn in slow motion.
 

barbee0715

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Lisa Robinson was also in the Bad 25 Documentary. She was the music journalist they interviewed and she commented about Michael's finger snapping and also made a reference to his inspiration from West Side Story in the Bad video.
She has known and interviewed Michael since he was a little boy so I have been a little dismayed at some of the articles that she wrote about him-and the sneaky snarky comments. I would have expected someone like that to be way more understanding.
If you don't understand something, then look into it.
I also thought she came off a little stupid with that West Side Story/Jerome Robbins comment like she "she thought he must have liked West Side Story because it looked like that to her".
As though Michael hadn't raved about George Chakris and Rita Moreno a million times and in interviews, was reported in print to have watched it repeatedly, and was photographed many times with the dancers in the revival.
 

Kerry Hennigan

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Thanks to Morinen and Ivy for the excerpts. All you guys constantly remind me why I keep visiting the MJJC forum to find out what I need to know without spending the $$$. Like most of us, I guess, I am sick of people making sweeping statements about Michael(particularly in relation to stuff that was made very public during the trials etc)and using misleading or sensationalising terminology. However, what she says about the rest of the family just made me smile and think, yeah baby, you got that right. So, mixed emotions really. But, like all the other people writing books about or featuring comments on Michael, it's just one person's perspective, sometimes well informed, sometimes not. Of the people who say that Michael got lost somewhere along the years because of his huge success and need to protect himself, and no doubt his innate shyness, I can only suggest that perhaps he creatively left them all behind. No-one said genius was easy to live with, either for others or for the genius themselves. All I know is that the most important people in his life, his children, had no problem with it.
 
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