Michael dedicated his entire life to sharing what was in his heart at all costs. He was an expert at hiding his own pain, so he could serve others. This is a story I wrote a while back that illustrates how many of those working on THIS IS IT, the crew and many staff, never saw his pain. Michael was being threatened, but he also had a deep feeling of responsibility to his family and fans to bring what moments of joy he could, to a world that was experiencing so much pain, from financial strife, war and to environmental destruction. As soon as Michael left his dressing room…it was Showtime.
Michael was headlining two benefit concerts for the International Red Cross, Nelson Mandela’s Children’s Fund, and UNESCO. MICHAEL JACKSON AND FRIENDS. The roster of performers and their entourage flew from Seoul, Korea where the first concert was held, to Munich on a chartered plane. It was such a wonderful flight because we were able to spend some time and get to know everyone. There were performers from all over the world. We arrived at the Munich Olympic Stadium in the afternoon on June 27, 1999 to prepare for Michael’s evening appearance. Michael introduced Andrea Bocelli in the late afternoon. The sun was setting. The darkness changed the entire feeling of the arena. It was a hot summer evening. The crowd had been enjoying performances by other artists all day: Luther Vandross, The Kelly Brothers, Ringo Starr… but it seemed the audience was waiting for Michael. The excitement was building. Magically, the stage was being transformed with emerging walls of lights, screens and equipment that had been created for Michael’s show, that were hidden behind the other performances. Michael Jackson, Michael Bush and myself were using the last minutes to take care some details in the dressing room, just stage right. A long check list: Microphones, wires, wardrobe changes, towels, song list, ice, Gatorade, fans, grease paints, powder. Michael did some stretches to warm up, as the lights lowered in the house. I could feel the energy of anticipation the crowd directed towards us. Any hint of Michael’s appearance created excited chaos in the crowd. He would peek out at the audience from behind the curtains. The band came up the back stairs. Michael met them for the traditional prayer joining their hands. The show began with all the frenzy and excitement that they all did. We have been doing this for many years. After I prepared for the next change, I watched from stage right. Everything was going perfectly…. the medley…Beat It…Black or White with Slash…Billie Jean. The local performers for Earth Song started filing on stage. Earth Song began… then the bridge appeared, just as it had done in Korea. The children and adults slowly entered and filled the stage. The song builds…. Michael flies up the bridge and gyrates and pounds his feet, twirls as the bridge lifts away from its braces. Smoke, explosions, bombard our eyes and ears…the bridge continues higher and higher, but unlike rehearsals, and the last show…. it didn’t pause at its pinnacle… INSTEAD it came careening down gaining speed with Michael tightly grasping the railings… still singing. I started screaming, but I could not even hear my own voice over the pyro, music, and the audience. I started running out from behind the stage in horror as the bridge quickly disappeared below the front of the stage, slamming down on the concrete floor. Security grabbed and stopped me, thinking I was going to ruin the performance. Backstage, there was crying and screaming, only the crew and performers knew there was something desperately wrong. From our vantage point we had lost sight of Michael, as the bridge had fallen below the front of the stage. My heart stopped beating, while in the strong arms of a perplexed security guard. Even though the show continued for everyone else, time stood still for me, as I could not imagine how Michael could have survived such a fall. But slowly, and after what seemed like an eternity, as the music and applause continued, I saw one arm reach for the floor of the stage…then a long lean leg, another arm, another leg…he was up, center stage… finishing the end of Earth Song! My mouth dropped open in relieved amazement. Looking dazed, he made his way to our side of the stage. “Michael, sit down….” ”NO!” He demanded. ”Security… please get him to the hospital!” I was begging. “NO!” He grabbed the microphone and ran out to finish performing “You Are Not Alone”. I could not believe what I was witnessing. He finished the song, took his final bow, and returned once again to his stage dressing room and then… collapsed. Security whisked him off to a hospital in Munich. Band members, dancers, Slash and crewmembers all shocked and amazed at what we had witnessed wrapped up the show with prayers in our hearts. Once back in the hotel… I started making the phone calls to find out how he was. I got the reports that nothing was broken, but he was badly bruised, and his back was very badly strained. It had been a miracle. Being the performer he was, he knew how to land. The next day we were to leave for Paris for a photo shoot. This had been postponed until he was better. I asked him…why did you continue? I cannot believe you were able to do that. ”You know Turkle, the only thing that I heard in my head, was my father’s voice saying to me, MICHEAL, DON’T DISAPPOINT THE AUDIENCE!