Книги: Moonwalk — Chapter Six

I had planned to spend most of 1984 working on some movie ideas I had, but those plans got sidetracked. First, in January, I was burned on the set of a Pepsi commercial I was shooting with my brothers.

The reason for the fire was stupidity, pure and simple. We were shooting at night and I was supposed to come down a staircase with magnesium flash bombs going off on either side of me and just behind me. It seemed so simple. I was to walk down the stairs and these bombs would blow up behind me. We did several takes that were wonderfully timed. The lightning effects from the bombs were great. Only later did I find out that these bombs were only two feet away from either side of my head, which was a total disregard of the safety regulations. I was supposed to stand in the middle of a magnesium explosion, two feet on either side.

Then Bob Giraldi, the director, came to me and said, «Michael, you’re going down too early. We want to see you up there, up on the stairs. When the lights come on, we want to reveal that you’re there, so wait.»

So I waited, the bombs went off on either side of my head, and the sparks set my hair on fire. I was dancing down this ramp and turning around, spinning, not knowing I was on fire. Suddenly I felt my hands reflexively going to my head in an attempt to smother the flames. I fell down and just tried to shake the flames out. Jermaine turned around and saw me on the ground, just after the explosions had gone off, and he thought I had been shot by someone in the crowd — because we were shooting in front of a big audience. That’s what it looked like to him.

Miko Brando, who works for me, was the first person to reach me. After that, it was chaos. It was crazy. No film could properly capture the drama of what went on that night. The crowd was screaming. Someone shouted, «Get some ice!» There were frantic running sounds. People were yelling, «Oh no!» The emergency truck came up and before they put in I saw the Pepsi executives huddled together in a corner, looking terrified. I remember the medical people putting me on a cot and the guys from Pepsi were so scared they couldn’t even bring themselves to check on me.

Meanwhile, I was kind of detached, despite the terrible pain. I was watching all the drama unfold. Later they told me I was in shock, but I remember enjoying the ride to the hospital because I never thought I’d ride in an ambulance with the sirens wailing. It was one of those things I had always wanted to do when I was growing up. When we got there, they told me there were news crews outside, so I asked for my glove. There’s a famous shot of me waving from the stretcher with my glove on.

Later one on the doctors told me that it was a miracle I was alive. One of the firemen had mentioned that in most cases your clothes catch on fire, in which case your whole face can be disfigured or you can die. That’s it. I had third-degree burns on the back of my head that almost went through to my skull, so I had a lot of problems with it, but I was very lucky.

What we now know is that the incident created a lot of publicity for the commercial. They sold more Pepsi than ever before. And they came back to me later and offered me the biggest commercial endorsement fee in history. It was so unprecedented that it went into The Guinness Book of World Records. Pepsi and I worked together on another commercial, called «The Kid,» and I gave them problems by limiting the shots of me because I felt the shots they were asking for didn’t work well. Later, when the commercial was a success, they told me I had been right.

I still remember how scared those Pepsi executives looked the night of the fire. They thought that my getting burned would leave a bad taste in the mouth of every kid in America who drank Pepsi. They knew I could have sued them and I could have, but I was real nice about it. Real nice. They gave me $1,500,000 which I immediately donated to the Michael Jackson Burn Center. I wanted to do something because I was so moved by the other burn patients I met while I was in the hospital.

Then there was the Victory tour. I did fifty-five shows with my brothers over the course of five months.

I didn’t want to go on the Victory tour and I fought against it. I felt the wisest thing for me would be not to do the tour, but my brothers wanted to do it and I did it for them. So I told myself that since I was committed to doing this, I might as well put my soul into it.

When it came down to the actual tour, I was outvoted on a number of issues, but you don’t think when you’re onstage, you just deliver. My goal for the Victory tour was to give each performance everything I could. I hoped people might come to see me who didn’t even like me. I hoped they might hear about the show and want to see what’s going on. I wanted incredible word-of-mouth response to the show so a wide range of people would come and see us. Word of mouth is the best publicity. Nothing beats it. If someone I trust comes to me and tells me something is great, I’m sold.

I felt very powerful in those days of Victory. I felt on top of the world. I felt determined. That tour was like: «We’re a mountain. We’ve come to share our music with you. We have something we want to tell you.» At the beginning of the show, we rose out of the stage and came down these stairs. The opening was dramatic and bright and captured the whole feeling of the show. When the lights came on and they saw us, the roof would come off the place.

It was a nice feeling, playing with my brothers again. It gave us a chance to relive our days as the Jackson 5 and the Jacksons. We were all together again. Jermaine had come back and we were riding a wave of popularity. It was the biggest tour any group had ever done, in huge outdoor stadiums. But I was disappointed with the tour from the beginning. I had wanted to move the world like it had never been moved. I wanted to present something that would make people say, «Wow! That’s wonderful!» The response we got was wonderful and the fans were great, but I became unhappy with our show. I didn’t have the time or the opportunity to perfect it the way I wanted to. I was disappointed in the staging of «Billie Jean.» I wanted it to be so much more than it was. I didn’t like the lighting and I never got my steps quite the way I wanted them. It killed me to have to accept these things and settle for doing it the way I did.

There’ve been times right before a show when certain things were bothering me — business or personal problems. I would think, «I don’t know how to go through with this. I don’t know how I’m going to get through the show. I can’t perform like this.»

But once I get to the side of the stage, something happens. The rhythm starts and the lights hit me and the problems disappear. This has happened so many times. The thrill of performing just takes me over. It’s like God saying, «Yes, you can. Yes, you can. Just wait. Wait till you hear this. Wait till you see this.» And the backbeat gets in my backbone and it vibrates and it just takes me. Sometimes I almost lose control and the musicians say, «What is he doing?» and they start following me. You change the whole schedule of a piece. You stop and you just take over from scratch and do a whole other thing. The song takes you in another direction.

There was a part of the show on the Victory tour where I was doing this scatting theme and the audience was repeating what I said. I’d say, «Da, de, da, de» and they’d say, «Da, de, da, de.» There’ve been times when I’ve done that and they would start stomping. And when the whole audience is doing that, it sounds like an earthquake. Oh! It’s a great feeling to be able to do that with all those people — whole stadiums — and they’re all doing the same thing you’re doing. It’s the greatest feeling in the world. You look out in the audience and see toddlers and teens and grandparents and people in their twenties and thirties. Everybody is swaying, their hands are up, and they’re all singing. You ask that the house lights come on and you see their faces and you say, «Hold hands» and they hold hands and you say, «Stand up» or «Clap» and they do. They’re enjoying themselves and they’ll whatever you tell them. They love it and it’s so beautiful — all the races of people are together doing this. At times like that I say, «Look around you. Look at yourselves. Look. Look around you. Look at what you have done.» Oh, it’s so beautiful. Very powerful. Those are great moments.

The Victory tour was my first chance to be exposed to the Michael Jackson fans since Thriller had come out two years earlier. There were some strange reactions. I’d bump into people in hallways and they’d go, «Naw, that can’t be him. He wouldn’t be here.» I was baffled and I’d ask myself, «Why wouldn’t I? I’m on earth somewhere . I’ve got to be somewhere at any given time. Why not here?» Some fans imagine you to be almost an illusion, this thing that doesn’t exist. When they see you, they feel it’s a miracle or something. I’ve had fans ask me if I use the bathroom. I mean, it gets embarrassing. They just lose touch with the fact that you’re like them because they get so excited. But I can understand it because I’d feel the same way if, for instance, I could have met Walt Disney or Charlie Chaplin.

Kansas City opened the tour. It was Victory’s first night. We were walking by the hotel pool in the evening and Frank Dileo lost his balance and fell in. People saw this and started to get excited. Some of us were kind of embarrassed, but I was laughing. He wasn’t hurt and he looked so surprised. We jumped over a low wall and found ourselves on the street without any security. People didn’t seem to be able to believe that we were just walking around on the street like that. They gave us a wide berth.

Later when we returned to the hotel, Bill Bray, who has headed my security team since I was a child, just shook his head and laughed as we recounted our adventures.

Bill is very careful and immensely professional in his job, but he doesn’t worry about things after the fact. He travels with me everywhere and occasionally he’s my only companion on short trips. I can’t imagine life without Bill; he’s warm and funny and absolutely in love with life. He’s a great man.

When the tour was in Washington, D.C., I was out on our hotel balcony with Frank, who has a great sense of humor and enjoys playing pranks himself. We were teasing one another and I started pulling $100 bills from his pockets and throwing them to people who were walking down below. This almost caused a riot. He was trying to stop me, but we were both laughing. It reminded me of the pranks my brothers and I used to pull on tour. Frank sent our security people downstairs to try and find any undiscovered money in the bushes.

In Jacksonville, the local police almost killed us in a traffic accident during the four-block drive from the hotel to the stadium. Later, in another part of Florida, when the old tour boredom set in that I described earlier, I played a little trick on Frank. I asked him to come up to my suite and when he came in I offered him some watermelon, which was lying on a table across the room. Frank went over to pick up a piece and tripped over my boa constrictor, Muscles, who was on the road with me. Muscles is harmless, but Frank hates snakes and proceeded to scream and yell. I started chasing him around the room with the boa. Frank got the upper hand, however. He panicked, ran from the room, and grabbed the security guard’s gun. He was going to shoot Muscles, but the guard calmed him down. Later he said all he could think of was: «I’ve got to get that snake.» I’ve found that a lot of tough men are afraid of snakes.

We were locked in hotels all over America, just like in the old days. Me and Jermaine or me and Randy would get up to our old tricks, taking buckets of water and pouring them off hotel balconies onto people eating in the atriums far below. We were up so high the water was just mist by the time it reached them. It was just like the old days, bored in the hotels, locked away from fans for our own protection, unable to go anywhere without massive security.

But there were a lot of days that were fun too. We had a lot of time off on that tour and we got to take five little vacations to Disney World. Once, when we were staying in the hotel there, an amazing thing happened. I’ll never forget it. I was on a balcony where we could see a big area. There were all these people. It was so crowded that people were bumping into each other. Someone in that crowd recognized me and started screaming my name. Thousands of people began chanting, «Michael! Michael!» and it was echoing all over the park. The chanting continued until finally it was so loud that if I hadn’t acknowledged it, it would have been rude. As soon as I did, everybody started screaming. I said, «Oh, this is so beautiful. I’ve got it so good.» All the work I’d put in on Thriller , my crying and believing in my dreams and working on those songs and falling asleep near the microphone stand because I was so tired, all of it was repaid by this display of affection.

I’ve seen times where I’d walk into a theater to see a play and everybody would just start applauding. Just because they’re glad that I happen to be there. At moments like that, I feel so honored and so happy. It makes all the work seem worthwhile.

The Victory tour was originally going to be called «The Final Curtain» because we all realized it was going to be the last tour we did together. But we decided not to put the emphasis on that.

I enjoyed the tour. I knew it would be a long road; in the end, it was probably too long. The best part of it for me was seeing the children in the audience. Every night there would be a number of them who had gotten all dressed up. They were so excited. I was truly inspired by the kids on that tour, kids of all ethnic groups and ages. It’s been my dream since I was a child to somehow unite people of the world through love and music. I still get goose bumps when I hear the Beatles sing «All You Need Is Love.» I’ve always wished that song could be an anthem for the world.

I loved the shows we did in Miami and all the time we spent there. Colorado was great too. We got to spend some time relaxing up at the Caribou Ranch. And New York was really something, as it always is. Emmanuel Lewis came to the show, as did Yoko, Sean Lennon, Brooke, a lot of good friends. Thinking back, the offstage moments stand out for me as much as the concerts themselves. I found I could lose myself in some of those shows. I remember swinging my jackets around and slinging them into the audience. The wardrobe people would get annoyed at me and I’d say honestly, «I’m sorry but I can’t help it. I can’t control myself. Something takes over and I know I shouldn’t do it, but you just can’t control it. There’s a spirit of joy and communion that gets inside you and you want to just let it all out.»

We were on the Victory tour when we learned that my sister Janet had gotten married. Everybody was afraid to tell me because I am so close to Janet. I was shocked. I feel very protective of her. Quincy Jones’s little daughter was the one to break the news to me.

I’ve always enjoyed a wonderfully close relationship with all three of my beautiful sisters. LaToya is really a wonderful person. She’s very easy to be around, but she can be funny, too. You go in her room and you can’t sit on the couch, you can’t sit on the bed, you can’t walk on the carpet. This is the truth. She will run you out of her room. She wants everything to be perfect in there. I say, «You have to walk on the carpet sometimes,» but she doesn’t want prints on it. If you cough at the table, she covers her plate. If you sneeze, forget it. That’s how she is. Mother says she used to be that way herself.

Janet, on the other hand, was always a tomboy. She has been my best friend in the family for the longest time. That’s why it killed me to see her go off and get married. We did everything together. We shared the same interests, the same sense of humor. When we were younger, we’d get up on «free» mornings and write out a whole schedule for the day. Usually it would read something like this: GET UP, FEED THE ANIMALS, HAVE BREAKFAST, WATCH SOME CARTOONS, GO TO THE MOVIES, GO TO A RESTAURANT, GO TO ANOTHER MOVIE, GO HOME AND GO SWIMMING. That was our idea of a great day. In the evening, we’d look back at the list and think about all the fun we’d had.

It was great being with Janet because we didn’t have to worry that one of us wouldn’t like something. We liked the same things. We’d sometimes read to each other. She was like my twin.

LaToya are I are very different, on the other hand. She won’t even feed the animals; the smell alone drives her away. And forget going to the movies. She doesn’t understand what I see in Star Wars or Close Encounters or Jaws . Our tastes in films are miles apart.

When Janet was around and I wasn’t working on something, we’d be inseparable. But I knew we’d eventually develop separate interests and attachments. It was inevitable.

Her marriage didn’t last long, unfortunately, but now she’s happy again. I do think that marriage can be a wonderful thing if it’s right for the two people involved. I believe in love — very much so — how can you not believe after you’ve experienced it? I believe in relationships. One day I know I’ll find the right woman and get married myself. I often look forward to having children; in fact, it would be nice to have a big family, since I come from such a large one myself. In my fantasy about having a large family, I imagine myself with thirteen children.

Right now, my work still takes up most of my time and most of my emotional life. I work all the time. I love creating and coming up with new projects. As for the future, Que sera, sera . Time will tell. It would be hard for me to be that dependent on somebody else, but I can imagine it if I try. There’s so much I want to do and so much work to be done.

I can’t help but pick up on some of the criticism leveled at me at times. Journalists seem willing to say anything to sell a paper. They say I’ve had my eyes widened, that I want to look more white. More white? What kind of statement is that? I didn’t invent plastic surgery. It’s been around for a long time. A lot of very fine, very nice people have had plastic surgery. No one writes about their surgery and levies such criticism at them. It’s not fair. Most of what they print is a fabrication. It’s enough to make you want to ask, «What happened to truth? Did it go out of style?»

In the end, the most important thing is to be true to yourself and those you love and work hard. I mean, work like there’s no tomorrow. Train. Strive. I mean, really train and cultivate your talent to the highest degree. Be the best at what you do. Get to know more about your field than anybody alive. Use the tools of your trade, if it’s books or a floor to dance on or a body of water to swim in. Whatever it is, it’s yours. That’s what I’ve always tried to remember. I thought about it a lot on the Victory tour.

In the end, I felt I touched a lot of people on the Victory tour. Not exactly in the way I wanted to, but I felt that would happen later, when I was off on my own, performing and making movies. I donated all my performance money to charity, including funds for the burn center that helped me after the fire on the Pepsi set. We donated more than four million dollars that year. For me, that was what the Victory tour was all about — giving back.

After my experience with the Victory tour, I started making my career decisions with more care than ever. I had learned a lesson on an earlier tour, which I remembered vividly during the difficulties with Victory.

We did a tour years ago with this guy who ripped us off, but he taught me something. He said, «Listen, all these people work for you . You don’t work for them . You are paying them.» He kept telling me that. Finally I began to understand what he meant. It was an entirely new concept for me because at Motown everything was done for us. Other people made our decisions. I’ve been mentally scarred by that experience. «You’ve got to wear this. You’ve got to do these songs. You are going here. You are going to do this interview and that TV show.» That’s how it went. We couldn’t say anything. When he told me I was in control, I finally woke up. I realized he was right.

Despite everything, I owe that guy a debt of gratitude.

Captain Eo came about because the Disney Studios wanted me to come up with a new ride for the parks. They said they didn’t care what I did, as long as it was something creative. I had this big meeting with them, and during the course of the afternoon I told them that Walt Disney was a hero of mine and that I was very interested in Disney’s history and philosophy. I wanted to do something with that Mr. Disney himself would have approved. I had read a number of books about Walt Disney and his creative empire, and it was very important to me to do things as he would have. In the end, they asked me to do a movie and I agreed. I told them I would like to work with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. It turned out Steven was busy, so George brought Francis Ford Coppola and that was the Captain Eo team.

I flew up to San Francisco a couple of times to visit George at his place, Skywalker Ranch, and gradually we came up with a scenario for a short film that would incorporate every recent advance in 3-D technology. Caption Eo would look and feel like the audience was in a spaceship, along for the ride.

Captain Eo is about transformation and the way music can help to change the world. George came up with the name Captain Eo. (Eo is Greek for «dawn.») The story is about a young guy who goes on a mission to this miserable planet run by an evil queen. He is entrusted with the responsibility of bringing the inhabitants light and beauty. It’s a great celebration of good over evil.

Working on Captain Eo reinforced all the positive feelings I’ve had about working in film and made me realize more than ever that movies are where my future path probably lies. I love the movies and have since I was real little. For two hours you can be transported to another place. Films can take you anywhere. That’s what I like. I can sit down and say, «Okay, nothing else exists right now. Take me to a place that’s wonderful and make me forget about my pressures and my worries and day-to-day schedule.»

I also love to be in front of a 35 mm camera. I used to hear my brothers say, «I’ll be glad when this shoot is over,» and I couldn’t understand why they weren’t enjoying it. I would be watching, trying to learn, seeing what the director was trying to get, what the light man was doing. I wanted to know where the light was coming from and why the director was doing a scene so many times. I enjoyed hearing about the changes being made in the script. It’s all part of what I consider my ongoing education in films. Pioneering new ideas is so exciting to me and the movie industry seems to be suffering right now from a dearth of ideas; so many people are doing the same things. The big studios remind me of the way Motown was acting when we were having disagreements with them: They want easy answers, they want their people to do formula stuff — sure bets — only the public gets bored, of course. So many of them are doing the same old corny stuff. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are exceptions.

I’m going to try to make some changes. I’m going to try to change things around someday. Marlon Brando has become a very close and trusted friend of mine. I can’t tell you how much he’s taught me. We sit and talk for hours. He has told me a great deal about the movies. He is such a wonderful actor and he has worked with so many giants in the industry — from other actors to cameramen. He has a respect for the artistic value of filmmaking that leaves me in awe. He’s like a father to me.

So these days movies are my number one dream, but I have a lot of other dreams too.

In early 1985 we cut «We Are the World» at an all-night all-star recording session that was held after the ceremony for the American Music Awards. I wrote the song with Lionel Richie after seeing the appalling news footage of starving people in Ethiopia and the Sudan.

Around that time, I used to ask my sister Janet to follow me into a room with interesting acoustics, like a closet of the bathroom, and I’d sing to her, just a note, a rhythm of a note. It wouldn’t be a lyric or anything; I’d just hum from the bottom of my throat. I’d say, «Janet, what do you see? What do you see when you hear this sound?» And this time she said, «Dying children in Africa.»

«You’re right. That’s what I was dictating from my soul.»

And she said, «You’re talking about Africa. You’re talking about dying children.» That’s where «We Are the World» came from. We’d go in a dark room and I’d sing notes to her. To my mind, that’s what singers should be able to do. We should be able to perform and be effective, even if it’s in a dark room. We’ve lost a lot because of TV. You should be able to move people without all that advanced technology, without pictures, using only sound.

I’ve been performing for as long as I can remember. I know a lot of secrets, a lot of things like that.

I think that «We Are the World» is a very spiritual song, but spiritual in a special sense. I was proud to be a part of that song and to be one of the musicians there that night. We were united by our desire to make a difference. It made the world a better place for us and it made a difference to the starving people we wanted to help.

We collected some Grammy Awards and began to hear easy-listening versions of «We Are the World» in elevators along with «Billie Jean.» Since first writing it, I had thought that song should be sung by children. When I finally heard children singing it on producer George Duke’s version, I almost cried. It’s the best version I’ve heard.

After «We Are the World,» I again decided to retreat from public view. For two and a half years I devoted most of my time to recording the follow-up to Thriller , the album that came to be titled Bad .

Why did it take so long to make Bad? The answer is that Quincy and I decided that this album should be as close to perfect as humanly possible. A perfectionist has to take his time; he shapes and he molds and he sculpts that thing until it’s perfect. He can’t let it go before he’s satisfied; he can’t.

If it’s not right, you throw it away and do it over. You work that thing till it’s just right. When it’s as perfect as you can make it, you put it out there. Really, you’ve got to get it to where it’s just right; that’s the secret. That’s the difference between a number thirty record and a number one record that stays number one for weeks. It’s got to be good. If it is, it stays up there and the whole world wonders when it’s going to come down.

I have a hard time explaining how Quincy Jones and I work together on making an album. What I do is, I write the songs and do the music and then Quincy brings out the best in me. That’s the only way I can explain it. Quincy will listen and make changes. He’ll say, «Michael, you should put a change in there,» and I’ll write a change. And he’ll guide me on and help me create and help me invent and work on new sounds, new kinds of music.

And we fight. During the Bad sessions we disagreed on some things. If we struggle at all, it’s about new stuff, the latest technology. I’ll say, «Quincy, you know, music changes all the time.» I want the latest drum sounds that people are doing. I want to go beyond the latest thing. And then we go ahead and make the best record that we can.

We don’t ever try to pander to the fans. We just try to play on the quality of the song. People will not buy junk. They’ll only buy what they like. If you take all the trouble to get in your car, go to the record store, and put your money on the counter, you’ve got to really like what you’re going to buy. You don’t say, «I’ll put a country song on here for the country market, a rock song for that market,» and so on. I feel close to all different styles of music. I love some rock songs and some country songs and some pop and all the old rock ‘N’ roll records.

We did go after a rock type of song with «Beat It.» We got Eddie Van Halen to play guitar because we knew he’d do the best job. Albums should be for all races, all tastes in music.

In the end, many songs kind of create themselves. You just say, «This is it. This is how it’s going to be.» Of course, not every song is going to have a great dance tempo. It’s like «Rock with You» isn’t a great dance tempo. It was meant for the old dance the Rock. But it’s not a «Don’t Stop» or «Working Day and Night» rhythm or a «Startin’ Something» type of thing — something you can play with on the dance floor and get sweaty, working out to.

We worked on Bad for a long time. Years. In the end, it was worth it because we were satisfied with what we had achieved, but it was difficult too. There was a lot of tension because we felt we were competing with ourselves. It’s very hard to create something when you feel like you’re in competition with yourself because no matter how you look at it, people are always going to compare Bad to Thriller . You can always say, «Aw, forget Thriller ,» but no one ever will.

I think I have a slight advantage in all of this because I always do my best work under pressure.

«Bad» is a song about the street. It’s about this kid from a bad neighborhood who gets to go away to a private school. He comes back to the old neighborhood when he’s on a break from school and the kids from the neighborhood start giving him trouble. He sings, «I’m bad, you’re bad, who’s bad, who’s the best?» He’s saying when you’re strong and good, then you’re bad.

«Man in the Mirror» is a great message. I love that song. If John Lennon was alive, he could really relate to that song because it says that if you want to make the world a better place, you have to work on yourself and change first. It’s the same thing Kennedy was talking about when he said, «Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.» If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change. Start with the man in the mirror. Start with yourself. Don’t be looking at all the other things. Start with you.

That’s the truth. That’s what Martin Luther King meant and Gandhi too. That’s what I believe.

Several people have asked me if I had anybody in mind when I wrote «Can’t Stop Loving You.» And I say that I didn’t, really. I was thinking of somebody while I was singing it, but not while I was writing it.

I wrote all the songs on Bad except for two, «Man in the Mirror,» which Siedah Garrett wrote with George Ballard, and «Just Good Friends,» which is by these two writers who wrote «What’s Love Got to Do with It» for Tina Turner. We needed a duet for me and Stevie Wonder to sing and they had this song; I don’t even think they intended for it to be a duet. They wrote it for me, but I knew it would be perfect for me and Stevie to sing together.

«Another Part of Me» was one of the earliest songs written for Bad and made its public debut at the end of Captain Eo when the captain says good-bye. «Speed Demon» is a machine song. «The Way You Make Me Feel» and «Smooth Criminal» are simply the grooves I was in at the time. That’s how I would put it.

«Leave Me Alone» is a track that appears only on the compact disc of Bad . I worked hard on the song, stacking vocals on top of each other like layers of clouds. I’m sending a simple message here: «Leave me alone.» The song is about a relationship between a guy and a girl. But what I’m really saying to people who are bothering me is: «Leave me alone .»

The pressure of success does funny things to people. A lot of people become successful very quickly and it’s an instant occurrence in their lives. Some of these people, whose success might be a one-shot thing, don’t know how to handle what happens to them.

I look at fame from a different perspective, since I’ve been in this business for so long now. I’ve learned that the way to survive as your own person is to shun personal publicity and keep a low profile as much as possible. I guess it’s good in some ways and bad in others.

The hardest part is having no privacy. I remember when we were filming «Thriller,» Jackie Onassis and Shaye Areheart came to California to discuss this book. There were photographers in the trees, everywhere. It was not possible for us to do anything without it being noticed and reported.

The price of fame can be a heavy one. Is the price you pay worth it? Consider that you really have no privacy. You can’t really do anything unless special arrangements are made. The media prints whatever you say. They report whatever you do. They know what you buy, which movies you see, you name it. If I go to a public library, they print the titles of the books I check out. In Florida once, they printed my whole schedule in the paper; everything I did from ten in the morning until six at night. «After he did this, he did that, and after he did that, he went there, then he went door to door, and then he . . .»

I remember thinking to myself, «What if I were trying to do something that I didn’t happen to want reported in the paper?» All of this is the price of fame.

I think my image gets distorted in the public’s mind. They don’t get a clear or full picture of what I’m like, despite the press coverage I mentioned early. Mistruths are printed as fact, in some cases, and frequently only half of a story will be told. The part that doesn’t get printed is often the part that would make the printed part less sensational by shedding light on the facts. As a result, I think some people don’t think I’m a person who determines what’s happening with his career. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I’ve been accused of being obsessed with my privacy and it’s true that I am. People stare at you when you’re famous. They’re observing you and that’s understandable, but it’s not always easy. If you were to ask me why I wear sunglasses in public as often as I do, I’d tell you it’s because I simply don’t like to have to constantly look everyone in the eye. It’s a way of concealing just a bit of myself. After I had my wisdom teeth pulled, the dentist gave me a surgical mask to wear home to keep out germs. I loved that mask. It was great — much better than sunglasses — and I had fun wearing it around for a while. There’s so little privacy in my life that concealing a little bit of me is a way to give myself a break from all that. It may be considered strange, I know, but I like my privacy.

I can’t answer whether or not I like being famous, but I do love achieving goals. I love not only reaching a mark I’ve set for myself but exceeding it. Doing more than I thought I could, that’s a great feeling. There’s nothing like it. I think it’s so important to set goals for yourself. It gives you an idea of where you want to go and how you want to get there. If you don’t aim for something, you’ll never know whether you could have hit the mark.

I’ve always joked that I didn’t ask to sing and dance, but it’s true. When I open my mouth, music comes out. I’m honored that I have this ability. I thank God for it every day. I try to cultivate what He gave me. I feel I’m compelled to do what I do.

There are so many things all around us to be thankful for. Wasn’t it Robert Frost who wrote about the world a person can see in a leaf? I think that’s true. That’s what I love about being with kids. They notice everything. They aren’t jaded. They get excited by things we’ve forgotten to get excited about any more. They are so natural too, so unself-conscious. I love being around them. There always seems to be a bunch of kids over at the house and they’re always welcome. They energize me — just being around them. They look at everything with such fresh eyes, such open minds. That’s part of what makes kids so creative. They don’t worry about the rules. The picture doesn’t have to be in the center of the piece of paper. The sky doesn’t have to be blue. They are accepting people too. The only demand they make is to be treated fairly — and to be loved. I think that’s what we all want.

I would like to think that I’m an inspiration for the children I meet. I want kids to like my music. Their approval means more to me than anyone else’s. It’s always the kids who know which song is going to be a hit. You see kids who can’t even talk yet, but they’ve got a little rhythm going. It’s funny. But they’re a tough audience. In fact, they’re the toughest audience. There have been so many parents who have come to me and told me that their baby knows «Beat It» or loves «Thriller.» George Lucas told me his daughter’s first words were «Michael Jackson.» I felt on top of the world when he told me that.

I spend a lot of free time — in California and when I’m traveling — visiting children’s hospitals. It makes me so happy to be able to brighten those kids’ day by just showing up and talking with them, listening to what they have to say and making them feel better. It’s so sad for children to have to get sick. More than anyone else, kids don’t deserve that. They often can’t even understand what’s wrong with them. It makes my heart twist. When I’m with them, I just want to hug them and make it all better for them. Sometimes sick children will visit me at home or in my hotel rooms on the road. A parent will get in touch with me and ask if their child can visit with me for a few minutes. Sometimes when I’m with them I feel like I understand better what my mother must have gone through with her polio. Life is too precious and too short not to reach out and touch the people we can.

You know, when I was going through that bad period with my skin and my adolescent growth spurts, it was kids who never let me down. They were the only ones who accepted the fact that I was no longer little Michael and that I was really the same person inside, even if you didn’t recognize me. I’ve never forgotten that. Kids are great. If I were living for no other reason than to help and please kids, that would be enough for me. They’re amazing people. Amazing. I am a person who is very much in control of his life. I have a team of exceptional people working for me and they do an excellent job of presenting me with the facts that keep me up-to-date on everything that’s going on at MJJ Productions so that I can know the options and make the decisions. As far as my creativity is concerned, that’s my domain and I enjoy that aspect of my life as much or more than any other.

I think I have a goody-goody image in the press and I hate that, but it’s hard to fight because I don’t normally talk about myself. I am a shy person. It’s true. I don’t like giving interviews or appearing on talk shows. When Doubleday approached me about doing this book, I was interested in being able to talk about how I feel in a book that would be mine — my words and my voice. I hope it will clear up some misconceptions.

Everybody has many facets to them and I’m no different. When I’m in public, I often feel shy and reserved. Obviously, I feel differently away from the glare of cameras and staring people. My friends, my close associates, know there’s another Michael that I find it difficult to present in the outlandish «public» situations I often find myself in.

It’s different when I’m onstage, however. When I perform, I lose myself. I’m in total control of that stage. I don’t think about anything. I know what I want to do from the moment I step out there and I love every minute of it. I’m actually relaxed onstage. Totally relaxed. It’s nice. I feel relaxed in the studio too. I know whether something feels right. If it doesn’t, I know how to fix it. Everything has to be in place and if it is you feel good, you feel fulfilled. People used to underestimate my ability as a songwriter. They didn’t think of me as a songwriter, so when I started coming up with songs, they’d look at me like: «Who really wrote that?» I don’t know what they must have thought — that I had someone back in the garage who was writing them for me? But time cleared up those misconceptions. You always have to prove yourself to people and so many of them don’t want to believe. I’ve heard tales of Walt Disney going from studio to studio when he first started out, trying to sell his work unsuccessfully and being turned down. When he was finally given a chance, everyone thought he was the greatest thing that ever happened.

Sometimes when you’re treated unfairly it makes you stronger and more determined. Slavery was a terrible thing, but when black people in America finally got out from under that crushing system, they were stronger . They knew what it was to have your spirit crippled by people who are controlling your life. They were never going to let that happen again. I admire that kind of strength. People who have it take a stand and put their blood and soul into what they believe.

People often ask me what I’m like. I hope this book will answer some of those questions, but these things might help too. My favorite music is an eclectic mix. For example, I love classical music. I’m crazy about Debussy. Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and Clair de Lune . And Prokofiev. I could listen to Peter and the Wolf over and over and over again. Copland is one of my all-time favorite composers. You can recognize his distinctive brass sounds right away. Billy the Kid is fabulous. I listen to a lot of Tchaikovsky. The Nutcracker Suite is a favorite. I have a large collection of show tunes also — Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer, Lerner and Loewe, Harold Arlen, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and the great Holland-Dozier-Holland. I really admire those guys. I like Mexican food very much. I’m a vegetarian, so fortunately fresh fruits and vegetables are a favorite of mine.

I love toys and gadgets. I like to see the latest things manufacturers have come out with. If there’s something really wonderful, I’ll buy one.

I’m crazy about monkeys, especially chimps. My chimp Bubbles is a constant delight. I really enjoy taking him with me on trips or excursions. He’s a wonderful distraction and a great pet.

I love Elizabeth Taylor. I’m inspired by her bravery. She has been through so much and she is a survivor. That lady has been through a lot and she’s walked out of it on two feet. I identify with her very strongly because of our experiences as child stars. When we first started talking on the phone, she told me she felt as if she had known me for years. I felt the same way.

Katharine Hepburn is a dear friend too. I was afraid to meet her at first. We talked for a while when I first arrived for a stay on the set of On Golden Pond , where I was Jane Fonda’s guest. She invited me to have dinner with her the next night. I felt very fortunate. Since then, we have visited one another and remained close. Remember, it was Katharine Hepburn who got me to remove my sunglasses at the Grammy Awards. She’s a big influence on me. She’s another strong person and a private person.

I believe performers should try to be strong as an example to their audiences. It’s staggering what a person can do if they only try. If you’re under pressure, play off that pressure and use it to advantage and make whatever you’re doing better. Performers owe it to people to be strong and fair.

Often in the past performers have been tragic figures. A lot of the truly great people have suffered or died because of pressure and drugs, especially liquor. It’s so sad. You feel cheated as a fan that you didn’t get to watch them evolve as they grew older. One can’t help wondering what performances Marilyn Monroe would have put in or what Jimi Hendrix might have done in the 1980s.

A lot of celebrities say they don’t want their children to go into show business. I can understand their feelings, but I don’t agree with them. If I had a son or daughter, I’d say, «By all means, be my guest. Step right in there. If you want to do it, do it.»

To me, nothing is more important than making people happy, giving them a release from their problems and worries, helping to lighten their load. I want them to walk away from a performance I’ve done, saying, «That was great. I want to go back again. I had a great time.» To me, that’s what it’s all about. That’s wonderful. That’s why I don’t understand when some celebrities say they don’t want their kids in the business.

I think they say that because they’ve been hurt themselves. I can understand that. I’ve been there too.


-Michael Jackson

Encino, California