June 27th, 2009
08:00 AM ET

My brush with the King of Pop

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/SHOWBIZ/Music/06/26/Michael.Jackson.russia/art.jackson.skin.grammys.gi.jpg caption="In spite of all of the rumors and his 'Wacko Jack' persona, Jackson's musical draw remained strong."]

Gideon Yago
The Daily Beast

The first time I ever had a panic attack was at a Michael Jackson concert. I think it was the sheer surreality of the event that set me off. Because I was the junior-est junior reporter for MTV News at the time, I pulled the short straw to cover Michael’s 30th Anniversary Celebration Concert at Madison Square Garden.

This was September 7th, 2001, the night after MTV’s Video Music Awards. The night before, I watched the self-proclaimed King of Pop burst through a prop wall to pop, lock, break, and grind on stage showing the new guard of fame eugenics experiments how it was done. Most of the channel’s staff were hung over or burned out the next day so I got the gig of working the red carpet for Michael.

Thank God I’d experimented with acid in high school. Working that rope line was like being an extra in a David Lynch movie. It started out normal, just trawling for sound bites and yelling over the flashbulbs at N*Sync, Britney Spears, and Brandy.

But it got weirder and weirder. The circus machine just kept churning out increasingly bizarre characters, all of them part of Michael’s party train. Here was Star Jones insisting on Michael’s rightful place as the Artist of the Millennium. There was Liza Minnelli in kabuki makeup singing. Marlon Brando yelled at the audience about dead children from a divan clad in a purple muumuu. By the time Jackson finally showed up, I took it as a given that naturally, he would exit his limousine with his leather pants half off.

Thank God Elizabeth Taylor was there to shove him back in, button him up, and send him in front of the world’s press corps like a child on their first day of school. Because my mic flag said MTV, I was the only person he did an interview with on the carpet that night. It was like talking to someone in outer space.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Michael Jackson
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Sharon S

    What I find impressive is that CNN has nothing better to do than run stupid stories on Michael Jackson while Congress is passing a horrible bill that will impose AWFUL taxes on working AMERICANS!


    June 29, 2009 at 12:58 am |
  2. teresa, oh

    hmmm, i think i should have dropped some acid in high school just to be able to understand this article. i cant tell if you're serious or not. and i really wanted to hear about Michael and the concert.

    this article was way more about you than Michael. maybe, that's a good thing?

    June 28, 2009 at 2:11 pm |
  3. carmelita

    iam hurting AC.He will truly be missed. I remember the time he and his brothers were at the apol theater couldnt forget that, it was amatur night .Yes hes been doing this thing for a long time. Michael Jackson has left his mark here. R.I.P

    June 28, 2009 at 10:51 am |
  4. orianabyrd

    i don't know why they are saying bad things about michael jackson because michael jackson is a beautiful person with a good soul and i know his music was clean and michael jackson would never hurt a child at all but michael jackson had so much love to give with his music to the world .

    June 28, 2009 at 1:20 am |
  5. Manuelmacani


    June 27, 2009 at 11:19 pm |
  6. Patricia Kirkpatrick

    I knew there was something redeeming about purple-haze blotters in 1969. Ummm... Lynch would have pushed me over the edge though ~ Fantastic story with MJ.

    June 27, 2009 at 8:30 pm |
  7. Colby

    I was born in 1993 so all my life Michael has been called a child molester and other stupid things. But his death was inevitable we all die some to soon and others to late. The ones who live 85+ years are the lucky ones and the ones that die suddenly are the remembered. MJ was falling apart and no one noticed before it was to late but now he is in a better place moonwalking and doing his signature crotch grab and high pitched oh!!! and that is how i remember Michael!!!

    June 27, 2009 at 7:45 pm |
  8. AJMcMillan

    I never met Michael Jackson but I grew up with his music, being only 7 years older than him. I would just like to say that having vitiligo myself I kow how Michael felt and I know how you the public would have stared at him. I understand why he depigmented. Havinf vitiligo myself for over 20 years I can see the tell tell signs of the desease on Michael. Vitiligo attacks your body in many ways and it mostly attacks your hands and face area. If I had the money like Michael I would choose to depigment. It is much easier to go thru life white faced than two tone color.

    My heart goes out to the Jackson family in their time of sorrow. My kids, myself and family will miss his music. But thru all of this he is at peace his mind and heart will rest now. We all hate he is gone but I'm glad for the peaceful state he is in up there with all the angels walking around heaven singing day and night. We shall see him again. God Bless the Jackson family may God give them the strength to get thru this hour.

    June 27, 2009 at 7:15 pm |
  9. Bpaaki Vandi

    Jackson's death hit me like a ton of bricks and I am still in daze as I try to let it sink in and accept the fact that he's really gone. But as we mourn, let us not 4get what a great storyteller he was through his music, let us not 4get how he set the standard for today's Justin Timberlakes, Ushers, Chris Browns, and even the Snoop Doggs, and many other big-name artists in Country, Rock, R&B, Hip-Hop, etc. because he influenced them tremendously. And this is something they, the artists, can attest to. I can vividly recall back when me and my friends would play his DVDs and attempt at emulating his dance moves, especially those in his Thriller video, an attempt which would not really succeed lol but we kept working at it.

    As a fan I'd just like to say that Michael Jackson stood up for many issues. He sang about those issues and made the world aware of what was happening and that lead to his humanitarian efforts around the world. Michael was not the cantankerous type. His persona was very unique. In fact, in his song "Man in the Mirror", he expressed that if we wanted to make a change for others, we first need to take a look at ourselves in the mirror and make a change within ourselves. This was a man of great virtue that lived up to what he believed in. We should all carry out what that person in the Mirror tells us and in turn, our reflections won't be just a mere copy, but it'll show or lead us to opportunities to benefit and help others.

    Rest in Peace to the The King of Pop!
    August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009

    June 27, 2009 at 7:06 pm |
  10. ronald ramsaroop

    THERE are TWO PERSONS I LOOK UP TO AS insperation in life they are Micheal Jackson&MR.ANDERSON COOPER EVEN I NEVER SAW THEM IN PERSON CAUSE I LIVE IN A FAR AWAY COUNTRY IN SOUTHAMERICA CALLED GUYANA AND ONE DAY I HOPE TO SEE THEM BUT RIGHT NOW AM said cause only anderson cooper i can get a chance to see in the futher cause micheal is ,gone,.

    June 27, 2009 at 5:47 pm |
  11. enada

    I can only imagine!

    June 27, 2009 at 4:00 pm |
  12. Chijioke (CJ)

    The end of an era, adieu micheal. The world over even in death will forever be indepted to your good self for the joy you brought to mankind.

    June 27, 2009 at 2:44 pm |
  13. Linda Ellis

    This article really expresses how "Big" he really was...
    If I could change one thing it would be to remember the early years. I went to see Michael in Toronto and like you, felt like it was a major event in my life.
    He was magical.
    The day we lost Elvis was like the Day we lost Michael.
    We will always remember where we were when we heard the news...
    Just reminds us all how presious life really is.
    Thanks For a wonderful story, I follow you often and respect your honesty in reporting.

    June 27, 2009 at 2:42 pm |
  14. Juanita Alexander

    Look at the Video "We Are Not alone" It starts and ends with Michael having angel wings" This would be great PR on anything. You should end a segment with this depiction! Juanita Alexander

    June 27, 2009 at 2:10 pm |
  15. kaelynne

    man i cant beleive he died that sucks my dad loved his music he will be very missed by his fans but most important by his family his family is in my prayers .R.I.P.

    June 27, 2009 at 12:05 pm |
  16. Carmen

    A very sad lose to the world. Michael Jackson should be remembered for what he accomplished in his 50 years of life. He had his "down" side in life as we all do. Noone is perfect! I am sure he did the best he could as we all try to do. But he had the additional stress of always being in the public eye and no matter what was reported as good or bad and not always true surely took a serious toll on him physically, financially, emotionally and mentally! It all comes with the "Fame". I feel he was a lonely person at times. He had some close friends but not as normal people do. Some of his friends could have been "false" just to take advantage of Michael for their own selfish gains with no real regard to Michael's feelings. The price of "fame" again! To bad he did not accomplish his "comeback" tour! In March of 09 when he told the public of the upcoming tour he did look healthy. Since then who knows other than the people that were in contact with him during the preparation and rehersals. As reported he has been on pain meds due to back and leg injuries and who is to say if the pain meds were increased for him to perform during the rehersals. Just normal aging process does not allow a 50 year old person to peform as a 30 year old and we all know he was reported to being a perfectionist so I feel he did what he thought was needed to accomplish his "best". How much he insisted on with or without help from the in-house doctor noone will know. Dr Murray might be totally innocent in all of this not having been Michael's long term physican, What about the person that placed the 911 call? Has he been interviewed? Reports say Michael was all ready cool to the touch – he could have been not breathing several minutes before anyone was aware of this situation since it was reported Dr Murray had given him sleeping aides. I had the pleasure of meeting Michael during his "Bad" concert tour in Kansas City in the late 80's. The day afer the concert at Crown Center hotel just sheer luck allowed me to run into Michael with hotel security. Michael took out time to be so very polite, sweet and courteous and talked briefly to us 6 people and gave me and my young son his autograph. I was so very impressed with his attitude toward us – considering his fame! My heartfelt sincere regards to his family and children.

    June 27, 2009 at 11:54 am |
  17. Mary

    Hello Gideon,

    Well, that sure was a really nice account of your brush
    with the King of Pop. If you interviewed him, why not
    provide the interview (given that YOU were the ONLY person
    who interviewed him???).

    Making fun of having a panic attack displays your immaturity
    and of all the 360 articles I have read this one, hands-down,
    is the worst one.

    June 27, 2009 at 11:41 am |
  18. Eliza A. Presley

    I saw him in concert in Houston in 1988, when I took my 5 year old son, Adam.

    Adam doesn't recall it now, but wow, was he mesmerized that nite!

    Personal life aside – he was an unbeliev able performer.

    Maybe it's better he didn't get the chance to finish his 'comeback' tour. In case it didn't come thru, at least he'd not have had that on his list of downfalls.

    So, I think the world needs to remember the performer he was, he deserves that memory from all of us that watched him in awe whenever he took to the stage. His only true home I believe ...


    June 27, 2009 at 11:37 am |
  19. Irene Gresia

    Michael Jackson is truly a hero. He has made all other vital news issues disappear.

    June 27, 2009 at 11:17 am |
  20. concern/denver Colorado

    The clown face that michael wore only proves the damage the plastic surgeons and makeup artist had done over the years ..The tears of a clown

    June 27, 2009 at 11:07 am |
  21. Beverly

    Pretty surreal. The people around him sums it all up tho doesn't it? He was bizarre in his own way, loved the spot light, hated the spot light. You were pretty lucky to have the encounter & opportunity. SEE, saying NO to drugs was your friend that day! LOL

    June 27, 2009 at 10:59 am |
  22. casey nunez

    I Find It Really Odd That Michael The King Of Pop married The King Of Rock & Rolls Daughter and Both Died basically the Same Way.
    After Taking Medical Drugs Prescribed By The Doctor.

    June 27, 2009 at 10:48 am |
  23. James

    I am absolutely disgusted by the way we idolize entertainers in this country! Is it any wonder why the rest of the world hates us? Everyone seems to have selective memory about Jackson! Heard someone on CNN this morning saying of him that God has another angel! Really? Do you not remember that this man was probably a molester of little boys? You think that just because he was famous that he is beyond reproach and in favor with God simply because he was famous? People get a grip!! He was just an entertainer among many, and that does not qualify him for sainthood! So keep the halo put away, and bestow that honor on someone who really deserves it!!

    June 27, 2009 at 10:19 am |
  24. Mary

    Mr. Cooper thank you very much for your work. We love you very much and alway listen to Cnn to hear what you have to report. I am so confused, sadden and angry to know this happened to such a great artist. The Dr. sent by AEG should let us see the contract stating that Michael welcomed the Doctors presence in his home. I understand that no company in 2009 will trust losing there license over not dotting all their (I'S) and crossing all their (T's). I am so upset that when the 911 call was made the gentle never called Michael's name. This Doctor need to truly be investigated. What Doctor will allow a patient to get in that state and then say I can do nothing but call EMS.

    June 27, 2009 at 9:54 am |
  25. Sean Long

    My name is Sean and i have been following the death of Michael Jackson and my condolences go out to the family. I have been following CNN in reference to the death of the Michael Jackson. Listening to the conversation via the several doctors stating how hollywood doctor prescribe an unaccountable amount of prescription drugs to people(celebrities). How drug dealers dont kill people but doctors do In the aftermath of this horrific event that has taken place, I think that a law should be made under Michael Jackson name to state that no doctor under no cirsumstances should provide anyone a large amount of different meds for pain. If they do they should suffer serious consequences.

    June 27, 2009 at 9:45 am |
  26. charles

    Jackson was great,but still a child predator and drug abuser gets more airtime than Farrah Fawcett who's a good person all around.What the #@%*!

    June 27, 2009 at 9:11 am |
  27. Kris

    What is with all the publicity of MJ? Have ya'll for got about Farrah and Ed? Don't get me wrong MJ sang pretty good back in his hayday but in the not so recent past he has been a complete whack job. Hangingkids over balconies, fondling little kids. I don't see hour upon hours of tributes to Farrah or Ed so why MJ they where just as popular if not more than he was. Ed gave people millions with the PCH and Farrah gave little boys something to look at with worring about being touch she was one of the ordginal Charlies Angles I mean come on!!!!!! If your gonna do tributes don't forget teh other 2 who have died in last week as well. Enough already he is gone. We don't need to hear about it for a week straight the same thing over and over again. Unless you are gong to do the same for the famous celebes who past away this week. Sorry for rambling on but you all do this ever time.

    June 27, 2009 at 8:58 am |