[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."]
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.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with