Some of my wonderful moments with Michael Jackson
by David Winters
I first met Michael Jackson on Sunday, 11 March 2001. Diana Ross introduced us as he was to appear on her TV Special that Diana had she also asked me to work on with her. At the time I had been doing all of her stage and TV shows. Michael Jackson was to be a guest and when he turned up for rehearsals Diana introduced me to him. The first thing he said to me before even saying hello was “I know you”, “I don’t think so Michael”, I said. He said “I watch you almost every week, you know ………“West Side Story” and he snapped his fingers and did a little step and smiled. I understood.
From that moment on there was nothing to explain to each other, as we were both on the same wavelength.
He told me “it’s my favourite film David or should I say A-rab” and he laughed “and I have loads of questions I’d like to ask you about it, if that’s alright” Michael was very polite and respectful and he even seemed a little shy and withdrawn. He was a sweetheart and I certainly loved his work. A-rab was the role I played in the film “West Side Story”
Actually I saw a lot of “West Side Story” in his movements and certainly the video for the song “Beat It” was a complete steal of “West Side Story” even right down to the knife fight. I also recognise a lot of Bob Fosse and Fred Astaire in his dancing. Well I always say “ If you’re gonna steal, steal from the best” and Michael certainly did.
That’s not to take anything away from Michael’s talent. Obviously he didn’t steal the moonwalk from any one of them. But you know you can’t help being influenced by the great one’s. Even if you’re a great one yourself. And he certainly was!!
Michael was funny and he had a million questions about the film. In fact every time I’ve seen him since then he always asks me questions about “West Side Story”.
I know secretly he would have loved to have been in it. In fact he whispered it to me once.
In 1995 I left America to live in other countries. United Kingdom and Thailand are two places I spent a lot of time. But also every year I spend a lot of my time travelling between France, Italy, Hong Kong, Romania, Singapore, Russia etc. going to all the film markets and festivals.
Well I had been in London for a short while when I met a stunning young girl from Russia, Irina. We met in Mona Lisa, a very popular restaurant on King’s Road with a very eclectic customer base. On any day you could see a pensioner sitting near a rock star such as Eric Clapton, who IS a regular customer there. As for Irina, I liked her very much and we started seeing each other almost every night.
During this time I was putting a deal together to film a Pilot for a TV series “Star School” in Bucharest, Romania, and also I was trying to sell the tv stations there some of the films from my 100 film library, so I invited Irina to accompany me there. Michael Badica, my partner in Romania had sold 3 films and they were released theatrically, but I never got any money from the distributor, so Irina and I went to check it out.
Not long after we arrived in Bucharest, Romania I met a guy who owned a tv station and was the promoter of The Michael Jackson Tour. We got talking and I told him that I had worked with Michael previously. He mentioned me to Michael and then came back and told me that Michael wanted to see me right away and was inviting myself and Irina to accompany him to the show and he gave me some extra special V.I.P. passes and told me that we could sit right in the middle of the stadium next to the sound and lights in Michael’s special V.I.P. section.
The stadium held over 100,000 people and that night we went with Michael in a limousine. Actually it was part of a huge convoy of limousines that was guarded by hundreds of army soldiers. Michael loved uniforms and loved the feeling of being a dignitary. He was very excited about all the pomp and circumstance surrounding his appearances there. When we arrived there were literally hundreds more military personnel watching over us. We were first served food and drinks and then when it was time for Michaels entrance, he said goodbye to me, and I and Irina were led out the the middle of the stadium to an area that was also very protected by many soldiers with all their gear on. Almost kind of a cross between a soldier and a riot policeman. We were like in a little oasis in this huge stadium and there was a ring of these special forces of police and army men surrounding us the whole time. It was kind of surreal.
It was an incredible stage show, and Irina was in hog heaven as she watched Michael perform, having just been with him in the limousine. He WAS amazing and he definitely is one of the all time great live performers I have ever seen. In all we saw about 4 or 5 of his shows that week. Everyone sold out, and everyone better than the last. Michael worked soo hard to please his fans. He gave it his all. And boy, did they ever LOVE Michael. The only time I have ever seen this kind of adulation before was when I did 4 films with Elvis.
After the show one of Michael’s people came up to me and told me that Michael wanted to talk to me in his hotel suite alone. Poor Irina, she had wanted to see Michael again just to tell him how much she loved his show. As it turned out, I also wanted to talk to Michael about a musical film project that I had called “Nicholas Jingle”. It is the story of how Santa Clause came to be. I wanted Michael to play Oliver J. Twinkleberry, an elf and the spirit of Christmas in the film.
So with Irina and Michael Badica waiting in the coffee shop of the hotel I was taken up to Michael’s suite.
Obviously we are all aware of the charges that have been levelled at Michael, but I never thought much about it because I know that Roman Polanski was set up with a young girl, I had had my own problems with the law and I know of many other cases where innocent people have been prayed on and set up to look guilty. It has killed some careers and ruined numerous lives. Out of frustration and humiliation some actors have even taken their own lives.
I was being led into Michael’s presidential suite when a little boy walks past me.
I must say for that split second even I thought “My God, is it true?” then as we turn into the living room there is a little girl playing in the corner. I wonder just what is going on here and then before I know it I’m introduced to the mother of the children,
who is on the couch in the living room. She is well off, that’s for sure and then I meet her husband. I had seen him filming the show on video several times. They had just come to say goodbye to Michael as they were leaving in the morning. It shows you how fast you can jump to the wrong conclusion. Even me who never believed what the press said about Michael. I felt real stupid. But I never mentioned it to anyone.
Just then Michael came out and said “why don’t we sit in the dining room”. I told him what a fabulous show he put on and we exchanged pleasantries. I told him that I was now very friendly with his dad Joe, and that his mother Katherine, who was really sweet, had cooked me dinner one night at his house in the valley in L.A.
He then started with his questions regarding, you know it, “West Side Story”. As he’s asking me one of the questions he puts these crazy glasses on that that have slinkys for eyes. You know the kind that you laugh at when you see them. Big eyes, and these silly round metal things falling from each eye. Michael looked soo silly but his questions were very serious. We sat there for about 45 minutes talking, and oblivious of anyone else in the room. The promoter was also in the room with us but Michael never said a word to him, and didn’t even acknowledge him. It was terrific. It was the first time I had had such a long conversation with him, and I realized how well he knew “West Side Story”. I also talked about my film and he said he was very very interested in it. He told me to get him the script and he’d get beck to me very quickly. My heart was beating very fast at the prospect of having Michael in the film.
We said goodnight to each other and I left feeling very happy personally and very satisfied professionally about our time together.
My friend the promoter went down in the elevator with me and was stunned. He told me that as long as he knew Michael he had never seen him talk to someone for so long and be so animated. In fact he said that Michael rarely talked to anyone. I felt truly honoured as Michael had invited me to come see him again the next day. As Irina and I retired to our hotel all I could think about was what a lovely sweet human being Michael was, as well as one of the greatest entertainers in the world! In that way, he reminded me of my other friend Sammy Davis Jr.
When Michael moved to Amsterdam with his show I decided to go and take some friends with me. My friend Skye (ex-stuntwoman), Ciro Orsini (restaurant owner),
Garry Stretch (actor and ex- Light Middleweight Boxing Champion of the World) all came along. We drove in two cars, Skye and I in one and the others in another. With the train through the chunnel that is under The English Channel, it’s an easy drive. We met my friends Arthur Lodder and George when we got there.
There were two beautiful blondes from Sweden …………………….who were students and were studying in Holland. I had met them on a previous trip to Amsterdam and the three of us had a great time so I invited them on another day to come along and hang with me and also to see Michael’s show and meet Michael. Needless to say they were over the moon.
Wherever Michael appears anywhere he is the hot ticket, and in Amsterdam they sold out in 45 minutes for all 6 shows. He is truly a phenomenon.
I decided to have Skye stay together with me in the Krasnopolski Hotel as we figured we would be up all night, every night, so why pay for two places. Poor Skye. The very first night we were there, myself and the girls decided to get it on and I couldn’t tell them that Skye was staying with me, so she had to go hide and sleep outside the room on the balcony. Poor baby, I thought about her as I was having a time and a half.
Next morning we laughed as we know each other for many years and we’ve been through all kinds of interesting times and experiences together.
So later that afternoon Skye and I went to the Hotel where hundreds of screaming kids were being held back by the police and waiting for Michael. They screamed even louder when I pulled in with my cream coloured Rolls Royce and it’s California license plate “Muvies” They all tried to look in the back, thinking that I was smuggling Michael in to the hotel. Security let us through and we picked up all of our tickets, and just as we were about to go Michael comes in the front door of the Hotel lobby. There’s madness outside. Lights flashing everywhere, fans screaming even louder than before and all the handlers trying to rush Michael through the lobby to
to his suite. Michael sees me and stops. ”Hi David” he says in that hushed tone, i’m now used to. He was barely audible above the din of the fans. “Hi Michael” I said in return “this is my friend Skye”. He said “I’ve just come from the hospital, where I saw a lot of sick kids” I said “You must be exhausted, go rest and we’ll see you backstage or here tomorrow”. He nodded in appreciation and was swooped up and almost carried to the elevator by his entourage. I turned and watched him disappear.
I thought, what a giving person. He just arrived in town and even before he checks into the hotel he goes right away to the hospital to visit the seriously sick children in the cancer ward. He seriously LOVED children. And I loved the child in Michael!!
In fact I accompanied him on one of these trips. He would go tirelessly from hospital to hospital meeting these children just to brighten up their lives. When he finished the visit he would ask the hospital nurses and doctors what was needed at the hospital in terms of equipment for the kids. Once told, he would then make an anonymous donation to the hospital.
I also know for a fact that he has given tens of millions of dollars to many children’s charities anonymously.
Why don’t the papers write about these things? The goodness that he takes time out to do, and his unselfishness in his love of all the children on this planet. This is a very generous person, in every way.
I also remembered that in the same way, Frank Sinatra gave tens of millions to charities, also anonymously. Yet no one ever wrote that about Frank either.
In a funny way, for a moment, they seemed the same to me Michael and Frank.
They were both singing stars as kids and both became institutions. And the only press they ever got was negative and yet they were both such good people. They were both misunderstood and were both hounded by the press. And were both bigger than life.
Well it was show time and It was arranged that Kenny Ortega, who was Michael’s director on this show and a good friend of mine, would drive with me to the stadium. Kenny has gone on to huge success as a director of the incredibly popular Disney “High School Movie” films.
All my friends piled into my car and off we went to see Michael. Having a Special Michael’s V.I.P. pass made it real easy for me to get to backstage where the trucks had unloaded Michael’s sets and props and costumes. Michael’s show travels with 250 people. It takes 4 of the largest planes in the world from Russia and numerous trucks to move the show from city to city. I parked and we went to the hospitality area to get some drinks and food.
We went back to Michael’s dressing room where he sees more sick children before the show. In a way, his whole life is dedicated to sick children. These kids adore Michael and during the show in one of the numbers he has about 40 of them come on stage and a little girl gives a flower to a soldier who is coming out of a tank. It’s a very touching moment. And YES he travels with the tank!!! He ships it in one of those huge Russian cargo planes from country to country.
All my friends got to meet Michael and were thrilled. Skye and I went to see every show that week and I brought my 2 Swedish girlfriends to two of them.
My Friend Arthur was part owner with George in a fabulous disco in Amsterdam “Heaven for Sinners”, so we all went there after the show. A bunch of the dancers from Michaels show joined us and we kind of took over the place and danced all night long. We did the same thing at a few other clubs during that week. It was party! party! party! and soo much fun.
One day, as I was waiting in the hotel lobby for Michael, a bunch of his close fans
came over and spoke to me. They had seen me talking with Michael and wanted to pick my brain. These kids follow him all over the world. They come from Germany, America, South Africa, everywhere. If they can afford it they follow his tour, even to Hawaii and The Far East. Some of the girls and boys I talked to talk about nothing other than Michael. Some of the girls dream of marrying him and they are all very friendly with each other and try to find out where he will be every day and then they will be there just hoping to catch a glimpse of him. He knows them all and so they are allowed to get closer to him, like in his lobby, and they just wait and wait all day, all night, and every day and night for their hero. A couple have called me since, and asked me for information about Michael’s whereabouts, and I’ve tried to explain to them, that I have my own life and I don’t spend all my time finding out where he is, which seemed hard for them to understand. Then there’s another group who wait outside the hotel, all night long hoping he’ll come to his window for a second. Sometimes Michael sends out food and soup or drinks for these kids. He is very thoughtful in this way, and truly appreciates his fans.
Another day I was waiting to see him and one of assistants had been told by Michael to tell me he was sorry that he wouldn’t be able to see me because he had some doctors that just flew in, and they were giving him shots in his face. I don’t know if I heard her correctly but it sounded kind of weird to me. During that week most of the daytimes Michael was always going to see kids in hospitals or orphanage and then in the evening he did the show. He expended a huge amount of energy in his shows and I don’t know how he did it.
But I can tell you for sure, this man was truly dedicated to helping children all over the world. And I feel honoured to have known him, and also to have worked with him. He will be remembered forever as his music will live on and on.
Michael my dear sweet friend, rest, and I hope you are finally at peace.
Dated…. Friday June 26, 2009