Musical talent, charisma, hard work, non-stop publicity and quirky, if not downright odd behavior, made Michael Jackson a pop superstar.
For many readers, this book – Remember the Time – will make him a human being. In some cases, he’ll be seen for the first time as just a man and a loving father, wanting friendship and love. The book is all the more poignant because the world knows the outcome. Jackson passed away on June 25, 2009.
Not even his death could be simple. There was the spectacle of his memorial and there were lawsuits – always lawsuits.
The subtitle of the book is Protecting Michael Jackson in His Final Days, and it’s the memoir of his two bodyguards Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard, with the highly talented help of writer Tanner Colby, covering the time period of 2006 (when Jackson returned from exile in Bahrain) until his passing in 2009.
Neither bodyguard knew when his work began that the client would be the King of Pop. Bill Whitfield was the first to be hired. He thought he was doing a one-time security detail for a dignitary – picking the client up from the Las Vegas airport and taking the gentleman to his new home. Imagine his surprise when the “dignitary” arrived and it was Michael Jackson. He took an instant liking to Bill and assumed he’d become his full-time protector. Bill Whitfield spent the first night setting up a security base in Jackson’s garage, more or less in a daze wondering how his life had changed so quickly. The next morning, young Paris Jackson brought him a mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows, because Daddy said she should do it.
Small human touches such as this are the heart of the book. Once fans learned where Jackson lived, he frequently sent out soft drinks and snacks to them, even providing lawn chairs to the die-hard fans who camped out in front of his property.
Bill soon learned that protecting Jackson was too much for one person. At the time he was hired, Jackson’s “staff” consisted of an assistant and a nanny. He reached out to Javon Beard, a fellow security person, and the two provided not only protection but a comfortable life and sense of normalcy to Jackson and his children. Their loyalty and respect for the star and his family shine through on every page. “You would not be reading this if Michael Jackson were still alive,” they tell readers. “We know the things tabloids pretend to know. We know the things you wish you knew,” they promise.
But don’t expect scandal or trash-talking of the star. In fact, most of what they tell would not have made the tabloids, because it’s an inside look at the daily life of a man, who happened to be an eccentric megastar.
Aside from keeping Jackson and family safe from intruders or the many death threats he was prone to, they helped get him from point A to point B, which might be a restaurant, movie theatre or hotel. But instead of the flashy entrance that would befit a superstar, they brought the singer through service entrances, past heaps of trash and into service elevators, to avoid a mob of fans.
There is a large sprinkling of humor in the book, including a time when Jackson went to Wal-Mart wearing his facial veil. Wal-Mart security asked Bill who the man was and he said it was a rival singer, Prince. No one bothered them for the entire visit after this. Back in the car afterward, Jackson (accustomed to throngs of people and being escorted rapidly out of a location to avoid a stampede) asked what happened this time around. Bill said, “I told them you were Prince.” Jackson laughed and said, “No wonder they left us alone!”
It’s fascinating to read about the inner workings of Jackson’s life, and what it took to get through each day. It’s also sad to see how mismanaged his life became and how he was taken advantage of by so many who were supposedly in his inner circle. It’s not often that a compassionate book is written from the perspective of people such as Whitfield and Beard. It tells a lot about the final years in Jackson’s life without being a “tell-all” with the negative connotations usually attached to such a venture.
Published simultaneously at http://www.bookpleasures.com.