Monday, August 17, 2009

One Bizarre Lunch with Joe Jackson

I've had many odd days in my career. Yesterday belongs in the Top Five.

I've just come from lunch with Joe Jackson, father of Michael Jackson, at Simon at Palms Place. Erich Bergen and I were there to meet with him about "Las Vegas Celebrates The Music of Michael Jackson," the massive Aug. 29 charity benefit tribute featuring the stars of the Strip we're doing to raise $100,000 for public school music programs. Joe Jackson will be at the Palms that day as well to accept a celebrity star in Michael's honor to be bestowed by Brenden Theatres, the cinema that MJ and his children once frequented.

At first, it seemed I had missed what was to be a very brief encounter. Erich got there first and told him our plans as the two took a ride up an elevator to the famed and elaborate Brenden Celebrity Suite (BCS) above the Brenden Theatre box office that Johnny Brenden uses to entertain celebrities and VIPs who visit for Cinevegas and other events. Brenden's folks had wanted us to walk him there to show Joe Jackson a massive Swarovski-framed mirror (see it to your left) because Brenden plans to get a smaller but similar one to frame a photo of Michael that shall forever hang in said fancy suite.

Erich told me that when they were in the elevator to that suite, Joe Jackson took a photo of Michael out of his pocket, looked at it sadly, said, "I can't believe he's gone," and then just as suddenly snapped out of that.

By the time I arrived, the encounter was all of 5 minutes old and Erich assumed it was over. Joe nodded sagely about our plans, said he thought it was great, took a phone call and wandered off without saying goodbye.

A little while later, I found him sitting alone staring into space in the food court at the Palms. We sat down with him and he told us he hopes to be at the concert but that the family had decided to (finally) bury MJ at the Forest Lawn Cemetery in L.A. at 10 a.m. that morning. (This was actually pretty big news, and I am breaking it via the New York Daily News tonight. I have timed this post to appear after that story goes up on NYDailyNews.Com.)

I asked how his wife, Katherine Jackson, was faring and he said she bursts into tears regularly. He also said that he tried to see his son in the months before his death but “the security guards wouldn’t let me get to him.”

He was then joined by Crystal Marven, a Vegas-based singer he has signed to his record label, and her mother. He wanted to show the women that ornate frame, so we went back up to the BCS and I got to snap this image of Erich (above) with his idol's dad. I got loads of other photos of the special Brenden suite that I'll share in a separate post.

By now, Joe was hungry, so we led him over to Simon at Palms Place for brunch where the namesake, Kerry Simon, greeted us. Joe chowed down on ribs and jalapeno cornbread and enjoyed the view of the all the hot women in bikinis cavorting at the pool right outside.

I quizzed him about a few other outstanding MJ issues. On the subject of the LAPD's investigation, he said he has now asked U.S. Rep. Diane Watson, D-Los Angeles, to open a Congressional investigation, too. He thinks Dr. Conrad Murray, the Vegas-based doctor whose home and business have been searched in raids aimed at linking him and his possible administering of propofol to MJ's death, is a fall guy "for a whole lot of people." And he dismissed LaToya's claim that Neverland would be moved to Las Vegas. "How would they do that?" Jackson asked.

By the end, Joe Jackson promised to get to the Palms for at least the end of our show, the after-party and to be on hand to receive a celebrity star from Brenden Theatres around 7 p.m. There's also a charity showing of "Moonwalker" at the theater at 8 p.m., with proceeds of that, too, going to the Clark County Public Education Foundation.

One final post-script. Erich and I handled the lunch check and tip, of course. But Joe pulled out his money and seemed genuinely surprised by the gesture. I was, in turn, surprised by his surprise. I would think after all these years he would be accustomed to people falling all over themselves to treat him. Joe Jackson was a very odd fellow, to be sure, and there's a lot about him that makes one scratch their heads. But I found it interesting that he evidently was not expecting to get a free pass.


Philip said...

Fascinating article, Steve, and congratulations on getting the scoop on Michael's burial date.

Louis Theroux of the BBC had an equally eccentric encounter with Joe Jackson a few years ago - it's worth catching. Some details can be found at and you can Google for a transcript as well.

mike_ch said...

That is one gaudy frame, but it fits MJ's public persona quite well.

Though he wasn't always candid about it, it's pretty obvious to any observer Michael Jackson had strong feelings against his father, and being forced into entertainment at such a young age devastated his psyche and resulted in spending his adult life trying to capture lost youth.

"The security guards wouldn't let me get to him."

Gee, wonder why?

Don said...

Interesting, but somehow very sad at the same time.
When all is said and done, Michael was still his son.
I can't wait until the 29th. Sounds like it is going to be an amazing show.

Anonymous said...

If your benefit is successful and able to raise MORE than $100,000 what happens to the amount raised above $100,000? Does it go to the same charity or another?


$100K is the goal, but if we raise more, then whatever we raise goes to the same cause. They showed us a pdf of the list of programs that need funding and it is exhaustive, so there's always more need than what we can raise.

Heather (of Troy and Heather in Las Vegas) said...

Joe Jackson is an interesting man. Troy and I ran into him the night of our wedding and he blessed our marriage. That was...sweet?