Most of the time we were in Switzerland Michael spent working in the studio, but we still found a few spare hours to visit a museum in Zurich. At an early age, Michael had introduced me to art, and we tried to go to museums whenever we traveled.
As soon as we entered this particular museum, we met the director, who was a very nice middleaged woman with glasses and bobbed hair. When it came to humor, Michael and I had always had a unique connection, and he seemed to intuitively understand the random, crazy ideas that always popped up in my mind. Now, as soon as the museum director came up to greet us, I saw a familiar glint in Michael’s eye and thought, This is going to be fun.
Michael and I had a favorite shtick. We loved to act as if we were deeply serious about a completely made-up or trivial topic, just to see what reactions we could get from people. One time we’d rented a house in Isleworth, Florida—Michael was always interested in real estate in the area—and a real estate agent was taking us to the house of Shaquille O’Neal, who at the time was playing for the Orlando Magic. Shaq was a big fan of Michael’s, so the agent had arranged a meeting.
As we drove to our appointment, Michael said, “Wow, what beautiful thesasis trees. They are amazing.” There is no such thing as a thesasis tree, of course, but who was going to question Michael Jackson?
“Yes, they are gorgeous, aren’t they?” said the agent. Michael went on to have a long conversation with him about thesasis trees. It was hilarious.
Thinking of that moment and others like it, I said to the museum director, “What perfume are you wearing? It’s delicious. Michael, you have to smell her perfume—it’s incredible.”
I sniffed one wrist while Michael sniffed the other. He said, “You smell so good.”
She said, “Oh, I’ll get you the name. I’ll write it down for you.”
Now we had her. I moved on to the hair. “Your hair. It’s beautiful. What do you do to it?”
She said, “Nothing special, I just shower.” And then she said, “Actually, I do use a spray—it gives it volume.” I made her write down the name of the spray along with her perfume.
Now, while Michael was truly passionate about art, this museum was nothing short of horrible. But this didn’t matter to us. We were on a roll. Michael went up to what had to be the most hideous painting in the room and exclaimed, “Oh my God, we have to stop here.” He pretended to be overcome by the beauty of the canvas. “I’m so sorry, but do you by any chance have a tissue?”
“Is everything okay?” I asked him.
He just shook his head. “Feel it,” he said, as if deeply moved. “This work of art is special.”
“Yes, I feel its beauty, too,” I said, keeping as straight a face as Michael had.
The director was clearly impressed. She said, “You both have such an incredible connection to art.” Now Michael was pretending to cry. The director turned to me and said, “Wow, he’s very sensitive.”
“Yes, very sensitive,” I replied. “He’s taught me everything I know about aesthetics. I feel what he’s feeling, but I’m just a little better at containing my feelings.”
“You guys,” she said, pausing dramatically for a moment, “are so special.”
We continued this journey, entertaining ourselves by alternating between asking her random questions about the crappy art and raving about her dress, exclaiming, “What’s this material? You’ve got to feel this material.”
The security guys with Michael were shaking their heads in mock disapproval at us the whole time. Our behavior was obnoxious, sure, but it was a lot of fun.
Sometimes our pranks weren’t so elaborate. There was that time in the south of France, for example, when we went to see Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal and played Ping- Pong on a gold table. We were staying in a fancy hotel. Down there, the nightlife never stops. One night Michael and I were standing on the balcony of his hotel room, watching people eating dinner at three in the morning, when Michael said, “We should do a prank.” We filled a bucket with water and … splash! … dumped it off the balcony onto the unsuspecting diners below. We ducked our heads and scrambled back into the room before anyone could see us. Nobody ever figured out that we were the culprits.
The time that Michael and his collaborators spent in the studios wasn’t entirely devoted to work. Michael kept some of his beloved video games and other games around.
He didn’t just like to play himself: he liked to watch other people play them, too—especially the Knockout Kings boxing games. But despite all the hours he spent playing those games, he was never any good at them. Much like his inability to play sports, it was pretty baffling that someone as magically coordinated as Michael would be unable to dominate video games, but he just couldn’t get the knack of handling the buttons. That said, he always knew how to have a good laugh about his lackluster skills, which made it fun for everyone.
Even back at the hotel Michael wasn’t focused solely on work and his children. When my brother Dominic and cousin Aldo came to visit, they complained that their soccer coach, who had been my soccer coach, too, wasn’t playing them enough. Michael picked up the phone at three in the morning and prank-called the guy.
“Hey, buddy,” Michael said in a weird voice, “you’d better play my son, buddy.”
“Who is this?” the coach asked.
“Don’t worry about it, buddy. You better play my son, buddy.”
Michael hung up. The four of us died laughing. The coach used *69 to figure out who was calling him, and realized that the call was coming from the Four Seasons. He put two and two together and called my parents to let them know what had happened, but I’m guessing he was a little amused to discover that his prank caller was none other than Michael Jackson.
I’d been there [at Disneyland Paris], with Michael and Eddie and we’d had one of our amazing midnight adventures. After hours, we sneaked from the hotel into the park—something we did frequently over the years (knowing, of course, that if we got busted, Michael had something akin to diplomatic immunity). We loved the thrill of getting away with something we knew we weren’t supposed to be doing.
All the rides were closed, of course, but during the night many of them were put through routine maintenance runs. We saw that “Pirates of the Caribbean” was moving, so we slipped past the maintenance workers and hopped on one of the boats that floated in a line through the animatronic-pirate-infested lagoon. We jumped from boat to boat, then leaped onto the exhibit to steal some treasure.
The pack of boats started floating away. We hurried to jump back in, and Eddie and I made it onto the last boat. Michael, who was behind us, leaped toward the boat and… didn’t quite make it. For a moment he clung to the stern of the boat, his legs dangling into the lagoon; then he lost his grip and slid into the waist-deep water. When he emerged, his pajama pants were soaking wet. He was holding his fedora, which had fallen into the lagoon. He slowly dumped a gallon of water out of it. I had never seen anything so funny.
Whether we were at the ranch or in the studio, there were plenty of breaks from recording. The ranch always had the newest large-scale games: a basketball game, a boxing game, and a skiing game. Michael crashed constantly on that skiing game, which usually made him break out in laughter.
Similarly, there were frequent breaks for one of Michael’s favorite activities: water balloon fights. There were always enough people around for a good old-fashioned balloon fight, and we had many of them in his high-tech water balloon fort. Even though Michael had his own kids now, he still loved gathering children to enjoy the magical place that he had created.
Whoever was at Neverland—Michael, the kids, the staff, local families—split up into teams of three or four while staff members stocked the fort with “ammunition.” The goal of the game was to avoid being drenched while attempting to hit a button on the opposition’s side of the fort. When one team managed to hit that button three times, a flag went up, sirens blared, and automatic sprinklers soaked everyone. One time, Michael’s team lost, which meant that the captain had to seat himself on a perch in a dunk tank filled with cold water. Michael dutifully climbed into the dunk tank, and when the opposing team threw a well-aimed beanbag, into the cold water he plunged.
Source: My Friend Michael: An Ordinary Friendship with an Extraordinary Man by Frank Cascio