Michael Jackson and Richard Branson are the two men whose inspiration made me who I am today. Michael is innovative, a perfectionist, hard working, passionate, creative and is a consummate humanitarian. At this time where so many people are reflecting on his career and life, I wanted to share my story of meeting him in 2007 to give another perspective of the legend.
Christmas Day 2006, 8:30am and I'm on the phone to the Tokyo number half an hour before tickets are due to go on sale. 200 opportunities to meet the King of Pop at the 25th Anniversary of Thriller Party in Tokyo, I wasn't going to miss this for the world. The only way to get tickets was by phone and I was determined to get through.
I rang, hung up, rang again, hung up.. after hours message, after hours message, after hours message, engaged, engaged, engaged..
My house mates at the time pulled out their mobile phones and joined in, all dialing the same number over and over again for about 15 minutes. By this stage my heart is in my stomach, 'concerts sell out quicker than this, I've missed out, how could this happen?' I started thinking, trying to stay positive I kept dialing.
Suddenly, it started ringing. I could almost hear my own heart beating, as soon as the lady answered I blurted out 'Are there any left? Please tell me there's one left!' and the answer I got wasn't what I was hoping for; 'soorwy, nor inglish'. What? Surely fans from all over the world were trying to get these tickets? sure - maybe they weren't advertised outside of Japan but any fan with their finger on the pulse would know about the Party. I couldn't be the only English speaking fan trying to get through?
'Michael Jackson... ticket for Michael Jackson' I said, she disappeared. I stayed on the phone trying to hear what was going on, there was no way in heaven I was going to hang up. Another lady picked up the phone, she struggled with English but the name Michael Jackson is the same in any language. I spelled out my email address very carefully and she sent through the payment instructions, in broken English it was explained that I had secured a ticket and I had a week to pay. Needless to say it was the best Christmas ever, in a little under 3 months time, I was going to meet one of my heros face to face.
As I was President of a Michael Jackson fan club at the time, I spent the 3 months leading up to the even telling all the fans I could that they had an opportunity to get a letter hand delivered to Michael. If I couldn't take them all with me, I was going to give them something that is very hard to come across as a Michael Jackson fan - and that is a guaranteed way of getting fan mail to him. I collected hundreds of letters by mail from all over the world, the fans plastered the envelopes with stamps which I kept and gave to a charity that washed them and sold them.
All of the letters went into a big white folder, this was going to make his day.
March, Tokyo 10am - I'm here for 3 days all up, on my own in a big city and I'm meeting Michael Jackson tomorrow night. Still a bit tired from my flight I go straight to my hotel and study the subway map I picked up when I landed. I could start exploring the city but the only thing on my mind is taking a train to the venue and back today so if I am going to get lost on the way to the Venue, it's on a day that doesn't matter. After successfully getting to the venue and back and meeting loads of cool people along the way, I get a super early night so I'm fresh for the exciting day ahead.
The big day - I get breakfast at McDonalds because I can literally see it from my hotel and there is no chance of getting lost and running late. A bit paranoid maybe, as the event didn't start till 5pm but when it's a once in a lifetime chance to meet your hero - you don't want anything going wrong. I got ready and followed the same path that got me to the venue the day before, I hardly recognized the place when I arrived.
A sleepy little part of out-of-town Tokyo had become a pandemonium of fans, press, security and photographers. I started walking to the venue where I was stopped by security about 50m away, they looked through my folder of letters, my bag, my pockets, just to make sure I wasn't taking anything dangerous or sharp into the venue. It was a pleasure to meet a couple of people who spoke English so I told them all about the fan letters, where I was from and how excited I was, they had seen this all before and wished me luck inside.
After waiting outside on the red carpet for about 40 minutes everyone went inside and found a seat, there were round tables and chairs downstairs in front of a huge stage. Upstairs there was a grandstand looking over us with a corporate box looking room at one end, we enjoyed Michael Jackson music videos and got to know each other, everyone who spoke English stuck together and we were all excited for Michael to arrive. Everyone was nice, they all had different stories about why they had came, maybe one or two of 'those' fans who make us all look crazy but for the most part, lovely people.
Then Michael arrived.
Light conversation amongst the guests turned to screaming, crying, excited almost panic amongst the crowd. Michael was upstairs, doing nothing more than waving and blowing kisses but the crowd was acting like he was moon walking across the ceiling.
The next think I know, I'm upstairs queuing in ticket order number (I was 11!) to meet Michael. The atmosphere was electric, like being at the football, you couldn't help but to be carried away by everyone around getting so excited and nervous. Some people were already in tears, some others were just watching the reactions of people going in and coming out again. Laughing, crying, fainting, screaming and kicking to go back in and being dragged away by security, and everything in between.
The were stairs near the door to the room Michael was in, we were lined up on the top level and as people came out from meeting him they went down the stairs to join the crowd below and collect a goody bag. At the bottom of the stairs was an area to lie down if you fainted (and people did!) and there was security posted inside and outside Michaels door. They were prepared.
The girl in front in me went into the room and I was standing there, outside the door, my turn next. Oh my goodness, ever been bungee jumping? Standing right there on the edge and your body just realizes what you've got it into and starts to turn to jelly? I was full of adrenalin but also just incredibly happy that I had this rare chance.
The girl came out and went down the stairs, 'are you ready?' I looked at the Security guard and just nodded, he took my arm and walked me into the room. There was Michael Jackson, only 2m away from me with open arms and a big smile. I walked into his hug and put my head on his shoulder and my arm around his petite waist. He smelled fresh and clean and his hair was straight out of a shampoo commercial.
He let go, stood back and took a look at me then asked me my name, then where I was from. I hardly remember answering the questions, he said that he's done shows in Australia and asked if I had been. I told him that I was only 12 during the HIStory tour and made a joke about having a job since he was little and I had no excuse. His guards started laughing and so did I and an unexpected wave of calm came over me, this was a real guy who was having a great night at a party.
One of the guys in the room asked for my camera and Michael and I posed for a couple of photos, I remember the moment when the photo had been taken, we were still standing very close and I looked up at him, I tried to soak in every detail. He let me admire his smiling face for a moment and then put his other arm around me and gave me another hug.
When he let go I showed him the present I had for him, all of the letters from the fans. Then I asked if I could read my letter to him and he said 'sure, of course' in his unmistakable speaking voice, I'm not sure why, but I vividly remember him saying those words, even though he said plenty more while we were together.
My letter was short and sweet, he stood smiling at me while I read it to him. I told him that he's inspired me a great deal and that he and Richard Branson were my heroes which made him giggle. I finished by saying that he'll never know the impact he's had on me and countless others and that he's appreciated and loved more than he could possibly realize. With that he threw his arms around me and thanked me. He took the folder and said 'don't put this with the others' and put it on a stool with a drink and a sunglasses case.
He thanked me again, hugged me again and it hit me that my short time was over. One of his guards took my arm and put my camera in my hand, I said 'you're the best Michael' and he said 'thank you, I love you' and I walked out of the room. Once the door was shut behind me I threw myself at the nearest security guard and hugged him. 'Did he like it?' he asked me, 'I think so, he said not to put it with the others!' I said. I looked at the photo on my phone and showed him. All his guards were sweethearts, they probably get so many fans get so excited but he still took the time to look at my photo and tell me it's wonderful.
What a high, I went downstairs where I met the small group who had met him before me and we showed each other photos and shared stories of what happened in there. Everyone said that Michael said he loved them, they all reported loads of hugs and we all had his autograph and bottle of bubbly in our goodie bag. It was over, but I wasn't sad at all - I had been given something special that could never be taken away, a moment with a man who inspired me to dance, give, work hard, love and overcome obstacles.
I partied the night away with my new friends and came back to Australia with a little Michael Jackson magic in my heart.
To see him perform live on stage was going to be the next dream come true, my flights were all paid for to London and I had a ticket each to 3 separate shows on the 30th July, 1st August & 3rd August. It's such a tragedy that he was taken away from us before he had the chance to grace the stage again, with 50 shows selling out in a heart beat, the world was welcoming him back into the spotlight.
He'll be missed, by countless millions of fans like me. He's the greatest.