WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - When Carlene Allen first met Michael Jackson and his brothers in 1971, it began a 38-year obsession with the singer that would include several personal encounters and trips to over 100 concerts.
"I went to the concert and the man told me they would be in Winston-Salem the next morning," she said Friday, a day after the King of Pop died in a Los Angeles hospital after suffering cardiac arrest.
Allen went out to the Smith Reynolds Airport, where she hung out with The Jackson 5 for almost two hours. The pictures prove it.
When the group came back to Greensboro for its '72 concert, Allen got an unbelievable opportunity to deliver a cake to the Jacksons at their Winston-Salem hotel room.
"I went to deliver the cake and the guard said, 'Just go on up, there's nobody there.' So I went up and I stayed," she recalled.
And she took pictures. Lots of them.
Michael Jackson performed in Greensboro at least six times in the 1970s: four times with The Jackson 5 and twice with The Jacksons. Read the Greensboro Daily News' review of his last show in Greensboro, from June 10, 1979.
Over the years, she had several additional meetings with Michael Jackson: in Greensboro, Knoxville and elsewhere. Allen went to every Michael Jackson concert within reasonable distance.
"Over a hundred, maybe more," she said. "I would do three or four a year."
She even went on a trip to Los Angeles, where Michael Jackson gave her a tour of his parents' home.
"I was standing outside and Michael came up and recognized me, and he invited me and another lady came in and gave me a tour of the house," she said.
When Allen's friend called Thursday to let her know Jackson had died, she flashed back to 1977: "I can remember where I was. I was in JC Penney's when Elvis Presley died. The emotions that I saw running through the mall and in the street were devastating. And this is about the same devastation."
This time, she was at home.
"It hurts deep," she said. "People would say he's just an entertainer. He was more than an entertainer; he was a person."
"I will miss him. I will miss the fun times we did have, even though they were rare times that we had a chance to see him. It was nice," she said.