Dres Reid: “Michael treated us like we were stars.”

6AyNYWk72DIOn January 9 and 11, 2016, the Kyiv modern dance school, Dance Centre Myway, hosted workshops by Dres Reid. It’s an unprecedented event for Ukraine as Dres, besides working with the brightest stars (Christina Aguilera, Chris Brown, Ricky Martin, Kelly Rowland, Janet Jackson, Jennifer Hudson and others), is one of the leading dance teachers in the most popular dancing school in the USA, the Millenium Dance Complex. Dres began dancing at 7. At 21, he moved to Los Angeles where his great dancing career started. His first contract was in 2006, a world tour with Christina Aguilera; later he would do three more tours with her. After that he started working with Ricky Martin and other stars. During his dancing career, Dres participated in 15 tours, danced in dozens of videos, hundreds of concerts and award ceremonies. Currently, he works as a choreographer for the new young performers, teaching dance classes from classics to hip-hop and keeps touring with American stars. But the main highlight of his career is definitely his cooperation with Michael Jackson who personally selected him for his last tour, This Is It. We managed to attend one of the workshops and talk a little to this wonderful talented young man.

 

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Westlake Studio Tour: A Place Where History Was Made

Westlake Studio Tour: A Place Where History Was Made

During the week of the anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death, when fans are gathering in Los Angeles to remember their idol, Westlake Recording Studio offers guided tours in its two buildings where the iconic albums Off The Wall, Thriller and Bad were recorded. This year, on June 27, 2015, the studio will once again welcome fans in its historic rooms. For those who haven’t been there and curious to know what it’s like, here is a story about one of the first studio tours organized in the summer of 2012.

In 2012, on the third anniversary of Michael’s passing, Westlake recording studio opened its doors for the public and fans for the very first time. The 3-hour tour that included viewing of the two studio buildings in Los Angeles was quite pricy, but it was one of those things that, as a fan, you just can’t miss. For a long time I had been curious to peek into those seemingly unremarkable buildings – because that was the place where history had been made. At Westlake, Michael recorded his three most iconic albums: Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad. And so, on June 26 at 7:30 am, I found myself on the back parking lot of Westlake Studio D on Santa Monica boulevard.

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Meeting Steve Porcaro and hearing “Chicago 1945”

Meeting Steve Porcaro and hearing “Chicago 1945”

On June 23-26 in Los Angeles, Brad Sundberg organized an exclusive series of In the Studio with Michael Jackson seminars called “The Homecoming”. A lot has already been written about Brad’s amazing seminars (check out our story about the ones in Saint Petersburg), and if you haven’t yet attended them, I can’t recommend it highly enough. But the ones Brad did in LA this year were special. Not only they took place in famous Westlake Studio D where Michael recorded his Bad album (hence the name “The Homecoming”), but this time Brad also invited some rare guests.

We attended the seminar on its last day, June 26. After the usual program presented by Brad, all the VIP attendees were treated to a dinner prepared by “Slam-Dunk sisters,” two lovely ladies who used to come and cook for MJ and his team during the studio sessions. The dinner consisted of salads, lasagne and banana pudding (with real bananas in it, as Michael liked it!) and was really delicious.

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Brad x2: An evening with Brad Buxer

Brad x2: An evening with Brad Buxer

We are in a small studio located at a musical instruments rental center on Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles. The room is crammed with people sitting in rows of chairs in front of a low stage. On stage, Brad Sundberg, Michael Jackson’s assistant engineer and the organizer of this event, and his friend, sound engineer Brian Vibberts, are occupying two tall bar chairs. Brad Buxer, Michael long-time musical director is sitting behind a keyboard. MJ’s engineer of later years Michael Prince is looking at the screen of his MacBook. Michael’s touring bass guitarist Sam Simms has not yet arrived; he would join us a little bit later. With that, a trip to the past, full of stories and music, begins.

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In The Studio with MJ: Brad Sundberg’s seminar in Saint Petersburg

In The Studio with MJ: Brad Sundberg’s seminar in Saint Petersburg

A small but cozy room inside the underground-style Fish Fabrique club in St. Petersburg is almost dark. The only light is coming from a laptop screen. The beat-up walls are decorated with the portraits of the most famous man on the planet, and there’s his cardboard lifesize silhouette standing in the corner near the stage. The room is filled with the achingly beautiful clear tenor supported by nothing but a guitar and a drum machine. It floods the room up to the roof, and the walls seem to disappear leaving everybody one on one with this voice and the sparkling magic granted to the singer by Mother Nature. Sixty people from all corners of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine greedily hang on every sound coming from large powerful speakers. Tears are running down the girls’ cheeks, some cover their faces with their hands to muff their sobs a little. Twenty four years later, we’re witnessing the birth of a masterpiece. This is just one of many special moments happening at In the Studio with MJ, a Brad Sundberg seminar, and the voice coming from the speakers belongs to Michael Jackson.

I’ve dreamt about attending this seminar since the very first day I heard about it. Partly it was because of rare demos and videos, and partly because I always wanted to talk to the person who worked with Michael so close for so long. So, when Elena Zelikova announced that Brad Sundberg was coming to St. Petersburg, I knew I could not miss the chance. What I did not know then was that the heavens prepared another surprise for me – I would not just be a guest of the seminar. I would be Brad’s translator.

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Michael Jackson, ice cream and kindness

Michael Jackson, ice cream and kindness

He laughed.
Stopped walking, looked at me and said:
– Ok, give me your card.

Roney Giah
Roney Giah

His name was Michael Jackson.

I was a music student in Los Angeles and that was my first week in America. The story that precedes this scene and its continuation is kind of simple, except for the magic that surrounds it.

They were my first days in M.I. (Musicians Institute), a college of music in Los Angeles where I studied from 1993 to mid-1994. I had just found a place to live for rent, in a garage of a house in Highland Park – 15 minutes from downtown Hollywood. A quiet home where I lived the 16 months I spent there, whose gentle owner became a great friendship I carry to this day.

In the first week of school, I had the opportunity to take some classes with Jennifer Batten, Michael’s guitarist at the time, who rocked the world with her virtuoso guitar solos and amazing energy.

On my first Saturday in the U.S, after my first day in college, I was invited by Jorge Briozzo, the gentle owner of the house, to know the Santa Monica beach, since I did not have a car. Very cool.

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The last wish: 10 stories about meeting Mcihael Jackson

The last wish: 10 stories about meeting Mcihael Jackson

Media always paid a lot of attention to rumors about Michael Jackson’s personal life, his financial troubles and lawsuits thrown at him, issues of his skin color and plastic surgeries. Sometimes they were generous enough to write about his music. But very rarely did the media report on what Michael considered his main mission and purpose on Earth – on his efforts to help suffering and unfortunate children. This side of Jackson’s activity remained unpopular with the press – partly because Michael himself never flaunted his charitable acts. He believed that by publicizing a good deed you are devaluing it – that’s why he never invited journalists to cover his charitable efforts and never talked about them on press-conferences (unless it was required for raising money for a good cause). And only because media followed him relentlessly, there were occasional reports about his visits to hospitals and orphanages. But many testimonies to his kindness were never printed in newspapers or filmed by TV crews. They remained known only to live witnesses of those events – to people, some of which spoke about their experience with Michael Jackson for the first time after his passing.

This article is a compilation of stories of people who received help from Michael Jackson. Often, these are touching and sad stories. Stories that show the side of the artist rarely seen by the general public.

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Lisa Marie talks

Lisa Marie talks

For many years, the marriage of Lisa Marie Presley to Michael Jackson was called a sham, a calculated PR move and the desire of Michael to lay his hands on Elvis heritage. Only those closest to them, those who saw them together always said that this was a sincere and true union – perhaps the most true thing Michael has ever had with a woman. In 2010, Lisa Marie Presley gave an exclusive interview to Oprah Winfrey, where she told the truth about her relationship with Michael for the first (and the only) time.

MJ and LM

She was not shy or embarrassed to confess that she was in love with Michael, “Yes, I thought him sexually attractive. He was amazing.” She had a unique experience of a relationship with Michael which was romantic and sexual all the way, full of joy and disappointment. Her interview to Oprah in 2010 after Michael’s death finally disclosed the love and complexity of their relations which the fans and the world could only guess.

She confessed that Michael was the strongest love of her life, which shocked all those who gloated. “It was the happiest time of my life,” she said. She found the strength to admit it: her love for Michael and her admiration were so powerful that she was obsessed with him. After his death she suddenly realized that all those doubtful and disputable moments which made her feel ill at ease in her marriage to Jackson were just a survival strategy for Michael. He lived in such a crazy world, so artificial that all social norms, including marriage, simply did not work there. He had to catch the moments of “normality” but he could never make them stay.

At 40, Lisa realized that Michael had no ill wish to use her, he had no cunning plan – he simply wanted a normal family with her, as normal as possible in his situation. But back then Lisa did not understand it. She was scared, affected by the opinion of those surrounding them, and she could not handle the stress caused by the media. She wanted to “save” him, but she tried and did not succeed. It was clear that once she had everything she could only dream of, but when things got difficult, she started losing the degree of closeness she had with him, the one she was used to. She says that they were “in line” in everything, but later, when he asked her for a child and she refused, their relationship started to deteriorate. They weren’t as close as they used to be, and this really affected her, leading to powerful vexation which later grew into reproach and confrontation. She spoke about one of Michael’s features: when someone tried to pressure him using a close contact for manipulation, he changed the format of relationship at once. InLisa’swords, hewouldsimply “freezeyou”. What she called “a survival tactics” seemed to her a gesture of indifference then and a confirmation of rumours that “he used her” – used her without loving her.

After divorce, a long period of going away and coming back followed: they kept dating and parting again and again. For four more years they stayed in contact. It looks like the relationship with Michael was the longest for Lisa Marie. The public saw it differently, though: she looked estranged in some of her TV interviews, trying to avoid talking about Jackson and their divorce, and in some cases she tried to justify her actions, being led by the TV hosts who could not get their heads around it – how this beautiful woman could run off with such a strange persona. The public saw Lisa Marie with other men, and day by day the “Michael subject” was replaced by other parts of her personal life. Meanwhile, Michael got his wish – Debbie Rowe gave him the children he wanted so much. Lisa Marie could not cope with jealousy and vexation that another woman gave birth to his children. Lisa demonstrated her indignation in every possible way, displaying her “complex temper” in full glow. She said that the divorce was a kind of demonstration of her position – but it wasn’t meant to be the end of their relationship.

At the time of their divorce and for many years after, she was “still very much in love with him”. In the interview she admits that she chose the wrong strategy and behavior, trying to pressure Michael and change his way of life. She threw an ultimatum in his face, thinking that he would follow her, but it didn’t work out. As Lisa said, “it was a stupid thing to do”. Several painful years of “getting out of habit”. She put up a real fight trying to get away from Michael. Their last phone conversation took place in 2005. During that conversation Lisa was pretty cold with Michael, and when he asked whether she “still loved him”, she said she “didn’t care”. Years after she can’t feel nothing but surprise and bewilderment – that she managed to stay so apathetic.

After Michael’s death, all her feelings came back – the love and affection which she had been fighting for so long flooded in and swept her away.

Only after Michael’s passing Lisa Marie realized that he loved her. She realized how much he gave in to her, how he tried everything to keep their relationship. Something he had never done for anyone else.

The interview of Lisa Marie in which she told the truth about her feelings was a very strong and bold movement. All that Michael’s fans could not forgive for years turned out to be her personal tragedy. The tragedy of this romance is the source of inspiration for her poems and songs full of personal emotions.

Her tragedy is in the missed chance to be with a man for whom she felt a whole kaleidoscope of brightest emotions and the kind of affection which is difficult to find. She will have to live with the burden of two painful losses: her beloved father and the man she loved the most – two people who occupied the deepest and most secretive corners of her heart. Perhaps, she will be able to talk about them only in her poems and music.

Today, Lisa Marie lives in England; she is married and has two twin daughters in her marriage. Her migration to England, according to Lisa herself, gave her a new life and made her see the past with different eyes. She found new friends – common “normal” people, nice to talk to.

In 2012, Lisa Marie released a new album Storm and Grace. Michael Jackson fans believe that many of her songs are about Michael, including High Enough, When You Go, Now What, I Was Wrong, Just a Dream.

 

Lisa marie