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.

It was hot, but not too much, different from the usual hell of the Brazilian coast. After our beach time, around 4p.m, we were going to get the car in the parking lot to return home when I heard a horn and Jorge took me by the arm and said quietly, trying not to move his lips:

– This guy in that green Cherokee waving and honking at us is Adrian, a friend of mine. If he invites us to lunch, tell him “no”. The last time, he took me to a very expensive restaurant here in Malibu and it took me four months to pay the bill.

I laughed at the story and then we went to meet Adrian. With the window open and smiling, very friendly, he greeted us excited, asked what my name was and after a brief introduction, unceremoniously said:

– Let’s have lunch?

Jorge said no immediately. Adrian insisted. Jorge said that the parking lot was going to be expensive, it was late and we had just eaten falafel. Adrian answered:

– So what?

Brazilian and outspoken, I stopped that ridiculous conversation, admitting:

– You know what Adrian … we are broke. So, it has to be an inexpensive place or you help us to pay the bill (in this case, patient reader, he was clearly financially secure).

Adrian stopped smiling, looked down quickly – like he was doing mental math – and answered:

– Sure, hurry up before I change my mind. And laughed at his own words.

We went to the first restaurant; closed (4.pm). Adrian said:

– I know a nice one that is open.

A minute later, still in Santa Monica (where Michael lived) and sitting in the back seat, what I saw was mathematically unlikely: By the reflection in the mirrored glass of the window of a French Coffee across the street, I saw a door of a white GMC limousine opening and Michael Jackson leaving. I do not know if I made myself clear, but just for the record: If you were one or maybe two seconds late or who knows in advance, or even sitting in the front seat, I would not have angle to see the reflection of this window and consequently see Michael opening the door. Everything seemed too curious.

But it was clear to me what I had to do. I spoke with all lack of closeness I had to the owner of the car:

– Adrian … stop the car. Michael Jackson is entering at a coffee across the street.

– Who?

– Michael Jackson.

– How do you know?

– I saw him.

– What if is an impersonator?

– In a half a million dollars limo?

Adrian – very good in math – speechless, but did not stop the car. I spoke in a more anxious tone:

– Adrian, stop the car, please.

– Even if it’s him, what will you do?

We exchanged glances through the rearview mirror and he understood that I wasn’t going to give in that easy.

We stopped the car and I ran to the Coffee. Before entering, I looked inside the limo, three security guards were playing cards. At the Coffee – empty – an old couple enjoyed an ice cream. I asked the only waiter I saw, which was drying glasses:

– Where is Michael?

– What Michael?

I deciphered the riddle immediately: believe it or not, Michael Jackson stopped to go to the bathroom and no one saw him entering. I searched in the bathroom and nothing … the place was huge. Until I saw the other side of the counter a door opening and Michael leaving.

Adrian, who had already entered and was there, greeted him joyfully. With hurried steps I reached Michael: Mirrored Ray-Ban sunglasses, golden shoulder, black pants and black shirt (without the famous golden frontal costume, in a more “casual” style) he greeted me. With his hands in his pocket and very relaxed, stood, as if waiting for a conversation (because in my mind he would have greeted me and left hastily). Shocked by the sudden interest, I said:

– You know, I’m taking guitar lessons with Jennifer …

– Really?

And … out of the blue… I was there talking about music to Michael Jackson with sand on my feet. We talked about guitar, he liked the style of Jennifer, his band, music. Until he asked me where I was from and I said I was from Brazil.

– Really?!

And in a more cheerful tone, said:

– Dude, I love Brazil…

I asked why he had not played in Brazil yet(was February 1993 … I obviously like to think that the only show he did here ten months later had to do with our conversation). He asked me if I thought people would go to the show. (LOL)

– Are you kidding? You could easily have more fans there than here.

He chuckled. Then, began to move toward the exit door slowly. I thought, “Gee, it’s over…” and I asked:

– You need to go, right?

– No… I want ice cream … Do you want one?

(riiiiiiiiiight…)
– Sure. (Gee, how surreal it’s to write about it)

But outside, another reality approached: There were teens waiting for him, perhaps because they felt that they couldn’t enter… I don’t know. At this time, I noticed my private moment with him was over. I said without thinking:

– Michael, I wanted to play with you. Accompanying you on guitar would give me inspiration for a lifetime.

He stopped walking and turned around. With a soft smile, he handed me the most confident expression that I have received in a 20-year career meeting all the artists that life has enabled me to know. Nodding, his eyes and his face said, “That’s it boy. That’s the attitude.”

He replied promptly:

– Ok, give me your card.

– I have no card yet. I arrived from Brazil a week ago.

Michael saw a decorative vase on the table, lifted it and took a paper that was under it.

– Look … Write your number here.

I wrote my phone (Jorge Briozzo’s number, actually) supported on his shoulders.

He left. The teens attacked him.

I distanced myself and sat, stunned. I saw him take the ice cream, but the small crowd grew and he ran into his limo with the ice cream in hand. Before entering, he stopped and looked inside the Coffee, as if looking for me. I thought: “It can’t be true…” But it was. He came close to the door, saw me sitting. Took the paper with my phone out his pocket and shook it in the air, as if to say: “You are ****ing brave brother…”

I spent a month stuck on the phone. I bought new answering machine tapes. But he did not call … sniff

The only comment from Jorge that day was: “I can’t believe it! Michael Jackson has my number! ” lol

His presence was calm and was by far the most humble pop star that I met, that I talked. He treated me as an equal, despite his obvious greatness.

Two months later, I left college to lunch. I was walking in LA through the back alleys (those alleys that appear in films). Suddenly, walking alone, I see a white limousine GMC coming towards me very slowly in the narrow lane – for pedestrians only, by the way… Are you kidding? No. The destination was not kidding.

It was Michael’s car with four policemen accompanying him toward me. I had to stop. I could not even stand next to the window because it was too narrow to the limo pass. The limo stopped. The door opens. Michael left.

There was only me there. I approached a police and he made a sign with his hand, “Stand Back.” Michael noticed the tension and looked at me. Stopped walking and smiled as if he knew me, but did not remember from where. He hesitated, came towards me, but the police put a hand on his back and he stopped. He placed his forefinger on his watch (even using no watch), as if to say: “Gee … I’m late … otherwise I would stop to talk.”

I smiled. He waved. I ran to the street. There was a ceremony at the Wax Museum for his wax statue on Hollywood Boulevard.

Here in Brazil five years ago, drinking a wine with Paulo Ricardo from RPM band, Luiz Carlini and the nightclub people where I played, o Marcenaria, Luiz Carlini told me that Michael gave him a Wha Wha pedal when they met at the backstage after a Jackson 5 show in Sao Paulo.

The King of Kindness.
The King of Dance.
The King of Music.
The King of The Voice
The King of Pop

There will not be another like him.

Kisses, my brother, who helped us to dream without even knowing it.

by Roney Giah (Brazilian musician) – Jun 26, 2009

The story first published on Roney Giah’s website.
English translation by pollys2

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