Remember The Time NPR coverage of Remember The Time: Protecting Michael Jackson In His Final Days by Bill Whitfield, Javon Beard and Tanner Colby. News, author interviews, critics' picks and more.
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Remember The Time

Protecting Michael Jackson In His Final Days

by Bill Whitfield, Javon Beard and Tanner Colby

Hardcover, 323 pages, Perseus Books Group, List Price: $26 |


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Remember The Time
Protecting Michael Jackson In His Final Days
Bill Whitfield, Javon Beard, et al

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Book Summary

Michael Jackson's former bodyguards discuss the superstar's life in seclusion, financial crises, and the lead up to his shocking death.

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Excerpt: 'Remember The Time: Michael Jackson In His Final Days'

We pulled into the driveway; the gate closed behind us. My car stopped in front, and the mother car drove around the side to let the family out in private. At that point, I figured I was done. I got my subject from point A to point B. It's a wrap. But the curiosity was killing me. I walked over to Jeff and said, "So tell me. Who is that guy?"

Jeff got this big grin on his face. "Didn't you see him?" he said.

I shrugged. "Sure. I saw a skinny dude, a chick, and three kids."

Jeff leaned in and whispered, "That's Michael Jackson."

I just stared at him. "Get the fuck outta here!"

I didn't believe it. He laughed at me a bit. Then the assistant, Feldman, the first guy who'd come off the jet, called for us to come inside. As we went in, I was like, Yo, really? Am I really gettin' ready to meet Michael Jackson?

We went inside and this same guy was coming over to me with no scarf covering his face, and there I was, standing in front of Michael Jackson, shaking his hand. It was surreal. In this soft, quiet voice, Mr. Jackson said, "Hello, it's nice to meet you."

I said, "It's an honor to meet you, sir. I've been a huge fan for a long time."

Huge fan? I never said that kind of thing to clients. But my heart was pounding in my chest; the hairs on my neck were standing up. I was a huge fan. I still had my old Jackson 5 albums, the 45s and 33s, all of them. I still remembered watching him and his brothers on Soul Train, watching him do the robot to "Dancing Machine."

His children were behind him. Paris and Prince both said hello. Blanket was very reserved and quiet, hiding behind his father and giving a little wave.

Mr. Jackson said, "Kids, this is Bill. He's our new security."

I was like, Huh? New security? What's he talking about? I'd been told this was point A to point B. Pick up a check and go home. An alarm started going off in the back of my head. And then Mr. Jackson said—more like a statement than a question—"You'll be staying the night, right?"

"Um . . . yes. Yessir."

"Great," he said. "We'll see you in the morning."

They all said good night and went upstairs. I looked at both Jeff and Feldman. I said, "We need to talk." We went out and stood in the driveway, and I said, "What's going on here? Where's this dude's security?"

"Nation of Islam was holding his security down for a while," Jeff explained. "He got some flak about that, so he's making some changes."

Feldman apologized for any confusion and asked me if I'd be comfortable staying the night, and perhaps longer.

I said to Jeff, "Is that the real Michael Jackson? Don't play with me, man. It's too cold, and I'm in no mood to be running around Las Vegas with some Michael Jackson impersonator."

"Trust me," he said. "This is the real dude. He looked at your résumé, saw you were with Motown, and straight up said he wanted you for this."

"Okay. So when does the rest of the team get here?"

Feldman looked at Jeff and then back at me and he said, "I thought you knew. There is no team. You're it."

What? Uh-uh. No, no, no. Now I was pissed off. I was being put in a position that I was not prepared for. There are people out there who love this guy with a passion, and there are crazy people who hate him, and they'll do anything to get at him. Any time I'd seen Michael Jackson on TV, he had a whole crew of people with him. I was all by myself. I didn't know the property or the interior layout of the house. I didn't have any of the gear I'd need for a detail like this.

I started to get a bad feeling. Something's not right, I thought. I'd been doing this too long to believe that Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, was traveling with no security. Just an assistant and a nanny? Where was the staff? The manager? The entourage?

What I didn't know then, but what I would quickly learn, was that the Michael Jackson who flew into Las Vegas that night was not the same Michael Jackson who'd left the country the year before. There was no entourage that night because there was nobody, period. He was all alone. The most famous man on the planet, and we were the only ones who even knew he was back in the United States.

I agreed to stay, because what else do you do? The man told his children I was there to protect them. After a while, the assistant and the nanny left. They were staying at a hotel nearby. Then Jeff left too. He had another job he was already contracted for. Now it was just me. I did a sweep of the property, checked all the doors and windows, then set up on a folding chair in the garage. It was freezing. Garage wasn't insulated. Twenty-eight degrees and I had on nothing but a two-piece suit, dress shirt, and tie.

It still hadn't set in. None of it. I was trippin'. I wanted to call everybody I knew, but of course I couldn't. And who would believe me anyway?

"Hey, guess what? I'm in a house with Michael Jackson and his family."

"Who you with?"

"It's just me. In the garage."

"Man, somebody's playin' a joke on your ass."

I stayed up all night, alert and cold. Every sound, every car that went by, I was up, looking around, checking it out. But mostly I just sat there, shivering my ass off and wondering, Where are all his people? Is some lunatic about to come climbing over the gate? What the hell am I even doing here?

About a quarter past seven, the sun finally came up. I heard the interior door to the house unlocking. It opened, and this tiny voice said, "Excuse me."

I glanced up. It was the little girl, Paris. She stepped into the garage, holding out this cup. It was hot chocolate, with some of those little melted marshmallows in it. She just stood there quietly and looked at me and held out this cup and said, "Daddy said to give you this."