One Year Later Remembering Michael (by Howard Bloom)
by Karen Tortora-Lee on The
June 25, 2010
Today, in memory of Michael Jackson´s
passing, we re-post a great tribute written by Michael´s
friend and business associate, Howard Bloom, who shared his
memories of Michael with me one year ago.
Howard Bloom began his legendary career in music public relations
when he co-founded The Howard Bloom Organization Ltd in 1976,
and helped build or sustain the careers of Michael Jackson,
Prince, Bob Marley, Queen, Billy Joel, John Cougar Mellencamp,
Simon & Garfunkel, Bette Midler, Joan Jett, AC/DC, Talking
Heads, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and roughly 100
other stars of the 1970s and 1980s. Here he shares some of his
personal reflections on the passing of his client, Michael Jackson,
and takes us past all the noise to a quieter place.
On the night of June 25th, when I was on my nightly mile-long
1 am walk that loops me up to Prospect Park then takes me back
to my brownstone, I passed a pair of 18 year olds sitting on
a stoop at this lonely hour when the streets and sidewalks are
usually utterly devoid of human beings. The guy had long dark
black curly hair and the girl had a short, blond haircut and
was wearing shorts. The male said something to me as I passed.
I walked back, took off my headphones, and asked him to repeat
it. He said, Michael Jackson is dead.
I asked him why he said that to me. I wondered if he knew me
from the Tea Lounge on Union Street, where I do my writing,
or from the streets and if he knew my Michael Jackson connection.
No, he didnt. He was telling it to everyone. He wanted
no one to ignore it. He was particularly emphatic about making
sure that no one over the age of 30 pass it by or dismiss it.
Michael Jacksons death, he felt, was a loss to all of
us whether we realized it or not.
How did I get involved with Michael and his brothers?
It was Spring of 1983 and the Jacksons were getting together
to go on the road for their Victory Tour. They were getting
the whole family together for this tour, including their dad,
who had originally managed the rise of the Jackson Five to the
top. Their manager for the Victory Tour called me over and over
again for four months, asking me to work with the Jacksons.
I kept saying no. At this point Id helped Amnesty International
establish itself in North America, had worked with Simon and
Garfunkel when theyd reunited for an audience of half
a million in a free concert in Central Park, then when theyd
gone out on tour, and I had done Queens massive tour of
110,000 seat soccer stadiums in South America.
But I liked to do crusadesto fight for truths others didnt
see. The Jacksons tour didnt feel like a challenge.
It already had it made. Michael had just sold 36 million copies
of just one albumThriller. Thats nearly three times
as many as the previous record holder, Peter Frampton. I didnt
feel The Jacksons needed me. So I continued to turn them down.
But I felt that if youre going to say no to someone, at
least you should have the courage to say it to their face. So
when the Jacksons came into New York and asked me to meet with
them at the Helmsley Palace hotel, I had to do it. Even though
the meeting was at midnight on a Saturday night, and I worked
from 9 am until I dropped during the weekends.
The minute I walked into the suite the Jacksons had set up for
meetings, two things were obvious. One
from the body
language of these brothers you could tell that The Jacksons
were some of the most honest, ethical, open people you would
ever meet. Two: They were in very big trouble. They didnt
know what it was. I didnt know what it was. But what I
did know was this: here was a challenge. There was a wrong to
be righted. An invisible wrong. A wrong all of us could feel
but none of us could name. I had to say yes.
My first meeting with Michael didnt come until four months
later. I was with Michaels brothers at Marlons pool
house in Encinoa tiny two-story building with one room
per floor in the back yard next to Marlons pool. By then
Id done my homework. Id read thousands of articles
on Michael. Id compiled a dossier on the Jacksons
lives. One thing all the articles agreed on was this: Michael
was not a normal human being. The articles called him a bubble
baby, described him as a person who would shrink from your touch.
But the fact is that neither Michael nor I had been raised in
a conventionally normal childhood; neither of us had been raised
among other kids. So I didnt know the common rituals of
normal life. I had to teach myself by watching other people
as if they were specimens and I was a visitor from Mars. One
of the rituals Id seen was the handshake between strangers.
You know, you see someone youve never met before but who
others want you to meet. You walk up to him or her, you stick
out your hand, and you say, Hello, my name is ______.
This was a ritual Id almost never used. But when Michael
opened the pool houses screen door, I walked up to him
stuck out my hand and said Hi Im Howard.
I knew what would happen. The articles had explained it. Michael
would recoil from my touch. But thats not what occurred.
Michael put out his hand, shook mine, and replied Hi Im
Michael. It was as normal and as natural as could be.
The media stories were false. But thousands of press people
had parroted them as truths. Something strange was happening
in Michaels noospherein the sphere of press perception
we are handed as reality. Eventually those mistakes would kill
him. But thats a story for another time.
A few minutes later Michael and I climbed the cramped stairs
to the tiny room upstairs where Marlon kept his recording equipment.
Id written a press release and I wanted Michaels
approval. We found places to sit on the stacks of amps and keyboards.
I read the press release out loud. And as I did, Michaels
body softened. Thats beautiful, he said when
I was finished, Did you write that? The fact was,
I had. And the fact was that writing press releases was not
just a hack job for me, it was an art. Id edited a literary
magazine that had won two National Academy of Poets prizes.
And in the decades since, the Washington Post has called the
writing in my books beautiful. But no one else had
ever seen the art hidden in the craft and the creativity hidden
in the ordinary. Michael apparently had.
Once Michael had approved of the press release, we went back
downstairs to the small single room on the first floor. Against
the walls and lining the room were arcade videogame machines,
machines only amusement arcades could afford in those days.
And in the center of the room, hogging up most of the space,
was a billiard table. The Jacksons were scheduled to have a
meeting with an art director from CBS so the group could decide
on the Victory Tour album cover. They wanted me to be in on
it. When the art director arrived, she bore the portfolios of
five artists, portfolios she stacked at one end of the pool
tables green felt playing surface. These were not just
the black vinyl portfolios most commercial artists use to display
their work. Every one of these was a custom-made presentation
case made of hand-tooled leather or rich cherry wood. And every
one was from a legendary artist, an artist at the very top of
We were all bunched together on the opposite side of the pool
table from the art director. Michael was in the center. I stood
next to him on his left. And the brothers were crowded around
us on either side. The CBS art director slid the first of the
portfolios toward Michael. He opened the first page, slowly
just enough to see perhaps an inch of the image. As he
took in the artwork his knees began to buckle, his elbows bent,
and all he could say was oooohhhhh. A soft, orgasmic
ooooh. In that one syllable and in his body language,
you could feel what he was seeing.
Do you know the poem by William Blake
To see a World in a grain of sand,
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour . . .
The intense ambition of that poem, the intense desire for wonder,
was alive in Michael. More alive than anything of the sort Id
ever seen. Michael saw the infinite in an inch. As Michael opened
the page further, inch by inch, his knees and elbows bent even
more and his ooohs, his sounds of aesthetic orgasm,
grew even more intense. Standing elbow to elbow and shoulder
to shoulder with him, you could feel him discovering things
in the brush and inkstrokes that even the artist never saw.
By the time hed opened the full page his body and voice
expressed an ecstasy. An aesthetic epiphany. Id never
encountered anything like it. Michael felt the beauty of the
page with every cell of his being.
Ive worked with Prince, Bob Marley, Peter Gabriel, Billy
Joel, and Bette Midler, some of the most talented people of
our generation, and not one of them had the quality of wonder
that came alive in Michael. He saw the wonder in everything.
His quality of wonder was beyond anything most of us humans
Look, above all other things Im a scientist. Science is
my religion. Its been my religion since I was ten years
old. The first two rules of science are 1) the truth at any
price including the price of your life; and 2) Look at the things
right under your nose as if youve never seen them before
and then proceed from there. And thats not just a rule
of science. Its a rule of art. And its a rule of
life. Very few people know it. Even fewer people live it. But
Michael was it, he incarnated it in every follicle of his being.
Michael was the closest Ive ever come to a secular angel.
A secular saint.
Look, Im an atheist, but Michael was not. He believed
he was given a gift by God. He believed he was given talents
and wonders and astonishments seldom granted to us very fragile
human beings. Because God had given him this enormous gift,
he felt he owed the experience of wonder, astonishment, awe,
and Blakes infinities to his fellow human beings. But
unlike other generous humansBill and Melinda Gates, for
examplewith Michael giving to others was not just a part-time
thing. The need to give to others was alive in every breath
he took every single day.
Michael Jacksons entire life was receiving and giving
and the whole purpose of receiving was so he could give. He
worked with every cell in his body to give the gift of that
amazement, that astonishment to his fellow human beings. Needing
the adulation of crowds WAS Michaels connection to others,
his most profound connection, far more profound than family
and friends (though those are indispensable), and far more healing.
That act of giving keeps an iconic person, a person who never
knows normalness, alive.
Id love to tell you the stories of how Michael made these
things clear. But, again, those tales will have to wait for
It seems strange to say this, but Michael will always be a part
of me. No other superstar I worked with wound himself into the
threads at my core the way he did. Michael opened a window to
a quality of wonder unlike anything Id ever been exposed
to in my life. For that gift, I felt I owed him. I felt we all
owed him. And we still do. We owe him an honest view of who
he was. We will owe him that until we finally sweep away the
crap of sensationalist headlines and clearly see why those who
love him know more about him than any expert or journalist who
claims to have probed his life. Those journalists and experts
do not know Michael Jackson. But if you love him, theres
a good chance that you do.
Find out more about Howard Bloom at Howardbloom.net The GoalTo
Save The World By Changing Its Perceptions.www.scientificblogging.com/howard_bloom/
Author of: The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into
the Forces of History (mesmerizing-The Washington
Post), Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind From The Big Bang
to the 21st Century (reassuring and sobering-The New
Yorker), and How I Accidentally Started The Sixties (a monumental,
epic, glorious literary achievement. Timothy Leary).
Former Core Faculty Member, The Graduate Institute; Former Visiting
Scholar-Graduate Psychology Department, New York University Founder,
The International Paleopsychology Project; Founder, The Space
Development Steering Committee; Founder, The Group Selection Squad;
Founding Board Member: Epic of Evolution Society; Founding Board
Member, The Darwin Project; Member Of Board Of Governors, National
Space Society; Chairman of the Advisory Board, Asian Global Summit;
member: New York Academy of Sciences, American Association for
the Advancement of Science, American Psychological Society, Academy
of Political Science, Human Behavior and Evolution Society, International
Society for Human Ethology, Scientific Advisory Board Member,
Lifeboat Foundation, Advisory Board Member, The Buffalo Film Festival.
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