Tuesday, October 17, 2017

‘He was very pro-black’

August 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Feature

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS | BILL WHITFIELD

In the first installment of a two-part interview, bodyguard Bill Whitfield recalls his life protecting Michael Jackson.

Bill Whitfield’s “Remembering the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson in his Final Days.

If Michael Jackson had lived, August 29 would be his 59th birthday. Millions of fans all over the world are still mourning the loss of his physical, spiritual, and artistic presence — and the King of Pop’s final days are chronicled in Bill Whitfield’s “Remembering the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson in his Final Days.”

Whitfield, who served as Jackson’s personal bodyguard for a year, currently resides in Las Vegas and shared a wide range of recollections and perspectives in a two-part interview. The second installment will appear in the September issue of Las Vegas Black Image.

Was longtime Motown executive and Jackson family friend Suzanne de Passe instrumental in making “Michael Jackson: Searching for Neverland,” the Lifetime biopic done based on your book?

I met her at a movie premiere, and she told me she heard about my book — but initially had reservations about reading it because she thought it might be a negative perspective on Michael from an ex-employee. But many of her friends read my book, and told her it was not negative and only gave an insider’s look at the person he was. She and director Diane Houston are responsible for getting my book made into a movie.

Did any of the Jackson family members have a problem with the biopic?

To be honest, I haven’t heard from a lot of the Jackson family members. I heard from Jermaine and Michael’s mother, Katherine Jackson who watched an early screening of the movie. Suzanne de Passe showed the movie to Michael’s mother, who was very emotional from it — but she got her approval. For me personally, I was more concerned with how Michael’s children would react to the movie. I was told that Diane Houston reached out to Paris’ management, and was told that Paris wasn’t ready to see the movie because she was too emotional.

What about Michael’s two sons, Prince and Blanket?

Bill Whitfield, Paris and Michael Jackson

Paris is the only one I have been in touch with. I got together with her a couple of months ago when she came to Las Vegas. I am hoping to get back in touch with the boys real soon. We have talked through a third party who is a friend of ours. We may get together sometime around Michael’s birthday and go to visit his place of rest.

What kind of things did Michael do to celebrate his birthday when he was alive?

He enjoyed reading his fan mail and relaxing. He would always make sure I would give him all of his fan mail. He would like to go to dinner and to the movies on his birthday.

Michael Jackson moved to Las Vegas for a while. What did he like to do in Vegas when he lived here?

The main reason he moved to Las Vegas was because he was expected to get a residency at one of the hotel properties and be a headliner. That is really the reason he came to Vegas. It was discussed that he would no longer go on tour or travel all over the world to do his shows. He felt if he was in one place people would come to see him. The plan was for him to be in one place. There was also a discussion about an arena being built for him to perform regularly in Vegas. He was in talks with Steve Wynn. He really enjoyed driving late at night on the Strip and seeing the lights and the people. He also liked going to the malls to shop.

When he would go out with his children, he would rent out Circus Circus Resort and the Mini Grand Prix on Rainbow. It would only be himself, the kids and security. He loved going to the bookstores: Borders, Barnes & Noble — and the children would pick out the books they wanted. Sometimes in the late hours we would be there picking out books with his children. Michael was a very big reader. He didn’t watch live news on television at all, because he was so afraid of the negative reports on himself and he never wanted his children to see that.

What did Michael like to do socially?

Mr. Jackson wouldn’t go a lot of places, but he did go to dinners that were usually business-oriented. One time we stayed at the Palms Hotel for a couple of months, because one of his lawyers knew Georg Maloof. So we stayed in the Hugh Hefner suite at the Palms. One night, no one knew that we snuck into the Rain nightclub — and even the deejay didn’t know we were sitting upstairs on the balcony. But the deejay just started to mix Michael’s music with other songs in the nightclub. Michael asked, “Is that my music that is playing?” I told him, “Yes.” He said, “Wow! I didn’t know they are still listening to my music.” I told him, “They play your music all the time.”

Did Michael like black women?

I am glad you asked that question. I spent many hours around Mr. Jackson, and we would have a lot of personal conversations about women and who he felt was attractive and beautiful. He would say that Halle Berry was very beautiful, Angela Bassett and Tina Turner. Mr. Jackson would express various tidbits in his conversations — and I can tell you he was very pro-black and aware of issues that was going on in black communities. He wished and hoped that he was in a position to vote for Barack Obama, and he did say that he would win the Presidency before the votes were counted in 2008. He felt it was just time for a change. Again, just listening to his conversations I can tell you he liked black women. He would make special recognitions when he would interact with them such as, “She was so sweet to me,” or “She sent my mother a birthday card.”

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