There were a few times when instead of trying to interact with Michael, I would stand back and watch how others responded to him.
On Paris’s birthday, on 3 April 2007, I met Michael at the Weng Lei restaurant at the Wynn. He introduced me to his main security guards, telling them, “She's harmless. She's so sweet. Don't you remember her? She's the girl who was at the airport. I told you all about her. I told you. She's sweeeeet.”
OMG MELT! He always said SUCH lovely things to make us feel welcome in his world. I chatted to him for a while and gave Paris her birthday gift, and he invited me to tag along. When he and Paris strolled through the hotel’s shopping plaza, I trailed behind them, watching people’s jaws drop and eyes widen as they tried to take in the reality of him.
Some people told him in shaky voices how much they love him and how much his music has influenced their lives, while others just stood there staring. At one point, a middle-aged man asked him for a hug. Who else could evoke that kind of response? Nobody else. Only Michael.
Mania on Rodeo Drive
Perhaps the greatest hysteria Michael created in recent years was on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills on 9 April 2009, when he went shopping at the Lladro antique store. He had gone there several times in the past and my friends and I had greeted him at the back as he came and left. But this time, a few onlookers caught sight of him and word quickly spread.
This is Rodeo Drive, an area saturated with celebrities, where A-listers like Tom Cruise, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan are often spotted. I’ve been around other celebrities – at MJ events and award shows – and seen how people respond to them, with interest and appreciation. But when Michael is around, people behave as though they’re seeing something that they don't believe exists in the real world.
I expect you’d see a similar response if Santa Claus came riding out of the sky on a sleigh or a spaceship landed and ET walked out. Michael has an aura of mystique, and people can't help getting excited at the prospect of seeing him with their own eyes. By the time he left the store in Beverly Hills that day, the streets were so crammed that cops had to come to control the crowd.
Michael has a childlike presence that is very disarming. When people are around him, they put aside their cynicism and connect to that part of them that is pure. They remember with perfect clarity the first time they heard his voice and knew that it was the voice of an angel, before the world hardened them and made them doubt and ridicule and judge.
In all the years that I was around Michael, I can happily say that I never saw anyone respond to him with anything other than fascination, adulation and love. I met many people who worked for him, including his house staff at Neverland and some of the This Is It dancers, as well as casual acquaintances, who spoke about him with a sense of awe.
In March 2002, I remember chatting to one of the bellhops who worked at the Palace Hotel in New York, where Michael was staying at the time (and had often stayed in the past). He told me, "I don't care what people say about him. When you see him, you know that he's beautiful. He has a beautiful aura." Beautiful. Aura. They're the words people use to describe Michael.