Five years ago today, the world experienced one of the most tragic days in music history with the passing away of the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. Although he’s no longer with us physically, his music, love, legacy and inspiration will forever remain alive in the hearts of many. We love you, Michael. Long Live the King~August 29, 1958-June 25, 2009
Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard on Michael’s compassion for the homeless (From Remember the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson in his Final Days)
Javon: One night, we were driving home from the Strip, and there was this on-ramp for the freeway that we had to pass to get back to the house. We were s topped at a red light by this ramp, and right off the road there was a homeless man and woman. They were arguing with each other about something. The man was sitting and the woman was standing with a sign; it’s the kind of thing you see all the time out here, people with signs that say “Homeless, Please Help.” Vegas is a hard town. You get caught up in gambling and all that? It’ll ruin you.
Bill: Mr. Jackson saw these people and said, “Why are these people out there?” “Those are homeless people, sir.” He was like, “Really? Wow.” He told Javon to pull over. We pulled over to the curb and we just watched for a minute. Mr. Jackson saw all the other cars passing by and he asked, “Why isn’t anybody helping them? Why isn’t anybody stopping?” Then he said to Javon, “Call the woman over to the car.” Javon rolled down his window, waved her over. When she got to the car, Mr. Jackson rolled his window down just a little bit and said, “What’s your name?” “Amanda,” she said. They talked for a bit. He wanted to know her story. He asked her where she was from, where’s her family at. She said she used to be a dancer, a showgirl. Then I heard him reaching around in the backseat for something. I heard the sound of paper. He was pulling out money. He pulled out three-one hundred dollar bills, gave them to her and said, ‘Here. Take this.“ She was floored. She was almost crying, saying, "Thank you, thank you, thank you."
Javon: After he gave her the money, she backed up a few steps and I started to drive off. The guy that had been sitting near her got up, came over to her, and tried to snatch the money away. She pulled back, but he kept trying to grab it from her and they started fighting again. She started yelling, "No! This is mine!” Mr. Jackson saw that and said, “No, no, no! Javon, stop the car. Pull back over.” I pulled back over, he leaned back out of the window and called the man over this time, saying “Don’t do that! Here, I’ve got something for you too.” He pulled out another three hundred dollars and gave it to the man. The lady started crying, like she’d been saved.
Bill: He told them to use the money for food. “Get something nourishing,” he said. “Don’t get any drugs.” “No, sir!” they said. “No, sir!” They were both gushing with thank-yous and God-bless-yous when all of a sudden the man stopped and looked in the car window and said, “Are you Michael Jackson?” “No. No, I’m not.” I turned to the backseat. “Are you ready to go, sir?” “Yea, I’m ready,” he said. And we pulled off. As we were driving, Mr. Jackson said, “Are there a lot of people like that in Vegas?” “Yeah,” I said. “There are parts of Vegas where a lot of homeless people live.” “Really? Can we go there?” I hesitated for a moment. “You want to go there tonight, sir? Tonight wouldn’t be a good time.” “No, no,” he said. “We can go another day. I just want to see." The bad part of Vegas is on the north side, Main Street and Las Vegas Boulevard, over by Cashman Field. When he mentioned going there, I was hoping he’d forget about it. Sometimes when he made unusual requests, things I knew weren’t feasible or just weren’t a good idea, I’d wait a bit before following up, to see if he’d drop it. Sometimes he would. If he reminded me again, I knew he was very serious. This time, he remembered. A couple of days later, he came to me and said, "When are we going to go to that side of town?” “What side of town is that, sir?” “Where the homeless people are.” “We can go there today.” “Okay, let’s go.” So we took him to the other side of town, about twenty minutes from the house. We headed north up Main Street, and all of these people were out. You could hear in his voice that he was shocked that all of these people out here were homeless. He couldn’t believe it. “It’s just amazing,” he said. “This country is so rich and these people are poor and living on the street.” He asked Javon to pull over, so we pulled over. I was a little antsy. I wasn’t cool pulling over in a nice car with all these people around. We sat there on the side of the road for a bit. Then Mr. Jackson said, “I want to give them something.” I thought he meant he wanted to get out of the car. I said, “I don’t think it’d be a good idea to go out there, sir.” He said, “No, no, no. I’ll pass it out of the window.” He cracked the window and started waving people over. He had a fanny pack he was wearing. He opened it up and the whole thing was stuffed full of cash. They would come to the window and he would pass out a hundred-dollar bill through the crack in the window to each one. One thing I noticed was that he was trying to catch the attention of the women. He wanted to make sure they were the ones who got the money. He was like. “Come here. No, no, no. You. You come here.” A lot of men got money too, but I could hear him singling the women out of the crown, calling them forward. People started lining up outside his window, like it was an ATM.
Javon: He gave away so much he ran out, and he got upset wit himself. He was saying he should have brought more. We started to see another side of him, his compassion for others, and it was kind of amazing. There was no media out there, no cameras. There was only a crack in the window, so no one could tell that it was him. It was just something that he wanted to do.
When we were at the hippopotamus exhibit (at the zoo), Bill was walking a few feet ahead with Mr. Jackson, Prince and Paris. They’d all seen the hippopotamus and moved on. I was hanging back with Blanket. He was straggling a bit because he was just so amused by this hippopotamus. He thought it was the greatest thing. Prince already had his dog, and Paris had just gotten her kitten, so Blanket thought he should get a pet too. He called out, ‘Daddy, I want one of those as my pet.’ The zookeeper and everybody, they all laughed. But I knew that little guy wasn’t joking. If they still lived at Neverland? I’m sure a hippopotamus wouldn’t have been entirely out of the question. With all the other crazy things we’d been asked to do, I half-expected Mr. Jackson to say, 'Guys, I need you to find Blanket a hippo.’ Instead, Mr. Jackson just humored him. He said, “We’ll have to see about that.”
The zookeeper said if Blanket liked the hippo, he could help feed it. They gave him some apples and he tried to throw them in, but he couldn’t get them over the fence. I picked him up so he could get high enough to toss one over. After he did that, I put him back down and turned around to follow the others. I didn’t take my eyes off him, but half a second and he was climbing up that fence, trying to get up on the railing so he could keep throwing apples in there. He was slipping around and trying to pull himself up. It was about a ten-foot drop down the other side. I had this whole scenario flash through my head. I could see the headlines: Michael Jackson’s Son Eaten by Hippo. I grabbed him by the shirt collar saying, 'Get your little ass down here before I lose my job lettin’ you get eaten up by a hippopotamus.’“-Javon Beard~Remember the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson in his Final Days
Michael learned quickly. He was like a sponge, taking it all in. He could take a part I had given him and sing it right back to me; he would also give me a line that was better than the one I gave him. It made me wish other artists were as capable. And he was only 11 years old. At 12 and 13 he became downright scary. No matter how good he thought he was, Michael wanted to be better - to ultimately be the best. I never thought of Michael as a child. Maybe that was my mistake. To me, he was a total professional who happened to be young and small.~Motown songwriter and producer,Deke Richards