I was given an advance copy of the "Remember the Time : Protecting Michael Jackson in his final days" by MJ's bodyguards Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard.
Below is my review and brief summary.
As a MJ fan who has read all the books written about him, I look for unique and interesting books about him. This book delivers on that front. It's not the same old stuff you read a million times before, it's the unique and first hand experiences of Bill and Javon. Just this could be enough reason to get the book.
The book covers December 2006 (when Michael returned to US) to June 2009 (his death). Although Bill and Javon worked for Michael till the day he died, the bulk of the book covers the period between December 2006 to early 2009 when Michael moved to LA. (Bill and Javon did not go to LA but was supposed to join Michael at London). Book talks about Michael's stay at Las Vegas, Virginia, New Jersey and back at Las Vegas.
The book has several heartwarming, funny and interesting and at times unbelievable stories. Michael Jackson the father is always nice to read. His interactions with his children, their love towards each other gives you warm feelings. So stuff like Michael doing laundry, Michael taking his kids to Chuck E. Cheese, fast food drive through events, after hour store visits to toy stores, go kart place, Krispy Kreme to see how donuts are made, Michael giving responsibility talk to Prince about his dog Kenya, Blanket asking for a hippopotamus as a pet after Prince got his dog Kenya and Paris got her cat Katie, Michael giving money and food to homeless people,ordering a large Tinkerbell statue from eBay, asking bodyguards to get(cough steal) a lifesize Spiderman figurines on the lampposts outside Burger King stores, Michael getting stopped by Secret Service as his car with tinted windows drove around White House etc is interesting and fun stories to read. The book also mentions visits by "Friend" and "Flower", two woman from overseas and yes Michael kissing "Friend". I don't want to give much away for the people who might buy the book.
Book mentions Michael's staff, business people, family and friends as well. Some of them are mentioned negatively (most of Michael's business associates including Bain, Feldman, Cross and Sony, as well as some of his family members such as Randy Jackson), some of them mentioned positively (such as Miko Brando and Cascios) and some just neutral.
Knowing that how some people would be interested in above, I'll provide brief details below:
Raymone Bain : generally mentioned negatively for not paying bodyguards salaries while she was paying herself and others, renting a luxury apartment for herself with what looks like MJ's money, Michael thinking he had an office in DC while Bain was working out of her home and such.
Jacksons: Bodyguards mention that Michael did not want to see his family - his orders. The only person he would see and could come unannounced was Katherine. He refused to see other family members when they came and required them to make appointments. Michael refused to see Joe once, refused to see Randy, Rebbie and Jackie (when they got in by following the chef), refused to see Randy (when he smashed his car to the gate) and only agreed to see his brothers (Jackie, Tito, Jermaine) in the security trailer after making sure Randy wasn't with them and didn't want to see Janet. Bodyguards impressions about Jacksons are mostly positive to neutral with the exception of Randy (see below) and Jermaine who they said always had an angle or some sort of deal he was working on.
Randy crashing the gate: Details of the event is provided in the book. It turns out the gate crashing event happened on Elizabeth Taylor's 75th birthday. Her people had reached out to Michael and he would attend her birthday as a surprise to her. Michael spent 2 weeks preparing to that day. Before they were supposed to leave for Taylor's birthday, bodyguards take the car to fill it with gas. When the bodyguard returns, Randy follows the car, crashes the closing gate, forces his way into the property. Bodyguards rush to the car with their guns out and see Randy with a woman passenger. Randy tells them "Get that gun out my face before I call the press.” and screaming and cursing “Michael owe me money! I want my ****in’ money! I ain’t ****in’ moving ’til I get my ****in’ money! ”. They tell Michael that Randy is there and what he's saying, he tells the bodyguard to get rid of him. But they can't make him leave so Michael decides he won't go to Elizabeth's birthday and goes to bed. Randy refused to leave and stayed at the driveway for hours. Bodyguards had to call Joe Jackson. When Joe came Randy told him he would call the press to tell them he was there for his money. Joe eventually convinced Randy to leave.
Sony: Mottola is mentioned as devil and Michael mentioned not really wanting to work with Sony and on Thriller 25. There's a story about Michael breaking Sony headphones. They say he didn't work on Thriller 25 with enthusiasm and did everything the last minute. Bodyguards also state that Michael eventually was paid $12 Million for the sales of Thriller 25. (Sony initially planned to take the money from Thriller 25 sales and apply it to pay MJ's debt on Sony/ATV catalog. Apparently Tohme got them to pay the $12 Million to Michael so that he could use that money as a down payment for the Las Vegas house he wanted to buy).
One of the sad thing to read that there wasn't many friends or visitors that would visit Michael. They mention nanny Grace telling them some people wouldn't take or return MJ's calls after the 2005 trial. Book mentions Miko Brando, Eddie Griffin (comedian), Chris Tucker, Jesse Jackson and Cascios as people who visited Michael and/or Michael met with. He talked with Nelson Mandela on the phone several times. Eddie Griffin mentioned as a regular visitor, Miko Brando brought his kids to play with Michael's kids, Chris Tucker and Michael went to movies together and Eddie Cascio visited Michael in Vegas and Cascio house was the only place Michael would feel safe to stay without bodyguards in front of the door. Brad Buxer visited to work on music with Michael. (unidentified) choreographers were also coming to work with him regularly as well as a Chinese film professor from USC.
The second half of the book mentions financial troubles. Although they don't blame Michael for such troubles, it's not a pretty picture. Staff not being paid, not having a house to stay, friends/business associates paying for hotels for a while and when they stop hotels were asking them leave and even locking them out. It's obvious there was some frustration on the bodyguards part in regards to not being paid. Like I said they don't blame Michael for it but the finances isn't a pretty picture.
Conrad Murray is briefly mentioned as a doctor that made a housecall when the kids were sick and occasionally came to check up on them. Only a few visits, at day time and for a short amount of time. They mention Michael's insomnia, how sometimes he would have a good day's sleep and sometimes wont. How sometimes he would be up all night and the night security would watch him move around the house - his room, studio/dance room, kitchen and such. There's almost no drug talk. Just once going to a doctor middle of the night for pain and just one time his behavior didn't seem normal / seemed like under the influence of something. That's all. No doctors, no nightly visits and no propofol - given that Michael seemed to be not sleeping most of the time.
Overall I liked the book and I recommend purchase. It's interesting and definitely unique. I enjoyed all the little stories about Michael very much and financials wasn't a pretty picture as I said before. I can't say I liked that part. Book is written in an every day language. It feels like you are sitting with Bill and Javon and they are recapping their day to you. So that's interesting too. I guess it's possible that some fans might have a trouble with this book if they feel overly protective of Michael's privacy. Yes the book mentions Michael's everyday life, stuff that wasn't known before hence private but I thought they were nicely balanced. I personally like positive stories about Michael and/or stories that show him as a normal person. But like I said it's possible that some might think this is an invasion of privacy.
Finally some quotes:
"Michael Jackson had an effect on people. It’s hard to describe. Once he let people in, they started feeling possessive of him. Like, He’s mine! People didn't do it on purpose; he brought it out of them because he was bigger than life. He’s calling them personally, giving them leeway to dictate certain stuff, and they start to feel like, Okay, he trusts me. They see how vulnerable and hurt he is. They see all these other people trying to use him and take advantage of him. So they start to think, If I’m the one in control, I’ll make sure he’s okay.
So once he lets someone in, pretty soon they’re starting to speak on his behalf, as opposed to letting him make his own decisions. They know if they do it, they won’t get that much flak, because they know Mr. Jackson doesn't question things. They start to feel like they’re in control, but to keep that control, they've got to manipulate everybody else that’s trying to get at Mr. Jackson. So they’re spreading lies about this person or telling Mr. Jackson not to trust that person."
"It wasn't necessarily that those other people were bad people. There was just a force that dictated a lot of this madness. But the way it was around Mr. Jackson, nobody trusting anybody, so much money and power in play, it just sucked you into all this drama. "
" People look at what happened to Mr. Jackson and they want to blame somebody. “It was Dr. Murray.” “It was Tohme Tohme.” “It was his family.” Nah. That wasn’t it. It wasn't any one person. It was everything."
"As we drove back to the house, everyone was being real quiet in the backseat. Then Blanket looked up at his daddy and said, “Daddy, can we go back to the other house? Can we go back to Neverland?” Mr. Jackson shook his head and said, “No. We can’t ever go back there. That place has been contaminated by evil.”
One time, we were driving and Blanket started to say something, and Mr. Jackson kinda shushed him. The kids kept giggling and Mr. Jackson kept going, “Shhh! No, I didn’t! No, I didn’t!”
Blanket said, “Yes, you did, Daddy. You said that Bill looked like—”
So now I was curious. I said, “Bill looks like what?”
I looked in the rearview mirror. Blanket and Mr. Jackson were both staring at each other like, Who’s gonna tell him?
Blanket looked at me and said, “Bill, Daddy says you look like the Thing!”
“The Thing? What’s the Thing?”
“You know,” Blanket said, “the guy from the Fantastic Four! Daddy said you look like the Thing from the Fantastic Four.”
And I was like, Wow. Okay. The brother’s got jokes. Then Blanket said, “And Javon looks like Frozone from The Incredibles!”
We all had a good laugh about it.
Michael to Bill
“I just want my kids to have a better life than me,” he said. “I never want them to go through what I had to go through. How would you guys feel if your kids asked you for something and you had to send someone out to get it? I appreciate what you guys do for my kids, but I’m their father. I should be the one doing those things, but I can’t just get in the car and go. There are so many things I can’t do for them because those people out there won’t let me. You have no idea how that feels. You really don’t. I just wanna live my life with my kids.”