Luxe Life Blog
Photos: Hidden for years, Jackson memorabilia under 24/7 security
Round-the-clock guards are on duty for maximum security at the extraordinary priceless collection of Michael Jackson memorabilia on display at Michael Jackson Fan Fest in conjunction with the Las Vegas run of Cirque du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour” at Mandalay Bay. More than 600 pieces valued in the million$ have been curated from Michael’s possessions for the exhibit.
Many items have been kept hidden for years and are on show for the first time, so much so that Michael’s brother Jackie told me that he was seeing items he didn’t know the King of Pop owned: “He has some incredible costumes that I hadn’t seen before -- and seeing some of the collection, especially the chess set, made me want them!”
It is a truly staggering collection, and Jackie told me that it didn’t represent one-tenth of what Michael owned in warehouses scattered in Los Angeles. Michael’s mom, Katherine Jackson, and his three children Blanket, Paris and Prince Michael toured it privately just hours before the show’s premiere Saturday night.
Fans will recognize the “Billie Jean” diamond-encrusted glove, among a display case of 12 colored ones from the 1980s that face two other display cases packed with rhinestone-studded costume brooches and military-inspired insignia. Naturally, I was impressed by the two Rolls-Royces, one a 1999 Seraph stretch limousine with 24-karat gold touches and a 1963 blue Phantom 5 complete with wall-sconce lights. I didn’t see a chandelier, but I wouldn’t be surprised!
Thanks to contributing photographer Tom Donoghue, who was first in to shoot the collection for today’s amazing gallery, which includes every section and many of the items. It’s an incredible walk through the storied gates of Michael’s Neverland Ranch and then into his study with rare, first-edition historical books.
I pictured a studious pop superstar leafing through the precious pages of centuries gone by. The library, with its English fireplace setting, features the most impressive chess set I’ve ever seen -- it made me wish I was behind the camera again for an episode of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”
The playful side of Michael is on show, ranging from his collections of toy soldier figures to the ice-cream cart, popcorn stand, a Peter Pan-themed golf cart and bumper cars kept in the Neverland gardens. A lineup of his high scores on arcade games he played lines one side, and there are two exquisitely rare Disney dioramas from “Cinderella” and “Pinocchio.”
It’s an interactive exhibit, so fans have their photos taken at many of the film and music video sets -- and the Wii dance game. You can wander through the spaceship set used in “Scream,” sit on the throne he used in the Egyptian-themed set of “Remember the Time” or pose in front of the rocket plane from “Leave Me Alone.”
Michael never discarded any of the art, drawings and sketches that fans sent him, and there is an entire section of those. A 10-foot tall statue of Michael dominates the exhibit hall at Mandalay Bay Convention Center, and there is a bust of his hero, Walt Disney, on the fireplace mantle in the study.
There are dozens of concert wardrobe costumes, including several unique pieces, some finished, some incomplete, that designer Zaldy Goco, who fashioned for “Immortal,” worked on exclusively for Michael and the ill-fated This Is It London concerts that never materialized because of his death three days before cast and crew were due to fly to Britain. They are set out on either side of a mobile mechanical spider Michael was to ride in on for his entrance for the 02 Arena run.
This first-ever Michael Jackson Estate-authorized Fan Fest remains at Mandalay Bay through Dec. 14, while “Immortal” continues through Dec. 27. John Branca, co-executor, told me that discussions are continuing for the items to be seen again at another Fan Fest planned for Michael’s birthday next Aug. 29. He confirmed that some of the pieces will be incorporated with other memorabilia in a Jackson Museum planned for Mandalay Bay when the residency show opens in May 2013.
When “The Lion King” run ends Dec. 30, Mandalay Bay Theater will be shuttered for 15 months while it is transformed into Neverland awaiting start of the rehearsals for the show a year from now.
Tito and Jackie posed for photos at the exhibit. “I look at his belongings, and it hurts. We have all the wonderful memories of our brother, but this is all bittersweet,” Tito said. “He would have wanted his fans to share all of these private items,” Jackie added. “All of us teared up when they performed ‘Gone Too Soon’ at the ‘Immortal’ show. He did leave us far too soon. Michael would have given it a 10. It was the show he always wanted to do with Cirque.”
In a rare interview with “Access Hollywood,” Michael’s 14-year-old son Prince Michael said, “He would have loved this show. I think he’d be very proud that they made a show of his legacy. He admired the Cirque du Soleil people, especially the acrobats, because they can convey a story through their body and emotions through the way they act. I liked the ‘Thriller’ parts -- fun. It’s really cool when the jackets light up.”
Paris, 13, added: “He would have been proud, and he would have loved to be here to see it. All of the acts are just completely amazing and very creative. I love the gates of Neverland. When I first saw that, it brought tears to my eyes. It was amazing. I grew up in Neverland, and it’s just like bringing back memories.”
Prince and Paris told “Access Hollywood” that they are inspired by their father and plan to have entertainment careers. “Acting,” Paris said. “All possibilities are open for us right now,” Prince added.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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