I woke up to someone banging on the door to our hotel room. Shayla shot up out of bed, "who is that?" she looked at me.
"I'm going to find out," I told her as I put on a robe and made my way to the door. Shayla followed close behind. I looked through the peephole to find Frank. I opened the door, "why are you banging on the door like that?" I asked him.
"Look," he pushed past me and Shayla with a newspaper in his hand. We followed him to the couch as he slapped the paper on the table. "Right there. Look!" He pointed. Shayla and I looked to find a photo of me in the hyperbaric chamber on the cover of the National Enquirer with the headline reading: Michael Jackson sleeps in a hyperbaric chamber to live to be 150 years old!
"Frank, what is this? I told you to say something about Captain EO, not make up some lie!"
"That's just it, Michael. I told everyone I leaked it to that that's what we wanted. But instead, they took our money and ran with this bullshit instead," he scoffed.
Shayla picked up the paper to read it, "oh, Michael... They've said some awful things about you."
"What'd they say?" I wondered.
"They said something about you too, Frank. 'After trying it out for the first time, 28-year-old Michael said: 'When I woke I felt like a new person. I've never felt better....' Manager Frank Dileo said: 'That machine is too dangerous. What happens if something goes wrong with the oxygen? Suppose it catches fire – there could be an explosion.' But Jackson, Wacko Jacko, because of his odd habits has just completed a new film in which he plays Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up. And the role has strengthened his obsession with cheating death. In any case, he is more likely to listen to one of his pets than to a mere human.' Okay, I can't read any more of this garbage." She threw the paper down.
"Wacko Jacko?" I looked around the room. "Is that what they think of me now?"
"Don't pay them any attention, Michael," Frank told me.
"They called me weird when I bought Bubbles, but now I'm 'Wacko Jacko?'"
"Don't let that get to you, Mike, we've got a show to open in two hours. Look, I just wanted to show you, so you wouldn't think that I put this bullshit out. I know what I told them. Shit, they even got the movie wrong. I don't know how since Disney has been promoting this for quite some time, but whatever. You're not a wacko, Michael. Fuck the critics."
"Okay," I nodded.
"Good. I'll see you all in a bit," Frank took the paper and left.
"You okay, baby?" Shayla sat down beside me.
"You know... I thought I could control the media. I figured, if I gave them what they wanted, they'd act accordingly, but I guess not. Instead, they make up lies to make the story more interesting. And they got the fucking movie wrong," I got up to take a shower. This is definitely not what I needed the morning of the premiere. I thought those photos would do some good. I guess not. Now I'm "Wacko Jacko."
Once Michael and I were ready, we went down to Frank's room to find his door already opened. "Frank, Shayla's going with you, right?" Michael asked.
"Yep. We'll see you at the show, Michael. Remember act surprised like you didn't even know who it would be. Be happy after all these years that you finally get to see her again and don't be all lovey-dovey. Just act like she's a fan, okay? You're nervous after not seeing her for all these years, okay?" Frank reminded Michael.
"Gotcha," Michael kissed me on the cheek. "I'll see you later, baby. Make sure you remember your role too. It's time to see those acting classes pay off," he winked and left me with Frank. Once he left, the vibe in the room shifted. I'm so positive Frank doesn't like me. He probably only agreed to this fake contest just to make Michael happy.
The phone rang in the other room, and Frank went to grab it, "hello?"
"Frank, this is Katherine," I heard Mother from the other room as Frank put the phone on speaker.
"Good morning, Mrs. Jackson. How are things going?"
"I have a bone to pick with you, Frank."
He sighed, "and what'll that be, Mrs. Jackson?" The irritation in his voice offended me as he spoke to mom.
"You shouldn't be spreading stuff like this. It makes my son look like an idiot."
"Mrs. Jackson, this is all good publicity for him. It makes people wonder about him and this is what we want. We want Michael in the news like this. Especially since he's been such a recluse working on his album."
"But does that really mean making up lies, Frank? Why couldn't you tell them something else?"
"Michael wanted me to tell them about Captain EO, but I knew that wasn't going to sell. So, I made up some other story. It sounded better."
"You've got my son out here looking like a weirdo, Frank and I don't like it."
"Well, it sells. Now, if you excuse me, Mrs. Jackson, Michael and I have to open this premiere for Captain EO.I'll let him know you said, hello," he said and hung up. I was fuming! How could he disrespect Michael and Katherine that way? He walked out of his room, "are you ready, Shayla?"
"How could you, Frank?" I asked him.
He rolled his eyes, "Shayla, I don't have time for this. We have a film to open. Let's go."
I followed him as we made our way out, "Michael trusts you. You came up to our room this morning and lied to our faces. Why couldn't you just let us find out ourselves? Why did you have to lie about not making up that story only for me to find out that you did?"
"Didn't you hear me say the story sounded much more interesting?" He shot me a look. "People care that Captain EO is coming out, but no one cares that Michael prepared for the role. Everyone already knows he's Captain EO. Why keep iterating it?"
"Michael wanted the publicity for his movie, Frank. Not to look like a weirdo."
"He got the attention he wanted, didn't he?" He laughed.
I shook my head, "I don't see what Michael sees in you."
"The same thing I see in him. Money."
When Frank and I arrived at the Imagination Pavilion in Epcot, there was a swarm of people surrounding the entrance to the Captain EO entrance. I assume Michael is in the center of it all.
"Shayla, now we have to make your grand entrance. Act natural, act nervous, be a fan." Frank reminded me. I was dressed as the most cliché Michael Jackson fan. A Thriller-esque jacket, a fedora, high water slacks and of course the penny loafers with the socks. Classic. Frank and I made our way through the crowd. Everyone watched us as we made our way through. Once we got to the front, Michael was talking with the Imagineers. "Excuse me, Michael," Frank interrupted. Michael looked at him then looked at me. "This here is Shayla-Elizabeth. She is the fan that was lucky enough to score a ticket to watch the premiere with you," Frank smiled.
I acted as excited as I could, "it's so nice to meet you, Michael! I'm your biggest fan!"
Michael smiled, "the pleasure is all mine," he pulled me in for a hug.
"Michael, over here!" Cameramen kept shouting at him from all kinds of different directions. While I haven't been in the public eye like this for years, this only makes me want to go home. I don't know how Michael puts up with the shouting and the blinding lights from all the cameras.
"Make sure you get a photo of Shayla-Elizabeth as well," Michael said. "I want everyone to know who won the contest." He smiled as he carefully put an arm around my waist. I smiled as I've never smiled before. I held my smile for all the different pictures people wanted to take. So much so, it felt fake after a while. "Are you ready, Ms. Elizabeth?" Michael asked me as he held his arm out for me to hook on to.
"Yeah," I smiled as I held onto him and walked with him into the auditorium. As we walked in, the cameramen followed. Michael grabbed two pairs of 3D glasses and gave a pair to me.
"So, Ms. Elizabeth, how was your flight down here?" Michael asked as he made conversation for the cameras.
"It was amazing! Thank you so so much for the first-class flight. It was a dream!" I played along. As we made our way to the auditorium, the prelude to the film played on the televisions above us showing the all too familiar set, dancers and crew. As much as I wanted to comment on it, I didn't. I'd much rather act surprised at the set up of the theatre than ask him about a movie I already know too much about.
"I hope you enjoy the film. The Imagineers and I worked hard to create a film like no other. This will be the first 4D movie in the history of man."
"Really? What will it entail?"
"Oh, you'll see," the doors swung open towards us. "After you." I walked into the large auditorium. The instrumental to "We Are Here to Change the World" played softly. One of the cast members stood at the front of the auditorium. "Any particular place you would like to sit?"
"The middle. I think that will be the best, don't you think?"
"I agree. I want to get the full effect," he said as he led me to the middle row. Frank followed behind me. The press had to put away their cameras and found their seats as well. It's going to be interesting to see their reviews on this. After being on set all this time, I'm excited to see what it looks like on the big screen with all of its effects as well.
"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the premiere of Captain EO!" The cast member said over the microphone. "We ask that there be no eating, drinking or talking as the film plays. Please do not put on your 3D glasses until you are completely seated. Captain EO wants to make sure you are safe and secure before entering his world. Enjoy the show!" He put the microphone down and went back to the dim the lights. Michael and I put on our 3D glasses. The room went dark, and everyone had their attention on the big screen. I grabbed Michael's hand. He looked at me from the corner of his eye and smiled, so as to not look suspicious. I honestly feel like a kid again. All this acting is putting me in a totally different space, but at least I get to view the finished product with Michael instead of away from him. Finally, the screen lit up with a galaxy swirling and an asteroid coming towards us...
Once the film was over, everyone, including myself, stood up to applaud Michael. At first, he sat there smiling, but then he couldn't help but to stand up and bow for everyone, which only caused an uproar amongst the audience. After relishing in the applause, he held his arm out for me to grab. I hooked my arm through his and followed him out of the auditorium. Once again, Frank and the press followed close behind.
Michael started a conversation for the cameras again, "I hope all this exposure doesn't bother you."
I shook my head, "no. It's cool to be famous for a day!" I smiled.
"Would you be interested in walking 'Around the World' with me after the interview and everything?"
"Of course!" Sound good. He smiled as we stopped in front of the exit of the theatre.
"Michael, what did you think of the finished product?" Someone asked.
"It was magical. I'm so happy to have been part of such a wonderful film."
"What made you want to work with the Disney Company for a production like this?" Another person asked.
"I've always been inspired by Walt Disney. He's one of the greats. In doing this film, I wanted to honor him in the best way I could."
"Michael, how does it feel to be back in the spotlight after being a recluse for almost two years?" Someone asked in reference to Michael practically going in hiding for all of '85.
"Uh," he laughed. "I wouldn't call myself a recluse... I've just been focusing more on my craft, this film, and new music."
"Did Shayla-Elizabeth like the movie?" Someone asked as everyone, including Michael, looked to me for an answer.
"I loved it! Michael put on such a great performance! I would visit Disney World just to watch it over and over and over again!" I smiled. Everyone laughed as they took pictures of Michael and me. His hand rested on the small of my back.
"How did this contest come about and how excited were you when you found out you won?" Someone asked me.
"Well, I'm Michael Jackson's biggest fan. I literally follow everything Michael Jackson does. One day while visiting Epic for a tour of the facilities, they offered our entire tour group to be entered into a drawing to see Captain EO during the premiere. I entered and come to find out, I won! I was so excited. I haven't seen Michael outside of a concert. I went berserk when I found out."
"It seems as though we've seen you once before a couple of years back," one of them mentioned. "Are you excited to be in Michael's company again?"
My heart raced. I haven't publicly been seen with Michael since 1984. Paparazzi has only caught me by myself on rare occasions to ask how I felt about Michael. Other than that, I thought I'd be pretty forgettable, "um, I am. Michael is a joy to be around. I honestly didn't expect to be chosen out of so many different people."
"Michael, how do you feel being in the company of a fan we've seen you with before?" The same press person asked him.
"You know, I love all of my fans. On many occasions, I've seen them more than once. The ones who have introduced themselves to me have always had a special place in my heart because I can actually remember them and connect their face to a name. Thank you all for your questions. I think we're going to go ahead and enjoy the parks now." Michael waved at everyone and led me to the "Around the World" pavilion.
"Alright, you all heard the man," Frank shouted. "Let them enjoy the parks in peace. You've got your pictures. You've got your questions. Have fun in the parks!" He shooed them away as he and security followed us. I wonder when it's safe for me to be myself. Because at this point, I'm over this charade. I need to tell Michael about Frank.