Mariah and I stood amongst the mass amounts of press waiting for Michael and Frank to take their seats at the front of the room. Mariah was glad to get an all-access pass to such an exclusive event saying it made her feel like a VIP. She was getting used to the glitz and glamor lifestyle with Michael. Four years into this marriage and I am still getting used to it all. Especially since we took what seemed like a two-year long sabbatical away from all the media. The taste of it, in the beginning, was enough, but now I'm being fully immersed into it. It's not directed at me, thankfully, but I know what it's like. Luckily enough, I didn't have to fight with Frank tooth and nail to obtain all access passes. He understood Mariah and I wanted to be there and made it his mission to get us here. For that, I am grateful.
"Shayla, I can't see," Mariah looked up at me. I looked around the crowded room and spotted a folding chair adjacent from the long table Michael and Frank were to sit and close enough for both of us to see. Taking Mariah's hand in my own, we worked our way through the thick crowd to the folding chair. Mariah stepped up to stand on it and smiled down at me in confirmation that she could finally see. The excited murmur of the crowd excited me. They had no idea what they were here to document. They just knew Michael was about to make a big announcement and they each wanted to be the first to broadcast it. Shifting my weight from the tips of my toes to the balls of my feet, I scanned the room in search of a familiar face. None. As I waited, all I could think about was how Michael told me he was attracted to Tatiana. Even a fool could see that. There was no denying the apparent attraction they had for one another. There was no denying that Tatiana's goal into wanting to share the same limelight that Michael was receiving would make the two a nearly perfect pair. I wasn't a star. I have no intentions of being a star. Tatiana had every quality of what a star is, and I could see why Michael was attracted to that. She was witty. She was a model. She was an actress. She was destined to be a star in her own right. What am I doing? Why am I comparing myself to her? She may have the slender frame that fashion designers would kill to have modeled their clothes, but nothing beats a woman with brains. Nothing against women who use their good looks for fame and fortune, but Michael's only attraction to her is in the physical. Not the mental. I should not feel threatened. As far as I'm concerned, she'll be here today and gone tomorrow. Just like Ola. "When is it supposed to start?" Mariah asked.
"Shortly," I looked down at my watch to find that it was five minutes to ten a.m. In five minutes, all hell would break loose. Los Angeles Times. New York Times. ABC. CBS, of course. NBC. USA Today. BBC. ITN. TBS. Any news source that was known was here. The room was hot with the bright lights and close bodies, that I couldn't imagine why anyone would stay here for hours just for a ten minute to twenty-minute announcement. But it's Michael Jackson. What should I have expected?
"He's coming!" Mariah exclaimed. The murmurs turned into shouts of my husband's name and the endless clicks from the camera were so loud, you'd think a swarm of locusts was approaching. Everyone stood from their seats as Michael, Frank, and Bubbles made their way into the room and sat down behind the table. My husband's name was shouted from all areas of the room. He wore a dark pair of sunglasses, his signature red blouse, black slacks, and penny loafers. He held his hand up to wave, prompting the pushing of bodies trying to get closer past the black velvet rope that separated us from the table.
Frank cleared his throat, prompting everyone to quiet down, and bent toward the microphone, "good afternoon. Michael and I have an announcement to make. After the announcement, we will take questions immediately."
Michael bent toward the microphone, "hi." Again, my husband's name was shouted from all areas of the room. Photos were snapped ferociously around the building. While I found it ridiculous how everyone was so frantic about being in the same room as him, it also amazed me to watch him go from simply being my husband to Michael Jackson. He could turn it on and turn it off at any time he pleased. And while it was fascinating, it did have its challenges.
"Quiet please," Frank held his hand up to quiet the crowd. "Michael will be going on his first solo world tour titled TheBad World Tour, sponsored by Pepsi, September twelfth. We will begin in Japan and are booked for sixteen months around the world. Michael feels that it is his duty to give his fans all over the world the show of a lifetime. He feels that if it weren't for his fans, he wouldn't be where he is today. For that, he is eternally grateful, and for that, he feels he owes each and every one of you a spectacular show." I watched as Frank spoke and Michael helped Bubbles to the peanuts provided on the table. I expected Michael to talk, not to let Frank talk for him like a child. "Any questions?"
"Michael, Michael," an NBC rep yelled catching the attention of Michael and Frank. "Why have you decided to begin your first solo world tour in Japan? Why not here at home?"
Michael cleared his throat and bent towards the microphone, "um, the last time I visited my Japanese fans was in nineteen seventy-three when I was on tour with my brothers as the Jackson Five. I felt it would only be right if I went to see them again after all these years," he sat back in his chair.
"Michael! Will Bubbles be accompanying you on tour?" asked an ABC rep.
Michael giggled, "yes."
"Mr. Jackson," a local paper rep called out. "How do your brothers feel about you going on tour without them?"
Michael opened his mouth to speak, but Frank spoke over him, "The new album was created by Michael, not his brothers."
"Michael, what is the new album called?" a New York Times rep asked.
As if on cue, Michael looked in my direction and smiled once he saw me and Mariah, "Mariah!" He smiled. At that, all eyes were on us. He waved Mariah over as he did when we were in the UK. I don't know if he did that to completely ignore the question or not, but he intended on using my sister as his pawn in his game of fame. Mariah hopped off the chair and made her way over to Michael. He patted his lap for her to sit there. She climbed atop his lap looking out at the crowd of journalists and photographers. Frank stared holes into him knowing that that simple act was going to turn the conversation from his tour to his personal life.
"Michael, is this the same girl we saw you in the UK with?" A journalist from LA Times asked.
"Yes," Michael smiled proudly.
"Who is she to you?" The same journalist asked.
"Family. She's like my little sister." Like his little sister. I understood why he didn't say she was his actual sister no matter the familial reason. If he were to say she was his sister, people would question where she came from in the Jackson lineage although that's not her bloodline. Joh'Vonnie is his youngest sister and he'd never admit to the public nor to himself that she was his sister. At least Mariah actually gets the privilege of being called his sister-in-law or like a sister. If he were to say she is his sister-in-law, that would open up a different can of worms. But like his sister. I guess I can agree with.
"Does she travel with you everywhere you go?"
"Yeah," Michael nodded. "You see we were in the UK," he laughed causing the rest of the room to erupt in a burst of small laughter as well.
Frank cleared his throat, "if you have any further questions about the tour, my client and I would be more than happy to answer them."
"Are you excited to go on your first solo world tour?" Someone asked.
"I'm excited to see my fans," Michael smiled.
"Will you be performing any hits by the Jacksons and the Jackson Five?"
"You'll just have to see," he smiled again.
"Any special ladies in your life, Michael?" The TBS rep asked. Michael blushed, opened his mouth to speak, but closed it again.
"Since there are no further questions about the tour, we will be wrapping this up. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen," Frank announced standing up to face Michael. Michael took Bubbles and Mariah's hands and led them to the exit all while every media outlet shouted his name repeatedly asking questions they suddenly had. I'm sure Michael and Mariah were blinded by all the lights, because had I been up there, I certainly would be. I made my way through the crowd to exit through the back doors so that I could meet Michael and Mariah out back to leave. Upon reaching the back parking lot, Frank could be heard yelling at the top of his lungs. "What the fuck was that, Michael, huh? As if you don't look weird enough with Bubbles up there you go and get the kid up there too?!" Michael had his hands over Mariah's ears as Frank lashed into him. "This was supposed to be about your tour! Not bring attention to your private life. Do you know how hard I work to make sure Shayla and Mariah virtually don't exist to the public? I work too damn hard for you to pull some shit like this, Michael. Too fucking hard, you hear me?!"
"Frank, what are you doing?" I ran up to him.
"You stay out of this, Shayla. This is between me and your husband," he pointed at me.
"Don't you dare talk to her like that, Frank," Michael warned him. "You don't control me or what I do. It shouldn't matter to you what I choose to do in the face of the media. You didn't complain when I got Mariah to take photos with me in the UK. What's the problem now?"
"This was supposed to be about your tour. Not about some fucking kid," Frank threw his arms up in disbelief.
"She's not just some kid, Frank. That's my sister," Michael reminded him.
"Yeah, well, the public doesn't know that. All they see is you with some kid. You don't think about what the media may say about you, do you?"
"Should I care?" Michael shot back.
"For God sakes, yes!"
"I wouldn't be weird to the media if it weren't for you! You started all this!"
"Yeah, well, if it weren't for me, the media still wouldn't be checking for Michael Jackson, would they?"
Michael was seething, "let's go, Shayla," he grabbed Mariah's hand as we followed him to the car. As soon as we got in, Michael instructed Bill to take us home. "Who does he think he is, huh? I pay his bills. Me! If it weren't for me, he wouldn't be as high profile as he is now. Talking to me like I'm some child. He works for me!" He said to no one in particular. Mariah watched in astonishment. I had seen this many times before regarding Michael's anger toward Frank. This was nothing new to me. However, I sincerely wished Michael would call it quits already with Frank, but at a time like this, there would be no way. While Frank works for Michael, any one person looking from the outside in could plainly see that Michael was nothing but a cash cow for Frank; almost emulating Michael's father. It seemed he went from one controlling relationship to another regarding management. With the tour booked for many venues, photoshoots booked, interviews booked, there was no way Michael could easily get rid of Frank. Frank had it set up already for him not to, so he could continue to ride this money train for the long run however he may please.