Chapter 38 - Michael Jackson's Private Home Movies - The King of Pop Up Close & Personal

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April 1, 2003


“You made sure not to pick any embarrassing videos, right?” Shayla came to sit beside me just as Karen finished a final touch of makeup. She draped a white sweater over her shoulders exposed shoulders. For this special, she wore a very form-fitting black Versace Jumpsuit. The gold label wrapped around her waist, perfectly accenting the black. She looks good. I can’t even lie. I feel underdressed, wearing a white shirt and a black suit jacket.

I invited Shayla and no one else to be a part of this final piece because she has been with me every step. Divorced or not, we spent the majority of our lives together. Nina asked to be a part of it to add some insight, but I declined.

When my rebuttal documentary, “The Footage You Were Never Meant to See,” came out in February, it was met with mixed reviews. Maury Povich hosted it, and Shayla’s portion of the documentary was aired and retired across many news outlets for weeks. It wasn’t her intention to go mainstream that way, but the media ate it up. The public loved her commentary, and I honestly feel she’s the main reason why views have been looking up when it comes to me after what Bashir put out. Bashir, of course, never commented on the rebuttal, but it’s okay. Because everything I have planned is going to show that what he said about me was just cruel and unusual. He tried to paint me as a monster, but I wanted to show the world that I’m human, just like them.

The twins are with their grandparents in Ohio for the week. It’s technically Shayla’s week, but she and Drew have more wedding plans that need to be adjusted. While Drew’s out taking care of that and Nina’s out working, Shayla and I are working on this. This is my final press run regarding what Bashir put out, and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy Shayla being here for me every step of the way.

“I promise I won’t embarrass you. If I were to embarrass you, I’d be embarrassing me too,” I laughed. Shayla agreed to do this television special with me as long as I showed the “good” videos. I promised her I would. She hated doing press stuff like this in the past, but now, she loves it? That or she just really wants to help me out. I can’t complain. Looking back on it and finally coming to terms with it, I now understand that she hated it in the past because I thrust her into it after being in “hiding” for ten years. But now, being “used to it,” she has no problem doing this, and I appreciate that. I think it’s just the healthy balance of being private and public when she wants to. I wish I had understood that sooner, but I was too excited, young, and dumb in the past.

“Ready?” She looked over at me and adjusted my collar before leaving to go back behind the scenes.

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” I told her as she took a seat before it was her time to sit beside me. After being dragged through the mud these past couple of months, I’ve been feeling like myself again. After this, I just want to rest. I don't know what will if these rebuttals don’t tell the public who I am. This will be it for me.

“Ready, Michael?” The director, Brad, pointed at me. I nodded, “Action!”

“Many people are wondering,” I began. “Why would I put my private, private home movies on television? Well, I thought it was time to do so because many people have opinions about me. They haven’t even met me. They don’t even know me like the people closest to me. So, I thought it was time to open up to show them who I really am. I’m just simply Michael Jackson. As far back as I can remember, I’ve been in front of the camera. Not just the TV cameras, but I’m talking about my family taking home movies of me when I was really, really little.” A home video of Gary and the family home came on on the movie screen before me. “We lived in Gary, Indiana, and we lived on a street called Jackson Street coincidentally. It was the name of the street. Now imagine nine kids living in a two-bedroom house. We had to wait in line to take baths, and that’s a snowball fight, I think. Rustling in the snow, that’s me on ghe far…. right. I don’t want nothin’ to do with it,” I laughed as footage of my early childhood continued to be played. I continued to comment on my early childhood, pointing out my siblings and the times in the neighborhood in which we stayed.

Once that portion was over, we stopped and prepared for the next segment, which was what my life was like on tour. I’m sure this is what the fans would really care to hear about since I’ve literally been on tour most of my life. I asked Shayla to sit beside me since she was present in my life from this point forward. I had done a lot from the early sixties to the late seventies. But she was really there from the beginning of my solo career.

“Do you want me to say much or what?” She asked as she got herself together to be presentable for the camera. I thought she looked fine.

“Comment on whatever you feel the need to comment on,” I assured her.

“What if you don’t like what I comment on?”

“I’ll say what I need to, but I’ll enjoy your commentary nonetheless.”

“I just don’t want to take away from you. This is all about you,” she reminded me.

“Yeah, I know, but you were there. If this footage doesn’t have you in it, you were still there behind the scenes. So, honestly, I’m sure the fans would love to hear your insight about what life was like behind what we show.”

“Okay…” She sounded unsure.

“This will be fine. I promise. You ready?” I asked her. She nodded. I looked up at Brad and told him to begin. “Before we talk about my life on tour, for those who don’t know, this is Shayla-Elizabeth. My ex-wife and the mother of my children, Michael and Milan. She smiled and waved in typical Shayla fashion. Do you want to go by Shayla or Shayla-Elizabeth?” I asked her.

She looked at me, “I’m fine with Shayla.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah!” She said before looking at the camera. “My name is a mouthful, so if it’s easier, just say Shayla. It makes both of our lives so much better.” We laughed.

“Aside from being married for a long time, we’ve been friends for even longer. Longer than our marriage. Wouldn’t you say?” I looked over at her admiringly.

“Absolutely!” She nodded.

“Yeah, so our friendship is even stronger now. So, she’s gonna be here for the rest of the special. I hope y’all enjoy her memories just as much as you enjoy hearing mine.” Footage of tours began to show on the movie screen.

“Oof! I remember all of this!” Shayla shook her head as she watched the sea of people on the screen.

“The record company, usually they’d like for you to support your album and go on tour. And… Uh… I don’t like to.” Shayla quickly turned to look at me as if she was shocked. Inside, I was laughing, but I held my composure. “I do like, relating to the fans, giving the fans the chance to see you face to face because you go from Hong Kong to Africa to China to Brazil, Singapore, Switzerland, London, Paris, Russia… And the stadiums are just jammed and… The energy is great. It’s fantastic. We have uh- I mean, I don’t know how they enjoy the show because it’s festival seating. They don’t want chairs! Even if there were chairs, they would stand on them. Just- So, we have a tent on the side. It’s usually like five thousand faints every night, and we have all the paramedics. But-but, it’s a difficult thing! You go from one continent to another! You’re sleepy! The timezones are different.” Shayla nodded in agreement. “You can’t sleep after the show. Adrenaline is up here.”

Brad stood up, “Michael?”

“Yeah?” I looked over at him.

“Can we- Can we just do it again without the- Just, the negative saying that you don’t like to tour? Just cause-”

“I don’t like it, though.”

“I know! But it-”

“I go through hell- I go through hell touring.”

“Okay, but can we say that touring is uh-”

“Okay, I’ll make it positive then. But you know the truth.”

“Yeah. That’s fine!” Everyone laughed. “Okay. And… Action,” we started again from the top.

“I love to tour.” Everyone, including myself, began to laugh as I said that. “You guys messed that up,” I looked over at Shayla, who was red in the face. “Why’d you all start laughing? I was getting ready to get into it!” New footage of another concert came on screen, and our laughter died down. “No, but seriously, there is a good part of touring. It’s the fans. I love my fans. You go from any city anywhere in the world, they know all the songs, all the dance moves. Everything. They even come with the tape on their fingers. The hats and the glove. Everything! It’s just a wonderful experience. I love it.”

“Can I say something?” Shayla asked me.

“Of course,” I nodded.

“The fans really are the highlight. I mean, during these times, as you can see, The Victory Tour is being shown, the Bad, the Dangerous- The fans are truly amazing! I may have been behind the scenes, you may not know I was there with Michael, but I saw you all. I saw how you all would stop traffic to show Michael something, wave, or touch him. When Michael says he loves you, he really really does. It truly makes the experience so much better. Like, Mike said, there’d be times we’d go without sleep. He’d be up because his adrenaline is rushing, and I’d be right up with him well into the wee hours of the mornin’. But the fans made it so worth it. I can’t emphasize that enough.”

“And she- at the time, y’all didn’t know who she was, but she’d stand to the side while I signed autographs. Or she’d be the one taking photos of me and fans. She was there every step of the way. She saw you, and you didn’t know it then, but you saw her too. She was so important to me then, just as she is now as the mother of my children. But she’d be right there with me during those long sleepless nights. I’m grateful for that. Truly. Have I ever told you that?” I looked over at her.

“No…” She shook her head.

“Well, I am. I don’t know how I could have done it without you, honestly,” I laughed to myself.

“I mean, you had been doing it before me just fine.”

“Yeah, but I had my brothers and my father. Doing this solo? Whew! All I can say is thank you for being there.”

“Aww, Mike. You’re welcome,” she smiled.

Before fully realizing it, I forgot we were filming; I licked my lips and went back to watching the footage of me on the cherry-picker screaming into the mic as the chords for “Beat It” began. This was from the Dangerous Tour. “When I walk out the stage, the fans give me so much love, and that’s everywhere I go. Every time I walk on stage.” Guards in red jackets and tall black hats walked out on stage on the footage before us, “One of the best moments is right here, right here. It’s right in the middle of the show, and it’s my birthday. And I’m thousands of miles away from my family during an interesting time in ninety-three. The fact they surprised me with a full marching band and then they brought out this huge beautiful birthday cake really meant everything to me. I realized that I’ve got family all over the world everywhere I go. ‘Cause my fans really show me the love, and I love them just as much.”

“I don’t want to say too much about what was going on at the time,” Shayla began. “But all I can say is that this really brought so much joy to Michael during such a tumultuous time. Also, that cake was delicious!” We both laughed.

“She’s not lying. It was good. I’ll never forget it,” I nodded in agreement. “So, I’ve met a lot of people in my life, and very few are real, real, real friends. You can probably count them on one hand. And Shayla,” out of the corner of my eye, I could see Shayla slowly turn to look at me. “Is one of the most loyal, loving, caring people that I know. And I was so grateful to be able to be married to her for fourteen years. I bought Neverland in nineteen eighty-eight and was raised a Jehovah’s Witness. I never celebrated my birthday or holidays. When we married, she slowly got me into celebrating my birthday, but holidays were hard. A year after the purchase, Shayla decided to transform Neverland into its’ first Christmas.”

“It is nineteen ninety…” A young Shayla began speaking on the movie screen.

“Oh my god…” Shayla gasped next to me. “You said you weren’t gonna show anything embarrassing…”

“This isn’t embarrassing to me,” I smiled as I watched thirty-year old Shayla on the screen wrapped up in a fluffy green and red robe, her hair was wet as she had just finished washing it, but her curls were absolutely extravagant framing her face. No makeup in sight. It was just Shayla sitting on the couch in our living room right in front of a Christmas tree that she had decorated overnight.

“I was up all night getting this prepared,” Shayla commented. “It was such a struggle. I think I got in an hour nap before I filmed this video for you to watch later. It took forever to convince Michael to celebrate his day of birth after he quit being a Jehovah’s Witness, but convincing him to celebrate major holidays was even more difficult. I wasn’t raised as a JW, so some of our beliefs conflicted but not all. And it didn’t feel right to me to celebrate my birthday and get all these gifts, but when Michael’s birthday came around, he didn’t want nothing from me. I had to show him that Christmas was really about love. Especially relating it to the Christian faith. It’s about love and giving. And after convincing him of that, he finally came around.”

“I had no idea she was planning this. This was a real surprise. I’m still tryna figure out how she did all this overnight,” I looked over at her.

“It’s the magic of Christmas,” she smiled as she, too, reminisced while watching the footage on the screen.

“Baby…” thirty-year-old Shayla cooed on the screen as she opened the door to our bedroom. “Wait here,” she told our personal videographer.“Babe…” The videographer waited patiently. I remember waking up to her kisses and wondering what was so urgent that she had to get me up this early in the morning. She told me to hurry up and get dressed because she had a surprise for me. I did as best as I could. But nothing could have prepared me for what she had in store.

We finally emerged out of the bedroom. I was dressed in red silk pajamas, and she held my hand with the biggest grin on her face.

“Welcome to your first Christmas,” Shayla said on the screen.

“Oh my god… it’s incredible,” my former self said on the screen upon seeing all the decorations she had in our living room. I had seen Christmas decorations before, but never in my own house. So seeing this after wanting it since I was a child was truly a dream come true. “I can’t believe this.” Shayla’s former self giggled.

I gazed over at Shayla as she kept her eyes on the screen, “she decorated the entire house just for me…” My heart was filled with joy at the memories and being able to talk about these memories with her for the whole world to see. Andrew is really marrying a really good woman.

“That’s yours,” Shayla pointed to a red stocking in front of the fireplace.

“Santa came?” I asked.

“Santa from Santa Barbara,” she laughed.

“Santa from Santa Barbara?” I laughed as well. “Can I open it?”

“Yep!”

“At the same time as it was exciting, I felt guilty too at the same time,” I commented on the footage. “After this, I remember going to our bedroom and crying. Shayla came to comfort me, of course. But I felt like I had done something wrong because I was raised not to ever celebrate it.”

“We talked about it for sure,” Shayla looked at me as she spoke. “I understood where his guilt was coming from. Like, I said, we had talked about it since his departure from being a Witness. I was raised as a Non-denominational Christian, and I celebrated all of the holidays. I didn’t want to overstep a boundary that he had with how he was raised, and I don’t want anyone to ever think that I was forcing him to celebrate something he normally wouldn’t have. I mean, before this, he had been celebrating his birthday for a couple of years, so certain things were coming. But as you know, we have children now, and during that time, we definitely talked about what we wanted to do about the holidays. Michael left the Witnesses, yes, but he held onto many of their values. But he also had to decide how he wanted to deal with that in terms of our children later down the line.”

“My children haven’t missed a single birthday or holiday,” I looked at the camera. “I didn’t want to rob them of that opportunity. I’ll let them choose if they ever want to celebrate or not. Their birthday meant a lot to me…to us, so we make sure to celebrate that to the greatest degree. But understand that my children have never missed a Christmas, Easter, or Halloween. You name it! And you know what? They know that Halloween is Daddy’s favorite holiday. I can go on and on about that,” I laughed. “But they know that if we were to ever ‘miss’ a holiday, it would never be Halloween.”

“That’s so true. Michael’s a great dad, and although we grew up differently, when it comes to our children, he doesn’t let his former guilt take away from what our children can experience. He’d let them celebrate every holiday worldwide if he wanted to.”

“And that’s not an understatement,” we both laughed.

On the screen, Shayla and I were laughing because she had just unwrapped one of her presents, and it just happened to be the sixth super soaker that we unwrapped that morning.

“If you’re wondering why I love super soakers so much, it’s because, if you come to Neverland, it’s a rule that you are bound to get wet. Either be thrown in the pool, or you have a water balloon fight or a super soaker fight. And… I love all of the above.” Janet came across the screen smiling, “that’s Janet. We think so much alike.”

That they do!” Shayla raised her index finger in agreement and laughed. “Being around them is like being around twins, I swear! And being around them during a water fight? Oh, forget it! They’d always get me! And sometimes, me and our nieces and nephews would just get big buckets of water and throw them on Mike or Jan.”

“And that’s my niece Andy. She’s in college now. And my nephews, 3T. I invited my nieces and nephews from both Shayla and my side to spend time at the ranch… Super soakers are really high-tech. They got some really great ones now,” I said as footage of Janet and me sneaking around the corner with super soakers came up. “Okay, we’re preparing the water balloon fight.”

“What’s the name of our group this time?” My former self asked my nephew, Siggy, as Janet smiled at the camera. “Visions of Doom!” I finally told the camera.

“We have teams. We use the whole ranch. My favorite thing in the world to play, if you call it a sport, is a water balloon fight. ‘Cause I like the way they splatter when they hit,” I laughed. “I’ve never lost a water balloon fight. I’m the Michael Jordan of water balloon fights.”

“Visions of Doom. We won the fight. Again and again,” I said as I held Siggy on the shoulders.

“Janet, what’s it like on the winning team?” My videographer asked my sister.

“It feels great,” Janet said as I ran behind her to throw a bucket of water on TJ.

“For some reason, when people think or see the ranch, they think it’s creepy?” Shayla made a face at the camera. “But it’s literally just home to Mike. And a big play place for our nieces and nephews and now our kids. There’s nothing sinister about it. We’ve had so much fun at the ranch, and we still do. Spinning it to make it sound like something sinister says more about the person saying it than it does us. Neverland was home to me for many years, and nothing terrible ever happened there.”

“Yeah, the rumors have never made sense to me,” I began. “That’s all I’m gonna say about that because I don’t want this to be about rumors. But yeah, Neverland is a fun place. That’s how I created it. I just wanted it to be a fun place.”

“So, I brought something. Can I show them?” Shayla asked as she dug into her purse.

“Is it gonna embarrass me?” I asked with a suspicious smile.

“Nope,” she pulled out a file folder and opened it.

“Oh…” I looked down at my sketch of an early version of Neverland.

“So,” Shayla showed the camera. “Michael sent me this in our first couple of letters. He said he wanted a home that looked like this when he got older. And I remember joking with him that his home would be better than Kings Island in Ohio. And sure enough, it is. I brought this up because Neverland was discussed earlier this year as weird and creepy. So, I wanted to show the origins of where the idea for the ranch even came from. Do you see anything sinister here? No. And you’re not going to because that isn’t want Neverland is about.” She smiled and put the sketch back in the folder.

“Thank you,” I told her sincerely.

“You are more than welcome.” Just as she said that the footage of the end of our wedding popped up. She gasped, “you didn’t!”

“I did,” I nodded. “This is when Shayla and I got married in eighty-three. Like most of these videos, I never thought this would see the light of day. But here we are.”

“Michael?” The officiant asked me on screen. A twenty-two-year-old Shayla’s head tilted to the side as she looked at me.

“Yes?” A twenty-four-year-old me asked.

“I said, do you take Shayla-Elizabeth Johnson to be your lawfully wedded wife? To have and to hold from this day forward for better or for worse-”

“Oh yes! I do, I do, I really do!” My former self blurted out. Me, Shayla, and the entire crew laughed out loud with the audience on screen. Shayla and I kissed on screen and went down the aisle to applause. The footage then cut to our reception.

“I just want to say,” a tear-stain-faced LaToya said to our videographer for the wedding. “I’m so happy for my baby brother and his new wife. This has to be the best wedding I’ve ever been to.”

“That’s my sister, LaToya. Now, I have to ask her if our wedding was the best.”

“Michael and Shayla,” a snaggletoothed eight-year-old Mariah began. “Congratulations!” She looked up and behind the camera as someone told her what to say. “And I love you!

“That’s Shayla’s baby sister, Mariah,” I said.

“She’s been touring as a backup dancer for Janet for years now. Lately, she’s been in music videos,” she nodded with a proud smile.

“She’s in music videos now?”

“Yep. I’m surprised you haven’t seen her on 106 & Park.”

“106 & Park?”

“You haven’t heard of it?”

“You know I don’t watch television that much.”

“It’s a music video countdown show. She’s in a lot of the videos.”

“I need to catch up,” I laughed. “This is our honeymoon,” I said as the screen showed us walking down the boardwalk to the main event building. “If our divorce doesn’t make our marriage real, I’m hoping this footage does.”

“We were really like any American couple,” Shayla nodded. “Seriously. He just happened to be Michael Jackson and wanted to keep his personal life very, very private, and he deserved that right.”

“And as I’ve said before, keeping it private will never be anything I regret. I cherished these moments just as much now as I did then.”

“We were so young, happy, and free,” Shayla smiled.

“That we were. Sometimes, I’d give anything to go back to that…” My eyes wandered over to her. “You look just as good now as you did then.”

She blushed a deep red, “don’t let my fiancé hear you say that.”

I sucked my teeth and looked right at the camera, “Drew, Shayla looks good! By the way, I can’t wait to hear all about the wedding.” I cheesed.

“Oh my god,” Shayla shook her head.

“All I’m saying is that Drew did a great job in wanting to marry you. That’s all,” I shrugged. We looked at the screen to see Janet, my mother, and Shayla singing. “That’s Janet, my mother, and Shayla backstage at one of my concerts. They’re singing almost as loud as me.”

“Some of my favorite moments on tour would be when your family came to visit. I loved that so much,” Shayla said.

“Really?”

“Mmhm. I mean, I had you, but having them just made me feel so at home and not like I was thousands of miles away from family. It was truly the best. I’m still so close to Michael’s family. That’ll never change.”

I looked at the camera, “I remember my mother said to me, we were at the Copenhagen, I think, and there was just a sea of people. There was like over two hundred thousand people, and her eyes were watering. She was on the side of the stage, and I said, ‘Mother, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?’ She said, ‘um, when you were a baby, and I was holding you in my arms, I would have never dreamt that you could- you would do this. You would have this kind of effect on an audience like this.’ I gave her a hug and tried to get her on stage. She’s so shy. She- No matter what, she will not come on stage. But I thought that was really sweet of her. And this…” I said as I looked up at the screen to see a video and Shayla sitting beside me with her arm around me. The video is dated August 29, 1992. My thirty-fourth birthday. We were in Germany. She invited Elizabeth even though she cared far less for her, my parents, Diana Ross, and a couple more of my close friends for an intimate birthday party between concerts.

“I know that a lot of you had to drop a lot of things to be here, but thank you so much for being here nonetheless,” a young, nervous Shayla said to the small party. “You’re all here because you’re special to Michael; therefore, you’re special to me. Um… This is nothing compared to what you’ve done for me. Not only me but everyone here. I was eighteen when I wrote you but nineteen when we first met and started dating. You’ve taught me so much. You’ve taught me how to be a businesswoman. You’ve taught me how to be a better wife. You’ve taught me about the world. You’ve taught me that there is so much more to life than what we have. We’ve grown so much together as friends. You’ve given me so much in life and… It’s not enough that I can give you. I just want you to be happy… Even if the world comes crashing down on top of us, I want you to be happy knowing that you have me by your side. And… every year, I’m even more in love with you. We may disagree, but nothing surpasses the good times we have had and continue to have. I love everything about spending every day of my life with you. I’m so very proud of you. There’s not a moment I’m not proud of you, Michael. Happy Birthday.” The small party applauded as she planted a kiss on my lips. Who would have ever known that the world would have crashed on us precisely a year after this?

Shayla nodded, “you meant so much to me then. I mean, you do now, but then? You were everything. Nobody could tell me anything about my love for you. That’s for sure.”

“These are those private moments about our ‘private,’” I air quoted. “Marriage that I cherish so much. This was beautiful. I was grateful for that speech then, just as I am now. It still motivates me to this day even though we’re so different from those people on the screen.”

“You’re welcome, Mike…”

We sat silently while watching the rest of the footage play on the screen. I included her speech because I wanted to show that I wasn’t only making my family proud but that I had made my spouse proud of me too. Although that may have been a little too intimate, I just wanted to show the world another aspect of our very real yet very private marriage. Shayla didn’t object, so it’s not the problem I may have thought that it would have been.

Next up was a section on Lady Diana. I couldn’t not put this in there for multiple reasons: she meant a lot to me, and not gonna lie, after Bashir did what he did to Diana and me, I have to put in something to show how amazing she truly was.

“Lady Diana, um, in real truth, was one of the sweetest people I’ve ever known. Because, um, we could relate to each other. We share something in common with the press. I don’t think they hounded anyone more than they did her and myself. We would talk often about the tabloids and media and how they lie and twist stories around. Um, but she came to a concert at Wembley Stadium in London. And you know they did the royal family lineup, and you meet the family and everything. But at some point, she called me away from the line. And uh- And I saw Prince Charles look at me, and I said, ‘oh, boy.’ She said, ‘I wanna talk to you.’ And I said, ‘yeah. What’s- What’s happening?’ She said, ‘are you gonna do ‘Dirty Diana’ tonight?’ I said, ‘no- no. I took it out of the show out of respect for you. She said, ‘that’s my favorite song!’ I said, ‘are you serious? I took it out of respect- ‘Dirty Diana.’ You’re in the audience?’ So, at that point, I couldn’t put it back in the show because it was too close to showtime. So, um, I remember, um, Prince Charles leaving the line, walking over to us and he said, ‘what are you talking about?’ And she said, ‘oh, nothing!’ Like that. She was just a wonderful, warm, compassionate person. Very caring. Very caring. It was real. It wasn’t, uh, publicity stunt. She really cared. I’m the same way. I feel the same way as she does about children and the future of our children. And the future of our world… What I usually do on my off days,” I began as footage of Shayla and me in children’s hospitals began to show on the screen. “I do as many hospitals as I do concerts.”

“Can I say something?” Shayla asked.

“Of course!”

“When he says that, he really means it. Sometimes before or immediately after a concert, we visited children’s hospitals. The smile on their faces literally lit up a room. It was truly the best thing to do and to see.”

“But because it’s good news, the press don’t cover it. I did that from my heart. I didn’t do it for the media. But do know that the media covers more bad things about me than the good things I’ve ever done.”

“When Michael says he loves children, he really means it. It’s nothing sinister. People can claim that all day, but what sinister person goes visits hospitals, huh? None. None whatsoever. That should show you something. Michael isn’t what these people proclaim him to be.”

“This is Shayla-Elizabeth and me at a hospital in Budapest. And there was this little kid, his name was Farkus. He was very sick. He was green in the face, but he had this glow and this sparkle in his eye. I asked his nurse, ‘what’s wrong with this kid?’ She said that, uh, he needs a liver. I said, ‘so, uh, does that mean he’s gonna die?’ She said, ‘yes, he’s gonna die unless he gets the liver.’ I said, ‘I’m not gonna let him die.’ This sweet angel. No matter what it takes. I’m gonna find a liver for him. So I sent an organization around the world. We went all over the place, and it took a long time. And I said, ‘I’m not giving up. I’m not gonna have this child die.’ I was so happy that I got a phone call that told me, ‘we found the liver, and he has his life.’ I was so proud that I could help him. God bless him.”

“Oh my god…” Shayla covered her mouth as the footage switched directions.

“What?” I looked over at her.

“No way you put this in there…” On the screen was footage of our combined Family Day in Ohio. In 1995, while Shayla and I weren’t on the best terms, we still tried to have a lot of fun. So, I rented out an ample space in Ohio, flew my family out, and both of our families had a ball on this rented ranch.

“Oh yeah! I couldn’t not put this in there. Shayla and my family love each other so much. Both our parents and siblings, and nieces get along so well because of all of the family events we have. So, this is when my family came to her side in February. There’s still snow on the ground, and some of our nieces on nephews on my side have never even seen snow. It was the coolest thing. We played games indoors, made snowmen, and watched movies…”

“Joe!” James called out to my father. “Why y’all act like y’all ain’t seen snow before? You too good for snow?”

Joseph laughed, “no, James. I just have good enough sense to not want to live in it anymore.”

Shayla and I laughed. “That’s my father, James, joking with Joseph. Having them together in the same room is really a hoot.”

The camera showed Shayla in the kitchen with my mother, her mother, Mary and Rachel. Then it panned over to show me showing my nieces and nephews from Shayla’s side how to moonwalk.

“Mike, whatcha doin’?” Tito asked from behind the camera.

I looked bewilderedthen smiled when I realized who it was, “RJ and Nori begged me to teach them how to moonwalk so they can show their classmates that I’m really their uncle.” My brother and I laughed and the idea. I wonder if their classmates ever became fully convinced.

“Bringing our families together at least once every two years has always been the goal,” Shayla said as she looked up at the reunion on the screen. “I honestly don’t know a closer group of in-laws. Do you?”

“Nope,” I shook my head. “Oh,” I smiled as footage from a video dated July 13th, 1995, popped up. “This was Shayla’s birthday. And I know we’re no longer together, but this is one of my favorite videos. We were going through a tough time around this time, but I wanted to show her how much I still cared about her.” In the footage, I opened the door to reveal her present. A tapestry of a recent portrait of her at the time.

“Oh my goodness…” Shayla gasped. Given all that we were going through at the time, she couldn’t help but cry. “Michael… You didn’t have to do this.”

“But I did. You deserve it. You like it?”

“I love it!” She wrapped her arms around my neck and planted a kiss to my cheek. “It’s so beautiful. When did you have time to do this?”

“I had to make time. And by the look on your face, it was so worth it.”

“Thank you so so much, baby.”

“Do you still have that?” I turned to look at Shayla.

She smiled and nodded, “I do. It’s in my Toronto home. It still looks just as great as it did in that video. It’s honestly one of my favorite gifts that I’ve ever gotten.”

“Honestly?”

“Honestly,” she assured me. “It means a lot for so many different reasons. And it represents so much for that time… I cherish it. Truly.”

“I’m just glad you still have it.”

“I would never get rid of it. No matter what we went through. I wasn’t going to get rid of that.”

“That’s so kind of you,” I couldn’t help but blush.

“It’s truly a treasure,” she looked back up at the screen just as videos with me and the twins popped up. She couldn’t help but smile.

“You’ve seen a lot of footage tonight of my life. My joys, my happiness, ya know. Um, but what you’re gonna see now is what I’m most proud of. What I think… Life is really all about. Out of all of my accomplishments, my children are what I’m most proud of. Forget the awards and stuff… My children are my greatest accomplishment.” Just as I said that, videos of Michael and Milan playing at Neverland, at home with Shayla, and with their grandparents. “I love and adore my children. They mean everything to me. They have a normal life, they play with other kids, and they have a good time. They’re laughing a lot. They run around. They even go to school… It’s a normal life for them. But I have to protect them from the public… I’ve been through a lot with the media, and I don’t want my children to have to suffer the same.”

“What are you gonna be when you grow up?” My personal videographer asked a three-year-old Milan.

“I’m gonna be like my Daddy,” she smiled.

“What’s your favorite book that your Dad has read you?” He asked MJ.

“Cat in the Hat!” He cheesed, looking just like me when I was his age.

“Michael is really a great father,” Shayla said. “Things may not have worked out between us, but we made two beautiful children together, and for that, I can never regret our time together. I couldn’t have asked for a better father for my children…”

The footage continued until it finally faded to black.

“That was wonderful!” Brad and the rest of the crew applauded.

I looked over at Shayla, “thank you so much for doing this with me. I honestly couldn’t have done it without you,” I pulled her in for a tight hug.

“You know I’d do anything for you. Don’t even worry about it,” her hug was just as tight as mine.

It took us a moment before we finally broke free of each other’s embrace…

“Well,” she sighed. “I’ve got to get going. Gotta prepare for this wedding. When is this gonna air?”

“On the twenty-fourth. Don’t miss it,” I reminded her.

“I won’t. Thanks. See ya, Mike.”

“See you later,” I watched as she made a beeline towards the exit. After watching all that, I’m not gonna lie; I miss her, and I know she misses me.

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