The Associated Press
Published Thursday, March 5, 2009 | 11:05 a.m.
Updated Friday, March 6, 2009 | 11:12 a.m.
It’s been confirmed in London that longtime Michael Jackson pal Kenny Ortega will stage the King of Pop’s comeback concerts. The "High School Musical" director and choreographer is well-known for his work on Vegas theatrical projects and masterminded the “Pirates” outdoor spectacular at Treasure Island.
Posters announcing Michael’s July concerts at the O2 Arena were put up at London Underground stations there today -- four hours in advance of the King of Pop’s announcement! The billboards went up on the British capital’s subway system at noon London time as fans were encouraged to turn out in force and start “Michaelmania” frenzy at the concert site so the press conference will “look great for TV coverage.”
The notoriously late pop star was true to form and left his Lanesborough Hotel in London exactly one hour after the press conference was set to start! He was due to take to the stage at 8 a.m. Las Vegas time (4 p.m. British time) but didn't arrive until 90 minutes later.
One of my former Fleet Street photographer pals told me that Michael was given a motorcycle police escort through London’s crowded traffic to speed him to the 02 Arena, but rush hour traffic slowed him down further.
As Michael waited to go on stage with fans chanting his name, a video highlights reel of his hits and his previous stage appearances was played. A London deejay walked the stage with a hand-held mic under a banner that proclaimed “This is it.” The video clip was titled “The Wait Is Almost Over: The King of Pop Returns” and included “Beat It,” “Billie Jean” and excerpts from “Thriller.” The video, which showed dozens of cutaway shots of crying fans, also featured his legendary dance moves including his famous moonwalk.
Kenny Ortega was alongside Michael as he was shown exiting a large mini-bus and ignored a waiting golf cart to walk to the stage. Michael, in sunglasses, wore a black military jacket flecked with white brocade stitching.
He said: “Thank you, all! This is it! I just want to say that these will be my final show performances in London. This is it. It really means that. I’ll be performing the songs my fans want to hear. This is it, really it. This is the final curtain call. I'll see you in July, and I love you. I really do. You have to know that. I love you from the bottom of my heart. This is it. See you in July!”
His speech, which was less than two minutes, took nearly five minutes to complete because of the interruptions from the crowd. The concerts start July 8, with presale starting next Wednesday and regular tickets going on sale March 13.
Michael says the 10 July concerts in London will be the last that he will ever perform -- anywhere. It’s believed that the 50-year-old entertainer is performing the final shows of his career so that his children get to see him on stage.
I’m reliably told that one of their first discussions about Michael’s concerts took place at Wing Lei in Steve Wynn’s the Wynn during a lengthy dinner attended by Michael, Kenny and mega-rich producing partner Simon Fuller, who is a partner in various ventures with "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell.
Fuller, 48, created and managed the "Idol" franchise, which has more than 100 versions throughout the world. He also was the manager of the Spice Girls, producing their big hits and successful world tours and is given credit for introducing Posh Spice Victoria to her future husband, David Beckham.
Both Simon Fuller and Simon Cowell are on the Top 10 list of Britain’s richest men. Fuller, hailed as a “showbiz Svengali,” heads up 19 Entertainment, with offices in London and Los Angeles. He built it into a multi-million-dollar entertainment complex before selling it for $200 million to U.S. billionaire Robert X. Sillerman, who owns the CFX entertainment and sports organization. Fuller is now a CFX director, and the company is partnered with Cirque du Soleil in the new Elvis Presley spectacular scheduled to open at MGM’s CityCenter on the Strip in December.
While the King of Pop announces his new mega-bucks performing deal in London for this July, lawyers are trying simultaneously to untangle a controversy about the planned April 22-25 auction, at the Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel, of the contents of his Neverland estate. After giving Julien's Auction House permission to send eight trucks to remove all of his possessions for sale, it appears Michael has had a change of heart and wants to stop the auction.
Trouble is that everything has been planned, booked and organized for the sale. Every item has been listed, cleaned, photographed, labeled and made ready for sale. Even the catalogs have all been printed, and he’s even autographed valuable VIP copies! It’s one more legal mess that Michael has created with his “yes-no” change of mind . The auction house says the sale will go ahead because they have a signed contract by Michael, and it’s too late now to stop it.