Las Vegas Sun

October 25, 2014

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Nuts about the King of Pop

Fashion designer Andre Van Pier wants to build a robot Michael Jackson. Two, actually.

The first one exists in pencil-sketch form only at the moment. When Jackson returns to the stage, in a "thunder and lightning comeback" which Van Pier says will happen any day now, the robot will dance with Michael. It will look sort of like a muscular comic-book action hero and have lasers shooting from its eyes.

The other robot, which you may have heard of, will be 60 feet tall. It would broadcast Michael Jackson's entire musical catalogue in "ultrasound waves." People could touch the robot and change what it was broadcasting. They could also talk to it, and it would talk back. It would, of course, have the requisite eye lasers.

Van Pier explained all of this at a news conference Friday afternoon at Planet Hollywood. In a one-bed hotel room strewn with magazine covers, pencil sketches of fashions, and clothes Van Pier claims Jackson wore in music videos.

Back to the big robot. Van Pier isn't sure were he will locate it, maybe in the Mojave or maybe in North Las Vegas. Someplace out of the way, for the sake of the airport and the planes trying to land.

"Also, we don't want the planes to interfere with the robot," Van Pier says.

Oh, and he's going to build the robot out of palladium.

A note about palladium. It's heavy. It's expensive. A 6-inch cube of palladium - and surely you would need more even to plate a 60-foot-tall robot - would weigh about 94 pounds and cost about $564,300.

Van Pier talks in a hard-to-place accent. He waves his arms and bobs his short body up and down. The fashion designer is dressed in white tennis shoes, blue track pants, a green sport shirt with a stain, and a navy blue coat that he calls his signature design. It has a "V" and a "P" made out of rhinestones glued to its breast pocket. Some of the rhinestones have fallen off. He tops the outfit off with a dirty yellow hat.

Van Pier makes some interesting claims about his career as a fashion designer, none of which were verifiable by deadline. He designed not only for Jackson, but also Mick Jagger. He designed Dustin Hoffman's red dress for "Tootsie," though he's not in the credits. He recently sent a robe to first lady Laura Bush, a "very sexy" one.

Lest you think Van Pier is some kind of lone nut, you should know he has a spokesman, Michael C. Luckman, director of the New York Center for Extraterrestrial Research and author of "Alien Rock: The Rock 'n' Roll Extraterrestrial Connection."

But are these guys nuts?

"Yeah, they are," says Van Alexander, a spokesman for Jackson. "There is no 60-foot robot being made of Michael Jackson with his permission."

And Van Pier's claims that he's scheduling a meeting with the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce to discuss the economic impact of the robot?

"Categorically not true," says spokeswoman Cara Roberts.

And Van Pier's assertion that he helped make the "What happens here, stays here" Las Vegas tourism commercials?

"That name and any of his philosophies of life are not at all familiar to me," says Don Turley of R&R Partners, which made the commercials.

OK, but what about his claim that he's meeting with the "Las Vegas Tourism Board," by which we can only assume he means the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, to discuss the robot's impact on tourism?

Spokesman Jeremy Handel says no one at the LVCVA had heard from Van Pier.

The robot's impact on tourism?

"I think that's pretty hard to gauge," Handel says.

If we've learned anything from comic books and movies, it's that a 60-foot, laser-equipped robot is bound to run amok, destroying all in its path. What about that?

"I don't think we'd have a position on that," Handel says.

Van Pier admits he hasn't had contact with the Jackson camp, not since maybe 2000. But he has contacts in the industry. When the time comes, Van Pier says he and his robots will be ready for Michael Jackson's Las Vegas spectacular.

"Elvis left a blueprint here about the king," Van Pier says. "And we need a new king."