Stepping through the door of a biography like this is always an internal struggle. Michael Jackson is one of the most famous and infamous people in modern history. Through the deluge of media coverage of his life, the public can easily fall into a trap of believing they have heard it all, know it all, and there’s nothing more to learn. Minds are made up and buried in the concrete foundation of pop culture history. In order to dive into a book like this, you really must let preconceived notions go and see where the story takes you. Trust me, it’s not what you’d expect.
Remember the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson in His Final Days is a near day-to-day account of the pop icon’s life told from the perspective of his two personal bodyguards. Bill and Javon fell into the post randomly and with no warning of what it would do to their lives, but they not only stepped up to the plate, they became protective of the person instead of just the “client.” Slipping into this job was more than just “once in a lifetime,” it was “once in an era.” It’s hard work in a position like this, to be so close with someone every single day, and not develop personal feelings about them, whether good or bad. For Bill and Javon, they figured it was time to let everyone else know the side of Michael Jackson only they had access to.
Right off the bat they are honest about where they are coming from:
“We have tried our best to strike a balance between the need for honesty and our obligation to secrecy.”
So you do need to read their words with a level of scrutiny in regards to what they are not saying, but their tone throughout pulls no punches when talking about the faults and accolades of Michael Jackson. The first thing to stand out was the utter chaos that surrounded the Jackson family dynamic, or the complete lack of it. According to Bill and Javon, only Michael’s mother was allowed to show up without an appointment. Everyone else was stopped at the gate of whatever house he was living at. The chilly reception was not often met with respect and calmness.
Michael was permanently isolated, by choice and by circumstance. He could not go out with his family without being mobbed and creating an instant safety hazard, not only for his kids, but everyone in the nearby area. Jackson and his kids lived like lavish hermits, bouncing gypsy-like from mansion to mansion, some of which looked great and lavish from the outside, but could lack the basic necessities like running water. He was at the same moment one of the richest people around, yet constantly buried in debt from out of control spending and an unending deluge of expensive lawsuits.
That was another constant in Michael Jackson’s life that his bodyguards saw all too frequently; the vultures. Once anyone amasses a large amount of money you can be assured the vultures (I refuse to call them “people”) fly out of the shadows and do whatever they can to snatch their piece of the pie. Jackson had little to no clue what was happening around him, even deals that were being made in his own name. At one point there were three people running around the world claiming they were his acting manager. During most of his career his “managers” did anything but. It was a perfect recipe for fraud and deception.
Throughout all of this, Bill and Javon did their best to earn his trust and protect the kids from the insanity of The King of Pop’s world. Even when they went months without being paid due to managerial negligence or new vultures swooping in and realizing they could not be bought. They stuck with Michael for far longer than many people would and they did it because they honestly cared. There are likely many who felt they had Jackson’s best interests at heart, but it’s hard to see the truth through the cash-green haze.
For those wanting to find out if Bill and Javon know the truth behind the accusations of child molestation, you won’t find it here. They do mention that they don’t believe it happened, but they offer no proof other than their own impression of the man. In the brief sections where the two cases are talked about it is pointed out that Jackson was never convicted of anything (the first case settled out of court and the second Jackson was fully acquitted by the jury). No matter what the truth is, Michael Jackson never recovered from the scandal, physically or emotionally. His faith in the world was crushed, equal to the disappointment and disgust of those who still believe he was guilty.
The chilliest fact in the book has to be that Dr. Conrad Murray, later convicted for administering the deadly dose of sleeping aid that killed Michael Jackson, originally met him when he was summoned to Jackson’s mansion to treat Paris (Michael’s daughter) for slight cold. How things might have been different if another doctor was reached instead.
Remember the Time is a terrifically engaging first hand account of the last two years of Michael Jackson’s life, told by those closest to him. If you can leave the accusations and trials off to the side (since this book is not meant to convince you either way of his innocence), you will see the shattered mirror of fame and the loneliness that comes with being loved by everyone.
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