Real Genius, Brilliantly Shining: My Story of Michael Jackson

New York, N.Y. In the late 1960’s I was committed to stop the destruction of the Beacon Theater. It was a cultural gem on the Upper West Side of Manhattan that had to be saved.

One day, I received a call from Mr. Moskowitz asking me to come to his office. I met a manager of a group called ”The Jackson 5.” He said the group was making their first tour.  He wanted to borrow funds from Mr. Moskowitz for the tour.

Mr. Moskowitz asked me to go with them on the tour and take the box-office proceeds to bring back to New York. At first I refused, saying I only knew about classic music. I knew nothing about pop!

But as it was the request of ‘Mr. M,’ whom I owed so much kindness, I finally agreed. And I flew off to a town called Gary, Indiana.  After all, I am well aware of the box office!

I went to the venue where The Jackson 5 was playing that night. I was so shocked to find the hall practically empty. The group was then unknown and no one came! But the concert started anyhow. Five young children, singing and dancing.
Then, a small kid appeared as if rolling around on to the stage like a shining diamond.  He was absolutely electrifying! This was the youngest of the Five – Michael Jackson.

I was absolutely mesmerized by his performance. Not waiting for the end of the concert, I headed back stage. Realizing how much I loved his performance, he came up to me, jumping, to hug me.

We exchanged big hugs, and I told him, I want to take you boys to Japan! I am not even sure if he had ever heard of Japan, but he replied enthusiastically, “Yes, I want to go with you to Japan!”

The box office take was truly disappointing. I was supposed to take half of it back to Mr. Moskowitz. The manager of the group whom I met at the Mr. M’s office was so angry that Mr. M had stopped the certified check he gave him the day before, yelling he stopped the certified check! He screamed who would stop payment! This meant they could not continue the tour! I didn’t know about this until he asked for my help, but I couldn’t do anything!

Somehow the tour was able to continue through the end. And it was a tremendous success. After the tour, thanks to the little Michael, The Jackson 5 became famous quickly.

After this tour, they were invited to tour Europe. This tour, too, was a big success. The Jackson Five became instantly well known throughout Europe. At the Riverpool Empire Theater, their success superseded the Beatles. They played for Queen Elizabeth. With unbelievable speed, they became world famous. Shortly after, Michael’s solo career blossomed and the “King of Pops” was born. The rest is the History.

When I first met Michael, I was very busy as a global impresario of cultural events– not pop. But my musical background

helped me to recognize his enormous talent. No matter what genre, genius always shines. Shines like a diamond! Whether a pianist, violinist, or conductor, genius always shines.

At the Beacon Theatre, I was producing about 200 events per year. Thanks to my dear friend Leonard Bernstein, Princes Grace agreed to become honorary chair of the foundation and the Beacon Theater gained the status of  ‘important cultural heritage,’ we raised a lot of money for the foundation I created, and invited the Grand Kabuki by Ichikawa Ennosuke (he was also a genius!), as well as operas, ballets, and even film festivals. Princess Grace and Prince Albert attended our Opening Night.

I created an organization known as the “International Society of Arts” by inviting countries from the United Nations, where 94 countries had signed up. I presented many benefits for charity such as the ‘Hunger Project’, ‘Save the Boat People’, etc. Hundreds of events were now taking place at the Beacon each year. The Beacon Theater was finally saved!

Madison Square Garden became interested in acquiring the long-term lease of the Beacon Theater, and offered enormous amount of the rent. I was finally able to resign as general manager and producer of the Beacon Theater.

One day, the house manager of the Beacon Theater that Michael Jackson was coming to the Beacon told me. I knew by that time Michael never was performing performed at a theater smaller than giant arenas or huge venues, so I thought maybe he was going to use our theater just for rehearsal. I recall my brief encounter backstage in the Midwest years back, and thought, if he remembers me, I would say “Hi!”

The summer of ‘95, Michael announced he would like to produce the ultimate production of film. This would be the very pinnacle of performing arts for TV. He wanted to do this in an intimate surrounding. Thus, The Beacon Theater was chosen for “Michael Jackson: One Night Only.”

The date was set for Dec. 10 to broadcast, and Dec. 8 and 9 were chosen as filming dates. This show would highlight a few number of Michael’s most famous songs, with new choreo-graphies such as “Thriller,” “A Clockwork Orange,” “Dangerous’, “Childhood,” “Beat It,” “Smooth Criminal,” “Bad,” etc. Michael wanted to be close to his fans, so the Beacon was chosen.

Michael had a special wish. He wanted to collaborate with the famous pantomime, Marcel Marceau, in the “Childhood.” Marceau never shared the stage with anyone, but after talking to Michael, he agreed to cooperate. He flew from France to New York to meet with Michael.

Many Rehearsals Before The Show for the New Choreographies

All was going well for the whole week of rehearsal, however on the afternoon of Dec. 6th during the rehearsal of “Childhood” with Marcel Marceau, Michael suddenly collapsed on the stage of The Beacon. My heart stopped when I heard this and my bones chilled. I tried to see Michael but could not because of the security.

Who’s intention was this? The Universe? In my mind, it continues to spook me still today… The connection of Michael and myself, my Beacon Theatre, and a song called “Childhood.” All had some connection with Michael – and me. Michael, Tell me what you wanted from me?

Afterward, I was told the film of this show had disappeared, gone for good. Even as of today, they never found it at his estate Neverland. There are a few mysterious incidents in our lives. This is one of them.

Originally published as Vol. x in Weekly Biz, May XX, 2020; translated by Jim Luce.

See: Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura Column in Japan’s Weekly Biz



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About Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura

View all posts by Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura
Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura
Dr. Kazuko was born into a distinguished old family in Kyoto, Japan, and graduated from Toho conservatory of Music in Tokyo. In 1961 she came to U.S. as a pianist sponsored by the Boston Symphony. She studied at Boston University, New York University, and received her Ph.D. in Oriental Medicine from New York State University and the International Academy of Education in Tokyo. From 1968 to 1992, she promoted cultural exchanges from East to West and vice versa, and became a world famous impresario, producing 2,000 events each year all over the world encompassing over 140 countries. In this connection, in 1972, she went to Dharamsala to find the lost Tibetan Folk Opera, and met His Holiness the Dalai Lama, with whom she remains a lifelong friend. In 1973 and 1991 she arranged and funded personally the tours of the Folk Opera of Tibet to the West. She has received many medals and honors from different countries. Her tireless life long work in Philanthropic field is vast and well known ranging from Save the Beacon Theater, Save the Boat People, Help the Homeless, natural disasters of earthquakes and tsunamis, as well as relief to AIDS and HIV positive children in Africa. She has been a dedicated Board Member to both the J. Luce Foundation and Orphans International for years. Her work focuses on the Tibetan people; Tibetan children remain especially strong in her heart. She raised fund for the new academic building for Manjushree Orphanage in Tawang, India and supported many aspects of the school. See HuffPo pieces entitled Japanese Holistic Healer in NYC to Build School for Tibetan Orphans in India, A Japanese Dinner with Raul Castro’s Daughter, and NYC Gala in Support of Tibetan Orphans Set for January.

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