What an amazing time I had in Rome. The people were so welcoming and gracious. The event we had at Antica Biblioteca Valle was large enough to get to meet with fans but it still had a "home" feeling to it. I think that was because of how kind everyone was. We started off with showing people the portrait and then a few people spoke to the crowd. With the help of an interpreter, I was able to speak about the meaning behind the portrait and why it is important for us to continually build our Tribute and participate in our Tribute community. I was then able to place dots for people as they watched up close.
After some delicious food we were treated to fantastic dance performances by both professional and non-professional MJ fans. The performers gave everything they had and the audience enjoyed every bit of it. It truly was a night I will never forget. I feel like I now have family in Italy.
As a side note, I did have a funny experience at the hotel in Rome. At one point it was a little cold, so I thought it would be a good idea if I used the room hairdryer as my personal heater. I would like to apologize to all the guests on the entire 5th floor who suffered a blackout because of it. They never new the source of the blackout and I pretended to be shocked with everyone else. Let that be a lesson to all of us: a hairdryer does not make a good heater.
While this was a stop more for media I definitely appreciate the fans who came to the hotel. It was great to meet the Austrian fans and show them the Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait. I know that several of you Austrian fans told me that you had to drive hours to attend the event in Vienna, and I appreciate you making the journey and getting to talk to all of you about your different experiences, how Michael Jackson affected your life.
I would like to apologize to the reporter whose camera Michelle dropped and broke (by the way the camera was miraculously healed by a subsequent dropping two weeks later). I would also like to apologize to all the people who happened to be in the hotel lobby at the time Michelle’s underwear flew out of her luggage and across the lobby floor.
Amsterdam – Part 1
While this was just a stop-over and a place to stay for the night, thank you to the fans who met us at the airport. Thanks also for the gifts and the ride to the hotel.
I would like to apologize to the fans for landing an hour late, though this was not my fault.
Justine and Yvonne are two Dutch fans who always welcomed Michael at the airport whenhe arrived
inAmsterdam. They met and welcomed me and drove me from the airport tomy hotel.
As you may have realized by the photos, for the travel to Europe, the portrait had to be disassembled.
By this time we were one week into the trip. We had mastered air-travel with all our baggage and the portrait; however, the journey to Joshua involved the first international train travel – heaving and throwing several boxes, the easel and portrait components on and off of the multiple trains, and running with all the baggage from one train station platform to another, since the journey involved multiple trains. (We are considering submitting audition footage for The Amazing Race.)
Meeting Joshua was an amazing experience. We were welcomed into the warm-coziness of the Badder home, so relaxing after a week on the road. We were treated hospitably by Joshua, him mom, his dad and his grandmother. We were spoiled with before-dinner chocolate, and Joshua even prepared a delicious appetizer for us, which was followed by a wonderful home-cooked meal. The night included good food, great conversation and a cozy hominess we gratefully relaxed into after a week on the road. For those of you who don’t know it, Joshua and his whole family speak excellent English.
The evening also included a private dot ceremony. Dots were placed for Joshua’s family and Joshua himself… Joshua is the only person to receive two dots in Michael’s heart. The first was placed about a year ago when we heard Joshua was battling leukemia, and the second was placed for him in person in his home, in celebration of his new life in remission. I want to express how important it was to both Michelle and me to share this special evening together.
Besides conducting the dot ceremony, I got to sit with Joshua in his room and teach him a little bit about how to draw with dots, and then he schooled me on the fine art of Guitar Hero. This night was perfect with no media and no hoopla, just all of us enjoying each other’s company.
I’d like to apologize to anybody who was tortured by my attempt to master Joshua’s vuvzela. Since I’m not a sports fan, I didn’t know what vuvuzelas are supposed to sound like. Joshua very delicately explained they are supposed to sound like a fart. My attempt to make music on the vuvuzela sounded more like a cow dying a painful death.
Sandra Robinson, our spokesperson from Germany, was kind enough to be our tour guide in Frankfurt and took us to meet Dieter Wiesner, who shared wonderful memories, stories, photos and other artifacts of his long tenure and friendship with Michael Jackson.
Quick story: Dieter had a bowl of candy and chocolate on his desk. I felt it would be inappropriate to chew during my formal conversation with Mr. Wiesner, so when nobody was looking I snuck a chocolate into my jacket pocket. Karma caught up with me when I found it melted through the wrapper the next day.
I’d like to apologize to the 29th floor window-washers at the hotel for my appearance in the morning when I opened the drapes. Had I known you were there I would have perhaps dressed more appropriately.
Frankfurt – Munich
Our second night in Frankfurt we slept at Sandra Robinson’s house, enjoyed our second home cooked meal of the trip (home-made Indian food – impressive). Sandra’s house is truly a retreat – and she spoiled us with relaxation.
In the morning Sandra took us to the train station and we departed for Bravo magazine offices in Munich. We honored Editor-in-Chief, Alex Gernandt, with a dot in Michael’s heart honoring his consistent positive portrayal over the years. Alex has met with and written about Michael for a long time, and his stories have always been honest and tasteful. As we all know, the media has not been friendly to Michael Jackson, so I felt it was important to honor Alex for being a rebel and taking the heat for doing the right thing while others were trash-talking. I hope we realize how difficult that can be, to be in the media and not follow the crowd. As fans we should all appreciate Alex and the work he’s done at Bravo magazine.
Sandra, Michelle and I were honored to hear Alex’s stories and memories of Michael.
All day in Munich we were graciously shuttled around by Iris, our long time supporter and creator of two of the Wrapped-in-Love blankets. Thanks to Iris for helping us get around Munich! After the meeting at Bravo magazine, we were met by fans at the Hotel Bayerischer Hof, where Michael always stayed when in Munich, and took pictures in front of Michael’s fan-created memorial there.
Legendary memorial outside Hotel Bayerischer Hof
I’d like to apologize to Sandra and Michelle, because since my morning shower lasted a tiny bit too long, our leisurely trip to the train station turned into a mad sprint and near miss. My compliments to Sandra for her quick driving abilities both in the car and with the luggage-trolley at the train station. I’m sure the local travelers we mowed down have recovered by now.
Munich to Brussels via
Utrecht, Gouda, Alexander Polder and Rotterdam
When we arrived in Utrecht from the long overnight train ride, we learned that there’d been a big fire in the train station and there were no departing trains. What was going to be an 11-hour train ride ended up being an 18-hour day involving several trains, one taxi and one bus, as we were repeatedly sent to train stations that turned out to be closed due to the majority Dutch train system being off line and/or off schedule. But it was all worth it because I got to witness Michelle being giddy with an overly handsome waiter while we were stuck in Gouda. I’m not sure she focused on half of the directions he was giving us, which may have caused further delay. In her defense, he was really good-looking.
The Gouda restaurant story is reminding me that I need to apologize to the fine people who were dining in the restaurant of our Rome hotel when Michelle and I created a small scene. Michelle filled her plate at the buffet and then slightly tripped on her way to join me at the table. Preoccupied relief that her foot – which had caught the buffet tablecloth – hadn’t pulled the entire buffet setting to the floor, she failed to notice that - at some point between the buffet area and our table - she had dropped all the pastries from her plate on the floor. Perhaps laughing uncontrollably was not the best reaction for me to have at the time. Looking back at it, maybe I should have been a little more of a gentleman, but I couldn’t help myself when I noticed the people next to us were laughing as well.
This was the largest event of our tour with hundreds of people packing the Move Dance Center in Aalst, which – thanks to owner Patrick De Coninck – was open just for our event. Patrick’s dance studio includes a lovely café, and multiple event centers, big studios with performance space and stages. It’s an amazing venue, where everyone feels like a star! Most of all, this was an event I’ll never forget – not just because it was so well organized and put together by Marijke and the Belgian Fan Club, The Magical Child (TMC), but also the love for Michael Jackson was
Move Dance Center overwhelming.
I’d like to point out that in this even more than any other event I’ve been at since we’ve started this Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait, there were more families present (moms, dads, kids, babies, grandparents). I think it says a lot about the level of respect for Michael Jackson in Belgium when people of all generations and whole families together show up to pay their respect.
We’ll just rundown the event so you can all feel a bit of the energy of this great day. Patrick De Coninck started the day as host welcoming TMC and the MJ fans. Marijke welcomed the special, surprise guests for today, Joshua and his parents, Vera and John. Joshua and his family made a two hour trek from Germany to the Belgian event and surprised me; it was so great to see them there with everyone else and it meant a lot to me. We’d had such an intimate evening together at their home; it was really nice to see them once more and have a bit longer to enjoy each other’s company.
After the welcomes, David explained the meaning of the portrait again, with translations from Marijke. You can see a lot of this in the following YouTube video:
Then the dot ceremony began. Every guest was so happy, and they all shared their thoughts and feelings about Michael and the Tribute Portrait. For more about each of these dot recipients, see their (upcoming) VIP or Celebrity dot pages.
Both were honored to be together for recognition in the MJTP, a project they fully support. Note that Marijke, TMC, Roger and Gilbert gathered together three MJ Pets, which are collector's items and difficult to find. I will present these to a member of the Jackson family for Paris, Prince and Blanket. Marijke selected: Cool Bear for Prince, Jeannine the Ostrich for Paris and Spanky the dog for Blanket.
Then Marijke was surprised with a VIP dot in recognition of her remarkable leadership in the Michael Jackson fan community and her work for children in honor of Michael. The dot was presented by Michelle and Vincent of TMC. Marijke said, “Thank you!” and reminded us all that we can only accomplish our goals together.
Then, a special dot near Michael’s heart was given to a fan in a contest. Marijke wrote down a number and asked the fans to guess it. Magic happened, since it was TMC’s own charity officer, Marina, who won. Marina is Jessica's mother, and Jessica is the disabled girl in whose honor TMC first worked. Jessica already had a dot near Michael’s heart, so now mother and daughter are together.
And then David drew dots for the long line of fans for hours. The love was overwhelming! What a day.
It should be mentioned that a couple of other Michael groups were represented at this event: Hope for Gillian, Earth Tree for Michael and the Fan Club of Nepal. Gillian is a young Belgian boy who suffers from a rare genetic disease. TMC continues their work to support needy children, and is raising money to support Gillian’s treatment. Gillian himself was not well enough to attend, but his father was in attendance and moved by the love of the fan community. Earth Tree for Michael is of course working to realize Michael’s vision of healing for the planet. A very special guest at the event was Mr. Lal Nepali, representative of MJ Club Nepal, which donated 120 Euros to the TMC’s Earth Tree for Michael project. It was amazing to hear about the huge fan community in Nepal!
David, Joshua and Gillian's dad, Werner.
Lal Nepali of MJ Club Nepal.
Music for the event was provided by Deejay Vince, who works TMC events for free, all for Michael. Thanks to Vince!
After the dot ceremonies, were treated to a dance performance of the “The Drill” by “Jackson Dance,” which is a particular class in which Michael Jackson technique and style is studied. Patrick has been teaching Jackson Dance for many years.
After all event activities were over, people remained to socialize for hours, and we went into a different studio down the hall which had been turned into a photography studio. The amazing photographer, Danny, took photos of all of us individually and as a group. I can’t wait to see the rest of the photos. It was such a gift that Marijke had set this up for us, and that Danny has donated his time and equipment for the session and photo developing. I’d say more about the photo session but don’t want to spoil the surprises for you all when you eventually see the photos published.
After the event we were treated to a great dinner with the team who put together the event. A bit of quiet time together and a great sign off before we headed back to Amsterdam.
Thanks to Magda and her family for driving us more than an hour to catch the last train out of Belgium. And, again, special thanks to Marijke and the TMC team for all their hard work to put together such an extraordinary event. According to Marijke, “Every fan went home happy and proud the MJTP visited our small country!”
Magda of TMC gets her dot.
Overcome with emotion.
Joy to join the Portrait. In awe watching David draw.
People felt honored and happy.
A quick apology to our hosts the night before the Belgium Event for the fact that I did not let them know I don’t eat fish until they had already taken me to a fish restaurant. Perhaps their eating mussels and escargot next to me was their version of payback.
Amsterdam – Part 2
Only a handful of hours before we needed to catch the flight to Israel, so we took a quick stroll over to the Anne Frank house and got a bite to eat (pancakes with ice cream on top). Then we caught a taxi to go meet with Dutch fans at a café near the train station. After searching high and low and making ourselves rather late, we found the café in the most obvious possible place, and had a very special, quiet meeting with the fans. We formed a circle with our chairs, and I had a chance to get to know some of the people behind the dots. I drew dots, signed autographs and we took lots of photos.
Cool. Yum! Stuck...
I would like to apologize to Michelle and the two fans who were trapped in a stuck elevator on our way out of the café. Perhaps it wasn’t kind to laugh hysterically at their entrapment and their scared faces, which I could see through the glass elevator doors as I looked into the elevator shaft. Just for the record, though, I was not the only one laughing and Michelle agrees that in retrospect it was pretty funny.
After the elevator-rescue-operation, fans walked us across the way to the train, and we made our way to the airport to fly to Israel.
One week in Israel with my family is exactly what the doctor ordered after a hectic but exciting European tour. We had a great event at the Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv where many Israeli fans came to get their dots. I was surprised to see how young the fans were in Israel because almost all of them were teenagers or in their 20s. I think it’s so great that there is such a large group of new generation Michael Jackson fans in Israel! We spent several hours speaking to the fans. It was particularly interesting to give dots to some people in the Israel military.
Thanks to Evgeny, Dror and Abigail for organizing this event. It clearly meant a lot to the people who were able to attend, and I know it meant a lot to Michelle and me. I definitely felt the love for Michael Jackson at this event as people came wearing his t-shirts and fedoras and hung their mp3 players from the window blinds to fill the room with Michael’s hits.
On a personal note, this was my first time signing my autograph on fans’ body parts (arms), a fascinating experience.
Autographing an arm!
I want to thank the event organizers for taking us out for a late-night dinner and for staging such a meaningful event.
I would like to apologize for being the only person at the event who was both born in Israel and needed an English-to-Hebrew translator. And, thanks to Abigail for translation.
I’d like to thank Denise for leading the international press efforts and thanks to Valerie, Linda, Theronda, Pam and Kim for all their help and support in making it such a successful and memorable trip.
Finally, thanks to everyone who came out to our events and made this trip a success, and to all the supporters at home who remind us every day of your love and support.