This Is It – O2 Exhibition
We are both filled with apprehension, what will today be like? A day consumed by varying emotions, sadness, joy, wonderment and things to nurture our minds with ‘memory pieces’.
Never did we think we would be attending the O2 Arena to visit ‘The Michael Jackson Official Exhibition’ followed by ‘This Is It’ at the cinema. Our first visit to this grand arena should have been to marvel at the talent and genius that is Michael Jackson. It is fitting though that this is the place to come and walk the steps into the main entrance that The Man took not so long ago, was that only March?
There is a short queue of people entering the exhibition at the time slot we have; behind us a young boy in a wheelchair is wearing a trademark fedora style hat and clutching a cushion with MJ’s image on it. He is smiling constantly… a reminder of what Michael was all about … love and inspiration.
Walking in after the obligatory security checks, there is a sea of beautiful red flowers, roses, gerberas, carnations and other varieties with black curtains as the backdrop, a welcome mark of respect we feel.
They show a short film of Michael singing a medley of songs, our eyes are stinging with tears already but we are intrigued to see Michaels’ treasures and other personal possessions.
It starts from the very beginning with the original Motown contract for the Jackson 5 and several gold records they received for songs, including ‘Rockin’ Robin’ and ‘The Love You Save’.
There are huge poster pictures of Michael throughout the exhibition, several of which we wanted to take home with us and Michael’s music is played constantly!
We were very surprised but pleased to see that a lot of the items such as Michael’s clothes are not all behind glass and you are close enough to be astounded by the design of some of his trademark military style jackets. So many of our favourites are there like the shirt from ‘Ghosts’, the ‘Beat It’ coat from the ‘HIStory’ tour, the ‘Jam’ jacket and the gold jumpsuit worn during several songs on the ‘Dangerous’ tour.
For fans of ‘Smooth Criminal’ there is a pair of the boots Michael intended to wear performing that incredible lean (size XL), first seen in ‘Moonwalker’ and then during live concerts, along with the design diagram of the boots and of course the cool suit and fedora Michael wore.
Michael’s love of sparkle is evident throughout; a case of his trademark gloves along with Michael’s copy of a book called ‘The Love of the Glove’, by C Cody Collins (1945) probably explains his love of the single glove.
As you walk through the exhibition you are taken on a journey through Michael’s life and career; there are many of his prestigious awards which emphatically illustrate what an absolute genius he was, plus an original transcript penned by Michael of the lyrics to ‘Beat It’.
There is a small taste of Neverland with several items from Michael’s Santa Ynez ranch including the original archway with Neverland inscribed on it, a beautiful piano, a statue from the gardens and Michael’s fantastic midnight blue Rolls Royce, which is stunning. We were enthralled with a selection of Michael’s jewellery including belts, broaches and other beautiful pieces. One favourite item in this section was the striking brocade tail jacket which Michael wore in Annie Leibovitz’s photographs from ‘Dancing The Dream’…absolutely stunning!
A few items from a selection of Michael’s most famous short films are also included, such as the rocket from ‘Leave Me Alone’, a chair, space ship and two of the guitars from ‘Scream’. The highlight in this section was the HUGE picture of Michael being toasted at the beginning of ‘Jam’ on the ‘Dangerous’ tour! Magical!
The final section is probably the most emotional of all as it includes all of the costumes Michael would have worn for ‘This Is It’, like a new jacket for ‘Thriller’, some outfits for the ghosts, alongside the biggest, mechanical spider you may imagine! We just want to say his costumes are absolutely breathtaking and all teamed with the most beautiful loafers and spats, which all bear a gold MJ insignia on the inner soles. These are real state of the art outfits as there were going to include a lot of firsts for Michael and according to the designer Michael was amazed with the innovative ideas. Check out this link for more information in a report from the LA Times.
There is also a replica model of the stage set which had been designed for ‘This Is It’ series of concerts which included cages that looked like huge chandeliers, to be used by aerialists inspired by Cirque de Soleil! There was also a bed! Hmm, what was that to be used for? There were several of Michael’s short films which sprang to mind, ‘Billie Jean’, no, that is a classic event in itself, ‘Who Is It?’ Even the ‘This Is It’ film doesn’t reveal where that was going to be used, until now it was a mystery. Michael’s musical director Michael Bearden has revealed this was to be used for ‘Dirty Diana’ with Michael on the bed with his guitarist, Orianthi!
As with any Michael event we have attended over the years, visitors from many nations and generations were represented in the crowd, as they slowly and very respectfully made their way through the exhibition. We smiled as we watched children dancing, copying Michael’s moves in front of video screens, knowing that he has reached yet another new generation of fans. How sad they will no longer be able to taste the ‘MAGIC’ live! Most people read the exhibit descriptions intently, quietly exchanging thoughts or asking the unassuming attendants questions.
The exhibition closes on a poignant note as you are met by a row of red condolence books ready for you to sign, which will eventually be given to Michael’s family. As children, mums, dads, and visitors stopped to add their messages of remembrance, we were momentarily lost for words as there was so much we wanted to say; Michael has been a huge part of our lives for what seems a lifetime! He gave us inspiration, incredible music, entertainment and tender memories of a handsome man with a gorgeous, loving soul, for which we give thanks. As tears fell, we added our inscriptions…we guess like most of you, we are finding it surreal and frankly unfair that the world has lost Michael’s genius. ‘Gone Too Soon’!
The last item before you leave says it all, a single Swarskovski encrusted glove that was destined for ‘This Is It’.
For those who have always been intrigued by Michael Jackson this exhibition gives you a glimpse into his artistic achievements, a tiny peek of Michael himself and embraces the legacy of a life devoted to entertainment and humanity.
As for THE fans…UNMISSIBLE!
Written by Michele Cohen & Lyn Dawber
Exhibition photographs by Michele Cohen