Sheila Guerrero, 17, and her friend couldn’t afford a ticket to the show, but they convinced a TV cameraman to take them past security to use the bathroom. The two friends waited anxiously in the bathroom several hours for the show to start. People began to arrive around 7 p.m. They started asking if anyone knew where Michael would be. A woman told them he was supposed to be in Suite 7. So, clad in their Looney Tunes T-shirts and blue jeans, they made their way through the crowds of ball gowns and tuxedos to look for their beloved King of Pop!
As they waited outside of Suite 7, security started to gather. Ten minutes later, the elevator door opened and Guerrero knew it was Michael from just a glimpse of his right satin-covered shoulder. She started to scream and cry. The former Jackson Five front man came up to her and said, “Aw, don’t cry. It’s okay.” Guerrero, a junior journalism major, willingly admits that her wedding day didn’t compare to that moment.
Aretha Shotwell and Sheila Guerrero have been “Michael Jackson friends for life,” since junior high school.
“Our friendship has been greatly influenced by our love for Michael because we both got a chance to see him at the Pyramid, and that is a memory only the two of us share,” Shotwell said. Guerrero and Shotwell met Michael when he came to the Pyramid with Lisa Marie Presley for an Elvis Tribute concert in 1994.
Guerrero started her own fan club, ‘Michael Jackson Fans Speak Out,’ in 2005 to support the pop singer faced with child molestation allegations. Most recently, she flew to Los Angeles to be present in the trial investing Michael’s death. Guerrero decided to go to Los Angeles at the time of the Michael Jackson trial for her birthday. She knew the trial would be ending near her birthday, Nov. 4. Guerrero arrived in L.A. Thursday, Nov. 3, and by Monday, Nov. 7, the jury had reached a verdict. Conrad Murray, Jackson’s former doctor was guilty. Michael’s fans were chanting in the streets. Guerrero described it as pandemonium.
Guerrero was quoted in several articles written by CNN and Daily News, Los Angeles, the day after the trial results. There are numerous videos of Guerrero on NBC Los Angeles and, most notably, an interview by CNN correspondent Jane Velez-Mitchell. During the interview, Guerrero expressed her happiness, thanked God and said, “Michael deserves justice, his family deserves justice and his fans deserve justice.”
Velez-Mitchell spoke with Guerrero while the crowd waited for the verdict. “She said, ‘When we get the verdict, I want to interview you first,'” Guerrero said.
“I was so proud and excited for her. I happened to be watching that channel, and I saw the interview so I sent her a text message,” Shotwell said.
David Evans, professor of American folk and popular music, said Memphis’ own Elvis Presley would be the closest precedent to Michael and the type of fans who follow him. He said Marilyn Monroe and Jim Morrison also have a cult following similar to that of Michael. Evans described such celebrities as having unexplainable charisma and artistry.
“He’s different from the others, as he started as a child star and always retained something of that child quality in his persona. He sort of drew the image of the charismatic performer to a younger age level. He appealed as a dancer as well as a singer-songwriter. He’s a cult figure of the video age and essential things about him, like age and gender, had a lot of ambiguity,” Evans said.
Guerrero’s love for Michael started in her childhood when Michael was topping the charts with ‘Thriller.’ But her favorite song is ‘Keep the Faith,’ from Michael’s ‘Dangerous’ album. “I would listen to that song when I was going through tough times at home or in my neighborhood,” Guerrero said.
After Michael’s death in 2009, Guerrero started a non-profit organization, ‘Stop the Hurt. Start the Healing.’ The group’s focus is to continue Michael’s mission to heal the world by helping those who are less fortunate. “I always wanted to do something meaningful, I wanted to continue his legacy of humanitarianism,” Guerrero said.
‘Stop the Hurt. Start the Healing’ is having its third annual Christmas toy drive for Hope House Day Care. Guerrero said Hope House is one of the few facilities that care for children with HIV. Guerrero’s group will be at the Wal-Mart on Austin Peay Highway collecting toys on Dec. 3 from 10 a.m. to noon.
“We have it the first week of December to commemorate world AIDS days,” Guerrero said. “Michael was on advocate for AIDS and sick children.”
Guerrero continues to do charitable works through ‘Stop the Hurt. Start the Healing,’ and is already planning her next trip to L.A.
“She has accomplished a lot over the years; everything she does through her foundation is in honor of Michael, and she wants to continue on with his legacy,” Shotwell said.