Marty Graham 3:30 p.m., Dec. 4
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The House Where Michael Lived
In his book, You are Not Alone Michael: Through the Eyes of a Brother, Jermaine Jackson attempts to clarify much of the controversy surrounding his late brother who died on this day three years ago. But the part I found most fascinating was the detailed description of the living quarters on Hayvenhurst Drive, Encino, where the Jackson kids grew up, and where Michael was inspired to create some of the most memorable songs and dance moves in music history. Instead of dwelling on the past that has been rehashed over and over by the media, I chose on this day to recreate what it was like to be in the house of the greatest entertainer ever. In Jermaine's own words:
"After passing by a stone fountain on kneeling horses, the grand entrance is a double-door leading to a lobby with a white marble floor. Library and in-house theater to the left; living room and kitchen to the right. Ahead the staircase sweeps from right to left, curving up around a central chandelier. At the landing that overloads the lobby, turn right down the emerald green carpet to what were Janet and La Toya's rooms. Turn left to Mother's and Joseph's suite in one corner, and Michael's in another. Michael's quarters and the sister's bedrooms were at opposite ends of the house--a point worth noting for later reports that placed La Toya's bedroom adjacent to Michael's," suggesting she could easily witness all his comings and goings.
Inside his quarters, there was a brick fireplace, black marble bathrooms and a Murphy bed that folded into the wall because Michael often liked to sleep on the floor, a hangover from our Gary days when we'd throw down a mattress or a duvet. There is just something about sleeping on the floor that we've always liked. I'm the same to this day. I prefer it, whereas Michael always said it was good for his back.
In his rooms, photos of Ava Gardner were pinned up because he "Loved her grace and beauty." In later years he had pictures of child star Shirley Temple and then, toward the end of his life, Alicia Keys. His ceiling leaps to a narrow mezzanine e-level loft--reached by a white-painted, wooden spiral staircase--which is lined with bookshelves and leads to a door and a set of rooms tucked away in the roof, with a den and a "hair salon" complete with a barber's swivel chair, sink and mirror. It wasn't the only private place in his quarters--he also made sure that he had his own staircase to a back entrance out of the house.
His bedroom opened on to a brick patio with a vast, pergoa-like canopy support by pillars; he placed a giant hot tub in one corner and a tiled barbecue area in the other. This was where he sat in the mornings, with views of the lawns 90 degrees to his left and the cobblestoned courtyard below, reached by his outside spiral staircase leading from the patio. In the middle of that yard stands a Victorian lamp-post with a street sign announcing "Happiness." In a corner down to his left, there is a brick building with a mock store frontage; one display window depicts a 1950s toy store full of porcelain dolls, wooden toy soldiers, teddy bears, a doll's house and a mini rocking chair; the other a flower store, full of artificial arrangements in baskets. This is the facade of Michael's studio. The fun on the outside belied the serious work that went on behind the scenes.
Inside, a painted mural fills one wall. It is a green forest scene, with a cartoon version of Michael perched in a tree reading a green book with a title The Secret Life--required reading for Jehovah's WItnesses. On the studio's exterior wall is an encased image of a Disneylike castle on a hill, lying in the distance at the end of the path leading from a forest. In the foreground, Michael stands with a child leaning into him. "Of Children, Castles, and Kings." The caption reads embedded with pin-lights.
But the most striking change was in the gardens. There were flowers everywhere. Michael never used to like flowers "because they remind me of funerals," but his trips to Disney had changed all that. Now he created blooming flowerbeds, arranged in the colors of the rainbow, five, six rows deep. It is in those gardens that you can't help but notice a wrought-iron web of leaves framing a lantern. It hangs from one corner of the house with a wooden, hand-carved sign that reads, "Follow Your Dreams Whereever They May Lead."