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When KingODisney met the "King of Pop"

When KingODisney met the "King of Pop"

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Over the 33 years that I've been visiting Disney theme parks, I've had my share of run-ins with celebrities. Usually these would happen around the holiday season -- either just before Christmas or around the 4th of July -- when the Walt Disney Company would be filming specials for ABC. And the corporation would fly in TV stars, recording artists or sports heroes to take part in these programs.

Other times, I've been lucky enough to attend some WDW press events with a certain Mr. Hill and gotten to rub elbows with some big-name performers. But to be honest, it's those totally unexpected meetings that were the most fun. Like the time when I was a kid and my family & I were staying at the Contemporary and we wound up sharing an elevator with Danny Thomas. Or that time back in December when Jim, Nancy, Flo and I were vacationing in Southern California and we ran into Sean Astin of "Lord of the Rings" fame.

Or when we were all attending Animal Kingdom's opening day in April of 1998. And it seemed like -- no matter which way we turned -- we kept running into Drew Carey.

But probably the most surreal of all my Disney-related celebrity encounters (to date) was that time at Disney MGM studios when I kept bumping Into Michael Jackson.

It was a uncrowded February morning at the theme park when I noticed a bunch of guests crowding around someone trying to walk down Hollywood Blvd. My curiosity got the better of me. So I walked over, camera in hand, to see who was causing the commotion. Much to my surprise, I discovered that it was Michael Jackson and a young friend out for a day in the park.

Given what a huge celebrity Jackson was at this time, I was kind of surprised at the relative lack of security surrounding "The King of Pop" and his guest. There was only a Disney handler and a few bodyguards clearing the people out of their way as Michael made his way through MGM.

Since I immediately recognized that this was a primo photo op, I ran a little bit ahead, positioned my way in their path and -- as Jackson & his young pal came by -- I snapped a few pictures.

My apologies to those of you who are having trouble recognizing Mr. Jackson here. But you have to realize that this was back in the early 1990s. Back when Michael's nose still looked like a nose.

Anyway ... After this exciting if somewhat bizarre encounter, I went back to enjoying my day at the park with my family.

Now you'd think that would be the end of my story. But -- as it turns out -- Michael Jackson & I crossed paths several times that day. For example: I wanted to tape the "Beauty and the Beast" stage show while I was at Disney-MGM that trip. (This was back in the day before there was a Sunset Boulevard. When the "Theater of the Stars" was just off to the right along Hollywood Boulevard.) Hoping to get a good seat for the show, I got on line early.

Well -- as it turns out -- it was an especially long wait that day to get into that "Hollywood Bowl" -like theater. As I finally took my seat, I wondered what the hold-up might have been.

Just before the performance started, I found out what the hold-up was. Prior to the start of the "Beauty & the Beast" stage show, there was an announcement on the P.A. that there was a special guest in the audience that afternoon. And -- sure enough -- right down front, in a special roped-off area -- are Michael Jackson and his associates.

Normally, I guess that I would have been a little ticked off that I had had to stand in the hot sun, waiting in line 'til Jackson & his young friend took their seats. But -- on the up-side -- the cast of MGM's "Beauty and the Beast" were clearly excited that Michael Jackson was out in the audience watching them. So they put on an extremely energetic performance. Which -- given that I was video-taping this show -- worked out well for me. Plus I was able to grab a few shots of Michael & Co. enjoying. So -- all in all -- I was happy.

Anyway, as I exited the "Theater of the Stars," I figured that that was the last I'd see of Michael Jackson. But -- as it turns out -- I would have one more encounter with "The King of Pop" during my day at MGM.

Right before that theme park closed for the evening, my family and I decided to go on "The Great Movie Ride." But -- once we go in the attraction's queue -- things didn't move along with their usual Disney-like efficiency. So I knew that something was up.

Sure enough, when we boarded our theater car, I noticed that the entire front car (You know, the one that gets to experience the hold-up in the "Wild West" section of the attraction as well as the bank explosion) had been reserved for Michael Jackson and his party. Given that my family & I were seated in the front row of the second car, that meant that -- once we reached "The Great Movie Ride" 's finale -- that I was seated right across from Mr. Jackson.

Once we got back to the attraction's off-load area ... I couldn't help myself, folks. I had to have some record of my continued close encounters with this Disney-obsessed pop star. So I approached Mr. Jackson and asked if he wouldn't mind having his picture taken with me.

I'm pleased to report that Michael was very obliging. His security guard took my camera and snapped a quick photo of us two. Then this pop star continued his tour of the park by heading off (appropriately enough) in the directions of "Star Tours."

All in all, these multiple encounters with Michael made for a pretty memorable day at MGM.

Anyway ... That's my story about my brush with greatness ... weirdness ... whatever. I don't suppose any of you JHM readers have any stories about your encounters with celebrities at the Disney resorts that you'd like to share.

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