BOOK REVIEW: 'Remember the Time': Be Careful What You Wish For: Celebrity Has a Downside: The Michael Jackson Story

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

The old saying that no man is a hero to his valet applies equally to a man's -- or woman's -- bodyguards. Security people have to be alert 24/7 to protect their clients from just about everybody. But can they protect the client from himself?

in "Remember the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson in His Final Days" (Weinstein Books, 336 pages, $26.00) Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard (with Tanner Colby) write that Michael Jackson was often his own worst enemy, failing to maintain control over his managers. Often, this lack of control by "The King of Pop" led to Whitfield and Beard not getting paid and falling behind on their utility bills and maxing out their personal credit cards.

BOOK REVIEW: 'Remember the Time': Be Careful What You Wish For: Celebrity Has a Downside: The Michael Jackson Story

Like Jackson, both Whitfield and Beard  were single fathers and the erratic beyond description of their employer resulted in disrupted family lives. They were on call all the time, responding to Jackson's sudden impulses led them to buy all the classical CDs in a Best Buy or all the books in a used bookstore. (Jackson listened to classical music exclusively in the SUVs that took him about his duties and he was an omnivorous reader.)

Jackson's immense fortune was tied up by lawsuits and contractual agreements, but he kept large amounts of cash on hand, the authors tell us. He used the money to help homeless people, but his bodyguards often had to resort to Top Ramen and canned soup for their meals when their per diem for meals was mysteriously cut off and they were weeks behind in their salaries. 

Jackson wanted his children to have a normal life, but that was an impossible dream as the family moved from luxury house to luxury house in Las Vegas, Middleburg, VA and Los Angeles. Jackson was a compulsive shopper, but many of his purchases ended up in storage units around the country, unopened.

Whitfield, a former police officer, and Beard, a young, relatively green rookie, in alternating paragraphs reveal the facts of Jackson's last years:  his life in seclusion with his children, his financial crises, his preparations for the This Is It tour, and the weeks leading up to his death at age 50 in Los Angeles on June 25, 2009. 

Driven by a desire to show the world who Michael Jackson truly was, Whitfield and Beard have produced the only definitive, first-person account of Michael Jackson's last years: the extreme measures necessary to protect Jackson and his family, the simple moments of happiness they managed to share in a time of great stress, the special relationship Jackson shared with his fans, and the tragic events that culminated in the singer's ill-fated comeback, This Is It. The truth is far more compelling than anything you've yet heard.

I think the two men -- and their talented co-author, Tanner Colby -- succeeded in their effort to show the man behind the myth that was Jackson. They say that "Mr. Jackson" -- that's how they addressed him -- was not "The King of Pop". That was his stage identity. They use the reference to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of Robert Louis Stevenson to differentiate the two sides of Michael Jackson. 

Bill Whitfield, left, Javon Beard
Bill Whitfield, left, Javon Beard

About the Authors

Experts in the field of private protection, Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard served for two and a half years as the personal security team for Michael Jackson and have worked with numerous other high-profile clients, including Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Alicia Keys, and Shaquille O'Neal. 

Tanner Colby
Tanner Colby

Cowriter Tanner Colby, is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in The Acts, Belushi: A Biography, and Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America, which was nominated for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction by the American Library Association. He is also a frequent contributor to Slate magazine.

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