Protecting Michael Jackson: One-On-One with the King of Pop’s Bodyguards
Here, we look back to our interview with the King of Pop’s former personal security guards, Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard.
I walk into the conference room in a downtown Toronto office building and two large, imposing, well-dressed men rise to greet me. They’re Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard, former personal security guards for the most famous man in the world — Michael Jackson.
In their new book, Remember the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson in his Final Days (out this month), the pair recount their time working for “Mr. Jackson” in his final years, their memories of the man behind the pop throne, and the personal moments they witnessed between the singer and his small children.
In part one of our interview, Whitfield and Beard recall Jackson’s humorous attempt to style his daughter’s hair, discuss his reactions to negative press and recall how they when they heard of his passing.
MIKE CRISOLAGO: What were your reasons for writing this book?
JAVON BEARD: We wanted to preserve the legacy of the Mr. Jackson that we knew as opposed to how he was perceived in the media.
BILL WHITFIELD: Also, we felt that, with his huge fan base, we felt we owed something to them to show a more personal side of who he was. That’s something that, unfortunately, he was unable to show…So much has been written about him on the negative end. We believed it was important to bring our side of what we shared, of what we’ve seen, what we witnessed, and let other people make their own decisions about what they think and believe.
JB: We just feel that fans are tired of the negativity about him. Let this man rest in peace. You guys had 40 years of bashing him – can somebody at least say something? This guy was a great father, and we really witnessed it. We’re telling stories that really took place.
MC: Who was Michael Jackson to you?
BW: I think where he first really started taking over and doing things for himself was his children. “I’m going to make their breakfast. I’m going to help them with their homework. I’m going to do their laundry. I’m going to fold their clothes.”
I remember Paris would come out, and we would see her hair, and I hear [Javon] through the radio saying, “Do you see her hair? Who did her hair?”
JB: And you know who combed it. [Laughs] But he really put forth an effort to really try to comb his baby’s hair. Bill’s like, “We need somebody to fix that hair for her.”
BW: That’s when you knew the nanny was out of town for a little while.
MC: In the book you make the distinction between “Michael Jackson” and “The King of Pop.” Was he a different person when he went into “King of Pop” mode?
BW: We think so because the King of Pop is a performer, an entertainer. Mr. Jackson is somebody’s daddy, somebody’s son, someone’s brother.
JB: And when he came back from the stage he wanted to be Mr. Jackson. He wanted to be the father, provide a stable home for his babies. That’s what he wanted.
MC: You talk about that a lot, how you had your job and your boundaries and you wouldn’t cross them. How difficult was that to hold back your opinions when you see that others may be taking advantage of him?
BW: It was hard. We would get together [Bill and Javon] and we’d talk about it. We wanted to react to the situation the way we think he wanted to but wouldn’t and didn’t. It was difficult but, again, we were there as security to protect his and his kids’ physical well-being, but seeing all the emotional things go on, you wanted to do something about it.
MC: You write about how you were both in Las Vegas when Michael Jackson passed away. How long did it take to come to grips with the fact that you weren’t there when this tragedy happened?
BW: It certainly took a while to come to terms; you go through your thoughts wondering, “Had I been there, could I have changed the outcome?” But when you really rationally think about it, things happen the way they happen and there’s really nothing probably that you could have done about it. You certainly feel that, I could have put on my cape and flew in there and fixed this, but c’mon – take the cape off. You’re not flying. You’re not Superman.
JB: Because we know for a fact he did want to do the This Is It tour – the last show for his fans – but he didn’t want to do 50 shows. At 50 years old he didn’t want to do that. He used to tell us all the time, “You guys just don’t know how hard it is for me to do a show because when people come to a Michael Jackson show they expect a performance from beginning to end. I can’t be an old school legend and sit on a stool and sing my hits. They expect me to perform from as soon as I come out to the end.” And we had to stop and think about that. It’s really true. That’s why he wouldn’t do the show in Vegas. They didn’t give him enough blackout dates, because he needed rest.