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Piers Morgan Tonight with Michael Durham Prince & Lavelle Smith Jr.
Author: Michael Durham Prince, Lavelle Smith Jr.(2011)
LaVelle Smith Jr., choreograf i tancerz oraz Michael Durham Prince, nadzorujący stronę muzyczną koncertów „This Is It”, wzięli udział w programie Piersa Morgana „Piers Morgan Live” (znanym jako „Piers Morgan Tonight”), wyemitowanym 5 listopada 2011 roku. Opowiedzieli w nim o swojej pracy z Michaelem. Nagranie nie zawiera początku rozmowy, zaczyna się w zaznaczonym momencie. Transkrypt zawiera całą i jest kilkunastominutową częścią całego, trwającego ponad czterdzieści minut programu.
PIERS MORGAN: Joining me now two members of Michael Jackson's inner circle. Men who may have known him better than even his famous family. Lavelle Smith and Michael Durham Prince worked with Michael as he prepare to go on tour and with him in those fateful, final days. Gentlemen, thank you very much for joining me.

LAVELLE SMITH JR: My pleasure.


MORGAN: Having followed Michael a long time and reported on him and see him in concert, I know how integral you guys were to his world. Strange times for you it must have been.

SMITH: Very strange.

MORGAN: Since the death.

SMITH: Very strange.

MORGAN: I mean, how would you sum up your feelings?

SMITH: Sadness. Sadness but I do feel really blessed because the happiness that he left with me was all the work we did together. You know? That won't go away. But the sadness that we don't get to create anymore with him. That's sad.

MORGAN: You were dancing with him since 1987.

SMITH: Yes. "Smooth Criminal" was actually the first video. The first tour was "Bad," and then "Dangerous," and then "History." And then we started working on "This Is It." When he called that in 2008 in Vegas, and that was going to be -- he was excited. You know? We were both bringing out costumes, picking props. You know, thinking about what that show could be. Had no name. And just had a great time for six months in Vegas working like crazy. He was excited. I was excited. You know, whenever he gets excited, I get excited.

MORGAN: Michael, you can't believe what happened? I mean, you guys, had been working with Michael right to the end. Was there a massive shock? I mean, were there any signs that he was -- you know, I've heard contrary views. I heard that he was very frail, that the stuff you didn't see in the movie, he was fainting.

--------------------------------------------------------- (begin video)

He was always kind of faint. That's what some of the family believe. What did you see?

PRINCE: All of 2008, I was in Vegas along with Lavelle. He'd show up on dance days. I showed up on music days. And I just had the feeling, Michael is getting ready for his close up. He just started looking better. You could tell he was -- his energy was going up. And then in 2009, extremely excited. You know? He gave us a speech about how important this was to him. That he could spend the rest of his life doing his greatest hits, but that's not what he wanted to do. He said, I want to write new songs. I want to have better songs than I ever had. We're going to add those to the show. And I really have never seen him that energized before. That in the moment before, right up until the last night when I gave him a hug and he gave me a hug, you know. And he felt strong. He said tomorrow we're going to discuss all the vocals for the tour, you know. And that was the last time I spoke to him.

MORGAN: I mean, from a dance point of view, from a voice point of view, where was he do you think given all the experience you have had with him? Was he ready to go?


SMITH: There was no stopping him.

MORGAN: To do 50 shows?

PRINCE: Oh, yes.

SMITH: Yes, 50, but at first --

PRINCE: Remember his pace -- not to interrupt, but his pace was going to be two, two and a half shows a week. His family was going to be there. He was going to have a house in London, outside of London. And we had a good chat. He and I about that. How this was the hard part, rehearsing is the hard part. You know, four, five, six nights a week. Doing videos during the day. Once we got to the U.K., once we started the shows, that was going to be almost a vacation. Truly, you know. I don't want to say that because they were going to pay me, but I mean, honestly, it would have been. And he knew that.

MORGAN: So originally it was ten shows.


MORGAN: Then he got made in to 50. I remember that happening. I think, you know, Michael, you're talking about a guy who was not as young as he used to be. 50 shows is pretty demanding, even if you're only doing 2, 3 shows a week.

PRINCE: Absolutely.

SMITH: I remember him saying there's ten shows. It's going to be fantastic. And I do remember a day when the ten shows turned to 34. He said, Lavelle, you know, there's 34 shows, I got to do them. That seemed to be a little bit like, you know, wow, this is a lot. And Then I remember it kept growing. What I remember is that he was really honored that that many people wanted to see him.

MORGAN: I had tickets to the first one.


MORGAN: I was excited. I mean, he -- I saw him in Paris once. It was the best concert I ever saw.

SMITH: Men, he was just honored that people wanted to see so as much as maybe 34 or the 50 shows were like, oh man, this is going to be crazy. The smile on his face showed me that he felt so honored that people really wanted to see him.

MORGAN: Let me ask you a different question. Did you ever see him taking drugs of any kind?

PRINCE: Never.

MORGAN: He seems to have been a very closed world. What we're hearing from all this trial that's happened and from interviews of people involved is that there were two Michaels. There was the Michael that people thought they knew and there was the guy who chronic pain from when he had the terrible Pepsi accident and then to counter this, the terrible insomnia he used to get, mixed with the pressure and everything else, and so he got more and more into sleeping medication ending up with Demerol for the pain and the Propofol for sleeping. I mean, you put it all together and he was leading two lives. I mean, there was a night time Michael Jackson that you guys I assume didn't see.

PRINCE: Did not see. And honestly, most of the time, when we were with him, I don't think that night time Michael Jackson was around because he had the kids around. We were at the ranch. We were at a hotel almost like a vacation and we're working on new songs. And there was no pressure on him. He didn't have to get up the next day if he didn't want to. He didn't have to perform the next day. I think that pressure comes in to play when there's a show. You know? When there's a huge tour.

SMITH: Exactly.

MORGAN: Let's take a little break. I want to come back and talk to you about the dreadful day that you both found out that Michael died. And how you see his legacy developing. How you would like it to develop.

(begin videoclip)

MICHAEL JACKSON: Yes. That's a cool move.


JACKSON: Cool move.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just spreads out too much at the end.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to stop it.


MICHAEL JACKSON: Go to infinity.

(end videoclip)

MORGAN: Back with two of Michael Jackson's closest work colleagues. Lavelle Smith and Michael Prince. I've got to ask you a difficult question because I know how close you were. Where were you both? I'll start with you, Lavelle, when you heard that Michael had died.

SMITH: I was at home in my bedroom watching CNN and I heard Michael Jackson went to the hospital with a heart attack. And I thought, OK. That's -- kept watching and it kept getting worse and worse. And I just thought this really either is a really bad publicity stunt or something is desperately wrong.

MORGAN: And you knew that Michael, you know, he could do publicity stunts.

SMITH: Of course. He's a show man.

MORGAN: I mean, he'd been in wheelchairs before to create an impression that he was somehow in a terrible state.


MORGAN: And then the next -- because he always had this thing, make the public go low in expectation and then dazzle them with the high. This was

PRINCE: Absolutely.

SMITH: P.T. Barnum. That's what you do as a showman. Yes, you build it.

MORGAN: A part of you is thinking --


MORGAN: -- Is this another Michael stunt?

SMITH: Yes. And I really was hoping for that. I kept hoping, and then it got worse. And then when they finally said, dead, of course, even that I didn't believe until it stayed there.

MORGAN: You saw that on CNN?

SMITH: Yes. It all went up from heart attack to something happened.

PRINCE: Not breathing.

SMITH: Not breathing, and then dead. And I was like, OK, just wait a few more minutes. And then it didn't go away. And I thought this is really crazy. I called his assistant. And she said, it's a madhouse around here. And I thought, OK, this is the real deal. I just went numb. I remember being numb for days and days. I couldn't cry. I think anger. Just every emotion except I couldn't cry. I didn't cry until I did the TV shows with Jermaine in London. "Move Like Michael Jackson," and I was doing a little outtake like, you know, how you do for the show reading something that said Michael Jackson was -- I kept saying Michael Jackson is -- and they're like, you have to say was. I said, I got it this time. Michael Jackson is -- OK. Finally when I got was, it was over. It was over.

MORGAN: And for you? Where were you?

PRINCE: I was at the Staples Center. I was getting ready for that day's rehearsal. I had a list of changes to do from the night before, instructions from Michael. And when they said that the first thing I thought was he wants two more weeks to rehearse, you know. And then when they finally announced that he was D-E-A-D, I still -- I went back to my computer. I made all the changes from the night before, because I was stunned. I said, well, no, he might come back, you know. And later that day, I just -- I finally had to ask somebody what to do? And he said pack your stuff up, you know? And that was -- it was dreadful. For anything, I feel for his children, you know? He was the greatest dad in the world. Those were the loves of his life. You know? And --

MORGAN: They are extraordinary children.

SMITH: They are.

MORGAN: When I saw them in public recently, at the concert, I mean, they had remarkable confidence. And I guess you might expect it from Michael's --

PRINCE: They were brought up so well. So much love. They read a lot.

SMITH: Disciplined.

PRINCE: A lot.

SMITH: It's amazing.

PRINCE: Well-spoken, beautiful children. And I just want them to know how much he loved them. And I saw the love that they had for him. And he and I talked about that in his dressing room, you know, about when we get to the UK, and when this seven-day week thing is done, you are going to be with your family, you know, again and have a lot more quality time with them.

MORGAN: What do you guys make of the trial? Did you know Conrad Murray? Did you see him much?

SMITH: No, not at all.

MORGAN: So all this was sort of brand new to you?


PRINCE: Right.

SMITH: To me it is simple.

MORGAN: Does it seem like a weird other world?

SMITH: It does. It is a world that I'm forced, I don't know why, but I'm drawn to I have to have the information, and the stuff that I'm hearing is out of this world. Out of this world. To me, it is really about a legend, a doctor and something going horribly wrong that I feel like none of us will really ever get to the bottom of. There's more that --

MORGAN: My gut feeling is, I mean, Michael Jackson is not going to want to kill himself. There's no way he was in any kind of suicidal mood.

SMITH: Absolutely.

PRINCE: Oh my God, no, no, no.

MORGAN: He was enjoying the preparation. He was enjoying being a father, and so on. And just from everyone I have talked to about Conrad Murray, he didn't want to kill Michael Jackson.

SMITH: Why would he?

MORGAN: So you're left with a terrible accident. And I think you are left with the technicalities of how this happened and who did what, and so which we may never know answers to.

SMITH: I have a feeling, I've said, we may never know.

MORGAN: But was it a shock to you when the tapes were played? I mean, I was staggered.

SMITH: I had no words.

MORGAN: When I first heard this, I thought this can't be Michael Jackson.

SMITH: But, listen, I know that voice, over 23 years. I knew that was him, but I didn't know why it existed. Why do that tape exist.

MORGAN: Have either of you ever heard him speak like that?

SMITH: Never. Never.

PRINCE: Never. And honestly, I told Lavelle this, I said, I think the doctor might have made that to show Michael maybe the next day, Michael, you did fall asleep, because Michael might have said I didn't fall asleep, you know. But no I mean -- I would have never made that recording.

SMITH: I mean who knows what he could have done with it later. That is the only --

PRINCE: That's sort of weird.

SMITH: It is weird, but it's -- it happens. Things happen that way.

MORGAN: I mean, Michael's whole life was a bit crazy, ever since the people around him and the circus element and, you know, I just felt the whole thing just unraveled in a very, very strange way and we will probably never know what really happened.


PRINCE: I don't think so.

SMITH: I hope we get to. But one thing I know is important is that, what Michael taught me, all the dance and all that stuff will live on because his -- his goal was to take dance and continue to take dance to higher and higher levels.

MORGAN: There were lots of theories about what Michael was planning to do. What was he planning to do?

SMITH: We were going to do short films. You know, Michael loved the short film. We were working on a cowboy film.

PRINCE: Legs Diamond --

SMITH: Legs Diamond.

PRINCE: He wanted to do like a modern musical on "Legs Diamond." Because Michael already had some gangster-ish, sounds like "Smooth Criminal."

SMITH: Yes, "Dangerous" and "Criminal."

MORGAN: I heard he also wanted to release singles every few months. And at the end of that have an amazing album. It could be a very unusual way of doing it.

PRINCE: Right. And that way you don't get compared to "Thriller" every time you put out an album. So he was going to do it while we were on tour, maybe a single every eight weeks. And then once you had ten out, you add two new songs and you have a record. He also wanted to do a children's album. Because he loved to write these, you know, beautiful, innocent songs for children. He wanted to do a classical album, because he had a lot of melodies that he didn't want to write words to.

MORGAN: How good was Michael Jackson, as an entertainer?

SMITH: The best.

MORGAN: Let's talk voice, first of all, his voice. How good a singer was he?

PRINCE: Amazing. I mean, he could go from a ballad, a soft song, to -- he had one of the best rock voices. I mean, I would compare it to, you know, somebody like in -- not like Led Zeppelin, but I mean, he could sing rock 'n' roll like you wouldn't believe, you know. I always wanted to like get him on some really hard rock stuff.

MORGAN: And dance-wise, mesmerize?

SMITH: Top. Just top of the line, you know.

MORGAN: Have you ever seen a better dancer?

SMITH: A better natural dancer? Not in my life so far ever. I mean, I was trained ballet dancer and we would share, he would teach me, because his stuff was always so strange to me, but once we started sharing, I shared ballet moves or technical things, and he would share his stuff. And that's where our bond came from, just a sharing of dance and a love of dance.

MORGAN: How do you think, finally, Michael would like to be remembered?

SMITH: I think he would like to be remembered as someone that was always, you know, making sure that what he delivered to his fans and to his audience was original. It was innovative. And he ddidn't mind if people copy it, but he would always wanted to be the one that did it first.

MORGAN: Michael, you were going to say?

PRINCE: I was going to agree with that and say that anything he wanted to do, he wanted it to be the best. He wanted himself to be the best, every dancer behind him, every musician, down to the lighting, down to whoever was running what piece of equipment, they had to be the best.

SMITH: Cameras. Everything had choreography. I love it when he use that word. The cameras have choreography. The light have choreography. And that's kind of stuff he taught me.

MORGAN: That's what he was. He was remarkable. I mean, to me, he achieved that. He was the best. The best entertainer I ever saw.

PRINCE: He really was.

MORGAN: Lavelle, Michael, thank you both very much. A pleasure meeting you.

SMITH: It has been my pleasure.

PRINCE: My pleasure.

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