To his shock, Whitfield, who had previously done security for Uptown Records founder Andre Harrell, was to be the entirety of Jackson’s new security detail. So Javon Beard, who had done security at a resort and at a treatment plant but never for a celebrity of this magnitude, was also recruited.
Whitfield and Beard spent 2½ years working together as Jackson’s security team, and often served as Jackson’s sole conduit to the outside world, planning every aspect of his life to ensure the safest possible conditions and keeping him shielded even from his own family — whom Michael required to make appointments before he would see them.
In their new book, “Remember the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson in His Final Days,” written with journalist Tanner Colby, they share their own perspective on the complex reality of Michael Jackson’s life in the years leading up to his death in June 2009.
Here, they reveal some of the craziest stories from their time with the King of Pop.
Family troublesWhitfield was waiting for his boss to emerge from his home on Feb. 27, 2007, as Jackson prepared to attend Elizabeth Taylor’s 75th birthday party at a resort on Lake Las Vegas, Nev., when he heard a loud smashing sound and saw a gray Mercedes SUV crash through the partially open gate. Whitfield wound up facing down the driver, his laser-sighted pistol pointed straight at the man’s chest, only to realize just seconds before he was about to pull the trigger that it was Jackson’s younger brother, Randy.
Randy refused to leave until Michael paid him money he claimed he owed him, standing outside the house screaming, “Michael owe me money! I want my f–kin’ money!” When he told Michael what was happening, he “raised his eyebrows for a moment,” then “winced” and said, “Get rid of him,” according to Whitfield. When Randy still wouldn’t leave 30 minutes later, a distraught Michael told his staff, “I’m just going to go to bed.” Randy stayed for two more hours before their father, Joe Jackson, was called, and convinced Randy to leave.
Michael was so distraught from the incident that he bailed on Taylor’s party, even though he’d been anxiously preparing for it for two weeks, including hiring Roberto Cavalli to design a special outfit for him, and flying in his hairstylist and makeup artist.
Michael’s panic attackJackson was so paranoid about safety that even with a fully armed security staff on premises, “he was always going around the house at 3 [or] 4 in the morning, checking locks on all the doors,” recalls Whitfield, who notes that Jackson “trusted no one” and “didn’t sleep much.” Jackson even had “panic buttons” installed in several rooms for him and his children to press if there was trouble. “The alarm didn’t sound inside the house,” writes Whitfield. “Just in the [security] trailer, to alert us. And it was a loud-ass alarm.”
The first time the panic button was pressed, early one morning in April 2007, Whitfield heard it in the security trailer, ran around the house toward the kitchen door and stormed the kitchen with his semi-automatic Glock drawn — only to find Jackson and his children quietly eating their cereal. “They saw me and they froze,” he writes. “[Jackson’s son Blanket] was across the room by the TV, where the panic button was mounted on the wall. He was just walking around, hitting buttons.” While everyone was safe, Jackson was not happy about having a weapon pulled on his family. “Oh,” writes Whitfield, “he got on me about that.”
Shocked by the real worldWhitfield recalls the first time Jackson ever saw homeless people, from the window of his limo while driving around Las Vegas in early 2007. According to Whitfield, “Mr. Jackson saw these people and said, ‘Why are these people out there?’ ”
“Those are homeless people, sir,” Whitfield replied. “He was like, ‘Really? Wow.’ ”
Jackson asked Beard, who was driving, to pull over, and he watched them in amazement from his limo. He then asked Beard to call a homeless woman over toward the car. Jackson gave her $300, leaving her close to tears as she thanked him profusely. But as Beard started to pull away, they noticed a man she was with try to take the money, so Jackson gave the man $300 as well. “The lady started crying,” writes Beard, “like she’d been saved.”
Jackson then spent the rest of the night giving hundred-dollar bills to homeless people. “It’s just amazing,” he later said. “This country is so rich, and these people are poor and living on the street.”
Kissing in the back seatWhile in Virginia in September 2007, Jackson told Whitfield that he needed to pick someone up from the airport. When Whitfield asked if the person needed to be vetted, Jackson said no, and referred to his mystery visitor simply as “Friend.” This visitor, it turned out, was Jackson’s secret girlfriend.
When they picked her up at Dulles Airport, they found a raving beauty, about 5-foot-4 with an Eastern European accent and dark, curly hair. They picked her up and drove her to a Hampton Inn in Chantilly, about 45 minutes from where Jackson was living. For the week or so that she was in town, Whitfield would drive Jackson to see her after the kids went to sleep. They would sneak in through the hotel’s emergency exit, and Jackson would stay there for hours but never spend the night, always making sure he was home before his children awoke. Whitfield and Beard believe the relationship was special for Jackson, as he would have them get gifts for her, such as engraved items from Tiffany.
Jackson and “Friend” were always affectionate and cozy. Whenever they were together they would “hold hands, sit very close together in the car, hug, kiss,” according to Whitfield. There were even times when they’d arrive at a destination, and whichever man was driving them would struggle to get their attention because they were making out in the back.
Joke’s on PrinceJackson loved to walk around in public, and would often go shopping in creative disguises, dressing like anything from a biker to a mummy. In the summer of 2007, Jackson vacationed in secret at a mansion 10 minutes outside of Middleburg, Va. When he wanted to shop at the local Walmart, he donned a veil, with Whitfield trailing 5 feet behind.
But rather than deflecting attention, the veil made the store’s security guard suspicious that he was going to rob the place. Police were called, and Whitfield needed to defuse the situation, but didn’t want to reveal that it was Jackson, because a mob always managed to form when that happened. So he convinced the police officer that the man under the veil was Prince. The police backed off, and crowds that had started to form began to disperse.
As it happened, Jackson considered Prince a fierce rival. When he was later told that he had been represented as Prince, he laughed and replied, “No wonder they left us alone.”