Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Q&A Session: Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard, Michael Jackson's Bodyguards

When I read on Facebook that Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard's, better known in the MJ fan community as the MJ Bodyguards, were finally going to released their book, Remember the Time, Protecting Michael Jackson In His Final Days, I knew I had to get their book. I pre-ordered the book and reached out to them to do a Q & A Session for the blog. Luckily, they responded and immediately was interested. I have to admit, I did not know what to expect because there were fans who were against the whole idea of these men doing a book on Michael. However, unlike a lot of people who worked for and with Michael, these men never maliciously try to bash Michael or his children. I cannot ignore that fact. I hope that everyone, regardless of the their opinions about the book, read this session and come away with understanding their stance on their reasons. 

Michael in 2007

Q: How did you get the job working for Michael? When you first met him and his children, what were they like? 

Bill & Javon: We both started working for Mr. Jackson in December of 2006 through the recommendation of Jeff Adams, who had handled security for Mr. Jackson on previous occasions. When we first met Mr. Jackson, he was very polite and cordial, but naturally a bit guarded and distant, given that we were new. The same was true of the children; they seemed used to new, different people coming in and out of their lives.

For the first couple months, we didn’t even speak with them much. Security is a speak-when-spoken-to type of job. Most of our communications and instructions went through Mr. Jackson’s assistant. Then, rather suddenly, Mr. Jackson fired his personal assistant and we moved into the role of being the primary gatekeepers. Once that happened, we were in greater daily contact with the family and they began to open up and be themselves a little more around us. It was still an employer-employee relationship; we don’t pretend to be closer to the family than we were. But we developed a good working relationship based on trust and respect.

Michael with his children in 2006 or 2007. 

Q: I know his death must have left a deep cut in your hearts, so is that why it has it taken you guys this long since then to write your book, five years, and also because you were wanting to put great time and effort into your literary insight? Also, how are the two of you preparing yourselves from the backlash of the haters, the stubborn ignorant people who, still to this day, will stop at nothing to manipulate Michael’s image and identity as a freak of nature and one of the world’s most hated monsters. Do you believe this will be able to turn the tables on their hateful mindsets? 

Bill & Javon: The book took five years simply because it takes a long time to do things right. We wanted a book that added something meaningful to the world’s understanding of Mr. Jackson, not something rushed out to capitalize on his passing, as many other books were. We spent over a year talking to publishers and writers to find partners who believed in our vision and who we could trust. Then the actual writing of the book took about a year and a half, and finally there were many months of post-production work of getting the books edited and printed and circulated to stores. 

As for the haters and the ignorant people in the world, we’re prepared for them but not particularly concerned about them. Those people are out there and, frankly, the best thing to do is ignore them. We wrote this book for the fans: for the hardcore, devoted fans who deserve a thoughtful, respectful account of Mr. Jackson’s final days, and also for the casual fans, the people who loved his albums in their youth but may have drifted away from Mr. Jackson is his later years and who might be interested in understanding more about the man behind the music. We cannot stop haters from spouting lies, but if we get enough people thinking and talking about the truth, together we can hopefully drown them out.

Michael at James Brown funeral in 2006. 

Q: Knowing that some people would find you writing a book on Michael questionable, why write a book on him?

Bill & Javon: We wrote the book because we had a story to tell about the Michael Jackson we knew. It’s not about clearing up matters that have been written in the media. It’s about sharing what we personally witnessed and were a part of. If you’re a Michael Jackson fan and supporter, you deserve to know him more on a personal side—not just who he was but what he endured as a man and as a father. You deserve a true account from those that were there, not from those repeating second-hand information. If the world ever wants to fully understand what happened to this beloved and incredible man, this is a story that needs to be told. We already know how Michael Jackson died. Our aim was to help people understand why.

Q: There are fans who feel that you are exposing Michael’s privacy by revealing private information. What do you say about that?

Bill & Javon: We wrestled a long time with whether or not we should write a book. But ultimately we came to the conclusion that his fans deserve to know what really happened, and hopefully in some way this will bring closure to some and truth to others. We’ve been very careful about the information we put in the book, what to reveal and what to keep private. There are some things about Mr. Jackson that we will take to our graves.

Normally we would agree with those who say not to reveal anything at all. The problem with that is the time in which we served Mr. Jackson, from his return from Ireland through the start of “This Is It,” was a time when very few people were around. Even Grace Rwaramba was gone for long stretches of that period. It was often just Mr. Jackson, the kids, and us. Mr. Jackson was robbed of the chance to tell his own story, and the kids were too young to really know what was happening. So this is a story that only we can tell, and therefore we feel a responsibility to tell it.

This book is about the years leading up to Mr. Jackson’s decision to do “This Is It.” You can’t understand that decision without understanding what came before it. You can’t understand the full tragedy of his death without seeing what a wonderful man and father he was and would have continued to be without the vultures and problems circling around him. So we feel that this book is important. We understand and respect the fact that some fans will disagree with that, but we believe in our hearts that we’ve done our best to balance the needs of honesty and privacy, and where personal details about Mr. Jackson were used, we always approach their use from a place of empathy and respect.

Michael shopping in 2008. 

Q: Around the time you were working for him, he was working on new music. Did he ever share any plans for his comeback to you?

Bill & Javon: Mr. Jackson was constantly working on new music, meeting with artists like Akon, Ne-Yo, Kanye West and others, collaborating on ideas, working songs out in his head or in his private studio. As for plans for a “comeback,” we heard literally dozens of different plans—a Las Vegas headliner gig, a new album, appearances on American Idol—but none of them ever panned out. From what we witnessed, Mr. Jackson was still interested in music from the purely creative side, but for two years he backed out of nearly every professional commitment people pitched to him. He wasn’t enthusiastic about working at the time. His focus was almost entirely on raising his children.

Q: When you worked for Michael, what was some of the music that he listened to? 

Bill & Javon: Mr. Jackson listened to classical music almost all of the time, usually in the car. Sometimes, if one of us had the radio on an R&B station, he’d ask us to leave it, but otherwise it was pretty much always classical—with one exception. There was one song he asked us to play over and over, a song that really spoke to him and the challenges he was dealing with, but for that you have to read the book.

Q: Did you ever had to deal with fans who were disrespectful or unable to control themselves when they were around Michael?

Bill & Javon: A few times we got caught out in public at a casino or at the mall, and in those instances the crowds turned into mobs and we had to evacuate Mr. Jackson from the scene. But the fans who came to the house, the people who were loyal members of the fan community, no. One or two of them might have gotten over-excited from time to time, but those fans were always courteous and respectful in Mr. Jackson’s presence.

Michael with his fans in Japan in 2006. 

Q: Did Michael have anything cool that he liked to do in his spare time?

Bill & Javon: Most of Mr. Jackson’s spare time was spent reading or in his studio, singing and dancing and working on new music. One of his other hobbies was film. He bought high-end digital cameras, green-screen equipment, and spent a lot of time making elaborate short films. When he just wanted to relax, one of his favorite pastimes was playing basketball. During the months we lived in Las Vegas, he would go out all the time and just shoot hoops by himself for a few hours to help him relax and unwind. Sometimes he’d ask us to join him and we’d play a game of HORSE.

Q: Did Michael have a Facebook and/or Twitter account? Did Michael ever watch television and if he did, what were the television shows that he would watch? 

Bill & Javon: Mr. Jackson didn’t have Facebook or Twitter and almost never went on the Internet, because he didn’t want to see, and he didn’t want his kids to see, all the negative tabloid rumors about himself. He didn’t have broadcast or cable television for the same reason. Everything they watched was on DVD. His favorite TV show had to be The Simpsons. He owned every season that was available. His favorite films were the big summer action movies like Spider Man and Transformers, which he always liked to sneak into the theater to see with a full audience.

Q: You stated that Michael loved going on eBay.  Do you know what things he purchased on eBay? 

Bill & Javon: He bought mostly collectibles. Peter Pan memorabilia, entertainment memorabilia, that sort of thing.

Q: What was his favorite meal to eat?

Bill & Javon: At home, Mr. Jackson and the kids always ate healthy, organic meals, either from Whole Foods or prepared by a personal chef. When we went out, his favorite guilty pleasures were Chinese food, pizza, and hot wings.

Q: Did Michael ever played a silly prank on you guys and if he did, did you get him back?

Bill & Javon: One time, as a prank, Mr. Jackson gave us a plate of hot wings so spicy that even chugging a glass of water wouldn’t make the pain go away. But no, we did not get him back.

Q: Michael had a lot of problems with Sony music and they, along with the Estate of Michael Jackson, have released the album Xscape. If Michael was alive today, would Michael want his music to be distributed by Sony? Were you shocked when in the summer of 2012, when the Jacksons had a feud with one another and the executors of Michael’s estate? Do you think that the Estate of Michael Jackson is doing a good job with Michael’s legacy?

Bill & Javon: There is a lot of passionate debate in the fan community about Mr. Jackson’s family and Sony and the estate, and we certainly have our own personal opinions on those matters. However, we prefer only to speak on the things we know and experienced directly. As far as Mr. Jackson’s legacy goes, there are certain valuable things we feel we can contribute, and beyond that we don’t feel it’s our place to speculate or offer opinions.

Michael with a couple of women back in 2006. 

Q: I don’t know if this information is correct, but there were rumors that you all said that MJ used to “hire” women. If it’s true that you all have written this information in your book, don’t you think that it is a gross invasion of privacy and perhaps a bit of exaggeration when it comes to trying to convince the public of Michael’s love for women or his masculinity?

Bill & Javon: That information is incorrect, just another example of how false stories about Mr. Jackson spread around the Internet. There are, as everyone knows, a lot of “working girls” in Las Vegas, and we did discuss that fact with Mr. Jackson during some of our conversations about life in Las Vegas in general. But Mr. Jackson never “hired” women. We never said that he did, and there is no such claim made in the book.

Q: It is known that Michael liked a drink or two. What was his favorite alcoholic drink? The AEG Trial was very difficult to deal with. One of the things that were discussed was Michael’s dependency on drugs. When you worked for him, did you ever see him under the influence of pain medication? 

Bill & Javon: Mr. Jackson did enjoy a couple of glasses of wine to unwind in the evening, but no more so than the average person from what we saw. We do have one story in the book directly related to Mr. Jackson procuring a prescription for pain medication. In over two years, it was the only such incident we witnessed. Readers can judge for themselves how much it does or does not indicate that he had a problem or a dependency. We also can’t comment on things we didn’t see: what his use of medication was before we were hired, what was discussed in private meetings between him and his doctors. What we can say is that the man we worked for was always thoughtful, attentive, and present as a father. Most evenings you’d find him reading a book or helping the children with their homework. At no time in working for him did we think of him as someone with a drug or alcohol problem.

Q: Do you feel by releasing your book that you will have a hard time finding work as far as being a bodyguard for celebrities?

Bill & Javon: That was a concern, of course, but we discussed this book with all of our celebrity clients before starting the project, and they understand that our work with Mr. Jackson and the need to share the truth about it is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime circumstance that has no bearing on our ability to handle their affairs in 100 percent confidentiality.

Q: Ever since you have come forward to tell your stories about your time working for Michael, how have you been received by the public and fans?

Bill & Javon: The response so far has been overwhelmingly positive. Many in the fan community knew us from the time we worked for Mr. Jackson and know that our intentions are honorable. The small amount of negative feedback we’ve received has mostly been based on false or inaccurate information that has been spread about the project. (False and inaccurate information about a project related to Michael Jackson—imagine that!) We believe that when the book is out and people can judge for themselves, a lot of the negativity will fade away.

The Jacksons in 2009. 

Q: Were there some family members that were reasonable to Michael besides his children? When Michael told you not to allow certain family members contact him, who were the family members and why did Michael not want to be contacted by them?

Bill & Javon: Mr. Jackson’s mother stood by him at all times. She was the most loyal an trusted person in his life. She was the only person in the family who had his phone number, and she was the only family member who could drop by the house unannounced. Everyone else had to have an appointment to see him. Even Janet. Whatever Mr. Jackson’s reasons were for not talking to any particular family member, he never confided that to us. He only gave us the instructions and we carried them out.

Q: Is it possible for you all to give us insight into how Michael was being treated by the people at AEG whom he worked with? It is known that Randy Phillips physically hit MJ and yelled at him. Were any of you there to witness this? Also, were you all under obligation to AEG or to Michael when the company was paying for his expenses during the This is it tour, including the cost for security?

Bill & Javon: We did not work for AEG and were not in Los Angeles during the rehearsals for “This Is It,” nor were we stationed at the Carolwood mansion. We were Mr. Jackson’s personal security team, not the “This Is It” security team. We handled his affairs at his home in Las Vegas, and when he died we were making preparations to run security for the estate he rented outside London. But we were never directly involved with AEG. For reasons that you will see in the book, we kept our distance from that production because we never had a good feeling about it. But we can’t tell you anything about AEG other than what has already been revealed in the civil trial against them.

Michael in 2009. 

Q: Do you still communicate with anyone in the Jackson family? Have they been against what you are doing in regards to your book?

Bill & Javon: We have communicated with members of the family from time to time. We do not know what their position is regarding the book.

Q: If the Jacksons called you today to come and work for them, would you?

Bill & Javon: If any of Mr. Jackson’s children called us for anything, we would be there for them without question.

Q: What is your fondest memory of Michael? 

Bill & Javon: Our fondest memories are the quiet times when we just got to hang out and chat with Mr. Jackson and get to know him as a person. He’d often drop by the security trailer just to ask how our families were doing. We’d take him on long drives and he’d want to talk about the challenges of being a father and raising kids. He also liked to unwind by shooting hoops. He told us he and his brothers had learned how to play at Marvin Gaye’s house growing up, and he used to call us out of the security trailer to go out in the drive way and play a game of HORSE. Those simple moments are really the best.

Q: What is the one thing that you want people to know about Michael?

Bill & Javon: That he was good man and a loving father, the complete opposite of the way the tabloids portrayed him. He was a human being, always struggling to fight off the people trying to exploit him and take advantage of his kindness and pure heart. He was not perfect—none of us are— but he was far from what the media labeled him as.

Q: What do you want this book to accomplish?

Bill & Javon: We want this book to bring truth and closure to those who are still seeking answers about the final days of Mr. Jackson’s life. We want to let the fans know that, other than Mr. Jackson’s mother and his children, they were the number one priority in his life. He always cherished the support they gave him through all the ups and downs, and he loved them for never turning their back on him.

Michael with his children and actress Carrie Fisher, 2008. 


Remember the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson in His Final Days is on sale June 3rd in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. It will be available in India on June 15th.

Visit Bill & Javon at:


*I would like to thank Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard for doing this session for my blog and thank the fans who participated in submitting the questions.*


Pictures - 
The pictures came from my personal harddrive. 

Update: I did a book review of the Bodyguards book which explains my actual feelings of their book. Please check it out here -