Michael Jackson photographed by Todd Gray, circa 1981.
While on tour, the Jacksons would reserve and secure a complete floor of the hotel and keep their individual doors unlocked, resulting in a sort of clubhouse atmosphere full of practical jokes. In this shot I had just entered Michael’s room and woken him up with the flash of my camera. Michael vowed that he would pay me back for the merciless wake-up call, and he did — Before that evening’s concert, Michael instructed me to be at the left side of the stage when he performed ‘She’s Out Of My Life’; he said he wanted to do “something special” and he wanted me there to photograph it. He wouldn’t say what — “Just be ready to get the shot.” In the middle of the song, he walked toward the foot of the stage, stopped directly in front of me, made eye contact, nodded his head slightly, signalling me to get ready, then dropped to the floor in anguish and cried out unexpectedly, “I’m so lonely — will somebody please come and touch me? I need you, come to me.” A huge wave of girls surged forward, and I was pinned between the girls and the stage, unable to even free my arms to take the shot. I looked up to see Michael smirking, a little twinkle in his eye. After the show in the limo, I said, “Oh, so you think you’re cute. I was crushed out there!” Michael replied, “What are you talking about?” Me: “You know what I’m talking about, Michael. You told me to stand in front of the stage and then called out to all those girls to rush the stage and trap me.” Michael: “You’re crazy, Todd. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” After more pressing, he finally said, “Todd, I don’t plan these things. The spirit just moves me and I do it without thinking.” — Todd Gray, photographer.