YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Michael Jackson fans flock to Grammy Museum exhibit

The display is a new version of the one the L.A. institution had shown since February.

July 03, 2009|Randy Lewis

Jeanne LaCroix of Woodland Hills gazed with a wistful smile at the images unspooling across two giant screens inside downtown L.A.'s Grammy Museum: a teenage Michael Jackson surrounded by his brothers as they announced the name of a winner at the 1974 Grammy Awards ceremony.

When the montage shifted to the moment 10 years later when he strode onstage in a knockout blue sequined jacket with blinding gold epaulets to collect the producer of the year trophy he shared with Quincy Jones for their work on "Thriller," LaCroix's head snapped around to the glass display case immediately behind her.

"Do they have that jacket in there?" she said to her 13-year-old daughter, Brianna.

No, but there were four other equally dazzling specimens from Jackson's spectacular wardrobe: the turquoise jacket decorated with Swarovski crystal from the Jacksons' 1984 Victory tour; a midnight blue and gold number he wore to the unveiling of his star on Hollywood Boulevard's Walk of Fame; the blood red jacket with sparkling gold piping he chose for an American Music Awards show; and the red, white, blue and gold model he put on for the United We Stand concert after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Positioned amid the glitz-heavy jackets and two sequined gloves circa 1988 -- both right-hand only -- was a simple white Hugo Boss suit. LaCroix and other visitors to the museum Wednesday were momentarily puzzled at the uncharacteristically plain outfit until they recognized it as the one Jackson wore on the cover of the "Thriller" album.

"It's amazing to see these," said a wide-eyed Michelle Wallace, on vacation in L.A. from Waverly, Iowa, with her husband, Scott, and teenage daughters Bailee and Courtney. Michelle wore a black T-shirt with Jackson's image and the words "In Loving Memory -- Michael Jackson."

Scott Wallace said the family's long-planned trip to California had turned after Jackson's death last week into a pilgrimage to various Michael Jackson-related points of interest, among them the 7-month-old Grammy Museum and the performer's star outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

The Grammy Museum's exhibition has attracted hundreds of visitors in the days after Jackson's death, but it's actually a stripped-down version of the one the institution had had on display since February. The original exhibit ended its run June 24 and was being dismantled to make room for a Neil Diamond salute when the news of Jackson's death surfaced.

Museum officials quickly assembled a reconfigured display that will remain up "indefinitely," executive director Bob Santelli said Wednesday. In addition to Jackson's four jackets, two gloves, "Thriller" suit and video footage from his Grammy appearances as a performer or presenter on display on the second floor, the museum is screening the entire 1984 Grammy Awards show in the lobby and a selection of Jackson's videos in its Soundstage theater.

"I think the shock is over," Santelli said, "and now people are just trying to connect as much as they can."

In the days since Jackson died, Santelli said, "If I'm out on the floor, I can't do any work because everyone wants to stop and share Michael Jackson stories. They're trying to hang on to whatever they can and remember him, and that's the case for me as much as for any of them."

On Wednesday, Santelli brought out several additional pieces of clothing Jackson had loaned to the museum this year, including the golden greaves -- shin guards -- he sometimes wore on stage and four more jackets, to show to a visiting group of about 300 Santa Monica elementary school students.

Some were young enough that they had little clue who Jackson was or what he meant to the world, although their eyes were glued to the glittering "artifacts" Santelli shared with them. Others had learned tidbits from TV, like the first-grade girl who knew that Jackson sometimes appeared in public wearing a mask along with the blue jacket Santelli was showing -- he explained that the garment was modeled on the uniforms worn by the guards at Buckingham Palace in London, which Jackson had admired when he visited Queen Elizabeth II.

"Are those diamonds?" one boy asked of the flashy stones on one jacket. "No," Santelli answered. "Real diamonds would be too expensive to wear on stage."

"Did he make that?" another asked about the 15-pound red and gold jacket Santelli handled carefully with his white curator's gloves. "He had the idea for it and worked with a designer who made it for him," Santelli answered.

Finally, from another curious girl: "Why did he wear all these fancy clothes?"

"Because he was the King of Pop," Santelli said, "and when you're a king, you have to dress like a king."


Los Angeles Times Articles