Over the course of the next few weeks, Backbeat will be counting down the twenty most fabled moments in Denver music history. Today, a look back at Michael Jackson's week-long stay here in Mile High City in 1984 and the secrecy surrounding it.
Long before Michael Jackson's name became shorthand for "troubled pop star," he was arguably the most heavily publicized musician in the world. His fame was such that midway through a 1984 tour, the then 26-year-old singer decided to hide out in Denver for a week, with extra-tight security ensuring the King of Pop's privacy and security.
The pressure must have been indescribable. There was Michael, a guy who had grown up very publicly and had hardly known what most of us think of as a normal upbringing, performing for hundreds of thousands of fans. Joined by his brothers, the Victory Tour was to be the last time the Jacksons would tour together.
See Also: #20: Beatlemania at Red Rocks
This was the time when you could not get away from MJ. He introduced the world to moonwalking a year prior. Just months before the Jacksons' Mile High Stadium performance, Michael's hair caught on fire on the set of a commercial due to a pyrotechnic stunt gone horribly awry. Soon afterward, he was famously invited to the White House to meet the Reagans to promote drug abuse resistance, and was midway through negotiations over purchasing the Beatles' back catalog and co-writing "We Are the World" with Lionel Richie. Not bad for a guy barely past 25.
No wonder Jackson felt he had to drop out of the public eye for a few days and get some perspective. Even before the Jacksons' tour rolled into town, there had been a million tickets sold for the tour (the millionth actually was sold to an Aurora girl). This was despite the unprecedented high ticket price for the time ($30) and the ongoing dramas involved with tour logistics -- the national promoter lost money on the deal, and the three-concert engagement in Denver wound up only being two shows.
MJ moved from the Fairmont Hotel ($775/day) to Park Suite (Presidential Suite: $600/day). He brought his entourage of eight and rented eleven rooms -- don't ask about the math there -- and had strict rules during his stay. Obviously his presence was to be kept secret by hotel staff. The security guards handling Jackson were to deny knowledge of his presence if anyone asked. You know -- the usual.
Here's what's unusual, though: Jackson required orange juice at 2 a.m. every night, and wanted his now-famous naval jacket dry-cleaned at a moment's notice. His stay was so secretive that even Elvis Costello, who was staying one floor above Jackson, reportedly didn't know he had been there until after the King of Pop left.
According to news reports and photos from the time, Jackson was being shuttled back and forth from the hotel to Caribou Ranch, the fabled recording studio in Nederland. Caribou Ranch has seen just about every big name in pop music of the '70s and '80s pass through its doors. Elton John and John Lennon stayed there at the same time. Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind & Fire were also guests. The band Chicago recorded five albums there.
Jackson, too, was not far from bad times. He apparently never fully recovered from the hair-catching-fire incident, and the accusations of skin bleaching, plastic surgery disasters and his weird domestic habits (owning a chimp, sleeping in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber) began around this time, too. For that brief time, though, between moonwalking, Thriller and the tour with his brothers, the King of Pop's claim to the throne was indisputable.
Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music