Persona April, 13th 2010 by

Remembering Jacko: Michael Jackson's Marbella performance, 1988

Luxury, rock, shadows, and fame. In the late 80s, Marbella was much more than a fishing village. The villagers rubbed elbows with Hollywood actresses and international pop idols. With so many celebrities walking around the town, it was difficult to arouse surprise. Only a scandal would draw publicity, and only a king could make a country pay attention.

Michael Jackson with Guns n Roses guitarist Slash, Marbella, 1988

Michael Jackson succeeded. In 1988, Jackson’s appearance caused an uproar at the start of the high tourist season. The entire country turned its eyes to the beach of Marbella, on the first visit of the star, the ‘Martian’ named Michael Jackson.

The grand stylist of pop had always delayed contact with Spain. He came to Marbella, but not like other superstars. There would be no public appearances, no visits to luxury clubs, nor would he sign autographs at parties crammed with gold and bottles of champagne. He was Michael Jackson, the man and his music, surrounded by zombies and ghosts. And that meant something unusual was afoot.

The moonwalker had a reputation as the rarest of performers, and he offered the show-business magnates a chance to train themselves. Jackson’s security measures turned the sheikhs into beginners. He brought with him an entourage of 150 people, a team of former Marines and a Japanese karate expert to ward off photographers.

Although no one knew at the time, he stayed at the famous celebrity bunker at the hotel Los Monteros. The dancer had it all planned. To lead the hounding press off track, his team reserved rooms in five luxury hotels in Marbella, never revealing which one he was actually staying in.

In Los Monteros he held a two-story suite, specifically remodeled to his taste, no detail overlooked. The marble floor was covered in carpet, gray and black colors softened. To the roof and ceiling a layer of gauze was applied so that the artist would not become stressed by noise from neighboring suites and floors. TV, stereo and tinted windows completed the trappings of the bedroom. In addition, of course, the legendary dance floor was installed, the first and only one that has ever been place in a hotel room in Malaga.

And so, the late singer remained holed up with a dozen lieutenants to see to every need – doctors, tailors, hairdressers, makeup artists, cooks, all ready to unleash Jacko’s legendary eccentricities. Jacko even ordered the removal of the plants in the hotel to lower his intake of oxygen. His stay in Marbella cost more than half a million pesetas a day, a trifle for the king of pop formula, the man with the black shoes and white socks.

Then there was the matter of the concert. The Marbella football stadium had to be reinvented. The changing rooms were transformed into five-star dressing rooms. Hours before the show even began, 28,000 people were in the arena, their voices resounding throughout. Each had paid 1,000 dollars, except the entourage of officials, which had no shortage of national stars, including church leaders.

Michael was Michael until the end and, above all, from the beginning. Again throwing everyone off his trail, he arrived and departed simultaneously by both helicopter and limousine, with no one quite sure which carried him. The rest is in the annals of history – the chords of ‘Thriller’, the machinery that carried Jacko flying above the audience, the feeling that Marbella had rendezvoused with history that summer. 

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