Peacemaker at 30,000 feet


Michael Jackson Story by Don Barrett

"When I was laid off (fired) from MGM/UA in 1994, I opened my own movie marketing consultancy. I decided to concentrate on animated films. Over the years I was fortunate enough to work on wonderful animated projects like Steven Spielberg’s An American Tail, among many others. Before long my business was booming. I was making more money than I ever did with Columbia, Universal or most recently MGM/UA. And more importantly, I didn’t have that awful commute I did for years, plus no committee diluting some wonderful ideas that individuals conjured up.

I was exposed to the international marketplace (my movie career with the studios was confined to domestic) and found myself at the Cannes Film Festival numerous times exposing and selling some of the animated projects I was representing. Yes, Cannes is beautiful, sexy, sensual, alluring, intoxicating, exciting and downright the bomb, to use an old expression.

One year on my way to Cannes, I had to travel from LAX to Berlin and then make a connecting flight to Cannes. In first class there were five rows with two seats on each side of the plane. I was sitting in the aisle seat in row three on the left. In front of me was a single gentleman. The front two seats were occupied but they were already seated when I got comfortable for the 12 hour flight.

The man in front of me asked for a cocktail prior to take-off. Once airborne, he was the recipient of a steady stream of drinks. About a half-hour into our flight, the man on the aisle in the front seat stood and moved to the center of the cabin. His seatmate got up and stood behind him.

Another man who was in the front seat on the aisle on the right side of the plane got up and joined the two standing in the cabin and got behind the second man. In almost lock step they walked to the toilet. The cabin lights were dim for those who wanted to sleep on the long flight. As they walked by me it was clear that the center man in this abbreviated parade was Michael Jackson.

The flight progressed but the man in front of me never stopped with requesting more booze. Eventually the steward cut him off. I could only guess the perfect storm that was brewing. Frequently raising his voice in the quiet cabin, it was easy to hear his entitlement demands after paying so much for a first class ticket and that they had no right to stop serving him. The steward was firm.

The boozy man kept ringing the call-button and the steward reluctantly would come to his seat, only to be greeted by insults for refusing his right to service. After a third call-button ring, the boozy man apparently was waiting in wait for the steward. The steward repeated what he had told the man about no more service. The boozy man leapt like a gazelle onto the steward and they both crashed to the floor. They wrestled. You could hear another steward frantically summoning the pilot who quickly came down to see what the commotion was all about.

With no fanfare, no lights, no audience, a concerned Michael Jackson got up and separated the two sparring men. As soon as they realized that the King of Pop was acting as peacemaker, they sheepishly stopped like school kids busted by the principal or even their own mom. The captain (or co-captain) arrived on the scene to see that peace had been restored with no bloodshed.

Michael asked his bodyguard friend to sit in the boozy man’s seat and invited the inebriated man to sit with him. I couldn’t hear a word that was spoken by Michael nor his new seatmate but they were talking away for 20 minutes. Michael signaled to his bodyguard to help the boozy man back to his seat. Within minutes he had passed out and slept for the duration of the flight. Michael and his bodyguard were both back together to complete the remaining hours in relative silence.

It was a rare glimpse into Michael Jackson. Who knew he would be a peacemaker at 30,000 feet on what could have erupted into an ugly confrontation?"