Michael Jackson visited the Disney parks often during his life, especially during the early 1980’s.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Disney and shared a little bit about my first time in Disneyland a couple weeks ago (here). Walt Disney World has been my “other home” since I was a child and still remains a place that I look forward to visiting as often as possible. To me, Walt Disney World totally embodies escapism.
That word should sound familiar because Michael used it a LOT. He too hoped to create that feeling for people, so it’s no surprise that Walt Disney has always been one of his inspirations.
Walt Disney borrowed money against his life insurance policy to finance the creation of the first park, Disneyland. It was a vision that he believed very much in. His dream was to create a destination that families could visit together and a place where characters and the magic of Disney animated films would come to life. Disney once said, "I don't want the public to see the world they live in while they're in the park (Disneyland). I want them to feel they're in another world." Although some argue, this was achieved with the creation of Disneyland, I think that Walt Disney World is really the true and immersive Disney Park experience.
Planning a trip to Disney can be tricky… especially if you’re like me, and are selective with hotel rooms and that sort of thing. I would argue that a hotel room can make or break your trip. On my trip a couple months ago, the accommodations were a dream. Nice comfy beds, great view, modern and clean décor, a gift shop to buy Minnie Mouse ears, Starbucks in the lobby... you know, pretty much everything a New York City girl could ask for.
I got to thinking… I wonder where Michael stayed when he came here? Michael Jackson had his own suite in Disney but, I didn’t know much about it until recently. If you’re a fan of the Disney Parks like me or are simply just curious about what the Michael Jackson Suite in Walt Disney World was like, continue reading below:
1. The Michael Jackson suite was at Walt Disney World in Florida (not Disneyland in California).
Michael once wanted to stay at the Contemporary resort in the late 70s. The Contemporary was (and still is) one of the nicest places to stay there, a Deluxe Property on the Walt Disney World resort. When it was all booked and he couldn’t be accommodated, Michael decided to stay at the Hotel Royal Plaza. The hotel was in the vicinity best known as Downtown Disney but, now called Disney Springs. The hotel staff was welcoming (who wouldn’t be welcoming to Michael Jackson?) but so much so that Michael returned on several occasions. In fact, he stayed there so often, that in recognition of his loyalty to the property and to Disney, the hotel manager negotiated a suite in his name.
2. Michael Jackson wasn’t the only celebrity to have a private suite at the Hotel Royal Plaza, Bob Hope had one there too.Bob Hope was a comedian, actor, and television personality, well known for his decades of success within entertainment media. He was also very well respected and applauded for his tours overseas to perform for the American troops. In relation to Michael Jackson history, the Jackson 5 performed on the Bob Hope special in 1973.
Bob Hope was a comedian, actor, and television personality, well known for his decades of success within entertainment media. He was also very well respected and applauded for his tours overseas to perform for the American troops. In relation to Michael Jackson history, the Jackson 5 performed on the Bob Hope special in 1973.
It’s actually an amazing performance (here) and you can see Hope’s (and some of Michael’s) sense of humor for yourself in a later clip (here).
Like Michael, Bob Hope also had a great love for Disney.
Hope’s suite, was a true penthouse pad, located on the top floor of the hotel. (Michael’s suite was located the 16th floor, one level below.) Equipped with a lavender tub, a sparkling chandelier, and five balconies overlooking the Florida interstate, his suite was luxurious, to say the least.
I came across a funny story in the Orlando Sentinel about a mix up between the two celebrity suites. One time, two young girls rang the doorbell to Bob Hope’s room. They were looking for Michael.
“When the bathrobe-clad Hope answered, one of them said in surprise, `You`re not Michael Jackson!’
``No,`` said Hope; ``I`m not even the right color; I`m Bob Hope.``
``Who is that?`` they asked.
3. If Michael wasn’t occupying it, his Walt Disney World suite could be rented by the public.
Michael had a hands-on role in designing the suite and how it would display tokens of his career and achievements. Of course, he wouldn’t be the only one occupying the room. “Jackson worked with a designer to decorate the two-bedroom, 16th floor suite at the Royal Plaza and donated memorabilia for the walls. And when he wasn't staying there, fans could rent the digs for upwards of $750 a night” (Morris, 1993).
Phil Wright, the hotel’s manager at the time, shared that guests were guaranteed the suite, unless Michael came to town. Although Michael generally gave one month’s notice before he would come to visit, there were also times when he would arrive unexpectedly. ''It's his suite. Most guests say they don't mind getting bumped -- as long as they're put up on the same floor with him” (Hayes, 1986).
4. The suite was decorated with Michael's awards, trophies, plaques, and more.
The suite contained decorations of many of Michael’s awards and was adorned in some of his favorite colors, black, white and red. Among the many awards displayed, was his Presidential award from Ronald Reagan and a replica plaque of Michael’s 37 gold and platinum records. After the suite was created, Michael began sending several of his Grammy awards there to be displayed.
The August 1984 issue of EBONY Jr. magazine boasted that after the Grammy awards that year, the hotel had to break through to the adjoining suite, just to create room to accommodate all of Michael’s trophies.
Michael said of its décor, “What better place to display my personal memorabilia- which is so special to me- than Disney World?”.
It’s rumored that the trophy case was insured for $1 million.
5. Michael also displayed his affection for Marilyn Monroe in the suite.
The Michael Jackson suite was also decorated with Marilyn Monroe memorabilia. Michael Jackson was a fan of Monroe and on one of the walls, hung a lucite box with a paper sculpture of her inside. Supposedly, Michael once stayed an extra week at the hotel just to watch a Marilyn Monroe film marathon on a local television station. Who Knew!?
The Michael Jackson Suite at Walt Disney World sounds like it was amazing.
I would have loved to see and experience this suite, especially because Disney and Michael are two of the things that make me happy.
I’d imagine it’d be almost as magical as it was seeing Captain EO in EPCOT a couple years ago.
Michael has always been vocal about his love for Disney and I love reading about some of his most memorable moments there, both personally and professionally. In his autobiography, Moonwalker, Michael talks about getting to visit Walt Disney World during days off of the Victory Tour. He shared a story of one moment in time, as he stood on a hotel balcony. A mass of people recognized him and chanted his name down below. It was then, that Michael recalled a moment of recognition within himself.
“Thousands of people began chanting “Michael! Michael!” and it was echoing all over the park… All the work I’d put in on Thriller, my crying and believing in my dreams and working on those songs and falling asleep near the microphone stand because I was so tired, all of it was repaid by this display of affection” (Jackson, 249).
It makes me happy to know that even for a couple of years, Michael had a place he could call his own, relax, and do some escaping of his own in Walt Disney World.
Until next time...