I have to admit… I've always wanted to visit California but, the idea of making the trip has always been intimidating for me. I first joined the Michael Jackson online fan community as a junior in high school. It seemed like everyone but me (even way back then!) had already been to LA. In those days it felt like, if you were old enough to ride a plane solo, it was expected that you had been to California at least once.
I never made it there while Michael was alive.
But, the dream of visiting places that played a big part in Michael Jackson’s history was always in my heart. When one of my closest friends suggested doing a tour of the sights, I was totally down for it. It had been a busy and mentally taxing few months and spending time with my #mjfam for a weekend of learning and exploring all things Michael sounded perfect.
But let's be real.
When you've got work and other responsibilities, sometimes you've only got a day to spare. In our case, we only had a FEW HOURS! With proper planning, an awesome playlist, and lots of help from the research we had done, I was able to make it around to SEVERAL Michael Jackson related places.
Today I’ll give you a look at where I went and how you can also visit 5 Michael Jackson related places in LA (in just a few hours!).
These are the places I visited (and in the order listed below):
- The Thriller house
- Hayvenhurst, The Jackson family home
- Gardener Street Elementary School
- Michael Jackson’s Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
- The Jacksons Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Here are MY tips and tricks to get this done!
1. Make a list before you go!
Michael Jackson called the state of California home for a large portion of his life. So many monumental moments in his career happened in or just outside of the Los Angeles metro area. It's almost impossible to see EVERYTHING unless you are intentional about it and make a list. If you are limited on time, this is especially important.
Think about your favorite era, favorite moments in Michael Jackson history, and think of places you've always seen on television or on the internet. When generating my list, I placed a lot of importance on places that I'd seen as a child. As a kid, I loved watching Michael but, I especially loved watching the Legend Continues and his history with the Jackson 5 and later the Jacksons. The Jacksons American Dream was also on heavy, heavy rotation... so you can guess that Hayvenhurst was FIRST on my list.
When the Jacksons first moved to California to Indiana, they actually lived at a house off of Queens Road and Hollywood Boulevard.
But most fans, including myself, associate the Hayvenhurst complex as the Jacksons home.
Driving to the Jacksons complex, it felt like I was on a natural high.
I was happy, nervous, and excited. Even though I knew the chances of us seeing a Jackson family member were slim to none and the chances we would get to even get to see the house clearly were even slimmer, I was still looking forward to it. My hands were sweaty and my heart was racing. It was a moment I had waited for my entire life.
Some of the fondest memories of my fandom were late nights with my discman, listening to the Jacksons music. I spent so many hours in the dark listening to the Jackson 5 Anthology. When I was a kid, I felt like they were singing to me. Especially songs like “All I Do Is Think of You,” “Maybe Tomorrow,” and my favorite Jacksons song “Destiny”. When all of my peers were listening to the current artists of the late 90s and early 2000’s, I was identifying with the Jacksons music; with Michael’s music. So visiting Hayvenhurst was a true full circle moment for me.
This is a photo of me in front of the mailbox.
Apparently, security dogs come out if you linger too long…. But I’ll save the details of THAT story for another post. :-)
I hope to make it back there one day.
2. Map it out!
I'm from New York City where the majority of people don't have cars. Most of us take the subway everywhere. It sounds super simple but, if you have a number of places you want to visit and don't plan it out on the map, you may not be able to get everywhere.
I had no clue that even with a car, the same rules must be applied. If you don't plan your trip according to location, you will have a tough time visiting every place on your list.
Coming into California from another state, the closest and most convenient place to visit first was the Thriller House. You know… the home that Ola Ray runs into right after the famous dance scene?
And then Michael barges in and he's all like...
Here I am in front of the house.
It looks a little different in the daylight, doesn't it?
I am not sure who lives here but, we made a brief stop just to take these photos. Really cool experience.
3. Do your research.
One of the things I've had to learn and come to terms with is, I'll probably never stop learning about Michael Jackson.
Within my immediate family and circle of non-Michael Jackson fan friends, I am the resident "king of pop encyclopedia". Anyone that wants to know or discuss anything about Michael, usually comes to me. I'm kind of expected to know it all. But there is so much to learn about him. It is really an awesome blessing to be able to rediscover the magic, the man, and the talent of Michael Jackson again and again.
Sure... it would've still been fun to visit all of these spots without concerning myself with Michael's history at each one. But, I made a conscious effort to do some research on each place before I got there.
One of those places was Michael Jackson's elementary school.
In 1969, after the Jacksons first moved to California, Michael was a student at Gardner Street Elementary. I know it's hard to believe but, there was a time when Michael Jackson was an ordinary public school student. Above, is a rare photograph of Michael Jackson in his sixth grade class picture...
Can you spot him?
He would only attend school there for a few months before the Jackson 5 grew in popularity. After leaving Gardner, he had to begin schooling with private tutors instead. According to his sixth grade teacher, Laura Gerson (pictured above and below in '89), she didn't even know he was an entertainer at the time.
In 1989, Michael Jackson was invited back for an unveiling ceremony when the school auditorium was remodeled and named after him.
One of the cutest things I came across was this video of the interaction between Michael and the student who was chosen to present Michael with a special key at the ceremony. "I must be the luckiest kid in the world," he exclaimed, as the audience clapped and cheered.
If you watch for a few minutes more, you will see Hakeem from The Boys backstage with him.
The Boys were a popular Motown group during the era of New Jack Swing. Best known for hit songs like "Dial My Heart" and "Lucky Charm," and of course, their signature backflips. The group performed at the auditorium naming ceremony, which is why they could be spotted backstage with him. Michael also thanked them during his speech after the unveiling of the name outside. As a sidenote, if you've seen Moonwalker, the members should look familiar. All of The Boys members were in the kid version of Bad, "Badder"!
I LOVED Badder growing up. The Boys joined Jermaine Jackson Jr. and Brandon Adams (who played Michael) in this fun, all-kid rendition of the music video. Khiry is the tall one that plays Wesley Snipes' role and Hakeem is the one that pops the bubblegum in the beginning. The other two members are also in the segment as dancers. If you haven't seen it, please click here- it's a MUST see!
Here I am standing outside of the gates of the Gardner Street Elementary Auditorium.
By this time, it was getting dark and there were only a few spots left to see on my list.
The next stop was to the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Did you know that Michael Jackson was the first to ever be recognized with TWO stars in the same category? On November 20, 1984 he received his star for solo artistry. It's one of the most popular stars to visit, located right in front of the TCL Chinese theater at 6927 Hollywood Blvd .
Here are some photos from that day.
And here I am, almost 32 years and a few weeks later.
On September 3, 1980 nearly 2000 admirers joined the Jacksons, their parents Joseph and Katherine Jackson, and other family members as they were honored with a star on 1500 N Vine Street.
This was my last stop.
If you visit Michael's star first, prepare to walk another 7-10 minutes to the Jacksons star. To be honest, I was extremely tired this evening. After touring Los Angeles all day, it was a few minutes longer than I wanted to walk but, so worth it. It's in a pretty inconspicuous place but, I hope my photo below helps you find it. Janet Jackson's star is also nearby.
My last tip for any fan looking to do a Michael Jackson tour in California is to take a lot of photos! Capture all of those special moments. One of the most fun things about this trip was afterwards, looking back on all of the memories through photos.
I've written here about my first (and only) time seeing Michael Jackson live in concert. I was young and didn't have a camera phone. I also didn't have the forethought to bring in a disposable camera. I only wish that we had taken photos of that night.
If you only have a few hours to complete your tour, I can guarantee you will be caught up in the moment and super excited about seeing certain places for the first time. But during this trip, I made sure to take tons of photos (and print them for safekeeping). It had been a while since I printed photos but, I did after this trip and I look at the photo album all the time.
Some moments in time are ones you want to hold on to and keep forever. For me, this is one of them.
PS: If you've made it to this point, you'll see that I will be giving away two of my personal favorite items from my Michael Jackson collection right below this post. These items inspired me to find places that I wanted to go see that were a part of Michael's history!
The winner of this contest will receive a VICTORY Tourbook, The All About Michael People Magazine, and a copy of VISION.
Until next time....
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