7 Michael Jackson Related Hotels to Visit in Las Vegas- An MJ Fan Guide

I have always loved Las Vegas. I’m a huge fan of warm weather and sunshine. To be honest, I am not a huge party girl but, I still manage to love the atmosphere of the strip. I’ve had my share of fun but, some of the most fun I’ve had has been following Michael’s footsteps there. And I know if anyone understands that… you guys do!

Michael Jackson's history with Las Vegas dates all the way back to the Jackson 5 era. Although, the early years of his career are so often glossed over in a couple of sentences, Michael was making history in Sin City long before MJ ONE and Living with Michael Jackson.

I decided to round up some fun facts, history, and my own experiences doing Michael related things in some of the Las Vegas Strip hotels.

From sold out shows at the MGM Grand, to singing for illusionists Sigfreid and Roy, to Michael Jackson One, and receiving the key to the city in 2003, here are some interesting tidbits of Michael Jackson history and fun moments in Las Vegas.

1. The MIRAGE- Mind is the Magic

I was with one of my MJ fan friends in LA when a super familiar song came on the stereo. Of course, I knew it… it was “The Drill”. We all know this song as the intro dance break right before “They Don’t Care About Us” in This Is It. But, when I was put on the spot to say the real name of the song, I couldn’t remember what it was!

“The Drill” choreography may have been something created specifically for the This Is It concerts but, the song was not.

A friendship between illusionists Siegfried and Roy and Michael Jackson began in his teenage years. While the Jackson Five had their Las Vegas run, the they were part of the “Hallelujah Hollywood” show at the same hotel.

The friendship would last for years and in the late 80’s, Michael often came to the Mirage to watch the rehearsals for their new show, “Beyond Belief”.

In 1989, Siegfried asked if Michael would make the theme song for the show.

"When it's Siegfried & Roy
It's the mind over magic in true
Your own thoughts play the game
In the magical wonders they do
The mind in the magic is you"

Written by Michael and Bryan Loren (drummer and percussionist on several of Michael’s albums, including Bad and Dangerous) a song called “Mind Is The Magic” was born.

When Michael would come to the shows thereafter, they would sometimes introduce him and of course, the theater would erupt in applause.

Before the shows at the Mirage, the illusionists did shows in Japan and it was there that the announcement of Michael’s attendance created massive hysteria.

“I introduced Michael and the fans went crazy,” Siegfried said. “People were jumping over barriers. We had to stop the show.”  

*Source: Siegfried and Roy talk of friendship with Michael Jackson” Stutz. Las Vegas Review Journal, 2009.

I was never able to locate the song on a physical album until recently and I am happy to be able to share it with you. Check it out for less than $10 on Amazon.com - http://amzn.to/2nuN0SX 

If you visit the Mirage, you won’t see Sigfried and Roy anymore but you might want to catch Boyz II Men, a Motown group who Michael highly respected.

He actually performed with them here for Vh1 Honors in 1995:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ug4lcJ5bHjE ). They were also on the song Michael wrote after 9/11 “What More Can I Give” and I can personally say that they put on a great show!

2. Bally's (formerly the MGM Grand Hotel) - The Jacksons Branch Out

During the mid-seventies, the Jackson 5 sold out several shows at the original MGM Grand (which is now Bally’s Hotel).

Jackie Jackson, the eldest member of the Jackson 5, reflected on the experience for the Las Vegas Sun in 2014.

Tito and Jackie Jackson, Jackson 5.

“We played two weeks at a time, two shows a night, no off days… Then, in the morning, we had to go to school with our tutor.”

The first set of shows were played in April and then followed by additional runs in November and December of 1974.

Although the Jackson 5 was on also on tour during 1974, the Las Vegas run was not a show controlled by Motown. The performances included all of Michael’s brothers and sisters and an updated setlist with skits, some especially made for Randy and Janet, and later Rebbie and Latoya.

Backstage with sister, Latoya.

And the biggest thing that made this series of shows different?

For the first time, the Jacksons made all the decisions about what they would perform and what they wouldn’t.

In the Jacksons: An American Dream movie, you might recall the scene following Jermaine’s wedding where the shows are referenced. Joseph approaches his sons about doing a show in Las Vegas, letting them know that Michael “liked the idea”. It was portrayed as if Michael didn’t really like the idea but, in reality, he spoke about the experience fondly.

“To me, Las Vegas was part of show business tradition. At that meeting, our father told us two things : first he said he was trying to show the world that we were every bit as good as The Osmonds; then he told us about Sammy Davis and what he went through so that guys like us could play Las Vegas… I wanted more than anything to be a part of that great tradition. To me, it was very important. It was a giant step.” - Michael Jackson

He also talked about how there wasn’t as much pressure doing the Vegas shows compared to the Jackson 5 concerts. I remember hearing Michael once talk about how he would love to change the routine for songs like “Billie Jean,” but that he knew that fans expected it to be done a certain way.

I suppose this is the way the Jackson 5 felt at Motown. Restricted to the box they’d been put in to since they were first signed to the label.

“Looking back, I knew the Las Vegas shows were an experience I’ll never recapture. We didn’t have the high-pressure concert crowd wanting all our hit songs and nothing more. We were temporarily freed from the pressures of having to keep up with what everyone else was doing. We had a ballad or two in every new show to break in my ‘new voice’. At fifteen, I was having to think about things like that.” 

The Jacksons on Michael's 16th Birthday at the MGM Grand Hotel, 1974

The Las Vegas shows played a part in the move that the Jackson 5 made from Motown to Epic in 1976. According to Michael, it was the experience of doing those shows, that made it difficult for the group to return to the lack of creative freedom in recording and writing at Motown.

Oh and, if you love the Jacksons Variety Show like I do, you have the shows in Vegas to thank for its existence!

CBS executives approached The Jackson Family about doing the short-lived summer television series after seeing them there.

3. The MGM Grand- Jackson Family Honors

The MGM Grand Hotel is another one, rich with Michael Jackson history. I plan to do a more in-depth post about this topic but, one of the most notable moments was the taping of the "Jackson Family Honors" special. Billed as a charity event, the show was supposed to be an annual televised special to honor humanitarians and raise money..

Michael only made a brief appearance at the end of the show but, it was one of his first television appearances after a particularly tough time in his life. According to the LA Times, Michael expressed his gratitude to fans from backstage. This is actually a quote that I've seen circling around for years, but never attributed to this time or event.

"Some friends are like shadows, you only see them when the sun shines... But my fans sustained me even in the dark days. I owe them everything." - Michael Jackson, February 1994 

The Jackson Family Honors ended up being a one time event and was not met with positive reviews by critics, largely because Michael didn't perform a solo number. In spite of this, if you're a fan of the Jackson family, like I am, check out the program in its entirety on Youtube.

The MGM Grand Hotel is also where Chris Tucker presented Michael with a Billboard Award in 2002 in honor of the record-breaking Thriller album.

The televised awards ceremony was hosted by comedian Cedric the Entertainer and although not there live, Michael was live via satellite from Neverland Ranch.  So... it counts, doesn't it?

I will take a moment to say that the MGM Grand is an incredibly beautiful, clean, and fun hotel to stay at. My favorite hotel in Las Vegas so far, I've stayed here a number of times and would absolutely love to stay again.

4. Planet Hollywood (was the Aladdin Hotel) - Key to the City

I recently visited Las Vegas to see the Backstreet Boys in concert. They are currently doing a residency at Planet Hollywood, which as once called the Aladdin Hotel. There are a couple of cool things about the Aladdin Hotel as it relates to Michael Jackson and his history but, I’ll share two that I remember most.

In October of 2003, Michael received the key to the city of Las Vegas here.  You can see the ceremony and before that, him greeting the fans in this video. I remember this because a couple of the friends I’d made online went to this event (and can be seen in the clip).

The Aladdin Hotel was also where the Radio Music Awards were held that same year. Michael received the first ever “Humanitarian Award,” which the Radio Music Awards committee created to honor him for his “selfless contributions” worldwide.

Beyonce presented him with the award and I remember watching it live on television and enjoying every moment of seeing him on stage.

He also debuted the song and “behind the scenes” music video for “What More Can I Give”.  Check out a brief clip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNRJjy0SojQ 

The early 2000's were so memorable for me because I was at the height of my fandom. I would watch every award show because I knew it was likely that Michael would make an appearance. And when he did, I would get as close as the TV as I could and totally immerse myself in the moment.  As I write this, I look back at the many clips and photos from these years and can't help but get emotional. Those were amazing times. They were trying times but, it was a good feeling knowing that my hero was OUT there, living and sometimes, popping up here and there to be honored for the many years he dedicated to his craft. And perhaps more importantly, being recognized for the many instances in which he was generous and gave to help those in need.

5. Mandalay Bay- Michael Jackson One (and more!)

The Mandalay Bay holds a variety of Michael Jackson memorabilia and every time I go to Vegas, I stop by this hotel. I wrote about seeing Michael Jackson One, the Cirque Du Soleil production housed at this hotel a number of times (here and here). I also wrote about seeing the HIStory statue a few months back.

If you want to read more about the statue and some of my tips about seeing it, you can visit the old post dedicated to it here but, the memorabilia at Mandalay Bay doesn’t stop at this. Every time I go, there seems to be a new item updated to the display cases.

I won’t post everything but, here’s a sneak peek at what’s inside.

Michael signing off on track credits for Thriller 25

The Michael Jackson One show also has a store full of Michael Jackson merchandise to accompany it so, if you are interested in scooping up some Vegas exclusive merch, or just need to get a new copy of the Dangerous CD you played way too many times, options are endless here.

From t-shirts, to shot glasses, keychains, and studded jackets, the store has a variety of items that would be worth picking up by both new fans and dedicated long-time MJ fans alike. As an avid- Vegas goer, the only thing I’m waiting for is some Michael Jackson inspired swim merchandise. If not a swimsuit (and/or trunks for the men), I’d at least love a beach towel or water bottle.

6. The Palms - Hold My Hand

The Palms hotel is where Michael recorded some of his last songs, including  Hold My Hand, the Akon produced track released on the posthumous "Michael" album.

While he resided at the hotel with his children for four months, according to the New York Times, Michael recorded a number of songs... but did you know that he also worked on a commercial there?

Michael Jackson also utilized the The Palms studios when he met with a team of animators for a 2008 Superbowl commercial.

If you were a Michael Jackson fan in the U.S. during the last few years of Michael’s life, you may remember this commercial:

It was for a SoBe, a beverage brand owned by PepsiCo. and known for their fruit juices, teas, and enhanced water.

Naomi Campbell (who was also Michael’s leading lady in the short film for “In the Closet”) and the lizards end up doing a pretty good rendition of the “Thriller” dance routine while promoting SoBe LifeWater.

In 2009, the Las Vegas Sun spoke to Zoe Thrall, Studio at the Palms Director of Studio Operations about Michael's time at the hotel. She shared an interesting account of Michael meeting with animators.

"He came in with the animators. The ad was almost finished, and they were showing him the almost-finished product, with the lizards dancing, and Michael was actually showing them how to make the neck move even more precisely, closer to how he does it. It was fascinating."

The “Thrillicious” campaign extended much past the Superbowl Ad.  There were also flashmobs in New York City, life-size lizards included, to promote SoBe’s new line of drinks. I am a native New Yorker but, never saw any of these live. Here’s a video mash-up of the flashmobs though- I would have been curious to know Michael’s thoughts. I think the dancers did a pretty good job!

Lastly, a red-carpet premiere of the posthumous film, “This Is It” was held at The Palms hotel in October 2009.

7. The Venetian - "That's the bathing of Apollo..."

“These ceilings are amazing.”- Michael Jackson

When I first stepped into the Venetian, the ceilings were the first thing I noticed. And I also recognized them from the clip of Michael admiring them from Living with Michael Jackson.  If you get the chance to visit The Grand Canal Shops at the Venetian hotel, I highly recommend stopping by the Regis Gallerie. Although the televised special is something I watch every now and then, I know it’s a touchy subject for many fans.

I remember watching it live on ABC. I sat in my living room with a bag of Lays chips and a Gatorade. Don’t ask me HOW or why I remember that. But, I just do.

I guess because it was such a sad and lonely time for me. I did a lot of time during those months just thinking and being within myself, without access to personal electronics. I had recently dislocated my knee and was confined to a hot and sticky white leather couch… for almost 2 months. I was unable to use the computer (which was my sanctuary) and unable to enjoy the comforts of my own room. My room was in the basement but, I had to stay on ground level while wearing the leg brace.

Naturally, I looked forward to the premiere of LWMJ for weeks.

But I remember watching it and afterwards- feeling so uneasy, so overwhelmed with different emotions. As a young adult, I never really got emotional watching shows or movies but this documentary changed that. LWMJ was one of the first programs that had ever brought tears to my eyes. After it was over, I needed to connect with fans. This was before I had met any fans in real life and had a network. I slid (yes literally, slid) down the staircase and hobbled into my room, onto the computer, and into the AOL Michael Jackson chat.  There was so much to talk about and so much to be discussed.  And from that point, I realized there were other people out there that felt the same way about Michael as I did.

One of the lighter moments in the documentary for everyone, seemed to be the shopping scenes. Michael’s visit to Regis Gallerie at the Venetian was a memorable moment and a place I’d always wanted to see in person. This past winter, I saw it in person for the first time.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that they run the footage of Michael’s visit on a continuous loop right outside the storefront.

Regis Gallerie strictly prohibits photographs and or video inside of the store. I could only capture a few moments in there before realizing this… but, just walking inside was a great experience. I got a chance to see a lot of similar items to what Michael handpicked during the footage I saw years ago.

Some of the store, as you see below is blocked off for private appointments.

Michael walked up these stairs and looked at the higher priced items, paintings in particular.

Again, the Regis Gallerie does NOT permit photographs and I was ignorant to this rule, until the lovely store clerk asked me to kindly put my camera away. So, I would be careful about this if you visit!

Here's the photo I snapped before being stopped...

Did we get this chess set? :-)

Well- that's it for now! I hope you enjoyed taking this journey with me down the Las Vegas strip and discovering some Michael Jackson history along the way.

Just a reminder to you guys, I update in real-time when I visit someplace Michael Jackson related (which is at least once a month!). Updates usually happen on both my Instagram, Instagram Story and Twitter (in that order of priority) so be sure to follow me @mjfangirlblog !

Oh and let me know in the comments if you’d like another round-up of MJ related places!
I know there’s so much more than can be talked about and I’m always up to challenge myself to take on a new location (or update this/ the previous MJ Related Places in LA post with a Part 2!).

Until next time…

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