Remembering Michael


By Noah Michelson

As if starring on a hit reality TV show, VH1's Brooke Knows Best, where he's constantly getting into and out of trouble with BFF and roommate Brooke Hogan weren't keeping him occupied enough, Glenn Douglas Packard is also a highly sought after choreographer who's worked with some of the biggest names in the industry including Whitney Houston, Nelly Furtado, and Usher. But it was his collaboration with Michael Jackson for the King of Pop's 30th Anniversary Concert in September of 2001 -- which celebrated the singer's 30th year as a solo artist and marked the first time he appeared onstage alongside his brothers since 1984 -- that Packard counts as the highlight of his career.

We chatted with Packard to find out what he remembers about working with Jackson, where he was when he heard the artist had died, and how Michael revolutionized the world of dance.

You choreographed Michael's 30th Anniversary Concert in 2001. How was working with him different from working with the other artists ' like Whitney Houston, Missy Elliot, and Usher ' you've choreographed?
Glenn Douglas Packard: To dance alongside and work with Michael Jackson, it's the one thing you want do in your career. As a choreographer, as a dancer, you want that opportunity to work with somebody who is an icon around the world. He was so unique and he was copied so much by other artists and he was such an original that everyone wanted a chance to work with him.

What was he like offstage?
Very quiet -- like to the point where you wanted to shake him and say, 'Speak Up!' When he was in the room he was like, [practically inaudible] 'OK, now we're going to take it from the top'' So soft-spoken, so shy -- almost insecure. But then the music would come on and [Screams and bellows] It was almost like he was saving his energy for the performances. Sorry -- did you have to hold the phone away from your ear?

[Laughs] I'll survive. But, anyway, that's what people expected from him -- the screaming, the wind machine blasting, the high kick with the leg --
But he wasn't that kind of a crazy person when he was offstage. He was just like people say -- really timid.

There were no diva moments or outbursts?
No. As another person -- me -- who's really good at his craft, people sometimes take hard work and perfection as being demanding. And it's not that -- it's that we want the show to go our way. We want it to be the best. But to do that you've sometimes got to say it the way it is and sometimes be assertive. That's the thing: that's part of being a good artist or good at anything you do. You can't sit back and be quiet. You've got to be able to demand things and make them happen.

Did you idolize Michael when you were growing up?
Being gay, I more idolized people like Paula Abdul and Jody Watley and Madonna. I was watching their videos but I was also so inspired by the way Michael danced and moved. I'm a child of the '80s so I grew up watching those videos and they were really my first dance classes. I remember watching the videos and recreating them in my living room. I was from this small town in Michigan where boys didn't dance. But then I almost lost my leg in a four wheeler accident and because of that I turned my life around and decided to do something that I always wanted to do and that was the entertainment business instead of becoming a farmer. It's like an after school special. [Laughs]