Remembering Michael

Remembering Michael

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 Michaels 30th Anniversary Concert in 2001. How was working with him different from working with the other artists like Whitney Houston, Missy Elliot, and Usher youve choreographed?
Glenn Douglas Packard: To dance alongside and work with Michael Jackson, its 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 were 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] Ill survive. But, anyway, thats what people expected from him -- the screaming, the wind machine blasting, the high kick with the leg --
But he wasnt 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 -- whos really good at his craft, people sometimes take hard work and perfection as being demanding. And its not that -- its that we want the show to go our way. We want it to be the best. But to do that youve sometimes got to say it the way it is and sometimes be assertive. Thats the thing: thats part of being a good artist or good at anything you do. You cant sit back and be quiet. Youve 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. Im 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 didnt 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. Its like an after school special. [Laughs]

From a technical standpoint, what was it about Michael Jacksons dancing that made it so revolutionary?
He studied musicals. A lot of artists these days study his movements or what other artists have done. He -- and even Madonna -- they really looked at television and musicals and then they took a lot of those movements and made them more current and urban. He would also take chances like with wearing the white glove and the white socks because they emphasized his movement.

You now work with a lot of this generations biggest stars. How have you seen Michaels influence play out on them?
I think everyone is just striving to be the kind of person he became. He inspired the world. You see the reaction of all the different generations. I think any artist would love to be able to share their music and make a difference. [Sings] Make it a better place [Laughs]

Where were you on Thursday when you heard the news?
Daniel [Miagany, Packards boyfriend] and I were grocery shopping. I heard someone talking about Farrah Fawcett off in the distance and then I heard Michael Jacksons name. I knew Farrah died and I thought maybe they had just moved onto talking about something to do with Michael. Then we were pushing the cart outside and all these people were stopped in front of the door. There was literally this group of people and you could see the panic on their faces. I said, Im sorry, is something going on? Is something wrong? And they said, Michael Jackson just died! and I said, What? And then it all of a sudden hit me and I grabbed my phone and I had 30 or 40 texts and as many missed phone calls from people saying, Have you heard? Do you know whats going on? I called my agent and then I found out.

Its one of those moments where everyone will be able to say where they were when it happened --
Yeah, Princess Diana, the Kennedys, Elvis. Like 9/11 everybody will be able to say where they were. Thats the thing with the concert I did with him -- it was September 10th -- the day before September 11th. He reunited with his brothers for the first time, it was his first performance in 13 years, all the biggest stars were coming out to celebrate and pay tribute to his solo years and then the next day September 11th happened and he was not about to be like, Everybody watch my show! Everybody was in mourning about 9/11. But the show was really special to him.

There was as much -- if not more -- of a discussion about Michaels personal life as his professional life -- especially his sexuality. Do you have an opinion about that?
I get that question a lot and I just dont know. Im sure that the time will come when theres going to be all kind of things coming out about him. Unfortunately that just happens.

Whats your all-time favorite Michael Jackson moment?
He did sound check for us [at the 30th Anniversary Concert]. It was the dancers and myself and the crew who had been putting up the stage and he ran Billie Jean for the first time with the musicians and the hat and the white glove and the lights and it was like a private performance for us. It was like sitting there watching the King of Pop. It was something that nobody gets to experience. It was just a surreal, amazing moment in my life.

Glenn Douglas Packard is currently starring on the second season of VH1's reality TV series Brooke Knows Best, which airs Sundays at 10 p.m. EST.

For more on Packard, check out his website.

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