Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Michael Jackson's Secret Soft Spot for Germany

By Hans Michael Kloth in Hamburg

Whether he was on tour, on the country's favorite variety show or travelling privately, Michael Jackson clearly enjoyed his trips to Germany. The home of the Lorelei, the Black Forest and the Neuschwanstein fairy tale castle was like a playground to him -- one last refuge where he could still make real friends.

In the annals of Hamburg's middle-class Niendorf district, a rather uneventful place, there is one date that will probably be remembered more than any other -- at least for anyone under the age of 40. On January 26, 2006, a Friday, a sensation worked its way through the grapevine in the northern part of the German port city: Michael Jackson himself, the King of Pop, the moonwalker, the superstar, was visiting the neighborhood. Jackson, together with his two children, was staying in an inconspicuous red-brick track home on Garstedter Weg, a run-of-the-mill thoroughfare.

The rumor sounded like sheer insanity at first, but it was true. The fairly tale prince had swept into the typical northern German suburb from California to spend a weekend with an old friend, then-21-year-old Anton and his family. He clearly enjoyed getting the chance to experience normal life again. "Jackson rampaged around the house with the children, played hide-and-seek and hid behind the curtains," friends of the family at the time told the tabloid daily Bild, which had dispatched six reporters to the scene.

Jackson and Anton became friends after meeting 12 years earlier during the taping of Germany's top variety television show, "Wanna Bet," in the city of Duisburg. In the subsequent years, Jackson reportedly visited Hamburg three times, completely incognito, going to the movies and taking walks along the Elbe River. On his fourth visit, though, fans caught wind of the fact that their idol had again tried to shed the confines of celebrity to enjoy a few days of normal life. They created a temporary state of chaos in the neighborhood: Hundreds of screaming youth quickly gathered in front of the single-family home and police had to be brought in to maintain order.

Eventually, a doll-like Michael Jackson appeared at the window on the first floor and waved to his fans, but just for a few seconds. Then he held up a piece of paper to the window: "I am so proud to be back in Hamburg. You make me so happy." Meanwhile, Anton's younger sister went out front and began gathering postcards, records, posters, poetry albums and anything else they had brought with them. Thirty minutes later, she returned to the front door -- everything she had been given had been signed by Jackson.

The family Michael Jackson was staying with collected memorabilia from the pop stars fans, which he then autographed for everyone.

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