Reflections On The Dance
Michael Joseph Jackson Remembered
A celebration of love, spirit, truth & faith. Celebrating his life, his legacy, and his humanity
Friendship & A Paintbrush
Two genuises in their own right find friendship & a bond through similar backgrounds & a shared appreciation of one another's art
By Deborah L. Kunesh
Copyright 2010 by Deborah L. Kunesh
David Nordahl is perhaps most well-known for his commissioned artwork for Michael Jackson. Having served as Michael's portrait artist from 1988 to 2005.
David is an acclaimed artist in his own right, known for his apache and fantasy paintings and the amazing scenes that Michael commissioned for his Neverland home. David's paintings are also loved and owned by the likes of Steven Spielberg and others.
In addition to being Michael's portrait artist and good friend, David also spent a lot of time with Michael and his children, accompanied them on family vacations and shared many personal conversations with the man known to the world as the King of Pop.
Unbenownst to many, David was also involved in developing the park and rides at Neverland, and worked with Michael on other projects as well.
Here, David opens up about his friend of over 20 years in a very candid interview.
Mr. Nordahl, outside of being a creative, artistic genius himself, is also one of the warmest, most down-to-earth people I've met. I can very much see why he and Michael remained friends for over 20 years.
"Michael would get between 50 and 60 extortion attempts per year. Most of them were paternity. Women claiming that Michael was the father of their child, and a whole bunch of other ones were over music. Somebody had written a song or something and they claimed that Michael had stolen their music or their words. All of those things got thrown out of court because once they got to court, they couldn't back it up."
"He absolutely loved the ranch. It was the place that he could go. It was 2700 or 2800 acres. We could drive around, we could drive golf carts, we could walk in the woods, and not worry about fans trying to run him down or anything. He could just by himself."
"He was so much fun to be around. It wasn't all darkness. We'd laugh so much. He had a great sense of humor, loved practical jokes....We'd be walking along and he'd break out into song. But not like Michael Jackson. He would sing like it was a man in the shower, just singing. I hated to see that joy go out of his life because he was a very joyful person. He was a happy person and just great fun to be around."
Pump You UP...A moment of humor & guilt
"I asked him up in Denver, 'do you work out?' and he said 'no, I should, shouldn't I?' He was really guilty about it. I said, 'Hey, whatever you're doing is working"
"He lived so simply. Michael never wore any jewelry, no rings, no belts, no watches, nothing, ever. The only time he wore those things were onstage. I was just so impressed with how simply he lived."
He wasn't a "me" kind of person. He was always thinking about other people
"I never, ever heard Michael complain about himself, about his health or anything else. Any concerns he had were always about his kids. Even when he was facing prison in the last trial, any time he talked about that, he was so concerned, 'what's going to happen to my kids.' But never once did he say 'what's going to happen to me? how about me?' He wasn't a "me" kind of person. He was always thinking about other people."
"They treated him without any respect for the fact that he's a human being and his whole life has been based on doing good deeds. Like, how can you do that to this poor man?"
"Michael told me, 'we're all put on earth to do something' He said 'I was put here to help children.' Which he did from the time I met him, he was 29 when I met him, that was what his life was all about. It was that way all the way up to the time he died. Michael never changed. Michael had incredible empathy, especially (for) children that were injuried or sick or neglected. There were people that were hungry and homeless and that was always in the front of his mind his whole life, and then to be accused of something so horrific, it just stopped him in his tracks and then when it happened again 10 years later, the man was devastated, absolutely devastated."
Accusations, Insomnia & True Friendship
"I spent a lot of time with him during that time, especially after that 2003 thing, and he couldn't sleep. Michael usually tried to turn in around 11 o'clock and sometimes he'd fall asleep, but even if he did, he'd wake up again and so he'd always ask me, 'is it okay if I wake you up?' and I said 'Hell, yah, come bang on my door," which he would do, and then he would always worry. He said, 'Oh, you're not getting any sleep,' and I said 'Well, if I'm too tired, I'll go grab a nap in the afternoon.' We'd just hang out like that in the middle of the night until morning came."
"He had a red corduroy shirt and black pants on and loafers that were kind of broken down in back. That's the way he dressed most of the time when I knew him. When he wasn't in public."
Vitiligo, Makeup & The Press
"Then of course, I noticed, because he didn't have any makeup on, I noticed the Vitiligo. It was on the right hand side of his face and down his neck and also on the back of his hand. I don't remember which one. I don't know how far it went up his arm because he had a long sleeve shirt on, but I noticed the Vitiligo and as time went on, the Vitiligo spread and spread and spread and it was difficult for him when he had to appear in public or perform, to get the right kind of makeup, because...that skin was white, not like Caucasian white. It was white like a refrigerator, snow white. In the beginning, he did use darker makeup to cover that, but then as it spread, it got more and more difficult to make that white skin the color of the rest of his skin, so he would have to go to lighter and lighter and lighter makeup.
Of course the press got on him about that, about trying to be white. Which is the farthest thing from the truth. Michael never wanted to be white. He was proud of who he was and where he came from, but he had no choice. He one thing he never ever did, he never complained about it. He had every right to."
When a little boy died in his presence/Michael's amazing love of children
"I asked him, 'Michael, how can you do that? How can you spend the time with these children who are dying and then go from that, on stage and give that kind of performance?' He said, 'How could I not? If these children want to see me. I know I'm not important, but Michael Jackson the superstar is, and if I can make a child live an extra minute or an hour or a day or a month, then wouldn't that be worth it?'
Michael was always that way. If he would get a call from somebody and a child was dying, he would get on a plane and go and he would tell them, 'I'm going to be back in 2 weeks to see you,' and a lot of times he extended little kids' lives that way. It gave them something to look forward to down the line. You have to admire something like that."
The Difference He Made
"Michael spent a third of a billion dollars on helping children, paying for surgeries, building hospital wings, orphanages, a burn center and on and on and on. The good things he did he would never talk about them. You'd always have to hear it from people who were around him because Michael always thought if you did a charitable act and then you talked about it or bragged about it or something, all of the good you're trying to do, that it negated all of that. So he never would talk about those things."
"He was just so genuine and so warm and so caring. All of the time I knew Michael, almost 20 years, I never ever heard him raise his voice at anybody. Never happened. He was just such a good person. Just a really deep-down good person."
Though Michael disparaged his own looks...His Inner Light & Those Eyes
"Oh God no. We had many talks about that (his looks). He had that inner light and he always considered himself to be extremely ugly. He said he's not a handsome man. 'That's why I don't do interviews and I don't go on talk shows.' He said 'First of all, I don't lead an interesting life, I work all of the time' (and that's what he did, he worked all of the time).
He never did really understand that he had that inner light.
Sitting and talking to Michael I would look into his eyes and I could see for 1,000 miles. He had these most incredible eyes. They come off good on film, but nothing like in person. When you're actually sitting across there looking at him. Those eyes were unbelievable. There were times it would just stop me in my tracks and there were times I'd be around him where I'd kind of forget who he was and then it would dawn on me....'I'm sitting here next to Michael Jackson.' I never really got over that. There were times he would do these quick little step things and they were like lightening. It was just so quick, so precise and just amazing."
Michael appreciated his blessings & never took them for granted
"Michael would say, 'I'm so fortunate that God chose me to have this talent and I have to use it in the right way.' He always said, 'I could be working at a gas station.' He always was (in awe he was given that) and always grateful and felt priveledged that he was given this talent and so wanting to use the gift that he gave the right way, which he did and he did it his whole life."
Michael and the tabloids
"(I would say to him) 'Why do you let them make up all of this crap about you?' and he said, 'first of all, if you're going to be in this business and you're going to be as visible as I am, these are the things they do. No matter what you say, you're not going to stop these people from doing this stuff.' But, that also led to his downfall because he did not speak up early enough."
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Full transcript & article coming soon.
Michael and Friendship and the question about drug use
"I don't know if people are making things up or if they've been paid to say things, to give interviews." (Mr. Nordahl was offered many paid interviews, which he declined). "(They wanted to do the interview) as long as what I talked about was what they wanted to talk about. So there was a lot of money floating around. Like Star Magazine was traveling around with briefcases full of cash.
I never saw Michael with the effects of doing any kinds of drug or alcohol or anything like that, and I saw him all different times of the day. Early in the morning, late at night, all during the day. He was always totally normal. Totally there. So I don't know.
The last couple of years, if that happened to him, I don't know. There's so much misinformation about Michael, except for anything I know personally, I just don't trust it. People are so willing to, I guess to get on TV. I don't know what it is, but they're just so willing to offer information.
It used to piss Michael off because he would say things like 'I saw an interview with my hairdresser and she's talking about me and my hairdresser doesn't know anything about me!'
He kept himself really separated and I got to be really good friends with him so we talked about just about everything that was possible, but for most people, Michael did not do that, just out of fear of people turning around and talking with someone else about it. Private things. I never did. I never gave into those interviews or anything during that time. He felt comfortable with me. He felt we could talk about things and I wouldn't turn around and talk about things that we were talking about, to other people."
I've never met anybody who was more well-adjusted or more normal. He was just such a normal guy. So intellectual and so bright and so normal.
He was an absolutely fabulous father. I've never met a parent that is as good or better than Michael. Those kids were an absolute delight! I've never met kids in my life that were like those kids. I spent a lot of extended time around them. I never heard them cry, I never heard them beg for anything, never saw or heard them throw a fit..."
Michael thought of everything, including the safety of all of the kids who visited Neverland
"The children that came to the ranch...all the rides and everything there was wheelchair accessible. Everything was modified. All the rides were modified too. He had extra cages built so arms couldn't flop out or hair couldn't flop out and get caught in something. He was concerned about the safety. Hte guys that ran the rides...they went to Kansas City every 6 months and took special training to be able to extracate physically challenged children. All those bases were covered and even up in the theatre, there were 2 rooms and there were glass walls that had hospital beds set up so that critically ill children could sit in the hospital bed and watch the movie. He thought of everything."
A cream-colored Bentley as a gift from the Korean Government & Michael's true nature
When David asked if he had ever driven it...."no, no, no, I've never driven it."
"It was too flashy. That just wasn't Michael. It wasn't the way Michael was.
The Kids, Lifestyle & The Masks
"The way he lived changed as soon as he got the kids. He was so concerned about their safety. He always worried they would be kidnapped or harmed in some way or taken hostage for ransom.
He called me when Diana died over in London and he was just totally freaked out. He said, 'That could have been me.' He said, 'We get chased so much,' and he was so worried. He was worried the kids would have a terrible accident, so that's why he kept the kids masked because he didn't want anyone to know what they looked like."
A painting, a store room and Slash
David was working on a painting for Michael at the time.
"He asked if I finished it and I said that I'm just about done. I'm just kind of wrapping it up and he said, 'Would you mind driving it over so I can see it?'
I said 'Sure, I'll do that.' So I drove over to the recording studio and when I walked in there he grabbed me and said, 'Come on in here," and there was like a store room. So we're standing in this store room and he said 'Those guys are mad at me,' and I said, 'What happened?'
This is Slash, Jimmy Jam was there. All these top flight musicians and these guys are used to laying down a track one time. The first time they nail it. Michael's keeping them there till 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning! Going over and over and over the same passages, you know? Just wearing them out. Michael didn't feel comfortable until he had explored every avenue, you know what I mean?
He had to know if there was a way he could make it a little bit better. He did that not for himself. He did it for his fans. I never met a man who was so consumed with how his fans were being treated. The shows he put on, the concerts, they had to be the best they could possibly be. He wanted people to get their money's worth."
Nordahl's "Field of Dreams"
"Field of Dreams" displayed in Michael's dining room
Listen to the Interview Below:
"The Storyteller" by David Nordahl
Michael and burn victim
What David Had to Say About His Friend Michael:
Nordah's "Camelot" depicting Michael and Lisa Marie Presley
"I never saw Michael with the effects of doing any kinds of drug or alcohol or anything like that, and I saw him all different times of the day. Early in the morning, late at night, all during the day. He was always totally normal. Totally there. So I don't know."