November 2001 Virgin Mega-store, New York, Invincible CD Signing
September and October passed in a blur, I barely remember anything from those weeks. We had gone through so much, two very different events. Trying to come to terms with what we had been through was hard, the fan community became our support system, trying to make sense of what had just happened.
We tried to go back to our normal lives but our experiences changed us, in so many different ways.
Friday 2 November
I get a phone call from Flea. She has found out that Michael is going to do a cd signing in New York. Without any hesitation I decide to go. She calls me back a few hours later and we start making plans. It’s crazy, it’s mad but we just know we have to go.
Saturday 3 November
We call Jenny and Fleas and friend, who now lives in Munich, Germany. Both of them for various reasons decide not to go. Flea calls one of her American friends, Sandy, who decides to share the hotel room with us. We book flights and the hotel.
Sunday 4 November
My parents come back from holiday and I tell them our plans
Monday 5 November
I get the train to Fleas house
Tuesday 6 November
We land at JFK, Sandy meets us at the airport and we get a taxi to our hotel which is a few streets down from Times Square. We pass Virgin Mega-store and see the queue outside the shop and start to get a bit nervous. We check into our hotel, drop out backs and run back down the street to Virgin Mega-store.
We finally get to our spot in the queue. There are barriers along the street, and every so often security come along, and closes an area, creating pens. We get lucky and are in the end of one pen, which means we have something to sit against. We make ourselves comfortable, with sleeping bags; we are in for a long, cold night.
Once we get settled, we start talking to the people in queue around us. We notice other European fans in the pen ahead of us, fans from Spain and France who we had met on previous Michael trips.
As the hours go by the temperature drops and we take turns to warm up in McDonald's or walk up and down the queue. Even though it is very cold, we try to get some sleep as we know we have a long day ahead of us.
5 am Wednesday 7 November
As the sun rises we wake up, stiff and sore. Sandy and I decide to walk back the queue to see how many have joined us over night. We start walking down the block and oh my gosh, there is a huge amount of people, we estimated maybe a thousand!!! We eventually make it back to our pen and report back to everyone.
Even though it is now early Wednesday morning, no one knows exactly how many will be let into the cd signing. The overnight security did not know any details and just told us to wait until the Virgin Megastore staff arrived. By walking up to the top of the queue we guessed we were within the first 200 people, so we really hoped we would make the cut off point. We know hundreds of the people behind us though would not get in.
The Virgin Mega-store staff arrives and finally something is happening. Eventually a staff member reaches us and hands each of us a numbered ticket… OMG!!! We finally know we will get in.
So the plan is
Staff member 1 hands out the numbered tickets. There are 500 tickets, mine is number 155
Then one by one we go into the shop, get an Invincible album from the stand and go to the cash desk.
At the cash desk we give the album, our number ticket and the money to staff member 2.
Staff member 2 passes the ticket and the album to staff member 3 who write the ticket number onto a laminated pass on a chain and onto the till receipt and puts everything into a bag and hands the bag to you.
Once you have been given your pass you then leave the shop and re-queue.
We are told that we won’t be allowed into the shop until 10 am so we decided to go back to our hotel and freshen up and have something to eat. We were a lot calmer now as we knew we were defiantly getting in to see Michael. By now its nearly 9 am so we have about an hour.
We come back to Virgin Mega-store and rejoin the queue. We started out on the street again, but this time we knew we were getting in. The queue moved very slowly, they only let about 10 people inside at a time.
Finally we get to the shop and are in out of the cold. Once inside we find ourselves in a single line queue along the inside walls of the shop
All 500 people are now inside the shop, queuing in a single line all along the walls of the shop on two floors. We are on the ground floor about half way around. They are playing Invincible album in a loop. Suddenly we hear screams from outside but we cant see whats happening. We are behind barriers and the staff don’t let us move.
We find out later that was when Michael did the appearance on the stage outside the shop and all the people who couldn't get in went crazy and the traffic in Times Square stopped. We could hear all the screams and the atmosphere inside changed. Now it was real, now Michael was here.
Slowly slowly the queue moved, bringing us closer to him. The album plays on a loop and there are screens around the shop where we can watch Michael meeting everyone. The CD signing is being streamed live online and every so often cuts from the live feed of Michael signing and meeting people to video montages.
Finally we make it down to the lower floor, the basement floor when Michael is. OMG… we go down the escalator and he is right there, in front of us, watching us as we come down to that floor. We have no time to wave or get his attention as we are moved along down the shop.
Once down on the basement level, the atmosphere is very different. As we move along the queue we get little glimpses of him and we try as much as we can to watch him.
After hours and hours queuing, finally it is our turn.
We had brought some gifts for Michael but security told us not to give anything to Michael but we someone managed to give them to him anyway.
When we got to the top of the queue we were told to open the album and take the booklet out. We then had to give the booklet to a security guard and then when it was your turn, the surety guard placed your booklet on the table for Michael to sign.
We could see that people only had a very short time with Michael. Many people did not even speak to him, just watched him sign the album booklet and then just walked away from the table.
When it was my turn I decided to just start talking to him as soon as I got to the table. I just started saying things, babbling really, but for a few short minutes, I was looking into his eyes and having a one on one conversation with him.
All too soon my time was up and I was pulled away from him. I almost walked away without my signed Invincible booklet, getting an autograph wasn't important to me, being able to talk to Michael was the only reason I was there. One of the security guards called me back to give me my autograph!!
We found out later from a fan who was watching the live stream online that when we were meeting Michael it cut to a video montage, so our time with Michael was not shown.
Once our time was up the security made us go straight up the escalator and leave the shop. Once outside I found Flea and Sandy. While we all had a precious few minutes one on one with Michael we all agreed that it was not as special or as amazing as other times we had met him or been close to him. All 3 of us had a conversation with him but felt that he wanted to say more to us .
We went to the side entrance and waited with everyone to see Michael leave. By now it was late evening, cold and dark and we needed food and sleep. We stayed until Michael left but we didn't have the energy to follow him. Once Michael left, we went back to our hotel for some much needed rest.
Thursday 8 November
We wake up and decide to find Michael. The day before we heard from people in the queue that he was supposed to be staying at The Four Seasons Hotel. So once we are ready we head across to the Four Seasons.
When we get there we are surprised that there is no one else there. So the three of us just decide to stay and see what happens. Over the next few hours we are joined by the French and Spanish fans , so now there is about 8 of us.
The hours go by and we get cold but no one wants to leave. Something just feels right, that he is here. Suddenly we see one of Michael's staff who was with him the day before at the CD signing. Now we know for definite he is here.
Darkness falls; we have been sat outside this hotel for hours in the cold. Suddenly the air changes, we can’t explain, something is about to happen.
We hear noises behind us and a garage door opens. We jump up and OH MY GOSH Michael is in the car in the garage. He sees us and the car stops and he rolls down the window.
We run into the garage over to the car. There is only about 6 of us so we get to talk to him for a few minutes.
All too soon the car starts moving and Michael closes the window. The other fans run to get a taxi but me, Flea and Sandy stay walking with the car as it pulls out onto the street. The traffic lights are red so the car is stopped in the street for a few minutes so we manage to walk into the street beside the car and continue talking to Michael through the windows.
Once the lights change and the traffic move we find an empty taxi two cars behind Michael's car. We jump in, all excited talking at once, trying to explain to the driver to follow that car in front. It takes a few minutes for the driver to fully understand that Michael Jackson is in the car in front, we want to follow him and we have no idea where he is going. Eventually we convince the taxi driver to pull up alongside Michael’s car, and we roll down the windows. We stick out heads out the windows and scream Michael’s name. He sees us, rolls down the window and starts laughing at us. The taxi driver gets such a shock that we are telling the truth and once the traffic lights change and the cars move again he is right on it, weaving through the traffic as we keep Michael's car in sight, giving the taxi driver instructions.
We have no idea where we are going but Michael’s driver knew we were following. Eventually we pull up outside FAO SWARTZ the toy shop. It’s around 7.30 pm and the store closes at 8 pm. We pay the taxi driver, shouting thank you to him and jump out of the taxi. We run into the shop and up the stairs trying to find the personal shopper lounge. As we run through the shop we hear an announcement over the loudspeaker that the shop is closing early tonight and that all customer’s need to make their way to the exits. We look at each other, laughing, knowing exactly the reason why the store is closing early. We find the personal shopper lounge on the upper floor and try to stay in that area. Eventually security come over and escorts us to the lower level as we are the only customer’s on that level. We try to stay in the shop as long as we can, but security eventually figure out we know that there is a VIP in the building and that we know exactly who that VIP is. By now the other fans are there so there are about 8 of us, in little groups trying to dodge security in this toy-shop.
Eventually we give up and leave the shop, as we do we are joking with the security that we know who is in the building. It’s all in good humour, we don’t cause any trouble, and everyone is having fun. Once outside we run to the windows and wait to see what happens.
After a few moments we see movement and we see Michael walking around the shop. We watch him for about 30 minutes, every so often we scream his name and he waves to us.
We do laps of the building, from the windows to the delivery entrance and back again. All of a sudden one of the fans shouts to us that Michael is leaving.
We run to the delivery entrance just in time to see the car move into the traffic. Without any thought we all run after the car though the streets of Manhattan. There is only about 8 of us and we manage to follow the car easily. We turn a corner and find ourselves back at The Four Seasons!! Amazing we were only 2 blocks from the hotel all this time.
The car pulls into the hotel garage and all 8 of us line up on the street in front of the car where Michael can see us. We are careful to not be in the garage as we can see that security is ready to roll down the metal garage door.
The door starts to roll down and we blow kisses, wave and call out goodbye to Michael until the door has fully closed.
By now it’s after 10 pm and we are cold, tired and hungry. We decide to leave as we felt that we would not see Michael again that night.
Friday 9 November
Today is our last day in New York. Our flight leaves in the afternoon. In the morning we go back to the hotel just in case we get to see Michael again. We wait as long as we can but we don’t see him.
Sandy decides to stay in New York another day, as we don’t know for definite that he has left.
When we get back to Ireland we found out from Sandy that Michael had left on the Friday, most likely before we had got there.
Most people think that the CD signing was amazing, and they wished they had gone. In actual fact it wasn't really. The amount of time we spent with Michael was very quick, and very controlled. We were lucky that our time with Michael wasn't filmed and our conversations remain private. Many fans were not as lucky and their meeting and conversation with Michael at the CD signing has been dissected and analysed so much over the years. Yes I did get an autograph but for us, the second day at the hotel was much more special. The majority of the 500 people at the CD signing were there just to get an autograph; they were dealers and collectors, teenagers and celeb spotters who went regularly to CD signings. Talking to people in the queue the night before so many did not even know about the album Invincible or heard any of the songs before.