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Jacko bodyguards: He was just a man
Michael Jackson's former bodyguards have insisted behind all the hype he was just a normal man and loving father.
Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard were with him virtually 24/7 during the last two-and-a-half years of his life and have written a book about the King of Pop's final years in seclusion with his children, his financial crises and the weeks leading up to his death on June 25, 2009.
Bill said: "We worked for Mr Jackson, we didn't work for the King of Pop. We got to see him as a man and a father. It was so good to see the side of him which was so in tune as a parent, from helping them with their homework and making sure they were eating right, to putting them to bed."
But the security guard admits he did see the eccentric side of the singer, who lived in a Las Vegas mansion he hated with children Prince, now 17, Paris, 16 and Blanket, 12.
"He was certainly eccentric," former police officer Bill recalled.
"He would go into a store and buy everything. When we were staying in hotels, he would buy thousands of books. At one point, he bought a whole book store."
He travelled from state to state with a silver briefcase containing two Oscars from Gone With The Wind, which he'd bought at auction for 1.5 million dollars, and another containing thousands of dollars.
"Being able to have accessibility to anything he wanted wasn't unusual. Lots of celebrities carry cash," said BIll.
At home, he hoarded hundreds of bottles of Tabasco sauce, danced on his own until 4am, allowed his family to see him only if they booked an appointment and worked on elaborate disguises, from being dressed in the searing heat of Las Vegas as a biker, complete with crash helmet and leathers, to wearing bandages on his face. His children, too, always wore masks when they were out.
"That's all they knew," reflected Javon. "They knew to cover up and call each other code names in public."
Jackson later moved to Virginia where he had liaisons with two female friends, according to Bill and Javon.
One was known only as Friend, a stunning brunette with an Eastern European accent, whom he would visit for late-night trysts in her hotel near where he lived.
On later visits, the bodyguards would drive the couple round in the car with the curtains closed.
"They were making out," recalled Javon. "I didn't want to interrupt them."
:: Remember The Time: Protecting Michael Jackson In His Final Days by Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard with Tanner Colby is published by Scribe, priced £14.99. Available now.