It was nearly 1am on a cold November night and the runway at Luton airport was deserted. A private Jet just landed and taxied to a secluded spot near the perimeter fence. Two rented minibuses, their windows blocked out with white sheets, drove to the tail section where a narrow stairway was being lowered. Driving the first van was bodygaurd Steve Tarling with one thing on his mind- to get Michael Jackson off the jet as quickly and as secretly as possible. Custom and Immigration officers boared the plane to check documents and Steve moved in. Nothing could have prepared him for the shock of seeing Michael Jackson.
He says: He was sitting alone and appeared to be asleep, a red tartan blanket was wrapped over his legs and a Black Trilby was tilted over his eyes. He was wearing a Black shirt with a big Red collar and a big Black cardigan with a belt around the waist. He had on Black Loafers which were really scruffy.
Elizabeth Taylor, her husband Larry Fortensky and Jackson personal Doctor David forcast were trying to tell him to get up. Taylor shook him awake and said: “Michael, you have to get off now”. He was completely out of it, he was so drugged up he looked like a zombie. He just looked like a lost soul.
When his hat came off and I saw his face for the first time I was physically shocked. I had this image of Michael Jackson the performer in mind but the sight I saw was nothing like that, he looked terrible. He wore full make-up with smudged Red lipstick and eye-liner. He was covered in White paste like a clown. He looked like a Transvestite who had had some make-up on for a couple of weeks. What shocked me most was the tip of his nose, it was jet black. His whole face was white except for his nose which was black a looked like a painful scab.
I wanted to get him off immediately, because the longer we stayed the more vulnerable we were. It was pandemonium on the plane, security men and and airport ground staff were unloading baggage but Jackson was oblivious to it all.
Taylor had two dogs she wanted to take with her. It was impossible because of quarantine laws but she still asked me to smuggle them off. I said no way, so she told Larry to stay on the plane with them. He looked fed-up that he was being told what to do, while Jackson was getting all the attention.
The original plan was for Larry and Liz to stay on the plane and fly to Switzerland to throw the media off the scent. But Liz insisted on staying with Jackson until he got to the clinic. But when Jackson tried to get up his legs collapsed and I had to hold him up. It was like he had druck two bottles og scotch and was so paralytic he couldn’t co-ordinate. It was a sad sight. I held on to him and someone pulled the blanket up over his shoulders and covered his face with his hat.
I carried him like you would carry a tree-trunk. H is very tall so he was leaning over my shoulder. It was awkward going down the narrow stairway down to the tarmac, and I remember thinking: “My god, if I fall, he’ll end up in hospital for other reasons, not his drug problem!”
As Steve laid Jackson in the first bus, another security gaurd pulled off an amazing decoy stunt, hidden in the second bus was a look-a-like wearing exactly the same clothes.
As the singer was carried off, the lookalike was smuggled on to the plane and curled up on his seat pretending to be asleep. The decoy worked and as far as the passport control were concerned, Jackson had never left the plane.
The lookalike and Fortensky were to wait for Elizabeth to return then fly to switzeland as if the stop to Luton had only been to refuel.
Therapist Beauchamp Colcough, known as Beechy-was waiting in the first van. He began asking us if he understood why he was there and if he knew he had a problem. Beechy started explaining how the cure treatment would work.
Steve says: Beechy was laying down the rules of which Jackson would have to follow, he told him he would have to make his own bed, wash his clothes, and generally do everything for himself. Jackson was mumbling his answers and kept saying he wanted to use the phone, Beechy said this was not allowed. He told Jackson he would have to earn his phonecalls.
Suddenly Jackson said very calmly and coherently, “excuse me, can you turn this bus around and take me back? If I can’t use the phone, i’m calling the whole thing off”
It made everyone realize that he wasn’t such a spaced out idiot at all. Beechy had to comprimise and said he would allow him to make two calls. Taylor was in the bus and got angry when she realised Steve had changed the plan. Earlier in the day he had checked out the Charter Nightingale Clinic in Marylebone, Central London, only to find photogaraphers staking it out. He felt it was too risky to go there and had fixed up a stay at the 2million home of Joh Reid, Elton John’s manager in Hertfordshire. Steve says: Taylor wasn’t happy. She said, “This is bull**** and started asking about my credentials. As I drove around a round-about she screamed out hysterically, appaently the move had hurt her back.
As I pulled pulled up outside the house a guard slid open the door and Jackson fell out. He slumped out like a corpse. Thankfully we caught him before he hit the ground and carried him inside, he was all floppy and dead to the world.
We lay him lay him on a settee in the living room and surrounded him with cushions , then put his hat on him. I crossed his hands over his chest. If someone had come in they would have been convinced he dead. “His face was white, he was lying completely still and looked like he was hardly breathing, it was a bizarre sight. Before Jackson landed Beechy had been worried sick, he said he would be finished if he didn’t succedd but would be set up for life if he did. At one point waiting for the plane, he was shaking with fear. As Beechy came in the house, I shouted out “You can stop worrying now, he’s dead” It was a silly joke but the situation was so unreal.
Within an hour, Taylor insisted Jackson was taken to the clinic. She felt he would react better to treatment in a hospital environment and the Doctors agreed.Taylor returned to the plane which flew to Switzerland as other decoy stories to confuse the press were released in Europe and the U.S. Some papers reported Michael had been in a clinic in the French Alps.
Steve found it easy to smuggle Jackson into the clinic. He arrived at around 5am and the few photographers still there were asleep in their cars. He drive through the rear entrance and took Jackson to the top floor which was sealed off; But the singer locked himself in his room and refused to come out. Steve say: He turned up his radio, the whole building seemed bare and uncomfortable, I knew he wouldn’t put up with it for long and I was right. I left one of Elizabeth Taylor’s bodygaurds in charge while me and one of my ground men checked the ground floor. We went down stairs when the receptionist rang up saying “Quick, Michael Jackson’s trying to escape!”
The bodyguard had been lying on his bed while Jackson had left his room and jumped in the lift. He had presed number 1 thinking it was the ground floor, the numbers are different to American lifts. Jackson had been wandering around, politely asking patients ” How do you get out of here”? I felt really sorry for him, you can tell he was determined to get out and was ready to walk the streets of London in the freeezing cold. Half the worlds media were searching for this man and he nearly walked right out into the open on his own! Can you imagine if that had happened?
I told my man to guard the back while I rushed to the first floor. Jackson was getting more and more frustrated and was slapping his hand against the wall. He was saying in his high pitched voice “I wanna get out of here, I don’t like it here” The nurse and I got him into the lift, I held on him and he started to calm down.Later that first morning Jackson agreed to meet some ex addicts. Nurses were ordered to search the star for drugs. The first session of therapy lasted about three hours but mainly concentrated on laying down the rules. I felt really bad when they searched Jackson’s personal things. He had an old yellow bag with a tape machine and diaries inside. The nurses emptied it and found 13 bottles of pills which they confiscated…
…Beechy made everyone introduce themselves and say what their problems were, Jackson was very friendly towards me because he knew I didn’t have to be there. He smiled at me when I said my bit, which I thought was nice of him, he didn’t want to speak, but Beechy said he HAD to; eventually he said very quietly, “Hi, I’m Michael and I’m addicted to drugs.”
Meanwhile reports had surrounded the clinic and it was decided to smuggle Jackson out to be treated at John Reid’s house. The whole lot had to go with him. He disguised the staff as patients and throughout the day they left through the front door on foot or by Black cab, They were collect by cars waiting less than a mile away at Lords Cricket ground.
Jackson left around midnight. Steve dressed him up in a baggy tracksuit, a long coat, hat and scarf, Jackson went through an underground walkway to the building next door and waited in the basement until a message by walkie talkie told him to walk.
Jackson was as cool as you like, he waited for my signal, then walked to the car just outside and we drove off. He liked the disguise but refused to change his shoes. It was daft because they gave him away. He walked on his toes, just like Michael Jackson. If anyone had of looked they would have guessed, but no one did we were gone within seconds.
‘Minders’ agony as they weaned him off drugs onto Hobnobs’
MiCHAEL JACKSON’S desperate trip to Britain during 1993 to fight his addiction to painkillers was shrouded in secrecy. The world’s media were frantic to find out where he was being treated. Steve Tarling smuggled him into Britain and was his bodygaurd for ten days. He was never paid a penny but only now has Londoner Steve, 33, revealed the truth about being his minder.
Michael Jackson went crazy with sleepless nights as he was weaned off his addiction to pain-killers and sleeping pills.
Night after night he was unable to sleep without being drugged up, so he spent hours trying to amuse himself at Joh Reid’s mansion where he was secretly undergoing therapy under Beechy Colclough. Steve Tarling, who protected Michael during his stay in Britain was forced to listen to Jackson’s melancholy singing. Often Jackson would wander down stairs for a chat and a drink.
Steve says: He had a terrible time getting to sleep during the early days, he was so used to being drugged up…you could hear him singing at 4am, he had a portable tape machine which he sang into whenever he wanted to record a song. He seemed to be writing material all the time and the songs seemed sad and slow…maybe that was due to his state of mind.
He would spend hours on the telephone also, a luxury he insisted upon. He would be on the phone for up to two hours and called all around the world. He would also come down to speak with me and my colleague Andy he seemed concerned for our lack of sleep also. We also used to take him for walks also.
Once him came down for a cup of tea, we got the impression he wanted us to make it for him but we said “sorry Michael, you’ll have to do it yourself, it’s all part of the therapy” . It was true, Beechy instructed evryone to look after themselves, there was to be no star treatment. It was odd watching someone like Jackson make himself a cup of tea. It was like a major exerscise for him…you could tell he wasn’t used to it. “The tea he made looked disgusting, it was really weak, the colour of chicken soup and he piled in 5 or 6 sugars…He also had a hankering for Hobnob biscuits, he had six or 7 and dunked them all in the tea. He didn’t appear to mind making the tea himself, he seemed quite normal at times, and he has a great sense of humour, he used to call Beechy ‘The mad professor’.
Andy mentioned the famous moonwalk…we all tried to do it but made a hash of it and Jackson was really giggling and said we had done okay, then he said “okay guys, Im going to bed’. With that he spun around and glided out of the kitchen backwards in a perfect moonwalk. He was still giggling and had the drink in his hand while he did it….It looked brilliant, you could tell he got a kick out of doing it for us.
Jackson’s eating habits suprised Steve. The singer would eat in the large kitchen with beechy and all the other ex-addicts. Everyone believes Jackson is a strict vegan..but he likes Chicken,.. but not the dark meat. Generally though he eats very little and mainly picks at the food.
As part of Beechy’s therapy Jackson was told not to wear make-up. At first he refused to wipe it ff, telling everyone that it made him feel comfortable, but gradually he stopped tarting himself up. Steve says: Jackson actually looked alot better without make-up, more human and natural. He used to wear long false eyelashes as well as white face paint which made him look ridiculous. He used to wear a plaster over his nose, but as he became more comfortable he relaxed, I think he felt he didn’t have to hide behind the make-up with us. He also stopped wearing his hat all the time, at first he wouldn’t take it off apart from at bedtime. Then he’d leave it on the banisters and put it on when he came down, then it stayed there all the time.
Jackson gradually started to muck in with the others and began to vacuum his bedroom and make the bed. When he was not in therapy he enjoyed watching films in the small cinema in a barn at the side of the house which Reid had converted into a games room and gym. He liked to watch ‘Whatever happened to baby Jane?’, he watched that 3 times, and also Uncle Buck with John Candy.
Most of all he wanted everyone to watch his favourite film ‘Gone with the Wind’. I was sent out to get a video of it, I drove for miles but no-one had it, the closest I could get was ‘The makin of GWTW’. I thought he would get all uptight that I had failed, but instead he said “That’s fine, thanks for trying” He was very well mannered like that. He also watched TV but it was regulated so he didn’t have access to the news. Steve laughed when the news bulletins came in saying he was staying at the Charter Nightingale clinic in London.
Once he went on his knees and started playing piano in the barn. He played a few notes then began singing. It was a love song and sounded really good and he had actually written it right there in front of me. It was amazing to watch, it took him about 6 minutes. When he got up I said did you just write that? He said “yeah, but I have forgotten it already” Then he started looking for something else to do. “No matter what his problems are, the man is a complete genius”
‘Michael arrived an addicted Zombie and left us a real fun guy’
Minder Steve Tarling saw an astonishing change in troubled superstar Michael Jackson after he arrived in Britain to fight his addiction to pain killlers. Steve who gaurded Jackson throughout his secret stay last year says:
In just a few days he turned from a sad lost soul into a happy person who could communicate again.
“In the beginning he was withdrawn and nervous and hardly said a word. He was in his own world, but gradually, as he was weaned off the drugs he came out of himself; he started to relax and was more comfortable with everyone. He laughed alot more and chatted with everyone. Before his treatment he was too messed up to be bothered. But afterwards you could have conversations with him.”
Steve, 33, watched while the treatment went on in a mansion at Rickmansworth, Herts, owned by Elton John’s manager John Reid. He says: ” Jackson is actually a bright and intelligent person. He is very interested in our Royal family and he asked me lots of questions about them and said how much he likes Princess Diana. A lot has been said about him not being able to look people in the eye but that never happened as the treatment began to work.”
“He has incredibly striking eyes, I likened them to Bambi’s-wide and innocent- and he never avoided eye contact when he was chatting to me. The change in him was quite amazing- a really massive improvement. He started to sleep better and would often be the last one down to breakfast. Everyone had breakfast together between 8:30 and 9:00. Towards the end of his stay Jackson would come down at 9:45 after a good lie-in.
“He also started to eat more. He used to pick at his food but he he ate well and noticably put on weight. He looked much brighter and his confidence began to grow in every way.”
“Beechy Colclough and David Forecast did an amazing job and all credit must go to them. The circumstances could not have been more stressful for them. Jackson had serious problems which had to be dealt with, on top of that they had the whole world chasing him.
As Jackson’s condition improved, Steve was able to take Jackson out for the day to give him a change of scenery. They secretly went for a drive in the country to a friends house where Jackson played computer games with the young son of Steve’s friend.Steve says: It was an amazing house, very wealthy looking, but Jackson has all that and was more interested in playing racing-car games with the boy for hours.
“I was aware of the allegations against Jackson but the two behaved like two little kids having fun and it was all totally innocent. Jackson kept getting beaten…whenever he made a mistake he would shout ‘Jesus Christmas!’ Apart from that he never swore and was always well-mannered and polite….Near the end of Jackson’s first week his business advisors made a panic-riden call to the star. They were scared stiff that public opinion was turning against him and that everyone thought he was hiding out to avoid charges brought by Jordy Chandler. They insisted that Jackson should be filmed at the house undergoing therapy to prove that he was sick and need treatment.
“They were really uptight and paranoid. They called the house and started bullying everyone around….but the deal was for me and Elizabeth Taylor’s security man to to look after him, Liz wanted Jackson totally away from his people to give him a chance of recovering. Things started getting very confused when his people flew over on the tenth day and wanted to take him to another house. Liz’s bodyguard didn’t want them to take him and started talking about hiding Jackson in a cupboard when they arrived. It was farcical trying to hide him from his own people, in the end I was told they were taking over.
I was assured that I would be paid in full, they trusted me with the job and I dropped everything to do it. In turn, I trusted them to honour the financial side of things. I have tried many times to get paid but have either been fobbed off with excuses or ignored. I worked round the clock protecting Jackson, and paid people out of my own pocket, and what did I get?…nothing. Jackson has millions, yet this is how I get treated. I doubt this is down to him because I don’t think he has a clue about business. But the people around him should know better….
By Robert McGibbon