[artist id=”1102″]Michael Jackson[/artist] was the King of Pop. And when the King called, people listened.
And not just any people, mind you, but the hugest celebrities in the world. Movie stars, supermodels, fellow recording giants, superstar athletes — they were all at Jackson’s beck and call, mostly because he was the most famous man on the planet.
And his mega-celebrity came in handy when MJ wanted to make a music video. Because the King only did them one way: huge, loaded with eye-popping special effects, elaborate dance sequences and opulent set designs. His videos were mini-movies, they were events. And, accordingly, they needed stars.
Of course, the real star was always Michael Jackson. But over the course of three decades, he lined up a veritable galaxy of other luminaries to film cameos in his videos. And that became part of the event … you didn’t just tune in to the premiere of an MJ music video to see the dance moves or the visual fireworks (though, of course, you did,) you also tuned in to see just who he’d get to appear in that video.
Early on, it was former Playboy centerfold Ola Ray, who played Jackson’s oft-terrified love interest in the iconic [url id=”http://www.mtv.com/videos/michael-jackson/13322/thriller.jhtml#id=1614737″]”Thriller”[/url] video (and, of course, the vocal cameo by none other than Vincent Price). And there was his romp with fellow icon Paul McCartney in Macca’s ’83 “Say Say Say” video. But once Jackson dropped Bad in 1987, the stars really started aligning.
In the video for the title track (directed, of course, by a dude named Martin Scorsese), an up-and-coming actor named Wesley Snipes starred as Jackson’s foil, Mini Max. [url id=”http://www.mtv.com/videos/michael-jackson/8895/smooth-criminal.jhtml#id=1614737″]”Smooth Criminal”[/url] was the centerpiece of his “Moonwalker” film, featuring Joe Pesci as evil gangster “Mr. Big.” And then, of course, there’s the video for [url id=”http://www.mtv.com/videos/michael-jackson/208399/liberian-girl.jhtml#id=1614737″]”Liberian Girl,”[/url] which features a galaxy of stars of the era (a partial list: Paula Abdul, Dan Aykroyd, Richard Dreyfuss, Corey Feldman, Debbie Gibson, Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, Sherman Hemsley, Don King, Olivia Newton-John, Steven Spielberg, John Travolta, Billy Dee Williams and “Weird Al” Yankovic).
In 1991, Jackson returned with his Dangerous album, and the first video, [url id=”http://www.mtv.com/videos/michael-jackson/18164/black-or-white-long-version.jhtml#id=1614737″]”Black or White,”[/url] which, in addition to some fancy “morphing” special effects, featured cameos by Macaulay Culkin, George Wendt and a young Tyra Banks (in later years, Homer and Bart Simpson were also added to the clip). “Remember The Time” sent MJ to ancient Egypt, and featured turns by Eddie Murphy and supermodel Iman as the Pharoah and his Queen, and Magic Johnson as a palace guard. For “In the Closet,” directed by famed fashion photographer Herb Ritts, Jackson danced provocatively with supermodel Naomi Campbell. And in
Jackson broke the bank with 1995’s [url id=”http://www.mtv.com/videos/michael-jackson/60614/scream-feat-janet-jackson.jhtml#id=1614737″]”Scream,”[/url] which, with a reported budget of around $7 million, is still the most expensive music video of all time. His sister Janet famously appears here, dueting with her brother aboard a futuristic spacecraft. [url id=”http://www.mtv.com/videos/michael-jackson/99062/you-are-not-alone.jhtml#id=1614737″]”You Are Not Alone”[/url] featured him cavorting semi-nude with then-wife Lisa Marie Presley. And then, in 2001, MJ wrangled Chris Tucker and Marlon Brando (!) for appearances in 2001’s [url id=”http://www.mtv.com/videos/michael-jackson/208405/you-rock-my-world.jhtml#id=1614737″]”You Rock My World.”[/url]
It’s a pretty amazing list of cameos, for sure, and not just for the sheer wattage of stars Jackson assembled. When he put the call out, the biggest names in entertainment and sports came running — and they did so for nearly 30 years. To put it mildly, it’s hard to imagine anyone being able to do that again, which is something we’ve found ourselves saying more and more since he passed away.
MTV will be paying tribute to MJ throughout the weekend with music videos, exclusive performances and calls and tweets from celebrity admirers and friends. For everything we’ve got on the life, career and passing of the legendary entertainer, visit “Michael Jackson Remembered.”
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