Munich to Brussels via
Utrecht, Gouda, Alexander Polder and Rotterdam
When we arrived in Utrecht from the long overnight train ride, we learned that there’d been a big fire in the train station and there were no departing trains. What was going to be an 11-hour train ride ended up being an 18-hour day involving several trains, one taxi and one bus, as we were repeatedly sent to train stations that turned out to be closed due to the majority Dutch train system being off line and/or off schedule. But it was all worth it because I got to witness Michelle being giddy with an overly handsome waiter while we were stuck in Gouda. I’m not sure she focused on half of the directions he was giving us, which may have caused further delay. In her defense, he was really good-looking.
The Gouda restaurant story is reminding me that I need to apologize to the fine people who were dining in the restaurant of our Rome hotel when Michelle and I created a small scene. Michelle filled her plate at the buffet and then slightly tripped on her way to join me at the table. Preoccupied relief that her foot – which had caught the buffet tablecloth – hadn’t pulled the entire buffet setting to the floor, she failed to notice that - at some point between the buffet area and our table - she had dropped all the pastries from her plate on the floor. Perhaps laughing uncontrollably was not the best reaction for me to have at the time. Looking back at it, maybe I should have been a little more of a gentleman, but I couldn’t help myself when I noticed the people next to us were laughing as well.
This was the largest event of our tour with hundreds of people packing the Move Dance Center in Aalst, which – thanks to owner Patrick De Coninck – was open just for our event. Patrick’s dance studio includes a lovely café, and multiple event centers, big studios with performance space and stages. It’s an amazing venue, where everyone feels like a star! Most of all, this was an event I’ll never forget – not just because it was so well organized and put together by Marijke and the Belgian Fan Club, The Magical Child (TMC), but also the love for Michael Jackson was
Move Dance Center overwhelming.
I’d like to point out that in this even more than any other event I’ve been at since we’ve started this Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait, there were more families present (moms, dads, kids, babies, grandparents). I think it says a lot about the level of respect for Michael Jackson in Belgium when people of all generations and whole families together show up to pay their respect.
We’ll just rundown the event so you can all feel a bit of the energy of this great day. Patrick De Coninck started the day as host welcoming TMC and the MJ fans. Marijke welcomed the special, surprise guests for today, Joshua and his parents, Vera and John. Joshua and his family made a two hour trek from Germany to the Belgian event and surprised me; it was so great to see them there with everyone else and it meant a lot to me. We’d had such an intimate evening together at their home; it was really nice to see them once more and have a bit longer to enjoy each other’s company.
After the welcomes, David explained the meaning of the portrait again, with translations from Marijke. You can see a lot of this in the following YouTube video:
Then the dot ceremony began. Every guest was so happy, and they all shared their thoughts and feelings about Michael and the Tribute Portrait. For more about each of these dot recipients, see their (upcoming) VIP or Celebrity dot pages.
- Patrick De Coninck: “Without Michael, there would not have been this event, nor this dance center.” Patrick spoke about meeting Michael in Monaco, where Patrick performed an opening act at the World Music Awards in Monaco in 1993, accompanied by Michael Jackson’s music, Michael applauded him as guest. Later Patrick and group danced as a top act at MJ Day 10, which was attended by Michael Jackson and organized by Adrian Grant, creator of Thriller Live. The day after, Patrick received a fax from Adrian Grant with high compliments from Michael. For more about Patrick, see his VIP page.
- Jean Bosco Safari, one of the most renowned live performers in Belgium, spoke about the unity of this world. He also spoke about how Michael Jackson stayed true to himself, and paid a high price for that. Jean stated that he, too, always wants to be an original, that every person has to follow his own path. He said that a drop in a river is also a drop in the ocean, and thus we are all connected. He stated that the “Heal the World” message is so important to him, and that is why he is honored to become part of the MJTP.
- Michael Froget, a respected dancer who also has performed at the World Music Awards, said that Michael Jackson is an inspiration to all and is the common factor that leads him to meet so many special and interesting people.
- Vera Siccard, a successful Belgian artist whose work was chosen for inclusion in Michael Jackson’s Opus, said that her work speaks for her. Vera said that she was thankful for the long years of working together with TMC to honor Michael, and was so honored to receive a special dot. Vera brought a number of pieces of her artwork along to display.
- Roger Meert & Gilbert Lambert: Roger and Gilbert worked together with Michael on a special project to design a line of stuffed animals ("MJ Pets")that represented his menagerie at Neverland. Roger spoke about collaborating with Michael on this project, and the shock they had at first when they learned Michael was the person who commissioned the project. Lambert said the artwork was well appreciated by Michael, and this job was their entrance later to work for Disney. Then Roger and Gilbert revealed that they are the 'basic' designers behind the now world famous Lion King.
Both were honored to be together for recognition in the MJTP, a project they fully support. Note that Marijke, TMC, Roger and Gilbert gathered together three MJ Pets, which are collector's items and difficult to find. I will present these to a member of the Jackson family for Paris, Prince and Blanket. Marijke selected: Cool Bear for Prince, Jeannine the Ostrich for Paris and Spanky the dog for Blanket.
- The Groovies: A renowned Belgian dance group that includes some of Patrick’s most successful students, for example Lise – recent finalist in the Belgian version of “So You Think You Can Dance.” The Groovies expressed their thanks to Patrick for starting them on dancing like Michael, who has always been very important in their dance life.
- Christ'OF, winner of the reality TV show “My name is Michael,” and very successful Michael Jackson impersonator in Europe said that Michael changed his life. It was like a shock to him to hear “Billie Jean” so many years ago. He talked about performing for Michael in New York, and he felt afraid to look at Michael, in case his nerves would get the better of him. When he met Michael later all he could say was, “I love you!” Later he received a big compliment from Michael, and he felt there is no higher compliment. Christ'OF received his dot, then sang for Michael, just like he did in New York in 2002. He added that the spirit and legend is still alive, and then he danced “Billie Jean.” Joshua was in the front row watching!
- François Glorieux is a conductor, pianist, composer and entertainer who has toured through Europe, USA, Latin America, Canada, Japan, China till Middle East and Africa. His work is classical music, in a style the general public can relate to, all without 1 note of music before him. He is Honorary Professor of chamber music at Royal Music Conservatory of Ghent, Belgium, Guest Professor at Yale University USA and Director of the International Piano Master Class in Antwerp. He worked with several big names, like Paul McCartney. King Boudewijn from Belgium decorated François. François met Michael on 2nd of May 1989, because Michael requested they meet privately to talk about classical music. Michael asked François to make classical arrangements of his biggest hits. One year later they met again and Michael was thrilled by the 3 compositions François already made (“Bad,” “Liberian Girl,” “Smooth Criminal”). They had a plan to do a big classical event in London together for charity, when all compositions were done. Through the years the plans changed, but the friendship remained. Since Michael’s death, François conducted the classical Michael hits already with the National Symphony Orchestra (life for BBC) and when Michael passed away, he conducted them in Prague where he did concerts at that time. François is now 78 years old . The passing of Michael is still very emotional for him. François recently released a CD called “François Glorieux: in memoriam Michael Jackson,” which includes some Michael works arranged for piano, and some of his own work in tribute to Michael.
Upon receiving his Celebrity dot, Francois said, “This is one of the best days of my life.” He was very touched. He talked about his meetings with Michael. François was accompanied by his manager (Mr. Jan De Rop) and Charlie Bellair.
Then Marijke was surprised with a VIP dot in recognition of her remarkable leadership in the Michael Jackson fan community and her work for children in honor of Michael. The dot was presented by Michelle and Vincent of TMC. Marijke said, “Thank you!” and reminded us all that we can only accomplish our goals together.
Then, a special dot near Michael’s heart was given to a fan in a contest. Marijke wrote down a number and asked the fans to guess it. . Magic happened, since it was TMC’s own charity officer, Marina, who won. Marina is Jessica's mother, and Jessica is the disabled girl in whose honor TMC first worked. Jessica already had a dot near Michael’s heart, so now mother and daughter are together.
And then David drew dots for the long line of fans for hours. The love was overwhelming! What a day.
It should be mentioned that a couple of other Michael groups were represented at this event: Hope for Gillian, Earth Tree for Michael and the Fan Club of Nepal. Gillian is a young Belgian boy who suffers from a rare genetic disease. TMC continues their work to support needy children, and is raising money to support Gillian’s treatment. Gillian himself was not well enough to attend, but his father was in attendance and moved by the love of the fan community. Earth Tree for Michael is of course working to realize Michael’s vision of healing for the planet. A very special guest at the event was Mr. Lal Nepali, representative of MJ Club Nepal, which donated 120 Euros to the TMC’s Earth Tree for Michael project. It was amazing to hear about the huge fan community in Nepal!
David, Joshua and Gillian's dad, Werner.
Lal Nepali of MJ Club Nepal.
Music for the event was provided by Deejay Vince, who works TMC events for free, all for Michael. Thanks to Vince!
After the dot ceremonies, were treated to a dance performance of the “The Drill” by “Jackson Dance,” which is a particular class in which Michael Jackson technique and style is studied. Patrick has been teaching Jackson Dance for many years.
After all event activities were over, people remained to socialize for hours, and we went into a different studio down the hall which had been turned into a photography studio. The amazing photographer, Danny, took photos of all of us individually and as a group. I can’t wait to see the rest of the photos. It was such a gift that Marijke had set this up for us, and that Danny has donated his time and equipment for the session and photo developing. I’d say more about the photo session but don’t want to spoil the surprises for you all when you eventually see the photos published.
After the event we were treated to a great dinner with the team who put together the event. A bit of quiet time together and a great sign off before we headed back to Amsterdam.
Thanks to Magda and her family for driving us more than an hour to catch the last train out of Belgium. And, again, special thanks to Marijke and the TMC team for all their hard work to put together such an extraordinary event. According to Marijke, “Every fan went home happy and proud the MJTP visited our small country!”
Magda of TMC gets her dot.
Overcome with emotion.
Joy to join the Portrait. In awe watching David draw.
People felt honored and happy.
A quick apology to our hosts the night before the Belgium Event for the fact that I did not let them know I don’t eat fish until they had already taken me to a fish restaurant. Perhaps their eating mussels and escargot next to me was their version of payback.
Back to Amsterdam, before heading to Israel!
To read the rest of the tour highlights, please click one of the below links.
Part 1: Rome, Austria and Amsterdam
Part 2: Germany
Part 4: Amsterdam & Israel
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