Jackson told the audience, “I’m very happy to be here.” He then looked at Presley, who was smiling but also appeared to be nervous. “And just think, no one thought it would last.”
Then, Jackson took off his sunglasses, leaned over and kissed Presley. The four-second kiss generated some of the loudest cheers of the night from the crowd and drew headlines from media outlets around the world – some believed they saw the couple married on national television.
He was the biggest item in show business. And Presley hated it.
In a 2010 interview after Jackson’s death in 2009, Oprah Winfrey said of the infamous kiss, “He knew I didn’t like that.” And after getting down from that platform, his hand had turned blue. … I had squeezed it very hard. … But as his wife, I needed to do certain things.”
The memorable moment in pop culture from nearly 30 years ago would be one of many that followed Presley throughout his life. Presley died on Thursday at the age of 54 in a California hospital. The death was announced in a statement by his mother, Priscilla, hours after Presley was taken to the hospital from his home in Calabasas, California. No cause of death was given.
Writer J. Decades before they married, according to Randy Taraborrelli’s 2009 book, “Michael Jackson: The Magic, the Madness, the Whole Story,” Presley and Jackson met in Las Vegas in 1974 during a Jackson family show at the MGM Grand Was. 1958–2009. Presley, who was 6 at the time, was a big fan of the Jacksons, especially Michael, who was 16 at the time.
Presley recalled Jackson in a 2009 book, saying, “I always adored him.” “Michael fascinated me with his talent. I loved watching him dance. He wanted to get to know me better, but I always thought he was some freak. I didn’t really want to get to know him better than before.
The two met again in the early 1990s, at a private dinner hosted by artist Brett-Livingstone Strong, a mutual friend in Los Angeles. At the time, Presley was trying to find himself as a singer. Her husband, Danny Keough, had produced a handful of songs for her, but she had little confidence in herself as an artist and was intimidated by comparisons to her legendary father, Taraborrelli wrote.
Once Jackson listened to her tapes and told Presley that she had “real talent” – a compliment that enthralled the young artist. Strong recalled in the 2009 book that as the two were leaving the party, Jackson gave Presley a wry look and said: “You and me, we could be in a lot of trouble. Think about that, girl.
From there the two talked on the phone so much that Presley felt like she was seeing a completely different side of Jackson. When rumors intensified that they were together, they would meet at Trump Tower in New York thanks to Jackson’s friend, Donald Trump, who later bragged, “I’ve known this secret a long time.” Less than a month after divorcing Keough in 1994, Jackson proposed over the phone. Presley and Jackson married in a private ceremony in the Dominican Republic.
Months earlier, Jackson had reached an out-of-court settlement over the child abuse claims in a deal in which his lawyers said he pleaded not guilty. Concerned about her declining health and addiction to painkillers, Presley said she “wanted to save him. I thought I could,” according to Taraborrelli’s book. This meant telling the world that that her marriage to Jackson was not a publicity stunt.
“My married name is Mrs. Lisa Marie Presley-Jackson,” she said in a statement to the media after the ceremony. “I love Michaela very much, and I dedicate my life to being his wife. I understand and support her. We are both looking forward to raising a family.”
As the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards were about to begin, the announcer inside Radio City Music Hall turned the award show into a wedding reception, introducing the newlyweds to the public for the first time: “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Mr. and Mrs. Do it. Michael Jackson!”
Salli Frattini, who helped oversee nearly two decades’ worth of MTV Video Music and Movie Awards shows, recalled to Entertainment Weekly in 2002 that MTV staffers were “surprised” Presley and Jackson came through with the idea of producers. Pushed them forward to lead. Display.
“We came to him with the whole concept [including the kiss], But I’m sure Michael did ad-libbing,” said the producer. “We brought them to a private door and put them in a private area. We kept it very quiet. They came down, did their job and when it was finished, they left.”
Newspapers around the world led their coverage of the award show with the kiss, and critics had a field day with what they saw. In the Philadelphia Inquirer, Jackson was “as demure as ever in a black military jacket”, while Presley appeared “relatively normal in a two-piece slinky dress”. The New York Daily News wrote that Presley “seemed deeply embarrassed.” And the Daily Telegraph in Great Britain claimed that Jackson had forced Presley into “a grotesque display of public affection”.
The newspaper’s Tony Parsons wrote, “Some happily married men feel the urge to kiss their spouses in front of an audience, especially an audience of 250 million people.” “But Michael Jackson is either very in love or very desperate.”
Presley filed for divorce from Jackson in 1996, citing irreconcilable differences, but later said that she and Jackson considered reconciling for years after the end of their marriage. In what would be their last conversation in 2005, Jackson asked Presley if she still loved him. Presley, who years later admitted to Winfrey that she had shut herself off from having any feelings toward Jackson, told her ex-husband that she felt nostalgic about him. The answer made her cry, she said.
“It’s part of the problem with my love life,” she once said of her marriage. “I’m looking for someone similar [my father]Nothing else can ever compare.”
But they always had that kiss in New York.