To get a sense of the power that Michael Jackson had—seven years after "Thriller" changed the entertainment industry—check out a seldom-seen music video for his song "Liberian Girl." The 1989 video for a mostly forgotten song from "Bad" features Steven Spielberg, John Travolta, Richard Dreyfuss, Danny Glover, Dan Aykroyd, Paula Abdul, Amy Irving, Rosanna Arquette and a levitating David Copperfield, to name only a few of the dozens of celebrities who made cameos in it.
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Jackson appears only for a few seconds at the end, as the cameraman who was filming his famous guests milling around all along. That tacked-on punch line had been filmed a week prior to the celebrities' shoot, says Paul Flattery, who produced the videos for "Liberian Girl," "Billie Jean," "Rock With You" and "She's Out of My Life." "The thing he wanted to blatantly show is that all these famous people are his friends and will turn up to be in a video with him," Flattery says. "And that was really the case. I mean, when we went out to invite people in his name, there were very few people who didn't want to do it."
It seemed for a while that nobody could say no to a Jackson video—not MTV, which broke its own rock mold to play "Billie Jean," at his label's insistence; not network TV, which also premiered Jackson's videos; and not the people who took the then-unheard-of step of buying the "Thriller" video and its making-of documentary on videocassette—which were packaged together and sold more than 1 million copies, director John Landis told Fangoria magazine in a video interview. That's an even bigger feat considering that VCRs weren't omnipresent at the time.