Michael Jackson‘s family, friends and fans took over Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino on Wednesday night to toast what would have been the icon’s 60th birthday. The setting was ideal as the Strip Goliath is home to “Michael Jackson One by Cirque du Soleil,” and the night kicked off with a performance of the long-running stage spectacle. It finished with the party hosted by Sony Music, which included a poolside DJ set by Mark Ronson and a concert by Usher. Jackson’s children Paris and Prince also were on hand to accept the 2018 Elizabeth Taylor Legacy Award for Humanitarian Service from The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation awarded to their father Michael Jackson posthumously.
As invited guests headed into the show, the red carpet buzzed with top names from music, sports, film and television sharing the ways Jackson inspired them.
“I’m such a fan that when I was 12, I asked my mom if I could change my name to Jam,” said Quinn Tivey, Elizabeth Taylor’s grandson and officer and ambassador to The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.
Another member of music’s royal court, Evan Ross, son of Diana Ross, gleamed with praise of his mother’s collaborator and close friend.
“Michael Jackson was such and inspiration in my life and all our lives. But what he’s done for human beings has got to be the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen someone care so much about people,” Ross said.
Detroit Piston Blake Griffin said that “Man in the Mirror” and “Earth Song” rank at the top of his playlist. “They might not be his most popular but those are my favorites,” he said. “I remember he was one of the few artists that my entire family listened to. I remember watching his videos over and over trying to do the dance moves, putting socks on and going into the kitchen to moonwalk.” Jackson’s songs have also served as the soundtrack to many basketball practices. “I jammed out to everything,” Griffin said. “‘Jam’ — for obvious reasons. In the weight room we do different music days. There’s always a Michael Jackson day once a month. He’s just one of those artists that everybody likes.”
“He meant a lot to the world,” added Tito. “To celebrate his legacy and to remember him, especially as a brother, is very important. He gave a lot of great messages, a lot of love to people, and continues to do that through his children.”
While two of the Jackson 5 have not spoken to Drake about the unreleased Jackson song “Don’t Matter to Me,” which appears on the rapper’s Scorpion album, they said they are thrilled with concept. “To have Drake and Michael together is fantastic,” Marlon said.
Later, the party moved to the resort’s Daylight pool club, where Tivey spoke of the unique friendship between his family and Jackson’s, before introducing Ross, who presented the award to Prince and Paris, who is now an ambassador to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.
“I met Michael Jackson and Prince and Paris with my grandma because she and Michael were the closest and dearest and most loving of friends, and she was godmother to his kids. He was so sweet and caring and loving and gracious. It was such a joy to know him,” said Tivey. “My grandmother treasured her friendship with Michael and she also treasured his support in the fight against HIV and AIDS, an epidemic that affects 37 million people around the world today. Michael’s generosity played a huge role in the founding of the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation when he allowed my grandmother to sell her wedding photos at Neverland Ranch to People magazine for a million bucks.”
Today, the foundation continues Taylor’s vision by recognizing individuals who have also made extraordinary contributions to ending the AIDS epidemic.
“He’s [was] the type or person to lead by example,” Paris said of her father. “That’s how he did his humanitarian work and that’s what we’re doing. We want to make him proud.”
“He had a much larger platform than everyday people do have,” Prince said. “I try to make it my goal once a day to help somebody else out, either to listen to whatever problems they have, even if it’s a complete stranger, because sometimes it’s easier to talk to a stranger, or if it’s putting a smile on someone that you care about’s face. There’s a lot of things you can do for your community around you that don’t require and extravagant amount of effort.”
This year, Jackson’s estate joins forces with The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation to bring accessible and free health care to those living in southern rural Malawi.
“Love’s the attitude,” added Paris.