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28 October 2014

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Michael Jackson's thriller of a Devon visit
Michael Jackson sheltering  under an umbrella
Michael Jackson speaking to his adoring fans at the Exeter City football ground
The King of Pop, Michael Jackson, made an impassioned speech for the world to live in peace and harmony when he appeared at Exeter City Football Club during an extraordinary visit to Devon.
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Michael Jackson was declared the Best Selling Male Pop Artist of the Millennium at the 2000 World Music Awards.

Jackson's album Thriller still holds the world record as the best selling album of all time.

In 1994 Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley. They divorced in 196. He married Deborah Rowe, an assistant to his dermatologist, in the same year.
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Michael Jackson was in Exeter as a special favour to his close friend, and new joint chairman Exeter City Football Club, Uri Geller.

BBC Devon Online's Andrew Segal was among the crowd and gives his reaction:

"Michael Jackson coming to Exeter." The thought of it was quite extraordinary.

But when the man himself actually appeared - in front of thousands of cheering fans at a Third Division football club's ground - it seemed that "extraordinary" was to be the word of the day.

Click here to take a look at our gallery of Michael Jackson's visit

And if the audience reaction was anything to go by (their cheers of jubilation that their faith in his attendance had been rewarded) it appeared to be more than just the visit of the King of Pop, but more the coming of a musical messiah.

Since the rumours that he was going to visit the county started a few weeks ago, there had always been a healthy degree of scepticism, especially after an alleged siting of Jackson at a North Devon theatre the year before which turned out to be a rather good lookalike.

But as the stands slowly started to fill and we heard talk that some stretch limousines had arrived at about 4.15pm, there was the feeling that something major was about to happen. And nowhere was the change more palpable than in the audience.

It wasn't a full stadium. Another couple of hundred people could have fitted in quite comfortably. It also seemed a little too relaxed at first.

Michael Jackson surrounded by fans
Jackson was swamped by the crowds and the media when he arrived at the ground

Ticket holders casually walked to their seats, some whistling loudly, glad to be there, but all of them seemed to be measured and controlled.

Several acts came on first, including two bands, a modern dance troop and a tribal African dance group. All were received well, with a good amount of appreciative applause.

But again it was very measured - until the headline act was announced and the security presence was greatly increased. Something was definitely afoot.

Right up until the last minute, there was still the chance that the man might not appear, especially with tales of Jackson being involved in a scuffle at Paddington station earlier that day and a fire having broken out near Exeter St David's train station.

But when an open-topped vintage car drove into the ground with a familiar figure semi-hidden under a black umbrella, there was only one way to describe the reaction - the oft used phrase "The crowd went wild".

However, then things seemed to fall apart somewhat.

The plan had been for Jackson to arrive in the car, which would be driven around the ground so as he could wave to the crowd. Some 100 yards down one side, so many people had gathered round the car that it couldn't move.

The media scrum and over-enthusiastic fans halted part of the plan. The crowd had been warned that if that happened, he would leave.
To give him his due, he didn't.

Jackson stepped out of the car for a minute before making a wild run to the relative safety of the specially erected stage in the corner of the pitch.

Apparently he had been scheduled to talk for just three minutes, but he stayed longer than that, at times hardly being able to make his speech because of constant appreciative shouting and his occasional laughing at the reaction.

But what was most thought-provoking was that this was a man who was used to generating this reaction in people. He wasn't bemused at all. He laughed it off and then carried on.

Fans shouted their glee, their declarations of love, and some children were allowed to join him on stage with magician David Blaine and friend Uri Geller.

Michael Jackson on stage
Jackson on stage with magician David Blaine (far left) and Exeter City chairman Uri Geller (far right)

He thanked everyone for their support, he requested his audience to give their support for the people of Africa and those with HIV, and told the crowd that "We must learn to live and love each other before it is too late".

But it could well have been a case of his words falling on deaf ears because his audience was completely taken up in the moment.

Magician David Blaine tried to carry out a few tricks after Jackson's speech, but not too many eyes were on him.

Jackson then tried again to make his circuit around the ground in his vintage car, but once again was cut short when more fans came on to the ground, with the car soon making a beeline for the exit.

But though some might have thought that this spoiled the end, it didn't seem to matter.

The people had seen their hero, their king, their pop messiah. He had stayed a while and spoken to them. He politely said thank you, that he believed England would win the World Cup and waved goodbye.

AudioListen to Michael Jackson's speech

Real 56k. Real Player required. Download here.

He left, leaving several thousand people with feelings of complete disbelief that they had just witnessed his visit.

Seasoned journalists from the national newspapers who had seen it all said: "I can't believe it".

It was certain the King of Pop is not dead - and "Long live the King", said the fans.

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