Jackson was in Exeter as
a special favour to his close friend, and new joint chairman Exeter
City Football Club, Uri Geller.
Devon Online's Andrew Segal was among the crowd and gives his reaction:
Jackson coming to Exeter." The thought of it was quite extraordinary.
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.
here to take
a look at our gallery of Michael Jackson's visit
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.
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.
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.
wasn't a full stadium. Another couple of hundred people could have
fitted in quite comfortably. It also seemed a little too relaxed
was swamped by the crowds and the media when he arrived at
holders casually walked to their seats, some whistling loudly, glad
to be there, but all of them seemed to be measured and controlled.
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.
again it was very measured - until the headline act was announced
and the security presence was greatly increased. Something was definitely
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.
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".
then things seemed to fall apart somewhat.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
on stage with magician David Blaine (far left) and Exeter
City chairman Uri Geller (far right)
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".
it could well have been a case of his words falling on deaf ears
because his audience was completely taken up in the moment.
David Blaine tried to carry out a few tricks after Jackson's speech,
but not too many eyes were on him.
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.
though some might have thought that this spoiled the end, it didn't
seem to matter.
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.
left, leaving several thousand people with feelings of complete
disbelief that they had just witnessed his visit.
journalists from the national newspapers who had seen it all said:
"I can't believe it".
was certain the King of Pop is not dead - and "Long live the King",
said the fans.