WHO LET BILLY JOEL IN?
Los Angeles February, 1980
A black limousine rolled past the Moroccan styled arches of the Shrine Auditorium.
Tonight, there was nothing special about it for there were legions of expensive-looking cars parked in the surroundings of the colossal building. Even the most uncivilized passer-by could tell some important event was about to take place here... And that event was the 22nd annual Grammy Awards.
Inside the still-moving car sat a very beautiful, sad-eyed girl who – despite of her relatively young age – had taken part in ceremonies like this before she could barely walk.
She was dressed in a simple peach dress, which complimented her pale complexion. She gazed intently out of the tinted car window and listened to the noise outside.
'Brooke', the young man sitting on her side whispered.
He stroked her palm gently.
'Should we go already, Michael?' Brooke asked nervously and turned to look at the crowd.
There were the paparazzi, the fans – everyone.
And they were all waiting for them.
'I don't know. What's the time, John?'
The chauffeur checked his watch.
'It's half past six.'
'I think we should', Michael decided. 'How do I look like?'
Brooke chuckled at the question but - nevertheless - took it seriously.
'You look great, Michael', she said and didn't lie at all: He was extremely handsome in his black tuxedo, flamboyant sequined shirt and white socks.
'Like a winner?'
'Yeah, like a winner.'
And his face: his skin was so smooth and his eyes – but was that make-up?
Why hadn't she noticed that before?
'You're so pretty', Michael complained, devastated. 'People will look at you and then they'll see me and they'll go: oh, there's the Princess... and the Frog!'
'Michael, shut up already', Brooke snapped.
Michael shrugged and smiled, a bit sadly. Then he opened the car door and stepped out. The crowd went wild when he walked to the other side of the limo and offered his arm to Brooke.
Together they made their way inside the building, ever now and then stopping to pose for the cameras.
When they stepped into the ample parquet-floored foyer of the Auditorium, several heads turned to look in their direction. Brooke spotted Billy Joel and John Williams among the other guests and pressed to Michael's side.
'What's wrong?' Michael asked.
'Nothing... Uh – do you think this dress is too short?'
'No!' Michael hissed, gesturing her to keep her voice down.
'It just feels like it was. What about the back?'
'Brooke, I don't wanna... Please, don't make me stare at your – '.
Brooke giggled and glanced at Michael's face.
Chills ran down her spine.
He was amazing.Tender, funny, intelligent, vulnerable, adorable...
Yes, she didhave a crush on him.
But who wouldn't? He was Michael Jackson, after all. For her, he was even more than that so it was inevitable.
'Are you excited?' she asked, now in a lower voice.
'You bet', Michael murmured. 'You know, I think - '
'Good evening, Michael.'
Michael jumped and blushed again.
Why people always picked the worst possible moment to enter conversation?
And it had to be Billy Joel, of all people?
'Good evening, Mr. Joel', Michael answered politely.
'And who's this charming young lady?'
'She's Brooke. Shields. A friend of mine.'
'A friend?', Billy repeated slowly. 'Just a friend?'
'A special friend', Michael elaborated, irked by his snoopiness.
'Nice to meet you, Miss Shields.'
Billy nodded at Brooke, whose cheeks were blazing red. She didn't look Billy in the eye as they shook hands.
'I really liked your new album, by the way.'
'Especially Don't stop 'til you get enough. C'est genial, I'd say.'
'Uh – genital...s?'
Brooke covered her face in embarrassment. Billy stared at Michael for a moment and then burst out laughing.
Michael turned crimson.
'I love this man! A genius, isn't he? Or what do you think, Brooke?'
'What's going on in here?' a soft female voice joined in.
Michael sighed in relief.
Diana Ross! Not even his personal guardian angel could help him more now.
Or that's what he thought.
'Michael, dear. I got to come warn you: you should be more careful. If you haven't yet noticed, your girlfriend is in very grave danger indeed.'
Michael shook his head rigorously, but neither Billy nor Diana paid any attention.
'They make a sweet couple, don't they?'
'Brooke's not my - '
'Oh yes they do. You have totally misunderstood my intentions, Mrs. Ross', Billy said, grinning widely. 'I didn't come here to take her away from him, quite on the contrary. You're absolutely right: oh young love!'
'Michael, why don't you say something?' Diana twittered happily and Michael gave her a murderous look.
'For your information, Brooke's notmy girlfriend.'
'Why so serious, Michael? I don't know what's wrong with him - always reacts so strongly.'
'But he is an artist! A man of emotions, I'd say.'
Michael pulled a face.
'Excuse me now, please, I' got to go find the restroom. See you later. Maybe
we'll have more gold in our hands then', Billy said and winked at Michael.
'See you around, Billy', Michael replied, smiling until Billy was out of
'How are you, dear?'
Diana sounded genuine, but the awkward conversation with Billy had totally soured Michael's mood.
'Michael, it's party time. You've got to loosen up a little bit.'
'Why don't you just let me take care of my own business, Diana?'
'So there's the rub. I wasn't sure if you were in trouble or not.'
'In trouble? How come?'
'Billy, you know him. He's a bit of a Don Huan at times, you know him.'
Brooke tried her best to be invisible to the older woman, but accidentally she coughed and Diana immediately turned her attention to her.
'Brooke, you're so silent. Have you two had a fight or have you maybe - '
'Diana, please.It ain't even funny.'
'So you really aren't a couple?'
'No. We are nota couple. Period.'
A sinking feeling settled in Brooke's stomach.
Of couse she knew this - but the way Michael said it... It sounded like he couldn't stand the thought.
'I can't see why we should discuss my private life here in the first place. I don't want to be sound rude but people dohave ears, Diana.'
Michael took Brooke's hand. Diana noticed this, but didn't comment on it.
'Alright, my baby. You know what to do and you know that I love you.'
'I love you more. Diana – could you please... '
Diana brushed her hair back and flashed him a dazzling smile. Then she placed a little kiss on his cheek and hugged both him and Brooke.
'Very well. I'm sure this will be a lucky night for you - if you just knew how crazy these people are about you. They talk about you all the time, I'm telling you. So you go have good time and take your reward, my baby. You deserve it', she whispered in his ear and flashed them one of her most dazzling smiles before disappearing into the crowd again.
Brooke took a deep breath when the car finally pulled up to the front of her hotel. The drive from the Shrine Auditorium had felt like an eternity... mainly because Michael hadn't uttered a word since the ceremony had ended. Brooke supposed he was quite unhappy after only winning just one award and decided not to disturb him any more than necessary.
She grabbed her handbag and climbed out of the car. John, the chauffeur, kept on glancing behind, silently urging her to hurry up. He, too, was tired.
'Thank you, Brooke', Michael whispered all of a sudden and touched her hand.
'I couldn't have done this on my own. Thanks for being with me.'
'That's what the friends are for, Michael', Brooke replied in a dreamy tone.
The evening had been far from perfect, in many ways. She just wanted to go back into her room, cry her eyes out and nothing else.
'Brooke, come and sit down for a minute. Please.'
She obeyed reluctantly.
Couldn't he see how exhausted she was?
Michael's worried eyes studied her face and Brooke's eyelids fluttered a bit.
'Can you tell me what's wrong?'
'Please, not this', she whispered silently. 'It's no time for interrogations.'
'Nothing is wrong, Michael, don't worry', she said aloud. 'I'm just tired. It's pretty late, you know.'
'Just tired, huh?'
Brooke didn't answer.
She glanced at John, then at the window she believed belonged to her hotel room, and finally turned back to look at Michael, who raised his hand to caress her temple.
'Brooke, tell me. You can tell me everything, I told ya.'
'Michael, there's nothing wrong with me, believe me.'
She forced a smile on her face and hugged Michael.
'Would you like to have dinner with me tomorrow?'
The question took her totally by surprise.
'What? Where?' she asked, stammering.
'At my place, of course.'
He invited her to a dinner.
Now that was something he had neverdone.
'Uhm – okay.'
'Great. I'll send John over to pick you up at 5PM then', he announced confidently. 'Is that okay for you?'
'Yeah, that's okay.'
'Of course that's okay', she thought, chuckling to herself and got out of the car.
Michael followed her and soon they stood a bit awkwardly on the pavement, both staring shyly at the ground.
'Er – Good night, Michael', Brooke muttered, trying to sound nonchalant.
In fact, she had meant to add something extra to the words, but cringed at the result.
It sounded too much like she expected something from Michael in return.
Michael, for his part, was in an extremely uncomfortable position.
He knew this was themoment, when he should bid her goodnight and... and kiss her.
Should he do that? Did he want to kiss Brooke?
Oh, he never dared to think that far.
He scrutinized her and now she looked very beautiful in the moonlight, in an ethereal and a little bit surrealistic way. Her blonde hair swung softly in the wind and - everything.
He knew she liked him. And he knew he liked her. But – should he kiss her? Right now? What would happen then? What would she do? Was this the last chance? Did he like her that much? Was this -
'Michael?' Brooke asked confused.
'Good night, Brooke!' Michael blurted and bowed clumsily.
Then he gave her a small peck on the cheek and slipped back into the back seat.
'Maybe later', he thought. 'I'm just not ready yet.'