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Friday, 14 June, 2002, 14:49 GMT 15:49 UK
Jackson's visit raises eyebrows
Michael Jackson
Jackson is a close friend of Uri Geller

In one of the more bizarre processions Westminster has seen, pop star Michael Jackson toured the Houses of Parliament on Friday.

He was accompanied by close friend and psychic Uri Geller and magician David Blaine - and a hairdresser whose sole job was to brush his locks every now and again.


Paul Boateng who was absolutely blown away when Michael Jackson sang Happy Birthday to him

Uri Geller

And at the invitation of Magic Circle member Lord Janner, Jackson dropped in on a surprise birthday party being held for MP Paul Boateng.

Geller told BBC News Online: "The trip to Parliament was fantastic - Lord Janner was very gracious.

"We had a chat with the Lord Chancellor then we went on to the terrace.

"We surprised Paul Boateng who was absolutely blown away when Michael Jackson sang Happy Birthday to him."

Jackson's eclectic trip to the UK also includes an appearance at a division three football ground and a party being held in his honour by fans.

The visits clearly go against his usual behaviour, that of reclusive international superstar.

But there are question marks about whether his career has suffered because of this.

Scepticism

So is hitting the UK for a whirlwind visit to the UK a tactical ploy to get attention or simply an opportunity for him to help a charity and thank his fans at the same time?

Michael Jackson and Paul Boateng
Michael Jackson joined in singing Happy Birthday to MP Paul Boateng

Geller has invited Jackson to attend a charity event being held at Exeter City Football Club, where he will be made an honorary director.

And unsurprisingly, some said it was all a hoax.

Jackson is used to filling giant stadia around the world, yet not all the tickets for the 10,000-seat event have been sold.

But there is no doubt his star has faded in recent years. There must be a desire to resuscitate his career and going back to grass roots promotion would seem a good place to start.

Ulterior motive

But fans do not share the scepticism about the motives behind Jackson's UK visit.

"I believe he is in the UK to carry out two things that are closest to his heart; helping a children's charity and thanking his fans for their support since the last album," Gloria Haydock, president of the Michael Jackson News International fan club, told BBC News Online.

"He has nothing to promote because effectively the last album has been killed off, so there is no ulterior motive behind it."

Jackson holds the record for the biggest selling album in world with the 1982 release Thriller, which has sold 47 million copies.

Michael Jackson
Not a hair out of place, thanks to the hair-brush assistant
But his elusiveness has also brought about a reputation of not being in touch with the real world.

Charity launch

Jackson is no stranger to UK shores, having visited on several occasions.

But his trips have rarely been run-of-the-mill promotional tours.

In 1999 he was in London as a guest of Harrods proprietor Mohammed Al Fayed.

During his stay, Jackson visited the top London store and Fulham Football Club, where Mr Al Fayed had recently taken over ownership of the London side.

His last appearance in the UK in June 2001 did little to dispel his eccentric reputation as he visited the Oxford Union to launch his charity Heal the Kids.

After much hype, Jackson was three hours late for his appearance, hobbling on crutches after injuring himself.

Jackson and Mohammed Al Fayed
Jackson once visited Mohammed Al Fayed at Fulham FC
At the time Jackson was beginning to move into the limelight again as he prepared to launch his first original album in 10 years.

Sidelined

But although eagerly awaited by fans, positive reviews for Invincible were few and far between, with criticisms he had not moved on musically in a decade.

This was reflected in album sales, which reached five million worldwide.

Fans blame Jackson's record company Sony for not doing enough to promote it, effectively accusing it of sidelining him in favour of newer artists.

This started a campaign by fans across the globe, which culminates in a mass demonstration outside Sony's London headquarters on Saturday.

Following the demonstration, a fan party is being held at a London nightclub with Jackson confirmed as the star guest.

Despite the drop in Jackson's popularity there is still a confidence he can once again emulate the popularity of his heyday.

"No-one is denying there are problems with his career but he has survived far worse things and come through it," said Ms Haydock.

See also:

28 May 02 | England
21 May 02 | Exeter City
01 May 02 | Entertainment
25 Apr 02 | Entertainment
26 Feb 02 | Entertainment
05 Mar 01 | Entertainment
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