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June25, 2009  I was deeply saddened by the news of the tragic death of Michael Jackson.  My sincerest condolences to his entire family.  This is a great loss not only to the music industry but also to the world.  I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend time with Michael in 1988, during his BAD Tour, and in 1989 at his ranch, NEVERLAND VALLEY.   In 1988 Michael invited me to spend ten days with him during his tour.  He was performing at the Meadowlands Arena in NJ at the time. As I live in NJ  I told him I would be happy to drive back and forth to the city but he insisted on getting me a suite at the Helmsley Palace. We spent many hours together and I went to every concert with him. It was truly a wonderful experience.  What struck me from the first moment I met Michael was how intelligent he was. I of course knew his music and knew what an incredible performer he was, but I had no idea that he had deep passions for art and art history. He was especially passionate about American illustrators. We spent many hours talking about Maxfield Parrish, N.C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle, Jesse Wilcox Smith and his favorite Norman Rockwell.  Michael sent an armored truck to my studio and they picked up over 150 of my paintings. They were leaning all around the suite and we spent quite a bit of time discussing my art and classic literature. Michael was also an avid book collector and I was surprised to find out that he had every book I had illustrated.  But my greatest surprise came when he asked me to give him drawing lessons. I quickly learned that he had a natural talent for art. We would sit and sketch, chat and eat popcorn. It was casual and very enjoyable.  Michael was also a great fan of animation and loved the Disney films. He very much wanted to get into making movies. Unfortunately that was not meant to be.  In 1989 Michael asked me to come to Neverland. I spent nine days with him at the ranch. It was very clear to me that Michael was trying to create a childhood he never had. Again it was a great experience, a very special moment in my life.  Michael Jackson was the King of POP. This I hope is how the world will remember him. This is his legacy. But for those of us who had the opportunity to spend time with him he was so much more. Michael was intelligent, funny, passionate and caring. He had more energy than anyone I had ever know. He was a brilliant performer. He loved life.  We will miss him. We wish him Gods speed.  Greg Hildebrandt
Greg and Jean with Michael. Gregory Jr, Mary, and Laura Hildebrandt.
Greg shows Michael his paintings while holding Bubbles.
Greg gives Michael drawing lessons.
Michael's sketch just sold at Julien's Auction for $21,000.
Greg clowning around- makes himself shorter than Michael.
Pre-production sketches done for a live action film Michael was going to star in.
Greg enjoyed painting this and Michael liked the final piece.
Sketch Greg did for Michael in 1989 at Neverland. The painting was never done.
Michael wrote this letter to Greg on the back of a Pan Am flight form.
It is very clear by this sketch that Michael Jackson was talented in more than just music.