February 28, 1986
The 28th Grammy Awards, Shrine Auditorium, LA, CA.
Backstage at the Grammy's is always a high-energy, human crush, especially in the Press/Print photographers area which is normally the last section that the winning artists visit before exiting.
I stood invisibly anchored to the duct-tape 'X' that determined the perimeter of my backstage shooting space, along with 40 other photographers. We could always tell when one of the bigger artists was heading our way by the furor that wafted over the curtains from the TV/Film photographers area, which is always the priority press sector. As the din would get louder, we'd know the artist had moved on to the Radio/Press sector, right next to ours. Checking to make sure strobes were charged and cameras were loaded, we took a collective deep breath and waited for a Grammy staffer to step through the curtains with an identifying placard. As this was the end of the evening, we knew who was missing from the night's roster of honorees. Tonight was big. It was Michael. In 1986, Michael Jackson took best 'Song of the Year' award, along with co-writer, Lionel Ritchie. Producer Quincy Jones took 'Record of the Year", Stevie Wonder snagged 'Best Male R&B Vocal for "In Square Circle," and Dionne Warwick gracefully accepted'Best Pop Performance by a Duo/Group" for "That's What Friends Are For."
All of us backstage were there to work, but we were also paying honor to some of the greatest artists of our time. We'd all been impacted by the effort that culminated in "We Are the World."
And so, we waited for our turn. A big cheer went up from the TV/Film sector, followed by another from the Radio sector. And then... All went quiet. Five minutes dragged into fifteen as we waited for the grand entrance. No Grammy staffer. No placard. Nothing. Had they decided to bi-pass the Print Press, which had been known to happen when artists were particularly intent on moving on to personal celebrations. One by one, Press photographers began packing up and leaving, either weary after a long night or anxious to meet their deadlines. After 30 min had passed, only 5 "ever hopefuls" remained. And then, without warning or a placard, in walked Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick and Lionel Ritchie. Each holding heir golden Grammy, and smiling. Almost too laid back for such a grand moment! Obviously basking in their booty, friendship, and the shared glory.
For the few of us that held hope and remained in the Print/Press area, this was the ultimate professional pay off. For me, personally, it was one of the most magical moments of my life.
Michael Jackson 1986 Grammy Awards
Michael Jackson Profile
MJ laughing with Stevie, Lionel, Quincy and Dionne