Hilton Hawaiian Village employees remember Michael Jackson - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hilton Hawaiian Village employees remember Michael Jackson

Lora Gallagher Lora Gallagher
Lani Bjork Lani Bjork

By Leland Kim - bio | email

WAIKIKI (KHNL) - Michael Jackson caused a media frenzy, not only at Aloha Stadium, but also in Waikiki, where he stayed. Thursday night, those who worked at the Hilton Hawaiian Village back in

1997 remember him.

Hotel employees say he was a gracious guest, very quiet and humble, and fan reaction to Jackson was something unlike they'd seen before or since.

He embraced Hawaii and its aloha spirit. Michael Jackson soaked it all in at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

"We never had this kinds of crowds because most of the time it's kept quieter but it was almost like a p.r. (public relations) event at the time," said Lora Gallagher, marketing director for the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

Lani Bjork was head of security when Jackson stayed here 12 years ago.

"For us we wanted to give him a sense of aloha, so we received him with our village guard," she said. "He arrived with our little keiki dancers, and he walked through our lobby among our guests who created that wonderful soft barricade."

Despite hosting countless dignitaries, officials, and celebrities, hotel employees witnessed a rare moment with Jackson.

"In this case the only other person we brought in like that would be former president Clinton where's he's like the people's president and he would walk right through the lobby," said Bjork.

Jackson stayed at the Mahele Suite on the 14th floor. Fans would camp out below his window, hoping for a glimpse.

"We had customers on property day and night," said Bjork. "He came out to the lanai to wave to them and you could hear that wave of Michael, Michael, throughout the evening."

Hotel employees didn't really know what to expect from the "king of pop," but through their interaction, learned to appreciate him not only as an artist, but as a person.

"I thought that from all the things we had heard about Michael, that he was a very gracious guest," said Bjork. "And I appreciated what he was able to give back to the hotel."

A hotel that is the last and final place Jackson stayed in while visiting Hawaii.

"I wouldn't say I was a big fan but it's always sad to hear people pass away like that," said Gallagher.

And employees say Jackson would go out of his way to help people, even making imprints of his feet in the sand for a charity auction.

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