Tracy Morgan Introduces Us to His Custom-Made, Swarovski Crystal-Studded Michael Jackson Jacket
For over a decade, Tracy Morgan—the comedian and 30 Rock actor—lusted after the holy grail of menswear: the sublime, rhinestone-studded jacket Michael Jackson wore alongside Liz Taylor to his 30th anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden in 2001. Two-hundred thousand Swarovski crystals later, Morgan unveiled his own version of the piece at this week’s New York premiere of Cirque du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour” show. “He gave us everything he had!” Morgan told GQ. “That’s why I got my jacket made, and that’s why I love that jacket—it’s an exact replica of Michael’s. There’s only two of them in the world: He had one. And I have one.” During our conversation with Michael’s biggest fan, we asked him Kanye’s eternal question: “What’s that jacket?” Morgan responded with a full-on MJ history lesson, a pledge to acquire Bruce Lee’s nunchaku, and a meditation on anger and greatness.
GQ: The best thing at the red carpet for Cirque du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour” NYC premiere was your MJ-inspired jacket. Let’s talk about it.
Tracy Morgan: I didn’t think anyone noticed! I felt it was appropriate. I wanted to represent him because I’m his biggest fan ever.
GQ: So how did the jacket come to be?
Tracy Morgan: Oh, man, the process took about three months. My boy Leo Velazquez made it for me from scratch. There’s over 200,000 Swarovski crystals on it. I loved the jacket, ever since he wore it to his 30th anniversary concert. It was the day before 9/11, and he walked into Madison Square Garden with Liz Taylor, and I fell in love with it and said, “One day, I’m going to get that jacket.” So we first tried to track it down. And when we couldn’t purchase it or receive it, I decided I was going to have it made. I told Leo Velazquez—a young designer who’s awesome and designs clothes for Usher and everything—what I wanted to do. He thought it was going to be a simple thing. He said, “I can have it done in three weeks.” I said, “You sure about that?” Before you know it, it was three months. He unveiled it to me, and it was an awesome jacket.
GQ: How did you feel when you first put it on?
Tracy Morgan: I felt like Mike. I felt like only Michael could wear this! I couldn’t believe it. Where am I going to wear this? There’s only two of them made in the world. Michael had one, and now I have one. I think when I showed up that night, people couldn’t believe it.
GQ: What did you think of the show?
Tracy Morgan: The show made me go, “Michael, why did you leave me?” It was incredible. If this show is what it is…imagine him. I never got to meet him. Unfortunately, he ran out of time, and I never got to see him perform in concert. I just wish I could’ve shared space with him. I wish I could’ve shook his hand. I wish I could’ve walked with him.
GQ: At what point during the performance were you most emotional?
Tracy Morgan: The whole thing. For me, watching the show was like the soundtrack of my life. Every song I could remember where I was in my life. Michael was the only person to me that truly, I believe, truly tried to bring world peace and love to this world. Everybody else is a politician or whatever. Mike, to me, gave us everything. He’s in the Guinness Book of World Records for donations. Just for helping people. People tried to take advantage of him, since he was a baby. He gave us everything he had! That’s why I got my jacket made, and that’s why I love that jacket—it’s an exact replica of Michael’s. There’s only two of them in the world: He had one. And I have one.
GQ: That’s an incredible connection to have. If you could perform in any of the scenes of the show, which would it be?
Tracy Morgan: “Bad.” Or “Smooth Criminal.” Because I love the choreography in “Smooth Criminal.” I love the choreography in “Bad” because he shot that in a train station in Brooklyn, and I lived up the block. I remember when everybody in my neighborhood found out. We all went down there, but they wouldn’t let us down there to see him. The name of that station was Hoyt-Schermerhorn in Brooklyn. Quincy Jones produced the song and Martin Scorsese was the director.
GQ: Can you do any of his dances from “Bad” or “Smooth Criminal”?
Tracy Morgan: I used to. My knees are bad now. That was it. Michael’s the ultimate entertainer. After Michael Jackson, it’s Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and Bruce Lee.
GQ: Where’s the Bruce Lee in you?
Tracy Morgan: WHAT?! The Master!? Come on, man, that’s a trick question. Bruce Lee. Say, it goddamn it. Bruce Lee! [screams] See what I’m saying?! That’s Bruce, baby.
GQ: I definitely see it now.
Tracy Morgan: Right now I’m trying to get one of Evel Knievel’s authentic helmets.
GQ: So you’re collecting something from each of your idols.
Tracy Morgan: Big time collector. I also want to get some Richard Pryor memorabilia. I spoke to Richard Pryor’s wife on the phone last night, Jennifer. She’s going to see if she can send me some stuff of Richard’s. You know, my favorites, man.
GQ: What about Bruce Lee’s tracksuit?
Tracy Morgan: I love Bruce Lee. I’m trying to get some of his nun-chucks, but I think they auctioned his stuff off on his birthday in Hong Kong. Maybe I can pick up a pair of authentic nun-chucks. Some of the chucks from Game of Death or something.
GQ: That would be amazing. I could see you wielding those. If anyone messes with you…
Tracy Morgan: If I get some Bruce Lee nun-chucks that he actually used in a movie, those are going in the case. Those will never be used. Those will never be touched.
GQ: I hope you get it.
Tracy Morgan: Nobody’s mind is where my mind is. These are incredible people. [Michael Jackson's] jacket was incredible. You should’ve seen it in the Garden with the lights hitting it. It was just one big bling. People were in awe. Imagine when Mike wore it? The jacket weighs twenty pounds.
GQ: It weighs twenty pounds?
Tracy Morgan: It weighs twenty pounds.
GQ: So whenever you lift your arms, it’s like doing a set of small weights.
Tracy Morgan: Yeah, yeah.
GQ: Going back to the show, you’re seeing dancing mummies, flying bat creatures, and entire fleets of guys dancing MJ-style. What’s going on inside your head as all this is happening?
Tracy Morgan: Oh, man, it was a gamut of emotions that went through me that night. Crying, sometimes. Thinking about his family, his kids, his mom. Thinking about all the great moments Michael Jackson gave us through the years of entertainment and his voice, his singing. Thinking about being a fan, you know? What all those fans do when they see their favorite. How did he make that up? What was his imagination like? He was so inquisitive. People I’ve known, some people in show business, have met him. And one thing everybody says consistently is that he was so sweet, he was such a gentleman. To me, that is an example of the way I’d like to be. Be myself, be real, but be sweet. But be helpful. Be caring. Believing. That’s the message I got through the whole show. He expressed his anger through his music. And sometimes through his dance. It was all art. If we all had a little bit of Michael Jackson in us, I think it would make the world a better place. There were things that happened; he had issues. People’s childhoods get messed up. Sometimes I think we’re exposed to things we shouldn’t be exposed to too early. I think that sets the tone to a person’s whole life. Trauma.
GQ: He was so young when it all happened to him.
Tracy Morgan: He was so young when they got famous. He was six. And I know, being an adult, how difficult fame can be. Imagine being six. People call him this, and they say that, but I guess he tried the best the he could. Life gets complicated. We’re all just doing the best that we can. So I try not to judge, you know? If you walked a mile in his shoes, I don’t think anyone else could’ve dealt with what Mike dealt with. Fame. People fracture, we break easily. One thing was constant with him, his music. So that’s what I focus on.
GQ: Right, giving his story context. Even the history behind “Billy Jean” is terrifying…a woman sent Michael a gun to kill himself, and she’s said to have inspired the song.
Tracy Morgan: Someone sent him a gun? That’s freaky stuff, man, that’s enough to trip anybody up. Someone sends you a gun in the mail. He took that and he wrote a song, and it was probably the greatest song of all time.
GQ: And with that song specifically, he wore a black rhinestone jacket at his “Motown 25″ performance.
Tracy Morgan: You got to understand, after that performance, the next morning Fred Astaire called him, said it was the greatest performance he’d ever seen. Michael Jackson danced out of anger. All that “Ah, Ah” [sharp exhaling sounds] and grabbing himself? That was out of anger, man. Sometimes anger is the best motivation. I do stand up sometimes out of anger. Sometimes the greatest stuff comes from a dark place.
Listen, Bruce Lee fought out of anger. That’s why they call it the Fists of Fury. Michael Jackson danced with fury. I do stand up out of fury. I’m not mad at anybody. I’m not mad at any human being because I’m a human being. They can be complicated. What I’m mad and pissed off at is greatness. If you’re not mad about greatness, then you accept mediocrity. I won’t accept nothing mediocre. Michael didn’t care about big. He didn’t care about bigger. Meant nothing to him. Only thing that mattered to Michael was the biggest. And that’s what he became: the biggest. So I went to see Michael Jackson’s Cirque du Soleil. And I did it big like Michael would’ve did it. And that was for my man MJ. I didn’t get to see him in real life, but hey man, I had to give him that.
By Stelios Phili http://www.gq.com/style/blogs/the-gq-eye/2012/04/tracy-morgan-interview-custom-made-swarovski-crystal-studded-michael-jackson-jacket.html#ixzz1rLrNcYAa