In our summer series Highway to MEL we explore all the twists and turns of the perfect getaway. Stay with us as we walk all the great American escape stories across endless highways and prove once and for all that there is nothing more liberating than the open road. Read all the stories here.
In the last decades of her life Elizabeth Taylor developed a strong friendship with Michael Jackson. The kind of friendship that includes elephant gifts diamond necklaces and extravagant weddings. Taylor also defended Jackson against allegations of child abuse that surfaced against him in the 1990s and 2000s. Before her death Taylor left instructions to bury her next to her dear friend Michael in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery so that I could spend eternity at his side. While their obsessive and luxurious friendship has been well known and documented there is an iconic story about the two friends legendary road trip with Marlon Brando who remains mostly a Hollywood legend.
In 2011 when Osama bin Laden was tracked down and killed the stories that followed the September 11 attacks resurfaced in the media and culture at the time. But there was one story that defied the imagination. That year Vanity Fair published the story of Jackson Taylor and Brando eating Burger King and Kentucky while driving across America together in the days after 9/11.
In 2001 Jackson was in New York City for two concerts at Madison Square Garden on September 7 and 10 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his solo career and he invited his best friend Taylor to join him. Other stars in attendance include Eminem Yoko Ono and Whitney Houston and Jackson took particular care to invite his good friend Brando as well.
The show was opened by Brando who sat on stage in a leather chair fiddling with his watch. At last he looked at the crowd and told them about the massacre of children outside and favored his friend Jackson to save them. When he finished one of the hooligans shouted Hey Stella! Next Jackson appeared on stage and sat like a Roman emperor in a lighted booth near the side of the stage and kissed the performers with Taylor and Macaulay Culkin at his side.
The day after the second concert planes crashed and the Twin Towers collapsed. Like millions of others the three stars found themselves stuck in New York and terrified of what might happen next. His answer was to take a road trip across America.
Tim Mendelson who has been Taylors aide for 25 years told Vanity Fair that Jackson had received a call from friends in Saudi Arabia warning him that the United States was under attack. He told everyone who was with him at the hotel including Brando to leave as soon as possible. But Taylor was staying at another hotel a few blocks away and a crowd of fans surrounded them trying to get close to her. Jacksons friend Corey Feldman recalls in the Vanity Fair story Michael was trying to get Elizabeth out! At first I was looking for a private plane. He wanted permission to fly but everything was surreal. I didnt go with him.
Another eyewitness who was a former employee of Jackson credited his boss with coordinating the arrangements for the three stars road trip saying that Jackson guided Taylor and Brando to a location in New Jersey where they could hide before the shooting hiking across the country. . Once they got a rental car they hit the road. The former employee told Vanity Fair They made their way to Ohio all three of them in a car they drove themselves! He went on to say that Brando even annoyed fellow passengers by insisting on stopping at every KFC and Burger King that passed the road.
However in the same Vanity Fair story another unknown present remembered things quite differently. Elizabeth stayed behind going to church to pray and went to a gun store where there were people who could not go home or stayed behind to search for missing persons. He also went to Ground Zero where he met first responders. Eventually the airports opened and went back to the home . This version of events was later confirmed by another person Stacey Brown Jacksons biographer and close family friend. To make matters clear Brown wrote his own version of