Michael Bush-Tompkins/Bush archives
As Michael Jackson prepared for his final This Is It tour, friends on set say the pop star was never better. “He’s still a terrific dancer,” says costume designer Dennis Tompkins, who worked with Michael Bush to create an “over the top” wardrobe for the tour. On his final night of rehearsal, Jackson “was doing the moonwalk. Everything!” says Bush. “He did the whole show full out at performance level. He was like, ‘When are we going to London? Let’s go. I’m ready.’” He was also on a creative high. “Working with Michael for 25 years we had never seen his creativity at this level,” says Bush. “It was like where is this coming from? I get goose bumps thinking about what this visual was going to look like.” Though the show won’t go on, Bush and Tompkins gave PEOPLE an exclusive look at just that. Here’s an inside look at what you might have seen. –Charlotte Triggs
1. A THRILLING JACKET: Costumers Michael Bush and Dennis Tompkins re-created Jackson’s iconic looks for each of the 26 songs he was to perform, but the singer asked, “How can we take it to the next level?” Bush recalls. The solution? Fiber-optic lights sewn onto his red leather “Thriller” jacket, for a surprise light show timed to the music.
2. OLD FAVES: Jackson was going to back his signature crystal glove and socks, which caught the light — and assured that even fans in the back could see him dance. “He was so excited to perform,”says Bush.
3. A MILITARY SALUTE: For the star’s rendition of “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” Bush and Tompkins created a “regimented, military” look.
4. BELTS AND WHISTLES: Tompkins had to make sure items like this jeweled belt would fit Jackson’s slight 27 3/4 inch waist, but says his weight was not an issue: “He was a bit smaller, but he was always thin.”
5. MAJOR DANCE MOVES: Jackson’s new Billie Jean suit held 7.5 lbs. of Swarovski crystals and 60 lights, so the star made sure he could do a spin before signing off. “The dance came first; costumes were secondary,” says Bush. “And his moves were sharper than ever.”
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