Glitter and the Glove
As the limo drove us to the Shrine Auditorium to downtown LA for an awards show in 1990, Michael handed me the first glove he ever wore that he made and told me it was his gift to me. “See, Bush, if I can make my own clothes, then maybe that means you can sing for me.” His eager smile and soft giggle told me he wasn’t playing his usual tricks on me, but still there was no way I was going to play karaoke as we sat in the car. As I held the modest glove, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic for a young Michael Jackson sitting in his small Indiana home, pushing rhinestones into the right-handed white waiter’s glove. It was small and flimsy, amateurish, nothing like the man.
The type of microphone, choreography, or mood often dictated which hand would don the glove during “Billie Jean”. But no matter the circumstance, Michael never wore two something that started in the late ‘60s or early ‘70s, when he was coming into his own.
It surprised Michael how the world stopped for that glove after his performance of “Billie Jean” at the Motown 25 anniversary special. He said he owed it all to the magic of television. “I’ve been wearing this glove for years, and now they finally notice it?” The white leather golf glove sparkled with 1,619 crystal rhinestones and was made by an assistant to the Jackson family. With every replay of that clip, the glove became synonymous with Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”
There were several variations of the Billie Jean glove, including a left handed red leather golf glove made in the ‘70s, before Bill Whitten took over the job and changed the glove from leather to spandex in time for the Victory Tour in 1984. When I joined Michael’s camp on the Bad Tour in Japan in 1987, Michael was alternating the glove on each hand. On the third night of the first leg, however, Michael’s mic which he held in his right hand, rubbed against the rhinestones sewed to the palm of the glove. Michael could hear the static on the tape as he reviewed it, and it upset him. A perfectionist, Michael wanted it fixed immediately and tasked me to figure out how. I removed the crystals from the inside of the glove, and together we decided the glove worked better when Michael wore it on the hand with which he held the mic – his right hand. He never alternated after that.