During his long career, Michael Jackson was used to delivering the magic but, for 10 fun-filled days in Ireland, it was Liam Sheehan who kept the pop star and his family spellbound.
Liam, an illusionist from Glanmire in Cork, entertained the superstar and his three children, Paris, Michael and Prince Michael II, at Blackwater Castle in Castletownroche, Co Cork, when Jackson lived there in 2006.
Liam had been peforming for visitors to the castle where, unknown to him, Jackson and his family moved to escape paparazzi.
“I just got a job by the owner to perform for somebody. I did not realise it was him until I actually entered the castle and saw him there,” Liam told Ryan Tubridy on RTÉ radio yesterday, recalling his close encounter with the famous entertainer.
“I walked along the corridor of the castle and I saw this guy sitting in front of me at the dining room table who looked exactly like Michael Jackson. I thought it was somebody impersonating him but then the owner said it was him.
“I was as surprised as anybody else to see him. I got a bit of a shock and when the owner came in he said, yes, it is Michael and he would like you to do some magic for him and the kids.”
Liam knew of Jackson’s obsession with magic and wondered how his simple tricks would compare to more famous mind-benders such as David Copperfield and David Blaine, who were friends of the star.
He need not have worried.
“He just came in and introduced himself, believe it or not,” he said. “The three kids were there and he had a nanny with them.”
“He was fascinated by people who performed magic, more than magic itself. And we did some tricks that I do on a regular basis. They got great enjoyment out of simple magic. It’s not big stage illusion; it’s just close-up magic right in front of your eyes. They got a great kick out of that.”
One of the tricks Liam performed was special for Paris.
“It’s a trick I do all the time now. I borrowed a dollar bill,” he said. “Either Michael or the nanny gave it to me. I rolled this dollar bill up and I showed it to everyone and made a little tubular circle in it.
“I said a few magic words and I also gave Paris a glass of water. She said ‘abrakadabra’ and she blew on the dollar bill and out comes a goldfish. It’s a very unique trick. She was absolutely gobsmacked.”
Although Jackson had a reputation for treating his children strangely and made them wear masks in public, they clearly loved him and showed great affection for him, according to Liam.
“There were no masks in the castle and he was very free and easy with them,” he said.
The children had the run of the castle and woods that surrounded it.
“It was all very normal,” said Liam, who moved into the castle as Jackson’s personal magician while he and his family stayed there.
“I would see them going down to the woods and I would hear them playing hide and go seek,” he said. “I think when he got here he discovered that people in Ireland were not as intrusive as in other places. He was a fascinating man.”
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