Fans Shell Out $3,400 to Meet Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson, back on stage Thursday for a $3,400 per guest party in Tokyo, says he would not change anything about his career, despite what he called "deliberate attempts to hurt me."

The reclusive pop icon, in Tokyo for several "fan appreciation events," was the guest of honor Thursday at a lavish party aimed at a well-heeled business crowd — though the roughly 400 people who showed up were mainly die-hard fans, and more than 100 orphans and handicapped children who were invited for free.

The paying guests each laid down 400,000 yen or $3,400 for tickets, which included a buffet dinner, a show featuring several Japanese Michael Jackson impersonators and a chance to meet, greet and take photos with the Gloved One.

Jackson, wearing sunglasses and dressed in a black-and-gold suit designed by Roberto Cavalli, appeared on the stage at the end of the six-hour party to read a brief thank you.

He did not perform for the crowd.

In comments to the Associated Press, Jackson reflected on his career, which he is trying to revive after his 2005 acquittal on child molestation charges and a series of other legal battles over his personal finances.

"I've been in the entertainment industry since I was 6 years old," he said. "As Charles Dickens says, 'It's been the best of times, the worst of times.' But I would not change my career."

Jackson, 48, appeared relaxed and comfortable to be back in front of his fans Thursday, and said he is not bitter over the succession of difficulties he has faced in recent years.

"While some have made deliberate attempts to hurt me, I take it in stride because I have a loving family, a strong faith and wonderful friends and fans who have, and continue, to support me."

Those fans have been out in force since Jackson's arrival in Tokyo on Sunday.

A screaming mob greeted him at the airport, and organizers said tickets to the two main events — Thursday's VIP party and another, larger party directed at his main fan base on Friday — sold briskly. Jackson was also scheduled to tour a U.S. Army base just south of Tokyo on Saturday.

Ahead of the parties, Jackson created a stir at one of Tokyo's biggest electronics stores with an after-hours shopping binge early Tuesday. The multistory electronics store in downtown Tokyo closed its doors as usual at 10 p.m. Monday and then gave Jackson the run of the place until half past midnight.

The following day, he took his two children to Tokyo Disneyland.

Jackson, one of the best-selling artists of all time, has lived abroad since his acquittal, forsaking his Neverland Ranch in California for residences in Bahrain and France, and a castle in Ireland.

But in a telephone conversation from Las Vegas with the Associated Press in January, he said he had returned to the United States and planned to stay there for the time being.

Even so, Japan continues to be his home away from home. This is Jackson's second trip to Tokyo in less than a year.

"Japan is one of my favorite places to visit in the world," Jackson told the crowd Thursday, reading from a statement. "I want to thank all of you for making me the biggest-selling artist in Japan."

Jackson made his first official foray back into the spotlight after his acquittal with an appearance in May to accept MTV Japan's "Legend Award." He also visited a Tokyo orphanage during the six-day visit and then traveled on to Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Some of the paying customers Thursday said the 400,000 yen price was a bit too steep. Tickets to a typical concert in Tokyo go for closer to $85.

"It is expensive," said Yoko Iizuka, a copywriter who works in Tokyo. "But I've loved his music since I was a kid."

Others said they thought it was a small price to pay to get up close to the pop star.

"You can't put a price tag on this," said Jenny Sasaki, who arrived in a fur coat and sequined gown. "I love Michael Jackson, his music, his sensitivity and his humanity."

Jackson's manager said the pop star wasn't trying to freeze out his less well-off fans. Tickets to the party on Friday went for $128, she said.

The U.S. Army troops will be allowed to see him for free.