Michael Jackson's glove from his 1983 performance of Billie Jean at the Motown 25 television special where he performed the Moonwalk for the first time. The glove is completely different from the other gloves Jackson wore during this period. It is made using a cream leather, off-the-rack golf glove with an interior label reading “Made In Korea.” The glove has a Velcro flap on the back of the hand, which allows the wearer to adjust the fit, and a single white snap at the back of the wrist. The glove does not feature the more characteristic hand sewn crystals, but uses instead a mesh web of faceted rhinestones, hand cut to the shape of the glove. These strips of rhinestones have been whip stitched to the back of the glove. There are no rhinestones on the palm of the glove. The most conspicuous discrepancy with the gloves Jackson had been wearing up to this point is that this is a left-handed glove.
The glove comes from Walter "Clyde" Orange one of the founding members of the Commodores. Orange has written a letter which accompanies this lot explaining that:
I Walter “Clyde” Orange, a founding member of the Commodores, knew Michael Jackson and his family from the first time the Commodores toured with the Jackson 5 as their opening act in the summer of 1971. We played forty U.S. concerts with them, traveling coast to coast with the Jackson family on this and subsequent tours.
At that time, and in the years to follow, Michael and I had a long running joke when we would see one another. In his humble way, he refused to give me his autograph, saying that I was more famous than he was. He never did give me his autograph.
Years later, in 1983, we both performed at the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever tribute show. It was so good to see Michael performing with his brothers again like old times, but he stole the show that night during his solo performance of Billie Jean, in what has now become the famous night he debuted the Moonwalk and changed the face of music and dance, catapulting him to superstardom.
After the performance, Michael came up behind me and put his hand over my eyes and said, “Guess who?” I knew who it was because I felt the one glove on his left hand and no glove on the other. When I once again asked him for his autograph, Michael gave me the glove he wore that night instead, still refusing to give me his autograph! He was always a real prankster, even as a little boy, so I asked him if he was serious about giving me the glove, and he assured me that he was. Remember, it was not yet a trademark for him. Whenever I saw him after that, I teased that I would return the glove in exchange for his autograph, but he always refused, telling me to keep the glove and then, jokingly, asking for my autograph. I have taken very good care of this glove since that historic night at Motown 25 and Michael and his family will always have a special place in my heart.
Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever was a television special taped before a live studio audience at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California on March 25, 1983, and broadcast on NBC on May 16, 1983. The retrospective performance show featured the Commodores, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Four Tops, a reunion of Diana Ross and The Supremes, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles and many other performers. In addition to all of the top names from Motown past and present, the show featured a reunion of the original five Jackson brothers who performed under the name the Jackson 5 while recording for Motown. Michael recalled how this reunion came to be, in his 1988 autobiography “Moonwalk”:
“…I'm forced to admit I had to be talked into doing it. I'm glad I did because the show eventually produced some of the happiest and proudest moments of my life...I had been asked to appear as a member of the Jacksons and then to do a dance number on my own. But none of us were Motown artists any longer…I thought about how much Berry Gordy had done for me and the group, but I told my managers and Motown that I didn't want to go on TV. My whole attitude toward TV is fairly negative. Eventually Berry came to me to discuss it…at length. I said, ‘Okay, but if I do it, I want to do ‘Billie Jean'.' It would have been the only non-Motown song in the whole show. He told me that's what he wanted me to do anyway. So we agreed to do a Jacksons' medley…we were all thrilled (207-208).”
Jackson goes on to describe how he gathered his brothers and began rehearsing the medley they would perform on the show. “I really worked them, and it felt nice, a bit like the old days of the Jackson 5. I choreographed them and rehearsed them for days at our house in Encino (208).” Michael's attention was focused on the Jackson's group performance, and he admitted that during the dress rehearsals at the Pasadena auditorium when it came time to rehearse to his performance of ‘Billie Jean', “I just walked through it because as yet I had nothing planned. I hadn't had time because I was so busy rehearsing the group (209).”
Because he didn't know exactly what he was planning to do with the performance, he discusses how his wardrobe for the evening came together in the last moments leading up to the show. He called his management office after the dress performance and said, “Please order me a spy's hat, like a cool fedora – something a secret agent would wear.” He goes on to explain that he had found the black jacket during the Thriller sessions and said, “You know, someday I'm going to wear this to perform. It was so perfect and so show business that I wore it on Motown 25 (209).”
The last element of ‘the look' he created is ‘the glove'. He commented in his autobiography, “ I had been wearing a single glove for years before Thriller…I was wearing it on some of the old tours back in the 1970s, and I wore one glove during the Off the Wall tour and on the cover of the live album that came out afterward…I actually had been wearing the glove for a long time, but it hadn't gotten a lot of attention until all of a sudden it hit with Thriller in 1983 (217).”
Jackson had been wearing a crystal-studded glove for almost a decade by this point. The gloves from this era were made by costumer Bill Whitten (who also did the Commodores' costumes through the height of their career) and were covered with individually hand-sewn Swarovski crystals, a meticulous and time-consuming process.
It is likely that because his dance routine did not come together until the very last second, Jackson had only decided to wear the glove on his left hand at the last minute. “…the night before taping, I still had no idea what I was going to do with my solo number. So I went down to the kitchen of our house and played Billie Jean…I pretty much stood there and let the song tell me what to do. I kind of let the dance create itself (209).”
The result of this late night burst of inspiration featured a number of moves to be performed with Jackson's right hand, including removing then tossing his fedora, removing a comb from his back pocket and combing his hair. Perhaps these moves performed with his right hand, were the reason he decided to un-characteristically wear the glove on his left hand for the performance. This glove was clearly made in a hurried fashion, unlike the other meticulously made gloves from that period and it stands to reason that this was due to the last minute creation of the performance itself.
Jackson, Michael. Moonwalk. New York: Doubleday, 1988.