Celebrities who are (or were) JWs – Part 1

This was the very first of our popular articles about celebrities and talented performers who have some sort of past or present history connected to the Jehovah’s Witness religion. We’ve updated a few things and have added an extended video gallery at the end of the article. Our purpose is to fairly present these famous people and their often extensive talents. You may find yourself amazed and educated.

We’ll be updating the other articles in this same series over the next few weeks, adding expanded video galleries to each one. Please feel free to comment and let us know how you like the changes. Be sure to tell your friends to check us out.

This article was first published on April 15, 2009.  Within 72 hours prior to the June 25, 2009 update, American pop culture lost three of its entertainment icons: Ed McMahon (Johnny Carson’s sidekick and foil), Farrah Fawcett (every teenage boy’s fantasy girl from 1972-1982), and Michael Jackson (so-called “King of Pop” and walking example of really bad plastic surgery) – who happened to be one of the celebrities on our first list. Please note that this list has now been updated to reflect the passing of former Jehovah’s Witness, Michael Joseph Jackson.

The following is just a short list of famous persons in politics, music and movies that are or were Jehovah’s Witnesses. There are many more that we add over time, and eventually we’ll make a master index, but this will be our starting point.

Please feel free to let us know if you know of any others. You may use the comment area at the bottom of this article, or the contact form found elsewhere on this site. We’d love to hear from you.

Here are our first five celebrity Jehovah’s Witnesses:

  • Michael Jackson (performance artist)
  • Mickey Spillane (pulp fiction writer)
  • Prince (performance artist)
  • Jill Scott (actress and singer)
  • George Benson (jazz musician)

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The [Two] Three Funerals of Michael Jackson

Update: Michael Jackson’s third funeral took place on September 3, 2009 at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

According to news reports, the private affair was open to only a few family members and some notable celebrities. Gladys Knight, renowned member of Gladys Knight and the Pips and a music legend in her own right, reportedly sung a special song during the brief ceremony. No media or television representatives were allowed to attend.

Jackson’s final internment will be in Forest Lawns’s “Great Mausoleum,” final resting place to numerous entertainment legends. It is also the location of the reproductions of the statues of “David” and “Moses” originally sculpted by Michaelangelo and the stained glass reproduction of Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Last Supper.”

Among the other notable people interred in the mausoleum are Clark Gable, George Burns, Walt Disney, Nat King Cole, and John Wayne. Dozens of other famous entertainers are buried or interred in other publicly accessible areas of the Glendale memorial park including Marilyn Monroe and members of the “Three Stooges.”

During the days leading up to Michael Jackson’s memorial at Staples Center in Los Angeles, there was much speculation about how “The King of Pop’s” funeral was going to be handled.

At first it was announced that the Jackson family would have a “private funeral” that would be closed to the public and the press. It might be held at Neverland Ranch in Santa Barbara County near Los Olivos, California – or maybe not. It could be held in the Los Angeles area and then Michael Jackson’s body would be buried at the ranch site – or maybe not.

As hundreds of people began to gather around the entrance and along the roadside leading to Neverland Ranch, it soon became apparent that privacy for the family would be impossible if the funeral was held at that location. Anything more elaborate that would involve the public would not only cause a major uproar among the residents of that remote area, but also put a severe strain on local roads, public facilities, and law enforcement agencies.

Late in the week of Jackson’s death, the family and AEG Live, the producers of Jackson’s now canceled London concerts, announced that a public memorial performance would be held at Staples Center, a large sports arena near downtown Los Angeles. Staples Center is owned and managed by another subsidiary of AEG. A plan was put into place to distribute 17,000 free tickets to 8,500 winners of an online lottery. All other attendees would be guests and dignitaries invited by the family and AEG.

A big question left unanswered was whether Michael Jackson’s funeral would be included aa a part of the memorial performance. Would Michael Jackson’s coffin even be there? Would the Jackson family actually appear? And, if they did, would his brothers or sister Janet perform during the performance segment?

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Michael Jackson: The Magic and the Sadness

On Thursday, June 25, 2009, the death of Michael Jackson brought an end to a musical career marked with monster rock hits, huge concert performances, and fans that could be found in every corner of the world. When he was at his peak, he was pop music’s number one all-around performer and his music could be heard everywhere. 1982’s monster success, “Thriller,” Jackson’s second solo album, is the all time best selling album in any category.

Jackson made uncounted millions of dollars from his album sales and concert tours, and yet died leaving behind an estimated $400 million in debt. His most recent plan to was have one final comeback – after well over a decade marked with scandal, and some of the most bizarre behavior ever seen in a major celebrity.

First introduced to the public when just a very young boy in the late 1960s, Jackson became the lead singer of the Jackson 5, the singing group that he fronted with his four older brothers. After the Jacksons came on the national scene, they had major hits with “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” and “I’ll Be There,” all with Michael singing lead – even though he was the youngest of the group. The Jackson 5 are sometimes credited as being the first and most talented of the “boy bands” that later included the Osmonds, New Kids on the Block, and Boyz 2 Men.

Michael Joseph Jackson was the seventh of nine children. His father, Joseph, was a struggling steel worker with some experience in music and performing. Joe Jackson was determined to get his family out of the shadow of poverty and into the limelight. His boys, and especially Michael, would become the family’s meal ticket.

Michael’s mother, Katherine, was a Jehovah’s Witness and raised her children to be Witnesses. Michael grew up with two main influences: music and the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ religious culture. His father was an abusive parent who was focused only on making sure that the boys became good musicians and successful entertainers. According to most of the Jackson children, their father physically and verbally abused them – and never “spared the rod” even after they became successful. The damage to young Michael, the family’s leading man, was particularly severe and likely scarred him psychologically for the rest of his life.

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Celebrities who are (or were) JWs – Part 2

For most of our readers who are fairly up to date on the history of Jehovah’s Witnesses, our last list of celebrities held no real surprises. Rock celebrities like Michael Jackson and Prince had well publicized relationships with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. George Benson and Jill Scott have maintained lower profiles and have kept whatever connections they have to the JWs more or less to themselves and have let their talents define them.

Mickey Spillane was our odd man out last time. Younger generations may not even know of him or his rough and tumble Mike Hammer crime novels. Those of us who were raised in the 1940s and 1950s remember him well.

This time we introduce five more celebrities (actually more than five, as you will see) that are, or have been, Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their names and reputations will be well known to most everyone, but their association with the Jehovah’s Witnesses less so.

Here is our second list of celebrity Jehovah’s Witnesses:

  • Venus and Serena Williams (athletes)
  • Wayans Brothers (actors, comedians)
  • Teresa Graves (actress)
  • Eve Arden (actress)
  • Ja Rule (rap singer)

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