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By Gary Susman
Updated September 14, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
Britney Spears and Michael Jackson: Beth A. Keiser/Pool/AP Wide World

American High

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THRILLER NIGHT What was the most off-the-wall moment of Michael Jackson‘s five-hour tribute to himself at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Friday? Was it the arrival of such Hollywood oldtimers and dubious Jackson fans as Ann Miller, Janet Leigh, and Jane Russell? Was it Liza Minnelli paying tribute with a few bars of her mom’s ”Over the Rainbow”? Was it Al Jarreau dressed as the Tin Man and Jill Scott as the Scarecrow during a number from ”The Wiz”? Was it Jackson himself, stalking Britney Spears across the stage during ”The Way You Make Me Feel”? Was it (in yet another Oz homage) the afterparty at Tavern on the Green, with stiltwalkers and munchkins? Or was it the appearance in an armchair of a mood-dampening Marlon Brando, who told the audience, ”While you’re…wondering who that old fat fart is sitting there…I wanted you to realize that in that minute, there were hundreds, if not thousands, of children, hacked to death with a machete, beaten to death by their parents, got typhus and died of a disease.” Brando said the evening was really all about ”sick children,” and that proceeds from the concert would go toward an international children’s hospital in Florida. This must have come as news to Jermaine Jackson, who nearly sat out the event over his complaint that the concert was not a benefit, despite the $2,500 price of the top tickets. Highlights of the performances Friday night and tonight will be broadcast on a CBS special in November.

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