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Jackson's eccentric, lavish life on display

By Olivia Sterns, CNN

  • New show traces Jackson's life, displays famous glittering glove, costumes
  • Jackson's private Neverland home re-created with bizarre personal accessories
  • Music video props and wardrobe reveal the magic of Jackson's performances
  • Exhibition at London's O2 Centre is no substitute for canceled concerts

LONDON, England (CNN) -- From his glittering white glove and golden throne, to his Swarvoski-studded costumes and a treasured carousel horse, a new Michael Jackson show offers an eye-popping look at the King of Pop's extravagant lifestyle and peculiar private tastes.

The official exhibition, opening Wednesday in London, presents a rare view of never-before-seen items from Jackson's Neverland ranch, as well as the performance props and accessories for which he is best known.

The show traces the singer's rise, starting with a 1970 Motown Records contract for the Jackson 5, and ending with videos from his final days rehearsing for a comeback concert series in 2009.

In between, nine galleries filled with memorabilia, including glittering socks, a 1967 Rolls-Royce Phantom, neo-baroque portraits and a custom-made crown, provide insight into the singer's obsession with regalia and passion for bling.

"He loved royalty ... loved the military look and sequins," said his long-time friend and collaborator Miko Brando, son of actor Marlon Brando.

"This is a part of Michael that other people haven't seen," Brando told CNN as he toured the exhibition at London's O2 Centre. "Being here brings me back in time. It's everything he has ever accomplished, everything he has ever designed."

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Best of all, the show reveals some of the magic behind the man. For example, the special shoes that Jackson designed to enable him and his dancers to do the famous gravity-defying forward-lean during "Smooth Criminal" are on display along with their official U.S. patent. The drawings show how a triangular-hinged heel latches on to a groove in the stage floor to enable a 45-degree forward bend.

Fans will also get a thrill from a real-life view of many of the props that won Jackson so much acclaim, such as the rocket ship he rode in the "Leave Me Alone" music video and the zombie mannequins that would've been used on the O2 stage for "Thriller."

While most of the exhibition features easily recognizable Jackson gear, it also contains several unseen objects from Jackson's private home in a large central gallery curated to recreate the ambience at Neverland.

After passing through the original, illuminated Neverland gate, visitors enter a room blaring Vivaldi and Debussy concertos, just as Jackson was said to do when alone.

Inside is a triptych painting of Jackson himself being crowned, knighted and holding a magic sword, an 18th-century Erard piano he used to play and a mirrored miniature of a Bavarian castle, all of which Brando said Jacko enjoyed at home.

Many of the over-the-top costumes now on display were actually kept in storage though. Brando said Jackson preferred in his private life to dress uniformly in a long-sleeve red corduroy shirt, stripped tuxedo pants and dancing loafers.

In just four months since the singer's death, Brando has helped stage the new exhibition, organized by Arts and Exhibitions International (AEI), the company behind the blockbuster Tutankhamen museum show.

More than 750,000 tickets were sold for "This Is It," Jackson's planned O2 concert series, scheduled to take place starting in the summer of 2009. While there is no substitute for the loss, exhibit organizers say the new show can offer grieving fans some consolation. Share your review of "This Is It"

"For Michael Jackson to come here in some form, to connect with that energy and passion, just a few hundred feet from where the concert would have been, it feels quite special," said Mark Lach, SVP of AEI.