All Bad Things Come to An End as a Tearful Michael Jackson Bids Bye-Bye to the Highway

updated 02/13/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/13/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

The World's Reigning Prince of Record Sales stood at center stage in the Los Angeles Sports Arena, bowed humbly and wiped away the tears. He hugged his band mates, then lingered awhile, exulting in the adulation washing over him from a wildly cheering audience that over the past week had included such luminaries as Raquel Welch (newly single, following her separation from husband André Weinfeld), Elizabeth Taylor (newly revitalized from her stay at the Betty Ford Center) and Marlon Brando (newly statuesque in platform heels). Then the triumphant star walked to the lip of the stage and accepted bouquets of roses like laurels from his worshipful fans, something he seldom does. Finally, after the final bars of the final number of his final encore, Michael Jackson made his final exit, skipping from the stage with one last wave and a fare-thee-well smile.

Fare-him-well, at least. With 123 concerts in 15 countries on three continents, Jackson's 16-month Bad World Tour made more money ($125 million) and was seen by more people (4.4 million) than any such venture in the history of popular music. It also accomplished its ostensible goal—to promote Jackson's 1987 record, Bad. To date, the release has spawned five No. 1 singles—more than any record before it—and sold a total of 20 million CDs, LPs and cassettes.

But by the time the Bad tour ended, Jackson, 30, had stretched his voice and endurance to the breaking point "It's been hard and exhausting" says Frank Dileo, Jackson's rotund, cigar-chewing manager. Dileo oversaw the marathon tour, launched in September 1987 with a cast and crew of 137, a weekly payroll in excess of $500,000 and enough equipment to fill 12 semi-trailer trucks. The grind, he says, caused Jackson to lose 10 lbs. and Dileo to gain 40.

So with an eye to his waistline as well as the bottom line, Dileo announced that the Gloved, Clefted and Bobbed One was hanging up his tour taps for good. "He's accomplished what he wanted," says Dileo. "His goal was to establish himself as the world's biggest solo artist He's done that"

Not that Jackson plans to drop out of sight "He'll do a live show every so often," Dileo says. "But he's not going to tour again. He didn't tour with Thriller and sold nearly 40 million copies. He didn't tour with Off the Wall, and that did pretty well too. I don't think Mike's going to have a problem. It's time to do something else."

Industry bets are on a movie career. "He won't suffer at all," says producer and longtime Jackson friend David Geffen. "He just bought a ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley, which he probably wants to enjoy. And he wants to make records and movies." Though Geffen has tried and failed to come up with a film project for Michael, he believes the star will find a script "Michael's very specific in his tastes. You can't just cast him in anything," says Geffen. "But he's a hard worker, and his talent is a given. Michael's not the sort you'd bet against"

Unless, of course, you're his brother and you just can't buy this early retirement bit "I can understand why Michael's decided not to tour anymore," says Marlon Jackson, 33. "We've toured since we were little, and it takes a lot out of you. But I think he's going to tour again. I mean, you say something like that and then three or four years pass and you get the urge again." Or, as Michael himself once sang, "Never can say goodbye."

—Steve Dougherty, and Todd Gold in Los Angeles

From Our Partners