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Michael Jackson was surprise guest on family vacation of former Laurel High teachers

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Alan Goldstein taught chemistry and his wife, Lynn Goldstein, taught biology at Laurel High School in the 1970s. Alan Goldstein had a few memorable incidents at Laurel High, and a great story about a surreal vacation his family experienced with superstar Michael Jackson. He recalled some of these memories in a phone interview from his home in Las Vegas, where he and his wife live in retirement.

Goldstein laughed as he described the day some students came to school early to work on a project. "It's funny now, but it wasn't then," he said.

When Goldstein arrived, they proudly showed him what they had created in the school's lab. A small beaker contained a dried compound that sparked and popped when disturbed.

As Goldstein probed further, he discovered the beaker contained just a small sample of the compound the students had made. He quickly realized that they had unknowingly made enough to blow up the classroom.

Responding to a 911 call, the Laurel Volunteer Fire Department evacuated the whole school and hosed down the entire chemistry classroom and lab, rendering the compound inert. It was only explosive when dry. "It was a little overkill," recalled Goldstein.

The other incident he recalled was much more serious. As Goldstein retrieved a container of sulfuric acid from the secure storage, he heard a "clink" and wondered what it was.

"I'm pretty sure the glass container had a crack or something," he says now. The result was the acid spilled onto the leg of his trousers and quickly melted through the fabric.

By the time the Laurel Volunteer Rescue Squad arrived at the school, Goldstein's leg was severely burned by the acid. He was flown by helicopter to the hospital and required a three-month convalescence. Although his leg healed and he continued to run and play soccer, "I'll never win any best looking leg contests," he said.

Goldstein was also the head soccer coach and the assistant coach of Laurel's premier wrestling program, under head coach Beryl Cohen. Laurel won multiple state wrestling championships during the decade, and Cohen was later inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

In 1978, Goldstein left Laurel High School for Oakland Mills High School in Columbia, while Lynn Goldstein stayed at Laurel. It was at Oakland Mills that Goldstein saw the most success as a coach, winning four state soccer championships and being named the East Coast Soccer Coach of the Year.

'Off the wall' vacation

After eight years at Oakland Mills, both Alan and Lynn Goldstein had an opportunity to switch careers and sell time-shares for Marriott Corp., so the family relocated to Orlando. It was while they lived in Orlando that the family had what Alan Goldstein described as a "surreal" experience: Going on vacation with the "King of Pop," Michael Jackson.

In 1991, the couple's son, Brock, was 10 years old and had done some acting in commercials and small roles in films. He had met Macaulay Culkin, who was also 10, and they had become buddies. The Goldsteins were planning a family vacation to Bermuda, and Brock asked if "Mac" could come along.

This was soon after "Home Alone" was released and Culkin had become a big star.

The Washington Post chronicled the vacation in a 2005 story. The Post tracked the Goldsteins down when Culkin testified about the vacation as a defense witness in Jackson's child molestation trial. In the phone interview, the Goldsteins confirmed that the Post article was accurate.

After the Goldsteins and Culkin's parents agreed he could go, Alan and Lynn Goldstein overheard their son on the phone talking to Culkin about the trip. According to the Post, they heard him say "something to the effect of yeah, sure, bring him along."

"Him" turned out to be Culkin's friend, 32-year-old Michael Jackson.

The Goldsteins and Culkin had been in Bermuda for two days when Jackson arrived, alone. When they asked him why he wanted to come along, Goldstein said that Jackson replied, "I just need a break. Do you mind?"

Jackson had the group moved to suites in another, more expensive hotel and the entertainer paid for the entire vacation. In the Post article, Goldstein recalled, "He'd brought this huge trunk. It looked like he'd raided a Toys R Us. He's got water guns, race cars, chewing gum that made your mouth turn black, snaps-and-pops… ."

Jackson's presence changed everything. Stores, malls, pools, restaurants and anywhere else the group wanted to go were opened after-hours for Jackson and the Goldsteins.

Their vacation became a closed, after-hours excursion, but the family had a ball. Brock, who was 24 at the time of the Post article, remembered the "once-in-a-lifetime excitement of his favorite music star suddenly becoming a playmate."

Alan Goldstein told the Post, "We were talking one day about how it might be fun to try diving and the next thing you know, we've got a dive boat to ourselves with some dive masters to teach us."

Arrangements were made for the group to watch a variety show at a resort at 1 a.m. Jackson, Culkin and the Goldsteins were the only people in the audience.

"There was a Michael Jackson impersonator, which was a little awkward, but Michael was fine with it," Alan Goldstein told the Post.

The Goldsteins were questioned by investigators from the Los Angeles Police Department in 1993 when abuse allegations were first made against Jackson.

It was a short conversation. Lynn Goldstein told the Post, "They said, 'We have a victim, we believe him, and we're going to get [Jackson]. He fits the profile.' I didn't like that. I wanted to know what evidence they had."

Lynn Goldstein was adamant about their vacation and told the investigators that "nothing improper ever happened, the kids slept in their own room in the Goldstein suite on a separate floor from Jackson's, and Jackson never once tried to get the guys alone."

As exciting as it was, their experience with Michael Jackson, who died in 2009, was an eye-opener for the Goldsteins. As Brock Goldstein told the Post about two, 10-year-old boys playing with Jackson, "He was like one of us. It makes perfect sense to me because he never had a childhood. Obviously he's not normal. He had a twisted upbringing."

Alan Goldstein eventually rose to become Marriott's national director of sales operations for time-shares, and Lynn Goldstein went on to work for Hilton Hotels, and kept her hand in teaching with real estate instruction. In 2004, Marriott sent Alan Goldstein to Las Vegas to run the sales operations for a new resort. He retired in 2008.

History Matters is a monthly column rediscovering Laurel's past. Do you have old pictures or stories to share about a historic event in Laurel? Email Kevin Leonard at info@theleonardgroupinc.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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