Augustan's magic made Michael Jackson happy

This column is about three show business legends: Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Elvis Presley.


The death of Mr. Jackson prompted an e-mail from former Augustan Dixie Dooley, who has been performing magic shows in Las Vegas for three decades.

"On a cold windy day in Las Vegas on Feb. 13, 2007, I was invited to perform my magic at a birthday party," Mr. Dooley wrote. "With the wind whistling outside, this surreal performance for only 10 people lasted over an hour in front of a beautiful fireplace at Michael Jackson's home in Las Vegas."

The birthday party was for Mr. Jackson's youngest child, Prince Michael II. His other two children also were in attendance.

"Michael applauded, laughed and made wonderful comments after every trick I performed," Mr. Dooley wrote. "I found him to be very open and a complete gentleman. He was very up and seemed to be a very happy person. It was also very clear his children genuinely loved him dearly.

''As I was finally leaving, Michael was having cake and opening presents with Prince the birthday boy. When Michael saw that I was leaving, he ran down the hall to once again shake my hand and ask me to come back and visit so we could talk magic."

NOW, HOW MANY OF you know that the song Midnight Train to Georgia originally was titled Midnight Plane to Houston and was not recorded by Gladys Knight?

How many of you know that it was inspired by TV actress Farrah Fawcett?

I didn't, until a friend asked who wrote another classic Gladys Knight song, You're The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me .

That was Jim Weatherly, the 1974 Nashville Songwriters Association International Songwriter of the Year who has written a ton of other major hits. You can read more about him at

In researching Mr. Weatherly, I came across the music site, which features an interview with Mr. Weatherly conducted by Gary James.

"Lee Majors was a friend of mine," Mr. Weatherly told Mr. James. "He had just started dating Farrah. One day I called Lee and Farrah answered the phone.

''We were just talking and she said she was packing. She was going to take the midnight plane to Houston to visit her folks. So, it just stayed with me. After I got off the phone, I sat down and wrote the song, probably in about 30 to 45 minutes."

Mr. Weatherly recorded the song as Midnight Plane to Houston on his first album. About a year later, Cissy Houston's record producer in Atlanta, Sonny Limbo, wanted to change the title of the song to Midnight Train to Georgia and record it very bluesy.

That version was the one Ms. Knight heard, which led her to record the song.

IF YOU LOVE ELVIS' songs, you probably would enjoy the second annual Visions of a Legend contest at 8 p.m. Friday (preliminary round) and 8 p.m. Saturday (final round) at the Aiken Shrine Club, 1526 Columbia Highway N. (U.S. Highway 1).

Tickets are $10 for Friday night and $15 for Saturday. Popular Elvis tribute artist Jeff Barnes, of Evans, will perform a free show at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Also performing but not competing will be local Elvis lovers 4-year-old Reed Sikes and 5-year-old Kolby Hendrix.

For details, call Terri Futreal at (803) 474-2411 or Danny Haywood at (803) 221-3200 or visit

Don Rhodes has written about country music for 38 years. He can be reached at (706) 823-3214 or at