Of Notoriety: Jackson Brothers Hard Rock weekend includes Gary school invite

The last time the Jackson Brothers performed at Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana in Gary was in February 2022.

The family trio of Northwest Indiana roots fame, Marlon, Tito and Jackie Jackson, are back again for one Hard Rock concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, returning to the entertainment destination they helped open and launch with personal appearances in May 2021.

Before the concert, the Jackson Brothers are being celebrated and honored with a new musical arts wing unveiled at noon on Saturday, May 11, at Lake Ridge New Tech Middle School, 3601 W. 41st Ave. in Gary.

Donald L. Thompson, who was instrumental with Gary Mayor Scott King in 2001 and 2002 in working with former President Donald Trump to bring the Miss USA Pageant and telecast to downtown Gary, is hosting the unveiling with Sharon Johnson-Shirley, superintendent of Lake Ridge Schools. Thompson has been appointed as coordinator and music coordinator for the new Jackson Family Visual and Performing Arts Wing.

Saturday’s ceremony is invitation-only with verbiage acknowledging “members of the Jackson Family will be present to accept this honor of recognition.” Also on the invite list are several community leaders and VIP guests.

One person who stands out on the invite list is Evelyn LaHaie, the Gary talent producer who the Jackson Family acknowledges as the clever show biz promoter who named their group the Jackson Five.

Throughout the years, LaHaie, who still lives in Northwest Indiana and spent the 1960s as the producer of shows at Gary Music Theatre, has been interviewed countless times on the subject of the Jackson Family. Her “naming claim-to-fame” has been acknowledged by Michael in his published autobiography, as well as in numerous interviews father Joe Jackson did over the decades.

“Joe had been calling his performing sons ‘the Jackson Brothers,’ and I just thought it sounded a little too old-fashioned,” LaHaie recalled.

“So when I had them performing for me at a fashion show at the old Big Top department store in Gary, I suggested to Joe that he change their group’s name to ‘the Jackson Five’ because it sounded so much better.”

The subject of the Jackson Five and youngest brother turned King of Pop, the late Michael Jackson, continues to fascinate fans around the world.

I frequently receive letters and emails from fans eager to know more about this first family with musical icon status, such as this letter received from the United Kingdom last month.

“Dear Philip: Even though I am from the UK, I really enjoy your writing, especially your pieces on music and entertainment. I can’t help but wonder if you ever met the Jackson 5, or indeed the late, great Michael Jackson? You write about them with refreshing honesty and positivity, putting the majority of tabloids to shame. I am currently collating positive stories and anecdotes regarding Jackson’s kindness and philanthropy, before they are lost in time forever, and given that you’re not that far from where the Jackson 5 grew up, I was wondering if you would be so kind as to pass my details on to anyone who might be able to add to this labor of love. Kind regards and keep up the great work, Dee Pfeiffer, Freelance editor and copywriter”

For the record, even though I’ve met and interviewed mother Katherine Jackson, who turned 94 on May 4, and her late husband Joe Jackson, who died at age 89 in 2018, as well as brothers Tito, Marlon and Jackie, I never interviewed the late Michael, nor any of his sisters.

Though the Saturday afternoon Jacksons arts wing event is private, there are still tickets available Saturday night at the 1,954-seat Hard Rock Live performance stage venue where the Jackson brothers are performing. The casino is at 5400 W. 29th Ave. in Gary at the I-80/94 Burr Street Interchange. Guests have to be 21 or older to enter the Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana. Call 219-228-2383 or visit www.hardrockcasinonorthernindiana.com for more information and show tickets, which are priced at $69.50.

Top shelf sale

The Lake County Public Library is doing spring cleaning and has plenty of gently used library furniture for sale, from shelves and desks to chairs and tables. The sale will be in the south parking lot area of the main library branch, 1919 81st Ave. in Merrillville. The sale hours are 2-6 p.m. May 15, noon-7 p.m. May 16 and 9 a.m. to noon May 17. For more details, visit www.lcplin.org or call 219-769-3541.

Philip Potempa is a journalist, published author and the director of marketing at Theatre at the Center. He can be reached at pmpotempa@comhs.org.