*Husband and wife, Ryan and Vernay O’Neal are still moonwalking on the clouds after attending the 7th annual “Thriller Night” charity costume party, held at the end of October at the famed Jackson family estate in Encino, California. Hosted by Prince Jackson, the oldest son of the late Michael Jackson, the O’Neils were among approximately 300-plus guests at the festive event.
Proceeds raised from the donations for admission to the Halloween-themed affair went to Prince’s nonprofit Heal Los Angeles Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to empower the quality of life for Los Angeles’ inner-city youth.
“It was a surreal and remarkable night to be at the place, which for me is the Mecca of Music,” Ryan told Lee Bailey of EURweb.com. “This was Hayvenhurst, where Michael recorded ‘Thriller’ and ‘Off The Wall’ and other great songs and albums. To be there was chilling because of the musical creativity, musical energy, and the history that took place there.”
The famed Jackson house on Hayvenhurst Avenue was purchased in 1971 by Joe Jackson, father of the renowned Jackson family. It’s reported that Michael Jackson lived at the two-acre compound, from 1971 to 1988.
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According to Ryan and Vernay, the “Thriller Night” extravaganza featured music, dancing, and fun. The entertainment was provided by actor and comedian Chris Tucker, two-time Grammy-winner Elijah Blake, singer MK XYZ, and DJ Spinna. And for the Halloween occasion, sections of the Hayvenhurst house featured a haunted house, cemetery, and legacy room. The legacy room housed memorable costumes from “The King of Pop’s” classic “Thriller” and “Ghost” videos. The room showcased many of Jackson’s music awards, including ones for the iconic “Thriller” album, the best-selling album of all time.
The O’Neals have been married for one year. The two met in 2016 – at what else – a Michael Jackson exhibit and fundraiser for an audio tech school in Delaware. The pop-up exhibit exclusively featured Ryan’s Michael Jackson and Jackson 5 collection. Vernay went to the event but didn’t exhibit her collection but the two collectors eventually dated and ultimately exchanged wedding vows. Their marriage has led to the consolidation of collections, now considered one of the world’s largest and best MJ and J5 collections, all in the comfort of their home. Some people have called the home collection a shrine.
“I never like to use the word shrine,” said Ryan. “I like to say the collection is a memory of the God-given talent that Michael Jackson possessed. For me, everything that we collect is a part of my upbringing and reminds me of all the joyous times I had growing up listening to Michael and The Jackson 5.”
“I refer to our collection as more of a tribute area of our house,” said Vernay, who added that the enormous collection covers 70% of their home. “We don’t want it to seem like it’s a worship type of thing, but we really do love Michael and the Jackson 5. We love honoring them in this way.”
When talking about their love for Michael Jackson and The Jackson 5, it’s apparent that Ryan and Vernay are far more than fans, especially since they were voted and given the international title as the 2021 owners of “The World’s Best Michael Jackson Collection,” as voted by Michael Jackson fans from around the globe.
In addition to talking with Lee Bailey about their massive collection to remember the life, music, times, and legacy of “The King of Pop,” both Ryan and Vernay describe their first up-close and personal encounters with Michael Jackson.
“I met Michael in New York in 2001, at the Virgin Mega Store,” Vernay recalled. “He was doing a CD signing and promotion for ‘Invincible,’ his new album. I had followed him to many other places, but this was the first time I had the opportunity to meet him.”
“I met Michael when he gave a speech at Carnegie Hall for Heal the Kids,” Ryan said. “I met him again when he was honored for his 50 years of being a solo artist.”
Ryan and Vernay describe their separate meetings with Jackson as amazing and a dream come true. The couple also feels the same about the recent “Thriller Night” event at the Jackson’s Hayvenhurst Estate.
While memories of Ryan’s and Vernay’s experience at Hayvenhurst will last a lifetime, the O’Neils hope that their Michael Jackson and Jackson 5 collection will continue to tell the epic story of the famed brothers from Gary, Indiana. Ryan’s and Vernay’s collection features thousands of items and artifacts including, but not limited to record albums, CDs, DVDs, cassette tapes, books, magazines, posters, photos, promotional items, signature clothing, dolls/figurines, replicas of awards, cereal boxes, arcade games, puzzles, and cartoon images. There is even a full and life-size lookalike replica of Michael Jackson standing among the collected memorabilia.
In addition to their massive collection, Ryan and Vernay host a weekly radio show called “A Journey through Time with the Jacksons” on Rocking Hot Radio in the Camden, New Jersey area. The show comes on each Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. and again at 10:00 p.m. EST. The couple describes their radio program as a format “playing all the music of Michael Jackson, The Jackson 5, and talking about everything connected to the Jacksons.”
“We just want to keep Michael Jackson and The Jackson 5’s legacy moving forward,” Vernay said. “We look forward to continuing to build our collection and sharing our love and passion with the MJ & J5 international fan community.”