Rano, a free-lancer who sells most of his pictures to foreign publications, was one of about 25 media members and a handful of fans who gathered outside Jackson's Encino estate awaiting the rumored 3 o'clock arrival of the former first lady, now the Doubleday editor handling Jackson's forthcoming autobiography.
Only in America, perhaps, could such a scene take place--the media poised to observe the widow of an assassinated President paying a call on a superstar whose trademark is a childish whisper and a sequined glove.
But as Rano, who asked not to be tarred with the label paparazzo , explained: "I don't usually do this hanging-around-in-the-street crap, but they are quite big, and I've already had requests from three European publications for pictures."
None of the watchers thought anything truly newsworthy was going to happen here on Hayvenhurst Avenue, but nobody wanted to miss it.
"If they turn up in a limo with dark windows, this is going to be a waste of time and money," complained Marc Biggins, another European free-lance photographer. A realist, Biggins nonetheless knew the kind of photo he would like to get: "That would be a great picture--if she showed up in a VW convertible, with Marlon Brando, holding a bottle of whiskey," he fantasized.
"Why don't you drive around the back?" Jo Krasner of Woodland Hills advised the waiting lensmen. "You can get some good shots from the fence."
Krasner happened to be in Jackson's driveway Wednesday because her daughter Eva was visiting from New Jersey, and the women check out Jackson's residence whenever Eva's in town.
Eva Krasner once attempted to locate a cache of Jackson's favorite ice cream for the celebrity while she was working for the New York limousine service that Jackson patronizes. (Jackson eventually arranged to have the gelato in question airlifted from Los Angeles, she said.) And Jo Krasner has her own Jackson connection, however tenuous.
One time she, daughter Amy and a carful of young fans boldly followed Jackson's father, Joe, through the estate's automatic gate, right up to the celebrity's front door.
"We just cruised up behind him," she recalled. "I was scared to death. Mr. Jackson's reaction was very friendly--he was very receptive. But his bodyguard said that if we didn't clear it--he didn't say 'beat it'--in five seconds, we would be in severe trouble no matter what Mr. Jackson said. I told Amy to gun that car out of here."
That adventure left Krasner with a mental map of the Jackson estate, including the location of the guardhouse, that she generously shared with the media.
"They're so concerned about what's happening in front, they're very lax about the back," she opined.
"In England, it would be nothing to climb over the fence and sit in a tree all night waiting for them," Biggins said as he waited.
At 3:46 p.m. a black limo with dark windows pulled into Jackson's driveway. Two women emerged from the back seat, the taller of them later identified by Jackson's press liaison as Onassis, in town to help Michael finish his book.
Neither of the men in the front seat was Marlon Brando.