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Jackson-Presley Order Is Sweet for Candy Maker

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The man on the phone was mysterious, identifying himself only as a friend of Michael Jackson’s family.

But what he wanted from Frank Sheftel, a San Fernando Valley candy maker, was absolutely clear: 1,000 chocolate bars about the size of a business card, with raised letters that say, “Lisa Marie and Michael.”

A heart and a musical note were also to appear somewhere on the bars.

“At first, I’m thinking nothing,” said Sheftel, 33, a fast-talking chocolate lover who has owned the Candy Factory in Sherman Village since 1990.

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“Then I’m thinking, ‘Lisa Marie and Michael. . . .’ And then he’s telling me where he wants them delivered and I’m thinking, ‘Oh wow. Big wow.’ ”

The Jackson family friend ordered the sweets last Monday, when Lisa Marie Presley confirmed the previously doubted rumors of her marriage to the pop superstar.

In a polite and straightforward manner, the unidentified man told Sheftel to deliver the chocolates to four places: the Jackson family estate in Encino, Michael Jackson’s production company in Westwood, Graceland--the Elvis Presley mansion--in Memphis, Tenn., and the Trump Tower in New York, where the couple were honeymooning.

The reaction of co-workers at the candy store was initially one of disbelief. “With them making it public, then obviously it’s true,” said Sheftel’s mother, Gloria, who helped prepare the chocolates.

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Within hours after the order was placed, a courier arrived at the Candy Factory carrying a sealed envelope with $100 bills in it, Frank Sheftel said.

The candy maker declined to reveal how much the order cost, but said such work typically runs as high as $3,000.

It took a team of five people to prepare the 1,000 bars, pouring melted Nestle’s chocolate into plastic molds they made from a master mold prepared by an outside firm, and wrapping them in gold foil. Half of the bars were delivered last week, while the other half will be shipped today by express mail.

This brush with fame is nothing unusual for Sheftel. In March, the candy maker created 300 10-inch-tall chocolates shaped like the Oscar statuette for a party hosted by studio executive Mark Canton. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sued Sheftel, saying it was trying to protect Oscar’s image.

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The two sides recently settled out of court, with Sheftel paying the academy $1,500 and turning over many of the Oscar-shaped candy he used.

Last year, the entertainment industry turned to Sheftel for the movie “Forrest Gump.” In it, Tom Hanks’ character eats a box of chocolates while sitting on a bus bench and telling his life story to strangers. Sheftel says he made the chocolates Hanks eats in the film because Hanks is partial to certain types of chocolates, including a special variety with centers of Rice Krispies and marshmallow.

“I thought it was very weird,” said Sheftel--who himself eats two chocolate bars a day and sells chocolate-coated potato chips. “I thought, ‘Why can’t they go to a store and buy assorted chocolates?’ They said, ‘No, no, no. It’s got to be something Tom Hanks would like to eat.’ All I knew was it was a movie called ‘Forrest Gump.’ I thought it was about a park ranger.”

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For the Jackson-Presley order, the Sherman Oaks native turned to the tabloid media to cash in on the celebrity sweets. The National Enquirer was willing to pay thousands of dollars for the story, Sheftel said, but it wanted exclusive rights for three weeks.

So he went to the television program “Hard Copy,” which broadcast his story Friday, demanding only that he not talk to other TV reporters. He says he was paid “thousands of dollars” by the program--he will not say how much--but the show’s producers will not confirm that.

Sheftel makes no apologies for his decision to go public.

“It’s a fun story,” he said. “It’s not like I’m showing a picture of them on their honeymoon.

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“This is a sweet story, no pun intended,” he said.


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