Hugo Francisco Alvarez Perez, a civil judge in the Dominican Republic city of La Vega, had seen plenty of grooms dressed entirely in black. And he had even heard in response to the question ''Do you take this woman to be your wife?'' smart-aleck answers like the one this man reportedly gave in a startlingly high-pitched near-whisper: ''Why not?'' But he had never before seen a groom who appeared to be wearing lipstick; nor had he seen a pair of young lovers arrive with an entourage that included lawyers and a bodyguard.
But when he saw the names on the couple's marriage documents, Perez understood: The strangers waiting to be married in his living room on May 26, 1994, were Michael Jackson, 35, and Lisa Marie Presley, 26. The King of Pop and the daughter of the King of Rock paid the small fee and, after a 15-minute ceremony, were officially hitched.
For weeks, the merger of Graceland and Neverland was treated as a state secret. When word began to leak (a Dominican daily carried the story on its front page), the newlyweds remained mum. Jackson's spokesman laughed and claimed, ''There was no marriage.'' But enterprising reporters tracked down Perez and showed copies of the signed marriage license to a handwriting expert (the same one who 11 years earlier had debunked the Hitler diaries as forgeries), who said the signatures appeared genuine.
As rumors grew, Jackson and Presley secluded themselves in Trump Tower, thanks to Jackson's pal Donald, who would later crow, ''I've known this secret for a long time.'' Finally, on Aug. 1, the couple issued a statement through Jackson's MJJ Productions. The bride introduced herself as ''Mrs. Lisa Marie Presley-Jackson'' and went on to say that ''my marriage to Michael Jackson took place in a private ceremony outside the United States...weeks ago.'' She added, ''We both look forward to raising a family and living a happy, healthy life together.''
Cynics and conspiracy buffs debated theories about what had brought the couple together: Some thought he was trying to deflect the toxic publicity arising from allegations of child molestation, which he denied, that had surfaced in August 1993; others cited her desire to jump-start her career as a singer. No one seemed to pay much heed to the bride's insistence that ''I am very much in love with Michael, I dedicate my life to being his wife.'' And no one seemed surprised in January 1996, when Presley filed for divorce. Least of all Judge Perez, who says now, ''They lasted longer than I thought they would. I gave them a year. They lasted a year and a half.''