Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Michael Jackson's Parents, Children Open Up On 'Oprah'

When asked what she missed most about her father, Paris responded, 'Everything.'
By Gil Kaufman

Katherine Jackson and Oprah Winfrey on Monday's "Oprah Winfrey Show"
Photo: Harpo Productions

In her first major interview since her son Michael Jackson's death last year, Katherine Jackson opened up to Oprah Winfrey on Monday (November 8) during a tearful talk in which she discussed the day her son died, the devastating impact of his 2005 child-molestation trial and the legacy Jackson left for his three young children.

"I don't think I will ever be healed," Katherine said when asked if she believes that time will make things easier. "It will get better, but some days it's like it just happened. ... It hurts. It really hurts."

During the hour-long special, Katherine said her youngest son was "misunderstood" and she had trouble talking about Michael, often tearing up when remembering him.

Michael died June 25, 2009, of a heart attack caused by an overdose of the surgical anesthetic propofol, and Katherine said she learned of her son's death from his personal doctor, Conrad Murray, after arriving at the hospital. "He came out, and he was talking, and it took him so long." Frustrated, Katherine asked, "Did he make it?" and Murray said, " 'No, he's gone.' That's all I remember," she said, tearing up once more at the memory. She called it the worst day of her life.

Murray has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with Jackson's death, and prosecutors allege that his actions at the mansion Jackson was renting in Los Angeles were grossly negligent and directly caused Jackson's death. Murray has pleaded not guilty.

Though family patriarch Joseph Jackson has discussed his feelings about Murray, Katherine has kept relatively mum on the subject, until now. "Why didn't he take care of my child? Why did he give that [propofol] to him?" she asked. "It's very dangerous; why did he do it? ... I can't accuse him of murder. I don't know if it was accidentally done or it was intentionally done. I don't want to get into that, but I have my thoughts."

She said she'd never heard of propofol before and had no idea Michael was taking prescription drugs to help him sleep. She knew he had taken drugs to treat his burns from an accident during the filming of a 1984 Pepsi commercial and that he had become addicted to those drugs and that his siblings had attempted an intervention at one point. "I spoke to him about [drugs] once, when I had heard it, and he denied it," she said. "I was telling him I didn't want to one day hear that he had overdosed because it would break my heart, it would kill me too. He kept saying he wasn't, saying, 'My own mother don't believe me.' "

In addition to the burns, Katherine said MJ's addiction was fueled by his devastating 2005 child-molestation trial, in which he was acquitted of all charges but not before his career, and public image, were irreparably damaged.

"All his life, he had to go through stuff like this, and they were just lying on him," she said, asserting that she never once questioned his innocence in the matter. "I never thought [he could be guilty of molesting a child], because I know he wouldn't. He loved children, and he was around children all the time ... 'I'd rather slit my own wrists than to hurt a child' — he would always say that."

After the trial, she said, Jackson didn't trust anyone. And now, Katherine is raising his three children — Paris, Prince Michael and Blanket — and she admitted that she didn't approve of the way her son kept their faces shrouded during his life. After a cloistered existence, Katherine said the children are adjusting "very well" to their new life, which includes going to regular schools, playing and camping with their cousins and going out in public.

Along with some cousins, the kids came to visit near the end of the show, with Blanket proving to have inherited his dad's shy nature. Prince Michael said, in addition to loving video games, he wants to produce movies and direct, while a self-assured Paris said she'd like to be an actress after years of improv practice with her dad. Paris said Michael tried to hide his worldwide fame from them but she realized the veils and disguises were to protect them from prying eyes.

While Paris revealed that he was a strict dad (and an excellent cook, whose specialty was French toast), Blanket interjected, "He could get away with anything." When asked what she missed the most about her father, Paris responded, "Everything."

After an initial nose job, Michael began getting a series of surgeries, Katherine said, including ones that made his nose look like a "toothpick." Mostly, though, she said he treated his skin to erase the marks of a condition that made it splotchy.

"He didn't want to start looking 'like a spotted cow,' he said," Katherine recalled of Jackson's skin surgeries to treat his vitiligo. "I don't know what in the world he did to change that, but he did." Her comments appeared to contradict something Jackson himself told Winfrey several years ago when he claimed to have only had two surgeries. "He had more than two; he was just embarrassed," Katherine said.

In a surprise, Katherine was joined by husband Joseph later in the interview, with both refuting rumors that they are estranged or divorced. After years of similar denials, Joe once again asserted that he had never beat Michael. "I don't think he was afraid of me," he said. "I never beat him like the media tried to say. That never happened." Winfrey reminded him that Michael had said in a 1993 interview with her that Joseph had beaten his son, and then he asked her to specify between "beat or whipped."

Joe replied that he was proud that Michael was raised in such a way that he was a beloved, successful singer and not a drug or violence casualty like so many peers from Gary, Indiana. "You might as well admit it: That's the way black people raised their children," Katherine answered. "He used a strap."

Seemingly admitting it, Joseph again said he was proud none of his nine children ever landed in jail, suggesting that his hard hand kept them on the straight-and-narrow. "I don't [regret the beatings]," he said. "It kept them out of jail, and I raised them right and they were good kids."

What did you think of Oprah's interview with the Jackson family? Let us know in the comments.

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