Michael Jackson (left) He was very concerned that the kids grow up with the right values. –PHOTO: AP
NEW YORK – WHEN Rabbi Shmuley Boteach brought his children to play with Michael Jackson’s kids at Neverland Ranch some eight years ago, the rabbi’s youngsters naturally made a beeline for the fabulous rides – the Ferris wheel, the roller coaster, the bumper cars.
But when Jackson’s own kids asked to go on the rides, he gently reminded them of the family rules, according to Boteach: The rides were only for birthdays or special occasions.
‘He was very concerned that the kids grow up with the right values,’ says Boteach, Jackson’s former friend and spiritual adviser.
They are the children of one of the most famous men to have walked the planet. But unlike other children of mega-celebrities, whose faces are recognisable around the world, those of Jackson’s three kids – 12-year-old Michael Joseph Jr., known as Prince Michael; 11-year-old Paris Michael Katherine; and 7-year-old Prince Michael II, known as Blanket – are barely known.
Home-schooled and often isolated in mansions or hotels, the children have appeared only in rare paparazzi shots, their faces usually covered by scarves or brightly colored masks.
That fact alone – that Jackson sought to hide his children’s faces – would seem to speak of a dark, strange life. But those who’ve witnessed the family up close paint a brighter picture: a trio of engaging, intelligent, well-adjusted youngsters who adored their father. A father who, despite his eccentricities and the terrible controversy that surrounded him in later life, lived for his children and tried to make their lives as normal as – well, as normal as Michael Jackson could.
‘To the extent that Michael Jackson’s kids COULD have a normal life, he wanted them to have it,’ says Boteach, who eventually fell out with Jackson. ‘Listen, I’m not here to whitewash the sins of Michael Jackson – he was accused of some abominable things,’ says the rabbi, referring to the pop star’s trial and acquittal on molestation charges. ‘But when it came to being a father, there was much to admire.’
Dr Tohme Tohme, a close friend and adviser to Jackson over the last year of his life, said he had ‘never seen a better father.’ ‘He was the father and the mother,’ Tohme said. ‘He washed them and dressed them. I’m a father but I’m not sure I could do what he was doing with his children. They loved him so much.’
Of course, even Jackson’s closest friends are at a loss to explain what for many is the single most memorable image of Jackson as a father: the shocking moment when he dangled Blanket, then an infant, over a hotel balcony in Berlin, showing the baby off to fans with a delighted grin.
‘What made that incident so inexplicable was that he was an OVER-protective father,’ Boteach says. — AP