AT LARGE WITH GERALDO RIVERA
Geraldo Rivera: How you doing, man?
Michael Jackson: How you doing?
GR: Good to see you.
GR: You get to smile anymore?
MJ: Of course, I smile a lot.
GR: You smile when youíre in a recording studio like this one, doing music?Ö
MJ: Of course, I love music.
GR: Is it nice to get back to the music? Ö
MJ: Itís fantastic. Because ahhhÖ Itís my life. Thatís what I do.
GR: Youíve been so distracted, you know, you want to talk about how youíre feeling?
MJ: Iím doing fine Geraldo, how are you?
GR: Despite whatever else goes on in the world, youíre doing ok?
MJ: Iím doing very well, thank you.
GR: You know, it was wonderful, seeing you with the children. That I think, is the real Michael Jackson that has not been seenÖ you with your own children, one in diapers the other two toddlersÖ I donít know how you manage without a nanny.
MJ: Well, I enjoy taking care of my children myself itís... itís fun thatís why I had them so I could take care of them and itís just great relief for me you know itís a pleasure it keeps me happy and laughing and you know, theyíre wonderful sweet innocent children.
GR: I saw you as kind of the arbitrator between the Nickelodeon and the Disney channel there. You got some really difficult problems to solve there. But you have such a- a kind of a normal life there. Itís sweet to see.
MJ: Thank you. They bring me that.
GR: Tell me, tell me what the children mean to you, your own children.
MJ: They mean, itís hard to put it into words because they mean everything. The way you would explain how your children make you feel... Theyíre the world for me, I wake up and Iím ready for the day because of them. I get them breakfast, I change diapers, if they want to read, we do a lot of reading, we play hide and seek, we play blind fold and have a wonderful time with it.
GR: And you can create a world that at least begins to seem normal? They donít know any other world obviously.
MJ: I do my best for sure.
GR: So, that is obviously a priority to you
MJ: Yes of course. I want to be the best father in the world of course.
GR: Do they know who you are? Or what you mean to people?
MJ: Yes, they do. Theyíve been on tours with me and in limousines among a sea of fans.
GR: Do they like it?
MJ: They find it exciting. They want to get on stage. They bug me to go on stage with me. So, pretty sure I Ďm going to take them on with me and let the world see them for the first time.
GR: They donít say, ĎDaddy I want to go home and watch Nickelodeon?í
MJ: (Laughs) Probably, probably.
GR: They do that too.
GR: So how do you feel being here again, being in a recording studio again, focussing on the music again? Is it a relief, in a sense?
MJ: Itís a great relief. It makes me feel like Iím totally at home. Iím into my own. Which is what Iím here for. Any of the artsÖ like that could be film, you know, music, any type of art, I love it.
GR: So, when youíre being the quote on quote, King of Pop, thatís when youíre the most comfortable? Or is it the creative process?
MJ: The creative process, yes. Iím obsessed with creatingÖ
GR: I saw you and Randy, the way you guys react - itís very reminiscent of the way my brothers and I are together. Whoís top dog?
GR: Thatís not what I saw
GR: But, uh, you trust your family.
MJ: Of course, you have to.
GR: Is it a Ďblood thicker than waterí thing? What is it?
MJ: Family is everything. Itís love. Itís what we were taught. Weíre friends at the end of the day, which is important. Other than what the public or press people say, weíre friends. We love each other very much.
GR: So, is the family closely knit, despite all the tabloid stuff?
MJ: Thatís sensationalism.
GR: How do you deal with that?
MJ: How do I deal with sensationalism?
GR: Yeah. How do you deal with everything in your life being magnified, exaggerated, almost to a grotesque level.
MJ: Itís like looking at a fictitious movie. Because its fiction. Itís like watching science fiction. Itís not true. And I know myself and itís sad when people have to read those things and they believe it.
GR: Do you feel like holding a press conference every week and saying, this is the rumor du jour, itís not true
MJ: I know eventually, the truth will prevail and Iím about truth.
GR: Iíve researched it and I canít find anyone who has been more frivolously sued than you for the most outrageous reasons. One of your attorneys told me that a woman called Billie Jean Jackson called and said, ĎStop accepting any paychecks, Mr. Attorney, Iím the wife - Billie JeanÖí obviously from your hit song, I mean, how do youÖ First of all, how does it affect you?
MJ: Does it affect me? Yes, but Iíve become immune in a way too, I have rhinoceros skin but at the same time Iím human. So, anything can hurt like that, but Iím very strong. And, I just donít like people hearing about such false information.
GR: For instance, did you father quadruplets last year?
MJ: That was a crazy rumor.
GR: Then they became twins. I donít know what happened to the other two, maybe they were abducted by aliens.
MJ: I heard about that story and I donít have any twins. They said Iím hiding them or something? Another made up rumor.
GR: So itís completely false.
MJ: The bigger the star, the bigger the target. Iím not trying to say Iím the super-duper star, Iím not saying that. Iím saying the fact that people come at celebrities, weíre targets. But truth always prevails. I believe in that. I believe in God, you know?
GR: Does that faith sustain you?
MJ: Of course, it does.
GR: How about friendship?
MJ: What about friendship?
GR: Do you rely on friends? Have people stayed with you through thick and thin? Who are your best friends?
MJ: My children, my family, my brothers and my sisters and yeah, most people have. Most people have.
GR: Do you want to mention the names of the true blue?
MJ: The faithful, you wouldnít know them so, itís uhÖ
GR: Elizabeth Taylor?
MJ: Oh, sheís very loyal, I see Elizabeth Taylor all the time. Sheís my dear friend, I was just at her house. We have wonderful talks on the phone at night, several times a week sometimesÖ
GR: So how long have you two been friends?
MJ: Iíve known Elizabeth closely since I was 16Ö
GR: And youíve been making music since youíre five
GR: So youíre in your fifth decade of making music. Thatís forty-one years of making music.
GR: You ever get sick of it?
MJ: No, no, not at all I never get enough of it (music).
GR: Do you ever get sick of Randy?
GR: Heís here, ladies and gentlemen.
MJ: Never, never, never Heís (Randy) wonderful. Heís been amazing, supportive, and amazingly brilliant.
GR: So, theyíre all different. Your whole family is crazy, exocentricÖ like my family.
MJ: Every brother, sister is completely different, like any family, you have all the different elementsÖ thatís what makes it a family.
GR: When you have such intense scrutiny, how do you live any kind of a normal life? How do you have any kind of fun outside of your own property?
MJ: I donít. I go off property sometimes, but not all the time. I create my world behind the gates you know because I canít go to the local movie theater down the street or the local park down the street or go pickup ice cream at the market, at the corner store. So, you want to create that world behind the gates and thatís what I try and do. And itís not just for me if I could share with my family, friends, or whoever I do.
GR: And that necessity for some privacy, drives all these crazy rumors and speculations. A difficult balancing act that you have to endure.
GR: But youíre not complaining are you? I donít. I try to rub it off. I donít know what Iím the king ofÖ the king of getting shot at maybe. Ha ha ha ha.
MJ: ďThe king of journalism.Ē
GR: So, what is it about children in distress? You mentioned the Tsunami relief effort. What is it? Is it your own fatherhood that motivates that?
MJ: Caring. And reading the Bible, learning about God, Jesus, Love. He said, Ďbring on the childrení, Ďimitate the childrení, Ďbe like the childrení and Ďtake care of others.í Take care of old people. And we were raised with those values. Those are very important values and my family and I we were raised with those values and they continue strong in us today.
GR: What about movies for yourself again? You had The Wiz and some of the others but we havenít seen you on the big screen in a while.
MJ: Iíll be directing myself. I love directing. I love creativity and I think when an artist steps forward with a production of some type, if he can express himself the way he sees it should be done. I feel it and I see it. Iím a visionary. If I can give that, I do and thatís what I love to do with music and dance and the arts.
GR: And do you think art has a role in real life? Specifically referring to this record and Tsunami relief?
MJ: I saw it the day after Christmas and as the numbers kept escalating, it just became phenomenal and not even I could believe that it was true. I was amazed. I said, I thought I should do something. Thatís what God gave us talent for. To give and to help people and to give back. So, my brothers and I decided to put a song togetherÖ
GR: What did you pick up the phone and say, ďhey bros?Ē What did you say?
MJ: We just say, hey, we want to do something in the studio for the Tsunami victims. Letís get together and organize it. And they just said great.
GR: However, youíre back, I think that people will appreciate the fact that youíre back. Wouldnít you kind of exalt in a world where you could concentrate on your art and your kids?
MJ: I would love it. I mean thatís what drives me. The medium. The art. Thatís the world Iím most comfortable in.Ē
GR: In Gary, Indiana, did you ever expect where your world would be as a 46 year old man?
MJ: I never thought about it. I knew I wanted to do something wonderful all of my life and to help people and I never clearly really thought about it when I was really little. I just sang and danced and didnít understand whey people were applauding and clapping and screaming. You really donít. You donít know whyÖ
GR: When you grow up like that on stage, when do you get it? When do you understand where you fit in to society?
MJ: It takes longer when you get older. You get a more rounded personality and your brain starts to grow. You start reasoning and understanding more things, researching.
GR: Isnít it nice to have a conversation on television where people can just hear you being ordinary, normal, reasonable.
MJ: Iím like this all the time. Iím just being myself.
GR: At a certain point, Michael Jackson and the brothers Jackson kind of separated artistically, is this a moment in your life where youíre coming back together? Obviously youíll continue your solo career, but whatís the big plan, whatís the big picture at this stage in your life? What has been left unachieved? What would you like to do?
MJ: There are a lot of surprises. Film. I love film. Itís innovating, taking the medium to a new place. I used the music video medium as a short film medium to take me to the next level. Iím having a lot of fun.
GR: Do you ever look back and contemplate, oh my goodness, Thriller is the biggest selling musical performance ever, do you ever get your arms around that?
MJ: I try not to think about it too hard because I donít want my subconscious mind to think Iíve done it all, youíre done now. Thatís why I donít put awards or trophies in my house. You wonít find a gold record anywhere in my house. Because it makes you feel youíve accomplished. Look what Iíve done. But I always want to feel, no I havenít done it yet.
GR: ĎThe King of Popí and now I look at some of these performers- thereís a new one - thereís 50 cent and another one- I forget his name, but theyíre well-known because they survived violent attacks where they almost died and theyíre into hip hop kind of - itís a different era in popular music- do you think youíll be more like them- more urban kind of- or will the world come back to more pop and traditional rock?
MJ: Great music & great melodies are immortal. Culture changes, fashion change, customs, great music is immortal. We still listen to Mozart today, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, any of them, any of the greats. Great music is like a great piece of sculpture, a great painting. Itís forever. Thatís a fact.
GR: On the other hand, I interviewed Barbara Streisand at one pivotal point in her career, she was going to do duets with the BeeGees and other popular artists- she kind of changed the tempo to surprise people.
MJ: Iíve done a lot of it alreadyÖ I donít really rap, but I couldÖ Iíve written songs with rap versus in them for very famous rappers, but theyíre much better at it than I am.
GR: Donít you appreciate, despite your isolated life and despite the fact youíve been a star so long, you still have what appears to be a very passionate and profound relationship with the community. Does that support you? Does that sustain you? Do you agree with me?
MJ: Yes, I do agree, because itís important to love your neighborsÖ
GR: But were does it come fromÖ where does that almost instinctive love of you come from?
MJ: I truly think it comes from my mother and God (instinctive love) The way we were raised. The values my father instilled in us in youth. She was always with the Bible teaching us - weíd go to service all the time. Four times a week and Iím so glad we did that because those are values that are very important. I donít know if I could have done as well without them.
GR: Do you still spend time with mom and dad? Theyíre not far from here right now? And what is that relationship all about? Iím so close to my mom, obviously.
MJ: Itís wonderful. At this stage, you tend to appreciate more who your parents are more and what theyíve done for you. You start to retrack where you are in your life and all the wonderful things theyíve instilled in you. You start to see them come forth. Iím starting to see a lot of things. Traits that my father influenced me on and my mother.
GR: My friend Cheech, who you know, whose partner Tommy Chong helped discover you guys, ĎBobby Taylor and The Vancouversí, he says that as he gets older, he looks at his fatherís face in the mirror. Do you feel that? Are you becoming like your dad?
MJ: Iím very much like my father in a lot of ways. Heís very strong. Heís a warrior. Heís always taught us to be courageous and to be confident and to believe in our ideals. And no matter what, no star is too far to reach and you never give up. And our mother taught us that as well.
GR: So youíre a warrior also?
GR: Thatís the way you see yourself?
GR: Tell us more about the way you see yourself?
MJ: I try to be kind and generous and to give to people and to do what I think God wants me to do. Sometimes I pray and say ďwhere do you want me to go next, God? What do you want me to do from here?Ē Iíve always been very spiritual in that way. Itís nothing new.
GR: Did you ever see the movie ďFinding NeverlandĒ or read about J. M. Barrie, the man who wrote ďPeter Pan.Ē
MJ: I know a lot about Mr. Barrie and Iíve been a fan for many, many, many years.
GR: You know, he had a rocky road, similar to you, I donít want to get too far into it. Tell us what led to the creation of Neverland. I mean, specifically the place Ė There are 2 Neverlands, thereís 3. Thereís Peter Panís Neverland, thereís the Neverland in Michael Jacksonís mind and then thereís the physical place you created up there where I visited you when you brought up all the inner-city children. Why did you create that place?
MJ: I created Neverland as a home for myself and my children and it was created simply, it was almost like it was done subconsciously, like I said earlier, where can I go? I mean, itís hard. Iíve tried to go out as myself and Iíve had policemen tell me, ďput on a disguise! And give me an autograph for my wife!Ē They tell me, ďwhy are you out here with no security?Ē I canít do it. I do it sometimes, but itís very difficult.
GR: But you owned Neverland before you had the kids, was it for you? The exotic animals, were they for Michael Jackson?
MJ: For me and sharing with others. It gave me a chance to do what I couldnít do when I was little. We couldnít go to movie theaters. We couldnít go to Disneyland. We couldnít do all those fun things. We were on tour. We were working hard. And we did enjoy it. But this allowed me to have a place behind the gates where the entire world I love is there.
GR: You create, like Barrie, this imaginative world, do you ever outgrow something like that Michael? Do you ever think this is silly to have the llamas and the choo-choo trains and the rides?
MJ: Itís calling God silly if you do that, because God made all things great and small. Other men have their Ferraris and their airplanes or helicopters or wherever they find their bliss. My bliss is in giving and sharing and having simple innocent fun.
GR: Your homes. For all the grandeur of Neverland. Your home is quite modest. And your personal style. I donít see any bling for instance. How come you donít have the big diamond thing that says Michael?
MJ: Iím modest in that way. If I had it on, I would probably give it away to the first kid to say, Ďwow, I like your necklace.í When I was growing up, stars like Sammy Davis, Fred Astaire, Gene KellyÖ if I admired something they were wearing, If I simply said, ĎI love that shirt youíre wearing,í they would give it to me. Itís a show business trait. Hand it over.
GR: Despite the glare of the media attention and even the day that I was there and you invited the inner-city kids there, whatís it like to have the kids there? Why do you do that? I wanted to ask you that question that day but I pose it to you know.
MJ: Iíve traveled the world over 8 times. I do as many hospitals and orphanages as I do concerts. But, of course, itís not covered (by the press). Thatís not why I do it, for coverage. I do it because itís from my heart. And there are so many children in the city who havenít seen the mountains, who havenít been on a carousel, who havenít pet a horse or a llama, never seen them, so if I can open my gates and see that bliss, an explosion of screaming laughter from the children and they run on the rides, I say ďThank you, God.Ē I feel Iíve won Godís smile of approval, because Iím doing something that brings joy and happiness to other people.
GR: So, youíre close to your siblings? How does it affect you when they get involved - like Janetís superbowl flap? Just tell me how you responded as a brother and a viewer?
MJ: Oh, I canít speak for my sister. With love. Actually, I was looking right at it and I didnít see it. I was at a friend of mineís house, Ron Burkle and in a movie theater, it was huge on the screen and I didnít even see it. I heard all this controversy the next day and I said, ďThatís not true.Ē I didnít even see it.
GR: Do you think the controversy was overblown? Do you think itís a Jackson related phenomena or is it a testament to our times socially in this country?
MJ: Thatís an interesting hypothesis too. Itís both. Itís hard to answer. Iíd rather not answer that one.
GR: Did you call her and say Ďdonít sweat the small stuff?í
MJ: Something like that. ĎBe strong. This too shall pass.í ĎDonít worry about it.í Iíve seen worse things. I said, ďJanet, youíre too young to remember but, I once watched the Oscars with David Niven on it and a naked man came running out, streaking. Now, he didnít get there on his own. That was organized and nobody - they didnít say much about that.Ē Iíll just say that much. That was live, around the world. The next day it was a joke.
GR: I think there is a Jackson component. I think the thing was exaggerated. I think the Jackson thing was part of the reason.
MJ: Thank you.
GR: So as you go forward in this record, what are we going to expect? Are we going to hear this on the radio and then people are going to send in their money and itís going to go to these kids in the Indian Ocean region?
MJ: I would like that very much.
GR: Now tell me, how that act of largesse, that compassion, will make you feel? Sometimes, I think, I feel better giving than receiving in my life, explain the mechanics of that in your own life.
MJ: Itís just the idea. I donít know if its the psychology of it or what. I just love working hard on something. Putting it together. Sweating over it and then sharing it with people and then having them love it and I always pray that they like it. Thatís what gives me great satisfaction as an artist.
GR: Does it frustrate you professionally or personally when people say that this Jackson project flopped or that happened. Your ĎNumber Onesí compilation for instance, 7 and a half million copies sold. Now I think thatís quadruple platinum or whatever it is you label it. And yet the characterization by some in the music business at least is that youíre not- you know, that it wasnít a hit.
MJ: I donít know which project youíre talking aboutÖ because of negative news. Sensationalism seems to sell more than wonderful, positive news. People would rather hear gossip. My last 8 albums have all entered the charts at number 1, so people like to sensationalize things and make up stories and rumors and sometimesÖ
GR: Does it hurt your feelings? Do you want to scream out and say, ďHey wait a minute, check the numbers!Ē
MJ: Itís a commonality in mankind that I donít like. That part of it, but then thereís a beautiful side to mankind too, isnít there?
GR: But not to Eminem. Weíve spoken about it. I think that you should. Why not?
MJ: And whatís your question?
GR: Stevie Wonder said that he was piling on and how really rude it was for someone who made his money from the community to Ďdiss the community in a sense in a racist and, Iíve said it, very bold faced, bigoted presentation. Tell us how that hurt you and how youíre feeling about it now.
MJ: Iíve never met Mr. Eminem, and Iíve always admired him and to have him do something like that was pretty painful as an artist to another artist and itís sad because I think what Stevie Wonder said is true, I just donít want to say too much more than that. He (Eminem) should be ashamed of himself what heís doing. Stevie said heís bulls***. He used the word. Thatís what he said. Iím not saying it, Stevie said it. Stevieís amazing. Heís one of the sweetest men in the world.
GR: Stevie did and he is bulls***. So, when Stevie said that, did you feel a tremendous sense of reassurance, of brotherly love, there?
MJ: I love Stevie Wonder. To me, heís a musical prophet. Iíll always love him. A lot of people respect Stevie and heís a very strong entity in this medium, in this business and when he speaks, people listen and it was wrong of Eminem to do what he did. Iíve been an artist most of my life and Iíve never attacked a fellow artist. great artists donít do that. You donít have to do that.
GR: I mentioned Janetís fiasco and the exaggerated response to it. Once again do you think he only did it because he knew he could get away with it because youíre Michael Jackson?
MJ: Yeah, but it doesnít hurt. Itís silly. Itís kind of elementary. I hope heís having funÖ
GR: Like a poo-poo joke. It still hurts your feelings and you donít want your kids to see it.
MJ: Oh god, I would hate it if they saw it. I would hate thatĒ
GR: Finally, weíve studiously avoided the case and not talked at all about the case thatís pending. Youíre under this gag order. I know that you have received permission from the judge to read a statement. I hate to end an interview that way, but if youíd like to read that statement now, I think itís important.
MJ: IN THE LAST TWO WEEKS, A LARGE AMOUNT OF UGLY, MALICIOUS INFORMATION HAS BEEN RELEASED INTO THE MEDIA ABOUT ME. APPARENTLY, THIS INFORMATION WAS LEAKED THROUGH TRANSCRIPTS IN A GRAND JURY PROCEEDING WHERE NEITHER MY LAWYERS NOR I EVER APPEARED. THE INFORMATION IS DISGUSTING AND FALSE.
YEARS AGO, I ALLOWED A FAMILY TO VISIT AND SPEND TIME AT NEVERLAND. NEVERLAND IS MY HOME. I ALLOWED THIS FAMILY INTO MY HOME BECAUSE THEY TOLD ME THEIR SON WAS ILL WITH CANCER AND NEEDED MY HELP.
THROUGH THE YEARS, I HAVE HELPED THOUSANDS OF CHILDREN WHO WERE ILL OR IN DISTRESS.
THESE EVENTS HAVE CAUSED A NIGHTMARE FOR MY FAMILY, MY CHILDREN AND ME. I NEVER INTEND TO PLACE MYSELF IN SO VULNERABLE A POSITION AGAIN.
I LOVE MY COMMUNITY AND I HAVE GREAT FAITH IN OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM. PLEASE KEEP AN OPEN MIND AND LET ME HAVE MY DAY IN COURT. I DESERVE A FAIR TRIAL LIKE EVERY OTHER AMERICAN CITIZEN. I WILL BE ACQUITTED AND VINDICATED WHEN THE TRUTH IS TOLD.
GR: Michael is there anything else you would like to say?
MJ: Yes. I would just like for the public to keep my family and myself in their prayers. That would be very nice. Thank you, Geraldo.