Jackson with Lisa Marie Presley at an MTV awards ceremony in New York. From their very first date, at a dinner party staged by a mutual friend, the pair hit it off
Michael Jackson’s personal maid dashed into his bedroom in the superstar’s mock-Tudor mansion at Neverland, his ranch-cum-children’s fairground, and frantically snatched up the sheets, pillows, bedspreads, towels and dirty clothes – anything that might implicate him.
As stacks of magazines and pictures were thrown into crates, one of the staff held up a photograph and asked: ‘Is that Macaulay Culkin in his underwear?’ It was.The picture of the 13-year-old star of Home Alone was boxed, along with a lot of others of children similarly dressed down.
The maid heard a colleague mutter: ‘This guy is nuts, isn’t he?’ The maid herself ‘felt bad about the whole thing’ – and soon the whole world would, too, as the lid came off Michael Jackson’s bizarre private life.
Everyone had known the global superstar was weird. But now, it seemed, he was wicked, too, and in an area he had always claimed to be a total innocent – sex.
Jackson’s sexual proclivities had been a matter of speculation since he was a teenager. Even his mother worried that he rarely went out with girls.
The dynamic sex appeal he generated when performing seemed to desert him in the real world with real people.
No one believed he’d had romances with girls such as Tatum O’Neal or Brooke Shields, no matter how much he insisted he had.
Tatum told a friend: ‘How can any girl have a relationship with him? When we’re together, he’s so shy he hardly says two words.
‘I know he’s a virgin. I wonder if he’s afraid to have sex. He doesn’t seem very interested.’
What he was interested in, however, and was absolutely open about, was his love of children. He made no secret of his feelings.
‘One of my favourite pastimes is being with children,’ he explained. ‘When I’m tired or bored, children revive me.’
He regularly visited sick youngsters. To the world at large, his interest seemed odd, but not necessarily inappropriate. It was part of the way he seemed to shun the world in favour of a fantasy lifestyle.
Mostly, where Michael’s personal life was concerned, people felt a sense of sadness. He was an enigma: perplexing and eccentric, but essentially asexual.Nothing could have been more surprising, therefore, than his marriage to Elvis Presley’s daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, in 1994. From my conversations with both Michael and Lisa, I am convinced this marriage was not a sham. And, according to Lisa herself, Jackson was a wonderful lover. He was, she said, ‘very hot’ in bed.
But the allegations being fired at him by Jordie Chandler and his family were like a bomb going off. ‘Peter Pan or pervert?’ asked a headline in the New York Post.
It was a question that would haunt him for the rest of his life.
He was a contradictory figure. From being the youngest who always had to do what he was told, he had taken a firm control of his career and even sacked his father as his manager.
He was now the adult in charge. But in every other area of his life, instead of growing up he seemed to be regressing: buying toys, playing childlike games and, for the first time, surrounding himself with children.
Young fans who gathered at the gates of the Jackson estate in Encino were invited to spend time with him.
Asked about the possibility of having children of his own, he shook his head. He might adopt, but he would not procreate. ‘I don’t have to bring my own into the world,’ he said uneasily.
Instead, he began to develop friendships with young boys.
The first was with Emmanuel Lewis, a 12-year-old actor, just 3ft 4in tall, whom Michael liked to carry in his arms as if he were a toddler.They played cowboys and indians and rolled on the lawn. He seemed to be trying to live the childhood he believed he had missed because of his career.
Some found nothing wrong in Michael’s behaviour. To his voice coach Seth Riggs, he was just a ‘natural, loving person’ who went gaga over kids.