He lived his own childhood in the spotlight. Fame was all he ever knew. But Michael Jackson obsessively tried to keep his own children out of the public eye. They were home-schooled, and when they did go out, they appeared in public wearing a variety of custom masks and veils.
At the memorial service for the "King of Pop" held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on July 7, it came as a shock to see the three children sitting with the rest of the family, their faces seen by millions of television viewers around the world. This was the first time most people had ever seen them.
"Ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you can ever imagine," Jackson's 11-year-old daughter Paris said, after being pushed to the microphone by her aunt Janet Jackson. "And I just wanted to say I love him so much." Paris broke down crying as she said these words, and the television cameras went in for a close-up.
That ended the memorial service, and it was a touching moment that was replayed on every television channel and most Internet news sites. This was the moment that helped the Michael Jackson legacy the most. Paris put a human face on the the man who had so much plastic surgery he looked less human than his figure at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum.
Michael Jackson's other two children, 12-year-old Prince Michael and 7-year-old Prince Michael II, nicknamed "Blanket", were also mask-free and seen by millions of television viewers at the memorial service. Pictures of the the three Jackson children have popped up all over the Internet, and they are now the most recognizable siblings in the world, surpassing the Jonas Brothers.
According to Monday's edition of the English tabloid The Sun, Michael's father Joe Jackson is now making plans for the three children to go on a world tour next summer as "The Jackson 3". The story has been picked up by most of the major news outlets, but it does strain credibility. On the other hand, a few days after Michael's death, Joe Jackson was smiling and waving to the crowds outside his Encino estate as he plugged his new record label. He was seeing dollar signs. It was thought at the time that he was going to capitalize on his son's music. Now, the former manager of The Jackson 5 is eyeing his grandkids as a source of income.
Jackson biographer Ian Halperin said to the Sun, "One of the family members is livid. He is saying Joe seems intent to do this no matter what. He wants to exploit the kids the same way he did Michael."
Sister La Toya Jackson spoke of the "constant threat of violence" that Joe Jackson imposed on his children. Michael himself often spoke in interviews about how he was beaten by his father. He has also said that his father was responsible for making him the superstar that he became, and he wouldn't trade it for a different life.
Dr. Michael Baden, a noted pathologist and Fox News contributor, called Jackson's tragic end "death by entourage." This was immediately after his death, and before the drug allegations were being widely covered.
Now La Toya is calling her brother's death a "murder". She is blaming his "entourage," who she claims was after his money. She told England's The Daily Mail: "I believe Michael was murdered, I felt that from the start. Not just one person was involved, rather it was a conspiracy of people."
Dr. Baden not only gives La Toya's paranoia credibility, but Jackson family friend and attorney Brian Oxman also had been warning for years about Michael Jackson's "enablers," the doctors, acquaintances, and hangers-on who helped keep him supplied with drugs.
La Toya went on to say that at the time of his death, Michael was "the loneliest person in the world," with no real friends. It's obvious he wanted something different for his kids. The Associated Press reported that even Michael Jackson knew the masks and veils would have to come off one day. But he wanted them to live a normal life.
I'll bet the kids won't be going on tour to support Grandpa Joe. But with the media now circling like vultures, have the three Jackson kids been robbed of their childhoods the same as their famous father? Would he have wanted them paraded out into public view as they were at his memorial?
Michael Jackson lived in the middle of a media circus his whole life. He owed it all to his father Joe. For the sake of the kids, keep Joe Jackson away.