Michael Jackson's Mother and Children Share Memories
The Jacksons—mother Katherine, father Joe and their children, Rebbie, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, La Toya, Marlon, Michael, Randy and Janet—lived in that four-room house until the early '70s, shortly after the five oldest sons formed a singing group called the Jackson 5. Under father Joe's strict management, the Jackson entertainment empire was born.
While with the Jackson 5, Michael, the group's rising star, began his solo career and released his LP Thriller in 1982—to date, the best-selling album of all time. He became known around the world as the King of Pop and, despite his tragic death in June 2009, is still recognized by the Guinness World Records as the most successful entertainer of all time.
After the Jackson family became a household name, they packed up and moved into a new, 2-acre estate in Encino, California, which has been their home since 1971. Today, 10 members of the Jackson family live in the home, known as Hayvenhurst, including Michael Jackson's mother and his three children, Prince Michael, Paris and Prince Michael II, who goes by the nickname Blanket.
These memories are the subject of Katherine's new book, Never Can Say Goodbye, a tribute to Michael that includes personal stories and never before-seen photographs from his life. Oprah asks Katherine why she wanted to share these stories with the world.
"I wanted to do it for his fans and for the people that misunderstood him," Katherine says.
"Do you think he was misunderstood?" Oprah asks.
"Yes," Katherine says. "I do."
"I think of my son all through the day, all the time, and I don't like to talk about him because I get all choked up," Katherine says.
She pauses and continues, "A baby in my arms, naming him with my mother. ... That comes to my mind every day. ... And sometimes during the day, I can hear his laughter in my mind."
It's something Michael would say to Katherine all the time, she says, but she wasn't able to convince him otherwise. Then, one day, Michael decided to do something about it. "He made up his mind, and he just left [the house]," Katherine says. "And when I inquired about where he was, [he said] he had gone down to get his nose done."
That surgery sparked a series of surgeries that seemed to transform Michael right before his fans' eyes. His nose got smaller and smaller—"like a toothpick," Katherine says.
Katherine says she tried talking to her son about putting an end to the surgeries, but she believes he became addicted and could not stop himself. So, Katherine says she reached out to his plastic surgeon.
"I said [to Michael's plastic surgeon]: 'If he comes there and wants you to work on his nose, just tell him you did it and do the same thing. Don't change it, and just tell him, 'Okay, I've finished,' and that's it,'" Katherine says.
"But they didn't listen to you," Oprah says.
"No," Katherine says. "They should have."
"He called me after he had married her," Katherine says. "He said, 'I'm going to put her on the phone,' and he put her on the phone. I said, 'That's not [Lisa Marie].'"
"Had you met her before?" Oprah asks.
"No, I hadn't met her before," Katherine says.
Despite how quickly the relationship progressed, one thing Lisa Marie knew early on is how much Michael loved his mother, even telling Oprah that his love for Katherine was unconditional and there was nothing he wouldn't do for her.
"Did you feel that?" Oprah asks Katherine.
"Yes, I did," she says. "And everybody I talked to that knew him would tell me the same thing. I felt it too. I truly loved him."
Then, she got a call from the hospital, confirming that it was Michael who had been taken away in an ambulance.
Unsure whether he was alive or dead, Katherine arrived at the hospital and waited to learn about her son's condition. "We stayed in there a long time before [the doctor] came in to tell us," she says. "I guess he didn't want to either. But the doctor had to tell us—Dr. Murray."
Dr. Conrad Murray was Michael's personal physician. He's been accused of administering lethal levels of propofol, a powerful anesthetic, and was charged with involuntary manslaughter for his role in Michael's death.
"Dr. Murray told you?" Oprah asks.
"Yes," Katherine says. "He came out, and he was talking. It took him so long. And I'd say: 'Well, what's happened? ... Did he make it?' And he said: 'No. He's gone.' That's all I remember."
Michael's three children, Prince, Paris and Blanket, were also at the hospital that night. While Dr. Murray was telling Katherine of Michael's death, someone else told them. "They were crying," Katherine says. "I thought [Paris] was going to pass out. She was just saying: 'Daddy, I can't make it without you. I want to be with you. I want to go with you.' I felt so bad for them."
That same night, the children went home with Katherine and have been living with her ever since.
Katherine says she was shocked. She knew Michael had trouble sleeping, but she didn't know he may have taken prescription drugs to help him sleep or get through the day. In fact, she says it took her awhile to realize Michael became addicted to painkillers after he suffered severe burns while shooting a Pepsi commercial in 1984.
"Remember when he got burned in the head?" Katherine asks Oprah. "He had been taking those drugs, and it was a long time before I knew he was addicted to them."
When she tried to talk to Michael about his painkiller addiction, Katherine says he denied it. "I was very serious about it," she says. "I was telling him I didn't want to hear one day that he had overdosed, because it would break my heart. But he kept saying he wasn't on anything."
"You didn't believe him," Oprah says.
"No," Katherine says. "I didn't."
"He loved children," she says. "Michael would always say: 'Mother, why are they accusing me of something I love the most? I'd rather slit my own wrists than to hurt a child.'"
The trial seemed to take its toll on Michael, his mother says, changing who he was as a person.
"He used to trust people," Katherine says. "And after that trial, he didn't trust anybody. ... He would always tell me: 'Mother, I don't trust anybody. The only person I trust is you.'"
Katherine also says she did not like it when the children wore veils while out in public with Michael. "I didn't approve of that, but I didn't say anything to him about it," she says. "Then, their biological mother told me it was her idea [to cover them up], not Michael's."
Going from this veiled life to living at their grandmother's with several cousins seems to have been a relatively easy transition for Prince, Paris and Blanket. "They just bonded the minute they got here," Katherine says. "They had a lot of fun."
"She's a wonderful person," Joe says of Katherine. "I think she's too easy with people. She's just like Michael. She's too easy."
Like his wife, Joe says he thinks about Michael every night.
Watch Katherine tell Oprah about the moment she and Joe realized their son was special.
"I just can't picture him gone," Joe says. "Every time I go into some place—a restaurant or a casino or something—his music is playing. ... It brings back memories because I remember the songs. I was at every recording session he ever did."
Watch Joe respond to allegations that he beat his children.
"Do you think [Michael] was afraid of you?" Oprah asks Joe.
"I don't think he was afraid of me," Joe says. "Maybe [he was afraid] of doing something wrong, and I'd chastise him. Not beat him. I never beat him."
"He told me that you beat him," Oprah says.
"[Joe] used a strap," Katherine says.
Joe says the way he disciplined his children has kept them out of trouble and out of jail. "Nine kids, never been in jail," he says.
"Do you regret those strappings on your children?" Oprah asks.
"No, because it kept them all out of jail," Joe says. "I raised them right, and they were good kids all the way."
Now that they live with their grandma, Michael's children are adjusting to a new "normal." Until this year, Prince and Paris were home-schooled, and despite some first-day jitters, they say the transition into the classroom has gone well. Blanket, the youngest and shiest of Michael's children, is still home-schooled.
"You all lived, from what I can gather, a very sheltered, literally veiled life," Oprah says to the children. "Did you know at the time why you were putting on the mask?
Prince answers: "Because then if we went out without our dad, nobody would really recognize us."
See what else the Jackson children have to say about wearing veils in public.
"Did you appreciate being behind the veil or mask at the time?" Oprah asks.
"I appreciated it," Paris says.
Watch Paris and Prince describe Michael as a father.
Paris' favorite memories of her father are when the two of them spent quality time together. "One time, we went on the roof [of our house] when we were in Las Vegas, and we just saw the Luxor lights," Paris says. "And sometimes, he would take me to an art museum because we both loved art."
Without hesitation, Prince shares his fondest memory of his father. "We were in Bahrain. We used to wake up early and walk the beach—with Coca-Cola and Skittles or Snickers," he says.
Whether he was cooking breakfast for his kids—"He was a great cook!" Paris says—or protecting them from media scrutiny, Michael left his children with a wealth of happy memories and cherished moments.
"He was just a normal dad," Paris says. "Except for he was, I would say, the best dad ever."
More on Michael Jackson:
- Quiz: See how well you know Michael's most famous songs
- Lisa Marie Presley opens up about her marriage to Michael
- Meet Michael Jackson's "second family"
- Inside Katherine Jackson's book, Never Can Say Goodbye