Michael Jackson and I first met when we were pretty young. At the time, his dad, Joseph Jackson, who managed him, was looking for suitable companions to spend time with his children. As the newly appointed editor of Right On! Magazine, I fit the bill. Our initial meetings were for the purpose of conducting interviews, but based on the instant liking Michael had for me, it developed into so much more. Michael took delight in the fact that I was so shy around him. He felt protective of me, as I was very nervous to be in the company of someone of his stature. He also found comfort and delight in hearing my speaking voice, which is very articulate and carries a strong Midwestern accent. Learning that I, too, came from Indiana, was of great interest to him, as both of us had moved from Indiana to California.
Michael was even more fascinated with me once he learned that I was not familiar with the whole repertoire of Jackson Five music and history. Of course, I knew the basics, who didn’t? But I was not a fan of the Jackson Five like every other African-American female. I preferred pop music back then, and only knew certain information about Michael and his famous family.
At that point Michael then became my teacher. The fact that I didn’t know much about the Jacksons gave him the inclination to school me on the important facts and the history behind the family. In the years that passed, I became absorbed in the culture of R&B music, and immersed myself in articles and television clips. Because I then knew the Jacksons, I became known as someone who was extremely knowledgeable about the group and their significance in music. At the permission of Joe Jackson I began spending countless hours with Michael and his family. Usually I visited on the weekends in between staying on the set of Soul Train. I had passed the test with Joe Jackson who wanted to make sure that he was bringing a reputable person into the lives of his children, and I became a trusted friend to all of them.
Let me tell you about how I felt when I drove to the family compound in Encino, California. Visiting the Jacksons was a nerve-wracking experience as it marked the first time that I had ever been around such wealthy, prominent people. I was fascinated by the luxurious lifestyle and admired the clothing, automobiles, and menagerie of pets. Michael, in turn, admired my pedigree as a young journalist who had skipped grades in school, had started writing at age 6 and was granted admission into the Seaver College of Pepperdine University at age 16. There was no file sharing back then, but Michael and I shared whatever knowledge that we could.
As an extremely prominent magazine editor who meshed well with Michael and his family, I often accompanied members of the family to events. I was like an unofficial member of the family and we spent countless hours around the family compound. We often did photo sessions with family members, including their pets. My favorite times were when all of just lounged around the pool talking. Although Janet was somewhat younger than the other family members, she was determined to be included, too.
TO BE CONTINUED
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