Michael Jackson TV Guide interview - 2001
This television special celebrates your long career, do you remember your 1st time onstage?
MJ: I was 5 years old and it was at a public school recital, we had to get white shirts and short knickers. And I remember them saying: “Little Michael Jackson is coming up to sing ‘Climb Every Mountain’”. I got the biggest applause, when I went to my seat my grandfather and mother were crying, that’s the first one I remember.
What does it feel like when you’re dancing on stage?
MJ: I am a slave to the rhythm, I’m a palette, I just go with the moment. You’ve got to do it that way because if you’re thinking, you’re dead. Performing is not about thinking; it’s about feeling.
Do you plan the dance steps?
MJ: Certain steps are set with my brothers, but when I’m alone, it’s all improvised. Nothing is planned, ever. All the dance schools now teach kids to count and that’s completely wrong.
What do you think about current pop groups like N’Sync, are they imitating you?
MJ: I think they’re very good singers, I know them very well and we hang out every once in a while and laugh and play, I have no problem with them imitating [me]. It’s a compliment. Everybody has to start out looking up to someone. For me it was James Brown, Sammy Davis Jr., Jackie Wilson, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly.
The special features an appearance by Marlon Brando, how did he get involved?
MJ: He’s a good friend of mine, I’ve known him for about 20 years. He comes to my house all the time, he love sot play with the kids, I play with his grandchildren and we love to watch movies.
Who else do you spend time with?
MJ: Elizabeth Taylor, Gregory Peck, these are very close friends of mine, either they’re much older than me or much younger. I’ve never had real contact with a person my age level.
Was that true at your post concert party at the Tavern on the Green restaurant?
MJ: It was worse then- I couldn’t breathe because everybody was crowding around.
And you fainted?
MJ: That’s a rumor, it was sensationalism. The press ma de it up as usual, they love doing that to me. I didn’t faint, not even close… [Gently to Paris who is skipping around the coffee table] Paris, you can’t make noise. You can’t- no, don’t bump the table. The reporters are tape recording.
What is the message of Unbreakable?
MJ: That i’m invincible, that I’ve been through it all. You can’t hurt me. Knock me down, I get back up. [To Prince, who begins to bang his Snapple lemonade on the coffee table] See the noise you’re making? You’ve got to be nice and quiet.
Liza Minelli also sang at your tribute concerts. You too seem very close.
MJ: I speak to Lisa every week. We come from the same planet, like Elizabeth does.
What planet is that?
MJ: It’s called capricious anomaly in the sea of space [laughs] Gee, I can’t name it. But this is true and this is not to be taken lightly: People who grew up as child stars have the same thing in common. You’re cute; they love you; you go through the awkward stage, they don’t accept you anymore. Very few make the transition to adult star and most of them become self-destructive, it’s very sad.
How did you avoid self destruction?
MJ: I think religion entered in.
Are you still a Jehova’s Witness?
MJ: Yeah, I’ve done what we call pioneering. We do 90 hours a month, I don’t do as much now because I’m busy. You go door to door. I wear a fat suit, pop-bottle glasses, mustache, buck teeth, and like an afro wig.
People call you “Wacko Jacko”
MJ: But that’s not nice, they do that because they’re jealous. I haven’t done anything, I go to hospitals and orphanages. And we take huge bags of toys, I spend thousand of dollars, what’s so wacko about that?
Do you watch TV?
MJ: I love PBS, the Discovery Channel, The Simpsons, Sesame Street, I could watch it for hours. But my favorite show is Malcolm In The Middle. It reminds me so much of my brothers and me when we were little.
Which character do you relate to?
MJ: Malcolm. Mainly because he tries to fit into society and he doesn’t - like E.T or Bambi, he can’t adjust to other people’s concepts and I feel like that a lot of times. Once i’m offstage I feel awkward, like this is not where i’m supposed to be.
Which one of your kids are most like you?
MJ: Both, but in different ways. Prince likes to tease, to the point where you want to pull his hair. I always used to tease my sisters all the time. And Paris is the tough one.
With the state of the world right now, you must be concerned for the kids. You were in New York when the terrorists attacked right?
MJ: Yeah, I got a call from overseas that said America’s being attacked. I said ‘What are you talking about?’, they said ‘Turn on the news’. And I couldn’t believe what I saw. And I screamed down the hallway, “Everybody quick, get up, we’ve got to go” and everybody got dressed and we got in the car and drove out.
I was sick over the notoriety of the attacks. I don’t know if they played it too many times, but we went from fear to hate to anger to vengeance.
Do your kids travel with you everywhere?
MJ: Everywhere I go.
How’s the relationship with your father?
MJ: Much better now, he’s a much nicer person now. He’s mellowed out a lot since he’s had grandchildren.
What did your dad think of the concert special?
MJ: He was at the show. But my father, if he feels you did a good show, he’ll just go ‘good show’, he won’t say ‘oh you did wonderful!’ I don’t think he knows how to show affection. [Michael looks at Prince, who is crawling around the room with a rubber ball stuck on his nose, chattering and poking certain reporters on the cheek] [Sweetly] Prince, shhh! You promised me you’d be quiet remember?
Michael Jackson as a father. It is an image we never see. Are you a good father?
MJ: I try my hardest. I try to bring them a lot of fun. Once a year I dress up like a clown, with the whole gear - the nose, the paint, and I give them candy and cookies.
Prince: [smiling] And ice cream
MJ: And ice cream!