| picture Imperfect: Michael Jackson (Reuters)
London, Feb. 3 (Reuters): Michael Jackson is a “disturbing individual” with a love of multi-million-pound shopping sprees and a desire to live forever, according to a journalist granted unrivalled access to the pop star.
Martin Bashir, who spent eight months making a documentary on the normally reclusive singer, said 44-year-old Jackson truly is the Peter Pan of pop who is obsessed by the idea of childhood being frozen in time.
Plastic surgery, child abuse allegations and his father’s cruelty all feature in a warts-and-all British television documentary being aired in the UK this evening.
The ITV programme is the result of the unprecedented access Jackson granted Bashir, famed for a historic interview with the late Princess Diana in which she confessed to being unfaithful to Prince Charles.
Bashir revealed snippets from it over the weekend in an article for the Sunday Times newspaper, while the television company — which is expected to sell the show worldwide — is guarding the secrets ahead of today’s screening.
Jackson, said Bashir, thinks nothing of spending a fortune on shopping sprees and is surrounded by an entourage who would never dream of telling him that to dangle his baby from a hotel balcony is ludicrous and dangerous.
He went with Jackson on a shopping trip to Las Vegas in which the star spent $6 million without once glancing at any price tags. “It was more like a multinational corporation buying furniture for all its worldwide premises,” Bashir said. “He is a disturbing individual whose financial power enables him to do what he wants.”
The singer’s Neverland ranch “is populated by more statues of Peter Pan than people. Jackson is obsessed by the notion of frozen childhood”, he wrote.
Bashir paints a portrait of a superstar cocooned from reality since childhood. “How many 12-year-olds receive royalty cheques of $200,000'” Bashir asked.
He arrived at Jackson’s Berlin hotel last November just 30 minutes after he had dangled his youngest child from the balcony to show fans below. “Not one of his entourage was prepared to tell him that what he had done was ludicrous and dangerous,” Bashir said.
Jackson spoke openly of his childhood in the Jackson Five and told how his father would choreograph the brothers. “He practised us with a belt in his hand,” Jackson told Bashir. “I remember hearing my mother scream ‘Joe, you gonna kill him, you’re gonna kill him’.” Jackson was seven years old at the time.
But Jackson was far more reticent when Bashir raised the issue of plastic surgery, asking about rumours that he had implants in his cheeks, a dimple put in his chin, his lips enlarged and his nose re-constructed. Each time, Jackson’s response was the same: “Oh please...” Then he exclaimed: “It’s stupid.”
At the height of his fame, Jackson was accused in 1993 by one of his young friends of sexual abuse, although no charges were ever laid. In May the following year he married Lisa Marie Presley, in what was widely interpreted as an attempt to rebuild his image but the union collapsed 19 months later. Bashir asks Jackson about the allegations and writes: “Our relationship almost collapsed at this point.”
“He hangs all his being on the fact that... he has never been found guilty of any form of child abuse.”
Jackson even confessed that he did not want to be buried, telling Bashir: “I would like to live forever.”