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20/20 Interview Barbara Walters with Michael Jackson (Paris, France - 1997)

Barbara Walters: Up until last week the most photographed people in the world were Princess Diana and Michael Jackson. Now only one remains to talk about what it means to live under that kind of scrutiny. Since the allegations of child abuse made against Michael Jackson four years ago, he has been, if possible, even more pursued. By the way, we checked with the District Attorneys in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara and learned that there is no active case against Mr. Jackson today.

Michael Jackson himself is notoriously shy about giving interviews, but on my way home from covering Princess Diana's funeral, I met with him in Paris to discuss the paparazzi and his personal recollections of the Princess.

When it comes to the paparazzi, Michael Jackson says that he feels a bond with Princess Diana. The paparazzi have been a part of his life since he was a small child, the youngest of the Jackson 5. He has been a superstar for 3 decades. At 39, he continues to sing and dance all over the world ... and the paparazzi follow him all over the world. He has been on a European Tour for the last five months playing for over 2 million people. The night Princess Diana died, Michael Jackson canceled his concert, but his last two concerts were dedicated to her. He does not pretend that she was a close friend. She was a fan.

Michael Jackson: I met her first at a ... um [clearing his throat] ... concert ... in London. She was very kind ... very loving ... very sweet.

Barbara Walters: What did you two talk about?

Michael Jackson: I wrote a song called 'Dirty Diana'. It was not about Lady Diana. It was about a certain kind of girls that hang around concerts or clubs ... you know ... they call them groupies.

Barbara Walters: Groupies

Michael Jackson: I've lived with that all my life. These girls ... they do everything with the band ... you know ... everything you could imagine. So I wrote a song called 'Dirty Diana'. But I took it out of the show in honor of her royal highness. She took me away and she said, "Are you going to do 'Dirty Diana?" So, I said, "No, I took it out of the show because of you." She said, "No! I want you to do it ... do it ... do the song."

Barbara Walters: So, she had a sense of humor with you.

Michael Jackson: Yeah, of course. And she told me she was honored to meet me and I said, "It's an honor to meet you."

Barbara Walters: How did you hear of her death?

Michael Jackson: Um ... I woke up [in a very soft, reflective voice] ... and my doctor gave me the news. And I fell back down in grief ... and I started to cry. The pain ... I felt inner pain ... in my stomach ... and in my chest. [Michael's voice begins to break slightly]. So, I said, "I can't ... I cannot handle this ... it's too much" ... just the message ... and the fact that I knew her personally. Then on top of that one ... I said, "There's another one ... real soon ... I feel it coming ... there's another one ... it's another one coming and I pray it's not me ... please don't let it be me ... then Mother Theresa came..."

Barbara Walters: Are you psychic ... is that what you're saying?

Michael Jackson: I don't want to say that, but I've done it before.

Barbara Walters: And you thought it might be you?

Michael Jackson: Yes. [Looking down at his clasped hands] I've been living that kind of life all my life. The tabloid press ... that kind of press.. Not the press ... the tabloids ... the paparazzi ... that type. I've been running for my life like that ... hiding, getting away. You can't go that way cause they're over there ... well let's go this way and pretend we're going that way ... and we'll go that way. Somebody should say, " Hold on! Stop! This person deserves their privacy. You are not allowed to go there!" I go around the world dealing with running and hiding. You can't ... I can't take a walk in the park ... I can't go to the store ... you can't ... I have to hide in the room. You feel like you're in prison.

Barbara Walters: What's been the most intrusive thing? What's the worst?

Michael Jackson: They always have been ... they go as far as to hide things into places. They'll slide a machine up under the toilet ... tch, tch, tch, tch [Michael makes a sound effect like clicking a camera] ... and you go, "Oh, my God!" They've done that.

Barbara Walters: When you came into this hotel, you had to come in ... or you felt you had to come in ... through the kitchen.

Michael Jackson: I've been doing it for years. In many lobbies, I have never seen the front door. Never.

Barbara Walters: Did you ever try to outrace the paparazzi?

Michael Jackson: To outrace them?

Barbara Walters: Yes

Michael Jackson: They follow you. They chase us on their scooters [makes another sound effect like a racing engine - vrrrum, vrrrum].

Barbara Walters: Cutting in front of you?

Michael Jackson: Yes. And I have to say to the driver ... I say, "Slow down." I jump in and I say, "You're gonna kill us." I say, "Slow down." I've done that many times. "You're gonna kill us." So, he jumps out of the car and yells at these people.

Barbara Walters: You know, there is that argument that you rely on publicity to sell your albums ... for your concerts ... that you want it.

Michael Jackson: When I approve of something, yes.

Barbara Walters: But you can't always control the press. You can't approve of everything. You can't invite them in again and again and then, at a certain point, close them out.

Michael Jackson: Yes, you can.

Barbara Walters: Well, how do you do that? What is that line?

Michael Jackson: By doing that. This is their time for this ... and this you should not do. You should not say, "he's an animal ... he's a..." You should not say, "he's Jacko." I'm not a "Jacko." I'm Jackson.

Barbara Walters: How do you feel when they call you ...

Michael Jackson: Yeah ... Wacko Jacko ... where'd that come from? Some English tabloid. I have a heart and I have feelings. I feel that when you do that to me. It's not nice. Don't do it. I'm not a "wacko."

Barbara Walters: There are those who would say that you add to the attention.

Michael Jackson: No, I don't.

Barbara Walters: Well, the masks ... the mysterious behavior.

Michael Jackson: There's ... no, there's no mysterious behavior. There's a time ... when I give a concert ... I like to have as many people who want to come can come and enjoy the show. And there's a time when you'd like to be in private ... when you put on your pajamas and go to sleep ... cut out the light [MJ makes a "chi ching" sound effect, to mimic a light pull switch] ... and you lay down ... that's your private space. You go in the park. I can't go in the park, so, I create my own park at Neverland ... my own water space ... my movie theater ... my theme park ... that's all for me to enjoy.

Barbara Walters: I don't want this to sound insulting. I'm just going to be straight with you. But you are somewhat eccentric to say the least. The way you dress.. The way you look ... it invites attention. The whole appearance as you grew up was ... larger than life ... more extreme. You don't think that calls the paparazzi to you?

Michael Jackson: No [shaking his head] ... no ... maybe I like to live that way ... I like to dress that way. I don't want the paparazzi, really. But, if they come, be kind ... write the right ... kind thing to write.

Barbara Walters: Michael, is it the journalist's role ... or the press's role ... to be kind?

Michael Jackson:To be kind?

Barbara Walters: Because the press also sometimes has to look into things ... be tough. It can't always be kind.

Michael Jackson: [laughing] What you saw ... what happened to Lady Diana ... you tell me. There should be some boundaries ... some kinda way. The star needs some space. Give him a chance to relax. He has a heart ... he's human.

Barbara Walters: You cancelled the concert you were about to do when you heard of Diana's death.

Michael Jackson: Yes

Barbara Walters: And when you finally did a concert, you dedicated your concert to her. What did you say?

Michael Jackson: In my heart, I was saying, "I love you, Diana. Shine. And shine on forever ... because you are the true princess of the people." And in words, I did not say it ... but I said it for three minutes in showing a big picture on all the jumbotron screens ... Sony, big huge screens ... and her picture was there, shining. And the crowd went bananas ... [sound effects of the crowd noises]. I played the song 'Smile' and 'Gone Too Soon.'

Barbara Walters: Give us some of the lyrics, if you can.

Michael Jackson: Shiny and sparkly and splendidly bright ... here one day ... gone one night ... Gone too soon.

[Commercial break]

Barbara Walters: You have said, "I grew up in a fishbowl. I will not allow that to happen to my son." Yet, when your son was born, you sold pictures to the National Enquirer and to other European papers, tabloids. Why did you do that?

Michael Jackson: Why?

Barbara Walters: Why?

Michael Jackson: Because, there was a race. There were some illegal pictures out. Illegally, somebody had taken pictures of a baby ... and millions of dollars ... said, "Here is Michael's son."

Barbara Walters: And it wasn't, as I recall.

Michael Jackson: And it wasn't. So, I took the pictures of the baby. I said, "They're forcing me to get his picture." There are helicopters flying above us ... flying over my house ... flying over the hospital ... um ... machines and satellites all over. Even the hospital said, "Michael, we've had every kind of celebrity here ... but we've never had it like this. This is unbelievable." And, so, I said, "here ... take it." And I gave the money to charity.

Barbara Walters: So, rather than ... in a sense, what you are saying is ... what you did was to get them off your back.

Michael Jackson: Yeah ... and now they want to do it again ... and I don't want ... maybe I don't want to show him to the world like that. I want him to have some space ... where he can go to school. I don't want him to be called "wacko jacko." That's not nice. They call the father that. That isn't nice ... right?

Barbara Walters: You said you don't want your child to be called "wacko jacko's son." [Lowering her eyes, obviously unhappy at having to repeat the hurtful appellation] How are you going to prevent it ... so they don't do it to him?

Michael Jackson: That's the thing ... that's the idea. Maybe you should come up with a plan to help me.

Barbara Walters: You're his daddy.

Michael Jackson: There you go. They created that. Did they ever think that I would have a child one day ... that I have a heart? It's hurting my heart. Why pass it on to him?

Barbara Walters: Do you like being a father?

Michael Jackson: I love it. [No hesitation and a big smile]

Barbara Walters: Are you very involved with him?

Michael Jackson: [laughing] Yes.

Barbara Walters: Do you want more children?

Michael Jackson: Yes [with an embarrassed laugh].

Barbara Walters: You have been in the spotlight since you were a baby yourself.

Michael Jackson: Yes.

Barbara Walters: If your son showed talent ... by the way does he show any talent at nine months?

Michael Jackson: Well, I'll tell you this much ... when he's crying ... to keep him from crying, I have to do one thing.

Barbara Walters: What?

Michael Jackson: I have to stand in front of him ... and dance.

Barbara Walters: Really?

Michael Jackson: Yes. And he stops crying. His tears turn to laughter ... and he's happy [with a clap of his hands], he smiles.

Barbara Walters: And do you do your moonwalk with him?

Michael Jackson: Yeah ... I do all kind of movements [abrupt movements in imitation of his dances] ... [laughs] ...

Barbara Walters: And then he stops crying?

Michael Jackson: And then he stops crying.

Barbara Walters: You must do a lot of dancing.

Michael Jackson: [Laughing louder] I do a lot of dancing, yes.

Barbara Walters: Michael, if this little boy says, "Daddy, I want to go on the stage?"

Michael Jackson: [Laughter as his hand slaps his leg]

Barbara Walters: After what you've been through?

Michael Jackson: I would say, "Hold on, now. Hold on. If you do go that way, expect this ... expect that ... expect this ... expect that." [Counting on his fingers]

Barbara Walters: You'd lay it all out?

Michael Jackson: I'd lay it all out. "See you're going to get all this [pointing to one of the camera positions] ... and all this [pointing to another camera position] ... and all this [pointing to a third camera position.] You ready to do that?" [If he says] "Yeah, I can't wait." Then I would say, "Go... and do it better than I did."

Barbara Walters: But know what you're in for ...

Michael Jackson: Know what you're in for.

Barbara Walters: Our interview was over. We had told no one it was happening, nor had the Paris hotel. But when Jackson tried to sneak out through a back door, there was a huge crowd ... already waiting.

HD: Barbara, we know now that Diana did not have adequate protection on that last day. What kind of protection did Michael Jackson have?

Barbara Walters: Well, we saw at least four bodyguards ... and he needed them. And, by the way, I talked with a female superstar and she told me that when she goes out, she has four bodyguards, at least ... and a car in front of her ... and a car behind.

HD: That's what they need really, isn't it?

Barbara Walters: Unfortunately, it is.

HD: Now, you told me that he told you why he only wears one glove.

Barbara Walters: Yes.

HD: What's behind that?

Barbara Walters: Well, he has a sense of humor, as I think you could see. He said, "Why one glove? Cooler than two."

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