A new book based on taped conversations with Michael Jackson plumbs the depths of the dead singer's pain, from his lost childhood to the bizarre behavior that made him a tragic enigma as an adult.
In "The Michael Jackson Tapes: A Tragic Icon Reveals His Soul in Intimate Conversation," onetime Jackson friend Rabbi Shmuley Boteach weaves together 30 hours of talks with Jackson that he recorded nine years ago. Jackson confirms his well-chronicled fear of Jackson family patriarch Joe Jackson, calls Hitler a "genius orator" that he could have softened and also tries to explain the oddball antics that characterized his final years.
"I think all my success and fame, and I wanted it, I wanted it because I wanted to be loved," Jackson told Shmuley.
The singer said he didn't want to grow old, and that he hoped to die surrounded by children.
"I would feel safe that way," he said. "I want them next to me."
Shmuley, who appeared Friday on NBC's "Today" show, said Jackson's love of kids and his strange fixation with mannequins seemed to have been rooted in his distrust of adults.
Shmuley, who said he hopes the book will inspire people to judge the King of Pop "more charitably," said he saw in Jackson "indescribable pain."
The seeds of Jackson's tortured life were planted at an early age. In the tapes, Jacko says his father terrified him, even as he performed for adoring crowds, charming fans like no 10-year-old ever had. Instead of seeing his fans, Jacko always focused on his glowering dad.
"I can't mess up, he'll kill us," Jackson recalls thinking as he performed under Joe Jackson's watchful eye.
His fears were well-founded, from what he told Shmuley: The elder Jackson would strip him naked and douse him with oil before whipping him with a cord, he said.
"He was rough," Jackson said. "The way he would beat us was rough.
"I hated him for it. I hated him."
Joe Jackson has repeatedly denied abusing his famous son.
As a child, Jackson said he envied children that were free to play baseball and pal around, and often wished he could get out of the hectic schedule of traveling and recording that he felt stole his childhood.
"I wanted so badly to play in the park across the street because the kids were playing baseball and football but I had to record," Jackson said. "I could see the park, right across the street. But I had to go in the other building and work until late at night making the albums.
"I sat there looking at the kids with tears running down my face and I would say, “I am trapped and I have to do this for the rest of my life. I am under contract.”
As he grew older, Jackson felt himself losing his identity.
"There was Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, an aloof superstar who had everything and needed no one," Jackson told Shmuley. "And Michael Jackson, the shy kid under the mask, who lacked even a single real friend."
So desperate did the world's most famous entertainer become for friends, that he began collecting mannequins, which he seemed to realize was weird.
"I knew that something was wrong with me at that time," Jackson said. "But I needed someone. . . That’s probably why I had the mannequins. I would say because I felt I needed people, someone, I didn’t have. . . I was too shy to be around real people. I didn’t talk to them."
Jackson said "Hitler was a genius orator," and a "showman," which the Nazi proved by generating hate in his countrymen. Jacko said no one is purely evil, and said he could have helped Hitler "by touching something inside of him."
The Gloved One told Shmuley that Brooke Shields was the love of his life, laughing about how his room was festooned with posters of the "Blue Lagoon" actress, and how he almost fainted when, as teens, he met her at an awards show and she asked him to a party and then later, to dance with her.
Jackson told Shmuley that other famous performers were jealous of him, and that he didn't trust them. Madonna, whom he refers to on tape as "M," is "not a nice --, she's -." When Shmuley interjects the word "jealous," Jackson quickly agrees, saying, "Yes, jealous."