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JET interview
Interview year: 1979

Michael Joseph (Smiley) Jackson, the angelic-voiced lead singer of the world famous vocal quintet of Jackson brothers, is a handsome young man whose onstage magnetism and magic are exceeded only by his offstage majesty and meek heartedness.

Born the fifth of six talented sons of Joseph and Katherine Jackson in Gary, Ind., nearly 21 years ago (Aug. 29, 1958 , he is a Virgo, whose trait is unselfishness, and is moved by magnetic forces which draw so many admirers into his life that love is his for the taking. And his love-struck fans often do strange things to show their affection for him.

When one beautiful Black teenager recently boarded a packed plane and spotted him seated with his brothers, she stared in disbelief, began breathing heavily and became so excited that she started wetting in her panties and froze in her tracks as urine trickled down her legs.

At the arrival gate where girls had gathered to meet the Jacksons, a blonde teenager squeezed through the crushing crowd, slipped past security guards, pulled Michael toward her and tried to make him kiss her.

Returning recently from a world tour celebrating their 10th anniversary in show business, Michael, the only Jackson son who has reached the age of consent and is still unmarried, waded through a room full of mail, sorting out those proposing marriage. Bashful Michael answered them the same: “Thank you for the beautiful letter. It’s very nice. And we will always love you. Love, Michael Jackson and the Jacksons.”

Mild-mannered Michael makes it clear that he gets no satisfaction writing the same letter to all of those female fans who want him for a husband. But he responds in brief dignity because he actually fears love-sick fans.

Sitting in the living room of his family’s home located on a parcel of land in Encino, Calif., purchased form the sprawling estate of the late lady-killer actor Clark Gable of Gone With The Wind fame, the young and eligible bachelor talked about marriage, dating and a wide range of topics which deeply concern him.

“I don’t like to break hearts,” he said solemnly and shyly, shifting his 5-foot, 9 ½ -inch body in a sofa chair. “I don’t really know these people and, gosh, it’s a weird thing.” He continued:

“That, I think, is the weird part about show business. You portray an image. And those people are into you so long, buying your records. You’re all over their walls. They wake up seeing you. They wake up thinking about you. You’re totally on their mind. And when they meet you in person, they feel they have been knowing you for a long time. But I don’t know them. You see, that’s the painful part of show business—the breaking of the hearts. Do you know what that does to them? God, some of them go to the point of committing suicide because they get real serious. That’s what I don’t know how to handle.”

For the young female bubblegum crowd whose voices are now turning from no to yes, he is especially fearful. About them he says, “You have to be careful because sometimes love can reverse on you. They feel they can’t get you and they’ll go to the point of plotting and planning terrible things on you or do terrible things to hurt you. That’s why it’s important to be nice, but sincerely nice.”

He recalled the nasty rumor that surfaced last year, falsely claiming that he had undergone a sex change. The rumor is not dead yet and he said his encounter with a love-crazed blonde at the aforementioned airport helps to revive it. “This beautiful girl with blonde hair was trying her hardest to pull me into her to kiss her,” Michael remembers. “She said, ‘You’re so sexy, kiss me.’ When I showed no kind of interest in her, she said, ‘What’s wrong, you fag?’ and walked off.”

He laments that he still has to tell people: “There’s a reason why I was created male. I’m not a girl. And what kills me the most and makes me want to break down in tears is when little kids, seven and eight, come to me asking me that. I say, no, and please tell all your other little friends it’s not true.”

What disturbs Michael more than the rumor is the kind of mail he receives from some of the bubble gum set. “You wouldn’t believe the mail I get. I mean some of it gets real vulgar,” he revealed. To him, such mail is as shocking as seeing a priest at a movie house watching The Devil And Mrs. Jones or Deep Throat. “Some of the mail gets real funky, not polite at all,” he says. “They tell you the stuff they want to do to you and everything, and how they’re going to do it. I just read and go, ‘Oh my God, these girls.’ There’s not much charm in girls anymore, like the guy used to always pick up the phone and call the girl. She would never call the guy. She would sit there all day until the phone would ring for her. But now the girls bother you to death….You see girls today 11 years old with bags and lipstick and eyeliner and lashes as well. They feel they’re women and they’re not.”

Don’t get the impression that the soft-spoken singer is a saint or square. Looking like the cliché description—tall, dark, and handsome—Michael is very much aware that he can now do at age 20 what he used to sing about when he was 10. One well-known witness is Oscar-winning actress Tatum O’Neal, teenaged daughter of actor Ryan O’Neal.

A reporter for Modern People two years ago quoted Miss O’Neal as once saying she couldn’t wait to have her first affair. If she followed up the widely publicized comment with action involving manly Michael, he is not the kind to kiss and tell. He declined to discuss intimate details of dating Tatum, but was anxious to set the record straight about their romance. First, he readily admits the parallels in their lives: Both have protective parents. Tatum is a daddy’s girl and Michael is a mama’s boy. Both are attractive and wealthy. She rides in a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce and millionaire Michael drives his own Rolls. Both are very shy. Michael is one of the brightest stars of the future and Tatum is, too.

“I want all those people who read JET to just know that we’re mainly good friends,” Michael assured. Admitting that there have been criticisms about their relations, Michael mused: “People take it to crazy means and crazy extents and I just tell them we’re really, really, really good friends. That’s all I say. They say, ‘Well how good friends are you? Is there any romance going on?’ I say, yes sometimes but not all the time.”

Although dating is part of his lifestyle, he is more interested in developing a new lifestyle around his family’s home which is now undergoing extensive renovations. Emphasizing that he is not ready to move out on his own like his four married brothers (Jackie, Jermaine, Tito and Marlon), Michael explains:

“I’ve always wanted to do this for my mother. She loves homes and everything and I do things by feeling and force. I don’t feel that it’s time for me to move away yet. There are so many things I want to do just staying here.

“If I move out now, I would die of loneliness. Most people who move out go to discos every night. They party every night. They invite friends over and I don’t do any of those things. I would really die of loneliness.”

Michael’s renovation plans will include the addiction of a tennis court, a remodeled swimming pool, a gym room, a movie room, a rehearsal studio and a library.

Living at home with his mother, Katherine, father Joseph, brother Randy, and sisters, Janet and LaToya, the young entertainer explores his many talents and grapples with social and religious concerns.

Uppermost among his concerns are religion and racism. A devout Jehovah’s Witness, like his mother, he says: “I believe in the Bible and I try to follow the Bible. I know that I’m not an angel and I’m not a devil either. I try to be as best as I can and I try to do what I think is right. It’s that simple….I don’t just pray at night. I pray at different times during the day. Whenever I see something beautiful, I say, ‘Oh, God, that’s beautiful.’ I say little prayers like that all through the day.”

To cope with the stresses of show business, Michael says he turns to his deity, not drugs. “As corny as it sounds, natural highs are the greatest highs in the world,” he attests. “The stars, the mountains, children, babies smiling are just magic,” he happily beamed.

The one thing that dims this glow is the pervasive racism that’s rampant in the world today, especially in America, the world traveler observes. Recalling how badly the singing Jacksons have been treated in southern cities, he said that it was difficult to believe.

“The people told us just deal with it (racism) because that’s how the South is,” he said and added: “That’s ignorance and it’s taught because it’s not genetic at all.

“I’m really not a prejudiced person at all. I believe that people should think about God more and creation because if you look at the many wonders inside the human bodies—the different colors of organs…and all these colors do different things in the human body—why can’t we do it as people?

“That (racism) is the only thing I hate. I really do. And that’s why I try to write, put it in songs, put it in dance, put it in my art—to teach the world. If politicians can’t do it, poets should put it in poetry and writers should put it in novels. That’s what we have to do and I think it’s so important to save the world.”

As widely read as he is traveled, Michael, a private high school graduate who once quit public school because girls were always screaming and pulling on him, said: “I love to read. I wish I could advise more people to read. There’s a whole new world in books. If you can’t afford to travel, you travel mentally through reading. You can see anything and go anyplace you want to in reading.”

Traveling and reading have greatly influenced his religious and racial views. About his travels, Michael explains: “Wherever you go, man-made things are man-made, but you’ve got to get out and see God’s beauty of the world.”

Reflecting upon America’s racial problems, he said: “I wish I could borrow from other countries, say, like Venezuela or Trinidad, the real love and color-blind people and bring it to America. When you travel, you realize how different America is. God, I hate to say this but our people are brainwashed.”

Of all his travels, he says his most emotional and moving experiences came in travels in Dakar, Senegal. “I’m going to raise my hand (to God) on this one,” he lit up like a light. “I always thought that Blacks, as far as artistry, were the most talented race on earth. But when I went to Africa, I was even more convinced. They do incredible things over there….They got the beats and the rhythm. I really see where drums come from. It makes you think that all Blacks have rhythm….I don’t want the Blacks to ever forget that this is where we come from and where our music comes from. And if we forget, it (Black history) would really get lost. I want us to remember.”

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