In this March 17, 2005 file photo, Pop star Michael Jackson arrives at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse in Santa Maria, Calif., to begin Jackson's trial on charges of child
molestation. Jackson, 50, died in Los Angeles on Thursday, June 25, 2009. (AP
Photo/Michael A. Mariant)
Almost two decades ago, an actress
friend and I posed as a grieving couple at a grave site at Forest Lawn
Memorial-Park in Glendale.
I was being wooed to write an unauthorized biography about the world's most mysterious man since Howard Hughes, and I had insisted on at least getting a glimpse of the subject, if even from a distance, before I signed on.

As it turned out, I would have a face-to-face encounter with Michael Jackson himself, if only for a fleeting moment.
He was among the Jacksons getting out of a nearby limousine to attend his grandmother's burial, and his path to her grave site took him past us. When he was inches away, he slowed almost to a stop for a split-second and looked at us.

My friend, a striking blonde from
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a popular TV show, could have that affect on people, which is why I asked her to join me.
Michael was dressed all in black, sporting a black fedora, and his trademark black curls dangled over his forehead. He wasn't wearing the surgical mask that had become a part of his wardrobe, and for an instant our faces couldn't have
been more than a foot apart.

The man looked like an alien. The skin was pasty. His eyes were lifeless. The famous nose job and jaw implant looked ruddy and rubbery. The only sign of color was the pinkish gloss on his lips. I half wondered if he wasn't wearing a mask.

He walked on to his grandmother's grave, and I momentarily made eye contact with the person in their mourning party who had tipped me off that Michael would be there - the person who wanted me to co-author the biography of Michael with

Enid Jackson, the estranged wife of Michael's older brother Jackie, nodded to me, and I acknowledged her.
This was how I had finally agreed to write "Michael: From Motown to the Moon," a 100,000-word book that was soon commissioned by William Morrow & Co. for a six-figure advance.

The book was never published for legal reasons and Enid died in 1997.
But the book deal set off an 18-month period.

of lengthy tape-recorded interview sessions with Enid and an array of Jackson family friends, disgruntled
employees, former employees, lovers and ex-lovers.
As they say, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and Enid was that woman.
She had met Jackie in 1969 shortly after the Jacksons relocated to California from Gary, Ind. Enid Spann was then a student at Beverly Hills High School when she all but began living with Jackie at the home on Hayvenhurst Avenue in
Encino, where she was practically another of Michael's older sisters.

Enid and Jackie married in 1974, a union that would fall apart in the late 1980s with Enid accusing Jackie of marital infidelity.
"I guess I could put up with that," she said to me in one interview. "But when it came to cutting me out of the money, that's where I get nasty."
By the time she approached me about the book in 1989, Enid already had a William Morris literary agent and a lot of potential interviews lined up.
I signed on board and into the bizarre world of celebrity biography.
I had actually met Michael in the early stages of his superstardom. In 1983, I had attended the taping of the Motown 25th anniversary show, and in the early hours of the following morning, after an exhausting marathon taping, Michael and
his brothers wandered to an after-hours private party across the street from the
Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

Michael had stolen the show, debuting his Moonwalk dance in the middle of performing "Billie Jean" from the "Thriller" album. He was ecstatic, too, thanking people who encircled their area for their compliments in that falsetto
voice that became so familiar.

His nose was noticeably thinner than from the cover photo on his previous "Off the Wall" album, but I think none of us who were still there - from then-Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley to Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner - could have
imagined what was to come.

From the family's Encino compound, Enid sneaked out years of home movies, videos and photographs of the Jacksons that documented the transformation. The Jacksons at Disneyland after-hours, the family at get-togethers, Michael and his
brothers horsing around at home. They were from the early 1970s, when Enid went
to live with the Jacksons, to 1990 and showed the pop icon from pre-teens to
adulthood in his early 30s.

"It's as if Michael was black one day and white the next," Enid said. "He had the face that God gave him and traded that in for one that his doctors created."
That was why I wanted to see Michael at that stage when I told Enid I couldn't work on the book without seeing the metamorphosis for myself. "I guess when you see him every day or almost every day, it doesn't seem like he's
changed that much," Enid said. "He's Michael."

Still, what Enid provided was just too good to be true. Handwritten notes from Princess Di to Michael on her personal stationery. Thank-you cards from Elizabeth Taylor. Private photographs of Michael with directors Steven Spielberg
and John Landis and of Michael with one of his plastic surgeons, Dr. Steven

Then there were the few real jewels. Sources like Chico Ross, Diana Ross' baby brother who had befriended the young Michael in 1969 when the Jacksons moved to California. Michael stayed at Diana's house for months, and he became
the little brother Chico hadn't had.

Chico later spent much of his time at the Jackson's new house in Encino where he occasionally jammed with the family. He later played drums briefly with Kerry Gordy, the son of Motown founder Berry Gordy, in a band called Kryptonite, and
dabbled as a Hollywood club promoter.

Chico's recollections of Michael in his young and middle teenage years were priceless, and his anecdotes painted a youngster who, for a short period of life, enjoyed the closest he would ever experience to a normal existence.

"Michael never had a real childhood," Chico said in an interview. "It was stolen from him so that there could be the Jackson 5 and later the Jacksons."
About this time, lawyers for the Gordys, the Rosses and the Jacksons had started a legal war against other recent biographies about Diana and Michael. One publisher was forced into a big settlement. Another biographer went

William Morrow & Co., my publisher, simply decided it wanted no part of it, ate the loss on my advance and never published "Michael: From Motown to the Moon."

In December of 1997, I got a telephone call from Enid, wishing me a happy birthday and apologizing for using me to get back in the good graces of the Jacksons.

"I've got even more and better material for another book that I want to give you to make it all up," she said to me. "It's a book and a film deal. "I'll treat you to lunch at The Ivy after the holidays and tell you all about it."

On Dec. 20, 1997, Enid died of a brain aneurysm in a movie theater bathroom.