Quote:MiCHAEL JACKSON: Before the lawsuits and the space suits; before the hints and allegations; before the cosmetic surgery that made him look like the brother from another planet; before the crotch-grabbing; before he was "wacko Jackson" there was a sweet, soft-spoken boy with an engaging, outgoing personality and the purest voice on any planet. 16's readers knew him as Mike. We liked Mike.
Within the pages of 16, Mike quickly advanced from merely cutesy, to soulful (that word again), to an accessible, nonthreatening teen idol. (Though, like his brothers, he was pressed into posing near-shirtless, he never could quite cut it as a hunk.) 16 portrayed "marvelous Mike" (frequently interspersed with "musical Mike") as chatty, witty, mischievous and very much interested in what you, girl, had to say.
The funny thing is, in the very early stages of J5-mania, that wasn't far off. Between the ages of 11 and 13 — and with several hit records to his credit — Michael really was talkative, inquisitive, and precocious.
He also felt entirely comfortable with 16's editor Eileen Bradley, whom he used to phone up at all hours with special requests. "Can you get me Jodie Foster's phone number?" he'd want to know, "or Tatum O'Neal's?
Michael had a crush on Maureen McCormick of the Brady Bunch — hers was tops on his most-wanted phone numbers list. More often than not Michael got what he wanted. Eileen, after checking with the parents of the girls, did facilitate those juvenile showbiz friendships. He also felt comfortable enough to tell the magazine — though it was never printed — that he'd named his dog Hitler .
Michael's openness would only last a few years. By the age of 14 he'd clammed up, become secretive, solitary, guarded, and suspicious. The reasons — a growing cynicism about the music business, his family, the money, abuse — have been speculated on through the years. Back then, certainly, we could not account for it, but simply rolled with it.
By 1973 Michael, whom 16's Sandy and Eileen had come to know during countless plane rides and bus trips through Japan, wore a long woolen scarf around his neck in the hottest weather ("to protect my voice," he'd whisper).He was reclusive and sheltered, and had become very much a clinging Mama's boy.
Sandy remembers, "It was like the family was divided down the middle into two camps: Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, and even Marlon to an extent, sided with Joe — they were the macho men — while Michael, La Toya, and Janet clung to Katherine. Those three were very religious and painfully shy.
"Michael and I did develop a friendship of sorts. Mainly, I felt sorry for him. He seemed so overwhelmed, it was all too much for him to handle. He was very guarded at a very young age. In some ways he was very mature — you could have intimate conversations — yet in so many others he was just a little boy. I remember passing a note to him — many of our conversations were held that way — that said, 'We'll always be friends. You can count on me.' "
''Off the plane, Michael would wander by himself around the hotel grounds. Never buddying up to one of his brothers or sisters, he was always alone. I remember at one hotel, there was a pond stocked with fish; Michael would sit and stare at it for hours. I tried to join him once, strolling the hotel grounds, but suddenly it was hard to get him to chat. In spite of whatever 'intimacy' we'd achieved on a plane or bus, Michael would pull back. He didn't really trust me — or anyone, it seemed."
Michael came out of his shell only when he was allowed to roam around a toy store (his favorite souvenir was a clock that told time in different parts of the world) and, of course, when he was onstage performing.