Michael Jackson granted Britian's "The Daily Mirror" his first newspaper interview in 20 years. In Harrods, with his friend Mohammed Al Fayed at his side, Michael speaks about the allegations that threatened his career, his love for children, his career, his friendship with the late Princess Diana, and of his own family.
Speaking of the allegations of child abuse that have surrounded him since 1993, Michael, with tears streaming down his face spoke of the "evil people who think I could do this thing to children"; "I'd slit my wrists rather than hurt a child. I could never do that. No-one will ever know how much these wicked rumours have hurt me. If it wasn't for the children...I'd throw in the towel and I'd kill myself. I wouldn't care to live without children and without the inspiration they give me. They inspire me in all I do, every song I write, every dance I perform. People try and use that against me and it's just so unfair. I get very upset by it, it breaks my heart."
Michael went on to speak of his own children, two-year-old Prince and one-year-old Paris, "I love my children so much. They have changed me and my outlook on life. I just wish people would leave me alone to get on with my life. I'm just a person who wants to be honest and do good, make people happy and give them the greatest sense of escapism through the talent God has given me. That's where my heart is, that's all I want to do. Just let me share and give, put a smile on people's faces and make their hearts feel happy.
To see my kids leaping round the room going mad to my sister Janet's music is just fantastic. It fills my heart with so much joy. As soon as Janet's songs with a good beat like 'The Knowledge' or 'Rhythm Nation' come on they both go crazy. You'd think a machine is moving them around. I start singing and there's screaming all over the house. I start dancing and Prince is all in the way trying to dance with me."
Michael went on to explain that he doesn't play his own music for his children, "I'm saving that for a surprise when they are a bit older," he smiles.
Will he like his children to go into the intertainment industry? Michael said he would love that but that he is also aware of the consequences, "It's going to be hard for them. When Lisa-Marie wants to sing, people always compare her to her father, which is so tough. Of course, I'd love them to do something in the arts so I could teach them to sing and dance. But they'd have to want to do that without pressure from me."
Michael explained that currently the children were staying with a long-time friend, "They are staying with a friend of mine who I went to school with. We go back a long way. My children are with hers having fun which is great. I call them all the time and we have great conversations. Hearing them say 'Dad! Dad!' is such a thrill."
Speaking of his wife, and of a few parental pointers that Mohammed Al Fayed has given him, Michael said the following, " I love my wife, and we have a happy marriage. Debbie is a nurse who loves her work, who loves taking care of people. Every day she wants to get up and look after others, to help them and make them better. That's why I love her, and that's what gives her bliss in life, God bless her. "Mohamed is a lovely family man and has been giving me some great tips. He tells me to be loving, to take time with the children, not to leave them with anybody and to be with them as much as I can. To help them grow and let them know you love them by looking them in the eyes, and saying 'I love you.' And play, play, play with them."
Changing the conversation to a more serious issue Michael spoke of the hounding tabloid media in Britian, " The press are hard on me, especially in England which is a shame because I love it here and would like to live here one day. To give you an example, the last time I was here I flew Mickey and Minnie Mouse from Euro Disney to a hospital in London for the sick kids and took them a load of toys and things to cheer them up. The next day's papers said Wacko Jacko Snubs Sick Children. That really hurt me - I tried to help those children but people just wanted to make fun of me. It was cruel and unnecessary."
Speaking of the recent tragic events in Kosovo Michael, with tears returning to his eyes, spoke of the children, "I just want to go to Yugoslavia and hug every one of those children and tell them I love them. The TV footage just breaks my heart. It's just horrifying. I have to turn the set off - it makes me cry every day. It's time we did something. It's not enough to turn your head and pretend it doesn't exist. I've written a song for the refugees called 'What More Can I Give?' and I'm going to give all the profits to the Kosovan Albanians. I want to do what we did with the people in Africa, get all the celebrities together and sing for those poor families. I'd like to do this in Britain and get the biggest British stars to join me. I want those people to know I love them, that we all love them. They are my family, my children. They desperately need our money now to help them. We are all doing too much sitting back, and reading and watching TV saying how awful it is and not actually doing something about it. I'm not into politics and I don't talk about religion. But I think it's totally wrong and ignorant to hurt innocent children over some political or religious issue. It's genocide and ethnic cleansing and it's stupid. It shouldn't be happening."
Michael also took the time to speak of a friendship that few people knew existed, a friendship with Princess Diana. Michael reflected on the night that he was told about her death, "I had a concert on the day the news broke and my doctor woke me up to tell me Diana was dead. I literally collapsed, I fainted. He had to give me smelling salts to revive me and I cancelled my show because I simply could not perform. I just broke down. I wept and wept for weeks afterwards."
Through his friendship with Diana, Michael also came to know Dodi Fayed, "They were a match made in heaven. I thought they were so beautiful together. It was lovely to see them like that. Diana was a wonderful person with such a good heart. She went round the world as a philanthropist just like Mother Theresa. She proved that she really, really cared about people and children especially. The way that I do. She used to confide in me. She'd just call me on the phone and we would talk about everything that was happening in her life. The press were hard on her in the same way they were hard on me and she needed to talk to someone who knew exactly what she was going through. She felt hunted in the way I've felt hunted. Trapped, if you like. You can't talk about that to your neighbour because how would they ever understand? No normal person could possibly understand, could they? I've had that attention since I was a kid, whereas Diana had it suddenly thrust upon her at the age of 19. I've had it all my life so I had the experience to tell her how to handle it. I just said to her, 'Rise above it all'. I'd tell her how I would go on stage sometimes in the worst pain either emotionally, or physically with something like a toothache, and I would put whatever it was out of my mind and perform. I'd say, 'Be strong and be determined and nobody can hurt you. Only you can hurt yourself - so be defiant'. I think she appreciated it and got something from my words. I think I was able to comfort her. I adored Diana. We talked so many times, much more than people realised. When I heard about the paparazzi chasing her, I just thought how lucky I was that it had never happened to me because I've been chased the same way so many times and you always wonder. Diana's death was the saddest I've ever felt - it reminded me of when Kennedy died. It broke my heart so much, I just cried and cried. [Dodi] was wonderful, just wonderful. A really smart, charming guy. It was a terrible tragedy for Mohamed and my heart goes out to him and his family."
Although Michael never met Diana's sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, Michael said that Diana had wanted him to meet them, "Diana desperately wanted me to meet her children and we talked about it many times, but I never did get the chance. Mohamed talks very highly of the boys. He says they are wonderful and he had some good times on holiday with them and Diana. It would be nice to meet them sometime."
Once again Michael switched topics, this time discussing plans he and Mohammed have been making regarding creating films in Hollywood. The two men laughed together as they joked about the mischef and mayhem that they could create in Hollywood. With that Michael directed the conversation towards their friendship, "Mohammed has taken a lot of flak in this country, which is so unfair. He is one of the sweetest, kindest men you could ever know. The problem is that people judge people before they even know them. To me he is like a big Santa Claus. He loves giving, he's very wise and creative, talented and kind-hearted. Very giving. He has taught me a lot and I love learning from him."
Speaking of their recent trip to a European Football game Michael spoke of his newly discovered love for the sport, "I knew nothing about soccer and I've never been to any sporting event, so it was a great experience for me. I'm a soccer fan now, definitely. I'm addicted. It was so exciting and passionate - the fans were like the people who come to my concerts. They were screaming and shouting and cheering their players on. I loved it. I wanted to jump up and start dancing because I'm used to performing on stage when I hear all that noise. The fans were great, although they seemed pretty surprised to see me. I have no doubt that Fulham will be promoted, they seemed a really good team with a great spirit. I met all the players and they were so kind to me."
When the interviewer, Piers Morgan, informed Michael about a team that was up for sale, the gears in the head of Michael Jackson - business man, began to turn, "I don't know them, but I'd love to get involved with one of the big teams if it was right to do so. How much are they?" He was told the asking price was 6 hundred million. "Dollars or pounds?" He was told it was pounds, and after a long pause he answered, "That's interesting, very interesting. I'll have a think about that. It sounds intriguing. I'm astounded by how much I enjoyed the soccer, that's for sure."
Changing topics once more Michael discussed the impact of the new Millenium on his music career, "I have an album coming out for the Millennium which I'm half way through. It's going to be the best thing I've ever done. I'm putting my heart and soul into it because I'm not sure if I'm gonna do another one after this...This will be my last album, I think. I may do the odd movie soundtrack, but this will be my last proper album. I want it to be something that touches the heart and emotions of the world. From a child to older people, from the farmers of Ireland to the lady who scrubs toilets in Harlem. I mean I want to reach every demographic I can through the love and joy and simplicity of music. The Millennium is an appropriate time to change direction. I'd like to get more into movies. Mohamed and I are looking to set up a company and do some films together. It's going to be great."
After he finishes his solo album Michael discussed a project that is planned with his brothers, "We are doing an album together, it's legitimate and I'm going to do it. I'll play on three songs and produce the rest. It will be fun."
When asked how he unwinds now-a-days Michael answered that he has stopped secluding himself at home and has began to get out into the public more often, "Well, I've stopped being such a recluse now. My friend Elizabeth Taylor has got me out. Every Thursday we go to the movies together. She is Godmother to my son Prince and we get on so well. I said I could get Warner Brothers to put aside a studio just for us every week to watch films in private, but she forces me out. She's the only person who can get me out in public. We walk in, sit down, watch our film and walk out. And every time we leave the audience all stand up and applaud us. It's funny. The last one we saw was Patch Adams which we loved. It was so touching, it made me cry. It's a true story about a man who takes the time to make children happy. That's what I'd like to be considered as."