Trial Provides Portrait of Michael Jackson as a Father

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  • LOS ANGELES (AP) — Courtrooms have supplied the epilogue to Michael Jackson‘s life. They’ve provided the forum where his debts have been settled, his final days dissected and his life depicted as a cautionary tale.

    In nearly four years of court proceedings, two juries have watched Jackson come to life on video screens. They’ve watched him spin, dance, and then disappear. They’ve heard his voice, seen his handwriting and viewed photos of his lifeless body.

    His role as a father has been described in little more than platitudes. Until now.

    The jury hearing a civil case filed by the superstar’s mother — against AEG Live LLC, the promoter of Jackson’s ill-fated concerts — are experiencing details of a world previously held under lock and key. They’ve heard of extravagant birthday parties, secret family outings and the leg-clinging devotion of his children.

    Jackson shielded the youngsters from the public eye, home-schooling them and often hiding their faces in public.

    Away from the cameras, Jackson tried to create an environment of love, attention and special moments for his children, Michael Joseph “Prince” Jackson Jr., Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince Michael “Blanket” Jackson.

    The following are some of some of the stories they’ve told. They present a portrait of Jackson as a father that outsiders never saw.

    ___

    The final month of Jackson’s life was a busy time. There were rehearsals for “This Is It,” planning meetings and film shoots for a series of mini-movies that would precede some of his greatest hits at the London shows.

    Jackson brought his children to the shoot for a “Smooth Criminal” video that culminated with Jackson leaping through a window while being shot at by Humphrey Bogart.

    Alif Sankey, a backup dancer on the original video who was working on the comeback concerts, sat next to Paris during the shoot. The 11-year-old wanted to share a secret and opened up her purse.

    It was filled with candy, Sankey recalled.

    Jackson didn’t want his children to eat sweets, and Paris asked Sankey to keep it quiet.

    The dancer noticed something else inside the purse — tiny picture frames with images of her father.

    “Her purse was full of candy and pictures of Daddy.”

    ___

    Despite being home-schooled, there was no shortage of companions for Jackson’s children.

    Chef Kai Chase recalled numerous pets in the mansion that Jackson was renting while he prepared for his “This Is It” shows.

    There was the talking bird, Siberia, who whistled at pretty women.

    The children also had a chocolate Labrador named Kenya, whom Chase bought a cookbook for so she could bake him treats and a birthday cake. Two cats, named Katie and Thriller, also roamed the house.

    During opening statements of the civil trial, some of the jury’s first exposure to life in the Jackson home came from footage shot on a Christmas morning several years ago. Jackson’s ode to his children, “You Are My Life” played as jurors watched a video of a Christmas morning from years ago of Prince, Paris and Blanket gleefully receiving their gifts, which included the puppy, Kenya.

    ___

    Chase had been working at Jackson’s home for only a few days when it came time to prepare for Paris’ 11th birthday.

    She wanted a Michael Jackson-themed party.

    All around the dining room, posters of the King of Pop were hung alongside album covers and other pictures. Jackson’s hit songs played as the family ate cheese pizza, hot wings and banana splits, Chase recalled.

    Paris’ birthday cake was decorated with Lilo & Stitch, her favorite Disney characters. But the festivities weren’t over.

    Jackson escorted the children into the backyard, where they watched a private Cirque du Soleil-style circus, complete with men on stilts and a woman performing in a giant balloon.

    Chase watched from the kitchen window and later described the scene as “the most beautiful expression of love I’ve ever seen.”

    ___

    Jackson spent the final months of his life in a rented mansion in the upscale Holmby Hills section of Los Angeles.

    The mansion had all the amenities fit for a pop superstar — a palatial entryway, staircase and parlor and in the basement, a home theater and dance studio.

    The house was a hub of activity, with security guards posted outside, a pair of housekeepers, a nanny for the children and on many days, a personal chef stationed in the kitchen.

    Dinners at the home occasionally featured special guests, including Jackson’s personal physician Conrad Murray and choreographer Travis Payne.

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