Dinners at the home occasionally featured special guests, including Jackson’s personal physician Conrad Murray and choreographer Travis Payne.
But staffers and guests other than Murray weren’t allowed upstairs, where the bedrooms were. When Chase wanted to prepare a soul food menu for Jackson and his children, she wrote him a note in Magic Marker and left it at the foot of the stairs.
AEG Live’s lead defense attorney has pointed to the secrecy of Jackson’s upstairs lifestyle — where the superstar was receiving nightly doses of the anesthetic propofol in his locked bedroom — to support the company’s contention it couldn’t have known about Jackson’s drug treatments.
Having a stable home for his children was a major motivation for Jackson returning to the concert stage, AEG executives say.
After his acquittal of child molestation charges in 2005, Jackson had become a nomad, spending time in various cities, including Las Vegas, often staying with friends.
“He wanted his kids to have a permanent place to live and a sense of community,” AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips recalled Jackson telling him during one meeting held while the family was living in the guesthouse of a rich benefactor.
It was Halloween and the children darted in and out of the rooms, wearing masks. Later that night, they’d go with their father to a party at Elizabeth Taylor’s home.
“I felt incredibly bad that this incredible star was at this point where he couldn’t buy a house,” Phillips said.
Jackson was always a magnet for photographers and fans, but he managed to sneak his children into a movie just weeks before his death.
The family and a few others went to see the animated film “Up” at the El Capitan Theatre on a touristy stretch of Hollywood Boulevard.
They came in a back door and remained in a private room while moviegoers filed into the theater. When everyone else was seated, the entourage, including his longtime makeup artist Karen Faye, director Kenny Ortega and others, hit up the concession stand.
The group watched the movie without distraction. “No one knew Michael was there,” Faye recalled.
Jackson and choreographer Travis Payne were scheduled to rehearse one-on-one several days a week in the dance studio that was in the basement of Jackson’s mansion.
It’s unclear how often the pair worked out, but when they did they often had a companion, 7-year-old Blanket. He liked to watch his father dance, Payne later recalled, and tried to always stay close to his dad. During their workouts, Payne said Jackson talked to his son, mentoring him.
Preparations for the shows meant that Jackson was frequently out of the house at meetings, film shoots or rehearsals. When he returned home, Prince, Paris and Blanket would rush their father.
“They would take off like lightning,” Chase recalls, “… and grab him around the ankles and around the waist.”
They’d be hanging off of him, not unlike a picture shown to jurors during opening statements.
In the photo, Jackson was handing Blanket, then a newborn, to President Bill Clinton. Clinging to Jackson’s right leg was Paris.
When it came time for a science project, Paris settled on studying snails.
She enlisted Chase to help her find snails in the mansion’s backyard. The pair carried large flashlights and found several of the slimy creatures and prepared to bring them inside.
Jackson was waiting for them.
“At this point, I knew I was going to get fired,” Chase recalled.
The singer looked at the snails and had a different reaction — he helped make them a home.
The snails ended up in jars made cozier by moss in the bottom and tiny cocktail umbrellas. They lived on the kitchen counter, not far from other reminders of the children.
Blanket’s colorings hung on the refrigerator.
On a chalkboard where Chase would write out menus, Paris scrawled a message that remained on the board the day her father died.
“I love daddy,” the 11-year-old wrote. “Smile, it’s free.”