Schmuley Boteach: Do you think a hatred of pride is still a relic of your religious upbringing?
Michael Jackson: It hurt me a lot and it helped me a lot.
SB: How did it hurt you?
MJ:r... (long silence) When I did certain things in the past that I didn´t realized were against the religion and I was deprimanded for it, it almost destroyed me. Certain things that I did as an artist in my music I didn´t realized I was crossing a line with them and when they chastised me, it really hurt me. It almost destroyed me. My mother saw it.
SB: Their disapproval, their rejection?
MJ: When I did the Moonwalk for the first time, Motown 25, they told me that I doing burlesque dancing and it was dirty and I went for months and they said, "You can never dance like that again." I said 90,9 percent of dancing is moving the waist. They said, "We don´t want you to do it." So I went around trying to dance for a long time without moving this part of my body. Then when I made Thriller with all the ghouls an ghosts, they said that it was demonic and part of the occult and that Brother Jackson can´t do it. I called my lawyer and was crying and I said: "Destroy the video, have it destroyed." And because he went against my wishes, people have "Thriller" today. They made me feel so bad about it that I ordered people to destroy it.
SB: So you have seen two sides of religion, the loving side that teaches you not to like pride and humility, but you have also seen what you would described as mean-spiritedness and judgmentalism.
MJ: Because they can discriminate sometimes in wrong ways. I don´t think God meant it in that way. Like Halloween, I missed of Halloween for years and now I do it. It´s sweet to go from door-to-door and people give you candy. We need more of that in the world. It brings the world together.
„From the beginning it was always a quandary for me, Michael’s birthday. From the first day we met, unfamiliar to me, I was faced with his chosen religion, Jehovah’s Witness. When Michael arrived for his photo shoot for THRILLER, two men accompanied him impeccably dressed in suits, who sat over to the side on some cushy couches and watched his every move.
Since this was the first time I worked with him, it didn’t feel appropriate for me to ask who they could possibly be. I thought if he wanted us to know, he would have told us. I just felt their presence throughout the entire day. They left with him as mysteriously as they had entered with him. At the time I really did not give it another thought, because I had no idea of the adventure that was ahead of me.
The next shoot, there again…a mysterious gentleman, sitting in the background.
As our working relationship and friendship began to grow, I asked. He explained to me he was a Jehovah’s Witness. He was very active with the church, and these gentlemen were monitors. They watched over him. He also explained he went to bible study, and spent time going door-to-door teaching the word each week. I had to take pause for a minute and think about that one….
THRILLER had been released by the time he was explaining this to me. “You mean to tell me, that you ring someone’s doorbell, they come to answer it, and there stands Michael Jackson??????”
He gave me one of his hi pitched belly laughs…and said, “yeah”. He further explained that he does it in disguise.
“Oh no you don’t.”
Still giggling, he paused and got amusingly serious. “Yeah, sure. After they let me in, they usually begin to look at me funny, so I end up admitting who I am.”
“Wow, I wish I could be a fly on the wall and watch that. I still can’t believe you do that.” I said.
“It is a big part of being a Jehovah’s Witness. We also do not celebrate holidays or birthdays. We believe that we should honor and celebrate these things daily, and not have just one day.”
So I asked “No birthdays. No Christmas?”
“No” he replied.
“Isn’t that difficult, when the world around you is decorating and singing carols?”.
“Yes, Turkle…it is always kind of sad, especially when I was a child, because it looked like so much fun. But it is okay; we have things like FAMILY DAY, where we all get together. There are hundreds of Jackson’s and we all try and be there.”
I could genuinely see the sadness in his eyes and the sense his feeling of loss, not celebrating Christmas with the other kids…so I changed the subject.
One August 29th, we ended up working. Everyone was wishing him Happy Birthday and giving him little presents. He smiled and graciously accepted them. Once we were in the privacy of the trailer, he put the gifts down on the seat, and looked down at them.
“I wish people wouldn’t do that. Please promise me, Turkle, don’t EVER say Happy Birthday to me.”
I was torn. I once again saw how sad and conflicted he was on the inside about this, but he remained loyal to his beliefs. It was so difficult for me too. I wanted to give him a present and a big birthday hug every time August 29th rolled around, and join in with the others who were celebrating his birthday around him. I also wanted to comply with his request not to even SAY happy birthday.
We were shooting SMOOTH CRIMINAL. I was accustomed to the monitors by now. The filming was going on longer than planned, as usual. We were preparing for a very big scene. Michael was surrounded by the alien battalion in a gully, built on stage 14.
The special weapons and ammunition team had briefed Michael on how to hold the machine gun and fire it. It was the last scene of the evening. Michael was having fun with it, like a little boy playing army. He took a strong stance, and fired as the cameras rolled.
That was a wrap for that evening, and we were given our call time for the next morning.
Michael was a little late arriving the next day. I was waiting in his trailer. He walked in so distraught. I didn’t understand, we were having so much fun the night before. He was silent as he sat in the makeup chair. I had to ask him please tell me. Please tell me what is wrong.
His eyes welled up with tears. “Mother called last night. The church called her, and told her that I held and fired a gun yesterday. They ordered that I have to make decision. I must leave the church, or leave the entertainment industry.” He was weeping as he uttered those words.
I was quite mortified. “What did your mother advise you to do?”
“She felt horrible. She told me it was up to me. She said she would stand by me with whatever I decided.”
“I see, you are here today”.
“Mother is supporting my choice”.
It took a while for Michael to adjust to his choice. He continued to feel uncomfortable with his birthday, but attended fan events in his honor, and truly enjoyed them.
When I was around him during Christmas, he would hide in his own closet to secretly wrap presents. He still held a tinge of guilt. I knew it was difficult for him, but I know he loved all the decorations that NEVER came down. He could freely give his children the birthdays that he never had. I knew deep down inside the Jehovah Witness teachings continued to hold a sacred place inside of him. That is why I was forever torn by not saying “Happy Birthday”. He never released me from my promise to not say it to him.
Karen Faye, make up artist and friend (source: karenfayeblog.com/)
"Sundays were sacred for two other reasons as I was growing up. They were both the day that I attended church and the day that I spent rehearsing my hardest. This may seem against the idea of ‘rest on the Sabbath’, but it was the most sacred way I could spend my time: developing the talents that God gave me. The best way I can imagine to show my thanks is to make the very most of the gift that God gave me.
Church was a treat in its own right. It was again a chance for me to be ‘normal’. The church elders treated me the same as they treated everyone else. And they never became annoyed on the days that the back of the church filled with reporters who had discovered my whereabouts. They tried to welcome them in. After all, even reporters are the children of God.
When I was young, my whole family attended church together in Indiana. As we grew older, this became difficult, and my remarkable and truly saintly mother would sometimes end up there on her own. When circumstances made it increasingly complex for me to attend, I was comforted by the belief that God exists in my heart, and in music and in beauty, not only in a building. But I still miss the sense of community that I felt there — I miss the friends and the people who treated me like I was simply one of them. Simply human. Sharing a day with God.
There have been times in my life when I, like everyone, has had to wonder about God’s existence. When Prince smiles, when Paris giggles, I have no doubts. Children are God’s gift to us. No — they are more than that — they are the very form of God’s energy and creativity and love. He is to be found in their innocence, experienced in their playfulness.
My most precious days as a child were those Sundays when I was able to be free. That is what the Sabbath has always been for me. A day of freedom. Now I find this freedom and magic every day in my role as a father. The amazing thing is, we all have the ability to make every day the precious day that is the Sabbath. And we do this by rededicating ourselves to the wonders of childhood. We do this by giving over our entire heart and mind to the little people we call son and daughter. The time we spend with them is the Sabbath. The place we spend it is called Paradise."
Michael Jackson in his reflection "My Childhood, My Sabbath, My Freedom"