Written by Regina Jones whom met Michael when she was 33 at the Diana Ross special. She wrote for "Soul"--and had kept in touch with the family as a regular guest until their magazine was canceled. Michael's Neverland Valley Ranch is 2,700 acres. Jones said she was greeted by some of the 70-odd members of Michael's 'exceedingly' friendly staff.
They help the King of Pop maintain the complex and welcomes busloads of vistors each year, mostly kids with terminal illness. Michael is dressed in black slacks, white socks, black loafers and a soft yellow shirt who greets Jones with a warm hello and a big hug. He politely excuses himself so he can talk to his son Prince, 5, and Paris, 3 who had just returned from a long walk; they were chattering excitedly about their day. While Michael went to spend time with his babies, Jones took a look around the ranch before it got dark out.
She discovers the amusement park, playground, train station, arcade, zoo, pool, Jacuzzi, bumper-car tent, and various areas where animals roam free. The animals included: cheetah, a pony, a parrot, several deers, and a llama.
Michael is ready to talk 45 minutes later. Jones shows Michael old photos she took during her SOUL magazine times. He looks through them and laughs. He reminds her if she really remembers the interview (Back then, he wouldn't talk to her directly. He made her talk to Janet who would repeat everything to Michael--then Michael would tell Janet what to tell Jones--this is because he refused to talk to any reporters at that time.)
This is what he said about it, "I felt afraid. I felt that if my sister was there, the person would go easier on me." Often animated, Michael goes from a whisper to a raucous laughter in a split second. The only matter he refused to talk about is his plastic surgery.
He quoted, "That's a stupid question, that's one reason that I didn't do interviews for years." Jones even asked about his financial health, and he brushed that subject off also by saying, "I'm taken care of fine." Of course he is, he owns half of Sony/ATV Publishing.
Everytime someone performs one of the songs from the 'ATV Book' he gets half the money. At 43, Michael is back with Invincible and it was number 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. His Madison Square Garden was also CBS's highest-rated music special of all time. Jones addes that no matter what changed in Michael's life-he emains caring, inquisitive, and sensitive.
VIBE: "How is it to be competing for sales with the likes of N'SYNC and Britney Spears, children who were basically born at the height of your fame?"
MJ: "It's a rarity. I had No. 1 records in '69 and '70, and still entered the charts in 2001 at No.1. I don't think any other artist has that range. It's a great honor. I'm happy, I don't know what else to say. I'm glad people accept what I do."
VIBE: "What are your thoughts of the current R&B state?"
MJ: "I don't categorize music. Music is music. They changed the word R&B to rock 'n' roll. It's always been , from Fats Domino to Little Richard to Chuck Berry. How can we discriminate? It is what it is- great music, you know."
VIBE: "Are you feeling hip hop?"
MJ: "I like a lot of it, A LOT of it. I like the music. I don't like the dancing that much. It looks like they're doing aerobics."
VIBE: "How did you decide to feature Biggie Smalls on "Unbreakable," off Invincible?"
MJ: "It wasn't my idea, actually. It was Rodney Jerkin's, one of the writer/producers working on the album. It was my idea to put a rap on the song, and he said, "I know the perfect one--Biggie." He put it in, and it worked perfectly."
VIBE: "Why did you choose Jay-Z for the remix of the first single, "YRMW"?"
MJ: "He's hip, the new thing, and he's with the kids today. They like his work. He's tapped into the nerve of popular culture. It just made good sense."
VIBE: "What was it like for you to appear at the NY's Hot 97 Summer Jam concert as Jay-Z's guest?"
MJ: "I just showed up and gave him a hug. There was a tumultuous explosion of applause and stomping, a lovely, lovely welcome, and I was happy about that. It was a great feeling-the love, the LOVE."
VIBE: "Does it bother you to see people emulate you, such as Usher, Sisqo, Ginuwine, and even Destiny's Child?"
MJ: "I don't mind it at all. These are artists who grew up with my music. When you grow up listening to somebody you admire, you tend to become them. You want to look like them, to dress like them. When I was little, I was James Brown, I was Sammy Davis Jr., so I understand it. It's a compliment."
VIBE: "Did you know that you were creating timeless classics when you were recording Thriller and Off the Wall?"
MJ: "Yes, not to be arrogant, but yes. Because I know great material when I hear it, and melodically and sonically and musically, it's so moving. They keep the promise."
VIBE: "Do you feel there's greater acceptance of black artists these days?"
MJ: "I think people have always admired black music since the beginning of time, if you want to go back to Negro spirituals. Today, the market is just accepting the fact that's the sound. From Britney to N'Sync, they're all doing all the R&B thing. Even Barry Gibb of the BeeGees, he tells me (imitating a British accent), "Man, we do R&B." I say, Barry, I don't categorize it, but it's great music. I understand where he's coming from. I love great music-it has no color, it has no boundaries."
VIBE: "You seem to be enjoying life as a single parent."
MJ: "I never had so much fun in all my life. That's the truth. Because I'm this big kid, and now I get to see the world through the eyes of really young ones. I learn more from them than they learn from me. I'm constantly trying new things and testing things on them to see what works and what doesn't. Children are always the best judges to monitor something. That's why Harry Potter is so successful--it's a family oriented movie. You can't go wrong there. We want a wide demographic, and that's why I try not to say things in my lyrics that offend parents. I don't want to be like that. We weren't raised to be like that. Mother and Joseph wouldn't say stuff like that."
VIBE: "What do Prince and Paris listen to?"
MJ: "They listen to all of my music, and they love classical, which plays all around the ranch. They like any good dance music."
VIBE: "How do you feel about your children becoming pop icons, based upon your experience?"
MJ: "I don't know how they would handle that. It would be tough. I really don't know. It's hard, most children of celebrities end up becoming self-destructive because they can't live up to the talent of the parent. People always say that Fred Astaire Jr., "Can you dance?" And he couldn't. He didn't have any rhythm, but his father was a genius dancer. It doesn't mean that it has to be passed on. I always tell my children, you don't have to sing, you don't have to dance. Be who you want to be, as long as you're not hurting anybody. That's the main thing."
VIBE: "Which artists-the past and present- inspire you?"
MJ: "Stevie Wonder is a musical prophet. All of the early Motown. All the Beatles. I'm crazy about Sammy Davis Jr., and Charlie Chaplin, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Bill "Bonjanles" Robinson- the real entertainer, the real thing, not just gimmicks, showstoppers. When James Brown was the Famous Flames, it was unbelievable. There are so many wonderful singers-Whitney Houston, Barbara Streisand, Johnny Mathis. Real stylists. You hear one line, and you know who it is. Nat "King" Cole, great stuff. Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke-they are all ridiculous."
VIBE: "How involved were you in selecting the artists to perform in your 30th Anniversary special?"
MJ: "I wasn't involved at all."
VIBE: How were you able to let go of something so big and so special?
VIBE: "What was your experience on September 11?"
MJ: "I was in New York (after performing at the Madison Square Garden on Sept. 7 and 10), and I got a call from friends in Saudi Arabia that America was being attacked. I turned on the news and saw the Twin Towers coming down, and I said, Oh my God. I screamed down the hotel hallway to all our people. Everybody get out, let's leave now! Marlon Brando was on one end, our security was on the other end. We were all up there, Elizabeth Taylor was at another hotel. We jumped in the car, but there were these girls who had been at the show the night before, and they were banging on the windows, running down the street screaming. Fans are so loyal. We hid in New Jersey. It was unbelievable-I was scared to death."
VIBE: "On another tip altogether, what do you do for recreation?"
MJ: "I like water balloon fights. We have a water balloon fort here, and we have a red team and a blue team. We have slings and cannons, and you are drenched by the time the game is over. There's a timer, and whoever gets the most points is the winner. If I'm going to do some kind of sport, I have to laugh. I don't do anything like basketball or golf. Basketball is very competitive, and so is tennis; they make you angry. I'm not into that. It should be therapeutic. I also like amusement parks, hang with animals, things like that."
VIBE: "Do you have a fantasy of something that you'd like to see in your lifetime?"
MJ: "I would love to see an international children's holiday to honor our children, because the family bond has been broken. There's a Mother's Day, and there's a Father's Day, but there's no children's day. It would mean a lot. It really would. World peace. I hope that our next generation will get to see a peaceful world, not the way things are going now."
VIBE: "Has singing ever stopped being fun and become work?"
MJ: "It's always been fun. Unless I get physically sick, it's always fun. I still love it."
VIBE: "Many of us see you as a historic figure, an innovator who has set a standard that still exists. "Where does Michael Jackson go from here?"
MJ: "Thank you, thank you. I have a deep love for film and I want to pioneer and innovate in the medium of film-to write and direct and produce movies, to bring incredible entertainment."
VIBE: "What kinds of movies? Are you looking for scripts?"
MJ: "Yes, but nothing has been finished yet."
VIBE: "Are you ever lonely?"
MJ: "Of course. If I'm onstage, I'm fine there. But you can have a house full of people and still be lonely from within. I'm not complaining, because I think it's a good thing for my work."
VIBE: "Tell me about the inspiration for "Speechless". It's very loving."
MJ: "You'll be surprised. I was with these kids in Germany and we had a big water balloon fight-I'm serious-and I was so happy after the fight that I ran upstairs in their house and wrote "Speechless." Fun inspires me. I hate to say that, because it's such a romantic song. But it was the fight that did it. I was happy, and I wrote it in its entirety right there. I felt it would be good enough for the album. Out of the bliss comes magic, wonderment, and creativity.
VIBE: "Do you collect anything?"
MJ: "I like anything having to do with Shirley Temple, the little Rascals, and the Three Stooges. I love Curly. I love him so much that I did a book on him. I got a hold of his daughter and we wrote the book together.
VIBE: Is there anything that you would like to say to VIBE readers?"
MJ: "I love Quincy Jones. I really do. And also, I want to tell the readers not to judge a person b y what they hear, or even what they read, unless they heard it from the person himself. There is so much tabloid sensationalism. Don't fall prey to it, it's ugly. I'd like to take all the tabloids and burn them. I want you to print that! Some of them try to disguise themselves, but they are still the tabloids."
VIBE: "Finally, how do you channel your creativity?"
MJ: "I don't force it, I let nature take its course. I don't sit at the piano and think, I'm going to write the greatest song of all time. It doesn't happen. It had to be given to you. I believe it's already up there before you are born, and then it drops into your lap. It's the most spiritual thing in the world. When it comes, it comes with all the accompaniments, the strings, the bass, the drums, the lyrics, and you're just the medium through which it comes, the channel. Sometimes I feel guilty putting my names on songs-"written by MJ"-because it's as if the heavens have done it already. Like Michaelangelo would have this huge piece of marble from the quarries of Italy, and he'd say, "Inside is a sleeping form." He takes a hammer and chisel, and he's just freeing it. It's already there. It's already there."