Jackson exposed, allegations of sexual abuse1:08
HBO's latest documentary, Leaving Neverland exposes allegations of sexual abuse from the king of pop Micahel Jackson.
On November 13, 1996, superstar Michael Jackson walked down the aisle for the second time in a little over two years.
His divorce to Lisa Marie Presley had been finalised just three months prior. Visiting Australia on his HIStory world tour, Jackson wed nurse Debbie Rowe at Sydney’s Sheraton on the Park Hotel in front of a small gathering of close friends.
His best man was an eight-year-old boy.
At the time of the wedding, Rowe was heavily pregnant with the first of two children she would “gift” Jackson, having a minimal presence in their upbringing.
ONE FAILED MARRIAGE
Presley filed for divorce in early 1996, citing “irreconcilable differences” after a brief and very public marriage that saw the couple parading displays of physical affection in music videos, prime time interviews and awards show appearances.
In the explosive new documentary Leaving Neverland, Jackson’s child sex abuse accusers claim the entire marriage was for show, to distract the public from the star’s relationships with young boys.
“I remember Michael saying to me that he’s going to have to have these public relationships with women, so that people don’t think anything,” accuser James Safechuck reveals.
“He would always say that he’d have to go get married at some point, but that it wouldn’t mean anything.”
Presley to this day insists her feelings for Jackson were genuine — but there was one thing she was not prepared to give him: A baby.
Jackson had first met Debbie Rowe when she was working as a nurse in his doctor’s office some years earlier. By the time he and Presley split, they’d struck up a close friendship.
“They had broken up, and I was trying to console him because he was really upset,” Rowe revealed in the Jackson-approved 2003 TV special Michael Jackson: The Footage You Were Never Meant To See.
That program was produced as a response to the Martin Bashir special Living With Michael Jackson, which further damaged Jackson’s reputation and sparked fresh scrutiny over his relationships with young boys.
“He said ‘I really want to be a dad,’ and I said ‘So be a dad.’ He looked at me puzzled. I said, ‘Let me do this. I want to do this. You’ve been so good to me. Please let me do this: You need to be a dad.’ I nagged him into it, if you will,” Rowe revealed.
Speaking to Bashir, Jackson confirmed the story.
“She said, ‘You need to be a daddy.’ She wanted to do that for me as a present,” he said.
AN UNUSUAL MARRIAGE
Rowe gave birth to Jackson’s first child, Prince Michael, in February of 1997, four months after their wedding. Jackson later told Bashir that both the couple’s children were “natural conceptions” — that he and Rowe had sex.
Rowe recalled the birth of their first child.
“Michael was definitely more excited than I was. He was SO excited when I had a contraction. He was welling up … and then his son was born. The look on his face … I’d never seen him that happy. That’s what made it wonderful for me, to see the look on his face.”
Rowe would not see her son for another six weeks after the birth — he was taken to Jackson’s Neverland ranch to be cared for by a team of nannies, while Rowe recovered at a friend’s house.
Just 14 months later, a second child, Paris, was born. Jackson would later tell Bashir he “snatched” his newborn daughter away from the hospital — and her mother: “I snatched her and just went home with all the placenta and everything all over her.”
Rowe’s involvement with her young family was minimal.
“We have a non-traditional family, and if it makes people uncomfortable, it’s a shame they’re not more open,” Rowe said in 2003. “We have a family unit, and I will always be there for him and the children. People make remarks: ‘I can’t believe she left the children.’ I did not leave my children. My children are with their father, where they’re supposed to be.
“My kids don’t call me mum because I don’t want them to. They’re Michael’s children. It’s not that they’re not my children, but I had them because I wanted him to be a father. I believe there are people who should be parents, and he’s one of them. I could do something for him and this is what I could do.”
A HASTY DIVORCE
The couple divorced in October 1999, with Rowe handing Jackson full custody rights to her two children. It was the formalisation of an arrangement that had been present throughout their marriage, with Rowe living separately from Jackson and the children.
Intensely private, Rowe said the public scrutiny had become too much and she craved a normal life.
“We split up because I couldn’t deal with it. I couldn’t go to the grocery store. I wasn’t used to it. Michael was more than generous: ‘You don’t have to go to the grocery store.’ But I want to. I really want to,” she said in 2003.
She said she still had some level of involvement in the children’s lives, explaining that Jackson’s habit of shrouding their faces in material when in public had been her idea.
“I obviously have some influence, as their faces are still covered. That was my request, not his. He’s very proud of his children — I’m the one who’s terrified. I’m the one who’s seen the notes that someone’s gonna take his children,” Rowe said.
“I’m sure one day he’ll ask the children ‘Do you want to wear the scarf?’ I will have immediate heart failure. But he’s not going to make his children do something they don’t want to do; he’s not that kind of parent.”
A third child, Prince Michael II, whose nickname is Blanket, was born to an unknown surrogate in 2002, and upon Jackson’s death in 2009, custody of his three children went to their grandmother, Katherine Jackson.
Rowe was allowed supervised visitations. It’s understood she has a closer relationship with her daughter Paris, 20, than with her son Prince, 22.
Rowe once hinted on social media that her arrangement with Jackson had at some point soured, writing that it was “one of the saddest things in this world is to see a child grow up hating one of their parents because they only got one side of the story”.
Rowe was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 and Paris supported her through her health battle. Last year, Paris caused a stir on social media when she reposted a fan-made image showing her as an adult, stood between her late father and her mother.
One of her followers, actress Lori Petty, wrote that she thought the photo was “creepy.”
Paris’ response was both heartbreaking and telling.
”No, I think it’s nice to dream about what it would be like to have parents, and to have it put into something I can see, even if it’s a fan-made edit,” she wrote.
Petty quickly deleted her original tweet and replied: “If you like it, I love it xxx ... didn’t mean to be unkind. Love you.”
Leaving Neverland is now available to stream on TenPlay.