Controversial Father Joe Jackson Speaks Out on the Making of Superstar Son

Controversial father Joe Jackson speaks out about his superstar son.

July 14, 2009, 7:07 AM

July 14, 2009— -- The events of June 25 changed the reality of the extended Jackson family forever. But before the family bowed in mourning, ABC News learned that Joe Jackson, the 79-year-old family patriarch, was in the process of executing his latest vision: a reality show, which would take viewers inside the lives of the extended Jackson clan.

In footage shot over a six-month period last year and obtained exclusively by ABC News, Joe and Katherine Jackson recall a time before celebrity struck.

"I just had a feeling that he would be my husband," Katherine said. "The first time I saw him, I fell in love with him. ... He doesn't know this."

Katherine said that Joe -- a former boxer and crane operator, who has become known for his harsh exterior -- was "the sweetest thing."

"Really, he was so nice. He tries to be tough now," she joked.

"People don't care if you be nice as pie. You could be as good as Jesus Christ, they always gonna talk about you," Joe Jackson said. "Just spell my name right."

For more on Chris Connelly's exclusive interview with Joe Jackson and exclusive footage of the Jackson family, watch a special edition of "Primetime: Family Secrets -- The Jackson Family: Life After Michael," Tuesday, July 14, 10 p.m. ET

But love at first sight didn't seem to stop Jackson from moving to Las Vegas 15 years ago after the Northridge earthquake rocked Southern California.

"We are not together all the time," Katherine said in the footage. "We stayed together many years.  But we see each other all the time. I go to Vegas and he'll come here. Well, they always say absence makes the heart grow fonder."

With the show, Jackson was reportedly hoping to generate buzz and ultimately reunite the Jackson 5 -- the group that catapulted the Gary, Ind., boys to the ranks of international singing sensation and brought the family into the international spotlight.

"My whole thing is to get boys together again as the J5," he said in the exclusive footage. It was a task Jackson thought that he alone could accomplish, but it was Katherine who got the children interested in music.

"After we married I used to sing all the time with the children when they came along. And that is how they got interested," she said of the group's rise to stardom.

Though the show never aired, in the footage Jackson proudly takes viewers behind the gates of the family's Encino, Calif., compound, displaying family pride and his boisterous personality: "Me, I am me! The one and only Joe Jackson."

Jackson goes inside rooms in the family home that are filled with memories of Michael -- from photos to the star's fifth-grade report card.

With the sudden death of the family superstar June 25, the house has been filled with grief, as those closest to the family have flooded the property, coming to pay their respects.

In the interview with ABC News' Chris Connelly, Joe Jackson said the family is grieving for the loss of an "idol," not just a son and a brother.

"They're taking it very hard because really Michael was our idol. You know, he's -- he was a guy that -- we helped develop to be a superstar. So they are taking it pretty hard," Jackson said.

The Making of a Megastar: A Childhood of Regret

Jackson may be the first to boast about how he molded his son into the preteen front man of the Jackson 5 and ultimately, one of the era's greatest entertainers.

"I put a lot into my son, which -- I sort of like stayed in the background when it comes to this news thing, but I put an awful lot of work into Michael. Gettin' -- matter of fact, gettin' the whole family developed for show business," he said.

For Jackson, show business has been a lifelong mind-set, as he has continually worked to execute his next vision for Michael.

"I was very demanding, but I got things done," he said, on making Michael the superstar he became.

Despite his pride for Michael's accomplishments, Joe Jackson is also the man who Michael fired as his manager, the man who Michael said he feared to the point of fainting, and the man who outraged fans by hawking his record label 72 hours after his son's death.

"They don't know me. They don't understand me. And I don't care about that," Jackson said. "I do what's right. And I love my family. My son. And that's about it. I try to perfect everything I do."

Michael outlined the personal cost of perfection, in his last interview, only a year before his death, saying that he sacrificed a normal childhood for a life on the stage -- a contention, which his father has always disputed.

"There was a lot of times I've been hearin' on the news that Michael say he didn't have a -- a childhood. He had his brothers. He had all his sisters to perform with. You know, to play and have a good time with," Jackson said. "The only thing, can't deny -- didn't let them do -- run the streets late at night, 'cause we knew where our kids was."

Michael has opened up about the tumultuous relationship with his father -- a relationship laden with accusations of brutal beatings and incessant ridicule. In a 2003 documentary called "Living With Michael Jackson," Michael told ABC's Martin Bashir that he was "terrified" by his father and that his intimidating presence would cause him to vomit and faint.

Joe Jackson denies any allegations of beating, but admits to spanking as a form of physical discipline.

"Michael was never beat as they call it. And -- everyone spanked their kids when they did wrong, but not beat," Jackson told ABC News. "Katherine spanked Michael more than I did, 'cause I was workin' two jobs and she was at home with him the most."

Jackson said he doesn't regret any part of Michael's upbringing: "We brought him up the right way."

A Father-Son Relationship Deteriorates

In Michael's last months of life, Joe Jackson says his ability to gain access to his son was limited -- hampered by the star's inner circle and security personnel.

"My relationship with him was very good. But his relationship was kind of different because he was more particular about his security guard and that sort of a thing. But I tried my best to -- to -- be close to him."

Though Joe Jackson denies any sources of conflict, Marc Schaffel, a long-time adviser to Michael Jackson, asserts that Michael would often try to avoid his father.

"Most of the time when Joe would show up unannounced, the flat-out instruction from Michael was, 'I don't wanna see him. ..." It would just be, 'I can't see him now,'" Schaffel said. "There were many occasions where Joe would show up unannounced -- either trying to push Michael into some kind of cockamamie deal or some kinda money situation. And Michael didn't wanna do it."

Schaffel, who eventually had his own falling out with Michael Jackson and ended up suing him, said that professionally, there had long been tensions between father and son. In 1983, Joe referred derisively to Michael's co-managers as "white help," causing Michael to release a statement disavowing his father's words.

As Michael's downward spiral began, Joe's input waned and his father said he sensed that those surrounding Michael were taking advantage of him. He said that his son, who seemingly surrounded himself with those who didn't have his best interests at heart, "didn't know any better."

As he mulls who might have been around Michael, and what they might have been doing, at the time of his death, Jackson admits to having one regret.

"Maybe that I might have -- should have learned 'em a little more how the streets are instead of -- instead'a keepin' them -- close together," the family patriarch said of teaching his son street smarts to better judge those around him.

"Michael's the type of people he give you his shirt off his back and go and cry about it later," Jackson said. "I remember a time when everybody had a cell phone and he's payin' all them cell phone bills himself 'cause he's nice like that ... Michael didn't care about money."

Still, Joe says he was unable to stop his son from spending what he had.

"There was nothin' I could do about that 'cause it was his money," Jackson said. "Tell him, 'Michael, you gotta -- you gotta be careful with the people that you're around. And make sure tha t-- you are around the right people.'"

Raising the Next Generation of Jacksons

In the grandfather's eyes, his son's tragic death paradoxically revealed to the world that Michael's three long-concealed children are bright, poised kids.

"I thought he was a great father. He took his kids to places. And he didn't let 'em watch TV too much because of the -- they had certain times to them to watch because he was trainin' 'em. And those kids about the smartest kids I ever seen, really. 'Cause that's what Michael put into them," Jackson said.

The world has attention turned to the fate of Michael's three children, Prince Michael I, 12, Paris-Michael Katherine, 11, and Prince Michael II, 7, also known as Blanket, who have been under the care of Katherine Jackson at the Hayvenhurst compound, living with five cousins.

In the exclusive reality TV footage obtained by ABC News from before Michael's death, Katherine plays Pictionary in the yard with five of her other grandchildren, who also live at the Encino home, with Joe Jackson looking on. If not for their celebrity name, the video paints a picture of a "normal" family life and upbringing.

"I am just proud of my family and my great grandchildren and I thank god that I have lived long enough to see my great grandchildren and I just, when I think about it I get tears in my eyes," Katherine Jackson said in the footage.

With a custody battle looming between the Jacksons and Debbie Rowe, mother of Michael's two oldest children, some experts say the court may question whether Katherine will have the stamina to keep up with a three children who are dealing with a sudden and dislocating change in their lives. A hearing on the custody issue has been postponed until later this month.

Still, little doubt remains in Joe Jackson's mind who should raise the children.

"Their grandmother, Katherine, and I," he said. "There's no one else to do what we can do for them. You know, which -- keep 'em all together and-- make 'em happy. And feed 'em like they're supposed to be fed. And let 'em get rest. Plenty of sleep. And grow up to be strong Jacksons."

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