By Robert E. Johnson
JET Associate Publisher
In the first one-on-one interview the "King of Pop, Rock and Soul" Michael Jackson granted after he shook up America with the announcement of his marriage to Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of the late Rock 'n' Roller Elvis Presley, the megastar revealed to EBONY where they met and how he proposed.
Some published reports said that the couple had known each other only eight months before Lisa Marie Presley-Jackson issued a statement, saying:
"My name is Mrs. Lisa Marie Presley-Jackson. My marriage to Michael took place in a private ceremony outside the United States [May 26]." She said the marriage was not formally announced because "we are both very private people living in the glare of the public media… I am very much in love with Michael. I dedicate my life to being his wife. I understand and support him. We both look forward to raising a family and living happy, healthy lives together. We hope friends and fans will understand and respect our privacy."
It was their love of privacy that prompted media probes that resulted in published stories that stated the couple knew each other only eight months before beginning their romance that led to matrimony.
The truth is that Michael, now 36, and Lisa Marie, 26, were just a couple of youngsters when they met in Las Vegas 20 years ago. He was 16 and she was 6. The Jackson Five, with Michael out front as the lead singer, appeared at the MGM Grand Hotel April 9 through 23, 1974, and August 21 through Sept. 3, 1974.
Michael, taking time out from his studio recording session in New York to give EBONY an exclusive interview, recalls: "Her father [Elvis] used to bring her to catch our show where all nine of us [Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, Randy, Maureen 'Rebbie', LaToya and Janet, then 8] were performing… It was a real family show — the only family show in Las Vegas which allowed children to come." He continued:
"Elvis would bring his daughter, Lisa Marie. She would sit right in the front and bodyguards would be right there. Afterwards, she would be escorted backstage and I would meet her and we would talk. This happened quite often. She would come again, again and again. It was quite an event.
"After that, I didn't see her for quite a while. You know, it was like ships passing in the night — hello and goodbye." Lisa Marie married musician Danny Keough in 1988 and two children (Danielle, now 5, and Benjamin, 2) were born to this union. Differences that the couple did not reconcile resulted in a "quickie" divorce in the Dominican Republic last spring.
Three years ago when he started the DANGEROUS album, which featured such hits as "Why You Wanna Trip On Me," "Remember The Time," "She Drives Me Wild" and "Can't Let Her Get Away," Michael said their relationship reached a new plateau. "We sort of went out together. Then we would talk on the phone… I noticed that we had come closer. We went to Las Vegas for The Jackson Family Honors [in 1993]. We later traveled to Atlanta for (former) President Jimmy Carter to visit children, but no one knew that she was there with me.
"The brilliant thing about us is that we were often together but did not let anybody know about it. We got to see each other that way over the years. We were really quiet and comfortable with each other. That's pretty much how the dating started happening." It was during this period that Michael said their relationship changed from being good friends to lovers.
As a sensitive songwriter who deals with feelings that run the range of human emotions, Michael has an uncanny sense of the chemistry in writing songs. For him, that chemistry is inspiration. If you listen to the lyrics of "Remember The Time" and "I Can't Let Her Get Away," in the 1991 release of his DANGEROUS album, you conclude that Lisa Marie could have provided the inspiration.
She certainly provided the kind of support he needed in 1993 when he was going through legal trials and tribulations. "I was on tour and it seemed like I was in Armageddon — Armageddon in the brains," Michael remembered. "All these horrible stories were going around about me. None was true. It was unbelievable. Lisa Marie would call. I could count my true friends on one hand. She was very, very supportive the whole time. That really impressed me. She would call and be crying. She was angry and really wanted to choke people.
"But, really, what impressed me was earthquake day in L.A. [June 28, 1993]," Michael says with an air of excitement. "On earthquake day, my phone just happened to be working. I was terrified — almost out of my brains. I thought the world was ending. I got a phone call that day and it was from her, right after the quake."
Later, in London, where he underwent treatment for addiction to prescription drugs, Michael said that Lisa Marie gave him the impression that their relationship was moving them toward each other in ties that bind. "She would call me, but she didn't always get through to me. And that made it very frustrating for her. I got all the messages… She was very concerned."
It was after these experiences that Michael says he came to that moment when he had to say "This Girl Is Mine" and "The Way You Make Me Feel." (Michael chuckles at the play on the words of two of his best-selling songs.)
"It kind of unfolded," he said of the moment of truth. "We spent a lot of time on the ranch [his sprawling, multimillion-dollar Neverland] and just walked around and talked. It happened! It unfolded all natural. We could feel the feeling we had for each other without even talking about it. It was all in the vibrations, the feelings and the look in our eyes."
After he recounted how a friendship turned to romance, Michael was asked: "Who proposed, you or Lisa Marie?" He responded: "I proposed."
Blushing at the recollection, Michael said: "Well, first I asked — I'm the shyest person in the world. I said to her — we were on the phone — 'If I asked you to marry me, would yoou?' She said, 'Of course!' Then there was silence. I said, 'Excuse me, I've got to go to the bathroom,' he laughed sheepishly. "So I came back. I didn't quite know what to say. But that's how it happened."
Following the telephone proposal and acceptance, the engaged couple promptly met at Neverland, where the romance started. It climaxed in marriage on May 26 in the Dominican Republic, proving that love conquers all.
The couple honeymooned briefly in Budapest, Hungary, where the bride shared some time with the groom on a film location, where he produced a promotional video for his upcoming album, 'HISTORY.' They also spent some time doing what they both love — caring for children. They visited children's hospitals where they comforted the young patients and distributed toys.
This was a prelude to the priority they have agreed upon. The priority is not recording together, although Lisa Marie inherited her famous father's talent for singing and his estate valued at over $150 million. "All this talk about us recording together is a complete rumor," says Michael, whose financial worth is estimated to be over $200 million. "The thing we want to do most is centered around children. I never met anybody who cared so much about children the way I do. I get real emotional about children. Lisa Marie is the exact same way. Wherever we go, we visit children's hospitals. My dream is that when we go to South Africa and India, we will aid children," he discloses.
Asked about plans for their own children, he replied: "It's already happening." Then the fifth born of the nine Jacksons paused and added:
"I want more children than my father [Joseph] has."
Note: factual errors found in the article:
*The Jackson Family Honors was in Feb 94.
*The Los Angeles earthquake was January of 94 not June of 93.