The Michael Jackson Tapes
by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
Published by Vanguard Press
299 pages, 2009
In 20002001, Michael Jackson sat down with his close friend and spiritual guide, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, to record what turned out to be the most intimate and revealing conversations of his life.
It was Michael’s wish to bare his soul and unburden himself to a public that he knew was deeply suspicious of him. The resulting thirty hours are the basis of The Michael Jackson Tapes. There has never been, and never will be, anything like them. In these searingly honest conversations, Michael exposes his emotional pain and profound loneliness, his longing to be loved, and the emptiness of his fame. You discover why he was suspicious of women and how only children provided the innocence for which he so desperately longed. In his own words, he takes us into the jarring moments of his childhood and speaks of the measures he took to try and heal. He divulges how he came to be alienated from his strong religious anchor and describes his views on the nature of faith. Michael brings us into his tortured yet loving relationship with his siblings. He opens up about his father and his yearning for a time when they might finally reconcile. He talks about his most personal friendships and shares with us his terror of growing old. Despite his unprecedented fame and recent death, there remain unanswered questions about his life. The answers, presented here in The Michael Jackson Tapes, will both intrigue and move you. You will be surprised, riveted, and troubled as you peer into the soul of a tragic icon whose life is an American morality tale and whose flame was extinguished much too early.
Michael’s Fear of His Father
by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
Shmuley Boteach: You know, Michael, I used to judge my father a lot and one day I stopped judging him because he had his own challenges. He has a very different life that began in abject poverty in Iran. And it wasn't easy for Jews growing up in Iran. Who knows what his childhood was like? Do you still judge your father?
Michael Jackson: I used to. I used to get so angry at him. I would just go in my room and just scream out of anger because I didn't understand how a person could be so vicious and mean. Like sometimes I would be in bed sleeping, it would be 12 o'clock at night. I would have recorded all day, been singing all day, no fun, no play. He comes home late. "Open the door." The door is locked. He said, "I am going to give you five seconds before I kick it down." And he starts kicking it, breaking the door down. He said, "Why didn't you sign the contract?" I go, "I don't know." He goes, "Well, sign it. If you don't sign it you are in trouble." It's like, "Oh my God, why? Where is the love? Where is the fatherhood?" I go, "Is it really this way?" He would throw you and hit you as hard as he can. He was very physical.
SB: Did you begin to feel that you were a moneymaking machine for him?
MJ: Yes, absolutely.
SB: Just like Macaulay Culkin described? So you felt used?
MJ: Yes. And one day -- I hate to repeat it -- but one day he said, and God bless my father because he did some wonderful things and he was brilliant, he was a genius, but one day he said, "If you guys ever stop singing I will drop you like a hot potato." It hurt me. You would think he would think, "These kids have a heart and feelings." Wouldn't he think that would hurt us? If I said something like that to Prince and Paris that would hurt. You don't say something like that to children and I never forgot it. It affects my relationship with him today.
SB: So that if you didn't perform for him he would stop loving you?
MJ: He would drop us like a hot potato. That's what he said.
SB: Did your mother always run over and say, "Don't listen to him. He doesn't mean it."?
MJ: She was always the one in the background when he would lose his temper -- hitting us and beating us. I hear it now. [Adopts female voice.] "Joe, no, you are going to kill them. No! No, Joe, it's too much," and he would be breaking furniture and it was terrible. I always said if I ever have kids I will never behave like this way. I won't touch a hair on their heads. Because people always say the abused abuse and it is not true. It is not true. I am totally the opposite. The worst I do is I make them stand in the corner for a little bit and that's it and that's my time out for them.
SB: I think you are right. I hate when I hear things like that the abused abuse. It means that you are condemned to be a bad person.
MJ: It's not true. I always promised in my heart that I would never be this way, never. If -- and it can be in a movie or in a department store -- I hear someone arguing with their child, I break down and cry. Because it reflects how I was treated when I was little. I break down at that moment and I shake and I cry. I can't take it. It is hard.
SB: When my parents divorced, we moved away and my father lived 3,500 miles away from us. And it was difficult to be close to him. But I love him, and I try never to judge him, and I have made a great effort to be much, much closer to him. We have to take seriously the Bible's commandment to always honor our parents. The Bible doesn't say, "Honor them if they've earned it." It simply commands us to honor them. Just by virtue of them having given us life they have earned it.
MJ: I am scared of my father to this day. My father walked in the room -- and God knows I am telling the truth -- I have fainted in his presence many times. I have fainted once to be honest. I have thrown up in his presence because when he comes in the room and this aura comes and my stomach starts hurting and I know I am in trouble. He is so different now. Time and age has changed him and he sees his grandchildren and he wants to be a better father. It is almost like the ship has sailed its course and it is so hard for me to accept this other guy that is not the guy I was raised with. I just wished he had learned that earlier.
SB: So why are you still scared?
MJ: Because the scar is still there, the wound.
SB: So you still see him as the first man. It is hard for you to see him as this new man?
MJ: I can't see him as the new man. I am like an angel in front of him, like scared. One day he said to me, "Why are you scared of me?" I couldn't answer him. I felt like saying, "Do you know what you have done?" [voice breaks] "Do you know what you have done to me?"
SB: It is so important for me to hear this. Because as your friend and as someone who is asked constantly about you, it is so important for me to understand these things. It is so important for the world to understand this. You see Michael, no one would have judged you as harshly if they had heard this. They would have made more of an effort to empathize with your own suffering rather than just condemning you. Do you call him Dad or Joseph?
MJ: We weren't allowed to call him Dad when we were growing up. He said, "Don't call me Dad. I am Joseph." That's what he told us. But now he wants to be called Dad. It is hard for me. I can't call him Dad. He would make it a point: "Don't call me Dad. I am Joseph." I love when Prince and Paris call me "Daddy," or when you hear little Italian kids call "Papa," or Jewish kids call "Poppy." Sweet, how could you not be proud of that? That's your offspring.
SB: From what age did he tell you not to call him Dad?
MJ: From a little kid all the way up to Off the Wall, Thriller.
SB: He felt he was more professional that way?
MJ: No. He felt that he was this young stud. He was too cool to be Dad. He was Joseph. I would hate him to hear me say this...
SB: I read somewhere that your mother was thinking of getting divorced and she filed or something.
MJ: I don't know if she filed, maybe. No, no, she didn't file. She wanted to, many times, because of other women and because he was difficult. But in the name of religion she only can divorce on the grounds of fornication. And he has been in that area before and she knows it. But she is such a saint that she won't part with him. She knows he is out doing other things and fooling around and she is so good and he will come home and lay next to her in the bed. I don't know anyone like her. She is like a Mother Teresa. There are very few people like that.
SB: So she is a long-suffering, saintly kind of woman. Do you feel that she has suffered too long? That she shouldn't have put up with it?
MJ: We used to beg her to divorce him. We used to say, "Mother, divorce him." She used to say, "Leave me alone. No!" We used to say, "'Get rid of him." We used to scream at her, "Divorce him" when we were little. But many years we'd hear the car coming down the drive. He always drove a big Mercedes and he drives real slow. "Joseph's home, Joseph's home, quick!" Everybody runs to their room, doors slam.
SB: You were that scared of him?
MJ: Yeah. I always said, "When I come home and walk through the door I want the kids to go "Daddy," and jump all over me and that's what mine do. I want just the opposite. I don't want them to run. | October 2009
Excerpted from The Michael Jackson Tapes: A Tragic Icon Reveals His Soul in Intimate Conversation by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.
Copyright © 2009 Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, author of The Michael Jackson Tapes: A Tragic Icon Reveals His Soul in Intimate Conversation is one of the world's leading relationship experts and spiritual authorities. His twenty-one books have been best-sellers in seventeen languages, and his award-winning syndicated column is read by a global audience of millions. He is the host of TLC's award-winning Shalom in the Home and was Oprah Winfrey's love, marriage, and parenting expert on Oprah and Friends. He served for eleven years as rabbi at Oxford University, where he built the Oxford L'Chaim Society into the University's second largest student organization. Today, Newsweek calls him the most famous rabbi in America. The winner of the highly prestigious London Times Preacher of the Year award, Rabbi Shmuley is also the recipient of the National Fatherhood Award and the American Jewish Press Association's Highest Award for Excellence in Commentary. He lives in New Jersey with his wife, Debbie, and their nine children.