Michael is 33 in this conversation so it takes place sometime August 29th 1991 – August 29th 1992
G: You know that photograph with Janet that you brought over here, how old was she? Is that Janet and Randall and who’s that other lady? You probably don’t know which picture I’m talking about, huh?
M: Janet, Janet was real little. She was about, um, that was when Janet was on the Good Times show.
M: Janet must have been… I don’t know, how old she was, mother could probably tell, I don’t know.
G: Is that Randy next to Janet?
M: Yeah, with the gold jacket?
M: Yeah, that’s Randy.
G: Okay and there’s another lady with them.
M: (What other lady?) (Glenda laughs) It’s was like… you know, girl, it was like… my brothers and (I)
G: All of them? I guess they’re not as sensitive as you are.
M: Randy grew up in it because Randy, Randy’s been really through a lot, okay? And Randy grew up with Joseph telling him – ‘cause Randy was the youngest boy and you know I been performing since I was five and Randy had to stay home with the girls. Be with Rebbie, Latoya, Janet as a baby, and had to be with mother. Joseph always told Randy, “You’re not good enough, you don’t have talent.”
G: He told him that?
G: But he was so little!
M: Yeah. And then we, y’know, tried to bring Randy into the group and he felt like he was like, when Jermaine left, when Jermaine decided to stay with Motown and we went on to Epic and stuff – and Randy was always told he was a filler. I remember we did this show. It was called the Jacksons, The Jackson Five or something like that show. And I will never forget this. Randy was like nine years old. He was on the congos. This was his first appearance on television. So we had a live audience and stuff. It was on ABC. It was a live audience and stuff like that and we were doing, I don’t remember which number it was, but Randall was, he was on the congos and stuff. Joseph was like the tyrant.
G: And how old were you?
M: Well, let’s see… Randy’s 30 now and I’m like 33.
G: So you were…
M: I was like 12. Then Joseph got on, “What the fuck happened to you?”
M: Yeah, like when I got close to Mr B and stuff (Berry Gordy) Mr B would kiss me and hug me and stuff like that. He’s like, “What’s up wid you, man?” You know he [Joseph] wouldn’t say anything to Mr B really, but Mr B would have gone off.
G: Tell him that he was (I)
M: Yes, Joseph never used to hug us! Mother did.
G: What about that other child that he has?
M: (long pause)… Jon Vonnie?
M: Oh yeah, he doesn’t have any problem, he never had any problem showing– he hugged her and stuff, I never could understand that.
G: That is bizarre. That’s really bizarre
M: Why is that, girl?
G: I don’t know!
M: Jackie, I mean, Jackie got it the worse because Jackie was the oldest boy, and Rebbie I think got it. And—
G: You mean “got it,” you mean like the beatings or?
M: Yeah and…
M: But Jackie was used to get it the worse.
G: That’s terrible. But weren’t you kind of the spunky one? I mean, didn’t I read where you threw a shoe at his head or something?
M: Yeah, I was the one who would fight back when I was little. He’d try to beat me and stuff like that. You know, if I sang the wrong – I didn’t do something right or I did the wrong dance step, you know the wrong move. And I would argue back and I would fight back.
G: And all of your big brothers just sit there and watch?
M: Yeah, they were scared of him. And I threw a show at him and stuff.
M: And I’d run like HELL! And he couldn’t catch me, you know?
M: And then when I went to sleep and stuff ‘cause, we you know, we were (I)
G: (something bangs, muffling noises) Hold on, I was trying to take these jeans off and I dropped the phone, I’m sorry, laughs
M: (Can I get into them?)
G: ( laughs) No wait a minute, I’m going to pick them up off the floor. Hold on, okay, go ahead.
M: Okay, my brothers used to say I was crazy. And I was little. And I would always fight Joseph back, and oh my god, I would get my ass beat. And then I used to run and I threw a show at him and run like hell.
M: And he knocked me down on the floor one time ‘cause we were rehearsing in our living room. I did somethin’ wrong. He knocked the MESS out of me. And we were supposed to perform somewhere the next day. And he knocked me down so hard, I lost the wind, I lost my wind, right? And I was just little.
M: So I got up, I was so serious. They talk about me being conceited now, you know?
M: I got up and I was crying and stuff. And I said, “Joseph, if you hit me again. I’m not performing!”
M: He’s like, (imitates Joe’s voice) “What the fuck did you say?”
M: I’m like, “You hit me again, Joseph” – and I couldn’t, I wasn’t even nine years old, I was probably just about seven. I said, “Joseph if you hit me again” – and I was crying my eyes out – “I said if you hit me again I am not performing.”
G: (sympathetic sigh)
M: And he left me alone. I said, “I’m not doing the show!” He said, “Don’t you know I will kick your MF ass!” And all this and that, and I got up, the wind was knocked out of me. And I said, “You hit me again and I won’t perform.” And he knew I was the star performer. (laughs)
G:(laugh) Yeah, really!
M: And he didn’t hit me.
G: Well, you had some leverage there (laughs)
M: My brothers used to say, “Mike you crazy man, you crazy.” And then when I would go to sleep at night he would see that I was scared. He would be banging on our windows and stuff and open the windows like he was going to break in and stuff
G: That’s horrible, that’s an awful thing for-
M: You read about that in the book, you read it.
G: Oh, Michael it’s been a while since I’ve read that book, I don’t remember everything.
M: He used to scare us when we was little. When we were asleep and we had to get up early in the mornings. We had to have rehearsals before we went to school. God, and he banged on the windows and we looked out the windows and he had a monster mask on (Glenda gasps) and, “Mother, mother, mother, there’s a monster!”
G: How horrible.
M: And we’d get in trouble for crying.
G: That’s awful. That’s really sick and twisted. I can’t even relate to somebody that does stuff like that. But it didn’t affect your brother’s the same way it did you, huh?
M: Welll… (silence) I seen my brothers, you know, when we were traveling and stuff and doing the circuit and all that. Joseph would be in another room messing with a girl and it was obvious they were having sex.
M: I know… but I didn’t wanna tell mother, and Marlon and I didn’t wanna tell them but… all my brothers kind of just… did the same thing, so, Joseph…
G: Are any of your brothers still married? Or, isn’t everybody married right now?
M: Well, they broke up but, Marlon and Carol have been, they’re trying to work it out. I admire Carol because Marlon was gonna divorce her but she still wanted to make it work.
G: And Jermaine, what is he doing?
M: Oh GOD…
M: I remember, like I told you before, when Marlon and I had to share a room with Jermaine and Bill was asleep. Jermaine would have girls up there all the time screwing and stuff. I always said I’d never and Marlon said the same thing. I felt so guilty when we used to home from the circuit and stuff before we made it, y’know, we used to do the club circuits and stuff. I felt so guilty, and I just cried and Joseph choked me, almost broke my arm one day. But he was proud of it. It’s like, (Joseph’s voice) “Oh, this is what you should do, boy.” I mean, he didn’t say that, but he was screwin’ women in the other room and stuff.
G: What an awful thing to witness. From your father, your role model. (sighs) Especially doing stuff to your mom. What an awful thing.
M: Mother would say when we came home, she and the girls would be in there you know, waitin’ back at the house and all happy, “Joseph’s back!” Joseph would come home, so glad to see mother. It’d just make me sick. And then Jackie and everyone, they started doing that. I told this girl – Jackie saw her when we were on stage (I). I told this girl, I said, “Don’t go with Jackie.” He found out and he went backstage and stuff and I said, “Don’t go with him, please don’t go with him.” She’s like, “Why?” I said, “Please don’t go with him, he’s gonna hurt you.” So, she went. She met him. She was a virgin. And he had sex with her and stuff like that. And in the limo, we were in the limo. And they were gonna take this girl home. Like, I said, “Why did you do that? Why you didn’t just listen to me? Why did you do that? Why did you go with him?” And she was just crying. I said, “Did he hurt you?” and she said, “No. But he told me after we had sex that he never wanted to see me again.” I said, “Why did you go with him? I told you backstage don’t go with him.”