|New York Daily News - http://www.nydailynews.com|
|Jax rules with an iron fist |
By MICHELLE CARUSO
DAILY NEWS WEST COAST BUREAU CHIEF
Sunday, April 10th, 2005
SANTA MARIA, Calif. ? Michael Jackson's young pals were the Neverland Boys Gone Wild, witness after witness has said at his trial, but it's a completely different story when it comes to the pop singer's own three kids.
Prince Michael I, 8, and Paris, 7, have been described as "polite" and "well-behaved"; their worst offense is said to be occasionally asking to stay up past their bedtime.
With his own brood, Jackson, 46, is anything but a no-rules Peter Pan, according to British journalist Jonathan Margolis. "He insists 'no means no,' but discipline must be administered without anger or yelling," wrote Margolis, who spent several months with the singer and his kids a few years ago.
And the youngest child, the balcony-dangled Prince Michael II, who's now 3, is being raised the same way.
But for many Neverland visitors, the word "no" didn't seem to exist. Maids and other ranch staffers, as well as a flight attendant, have described antics and rudeness that would curl Mr. Rogers' hair.
Especially bad was the now 15-year-old whose accusations are behind the current trial, several have testified.
The accuser, then 13, pelted mashed potatoes at a sleeping doctor aboard a charter flight and loudly scolded stewardess Cynthia Bell for serving him lukewarm chicken.
In contrast, Paris helped the stewardess bake cookies in the galley and Prince Michael I wandered the aisles or played games in his dad's four-seat booth.
Neverland ranch maid Kiki Fournier shocked the jury when she told how the accuser's chocolate-gobbling 12-year-old brother pulled a knife on her when she told him he was too young to cook. "Who wants a knife in your back? ... I didn't like it," she testified. The brothers also fired up Neverland's Ferris wheel without permission and were caught "throwing objects at the elephants and people" from on high, the defense says.
Other youthful Neverland visitors "crashed golf carts" or downed candy and rode the amusement rides until they puked, Fournier said.
And "Home Alone" star Macaulay Culkin poured soda and popcorn on Jackson's head from the projection booth in the Neverland theater, creating a huge, sticky mess.
Fournier bemoaned Neverland's "free-rein" atmosphere, which she said turned the boys into "very wild and sometimes destructive" monsters.
So how is it that his own three kids are described as angels?
Some say one reason is their no-nonsense chief governess, Grace Rwaramba.
When Jackson is working, playing, in court or indisposed because of his many ailments, Rwaramba is in charge ? and runs a very tight ship.
The 38-year-old native of Rwanda is a prim, religious woman who has studied the Bible with Jackson's older sister Rebbie, a devout Jehovah's Witness, and attends the First African Methodist Episcopal Church when in Los Angeles.
Tall, attractive and short-haired, the nanny home schools the kids in a sunny classroom with tiny wooden desks and chairs on the second floor of Jackson's home. But her lessons go beyond the three R's.
"Grace has always made sure that Prince and Paris know they are very fortunate, and that there are children in the world who don't have food or shoes or beds to sleep in," said a source close to the Jackson family.
But she is said to take her cues on how to manage the children from Jackson himself.
The pop idol loathes spoiled Hollywood brats and doesn't want his kids to go sour, says biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli.
Still, he dresses the kids like old-time aristocrats ? not logo-sporting, jeans-and-T-shirt commoners. Prince Michael I sometimes wears "Little Lord Fauntleroy" suits, and Paris dons velvet dresses with lacy trim and black Mary Jane shoes.
"Michael is very old school," said Taraborrelli. "Michael prefers a simpler time ... He likes that look."
His parenting methods are old-school too ? even if his Neverland antics seem anything but.
"When the children are naughty or unkind to one another, he favors taking things away from them and making them stand in the corner," Margolis wrote.
When they play with friends, they are not allowed to refer to their toys as "mine," and Paris and Prince Michael I were "taught that the only reason to have money is to share its benefits with others," he wrote.
"It's a big deal to him. When he was a kid, he had all the money in the world, but he only got a modest weekly allowance from his mom. He was never spoiled," says Taraborrelli.
But in reaction to his own father's harsh discipline (the singer has said Joe Jackson used a leather belt to get his point across), Jackson will never lay a hand on his kids.
"He is that strong in his convictions. Love her as he does, for example, he disagrees profoundly with his friend Elizabeth Taylor, the children's godmother, who believes the odd smack is all right," Margolis wrote.
"Jackson may be neurotic, eccentric and downright flaky, but Prince and Paris are bright, confident, affectionate and considerate," he continued. "They say grace before meals, speak in sentences rather than monosyllabic American grunts and are like many children, from using rude language."
Michael's big plans for little ones
If Michael Jackson winds up in the big house he wants custody of his three kids to go to his mom, Katherine, and father, Joe. Sources tell the Daily News that if the singer goes to prison, his plan is that they be raised in the sprawling Encino, Calif., home where he spent much of his youth.
And he wants the children's life-long governess, Grace Rwaramba, to remain their caretaker, the sources said.
But his ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, the mother of his two oldest kids, Prince Michael I, 8, and Paris, 7, has different plans.
She's waging a bitter custody fight to prevent the children she bore for Jackson from landing with his parents, even though she willingly signed away all her parental rights in 2001.
Jackson and Rowe were married in 1996 and divorced in 1999.
When she ditched her parental rights, Rowe told a judge, "I had the children for him to become a father. Not for me to become at mother."
She also said, under oath, "Michael is a wonderful man. A brilliant father."
But Rowe apparently changed her mind when Jackson was charged with child molestation in November 2003 and she was told he wanted the kids with Katherine and Joe Jackson.
Joe Jackson has for years been portrayed as an abusive father when the singer was young, but he's appeared to have mellowed with age and has been at his son's side in court.
"She felt dissed when he (Michael Jackson) wouldn't return her calls," a source said.
So she filed for custody. The matter was almost smoothed out in mid 2004, but when Rowe dished in a TV interview that aired in late 2004, he cut off her annual $1 million payment and she declared war.
Her lawyer, Iris Finsilver, refused comment yesterday.
Michael Abrams, Jackson's lawyer on the matter, would only say: "We hope to prevail."
Jax rules with an iron fist
Interesting article, but can't say I would believe what it says about how Jackson treats his own kids. Those poor kids are having such a bizarre childhood that I feel sorry for them. Can you imagine having to go out in public with your face covered all the time as a child?