‘Interview of the Century’? Now That’s a ‘Scream’

Los Angeles Times Television Critic

Multiple Michaels.

Michael and his beautiful wife--the controversial, tabloid-chased, seemingly mismatched couple about whom so much had been rumored and speculated--were finally speaking on television together. Her husband could be sweet, but he was also volatile, a manic-depressive capable of violent rage, Mrs. Michael disclosed to the ABC interviewer.

Uh . . . wait. Wrong Michael. That was Mike Tyson and Robin Givens with Barbara Walters in 1988.

Re-cue the tape.

His crotch-grabbing on stage “happens subliminally,” Michael Jackson revealed to his ABC interviewer.


Uh . . . sorry, wrong Michael again. That was the man/child of pop moonwalking over Oprah Winfrey in 1993.

Fast-forward once more.

The sight of luscious Lisa Marie Presley in a photograph before they dated “really tore me to pieces,” Michael Jackson told his interviewer on ABC.

Yes, that’s the Michael of the moment, the one who faced Diane Sawyer on “PrimeTime Live” Wednesday night with Lisa Marie, whom he married in 1994.

Given its frequent hype of Michael’s latest music, the hour was less an interview than an infomercial.

Just as former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson has recently emerged from prison after serving a term for the rape of beauty contestant Desiree Washington, so, too, has Michael Jackson just resurfaced from his self-imposed isolation. And just as Jackson’s chat with the soft-lobbing Oprah strategically coincided with the release of a new music video, so, too, was his coming out with Sawyer part of an epic marketing campaign to re-sweeten his public image and use the media to advertise his first new album in four years.

As always, the media gleefully allowed themselves to be used.

For the most part, of course, these are the same maniacally out-of-control media that jumped out of their skins in reporting a 13-year-old boy’s unproved charges in 1993 that he was molested by Jackson. The same media that Michael regards as the scum, the insects, the doo-doos, the bo-bos, the bile of the Earth.


Until he needs them.

Now he needs them.

Oprah had tackled some of the more pressing Michael questions in 1993 when she asked him about rumors that he spent his leisure time reclining in an oxygen chamber, hoped to buy the Elephant Man’s bones and wanted a little white boy to play him in a Pepsi commercial. All untrue, he insisted. What did she think, he was some kind of oddball or something?

Since then, Michael’s career had been severely imperiled by that molestation charge in a civil suit (he made a huge financial settlement with the youth, and no criminal charges were filed). Then came his surprise marriage to Lisa Marie.

Wednesday’s program featured the inevitable testimonial from Elizabeth Taylor and stories about Michael’s good deeds, plus the network debut of the video of his new single, “Scream”--a duet with his sister Janet that protests the way he’s been treated (“Stop pressuring me . . . “). And he vigorously denied that lyrics (“Jew me, sue me . . .”) to one of his tunes were anti-Semitic.

But enough of that and on to the salacious charges:

* Michael and Lisa Marie have a marriage of convenience. Although someone of Sawyer’s stature naturally would never raise the issue herself (“I didn’t spend my life as a serious journalist to ask these kinds of questions,” she said), she introduced footage of people on the street wanting to know if Michael and Lisa Marie had sex.

“Yes, yes, yes,” Lisa Marie replied emphatically. Not only do they have sex, she added, but they also share the same house, even the same bedroom. It was a bold admission that ended the mystery lingering from Oprah’s 1993 interview when a shocked Michael had refused to answer the question “Are you a virgin?”

* Michael molests young boys. “Never, ever, ever,” Michael insisted. “Not one iota of information” substantiated the charge against him, he said. Then why did he pay his accuser a huge bundle of cash to go away? Because, Michael replied, his lawyers could not assure him that “justice would prevail” if the case came to trial.


The highly publicized sleep-overs of young boys aren’t over, however. Michael said he would continue to let children spend the night with him “if they want. It’s on the level of purity and love and innocence,” he told Sawyer. “If you’re talking about sex, then that’s just a nut. That’s not me.”

Sawyer wondered why an adult such as Michael wanted young boys to share his bed unless he were up to no good. “I have never invited anyone into my bed,” Michael said. “Children love me. They follow me. They want to be with me.”

Lisa Marie jumped in. “These children . . . won’t let him go to the bathroom without them.” Couldn’t he close the bathroom door? Or at least his bedroom door? Apparently not. The kids “jump into bed with him,” Lisa Marie said. That means, if she and Michael share the same bed in addition to the same bedroom, they’re frolicking with her, too. This must be a helluva bed.

And if so, when do these blissful newlyweds find the privacy to do all the things they say they’ve been doing?

Sawyer also inquired about rumors that police found photos of nude young boys among Michael’s possessions. Were there such photos? “Not that I know,” said Michael, who added that he couldn’t say for certain because people continually “swamp me with photographs.” That he would keep around the house? Whatever.

* Michael doesn’t want to be black. What about “the whiteness of your skin?” Sawyer asked Michael, whose face is now almost an alabaster glow. “He’s an artist,” Lisa Marie said, springing to Michael’s defense. “He has every right. If he sees something he doesn’t like, he changes it.” Would Michael like to return to “the color that you were?” Sawyer wondered. Michael said he loved blackness.


There was no mention of the “skin disorder” that Michael had told Oprah required him to wear pale makeup when she had asked about his white skin.

Meanwhile, Lisa Marie was incredulous that people would think that she and her husband were not plain folks. “We’re running around the house, like, you know, normal people,” she said. Yes, a couple of normal people.

That, in essence, was the chat that anchor Harold Greene called “the interview of the century” in a tease for Wednesday’s 11 p.m. “Eyewitness News” on KABC-TV Channel 7.

In 1993, Channel 7 followed Oprah’s interview with an 11 p.m. newscast devoted entirely to Michael. The rest of the world ceased to exist. This time the station cut back, airing a mere five pieces related to the interview. One was from Tritia Takasugi, reporting live from the “secret” interview site at Sony’s Culver City studios that Michael was “candid,” that he “was eager to set the record straight” and that he was “upbeat and forthcoming.”

In another piece, a psychologist reported that Michael and Lisa Marie are really “in love.”

You could tell that from the playful way they ended the interview, with Michael mugging for the camera and Lisa Marie calling Michael “a nut.”


Did she say “a nut”?

All right, a columnist’s cheap shot. So Jew me, sue me.