As the sordid details of the Jackson family’s drama spills out in interviews and court documents in Los Angeles, one famous face once close to Michael Jackson has attempted to stay out of the fray. Although it has hardly been mentioned among the salacious details of Katherine Jackson’s mysterious disappearance just a week ago, her son’s will, released after his death in 2009, reportedly stipulated that his former mentor and icon Diana Ross should have custody of his children if his mother were not alive or able to care for them.
Friends of Ross say the singer, who befriended a young Michael Jackson some 40 years ago, was surprised by the contents of his will and never considered taking responsibility for Prince Michael, Paris, and Blanket after Jackson’s sudden death. While Ross is quite fond of Jackson’s children, the friends added, she feels strongly that they belong with his immediate family.
“Diana has no intention of taking those kids,” said a source close to Ross. “She has her own life on the East Coast and wouldn’t want to uproot them to come live there. That wouldn’t be fair to anyone, particularly those kids.”
Ross is said to be in agreement with the decision to appoint T.J. Jackson and Katherine Jackson as co-guardians of the three children. The elder Jackson and her grandson petitioned the court for shared custody after Katherine Jackson was stripped of her guardianship last week by a family court judge at the request of Michael Jackson’s estate. The matriarch was apparently out of touch with her grandchildren for more than a week, and the reasons surrounding her absence continue to baffle many inside and outside the Jackson family. Ross is said to be aware of recent events but not directly involved.
“Miss Ross believes this is a private matter involving minor children, and that everyone’s best interest is served if it remains private,” said Ross’s lawyer John Frankenheimer.
Ross was just as protective of the children’s father, whom she met at Motown Records when he was just 9 years old. The two immediately became good friends despite the age difference and developed a lifelong bond, say friends and family. As a young boy, Jackson idolized the Supremes lead singer, and some have suggested the King of Pop’s many plastic surgeries were an attempt to look more like Ross, who starred in the films Mahogany and Lady Sings the Blues, among others.
Jackson made his solo singing debut in 1971, on Ross’s television special, and made several other appearances on her annual shows. In his autobiography, Moonwalk, Jackson called Ross his “mother, love and sister all rolled up in one.” And in her book Call Me Ms. Ross, the Oscar-nominated actress recounted finding Jackson in her dressing room one day putting on her makeup.
“Diana did love him in a motherly way,” said a friend of the singer. “He lived with her when he first moved to L.A. as a kid, and she tried to look out for him in every way she could. But there was no romantic relationship, no matter what Michael said or thought. He just loved her glamour.”
Ross has not spoken publicly about Jackson’s death except for a statement she made shortly afterward, saying she was heartbroken.
“At the time of his death they weren’t particularly close, so she was surprised by the will on some level,” said the source close to Ross. “But she always knew about the problems he had with his family and felt he left the kids to her to avoid leaving them with his siblings. She knows the entire family, which is one big reason she didn’t want to get involved with this custody issue. That’s a headache she doesn’t need.”
As a result of an alleged altercation at the Jackson family home last week in California, Jackson siblings Janet, Randy, Jermaine, and Rebbie reportedly have been barred by Michael Jackson’s estate from the home where their mother lives with his three children. The estate requested the siblings be barred for the safety of the children. Video released last week showed a verbal argument among several family members as well as footage of Janet Jackson attempting to the take a cell phone from Paris Jackson.