They are show business royalty, heirs of the King of Pop. Someday, they will be very rich. But a year after their father Michael Jackson’s death, Prince, Paris and Blanket Jackson are normal kids full of fun and pranks, devoted to each other and to their grandmother who is their guardian, according to a lawyer who sees them frequently.
They talk about their father and his presence is everywhere in the ranch-style house in the San Fernando Valley where they live. Pictures and memorabilia adorn the walls. The gated compound has additional residences where other members of the family have lived over the years.
"The children are seemingly as normal as normal can be under pretty extraordinary circumstances," says Adam Streisand, the lawyer who represents Katherine Jackson and a frequent visitor to the compound where she lives with the children. He provided an account of life inside their guarded world in an interview with The Associated Press.
The large Jackson family, including eight of Michael’s siblings and their families, has been a source of emotional support for the children, who frequently play with their cousins, Streisand says. And over the past year, Michael Jackson’s parents, children and siblings have moved on with their lives in a world with his music but without him.
The three youngsters have seen Michael Jackson’s final concert movie, "This Is It," but their grandmother, still devastated by the death of her son last June 25, has not watched it.
In an interview with London’s Daily Mail, published Sunday, Katherine Jackson said she misses her son every day but sees his spirit in his three children, whom she is raising "a little less strict" than her son would have.
Prince, whose birth name is Michael Joseph Jackson Jr., is the eldest of Michael’s children. At 13, he has developed an interest in filmmaking, and his brother, sister and cousins have been starring in their own home movies.
"They have props and sets, and one of them acts as director. They all have roles," says Streisand. Recently, a snippet of film was leaked to YouTube showing Paris and Blanket in what might have been scenes from one of their movies. Katherine Jackson told the Daily Mail that Paris, who has a photo shrine to her father on her wall, wants to be an actress.
The one disturbance that brought social workers to the home, in March, stemmed from the kids’ moviemaking, Streisand says. Jermaine’s son, Jafar, 13, saw an internet ad for a stun gun. He bought it by mail, thinking it would be a prop for their movies. When he tried shooting it into a towel, security guards came running. No one was injured.
The children love going to the movies, especially action and fantasy films, and are usually transported by security guards who are also on duty at the family compound 24 hours a day. The Jackson kids are avid students of karate and have made friends at their karate classes.
Since Michael’s death, the children have continued the home schooling that had been their routine when he was alive. Streisand says a room has been set aside in a building at the estate and turned into a classroom where a tutor conducts classes. But in the fall, Prince will leave the cloistered realm to go to private school, a choice that was made by him and his grandmother.
"He is ready to branch out and have a more socialized experience," Streisand says.
Whether his 12-year-old sister, Paris Michael, will join him is undecided, although in the Daily Mail interview Katherine Jackson suggested they all would. Eight-year-old Blanket, whose given name is Prince Michael Jackson II, is described by Streisand as "totally cute and personable — a very bright little boy who looks a lot like his father."
In a brief interview this week, their uncle, Jackie Jackson, said the children were "very excited about going on vacation." They plan to visit Disney World, the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., and other sites where "they can learn as well as have a good time."
Since Michael’s death, Jackie said the family has continued to have gatherings: Last week, everyone came together for a party at the family home when two of his nephews graduated from high school.
On the anniversary of Michael’s death, he said the family will gather for a quiet, private memorial.
As for Katherine Jackson, who recently turned 80, life has become a whirlwind. She is busy overseeing the children’s activities, but is also involved in the administration of Michael’s estate. Although not an executor, she is kept informed by the estate administrators, John Branca and John McClain, on projects that are undertaken.
"She is energetic and active. Her health is perfect," says Streisand. "She has very clear ideas about what she wants and does not want as to estate matters."
She is also putting out a book, "Never Can Say Goodbye: The Katherine Jackson Archives," filled with photos of her son.
"I want the world to know the real Michael," she told the Daily Mail. "I’d like him to be remembered as the loving person he was."
Streisand says Katherine Jackson has made it clear that she does not want Neverland to be sold, and for the time being, it is not on the market. But the 3,000-acre spread costs millions to maintain and a decision to sell could be reconsidered.
Streisand recently made a statement for Katherine in response to an interview given by her husband, Joe, in which he blamed her for their son’s death.
Streisand called the charge "preposterous" and says Katherine was "very hurt" by the statements.
Nevertheless, days later, the couple arrived together at a courtroom for a hearing in the involuntary manslaughter trial of Dr Conrad Murray, charged with improperly administering a mixture of sedatives, including the anesthetic propofol, in an attempt to get the chronic insomniac to sleep.
Joe lives in Las Vegas but stays at the family compound when he is in California. Other members of the Jackson clan have their own homes.
A rundown on their activities since Michael’s death
Joe Jackson: Joe has been the family’s wild card. He has criticized prosecutors for not filing stronger charges against Murray, accused concert promoter AEG Live of wrongdoing and has given interviews that promoted his own business ventures in the days after his son’s death.
He is battling Michael’s estate, seeking more than $15,000 a month, even though Michael Jackson omitted his father from his will and trust. The singer also excluded him from guardianship duties, and Joe filed a declaration stating he would not play a primary role in raising his grandchildren.
The move was not altogether surprising, considering Michael’s strained relationship with Joe. Michael said at one point that he used to get physically sick at the sight of his father.
Joe has attended every court hearing involving Murray’s prosecution.
Now nearly 81, he is likely to remain a constant figure in his son’s post-death affairs. He is expected to sue Murray for his son’s death and is appealing the legitimacy of the executors of his son’s estate, which pays his wife and grandchildren more than $86,000 a month.
Michael’s brothers and sisters were also omitted from his will.
Janet Jackson: The highest-profile living member of the Jacksons continued to balance acting and singing over the past year. She put out a greatest hits album with a couple of new tracks to lackluster sales, but had success with her starring role in the movie "Why Did I Get Married Too?". Janet has also been cast in the film adaptation of the Ntozake Shange play, "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf," and is writing a book detailing her years-long battle with weight. "It’s not an autobiography, even though it gives anecdotes throughout my life. … It talks about self-esteem as well, and acceptance from within," she said in a recent interview. Janet was seen on the finale of "American Idol"; in July, she will perform at the annual Essence Festival in New Orleans.
Tito Jackson: Tito participated in the short-lived reality show "The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty." He has been touring with a blues band — he plays guitar — with planned stops in Japan, China and New York. His sons, who are in their 20s, have become close to Michael’s children, says Streisand, who describes them as "smart, loving and supportive young gentlemen." Tito joined the family in court for Murray’s arraignment.
Jermaine Jackson: Jermaine spent the first few months after his brother’s death trying to plan an all-star tribute. One was to be held in Vienna, Austria, but was later canceled as top acts that had been touted to appear were not confirmed. With three other brothers, he appeared on the Jackson’s reality show, and accepted awards for Michael at the American Music Awards, bringing his sons on stage with him. The children live with their mother, Alejandra, at the family compound but are expected to move out soon. Alejandra also has two children by Randy. Jermaine has attended all court hearings in the Murray case.
Randy Jackson: Randy was the only brother who declined to be on the Jackson reality series; he said on Twitter that he was a private person. But the youngest Jackson brother, who was recently hospitalized for chest pains, has been vocal on Twitter about various matters, ranging from Murray’s prosecution to unauthorized tributes to his brother. "At times I’m sad & broken," he wrote on Twitter, thanking fans for boosting his spirits with their support.
Marlon and Jackie Jackson: Along with Tito and Jermaine, Marlon and Jackie participated in the Jackson brothers reality show, and were executive producers. Jackie said the show continues to play in Europe but there are no plans for a second season. He and Marlon have been in a recording studio with estate executor McClain preparing Michael’s unreleased music for a new album. Jackie is also a producer of the planned Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil show, working closely with the estate executors and lawyers. Of the Jackson family, he said, "We have come together to make sure that we keep Michael’s name and likeness alive."
Rebbie Jackson: The oldest Jackson sibling has made a few albums and is best known for her 1984 hit, "Centipede." She has stayed out of the spotlight but started performing again this year, a comeback she had planned last year but halted when her brother died. She spent a while after Michael’s death in the family’s compound, helping her mother with Prince, Paris and Blanket. Rebbie — in a rare interview — told NBC’s "Today" show in April that like the rest of her family, she had difficulty coping after Michael died, even dissolving into tears when she heard her brother’s music playing in a store. But she said enough time had passed that she felt comfortable performing again.
Latoya Jackson: LaToya was among the most vocal family members after her brother died. With Jermaine and Joe, she said she believed Michael was "murdered." She also put out a song, "Home," in tribute to Michael; the song had previously been released before his death. But her album, delayed after Jackson’s death, has yet to be released. She has appeared with her family in court for the Murray case.
–AP Entertainment Writer Anthony McCartney contributed to this story.
Michael Jackson’s parents, Katherine Jackson and Joe Jackson leave a Los Angeles courthouse Monday, June 14, 2010, after a preliminary hearing setting and motions in the trial of Michael Jackson’s personal doctor Conrad Murray. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)