Inside Joe Jackson’s tormented relationship with the kids he made stars
A DECADE before the intravenous propofol stopped his heart, Michael Jackson recalled his father this way: “Just a look would scare you.”
“When he’d come to see me, I’d get sick,” the King of Pop told Oprah in a 1992 interview. “I’d start to regurgitate.”
To which his father, Joe Jackson – the abusive, driving patriarch behind the careers of Michael, Janet and their siblings – had this rejoinder on BBC news:
“He regurgitates all the way to the bank.”
Such was the stubborn shamelessness of Joe Jackson, who died on Wednesday at 89.
The grandson of slaves and the son of a stern father who was taught in a one-room Arkansas schoolhouse, Joe Jackson’s hard scrabble, pre-Motown life gave no hint of the gold records and abuse scandals to come.
An amateur boxer and failed blues singer, he worked as a steel-company crane operator. He and his wife, Katherine, raised three girls and six boys in the crime-ridden slums of Gary, Indiana.
But in the early ’60s, Joe had an idea that lifted the family out of that ghetto and into -super stardom.
He turned his talented kids into The Jackson 5, meeting, at first, with ridicule, he noted in a blog post addressed to his grandchildren.
Joe turned a deaf ear “when I heard the laughter of the neighbours and the mockery and sinister comments,” he recalled in the post from three years ago.
“Society would not have cared had we been on welfare in Gary, Indiana, nor would it have come with a helping hand. Why would I care what it thinks, writes or says about me now?
“Let others spend their time writing and talking negatively about you,” he advised. “Let them talk, you go and do it!”
Only in the 1980s – after The Jackson 5 split from his management and Michael rose to fame, with sister Janet on his heels – did the abuse that drove the family’s success come to light.
“None of us can remember him holding us or cuddling us or telling us, ‘I love you,’” Jermaine Jackson said in a memoir of the father who demanded that his children call him Joseph.
That was the least of it.
Both of Joe’s elder daughters, Rebbie and La Toya, accused him of sexual abuse.
La Toya wrote in a 1991 memoir, “When your father gets out of bed with your mother and gets into bed with his daughter and you hear the mother saying, ‘No, Joe, not -tonight. Let her rest. Leave her alone, she’s tired,’ that makes you crazy.”
If the boys missed a step or a note during rehearsals, Joe would beat them with the buckle end of a belt or an electrical cord or a tree branch he’d have them break off themselves in their backyard.
The father targeted Michael, the singing group’s youngest and most talented member, with pinpoint taunts.
Joe’s malicious teasing – including calling him “Big Nose” – turned Michael’s hatred of his own nose into a lifelong, disfiguring plastic-surgery obsession.
“I never got to play,” Michael recalled of his childhood.
The father was unrepentant about punishing Michael and his siblings.
In a 2003 BBC News interview, Joe “clarified” that he merely “whipped” Michael with a switch and a belt.
“I never beat him,” he maintained, parsing absurdly. “You beat someone with a stick.”
To what extent these cruelties are responsible for Michael’s own darkness – including allegations of child molestation and drug abuse that would lead to his OD death in 2009 – is a secret that has now followed both father and son to their graves.
Michael would cut his dad out of his will; Joe would unsuccessfully sue for an allowance.
In one particularly humiliating episode in 2012, the tabloids caught Joe hawking “Jackson’s Legend” fragrances in a Las Vegas shopping mall.
Still, the father lived his final years in comfort, in a $500,000 Vegas condo purchased for him by Janet, and with a monthly stipend from Katherine, said Jackson family biographer Stacy Brown.
“He was treated by others like he was royalty,” even as he remained largely estranged from his wife and family, Brown told The Post.
“Joe never picked up a tab … Everyone in Vegas treated him like gold – Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather,” he said.
“In his own mind, he was not a pariah – he was still Big Joe Jackson.”
Additional reporting by Chuck Arnold