Robert Hilburn remembers his time with Michael Jackson
I'll always regret that the last conversation I had with Michael Jackson ended with him angrily hanging up the phone -- at least I've long thought of Michael's mood that day more than a decade ago as angry. I now realize the more accurate description would be "wounded."
But even all this wasn't enough to prevent Michael from striking me as one of the most fragile and lonely people I've ever met. His heart may have finally stopped beating Thursday afternoon, but it had been fatally broken long ago.
During weekends I spent with him on the road during theJacksons' "Victory" tour in 1984, I learned that he was so traumatized by events during his late teens -- notably the public rejection by fans who missed the "little" Michael of the Jackson 5 days -- that as an adult he relied desperately on his fame to protect him from further pain. In the end, that overruling need for celebrity was at the root of his tragedy.