Sources: The Guardian | Rock’s Backpages By Tom Hibbert | All Things Michael
Excerpt from original article published August 27, 1986.
What did Janet do all day, hanging around the Encino, California, homestead when she was a wee girlie?
Ah, the animals. Animals are the one and only topic that Janet will chatter about happily and freely until the cows (haw haw) come home. But we’ll come back to them later. What did Janet do all day, hanging around the Encino, California, homestead when she was a wee girlie?
“I would talk to the animals.”
“I would talk to my dogs. I felt that they understood me – everything that I was saying to them. They’re the greatest listeners because they sit there and look at you and listen.”
“Oh, our next door neighbour – we would play together all the time. There’s a brick fence that separates the two houses and we’d get on top of the fence and we’d play and we’d bring cookies and punch and we’d have a little party of our own up there and just play little games.
“And I would write songs. I was eight years old when I wrote my first song and it was called Fantasy. I sang it to my brother and my sister and my mother in the car when we went for a drive and they said they liked it. I hope they were telling me the truth.
“And I would watch TV: The Three Stooges and cartoons. Bugs Bunny, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Speed Racer – those were my favourites. I always tried to do an impression of Donald Duck but I could never get my voice to sound like that. The first impression I did was of Mae West but I can’t do it any more. And I loved to draw and colour and so my brothers would send back all types of crayons and felts and colouring books from Switzerland and London when they were out of town.”
The brothers. The famous Jacksons. What were they like as children?
“With my friends, their older sisters and brothers would yell at them and tell them to get out and leave them alone and shut up, but my brothers and sisters never did that to me. They always wanted me around. I was a tomboy, actually, and they always told me I’d grow out of it but I told them that I never wanted to and I wouldn’t.
“We used to go horse-back riding and swim and play baseball and climb the fruit trees and pick the fruit off the trees and just get into trouble. Michael was the naughtiest – he was a real bad little kid and he was sassy and everyone would say ‘Oh, God, here comes Michael!’ What’s the worst thing he ever did? I think he looked up under a lady’s dress once. I think he did. I’d say that’s probably the worst that I know of. Me? I was good. I never got punished. I got hit a few times but that was all. One time I got hit for saying something I shouldn’t have said. A bad word. I shouldn’t have spoke it but I opened up my big mouth and my mother hit me for it.
“Another time I got hit was when I had an argument with my brother Randy. He would tease me and I’d get upset and start crying and I threw pool balls at him but not once did I ever really hit him. I’d always miss and my mother would hit me and hit him for that. There were other times when you couldn’t separate us, Randy and I. He’d hold my hand, when we walked across the street. We were just glued together. These days I’m very close to Randy and I’m close to Marlon and I’m very close to Michael.”
“Louis, our llama, he likes to chew gum. He loves gum. I think I’m the only one who gives him gum, so every time he sees me coming he tries to put his lips through the fence and I give him a piece of gum and he just sits there and chews.”
And on that useful zoological tip we…
“Jabar doesn’t chew gum. Jabar, that’s the giraffe – J-A-B-A-R – he’s so big and he’s still a baby. He’s so tall and he eats up my mother’s trees. All the leaves off my mother’s trees – she has a fit. He has big eyes and those beautiful, long eyelashes…”
Muscles, the Jackson’s late, lamented rainbow boa snake…
“There was something about Muscles that I just loved. He was very different from the rest of our snakes – the pythons – because the rainbow boas are known for squeezing, not for biting, and I would let him sleep on my headboard. I used to sleep with him and I’d wake up in the morning and he’d still be sleeping on the headboard or he’d sleep in the bed next to me and he’d rest his head on the pillow and he’d have his tail curled up on the bed and he’d still be there the next morning and I’d carry him around my neck a lot and he never tried to squeeze me. I just trusted him. I find more guys are afraid of snakes than girls and I just trusted him a great deal.
“The only time I got in trouble with the animals was with our parrot Ricky; he used to bite me all the time and I got bit by one of our pet rats and he was hanging from my finger and I was trying to shake him off and he wouldn’t let go and finally he let go and I had to go to the hospital and my whole hand got so fat and they put a cast on my whole arm and it was my first time wearing a cast and I was real proud of it because all my friends in school had all had casts and I’d always wanted to know what it sort of felt like to break your leg or your arm…”
“We used to bottle-feed the deer, Michael and I. We have two deer and we have a fawn because they had a baby…”
And she feeds Bubbles, the chimpanzee, too.
“He’s the sweetest thing. He’s so cute because he greets you. He goes ‘uuh uuh’. He greets you like that and he’ll walk in the room– ‘uuh uuh’ – and he’ll walk over to you – ‘uuh uuh’ – and he’ll give you a hug and rest his head on your chest and then he’ll start rocking and he’ll look up at you and you say, ‘Bubbles, give me a kiss’ and he puckers his lips and gives you a kiss.
“My mother treats Bubbles like one of the kids. One day Bubbles was crying because he didn’t want to have class that day and my mother was standing there watching Bubbles cry and she started crying too. It made her very sad because Bubbles was sitting there crying and screaming because he didn’t want to have class.”
And why, dare one ask, should a chimpanzee have “class”?
“Oh, it teaches him to hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil. It teaches him to shake his head no and to wave goodbye and to kneel down to beg and look up to the sky…”
Of course … but time is running out. Janet Jackson’s stomach is groaning in spectacularly embarrassing fashion and I decided to pose one last question – a predictable and orthodox “Do you have any burning, unfulfilled ambitions, Janet?” I suppose I should have known the answer …
“Yes. I’d like to own a king cobra.”
Janet, eyes off the ground for once, notices my ruffled brow.
“Ok, that might sound like a crazy ambition to you but I’ve always wanted to own a king cobra because they’re so dangerous and poisonous, and to make him my friend … that would be a serious achievement. And I think I could do it.”
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