To all the shocking things you’ve ever heard about Michael Jackson, “Ebony” magazine adds perhaps the most surprising observation ever applied to the King of Pop.
The magazine has pronounced the Gloved One normal.
TODAY co-host Meredith Vieira did a double take on Wednesday when Harriette Cole, the creative director of “Ebony” magazine, said that was the impression she got after spending a day and a half with Jackson while he was being photographed and interviewed for a story that will appear in the periodical’s Nov. 12 issue. But Cole insisted it’s true.
“From the time that I spent with him, what I got is that he’s a man,” Cole said. “He’s 49. He’s a grown-up. If you learn from your challenges, then you become stronger. He certainly seemed like that. His voice is a bit lower. He came across really as kind of normal.”
More from TODAY.com
Shock and awwwww: Military members' emotional reunions with their dogs
When members of the U.S. military return home after being deployed overseas, being greeted by man's best friend is often j...
- Is Joffrey like Justin Bieber or Kim Jong-un?
- Dachshund 'Milo' is lion's best friend — and dentist
- Man behind 'Why I Don't Have a Girlfriend' theory to marry
- Prepare to party for 'Behind the Candelabra'
- Shock and awwwww: Military members' emotional reunions with their dogs
When Meredith expressed incredulity that the word could be used to describe Jackson, Cole replied, “Honestly, Meredith, he was normal.”
Cole further observed that the man who was once photographed dangling his infant son from a balcony is a very good father.
“A few days ago when we were with him, he was with his youngest son,” she said, referring to Prince Michael Jackson II. “They call him ‘Blanket’ — he’s 5 years old. He is a regular 5-year-old boy. The interesting thing to me was, Michael was parenting him. Very quietly, with very few words, he was able to communicate with his son what was appropriate to do and what not. I observed Michael being a great parent.”
Jackson has been interviewed for a documentary by the BBC in Great Britain, but, Cole said, the “Ebony” profile is the first interview he’s done with an American publication in a decade. She said she believes the reclusive and controversial star chose “Ebony” because the magazine has had a long relationship with him, first profiling him on its cover when he was taking America by storm as the 6-year-old star of The Jackson 5.
A quarter century of thrills
She said he also wanted to celebrate the 25th anniversary this month of the release of his breakthrough solo album, “Thriller.” For years, the top-selling album of all time, “Thriller” generated seven Top 10 Billboard singles, eight Grammy Awards and sold 140 million copies worldwide.
The music video of the song, which propelled MTV to profitability and success, was the best-selling music video ever.
As his fame and wealth grew, Jackson became ever more eccentric, living on a California estate he called Neverland with a zoo and amusement park in the yard. His skin grew lighter and his features changed dramatically as he underwent numerous plastic surgeries.
Amid questions about his sexuality, he married Lisa Marie Presley, Elvis Presley’s daughter. He divorced her less than two years later and married Deborah Jeanne Rowe, his dermatologist’s nurse, by whom he had two of his three children, Prince and Paris Michael Katherine Jackson, 9. He will not talk about the parentage of his third child, 10-year-old Michael Joseph Jackson Jr.
The stories about him turned from bemused to ominous when, in 1993, he was accused of molesting one of the children he had to his estate. Jackson, who would say that he slept with young boys but denied there was anything sexual about it, settled with the boy’s family for a sum reported to be $20 million. In 2003, he was charged in California with child molestation and giving alcohol to minors.
Tom Sneddon, the Santa Barbara district attorney who brought the charges, referred to the singer as “Wacko Jacko.” After a five-month trial that ended with his acquittal in May 2005, Jackson, who was now in deep financial difficulty, sold Neverland and left the United States.
He is said to be living on the East Coast now, and, Cole said, arrived at the Brooklyn Museum for a photo shoot with an entourage of 10 or 15 people, including the youngest of his three children.
Although he will not confirm that he is working on another album, he told “Ebony” that he’s writing songs and in the studio daily. He’s been working with other artists, including the Black Eyed Peas and Kanye West.
Cole said that he is very shy. “When you’re on the world stage and you’re ridiculed, it’s got to be really difficult,” she said.
Cole repeated that he’s very different in private from his public image.
“The thing that was most impressive to me about him is that he is so loving and generous to everyone,” she told Vieira. “We photographed in the Brooklyn Museum. It was the guard he made sure he spoke to, the elevator operator, everybody who was there was someone he wanted to treat with kindness.”
© 2013 NBCNews.com Reprints