One suspect in the continuing mystery of who is the biological father of Michael Jackson’s children eliminated himself from consideration Wednesday. Al Malnik, a former Jackson friend, said he is not, as sometimes reported, the biological parent of his godson and Jackson’s third child, Prince Michael II, better known as Blanket.
In an interview with TODAY’s Meredith Vieira, Malnik also revealed intimate photos and exclusive videos of Jackson and his children in happy moments at Malnik’s palatial home in Ocean Ridge, Fla., and said that the late entertainer’s prescription drug problems have been “exaggerated many, manyfold.”
Who are Blanket’s parents?
Blanket — the child Jackson famously dangled as an infant from a hotel-room balcony in Berlin — was born in Germany seven years ago. He was reportedly born of a surrogate German mother and conceived in vitro with donated egg and sperm. Blanket’s biological parents remain a mystery, as does the identity of his surrogate mother.
Malnik — a lawyer and restaurateur who made a fortune in a chain of short-term loan stores — hosted Jackson and his children in his 35,000-square-foot oceanfront mansion for several months at a time in 2003 and 2004. Although Malnik told Vieira he didn’t meet Blanket until the child was 2, he showed pictures from Blanket’s first birthday party celebrated in Malnik’s home. [Editor’s note: In an e-mail to TODAYshow.com, Malnik said that he erred on the broadcast and meant to say, “I didn't meet him until he was 1 year old.”]
Malnik has reportedly said in the past that he is Blanket’s biological father and also the executor of Jackson’s estate. He now categorically denies both statements.
“Of course I’m not the biological father,” he told Vieira, who also asked him if he would get involved in the disposal of the estate.
“Only if I’m asked to, and if it were court-authorized or Jackson-family authorized,” Malnik replied.
The home movies and pictures Malnik shared with TODAY show a relaxed and happy Jackson and his children unmasked and untroubled by herds of paparazzi or pressing crowds of worshipful fans. They show Michael Jackson and his three kids doing the things any affectionate dad and children do: a child’s birthday; putting on a play; scampering about Malnik’s backyard, and even going on a late-night shopping expedition at a local supermarket opened solely for the King of Pop.
Wearing a baseball cap and a black sports coat, Jackson pushes a shopping cart up and down the grocery store’s aisles, wide-eyed to be able to do what normal people do every day.
“Oh, this is great. I never get to do this,” Jackson tells the camera as he puts items in his cart. Malnik and his wife, Nancy, who have triplets around the age of Jackson’s children, blindfolded Jackson on the way to the grocery store, a place he said he always wished he could visit. His surprise and delight when he realizes where he is seem genuine.
To make the experience more realistic, the Malniks even enlisted friends to dress up as regular shoppers and cruise the aisles, completely ignoring Jackson. Malnik told TODAY that before Jackson arrived, all tabloids were removed from the racks to keep anything from spoiling the moment.
Good clean fun
“The relationship our family had with Michael, and the one that I had, was really extraordinary,” Malnik told Vieira. “We were very close, always talking with each other, and having a lot of fun with our mutual families.”
Video: Jackson funeral at Neverland Ranch? Malnik, who owns the Forge, a famous Miami Beach restaurant, also hosted such celebrities as Venus and Serena Williams, film director Brett Ratner, Chris Tucker and Don King while Jackson was their houseguest.
The Jacksons were ideal houseguests, he said. When they came, Malnik said he asked his staff if they would need to work harder with three more kids in the house.
“They said there isn’t any extra effort. Michael’s kids clean their rooms, they make up their beds, polish the mirrors and they take care of everything. Each and every morning, their first chore after breakfast was to clean their room,” Malnik said. When he mentioned it to Jackson, the singer replied, “That’s the way I bring up my kids.”
Malnik said that Jackson showed no signs of being addicted to or abusing prescription drugs.
“Our family was with Michael 24/7 for months at a time. If he did take prescription drugs, it was very, very infrequently,” Malnik said. “He led a very, very healthy life and just devoted himself to having a nice time, writing his songs, being with his children and enjoying life. I think the drug problem that he is always accused of having is exaggerated many, manyfold.”
Malnik told a story to illustrate how emotional Jackson was. One night at dinner, Jackson began talking of his admiration of jazz legend Louis Armstrong.
“I said, ‘Michael, that’s extraordinary that you said that, because the dining table we’re having dinner on was once Louis Armstrong’s in New Orleans.’ Michael broke down and sobbed. Michael was filled with humility, sensitivity, reverence and respect for everyone and anyone. Most of all, the love that he had for his kids equaled the love he had for his fans. He was just a guy that was beyond amazing.”
Malnik’s friendship with Jackson fell apart when Jackson went on trial in 2005 on child abuse charges. Malnik, who is said to have loaned Jackson millions, was rumored to have paid Jackson’s bail, but stopped seeing him.
Slideshow: Jackson’s children unveiled (on this page) Jackson was acquitted, but the two remained apart. Roger Friedman, the celebrity blogger and former Fox News reporter, has reported that Jackson turned away from Malnik because he suspected that Malnik was conspiring with Sony Music chief Tommy Mottola to take over Jackson’s Beatles catalog for little or no money.
Malnik did not address what’s happened since the happier days of 2003 and 2004. Instead, he talked about how much he and his family treasure the times when Jackson and his children could be as normal as it was possible for them to be.
“Every day, our backyard was their playground,” Malnik told Vieira. “Michael just enjoyed himself so much with our children. It was the kind of imaginary fun people used to dream about going to Neverland and experiencing.
“It’s a magical time for all of us. Thank God we have it on video. We’ll never forget it. We’ll love Michael always.”
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