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Image: Jackson family
Kevin Mazur  /  AFP - Getty Images
Omer Bhatti, Michael Jackson’s alleged “secret son,” sat in the front row (far left) at the pop star’s memorial, alongside the Jackson family.
By The Scoop
msnbc.com
updated 7/22/2009 4:38:31 PM ET 2009-07-22T20:38:31

Omer Bhatti, the young man being referred to as Michael Jackson’s “secret son” by the British press, was no secret to the pop star’s family. Sources close to the Jacksons say that Bhatti, who often went by Michael J, was introduced to the Jackson family as early as 1992.

“One day at the (Neverland) ranch, Michael’s nephew Austin, (Jackson’s sister) Rebbie’s son, told his mom he just met a kid who called himself Michael J, but his name was Omer, and he was saying that Uncle Michael was his father. It was just that out of the blue,” said one Jackson family friend. “This was news to Rebbie, and she turned around and called (Jackson’s mother) Katherine, who had no knowledge of it either.”

From that point forward, Bhatti was “running around Neverland all the time,” and lived there until “around 2000, or 2001,” according to a family friend close to Rebbie Jackson.

“The family has been wondering how long it would take for this to get out,” the friend said.

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Is he really Michael’s biological son?
Although Bhatti appeared mysteriously and without explanation years before Jackson and Debbie Rowe had son Prince Michael, several family friends who protected the pop star’s privacy through the years say they accepted the idea Bhatti was a biological son.

“He looked so much like Michael, especially when he was younger. We have every reason to believe it’s his son,” said another family friend who met Bhatti.

As for how he’s being protected after Jackson’s death, all the family friends who spoke of Bhatti agree that part of the reason Katherine Jackson got such a large percentage of the estate was because she’d be providing for Bhatti as well.

Who is the mother?
Bhatti’s mother remains a mystery to the family. But one famous friend may know her identity.

“Elizabeth Taylor introduced Michael to the mother. That’s all anyone knows about her,” said a source who didn’t know Bhatti personally, but is close to Taylor.

Michael Jackson’s inner circleTaylor’s rep wouldn’t comment, and said only that if Taylor felt like addressing anything related to Michael Jackson, she would only do so via her Twitter feed.

“The one woman who knows everything there is to know about Michael Jackson and where his children came from is Elizabeth Taylor,” said a Jackson family friend of more than two decades. “But even though the mother isn’t clear, we all have every reason to believe Michael J is his son.”

If true, isn’t it odd that Jackson would keep the identity of his son secret for so long, and not tell other family members details of his birth? Perhaps not. Janet Jackson kept her nearly 10-year marriage to Rene Elizondo secret until divorce papers were filed.

More on the Jackson ‘manslaughter’ link
After a search warrant was executed on the Houston office of Michael Jackson’s personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, the attorney for Murray issued a statement that said in part, “The search warrant authorized law enforcement to search for and seize items, including documents, they believed constituted evidence of the offense of manslaughter.”

The use of the word “manslaughter” raised red flags, especially since the investigation into Jackson’s death had not been considered a criminal one in an official sense. Since one might argue that the attorney for Murray would want to mitigate the “manslaughter” label as opposed to call attention to it, it’s worth exploring why the word was used.

“For a search warrant to have been issued in this case, the police must have shown that the property to be seized consists of items that constitute evidence that a felony has been committed, or tend to show that a particular person has committed a felony,” Los Angeles-based attorney Patrick Krill said. “The police can’t request a search warrant simply by saying they just want to look around and see what they find regarding Michael Jackson's death; they have to point to a specific criminal offense they're investigating. In this case, that criminal offense would be manslaughter.”

Video: Officials to meet with Jackson doctor again In California, “manslaughter is defined as the unlawful killing of a human being without malice. There are three types of manslaughter, and the investigation of Murray would almost certainly be for involuntary manslaughter, which could occur in the commission of a lawful act, without due caution, that produces death in an unlawful manner," said Krill.

Joe Jackson plans 80th birthday bash
If Joe Jackson’s spate of recent interviews feels like a publicity tour, that might be because it is one. Michael Jackson’s father is ramping up for his big 80th birthday bash scheduled for Aug. 22 in the Chicago suburb of Tinley Park.

He’s throwing the party with his record label partner Marshall Thompson, who wrote on his MySpace page that the singer's father is well-known for his “popular birthday celebrations each year.”

If it seems like a strange way to work through grief, there is this: The celebration will double as a benefit for the new cultural center Jackson plans on building in Gary, Ind.

“I wanted to give back to the city of Gary,” Jackson said. He added that plans for the cultural center include a large hotel, restaurants, a memorabilia museum, a movie theater, a performing arts theater, and a recording studio.

However, representatives for the office of Gary's mayor, Rudy Clay, weren't aware of the big birthday party/fundraiser plans.

“The Jackson family is still grieving the loss of their son, like we all are,” a spokesman said. “We’re always talking to the family, but there are no announcements to be made about fundraiser or the memorial.”

When it was pointed out that Jackson and Thompson were apparently OK with making announcements, the mayor’s office said they’d have to look into things further.

In the meantime, Jackson is in New York, scouting out locations for future fundraisers.

Keeping tabs: Us gets the Gosselin story right
Michael Jackson is off the covers of all the weekly magazines for the first time since his death, and the prevailing image is now something connected to the Gosselins. Us Weekly, Star and In Touch all have Kate Gosselin as part of their main image, but Us nails it with the cover line, “Kate’s Sad Kids.”

The story has moved on from the split, the details of Jon’s dating life are somewhat horrifying yet bland, but the kids are central. “Jon & Kate plus 8” is a show built around the kids — it makes sense that they remain the story’s most compelling angle.

Slideshow: Celebrity Sightings People magazine has a cover noteworthy for the dichotomy that plays out. Teen heartthrob Robert Pattinson is the main image (“His Messy Love Life”) and Walter Cronkite is a smaller image. I’m guessing neither Cronkite nor Pattinson ever imagined such a scenario.

Still no deal for Abdul
Despite Simon Cowell’s declaration that Paula Abdul would be back on “American Idol,” it seems that there’s still no deal in place for the always-complimentary judge.

The show won’t comment on where things stand, but a source close to Abdul says that negotiations seem to be at a stalemate.

“Putting the departure idea out there didn’t get anything solved quickly, but it did get her plenty of attention,” said the source.

Not all attention is good attention, however. Us Weekly reports that some who work behind the scenes at the show think that Abdul is “too much trouble.”

Read this, watch that
Video: Who is the most trusted man in news? After a Michael Jackson and vacation-induced hiatus, RTWT is back. This week I can’t speak highly enough of my recent beach read, “Apologize, Apologize!” by newcomer Elizabeth Kelly. The story follows the highly dysfunctional Flanagan family. The family “puts the personality in disorder,” and theirs is a story capable of causing laughter or tears, depending on mood, within the confines of a single paragraph.

If you missed the series premiere of ABC’s “Dating in the Dark,” set your DVRs for Monday’s episode. A group of six singles are put into a mansion and are matched up on blind dates — as in, the “dates” take place in a dark room that takes physical appearance out of the equation entirely. Sounds a little campy, but the end result is actually surprisingly pleasing.

Courtney Hazlett delivers the Scoop Monday through Friday on msnbc.com. Follow Scoop on Twitter: @ courtneyatmsnbc.

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