TODAY

TODAY   |  April 22, 2010

How are Jackson kids holding up?

Rebbie Jackson, Michael Jackson’s older sister, talks to TODAY’s Matt Lauer about how the three youngsters are doing nearly one year after their father’s death.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> new photos of that couple.

>>> but let's begin with the latest on the criminal case surrounding michael jackson 's death and also with his legacy. we'll talk exclusively to his older sister rebbie jackson in a moment. but first, here's nbc 's jeff rossen . jeff , good morning.

>> good morning. hard to believe it's been ten months since michael jackson died, yet this case is still unfolding. this morning we have new details on the criminal charges , michael 's kids and the big announcement about his music. even in death, michael jackson 's empire is thriving and profitable. in a new deal, michael 's music will headline a new circus act, a cirque de soleil production that will tour the country next year and end up in las vegas by 2012 . there is also a reality tv show in the works. reportedly a cross between " american idol " and " dancing with the stars ." the winners would join the new cirque de soleil production. all this as the criminal case pushes ahead . michael 's personal physician, dr. conrad murray , is charged with involuntary manslaughter, accused of giving jackson a lethal dose of propofol. dr. murray has pled not guilty and it appears his defense team won't back down.

>> there's absolutely not going to be a plea deal in this case. this is a case that is going to go to trial and you are going to see a battle of the experts between the prosecution and the defense. not going to be easy for either side.

>> reporter: as that case plays out as cirque de soleil comes together, remember michael 's kids are still adjusting to life without their dad. in these recent pictures, they're out and about. here blanket, prince and paris are coming out of karate class with their on again/off again nanny, grace.

>> i love them dearly. they are the most wonderful kids. i just want to have a group hug .

>> reporter: mark lefter is their godfather.

>> the kids are happy. paris had a big birthday party at the beginning of the month. cousins and friends around. they're getting out to the movies, doing their martial arts . things are settling down.

>> reporter: if you don't know mark lester , maybe you remember his work. as a child actor he starred in the music "oliver." later in life he became close friends with michael jackson . in fact he even donated sperm to michael and made this stunning claim on "today."

>> there is a possibility that one or all -- very unlikely all, but one of those kids may be mine.

>> reporter: to this day, no one knows for sure. from his home outside london , mark lester now tells us it's paris who remains the strongest of them all.

>> anyone that's going to step into michael 's shoes , that is paris .

>> reporter: officially, michael 's mother katherine has custody of the children but she is so private, matt, it is unclear what their life is like day to day .

>> jeff rossen , thank you very much . rebbie jackson is michael 's oldest sister. this is her first interview since michael 's death. how are you doing?

>> i'm okay. how are you?

>> i'm doing well. the world lost a music superstar. you lost a brother .

>> yes, very much so.

>> what have these past ten months been like for you?

>> it's been really, really difficult. i guess the best way to put, right after michael passed it was very difficult to just function from day to day . just waking up and trying to put one foot in front of the other one. some days you feel good, some days you feel bad. just like anyone who loses a family member or brother or sister. it is very hard, especially with him being in the caliber of entertainment he was.

>> everywhere you go, in the supermarket or the dry cleaner and they have a radio on, here comes a michael jackson son. images and sounds that just remind you of your brother . i remember days after his death you'd hear that in a supermarket, you'd walk out. is it easier?

>> for me right now, i'm able to deal with it . you go through different changes and emotions but right now i seem to be okay. but i'm telling you right after he passed it was so hard. everywhere you turn, everywhere you went. i remember i went to a store to buy a light for my dining room and they started playing his music and i was talking to the gentleman that was -- i was buying the light from. and i just started crying and i had to leave. i know he thought he was a nut case, but i couldn't help it.

>> the children , those images at the memorial service , they struck us all. we have to stop and remember that prince is 13, paris is 12, blanket is 8, i believe. i know you worried a lot that this loss of their father would force them to grow up too quickly. has that happened?

>> yes and no. you're right on the one hand in saying that it can force them to grow up quickly because they're without their father. but on the other hand , they're with family members. they're insulated, you might say, and surrounded with a lot of cousins. and i think it is helping them to be stable and to some ebb tent take their mind off the pressure of all of that. but it's very difficult.

>> you actually moved in the house for about 2 1/2, 3 months immediately following your brother 's death so you could provide some additional stability to the children . what were those days like?

>> it was very difficult. it was very hard. you saw different kinds of emotions and family members just expressing how they felt about the whole situation. but yet day by day , you could see the progression of people -- or i should say family members getting better and dealing with the situation better and feeling more, you might see serene about everything.

>> but the kids are happy now, well adjusted and everything?

>> they seem to be doing fine.

>> i wonder about your mom, too. it's been such a hard year for katherine , the loss of a son. and then this adjustment to all of a sudden being in the position of raising three young children again because she is the primary caregiver . how's your mom doing?

>> she's pock. i talk with my mother three or four days ago. we had a long talk. she seems to be coping with everything. it's been hard. hasn't been easy but she's holding up and whenever i'm there, i try to help or assist as much as i can, try to get by to be with the kids and see them -- see all of them and spend time.

>> there's so many questions about what happened to your brother . have you been able to formulate any answers in your own mind about how he died?

>> i don't know exactly what happened. as you know, there is an ongoing investigation.

>> how close are you following the case? is.

>> very closely. so i have to be very careful about what i say.

>> i understand.

>> but i think that there's going to be some interesting results for everyone.

>> do you place blame at the feet of dr. murray ?

>> yes, i do. but i think it's a lot more than that possibly. we'll fine out.

>> what do you mean by a lot more than that?

>> i can't say too much. but it's interesting what's going on.

>> you're going to go out there and you're going to perform for the first time , scranton , pennsylvania , i believe. and you were already, ironically, planning to get back out there and perform in some concerts just before michael died. he was encouraging you.

>> yeah. in fact, i actually performed before my brother passed in scranton . yes. i had subsequent shows possibly in that area or surrounding areas. of course , they all came to a halt when this happened. no one could actually go out right at that time.

>> when you go back out there in scranton now, obviously the people who come to see you come to see you, but there are going to be a lot of people there wanting you to go through the whole catalog of michael 's music and that's not what the show is about.

>> no, i am not doing a tribute to my brother . however, within my show, i do do several songs from family members. if they want to view it that way, that's them. but it is not a tribute because i didn't feel comfortable doing that. for me, it wasn't.

>> why did you feel this is the time to go back out there, and what kind of response do you think you're going to get from these fans when you take the stage?

>> well, i'm hoping it is going to be pretty good. from what i've seen, they're very excited about it. but it is just something i wanted to do. i felt now was a good time, enough time to have passed since his passing. and i -- personally, it is up to me. i feel like i can deal with it now and i love this. this is what i do. so it was something that i wanted to be involved with.

>> you and your brothers going to perform together at all, are the brothers going to get together, reunion ? so many people are curious about that.

>> i'd love to do a family show. i mean a whole family tour, i should say. that would be nice. because every time i talk to a reporter or just fans in general , they always ask about the entire family performing together. that's the reason why i say that.

>> we had the jackson four -- pardon me -- in our studio several months ago. it was just amazing to see your brothers sitting there on the stools and get a chance to talk to them. i'm really happy you came and talked to us, too, rebbie.

>> can i say one thing? i have a grandson who's 4. i know he's watching. his name is london blue. i just want to say hi to him.

>> happy birthday , london . that's fantastic.

>> not his birthday. i just want to say hello.

>> you just accomplished that. rebbie jackson , good luck with your show.

>> thanks for having me.

>> it is my pleasure. 40