IN A CHILDREN’S CLOTHING BOUTIQUE ON MANHATTAN’S Upper East Side, a scraggly haired man stood at the checkout counter one day last month. He was wearing a black bolero hat and had a Band-Aid plastered prominently across his nose. It wasn’t until the mysterious customer found an article to his liking, though, that people around him took a good look and realized who he was. “Isn’t this the cutest little baby outfit you ever saw?” he said to the salesperson in a high, feathery voice.
Meet Michael Jackson, family man.
It’s hard to imagine how our unstable world, which recently witnessed the evisceration of the singer’s career by accusations of child molestation, is going to accommodate the notion. But we probably have no choice. On Aug. 1, Lisa Marie, 26, Elvis Presley’s only child, issued a statement confirming the whispers that had been swirling for weeks: She had indeed wed the 35-year-old pop genius. “My married name is Mrs. Lisa Marie Presley-Jackson,” said the announcement, issued three weeks after a Dominican Republic judge produced a marriage license for all to see, dated May 26 and bearing the couple’s signatures. “My marriage to Michael Jackson took place in a private ceremony outside the United States weeks ago,” Presley-Jackson’s statement continued. “I am very much in love with Michael, I dedicate my life to being his wife. I understand and support him. We both look forward to raising a family.”
Of course, Presley-Jackson already brings to the marriage two children. Danielle, 5, and Benjamin, 22 months, are, respectively her daughter and son by her first husband, rock bassist Danny Keough, 29, whom she married in 1988. It’s quite possible, when you think of it, that Michael was considering that outfit for one of her kids. On the other hand, the purchase just might have had something to do with an astounding rumor that seemed to emerge last week from nowhere. Was Lisa Marie Presley-Jackson pregnant?
Hey, never say Neverland.
Nonetheless, as a couple they are kind of hard to reconcile. On the one hand, you have the 5’3″ Graceland heiress, who has her father’s sensuous mouth, a $150 million estate that likely will be completely hers at age 30 and an unswerving faith in the controversial Church of Scientology. On the other hand, there is the 5’10” but perpetually waiflike, notoriously germphobic, curio-at-large Jackson. The singer, who seems never to have had a serious romantic relationship, is still under investigation by L.A. and Santa Barbara authorities for allegedly molesting a now 14-year-old boy. (The civil portion of the case was settled in January, when Jackson paid the child a reported $15 to $20 million in damages.)
The families of the bride and groom have not exactly been gushing forth their approval. Jackson’s parents, Joe and Katherine, and his siblings, Rebbie, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, LaToya, Marlon, Randy and Janet, had no immediate comment about Michael’s marriage, but Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., who represented Michael in the molestation case, says that those in his inner circle “are happily surprised.” (A call to the $3.99-a-minute LaToya Jackson Psychic Network, however, elicited this response from a psychic named Stephanie: “I can see them together a year from now…as far as two.”) Lisa Marie’s mother, Priscilla, 48, who attended her daughter’s first marriage but not her second, said through her publicist that she is “very supportive of everything Lisa Marie does.” But she has said nothing further in public, and one source close to the Presley camp says he saw Priscilla a month after the wedding, “and she looked downright terrible. It was obvious she was very preoccupied.”
Buck up, Mom. Michael is reportedly writing three songs for Lisa Marie and adding them to his next album, History, a greatest-hits collection due in the fall. Besides, there must be some way to make sense of this marriage. One suggestion: Their lifestyles are compatible, says David Adler, coauthor of the 1990 unauthorized paperback bio of Lisa Marie, Elvis’ Daughter. Like Michael, says Adler, Elvis’s only child is “reclusive and idiosyncratic.” (Favorite place to shop: the Dart Rexall drugstore on La Cienaga in L.A.) And certainly their celebrity synchronicity is undeniable. “Lisa Marie’s mother married the most famous singer of her time,” says Adler, referring to the 1967 marriage between Presley and 20-year-old Priscilla, “and now Lisa Marie has married the most famous singer of her era.” Says Washington attorney John Coale, Lisa Marie’s friend: “I guess she and Michael are our rock and roll royalty.”
This much seems certain: The two definitely get along and enjoy hanging around together. When they stayed a week at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., last winter, they spent each evening, says Trump, “holding hands and talking until the wee hours”—even if they did always adjourn to separate bedrooms. Last week the New York Post reported that the newly-weds have spent many summer nights in the small but lavishly landscaped park atop New York City’s Trump Tower. “They hold hands, kiss and cuddle, stare into each other’s eyes and look out at the stars together,” a source told the Post. And a longtime friend of the Jackson family says that, with Lisa Marie, one gnawing source of anxiety is absent: “Michael always said that he never knew if a girl was going to like him for himself or his money. She’s not after him for money.”
How long has this been going on? One employee of Jackson’s who prefers to remain anonymous says that Lisa Marie “has known Michael almost all of her life. Elvis brought her around to meet the Jackson Five when she was a little kid, and they stayed in touch.” (Lisa Marie, who was raised mostly by her mother after Priscilla and Elvis divorced in 1973, was 9 when her father died in 1977.) Coale says their adult friendship began in November 1992 in L.A. This past April, Lisa Marie announced that she was breaking up with Keough—who it now turns out, obtained a quickie, uncontested divorce in Santo Domingo on May 6 (they will share custody of the children). A mere 18 days later, Jackson and his intended jetted to the deluxe spa Casa de Campo in the Dominican province of La Romana. From there it was viva La Vega, as the lovebirds proceeded to a town of that name for the May 26 nuptials, conducted by civil judge Hugo Francisco Alvarez Pérez.
Since Lisa Marie’s announcement, Jackson and his new family have been spending most of their time holed up in a 12-room duplex near the top of Trump Tower. Michael was making daily trips, via chauffeured van with blacked-out windows, across town to the Hit Factory recording studio, often with Lisa Marie.
If this wedding is in part a public relations ploy engineered by Jackson to rehabilitate his image, it has already succeeded. Not so long ago, Jackson’s strange world was a shambles. Amid the allegations of child molestation last year, he canceled his international tour, then was spirited away by Liz Taylor to a London drug clinic, where he reportedly was treated for an addiction to painkillers. Pepsi declined to renew his $10 million contract. Back in the States last December, he was strip-searched and photographed by police looking for identifying marks—an experience he tearfully described as “the most humiliating ordeal of my life.” Now, though criminal charges could still be brought against him, Jackson is once again the sweetly smiling pop idol who can draw adoring fans to a steamy New York City street corner on the chance that they may catch a glimpse of him and his new bride.
But are the folks down in Graceland as impressed by Michael? The truth is, Elvis does live on—as a corporate entity. The King left an estate worth only $5 million. But thanks to careful management by ex-wife Priscilla and Jack Soden, CEO of Presley Enterprises, the income from the Graceland museum, memorabilia and royalties is $20 million annually and the value of the estate has multiplied more than 20 times. The Graceland folks may actually appreciate Jackson, an undisputably shrewd businessman. He earns $30 million a year through a music-publishing catalog—including titles by the Beatles and none other than Elvis—that he bought in 1985. A source close to Jackson says the singer has long wanted to acquire the entire Presley catalog. “He’s always had a fascination with Elvis,” says the friend.
Strange as it may sound, Jackson could actually be a maturing influence on his new wife, who is set to assume control of the company in 1998. A close friend of the CEO says Soden has long been nervous about what he considers Lisa Marie’s “unpredictable” behavior. The high school dropout went through an admitted period of rebellious drug-taking and battling with Priscilla. And now, if one source in the Presley camp is to be believed, their future chairwoman up and married Michael Jackson—a businessman with a track record of accumulating music rights—without informing them.
Michael may even unleash the songbird in Lisa Marie. “Maybe he’ll produce a solo album for her,” says his ex-manager Frank DiLeo. Presley-Jackson has long talked about pursuing a music career, and in the early ’90s even made some demo songs before putting showbiz aside to raise her children. Her singing, says Coale, “is fabulous. She likes rhythm and blues, like Aretha Franklin.”
Unlike Lady Soul, though, she is not likely to sit in with her local Baptist choir. Presley-Jackson is a member of the Church of Scientology, the somewhat mysterious, putatively powerful sect founded by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in the early ’50s. Presley-Jackson (along with Tom Cruise, Kirstie Alley and John Travolta) is high on the celebrity roster for the group, which claims a membership of 8 million (a more realistic appraisal is 50,000). Scientologists-to-be undergo an elaborate series of emotionally depleting therapy sessions. The charge for these depends on the member’s ability to pay. According to author Jon Atack, a former Scientologist who is now considered an expert on the sect, passing the 27 indoctrination “levels” can cost a celebrity member $300,000.
That was not enough to dissuade Presley-Jackson. “I always had a lot of questions, and living and existing didn’t answer them but only upset me more,” she told PEOPLE in 1993. “Scientology answered all those questions. You understand human behavior, what’s going on here and why people are the way they are.” You also tend to hang out with other Scientologists. Priscilla is one, and it was she who introduced the teenage Lisa Marie to the sect. Keough, Lisa Marie’s ex-husband, is also one.
Now there are rumors that Jackson, a former Jehovah’s Witness (he left that religion in 1987, after 24 years), has been meeting with Scientology worldwide leader David Miscavige. “They recruit the emotionally vulnerable,” says Atack, and Jackson—who once stunned a dinner party of Hollywood executives by lowering his head to the table and bursting into sobs—is definitely in that category. But a friend of Jackson disputes that. “No one can control Michael,” he says. “He’s always been independent.”
It would be possible for Michael to marry Lisa Marie without joining her church. But a Scientologist friend of Presley-Jackson says that even if he doesn’t convert, the couple “may have found that they were just right for each other spiritually.”
Meanwhile, Presley-Jackson friend John Coale says simply that “Lisa knows what she’s doing” marrying Jackson—and that he’s planning to go out soon to buy the couple a gift. “Probably something from Tiffany’s,” Coale says. “Lisa Marie has very good taste.”
TOM GLIATTO from bureau reports