Speaking to Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper, Liza Minnelli spoke about her friendship with Michael.
“He was a supremely gifted human being but he didn’t survive, in my opinion, because he’d never been taught the rules of the game,” she said.
“He and his brothers and sisters were forced to rehearse round the clock while other kids were playing basketball. Michael’s life was precisely the one dictated by his father. The family’s religion (the parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses) means the children weren’t even meant to be in show business. But, when they started making money for their father, that was it. Michael was used and abused almost from the time he was born.
Eventually, he distanced himself from his family, created this wonderful place, Neverland, for kids and supported different families. Then, one day, the father in one of those families called up Michael and said, ‘Unless you give me $30,000, I’m going to tell everyone you made a pass at my son’. And that’s when Michael called me. When he’d finished his story, I remember pausing and then saying; ‘Michael, maybe you should tell your lawyer about this.’ He said: ‘But it’s insane.’ So I repeated my advice. ‘It’s blackmail, though,’ he said. ‘It is,’ I replied, ‘and that’s why you need to involve your lawyer’. But he wouldn’t.
What everyone forgets is that, when kids stayed at Neverland, their parents came, too. And they were treated grandly. But then other people jumped on the bandwagon. I remember he was going with this girl and he was so in love with her. He came to show me the ring he’d bought for her. I asked him what he was going to say and he didn’t know. So I said: ‘Let’s rehearse,’ and that’s what we did. But the girl turned him down. She said she wasn’t ready to commit right now. She told him to ask again in six months. And it all but killed him. He was heartbroken. I knew all his girlfriends including Lisa Marie who became his wife. In the end, the scorn, the cruelty, the vicious meanness, these are the things that took his life. He was one of the best performers we’ve ever had. He changed everything. But he was only a king when he was on stage.”