Local Jackson photographer reminisces

June 26, 2009 7:18:24 PM PDT
One Bay Area photographer became a friend and confidant to Michael Jackson in the early years. Now he's looking back at 14 years, remembering. ABC7 gets a glimpse at photos that have never been published taken by someone who was almost family.

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"Year after year to become closer? where I became the Jackson 'sixth.' And this (shows photograph) was a $10,000 night for me. I sold 10,000-plus posters of the Jacksons in concert," said photographer Paul Roberson.

Just a dollar a poster; Roberson could have sold them for a lot more. He was a young Oakland photographer who shot the Jackson 5 at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium in 1968. They were impressed with his entrepreneurial skills and he became their photographer and bodyguard for more than 12 years.

"Michael is like my own 10-year-old son -- critically intelligent, incredible genius, incredible curiosity," said Roberson. "He loved me because I worked for James Brown. When he found out I was James Brown's bodyguard and photographer ? oh, we talked all the time."

Roberson calls Jackson a man-child, but he saw his character change as the facial surgeries proceeded, and he advised the singer to get out from under the control of his father.

"You can't help me until you are free, black, 21 years old and in control of your assets like James Brown, you know, like James Brown is in control of all his assets," said Roberson. "To talk to him when I got the chance was always pointed, very concise, but he got it."

There was the time Roberson almost got shot. He had been rough-housing with Jackson and there was a bodyguard in the room.

"When I smacked Michael, the guy pulled a gun. Michael actually put his hands on my chest, pushed me back because I was going for the guy, and said to the guy, 'no, no, no, we're playing,'" he said.

That was at the Motown Records offices, where it all started.

"It's like a dream, a bad dream," said Barry Gordy, founder of Motown Records. "He was so much like a son to me."

Feelings of loss continue today.

"The real pain occurred last night when I was lying back looking at the ceiling and the tears started," said Roberson.

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