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Nov. 20, 2003
`I Believe in Michael Jackson’

The founder of the King of Pop’s fan club defends her idol against child-molestation charges

By Steve Friess
NEWSWEEK WEB EXCLUSIVE

Nov. 20 — One hour after hearing about the sex-abuse allegations against Michael Jackson on Wednesday, Las Vegas hotel attendant Donna Green and her two teenagers donned the I BELIEVE MICHAEL JACKSON buttons she’d made for earlier Jackson controversies and picketed outside a local music-video studio used by the pop star.

JUST THREE WEEKS ago, Green's two children - Brian, 15, and Heather, 18 - had accompanied Jackson on a shopping spree at FAO Schwarz on the Las Vegas Strip. Now Green, 39, the founder of the King of Pop Fanatics fan club and a four-time guest (along with her kids) at Jackson's Santa Barbara Neverland Ranch, watched as her idol was charged with child molestation. Jackson, who was booked then released on $3 million bail late Thursday, has said through his lawyer Mark Geragos that the multiple charges of child molestation are "categorically untrue."

Green told NEWSWEEK's Steve Friess why she believes Jackson's telling the truth. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: How did you feel when you heard of these latest allegations?

Donna Green: I broke down and started crying. I couldn't stop crying. I felt so bad for Michael. It was like 1993 [when similar charges arose] all over again. I felt, "Not again, they're not doing this again to him," are they?

Who's "they"?

There's always someone out to get him. The parents, the family of the boy, people in the media ... Someone.

So you don't think the allegations are true?

Look, if you're a child molester, you think you're only going to molest two children in your whole lifetime? He's had hundreds and hundreds of children around him. Don't you think there would be others making these claims if he was really like that? There's something in me that knows he's not guilty. With Michael, I just know.

Why do you feel so strongly about Michael Jackson?

It goes way back to the early 1970s with me. Everything was the Jacksons and the Osmonds back then. But I became a die-hard fan when I saw [the 1983 TV special] "Motown 25." That was the first time the world saw what Michael could do on his own. I remember literally where I was in my room as a teenager. I got chills. I've been crazy about him ever since. If he was appearing anywhere and I could go, I would.

How many times have you seen him perform in concert?

<--Donna Green pickets in Vegas

I think eight altogether, and also other things like the “Jackson Family Honors,” the Grammys, things like that. In 1997, I took my daughter to Hawaii and paid $1,000 each for us to sit in the third row. I was even outside the Neverland ranch in 1993 the day of his famous Oprah interview.

So your children are also fans?

Oh, they've been raised on him. I was listening to his music all the time when I was pregnant with them. When Heather was 3, I took her to a "Bad" concert in Los Angeles.

Even if these charges aren't true, you have to admit that Michael Jackson is a peculiar figure.

So other people think. Why is he so peculiar? Because of what people say about him. But how many people have been brought up like Michael Jackson, never having a childhood, never getting to go out and play? He's been isolated all his life. How is he supposed to live a normal life?

So you see him as a tragic figure?

I see him as someone who is picked on. He's a target for the way he looks, his lifestyle. He loves children. The media take it and twist it and make it sexual. People don't think that maybe he loves being around children because he missed that.

How did you first come into contact with him?

About five years ago, I made this huge birthday card for him and had it signed by hundreds of fans all over the world. I left it at the gate of his ranch and a few months later, he called to thank me for it. He invited us to the Neverland Ranch.

What's the ranch like?

It was better than Disneyland. It's magical, really. There's an amusement park, an arcade, a zoo. You can go on a ride as many times as you want, you don't have to stand in any lines. They're kind enough to serve you lunch. They have an outside buffet.

How did Jackson act there?

Michael was never there when we were there.

But you have met him, right?

Oh, yes. We had several phone conversations and we finally met last month in Las Vegas. He invited my children to come with him to the toy store and he was holding my daughter's hand. When you go shopping with Michael Jackson, it's a big production. There's a lot of pushing and shoving, and he was saying to her, "Hold on tight, I don't want you to get shoved or hurt or to get lost." That's the kind of caring person he is.

What did he buy for them?

You know, he told them to pick out whatever they wanted, but my children didn't do that. They didn't want anything. They just were so happy to be with him.

How do you respond to commentators who ask what parent in their right mind would allow their children to spend time with this man?

If you don't know Michael personally, then, yeah, whether it's Michael Jackson or any adult, you should think twice about letting them have your kids. But I'm speaking personally. I'm not saying we have this close relationship, but I've been a fan who has had conversations on the phone over the years and having personal conversations with him, I feel I know his heart. I would not even give it a second thought. One time we were on the phone and he had had some children with cancer at the ranch and he was crying talking about them. This is a personal conversation. I bring it out in the open because I want people to know how human he is.

Are you concerned that other people will think you're strange for being such an advocate for Michael Jackson?

I know there are people out there who look at me and say, "Why don't you grow up?" But I'm married, I have a normal life. I don't live and breathe this. But what was I supposed to do-when I turned 21 just stop liking someone? Sure, you don't see many people my age driving around in a car with Michael Jackson stickers all over it. I'm not ashamed. I do it because I feel bad for him, for all the stuff he's been through. This is my way of saying I understand him more than the average person does.

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