Michael Jackson's ex-wife Debbie Rowe smiled -- and at times sobbed -- as she testified Thursday about her memories of her former husband, offering one of the most intimate looks at the intensely private pop star during a 3½-month trial focused on his death.
Rowe, who was married to Jackson for three years in the late 1990s and is the mother of his two oldest children, met the singer while working as an assistant to his dermatologist, Dr. Arnold Klein. The two developed a friendship and became very close, she said.
She recalled going to plays with Jackson, or sometimes sneaking him incognito into a movie screening. They often watched movies together, she testified, talking on the phone as they watched in their respective homes.
She told how she and Jackson were watching "To Kill a Mockingbird" one night when they had a question. So they called Gregory Peck, the star of the film and a friend of Jackson's, to see if he could help.
"He ... explained a bunch of things about the movie," she said. "And Michael was just tickled."
Once, as Jackson was preparing to record a music video, Rowe said the pair went to Forest Lawn Memorial Park -- where Jackson was later buried -- to look at the statues. Jackson loved sculpture, she said.
"It was really quiet," Rowe recalled. "And I never realized that was some place he could go .... It was some place he could go and just be himself and hang out. And it was nice."
Rowe said Jackson "couldn't" go out in public, but said she would try to find ways to help him do so. Once, she said, when there were "a lot of impersonators," they went to Tower Records without his security. The 20 or so people in the store didn't seem to notice Jackson was there, she said, until he shouted across the room.
"Hey Debbie, did you ever hear of this?" she recalled. "Within 20 minutes, the store was packed and we're locked in the bathroom of Tower Records."
They had to call Jackson's security team for help, she said. "I got in so much trouble."
Rowe's appearance in court broke up the sometimes tedious testimony of medical experts and accounts in the wrongful-death case. Jackson's mother and three children are suing AEG, saying the concert promoter and producer negligently supervised and hired Conrad Murray, the doctor who gave Jackson the fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol as he prepared for his comeback "This Is It" tour in 2009.
AEG contends that the singer hired Murray and that any money the company was supposed to pay the doctor was an advance to Jackson.
Rowe also spoke about Jackson's medical conditions and their decision to have children. The singer was devastated by his divorce from Lisa Marie Presley, she said, when she asked, "What's the thing that makes you the saddest?"
"He said, 'I never had any children,' " she testified.
Rowe told him, "Let me have a baby with you. You can have the joy of being a parent."
She said Jackson thought about it for a couple of weeks before agreeing.
Deborah Chang, an attorney for Jackson's family, showed jurors a photo of Rowe riding her Harley Davidson with Michael on the back, still in makeup while shooting his "Ghost" video at Van Nuys Airport. The day it was taken, Rowe said, she told the singer she needed to talk to him alone, without the ubiquitous film crew that followed him.
"You're going to be a dad," she told him. "He ran around the tarmac screaming."
She did not say how the child was conceived.
"I believe there are certain people who need to be parents, and I always thought he was one of them," she said.
She said that when Jackson went on tour during her pregnancy with son Prince, he left behind two audiocassettes. "Every night while I was reading my horror books, I had my headset over my stomach so the baby could hear his voice," she said.
When the couple divorced after three years of marriage, Rowe gave up her parental rights, a decision she said she has never regretted.
"I didn't sign on to be a mom," she said. "I loved him very much, and I still do. I wanted him to be a father. I wanted him to have everything he didn't have growing up. I wanted him to experience it with his own children."
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