Michael Jackson isn't just going to be a father -- now he's going to be a husband, too.
Ten days after announcing that a "longtime friend" would be bearing the singer's child, Jackson's publicist, Christine Holevas, announced that the erstwhile King of Pop exchanged vows with Debbie Rowe in a private ceremony in Sydney, Australia, where he is performing. Jackson is 38, while his bride, a nurse, is 37. Each has been married once before.
"Please respect our privacy," Jackson was quoted as saying in a press release. He asked that the media "let us enjoy this wonderful and exciting time."
Although unexpected, the marriage will not only legitimize Jackson and Rowe's child, but should forestall potential complaints about the singer's morals. Moreover, it should put to rest tabloid reports that the pregnancy was managed via artificial insemination and that Jackson had given Rowe $528,000 to carry his child. Jackson denied there was any validity to the rent-a-womb allegations, while Rowe insisted that no artificial means had been employed.
Jackson's latest trip to the altar came just 11 weeks after his divorce from Lisa Marie Presley was finalized. Jackson and Presley were married in May 1994, in a secret ceremony in the Dominican Republic.
Despite Jackson's public boast a few months later at the MTV Video Music Awards that "Nobody thought this would last!" and a June 1995 interview with Diane Sawyer in which the couple professed marital bliss, his union with Presley ended after just 20 months when she filed for divorce. They had no children.
Still, this latest turn of events raises as many questions as it answers. Little is known about Rowe's relationship with the singer, beyond the fact that she is a nurse who reportedly met Jackson 15 years ago when he was being treated for vitiligo, a skin condition.
Nor is it clear why, if she is already six months' pregnant, the couple waited until now to wed. (And yes, six months does mean that Rowe was impregnated before Jackson's divorce was final.)
Whatever the details, though, it seems unlikely that Jackson will be able to retain his reputation as a wholesome, pure-hearted entertainer.
Granted, that image had already been besmirched by allegations that the singer had sexually molested a 13-year-old boy (no charges were brought, though a 1993 civil suit filed by the boy was settled out of court for a reported $15 million).
However, as nothing had ever been proved, it was easy for Jackson's fans to believe he had been wrongfully accused.
But there's no denying the moral improprieties involved in Jackson's relationship with Rowe. Even though there are plenty of pop singers who have fathered children out of wedlock, few have made such a strong a claim to making family-oriented entertainment.
Perhaps that's why Jackson was met with such harsh criticism during his recent tour of Asia. A concert in Malaysia was canceled over concerns about the singer's impact on local youth, while in South Korea, a coalition of 50 civil, religious and consumer organizations tried to have two shows in Seoul banned because of the child molestation allegations.
The Korean Ministry of Culture let the show go on, provided Jackson refrained from "obscene or vulgar gestures and remarks," but the protests cost the singer several sponsors, including the automaker Hyundai.
Nonetheless, American Jackson supporters were out in force on MTV yesterday, when the cable channel's "MTV Online" operation aired comments from viewers. "WAY TO GO lTC MICHAEL!!" was typical of the sentiments.
Pub Date: 11/15/96