I read on your website http://www.obsessionsthebook.com that it was at the age of twelve that you felt drawn to one entertainer in particular. Would you tell us how their music affected you?
I was extremely drawn to the music of the Jackson Five and particularly that of Michael Jackson. I always felt he was singing directly to me. When Michael would sing I’ll Be There, I personally felt that he was telling me that he would be there for me. He made me feel like there was someone who actually loved me. I wanted him to be proud of me so the direction my life took was to make him proud.
Theresa, there are alot of young people that are infatuated with certain entertainers: having all their records, posters and any article that they appear in. What were some of the things you would do to get to know Michael Jackson better?
I wrote Michael Jackson constantly….Okay, I wrote him almost every single day and I kept track of the letters (smile). I didn’t write the normal fan letter. I wrote him about my life and everything that was going on it. I read everything that I could find about him. I would question some of the things that I read. But my letters were more geared towards telling him about my school grades, how my day would go and what I did in camp, etc. I learned how to get his home address under the freedom of information act because the post woman was tired of my sending him gifts to a P.O. Box. I never acted like a groupie and I never tried to have a sexual relationship with him.
When you began writing him, did you expect that he would actually respond?
I never actually expected him to respond. There were letters I received from the fan club people with autographed pictures. That was discouraging, but somehow I still felt in my heart that he was reading my letters.
Reading letters from someone you admire it great, and a dream come true for so many. What was it like to finally meet him on your sixteenth birthday, and how did it happen?
Every day in school, I would write on the board, “Theresa Gonsalves loves Michael Jackson” and whoever was assigned to clean the boards after school would never erase it but would add a comment like….”but he doesn’t love her” or “he doesn’t even know her”…so I vowed to meet him by the time I turned sixteen. In July of 1974, I rode to New York to see the Jackson Five perform and even though I knew what hotel he was staying at I decided to go back to Boston instead of trying to be a groupie to meet him. When I arrived home the next morning, I called the hotel. Instead of asking for him, I asked for his road manager who was Reggie Wiggins at the time and they rang his room. He told me Michael was still asleep in the next room. I had their tour schedule in my hand and knew that they were going to be performing at the MGM on my birthday and I asked Mr. Wiggins if I fly to Las Vegas for my sixteenth birthday could I meet Michael Jackson and he said “Honey, if you fly from Boston to Las Vegas just to meet Michael Jackson, I will make sure you meet him.” With that said, I began saving money to make this trip. I wrote letters to the MGM’s President’s secretary who arranged my room and I also wrote letters to every Black mayor I could find throughout the country asking them to contribute $5.00 to my dream. They all wrote back wishing me success with my endeavors but all stated they were unable to contribute. I worked a part time job after school and saved all my money sacrificing any new school clothes and I made sure that I had straight A’s in all my classes so I would be able to take a week off of school. In October of 1974, I called the Sahara Tahoe Hotel in Lake Tahoe where the Jackson’s were performing and at this time I did ask for Michael’s room and was shocked when they put me through. When I identified myself to him, he knew exactly who I was. I was in total shock as he recited the dates I was coming to meet him telling me I write it in every letter that I send him! So during the week of Nov 20-Nov 28, I was made their guest as we met for the first time.
How did the relationship between the two of you develop, and can you let us know how it affected the rest of your life?
The relationship developed into a friendship. I continued to write him and he continued reading my letters. I flew other places to hang out with him. I was invited to his home and when he was filming The Wiz, I spent two separate weeks in New York visiting him. Once I was going to fly to London just to meet him there! My relationship with him actually affected me in a good way. I became a strong woman, independent and it surely kept me out of trouble. In wanting him to be proud of me, I never did drugs. I have never smoked cigarettes. And, I can gladly comment that I have never been drunk in my life. On the other side of things, I also never learned how to have a real relationship with men.
Now, that we have set a foundation, Theresa, let’s talk about your son Todd and the song “Billy Jean” and the controversy that followed. First of all, did you know he was going to be writing the song, and how did you feel when you first heard it?
I didn’t know that he was going to be writing the song. I wrote him letters about my situation. At this time I was 23 years old and of course involved with the wrong type of man. I was living also in Encino at the time so I would see Michael from time to time. I didn’t feel betrayed or anything when I heard the song. I didn’t feel honored. That situation exists with so many women, more so now than in the past, or perhaps it is being put out there more. I had been with this man for over a year and here he was claiming my kid wasn’t his. His song let me know he could understand what I was feeling, but that women often put men in that situation.
Since Michael Jackson has had his negative dealings with the press, were you afraid of how the cloud of curiosity would affect your own family?
No, I didn’t feel that his negative dealings would affect us. We are very open and outspoken. I named my second son Mychal after Michael Jackson but spelled after the ex-lover Mychal Thompson who was from the Bahamas. I named my son after Michael as an honor for how he affected my life. I have been asked my opinion often and I will say that I do not believe Michael to be a child molester. But I will also say that you never truly know what a person is capable of as you take a look at all of the ministers that have sexually abused children. Michael Jackson has always worried about children. I remember being with him in New York and I had bought him a gift which was a book on child abuse and we shared our feelings on that even way back then (around 1977). As for being asked would I let my child visit him…that answer still remains yes but I would not allow him to sleep in bed with him or any man for that matter.
I think I read on your website that in 1984 Star Magazine ran the story saying that you were the real Billy Jean. Star, though not without its credibility issues, has been known to get many stories right. Did you agonize over revealing your identity and how did that change your life from that point? What about your son? Were you afraid of how he would be viewed as he grew older?
I didn’t agonize over that. I asked Michael if he was okay with it and he was. It didn’t change my life much at all. Both my sons have grown up being Michael Jackson/Jackson Five fans. Their friends often wondered how such young boys were so into the Jackson Five and now they know. As of today, my son Todd is married with two beautiful children!
All of this has the makings of a great movie, so it is no surprised that you wrote the book OBSESSIONS. What I am curious about is why you call is a novel, and did that make it easier for you to not feel a responsibility to tell the world all the details of your relationship with Michael Jackson?
“ OBSESSIONS” isn’t really about me and Michael Jackson. It is more about how my relationship with him actually led me to have an obsessive behavior towards men. I am not ashamed of my relationship or friendship with Michael Jackson and I shared with the world as long as it didn’t hurt either one of us. It was hard sharing my story of being obsessed with this man who happens to be my son’s father.
Finally, when was the last time you spoke to Michael Jackson, and what has been his response to the book?
I haven’t actually spoken to Michael Jackson since he was arrested. I took my son to meet him for the first time. He seems to have put most people at a distance. I was trying to get in touch with him though because I want to let him know he is not alone. See with Michael, I have never been a “YES” person. I never treated him like a star. He needed to have real people in his life. Yes, I came to love him for who he was, but I love him more for what he did for my life. He was okay with my using the title as such and I know he received a copy of the book…I have not heard any comments from him.
This is according to her publicist:
By now (in 1977) Theresa and Michael had known each other for years and she was visiting him in NYC while he was filming The Wiz. Instead of getting a hotel room, Michael insisted she stay at his rented penthouse apartment. She took his room. Theresa said his room contained “a twin-sized bed and a desk.” Trust me girls I was shocked that Michael had a small bed, but Theresa said that’s what Michael was comfortable with back then. Michael was also a gentlemen and slept on the couch while she had the bed. Sadly, even then Theresa confirmed Michael had trouble sleeping. One night during her stay, LaToya was suppose to go out with Bobby DeBarge (this was set up by Jermaine) and she was left alone for the evening. Michael came back from the set all excited because they had shown him an exact sketch replica of his set for his solo number in movie (“You Can’t Win”). They even gave him a copy of the sketch. Theresa and Michael spent hours talking about what happened that day and she still remembers the excitement on Michael’s face. Finally they went to bed, but neither one of them could sleep. Theresa could hear Michael tossing and turning on the couch and finally he got up to go to the bathroom. Theresa remembered cracking up: “Here I was in his room and I am listening to this man pee.” When he finished, he came into the bedroom and shut the door. He went over to the painting of his set to look at it and Theresa got out of bed and wrapped her arms around his “slim but muscular waist” (and btw girls if you saw pics of Michael back then, he had a 6-pak!!!). He turned around and that’s when they kissed for the first time. Theresa remembers the kiss like this, “it was a soft, gentle tounge kiss.”They kept going at it and Michael took her hand and led her back to the bed (yes ladies Michael intitated the sex, so some of us were wrong there too!!). There was no foreplay, only kissing and touching while they got undressed. Then Michael took her hand and guided it to his penis (which she would not tell me how big he was, but assured me he was “blessed”) and she guided him into her while they looked into each others’ eyes. And no ladies they did not use protection (shame shame shame)!!! Theresa said it lasted about 4-5 minutes (or as I teased her, about the length of one of his songs), but afterwards they stayed in bed for another hour and a half holding each other and making sure each other was ok. She said it was very nice and they became a couple afterwards, but Michael had to go back to the couch because LaToya was living with him too at the time and did not want drama to ensue (which later on in the relationship it did, thanks to other family members).
8/19/2009 Conversations LIVE! Radio welcomes back the woman who inspired Michael Jackson’s hit song “Billie Jean”: author Theresa Gonsalves. She talks about her life experiences, her relationship with Michael Jackson, how she has been handling Jackson’s death and waht is next for her.