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CNN PEOPLE IN THE NEWS
Profiles of Michael Jackson and Robert Blake
Aired February 5, 2005 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone, I'm Tony Harris at the CNN Center in Atlanta. "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" begins in 60 seconds, but first some stories now in the news.
In Afghanistan, a NATO helicopter crew has spotted the wreckage of a passenger jet that crashed in a mountainside. The plane with 104 people onboard was scheduled to land in Kabul Thursday afternoon, but it apparently crashed during a snow storm about 20 miles from the Afghan capital. So far, there's no indication of any survivors.
In Rome, Pope John Paul II is feeling better and is eager to get back to work. That word from a bishop who visited the pontiff today at a hospital in the Italian capital. The 84-year-old pope is being treated for a respiratory infection.
The search is over for a Florida couple accused of torturing and starving five of their seven children. John and Linda Dollar were captured last night in Utah after police tracked their cell phone signals. Among other things, the Dollars are accused of chaining the children and shocking them with a cattle prod or stun gun.
Those are the headlines. There's more news coming up in 30 minutes. "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" begins right now.
ANNOUNCER: Next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, he is the self styled king of pop, on trial facing child molestation charges. He first topped the charts fronting the Jackson 5 with songs like "I Want You Back."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL JACKSON, MUSICIAN: Ooh, ooh, baby.
JACKSON 5: I want you back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: But behind the curtain was a lost childhood and a demanding father.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RABBI SHMULEY BOTEACH, FORMER JACKSON ADVISER: Michael has talked about beatings that he endured as a youngster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: He would branch out on his own and release a monster album.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOURE, CNN POP CULTURE ANALYST: Michael was not a phenomenon with "Thriller." He was beyond phenomenon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: But his strange lifestyle, constant transformation would make more headlines than his music.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOTEACH: He expressed to me that he was made to feel like that he was ugly. So now he's tinkering like crazy and destroying his body.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: A look beyond the scandal and behind the changing image of Michael Jackson.
Then, he was a little rascal as a child.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT BLAKE, ACTOR ACCUSED OF MURDER: I was a Little Rascal when I first started.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Later, he played a wise cracking cop who made arrests as TV's Baretta.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLAKE: Yes, this is Baretta.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Now accused of murdering his wife, he faces the biggest challenge of his life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Robert Blake shot Bonny Bakley.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: There's no eyewitness. There's no murder weapon. It's a reasonable doubt defense.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ANNOUNCER: Robert Blake on trial. Those stories now on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.
PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Hi, welcome to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, I'm Paula Zahn. Michael Jackson on trial -- this week jury selection got under way in the superstar's child molestation case, a legal drama that could send Jackson to prison for more than 20 years. After nearly four decades in the international spotlight, the one-time king of pop is now more like the king of controversy. Sharon Collins looks at Jackson's bizarre transformation.
M. JACKSON: Ooh, ooh, baby.
JACKSON 5: I want you back.
SHARON COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is how we first saw Michael Jackson. A charismatic, precocious pop star singing songs like "I Want You Back" with his brothers, the Jackson 5.
TOURE: He opened his mouth and this amazing voice came out.
COLLINS: Yet, this is the same person, the child who became the biggest star in the world now on trial facing charges of child molestation.
MARK GERAGOS, JACKSON'S FORMER ATTORNEY: Michael has given me the authority to say on his behalf these charges are categorically untrue.
COLLINS: For more than 30 years, we've been fascinated by Michael Jackson.
JOHN NORRIS, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, MTV NEWS: Nothing would be the same without Michael Jackson.
COLLINS: We've watched as he's transformed himself from an African-American youth to something completely different.
CRAIG MARKS, EDITOR, "BLENDER" MAGAZINE: He raised the bar for image makeovers to a point where no one else wants to even come close to it.
COLLINS: He's arguably the most famous man on planet earth, yet seems to live in a child-like world of his own construction.
BOTEACH: He would always give me these rational and intelligent explanations as to why his success was directly tied to him choosing to remain a child.
COLLINS: But what is reality and what is image making? Where does the truth start and the myth end? Who does Michael Jackson see when he looks at the man in the mirror?
J. RANDY TARABORRELLI, BIOGRAPHER: There is no star like Michael, no celebrity like Michael and no person like Michael. He is completely unique.
COLLINS: Michael Jackson grew up in Gary, Indiana, the seventh of nine children. Their steel worker father, Joe, turned five of his boys into a band with a then 5-year-old Michael right out front.
PETER CASTRO, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: He was a symbol for the consummate entertainer. You know, not since Sammy Davis, Jr., had someone come along with such a diverse range of talents.
COLLINS: As seen in this video from a documentary produced by Michael Jackson, the group auditioned for Motown Records and got a record deal.
TARABORRELLI: From the time most kids were building tree houses, Michael Jackson was building an image. At the age of 10, he was told to say that he was 8. And Michael was happy to play along with that, because he understood at a very early age that image making and public relations was very important.
COLLINS: It worked. The Jackson 5 exploded on to the pop charts. Their first three singles, "I Want You Back," "ABC" and "The Love You Save," all hit No. 1.
TOURE: The sound was incredible. The weight, the gravity, the way he would sing and then he would dance, you know. I mean, his brothers are on stage with him. You couldn't stop him.
COLLINS: But behind the image of the happy family and their rags to riches story, there was something else, incredibly hard work and a father who pushed his children and has publicly admitted to whipping Michael with a switch and a belt.
TARABORRELLI: When Michael discusses these beatings today, he gets very emotional. It's clear that he hasn't come to terms with any of that yet.
BOTEACH: On the one hand he would always complain my father didn't love me enough. My father made me into a performance machine. My father was too strict. He was too much of a disciplinarian. He would make me rehearse too much. I would see kids on the monkey bars and I would cry because I couldn't have a childhood.
COLLINS: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach was a friend and spiritual advisor to Michael Jackson for two years.
BOTEACH: I said to him, "Look at the flipside of that. Because of that, you became a big performer. And maybe even because you weren't given enough love as a child, you wanted the world's love. So you worked really hard, perfecting your dance moves and you became a big superstar. Would you trade it in for a normal childhood and give up the celebrity?" And interestingly he'd say to me every time, "No, I wouldn't do that."
COLLINS: Jackson and his brothers appeared in commercials and became pre-teen idols. However, Jackson's teenage years were awkward. He suffered from bad acne and was self-conscious of his appearance.
BOTEACH: He did say to me that he was once on an airplane and his father said to him, "You know, your nose isn't nice," or something like that. And generally, he expressed to me that he was made to feel that he was ugly, that he was not pretty. And, sadly, he really internalized that message.
COLLINS: In 1979, 21-year-old Michael Jackson was ready to spread his wings. He released his first solo album as an adult, "Off The Wall." The album was a smash with songs such as "Don't Stop "Till You Get Enough," and "Rock With You" reaching No. 1.
M. JACKSON: Don't stop 'til you get enough.
NORRIS: They are songs that still hold up today. They don't sound dated. I guess what none of us could have anticipated was the album that they would then produce after "Off The Wall."
COLLINS: That album was 1982's "Thriller" and it would catch fire when Jackson unveiled an out of this world dance move on a television special for Motown's 25th anniversary.
NORRIS: What a moment that was in pop culture history. I mean he moon walked across the stage there.
TOURE: So he's doing the moonwalk, which when he first did it, nationally, it was like, wait, is gravity being, like, messed with here, special effects, like what are we doing? And I mean, you know, within six months, every 10-year-old in Dallas could do it.
COLLINS: The transformation was complete. Michael Jackson was about to go from child pop star to the biggest star on the planet. When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues, chimps, oxygen chambers, the Elephant Man's bones, Michael Jackson's bizarre behavior.
ANNOUNCER: We now return to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.
M. JACKSON: Because this is thriller, thriller night. And no one's going to save you...
COLLINS (voice-over): In December, 1982, 24-year-old Michael Jackson released "thriller" and with that historic piece of vinyl, a phenomenon was born.
TOURE: Michael was not a phenomenon with "Thriller." He was beyond phenomenon. I mean the record flew out of stores. You know it could not be stopped.
NORRIS: From the iconic look to the moonwalk to the glove.
CASTRO: The red jacket and -- with the zippers and glasses and the white socks. TOURE: King of pop is too small a moniker for him. He was beyond that.
M. JACKSON: Beat it, beat it. No one wants to be...
COLLINS: Saying "Beat It" to the competition, for 37 weeks, the album sat at No. 1. And not only did "Thriller" break records with its seven Top 10 singles. It also broke barriers.
MARKS: Michael Jackson was the first black artist to get on MTV.
NORRIS: His label said, look, you're going to play Michael Jackson's videos whether or not they fit in your rock format, MTV. And, of course, it paid off for all of us, because, I mean, the idea of MTV without Michael Jackson's videos from "Thriller" is almost inconceivable.
COLLINS: Fan clubs, trading cards, Michael Jackson dolls. The craze reached a fever pitch in 1984. When a Pepsi commercial gone awry sparked even more frenzy.
CASTRO: He's on the set and he's descending a staircase. There's a flash behind him, and his hair catches on fire. But the most incredible part of that whole thing was that on his being wheeled to the hospital, you know, he's waving to his fans with the glittery glove, you know. To the end, a showman.
COLLINS: And a quirky one at that. One month later, Jackson took home seven Grammys. He also raised eyebrows with his red carpet companions, Brooke Shields and Emanuel Lewis.
TOURE: I don't think anybody, even, like, the Iowa housewives, were saying, well, you know, they're not sleeping together. And Emanuel Lewis was right there as the underline, like this is not sexual at all.
COLLINS: In July, 1984, the Jackson 5 reunited in a flurry of publicity. But their victory tour reviews were mixed. Seemingly, soft-spoken Michael was retreating into a world all his own.
NORRIS: Michael had begun to exhibit certain, I think, aloofness and a tendency to kind of withdraw from the world.
CROWD: Michael! Michael! Michael!
MARKS: I mean hysterical adulation does play tricks with your mind so Jackson was almost doomed to implode somewhat anyway.
COLLINS: By 1985, the pop star's plastic surgery began to take shape.
TOURE: Every few months, you would see him and you'd go whoa, hey, you're looking weird, dude. But I think it was about '85, '86, and I was like, wow, he's not going to be able to get any weirder than this. And then two years later, I was like, I was wrong. COLLINS: In 1986, a photograph of Michael asleep in an anti- aging chamber rocked the tabloids. In 1987, his interest in the Elephant Man's bones, bubbles the chimp, Liz Taylor, and an array of strange disguises set tongues a-wagging.
BOTEACH: And he puts on that black thing, that mask, and I said to him, "Take that stupid thing off. You look like a monkey. You look like you're insane." And he said -- and even then, he said to me, "Well" -- it was more like, he says, a razzle-dazzle king of thing. It's mysterious.
M. JACKSON: Your word is...
COLLINS: Jackson's follow-up to "Thriller" hit the stores in 1987.
M. JACKSON: I'm bad, I'm bad, you know...
COLLINS: Titled simply, "Bad," the pop stars eccentric behavior hardly deterred the album's record-breaking five No. 1s.
M. JACKSON: Who's bad?
COLLINS: Spanning iconic music videos and a sold out world tour, "Bad" went on to sell eight million copies and Jackson went on to change his image once again. Taking cue from "Bad's" title, he became a crouch-grabbing, tug guy, a far cry from his gentle off stage persona.
And yet, the money kept rolling in. In March 1988, Jackson finalized the purchase of a 2,700 acre ranch. The cost, $28 million. He filled the property with an amusement park, a private zoo, and dubbed the oasis, Neverland.
NORRIS: There's a reason it's called Neverland Valley, you know. His fixation on the I won't grow up, I'm a lost boy, I'm Peter Pan.
COLLINS: And with Neverland, came the children.
TARABORRELLI: Michael began to sort of surround himself with young boys. And much to, I remember, the chagrin of people who were working for him.
M. JACKSON: Dangerous...
COLLINS: Three years later, in the fall of 1991, "Dangerous" was released. Long awaited, the buzz was big. And as a result, it's lead single, Black or White" shot to No. 1.
M. JACKSON: Don't matter if you're black or white.
COLLINS: Coincidentally, fans were wondering about Michael's much lighter skin tone. Was he black or white?
CASTRO: If you believe the fact that he -- you know that he has this congenital skin condition, that's why he's so white, then fine. But a lot people think that he has bleached his skin. With Michael Jackson, you never know what the truth is.
COLLINS: Coming up, not once but twice, scandal rocks the gates of Neverland.
NORRIS: There are people, who to this day, are convinced that he never abused a child in his life. I also know people equally convinced that 10 years ago he got away with something terrible and that he is a predator and that is may get away with something terrible again.
ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.
M. JACKSON: But what about us, girl? Remember the time...
COLLINS (voice-over): By the early '90s, Michael Jackson's new music, even fresh R&B hits like "Remember The Time," couldn't come close to the phenomenon he had created with "Thriller."
M. JACKSON: You know it's thriller...
COLLINS: Jackson's strange appearances, either hidden behind a face mask or unmasked to show whiter skin and a severely altered nose and chin, began to overshadow his dwindling record sales.
Jackson would become more reclusive, retreating into his Neverland ranch. There, he continued to surround himself with children in a make-believe paradise where he could relive his childhood.
BOTEACH: He repudiated the adult world. For him, it was a world of betrayal. He'd say to me, "Shmuley, you know why I'm the biggest star because I'm so much more creative than others. I'm so much more playful. I experiment more. They don't. They're rigid. They've calcified. They've hardened. They've become adults. They've grown up."
COLLINS: But in 1993, disturbing allegations surfaced concerning Jackson's association with children. A 13-year-old boy filed a lawsuit, accusing the singer of sexually molesting him. Jackson vehemently denied the accusation on national TV.
M. JACKSON: I ask all of you to wait and hear the truth before you label or condemn me. Don't treat me like a criminal because I am innocent.
COLLINS: The case was eventually settled for nearly $20 million. And the suit was dropped in 1994. But Jackson's reputation was seriously damaged. Less than a year later, Jackson made headlines again when he married Lisa Marie Presley, the 26-year-old daughter of Elvis.
TOURE: It was quite obvious to all of us from the beginning that it was a sham, that it was a publicity stunt and it was just kind of disgusting and silly.
COLLINS: The marriage collapsed less than two years after the wedding. Presley filed for divorce in 1996. But later that year, Jackson sent shock waves around the world when he remarried. The singer tied the knot with Debbie Rowe, the nurse of his dermatologist.
TARABORRELLI: The thing about Michael is that he does want what he wants and he will find a way to get it. She offered to have a child for him. She thought he should be a father. And as unconventional as it is, if you really look at it, it's sort of surrogate motherhood.
COLLINS: Rowe gave birth to their son, Prince Michael Jackson, in 1997. The couple divorced in 1999, just a year after they had a baby daughter, Paris Michael Catherine. Jackson was granted full custody of the children. In 2002, Jackson was front page news again. He incited worldwide outrage when he dangled his newborn son, Prince Michael II, from the balcony of a Berlin hotel.
TOURE: When he dangles the baby, it's just here's Michael again being the class clown who doesn't even realize that he's the class clown and he thinks he's being loved. I mean, you know, it's sort of like the anti King Midas, like everything he wants to do just gets screwed up.
COLLINS: Just a year later, Jackson was catapulted back into the limelight when he was featured in the Martin Bashir documentary, "Living With Michael Jackson." In the show, 44-year-old Jackson admitted to letting children sleep with him in his bed at Neverland.
M. JACKSON: It's not sexual. We're going to sleep. I tuck them in. We put -- I put little, like, music on and a little story time. I read a book.
COLLINS: That documentary triggered the bombshell news that has thrust the faded pop star back into the spotlight. Just nine months after the show aired, the 13-year-old cancer patient featured in the documentary accused Jackson of sexual abuse.
TOM SNEDDON, SANTA BARBARA COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: There will be charges filed against Mr. Jackson, multiple counts.
BOTEACH: Michael has not responded to earlier alarm bells. The fact that he could even find himself in this situation after the '93 allegations shows he didn't take that sufficiently to heart, because if he did, he never would have been alone with a child.
COLLINS: Although Jackson denies the abuse allegations, he was arrested and charged with multiple counts of child molestation. Now with his trial getting underway, will Jackson's music career ever recover? His 2004 album, "Number Ones" barely made a dent on pop charts, selling fewer than a half million copies. MARKS: Well, I think, even without a trial, this can be the ruin of Michael Jackson. I mean, I think Michael Jackson's musical career is caput, but that doesn't stop people from being fascinated with Michael Jackson.
COLLINS: Fascinated, riveted with this man who has left us with so many images over the years.
In song, Jackson refers to himself as the man in the mirror, could we ever know what motivates this man who has transformed himself so many times over the last three decades.
BOTEACH: And I'll never forget this. It was a very moving moment. He said to me, "Everything I've done is because I didn't feel loved." This was the real Michael Jackson, the one who admitted to me that most of what he did in life was to get people's love. All of us need the powerful feeling of love and faith and Michael Jackson more than most.
ZAHN: Jury selection in Michael Jackson's trial is set to resume on Monday. The case is expected to last as long as six months.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLAKE: Pictures of me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLAKE: This is cool.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: ...his star shined early in Hollywood, but his home life was anything but stellar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLAKE: This is me and my father. He made me eat on the floor like a dog. He kept me on a lease. He was insane.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: A look inside the mind of actor turned murder suspect, Robert Blake. That's next.
HARRIS: Well, good morning, everyone, I'm Tony Harris in Atlanta. "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" returns in 60 seconds, but first, a check of the stories now in the news. In his radio talk today, President Bush previewed the 2006 budget he'll present to Congress on Monday. The president says discretionary spending increases will remain below the rate of inflation. He also restated his case for overhauling the social security system, his push for private investment accounts in a five-state road trip this week.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Turkey this hour from Poland. It's the fourth stop on her world-wind introductory tour of Europe and the Mid East. Rice plans to meet with her Russian counterpart while visiting (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Iran's nuclear ambitions are the main topic on the agenda.
And Jacksonville is putting the final touches on security for Sunday's Super Bowl. Some 50 law enforcement agencies are involved in Super Bowl safety. Fans can expect long waits while they're searched and scanned. And traffic on the St. John's River outside Alltel Stadium has been restricted.
More news at the top of the hour on "CNN LIVE SATURDAY." Now back to "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS".
ZAHN: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. Michael Jackson's isn't the only celebrity trial unfolding in California. Actor Robert Blake is facing life in prison if he's convicted of killing Bonny Lee Bakley, the wife and the mother of his infant daughter. Here again is Sharon Collins.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't do the crime if you can't do the time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't do it.
COLLINS (voice-over): He's best known as the TV cop from the 70's police drama, "Baretta." But now with his murder trail underway, actor Robert Blake is playing the lead in his own courtroom drama.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Robert Blake your true and correct name?
BLAKE: Yes, sir.
COLLINS: After his arrest in 2001, the veteran actor spent 11 months in jail. He was then confined to his Malibu home wearing an electronic tracking bracelet. Now, he's on trial, accused of murdering his wife. It's an accusation the 71-year-old vigorously denies. In a videotaped civil deposition shortly before leaving jail, Blake was adamant about speaking out.
BLAKE: I'm an old man. I'm pushing 70. If I'm going to die in that box, I want to talk before I go.
COLLINS: Blake's urge to talk has cost him. Two of his lawyers resigned after Blake agreed to TV interviews against their advice.
HARLAND BRAUN, BLAKE'S FORMER ATTORNEY: When you're on camera, it's such an immediate and powerful medium that if you don't argue -- you can ask a question, for example, it can make you look bad. COLLINS: Last February, Blake fired his third lawyer, cited irreconcilable differences.
TOOBIN: Robert Blake is an eccentric guy. He had eccentric choices in ways of dealing with his lawyers.
COLLINS: The charges against Blake are the culmination of a yearlong investigation, a strained relationship, and one fateful night.
May 4, 2001, paramedics rushed to a gruesome scene. Despite their efforts, they couldn't save 44-year-old Bonny Bakley. She had been shot twice at close range while sitting in her car after having dinner with her husband, Robert Blake. Police swarmed the crime scene, looking for clues to the shooting, even consoling a near hysterical Blake.
Blake had summoned a neighborhood resident, filmmaker Sean Stannick (ph), to call 911 when he found his wife bleeding to death in the car.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was frantic. He's in agony. He's screaming, "You got help me, call 911, my wife's been hurt."
COLLINS: But before long, Blake himself was drawing suspicion. Earlier that evening, Blake and Bakley had dinner at Vitello's, a local Italian restaurant Blake had eaten at for years. Owners had even named a spinach pasta dish after him.
STEVE RESTIVO, CO-OWNER, VITELLO'S RESTAURANT: He comes here two or three times a week. He comes with his wife, with other people. He loves -- we have opera in the back on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
COLLINS: Blake had parked on a dark side street and not in the restaurant's well-lit parking lot. He told police he asked his wife to wait in the car after dinner while he returned to the Vitello's in search of a gun he thought he had left there.
LT. RON HARTWELL, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT: And upon his return to the vehicle, he discovered that his wife was injured and he had contacting a neighbor who called the paramedics.
COLLINS: He was carrying the weapon, he told police, because he believed his wife was being stalked. But his wife's own family members were immediately suspicious.
PETER CARLYON, BAKLEY'S HALF-BROTHER: While they had been talking, she had been talking about, well, life is just such headache. I feel I must be better off dead. And he had made the statement to her that she didn't need to worry about it. He already had a bullet with her name on it.
NOAH BLAKE, BLAKE'S SON: My dad is not a tough guy. I never saw my dad hit anyone, push anyone, swing at anyone, beat anyone up. He never did any of the things that supposed tough guys are reputed for. Before the murder, Blake was known mainly for his work in films and on television. He's an actor with an extraordinary past, who often took on tough guy roles, roles that often mirrored his personal life.
Robert Blake came into the world in 1933 with a name that would bust any marquee, Michael James Vavencio Gubatossi.
BLAKE: I started in New York, in New Jersey, back in 1936 when I was two-and-a half, and I was on the stage with my brother and sister singing and dancing in vaudeville. That's me when I was three years old, called The Three little Hillbillies.
COLLINS: The Gubatossis were a showbiz family, but not a caring one, according to Robert Blake.
BLAKE: This is me and my father. He locked me in closets. He threw me against the wall. He made when eat on the floor like a dog. He kept me on a leash. He was insane and my mother was worse.
COLLINS: In the mid and late 30s, times were tough. The Gubatossis had hoped for better times out West and headed to California. Child stars like Shirley Temple were the rage.
BLAKE: I loved that wardrobe.
COLLINS: By the time Mickey was five, he was in Los Angeles working as an extra and waiting for a chance to be noticed. He says the love he never got from his parents he found early on.
BLAKE: When I started being an extra, unconsciously, I could taste the love and the attention that you got when you talked. I didn't know they were acting. I didn't know that there was a difference between an extra and actor. All I knew is when you talked, they paid attention to you. And somebody would come up and touch you physically and give you a little hug and a little makeup, and a little bit of this and a little of that.
COLLINS: Mickey Gubatossi soon moved from extra to star, landing the plum role of Mickey in the "Our Gang" series.
BLAKE: And one day there was a kid, this little squirt who couldn't say a line, and the line was, "Confidentially, it stinks." And the director -- "What do I got to do? -- because in those days, you couldn't change the script without calling Louis B. Mayer. He said, "Got to get somebody to say this line." I said, "I can say that." And the guy looked around, and I was standing down there. He says, "Who are you?" And I said, "I'm Mickey Gubatossi, and I can say that line, and any other line you got for me to say." So he gave me my shot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Mickey.
BLAKE: Oh, boy, am I going to catch a lot of fish with this! COLLINS: Mickey's diminutive size and large talent ensured his success as a child actor. Throughout the 1940s, he appeared in 44 films, including the successful "Red Ryder" Western serial, where he played the Indian sidekick. By then, Mickey Gubatosi had become Bobby Blake.
BLAKE: He saved me when my people died.
HUMPHREY BOGART, ACTOR: Get away from me, you little beggar.
COLLINS: In 1948, 15-year-old Bobby Blake shared screen time with Humphrey Bogart in the film classic, "Treasure of the Sierra Madre."
BLAKE: One piece of silver.
BOGART: If you don't get away from me, I'm going to throw this water right in your face.
COLLINS: His days as a child star were soon over, but not his career as an actor.
When the story of Robert Blake continues, his big break: playing a cold-blooded killer.
ANNOUNCER: Now back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.
BLAKE: Pictures of me. That's me and Donna Reed when I was a little kid. This is cool...
COLLINS (voice-over): A visit to Robert Blake's house is a walk through Hollywood history.
BLAKE: That's Elizabeth Taylor, and that's me. That's Darryl Hickman. And that's the girl I was in love with. I didn't care about Elizabeth Taylor. I was in love with her.
COLLINS: Few in Hollywood can boast of a career as long as Robert Blake's. He's been a working actor for 65 years.
STEPHEN J. CANNELL, PRODUCER: That early training that he got as a child actor was very helpful to his performances, you know. I mean, but he was -- he grew, you know, he grew out of that, grew out of Little Beaver, grew out of those roles and became -- he constantly reinvented himself and became, as an adult, a completely different kind of performer.
COLLINS: In the 1960s, he landed roles playing everything from a GI making his way up Pork Chop Hill in the movie of the same name, to one of the 12 Apostles in "The Greatest Story Ever Told."
BLAKE: I've been baptized by John the Baptist. I'm Simon.
COLLINS: In 1967, he got his big break. Blake was chosen to play the part of real-life killer Perry Smith in the film adaptation of Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood." His gripping performance brought him rave reviews. The former childhood extra was now a leading man.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I'm glad you don't hate your father any more.
BLAKE: But I do. I hate him and I love him.
COLLINS: Starring roles now came his way. "Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here" in 1969, "Electra Glide in Blue" in '73. He was on the A- list.
BLAKE: Dustin Hoffman's doing "The Graduate," I'm doing "Cold Blood," Warren Beatty's doing "Bonny and Clyde." And next thing you know, I'm on television.
COLLINS: Blake moved to the small screen with the series "Baretta." Steve Cannell wrote the pilot episode.
CANNELL: He had been signed by Universal to do a series, and he was being told this was the one he was going to do. And he hated my script, you know, which turned out to be the first of about 90 scripts that he hated.
BLAKE: Don't be dumb, man, I'm the heat. Now, lighten up.
COLLINS: Blake seemed tailor-made to play the street-smart cop.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get out.
BLAKE: Lady, I know what's...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's my mamma.
BLAKE: I told you to lighten up.
CANNELL: He ate the film. He was so good. And I was always a little disappointed that Robert didn't see how good the work was that he was doing on "Baretta." But sometimes you're blinded by those things.
COLLINS: "Baretta" was on the air for three years. It made Robert Blake a star and earned him an Emmy in 1975. But he always questioned whether he made the right move to switch from films to TV when he did.
BLAKE: Nothing wrong with a series. But you do a series on the way up or on the way down. You don't do a series when you're there.
COLLINS: Following "Baretta," Robert Blake put his celebrity status to work. Throughout the '70s and '80s, Blake was a high-profile supporter of various political causes, including the United Farm Workers' boycott against the grape growers.
BLAKE: Everyone in America one day soon will know that chemicals and pesticides are killing all of us.
COLLINS: It was during this time he met Tim Carpenter, a high school teacher and political activist.
TIM CARPENTER, POLITICAL ACTIVIST: The Robert I knew was the activist who cared a great deal about the issues, who committed himself, as I said earlier, somebody that not only talked the talk but walked the walk.
BLAKE: When I come here and someone says, Gee, we're so thankful that you're here, we really appreciate your support, it's, like, how did this become their problem, when it's my problem? You know, I don't want my grandchildren born deformed.
COLLINS: For Robert Blake, the '80s was a difficult decade on and off the screen. His 20-year marriage to Sandra Carey (ph), that had produced two children, ended in divorce. Never an easy man to work with even in the best of times, the good roles were quickly drying up.
CANNELL: I've had 40 shows on the air, TV series, and I would say that he ranks up there, you know, as one of the most difficult guys to be -- to do a show with.
COLLINS: He finally hit bottom in 1985 after abruptly walking away from a television series called "Helltown."
BLAKE: You don't fight tough. You don't sound tough. And you don't (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I fell apart. I mean, without getting real dramatic, it was the end of the road. And I came as close to really just sticking a .357 in my mouth as anybody could come.
COLLINS: The '90s found Robert Blake in a better frame of mind and looking to recapture his lost childhood.
BLAKE: I wanted to be in the Boy Scouts. I wanted a B.B. gun. I wanted a train. I didn't get none of that stuff. So part of my growing up is to go out and get all the stuff I never had, and that's my B.B. gun collection. Those are not regular guns. Those are B.B. guns.
COLLINS: He also resurrected his career, beginning with his starring role in 1993 in the CBS movie "Judgment Day: The John List Story." He portrays a man who murders his wife and children.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Give me those damn pills.
BLAKE: Don't swear! I said, don't swear!
COLLINS: He earned an Emmy nomination for his work in the movie. For Robert Blake, he says performing in front of a camera comes naturally.
BLAKE: The easiest thing I've ever done in my life is acting.
COLLINS: When we return with the story of Robert Blake, he takes a turn again at being a father and husband, and winds up in a real- life drama as sensational as any of his movies. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.
BONNY BAKLEY: When I met Blake, I kind of wanted him, but I kind of didn't, because I -- he wasn't, like, up to par with the looks.
COLLINS (voice-over): On audiotapes of Bonny Bakley released to the media by Robert Blake's attorney, she recorded conversations with friends, leaving a clear impression of just who she thought she was.
BAKLEY: I was the kid that everybody hated in school, because I was, like, poor and couldn't dress good, and, you know, and everybody always made fun over me because I was, like, a real loner type, you know. So then you grow up saying, Oh, I'll fix them, I'll show them, I'll be a movie star.
COLLINS: But Bakley never did become a movie star. She just figured out a way to become part of the Hollywood scene she had always craved.
BAKLEY: And it was too hard, because I was always falling for somebody. So I figured, well, why not fall for movie stars instead of becoming one, you know?
COLLINS: So she sought out Hollywood celebrities. One of them was Marlon Brando's son, Christian, according to Bakley's brother.
CARLYON: She liked him more because he was younger, he was cuter, and comes from a much better background even though he's a convicted murderer. But...
COLLINS (on camera): Your sister dated him too, then.
CARLYON: She did date him. They did have a brief tawdry little affair.
COLLINS (voice-over): Brando, who pleaded guilty to killing his sister's boyfriend in 1991, spent five years in prison. He has not commented on Bakley or any of her claims. Bakley became pregnant in the fall of 1999. When her baby daughter was born in June of 2000, she at first thought it was Brando's and wondered what affect the child would have on their relationship.
BAKLEY: I don't know if the baby's going to work for me or against me, because, you know, sometimes they're a pain to have around, you know? So...
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Well, it's his baby, right?
BAKLEY: Yes. But, you know, look, he still may not like it.
COLLINS: Later, a DNA test proved Robert Blake, not Brando, as the father. In the end, Bakley pursued a relationship with Blake, 23 years her senior, instead of Brando.
BAKLEY: Who would you go for more if you were me, Blake or Christian?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: If I was you...
BAKLEY: Probably feel safer with Blake, because Christian could go off, right, remember how wacky he was?
COLLINS: Bakley finally married Blake in November 2000 and they named their child Rose.
BAKLEY: He'd come on real mushy and sweet, like he's really fallen for me. And then, you know -- and I was backing off.
COLLINS: According to Blake's former attorneys, it wasn't a loving relationship.
BRAUN: He married her because she gave birth to his daughter, and he felt an obligation to, you know, his child to marry the mother, very old-fashioned.
COLLINS: Bakley moved in with Blake, but stayed in the bungalow behind the actor's four-bedroom house, with the words "Mata Hari Ranch" painted across the face of the building.
CARLYON: Well, basically, before they were married, he didn't really even want to get married, he just -- he wanted to have a relationship with the child and not so much a relationship with her.
COLLINS: Blake began to suspect his bride might have a shady past, according to his attorney, and hired private investigators to check out her background. Bakley's brother didn't deny that his sister had had some legal problems.
CARLYON: She didn't murder and she didn't molest and she didn't rape, and she wasn't a hardened criminal. She was really just a -- I hate to use the word petty, but a petty scam artist.
COLLINS: Bakley had been convicted of processing false identifications used to open post office boxes as part of a mail-order fraud business. Prosecutors say she sought out lonely men to send her money in return for nude photos.
BAKLEY: I got three years probation just for having different IDs, you know, and it wasn't even like I was really using them for anything totally, you know, too, too illegal either, you know. I mean, it's my business. And if I want to, you know, like fool guys in the mail and say that I'm somebody else, you know, what's the difference?
COLLINS: Blake has told the LAPD he feared someone from his wife's criminal past had been stalking her, but her family's attorney says the person she feared the most was her husband.
CARY GOLDSTEIN, FORMER BAKLEY FAMILY ATTORNEY: I know she feared her life. There were times when she was greatly in fear of him. There -- she was treated, I think, very wrongly by him.
COLLINS: Now it's up to a jury to decide when he murdered his wife. After months of pretrial hearings, jury selection and repeated delays, the curtain finally rose on the criminal trial last December.
TOOBIN: California has the slowest legal system in the country. And you add to that that Blake kept firing his lawyers. That added up to a big delay.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As the defendant starts...
COLLINS: The prosecution has relied on witnesses who have testified they found Blake's behavior odd the night his wife was shot. Prosecutors also called associates of Blake's who testified that the actor asked them to whack his wife.
TOOBIN: The prosecution's strategy is all about motive and opportunity. Robert Blake couldn't stand his wife. I think that's pretty clear. And he was with her in the seconds before she was killed. Connect the dots.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without evidence to support their charge...
COLLINS: Blake's defense team will try to raise the issue of reasonable doubt, calling Bakley's checkered past into question.
TOOBIN: The defense strategy is to portray his wife as such a monster that lots of people wanted her dead. And you add to that the fact that there's no eyewitness, there's no murder weapon. It's a reasonable doubt defense.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're on the record in the Robert Blake/Earle Caldwell matter.
COLLINS: Whether he is found guilty or innocent, Blake's role of defendant is eerily reminiscent of roles played on screen by a world- weary actor.
BLAKE: Living is hard. Loving is hard. Trying to smell the flowers is hard. I can't even find the flowers.
ZAHN: Even as Robert Blake fights for his freedom and his life, a made-for-TV movie is reportedly in the works about his wife. But the movie, called "Dying For Stardom," the absolutely unbelievably true story of Bonny Lee Bakley doesn't even attempt to answer the question of who may have killed her.
That's it for this edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Paula Zahn. Thanks so much for joining us. Hope you'll be back with us again next week.
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