Terry George leapt up excitedly as the phone rang. It was 9pm and he knew exactly who it would be… the most unlikely best friend a 13-year-old boy could have.
It was none other than his pop idol Michael Jackson, who had been calling his Leeds home like clockwork for the past five months after striking up a bizarre relationship.
But this time the besotted young fan’s excitement soon turned to shock and embarrassment as Jacko’s voice crackled down the line.
“He’d ring at 9pm on the dot three times a week and we became like best friends,” Terry recalled. “But on this night he sounded different. The line went quiet and I asked if he was still there.
“Then, suddenly out of nowhere, he asked me if I masturbated and that if I did, did I use cream? I was puzzled
and said no. I said I didn’t know what he meant.
“When I paused he said, ‘Would you believe that I am doing it right now?’ and I could hear down the line he was making strange noises. It made me feel confused and uncomfortable.”
Yesterday Terry – now 42 and a multi-millionaire businessman – said: “Michael was a musical legend and genius. But what he did when I was a teenager was wrong.”
He was the first victim of the star’s obsession with children which would ultimately cripple his career.
Jacko, accused of abusing several young boys, was never convicted of any crime. But multi-million-dollar pay-offs to families and a warped insistence that it was OK to share his bed with boys has left a permanent stain on his legacy.
It was in 1993 that young Jordan Chandler claimed in a police statement he was abused at the singer’s Neverland ranch.
Yet more disturbing allegations followed. Jacko’s obsession with children started when he befriended Terry in 1979.
They met when the youngster turned up at his hotel and asked his idol, then 21, for an interview.
“He invited me into his hotel room and we got on brilliantly,” Terry said. “As I went to leave he invited me to hang out with him the next day at the hotel.
“We would sit and giggle and laugh together. It was clear he was happier to be around children than adults and enjoyed their company.”
Before Jacko flew out he asked Terry for his telephone number so they could keep in touch.
“It made me feel special. I got a buzz knowing I had a direct line to a celebrity so I agreed and he promised he would ring me.”
Just a week later came the first of Jacko’s regular calls from America. Terry recalled: “He’d often ask if my parents were in. And when I explained that they had gone out to play bingo he would relax.
“We would chat for hours about silly stuff.He’d sing songs to me down the phone and we’d talk nonsense. We became like best friends.”
Then, only months into their friendship, Jacko abused his trust with the call encouraging Terry to pleasure himself.
“He knew that I wasn’t happy with what he had done and that I felt uncomfortable about it.”
However, they stayed in touch, taking turns to call. That ended when Terry rang up a massive bill and his parents’ line got cut off. In 1981 they met face-to-face again in the UK – but this time Jacko was frosty. “I’ve no idea why his attitude towards me had changed,” Terry said.
They lost contact soon after. Then, suddenly in 1993, Terry got a call from LA detectives on the Chandler case.
Terry said: “The police told me that they felt Michael’s behaviour started with his friendship with me.
“Although I knew what he did was wrong I believed him to be a very confused person rather than a paedophile.”
Yet the investigation which followed suggested a very different story. Dozens of children and former staff, including cancer survivor Gavin Arvizo, came forward claiming he’d abused kids.
He was accused of forcing kids to drink “Jesus Juice” – wine in Coke cans – and watch porn in a hidden room off his bedroom.
His alleged victims claimed the King of Pop pleasured himself in front of them – and insisted on “teaching” them how to do it.
At a trial that followed, Jacko was found not guilty of all the charges.
Yet friends say the claims sent him retreating into his own secluded world.
Earlier this year in a shock call to Terry, Jacko laid bare his misery.
Terry said: “He phoned me out of the blue and we both made our peace about what had happened in the past. I’ve forgiven him for what happened.
“He told me he had been under a lot of pressure recently. I think he was a very confused man who never grew up and lived a tormented life.”
He went on: “He said that people were forced to say things that they later regret.
“But he insisted his love for children was entirely innocent.”
Terry also revealed that Jacko had taken a strong interest in the website he’d founded, Gonetoo soon.org – where users post tributes to people who die young.
“He had been on the site and said he was touched to see some of the messages,” he said. “It had left him very sad and emotional.
“It’s unbelievable that three months on he is dead. After all the strain and torment he has lived through I thought he would live forever. And I am sad that he is gone.”
EXCLUSIVE by Nick Owens 28/06/2009 of www.mirror.co.uk