Michael Jackson's hometown awaits visit

Sunday, June 8, 2003

Michael Jackson, whose family left behind Gary's gritty steel mills in the late 1960s for fame and fortune, will visit his Indiana hometown next week for the first time in two decades.

Jackson has scheduled three public appearances Wednesday in Gary, said Jackson spokesman Stuart Backerman.

His trip to his hometown will come before a Friday deadline Jackson faces to complete a court-ordered deposition in Indianapolis in a copyright infringement lawsuit.

"He's been wanting to go to Gary for a long time," Backerman said of Jackson, who lives in California. "The travel logistics make it possible."

While in Gary, Jackson is scheduled to receive a key to the city, attend an assembly at his brothers' alma mater, Roosevelt High School, and visit his boyhood home.

Backerman said there was no agenda to the homecoming aside from extending goodwill to Gary residents.

"He's totally excited about this," Backerman said. "I haven't seen him this excited about anything in a long time."

Deborah Dannelly, the president of the international Michael Jackson Fan Club, said the Gary visit would be a landmark event.

"You're going to see him as a lot of people need to see him -- as a person rather than a persona," she said.

Jackson had intended to travel to Gary in May, one day after his scheduled visit to Indianapolis to give a deposition.

That deposition was postponed May 21 after the pop star suffered an anxiety attack and was briefly hospitalized in Indianapolis.

U.S. District Judge Philip Simon has ordered Jackson to return to Indianapolis by June 13.