For Ron Alexenburg, Michael Jackson will always be both a global superstar and the sweet teenager who used to play with his children on the floor of his Long Island home.
"We met him at 16 and he would come to our home in Woodbury," recalled Alexenburg, the record executive who signed The Jacksons to Epic Records. "Even my children were very close with Michael. He came to our house. He played with their dolls. He sat with their toys. Janet rode a tricycle on our driveway."
Though Alexenburg hadn't spoken with Jackson since July, when the King of Pop called to wish him a happy birthday, he was planning to reconnect with the entertainer next month at the superstar's scheduled run of 50 concerts at London's O2 Arena.
"This is like a president passing away," said Alexenburg, who lives in Port Jefferson Station and now heads the Alexenburg Entertainment Group. "We are lucky his music will last forever and his dancing - he was the modern-day Fred Astaire."
The shock of Jackson's death on Thursday hit Alexenburg hard, along with many of the Epic Records staff that worked with him. "He was such a cute little kid - never anybody but a kid really," he said. "At 50, he was still a kid."
Actually, it was Alexenburg's guidance that helped Jackson become a more grown-up artist, supporting him when he went solo to eventually record the smash album "Off the Wall."
"He told me he wanted to write and to be an artist," Alexenburg said. "He didn't want to be a puppet on a string singing."
The surge in record sales since Jackson's death should eliminate any debt he was facing, said Alexenburg, adding that his main concern is for Jackson's children and mother, Katherine. He also questioned the motives of many Jackson insiders, who didn't know the star well. "All these people are talking about how wonderful he was," he said. "Where were they a few years ago, when he was on trial and fighting for his existence?"