By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Bill Bray, a former Los Angeles
police officer who served as Michael Jackson’s longtime
security chief and became a father figure to the onetime child
star, has died at the age of 80.
Bray, who began working for the Jackson 5 in the early
1970s and was one of Jackson’s closest confidants until his
retirement in the mid-1990s, died on Tuesday, the entertainer’s
publicist, Raymone Bain, told Reuters.
“Michael is very, very, very saddened to learn of the
passing of Bill Bray, who was a longtime friend and mentor to
him and very trusted adviser to him,” Bain said.
She said Jackson, who has been living in Bahrain since
winning an acquittal on child molestation charges in June, had
spoken to members of Bray’s family by telephone.
“Bill was a father figure to all of the boys (in the
Jackson 5) in the early days and when Michael struck out on his
own he became sort of a surrogate father to Michael,” said J.
Randy Taraborelli, author of the biography “Michael Jackson:
The Magic and the Madness.”
“Michael always had this sort of ambivalent relationship
with his dad — bordering on downright anger — and Bray was
the person, back in early days, and up until the early 1990s,
who Michael would turn to if he had any kind of personal
problem he needed to have solved,” Taraborelli said.
Bray was at Jackson’s side during the height of his
sensational career in the 1980s and when a young boy accused
the singer of child molestation in 1993. Jackson settled that
case out of court and no charges were ever brought.
“Everybody around Michael always liked Bill Bray,”
Taraborelli said. “(Film star and Jackson friend) Elizabeth
Taylor thought he was one of the greatest people who had ever
been in Michael’s life. She was very protective of Michael and
always knew that Bill was someone he could rely on.”
Jackson and Bray had a falling out in the mid-1990s, for
reasons that were never made public, and Foxnews.com columnist
Roger Friedman, who was first to report Bray’s death, wrote on
the Web site that they had not seen each other in a decade.
But Friedman and Taraborelli said that Bray was still on
Jackson’s payroll at the time of his death.