As Michael Jackson's fans prepare to mark the first anniversary of his death on June 25 with concerts, tributes and remembrances, the superstar's father has even bigger plans. Get ready for Michael Jackson Day, an annual, universal day of celebration to honor the King of Pop's life and work. "I would like to see a Michael Jackson Day all over the world," Joe Jackson tells TIME. "And maybe in the United States it would be a holiday. I want Michael's legacy to continue on."
The Jackson patriarch has always been a big talker and the notion is indeed far-fetched. But a year ago, the idea would have been laughable. Following his death, Michael Jackson's imperfect image has seen a rehabilitation of epic proportions. His reconstructed face, his reclusive tendencies, the accusations of his improprieties with young children all have fallen away in the wake of his sudden, untimely demise. "There's an expression for that: In death, all is forgiven," says Marc Schaffel, Jackson's former business partner. "Or at least forgotten."
This selective forgetting looks to continue in earnest. Those who loved Jackson, love him all the more fervently. Schaffel, who had a significant falling out with Jackson, is back in the complicated family fold (he has scored an exclusive interview with Jackson's mother Katherine, airing on NBC Friday night) and is currently in Japan for the premiere of his documentary Michael Jackson: Inside His Private World, based on footage he shot of the pop star in 2003. The movie will open in an impressive 200 theaters in Tokyo on Friday, which he says are sold out for a two-week run.
The image rehabilitation began almost immediately following the news of Jackson's death and was substantiated at Jackson's Staples Center memorial on July 7, 2009. As Michael's brilliant gold coffin glistened nearby, the Rev. Al Sharpton addressed Michael's three children from the podium saying, "There was nothing strange about your daddy. It was strange what your daddy had to deal with." Ever since, those not on board with the Michael Jackson reverence have rarely been welcomed to express it. "Since he's died I haven't heard anyone use a derogatory word against him, much less Wacko Jacko. He is now Michael Jackson," says Schaffel. "Anything else would be disrespectful. He's part of history now."
The Michael renaissance has been enhanced by the public's affection for his children. Before Jackson died, little was known about 13-year-old Prince Michael, 12-year-old Paris and Prince Michael II (or "Blanket"), 8, beyond glimpses of them in gossip magazines wearing eerie masks or veils over their faces. Whereas fatherhood has served to humanize many celebrities, in Jackson's case it only added to the freak show. But his very public memorial service doubled as a coming-out ceremony for the children: they appeared normal and well behaved despite the unimaginable circumstances. Paris' tearful goodbye to her father at the end of the ceremony "Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine," she said, "and I just wanted to say I love him so much" was not only her first public words; it forever cast Michael in the role of loving patriarch, skeptics be damned.