Everyone knows Michael Jackson had a close bond with his three children, Prince, Paris and Blanket. But what about his supposed "secret son" Omer Bhatti?
Some say that Bhatti, 25, is Jackson's son, the product of a one-night stand in Norway a quarter-century ago. Others say he was just one of many young musical talents Jackson mentored over the years, and was very close to the singer.
Either way, Omer Bhatti sat front and center at the King of Pop's memorial service earlier this month, and is currently staying at the Jackson family home.
Sources say Bhatti was a fixture at Jackson's Neverland ranch in Santa Ynez, Calif., after the two met in Europe in the 1990s, when Bhatti was around 11.
"Everyone knew him as 'Little Michael,' and Michael referred to him as 'Little Monkey,'" remembers Ricky Harlow, a rocker in the band Harlow, which was signed to Jackson's MJJ Records in 1996 – and enjoyed an open invitation to Neverland.
Omer Bhatti's relationship to Michael Jackson has fueled great speculation.
Harlow, then 15, spent many weeks at Jackson's ranch and remembers Omer Bhatti and Jackson as being very close. Nevertheless, he says that media reports hinting that Bhatti is the pop star's mysterious son make little sense.
"They did have a father-and-son type of connection," Harlow says.
"But I never thought he was his biological father. They met when Little Michael did a contest impersonating Michael Jackson in Europe in the mid-1990s."
"Michael saw it and was blown away and got in contact with the family."
Whatever their relationship might be, Michael Jackson's family recognized the bond and has taken in Omer Bhatti as one of their own.
"They definitely embrace him," says the source. "He lived with Michael like a son. After Michael died, he came to the Jackson family home in Encino."
"He came along with Michael's kids."Soon after meeting Michael Jackson, Bhatti and his mother Pia and her husband Riz were invited to live at Neverland, with all its perks.
"Michael cherished him," says Harlow. "I'm a crazy driver. I actually wrecked a bunch of the four wheelers with Little Michael with me. He was having so much fun."
"He was always like, 'Please be careful with Little Monkey. When you ride on the four wheelers, PLEASE be careful because Little Michael lives with me.'"
As for Omer Bhatti, he more than lived up to his nickname – dressing and moving just like his idol, Michael Jackson.
"I could tell little Michael idolized him," says Harlow. "[Omer] would say things like, 'I'm going to be a millionaire by the time I'm 20.' He was super ambitious; I remember he was very talented, and Michael would always say that."
Many (such as U.S. Rep. Peter King) viewed Jackson's close relationship with children as inappropriate. He was tried on child molestation charges, and acquitted, in 2005, and settled similar accusations out of court a decade earlier.
Still, Harlow says Neverland holds only good memories for him.
"I would hang out at his place all the time, and we'd be dancing in front of the mirror together," Harlow, 26, fondly remembers.
"One day and he turned to me and said, 'You've got a lot of nerve.' To him that meant I'm a bold person. I'm going to keep that in my heart."