Pals snub Jacko but the fans stay loyal

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The Independent Online

Michael Jackson's fans showed little sign of abandoning their idol in the face of allegations of child sex abuse this weekend, as his greatest hits album, Number Ones, continued to inch towards the top of the charts.

The same could not be said of some of his prominent showbusiness friends, who remained silent about the claims by a 13-year-old boy that he was molested while staying at the singer's Neverland ranch.

The most notable "no comments" came from the former child actor Macaulay Culkin, the singer Diana Ross and Dame Elizabeth Taylor, the actress Jackson once asked to marry him.

Likewise, Lisa Marie Presley, who married Jackson in August 1994, had nothing to say publicly, her spokeswoman said.

The best Jackson's allies could muster in terms of celebrity support was a guarded defence from the rap artist Sean "P Diddy" Combs and character references from his goddaughter, Nicole Richie, and the former child actor Corey Feldman.

Meanwhile, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the American charity that recently organised trips to Jackson's ranch, issued a public statement distancing itself from the abuse allegation. In its statement, the foundation insisted that it was all-but impossible for the boy who has accused Jackson to have been abused while in its care, as it never left any of its "wish children" alone during the trips.

The controversy surrounding Jackson did not deter his British fans, who were out in force yesterday buying copies of Number Ones.

Last night, industry pundits predicted that a number one album was in sight. By yesterday, Number Ones was neck and neck with the new album by Busted, currently Britain's biggest boy band.

The duty manager of the Virgin Megastore in Oxford Street, London, confirmed there had been no dip in sales. And Gennaro Castaldo, head of press for HMV, the UK high-street record chain, said: "There has been no let-up in demand for Michael's Number Ones CD. Both he and Busted can expect to sell well over 100,000 copies of their albums by the end of the week."

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