Neat and handsome, Mark Lester is just as I would imagine a 58-year-old osteopath, acupuncturist and father-of-four to look.

Dressed in T-shirt and jeans, he moves smoothly around the enormous living room of his beautiful Georgian house in Cheltenham, and his voice is quiet.

He is friendly but, dare I say it, he is ever so slightly boring as he talks about his garden improvements, how he met his "other half" - an interior decorator and mother-of-two called Emma on the school-run - and his recently announced plans to marry her.

"Third time lucky. I don't want to go through all that again, that's for sure," he says.


So it's hard to square all this normality with his extraordinary past, reports Daily Mail.

Because this is the same Mark Lester who touched the nation's hearts when he starred, aged eight, as the impossibly beautiful golden-haired orphan in the 1968 film Oliver!

And the same Mark Lester who, as a teenager, was thrown out of restaurants for having chocolate pancake fights, drinking brandy and smoking cigars with hell-raising actor Oliver Reed.

Famously, Reed brought a mute Hungarian prostitute to Lester's 18th birthday party as a coming of age gift for him, shouting: "I want to make a man of Mark!".

Mark says: "She was absolutely mortified. She thought she was going back with him."

There followed a frenzied drug-taking phase he describes as "an 18-month window of doing everything to extreme - every drug I could get my hands on.

"Mostly coke, but you can't really sleep very well if you do it all the time, so I had a few days off here and there."

Oliver! star Mark Lester, 58, claims he acted as a sperm donor for his friend Michael Jackson. Photo / Getty Images
Oliver! star Mark Lester, 58, claims he acted as a sperm donor for his friend Michael Jackson. Photo / Getty Images

The small fortune earned from Oliver! was squandered in four years, on a Ferrari, a house (his one sensible investment) booze and drugs for his entourage, but mostly it went up his nose.


Next came a nasty operation to rebuild his sinuses and save his cocaine-ravaged nostrils, a period in rehab, an awful lot of restorative karate - he's a black belt - two failed marriages, four children of whom he won custody from his first wife Jane after an acrimonious split.

And then, finally, a new (drug-free) life as an osteopath, acupuncturist and anti-drug counsellor.

Which is a pretty impressive tally even before you begin to consider his friendships with illusionist, spoon-bender and "mystic" Uri Geller, Liza Minnelli's ex-husband the late David Gest, and Michael Jackson.

And let's not forget the strong possibility that Lester is the biological father of the late singer's 19-year-old daughter Paris (whose mother Debbie Rowe, a former nurse, was married to Jackson).

Lester happily talks about how he acted as a sperm donor for Jackson. "I was just helping out a friend. I think he had a problem with actually doing the physical act of sex and a very low sperm count as well."

He also claims Jackson had been scared off women for many reasons, one of which is said to be the trauma he experienced after being propositioned by Madonna in her hotel bedroom.

Lester explains: "When he entered the room, she was in bed, threw the covers off and was completely naked. He took one look at her and screamed and ran away - not something I'd have done!"

He says he was surprised when Jackson told him that he wanted children but "had problems" and joked that Lester, who has four children, Lucy, 26, Harriet, 23, Olivia, 22 and Felix, 18, "only had to look at his own wife and she'd get pregnant".

Paris and Prince I (right) stand on stage at the Michael Jackson public memorial service, July 7, 2009. Photo / Getty Images
Paris and Prince I (right) stand on stage at the Michael Jackson public memorial service, July 7, 2009. Photo / Getty Images

At first, Lester assumed Jackson wanted him to have sex with his wife Rowe - who he rather ungallantly describes as "a most horrendous-looking creature".

But the singer actually wanted him to make a sperm deposit at a Harley Street clinic.

"Michael said it would all be completely confidential and I knew he was asking others in his inner circle - actors Macaulay Culkin, Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson, Uri Geller, people from Harvard with doctorates, all sorts."

But oddly, as far as he knew, no one with black skin.

The episode remained secret until after Jackson's death in 2009 when there were a host of media reports about Lester possibly being Paris's father. She did indeed look very like Lester's daughters, particularly Olivia as a child.

"My kids weren't that enamoured. They thought it a bit seedy - that's a pun!" Lester laughs. "But they're fine now."

Blimey, what a very strange set-up.

Lester's friendship with Jackson started in the late-Seventies when the singer was in London on tour and asked his manager to contact Lester. Oliver! was his favourite musical and he'd watched it numerous times.

"I wasn't really into his music, but my sister loved him," Lester says.

They met and spent six hours together. "We were the same age and had lots in common as we'd both been child stars."

Mark Lester and daughter Harriet Lester. Photo / Getty Images
Mark Lester and daughter Harriet Lester. Photo / Getty Images

In truth, Lester's showbiz career had struggled post-Oliver!. He appeared in a few more films, but never really replicated the success of Oliver! and retired from acting at 19.

"As I got older, the parts dried up.Anyway, acting was never something I wanted to do for ever."

Whatever, he'd made his mark on Michael Jackson. Every time Jackson was in London, they'd hook up. In between, Jackson would phone - often in the middle of the night - 'he had no concept of the time difference'.

Soon, Lester was part of Wacko Jacko's inner sanctum.

Through Jackson he met Uri Geller - "a lovely man; he was at my last wedding" - and the bizarre David Gest, whose wedding to Liza Minnelli he attended in 2002 despite knowing, as did everyone, that Gest was gay.

He recalls how Gest suffered terribly from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and was forever rearranging items around him. "It drove me mental just watching him," says Mark.

"Apparently, Liza once bashed him over the head with a shoe and damaged his memory.

"Before Gest died, he phoned and asked if I could fill in some bits of his past that had become blank."

In the meantime, Jackson, who by now had two children, Prince Michael I and Paris, had a second son Blanket, who was born to a surrogate and whom Lester is "pretty sure" is Jackson's biological son.

Prince Michael Jackson II, Paris and Prince attend a baseball game in 2012. Photo / Getty Images
Prince Michael Jackson II, Paris and Prince attend a baseball game in 2012. Photo / Getty Images

The two families remained close and the Lesters holidayed in Neverland, Jackson's 2,700 ranch near Santa Barbara, California. The children played together and watched Disney films in bed.

And in 2003, in a lavish ceremony in The Four Seasons Hotel in Las Vegas, the two men became godparents to each other's children.

Lester was there for the good times: Jackson whooping with laughter as he hurled water balloons at passers-by from a suite at the Beverly Wilshire hotel in Los Angeles; screaming with delight on the fairground rides at Neverland; a joint family Christmas in a Bahrain palace; staying at Cliveden House in Berkshire where Jackson ordered chicken nuggets in the Michelin-starred restaurant.

But he also witnessed bad times, including Jackson's battle with vitiligo, a disease in which patches of skin lose pigmentation.

"When it was on his face, he had to do something about it and with all these doctors encouraging him, he went too far," says Mark. "But if you saw the rest of his body - it was horrendous. His legs were white with little patches of brown."

And the singer suffered from terrible insomnia.

On one occasion, when Jackson complained about not being able to sleep, Lester says they drank six bottles of extremely fine wine, after which the singer slept for hours.

In 2003, Jackson - already at the centre of allegations of sex abuse against children - admitted in an ITV documentary that he let children, other than his own, sleep in his bed.

Singer Michael Jackson and his wife Debbie Rowe greet fans from the balcony of the hotel Royal Monceau in Paris 1997. Photo / Getty Images
Singer Michael Jackson and his wife Debbie Rowe greet fans from the balcony of the hotel Royal Monceau in Paris 1997. Photo / Getty Images

All Lester will say is that he couldn't believe Jackson said what he did, or that he hadn't insisted on editorial control on the programme.

"I never believed the allegations. He was naive but he just loved children. He saw himself as the Pied Piper and would never do anything to hurt anyone. If anything, he was asexual."

Lester was also with Jackson when he dangled his youngest child, Blanket, out of a hotel window in Berlin in 2002. He dismisses the firestorm of criticism that was directed at Jackson, saying: "What a fuss! He just wanted to show his kid off." And in fact, Lester insists Jackson was a brilliant dad and strict about schooling and bedtime.

"It used to annoy me a bit. Put me to shame. And my kids absolutely adored him and his kids. I would have completely trusted him with mine."

He does concede he began to have worries towards the end of Jackson's life, when the singer said he thought one of Lester's teenage daughters looked like Princess Diana and he wanted to marry her.

"Michael was going off the rails a bit then. I think he was a bit unbalanced. Delirious from all the drugs."

Considering how close the two families were, it was a surprise that Lester and his children have had no contact with Jackson's children since his funeral.