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From Diana he also got a sense of style, as well as an appreciation of power. He observed how people reacted to her when she walked into a room. Perhaps Michael - by reminding her with his presence in her home of the important things in life - had inspired her as much as she had inspired him.

If so, it is a favour that, 40 years later, his will - naming Diana as the woman he wanted to bring up his children in the event of his mother's death - puts her in a position to repay.

Now, eat your cereal.' For the month he was with her, she found time to teach him to draw and paint. Michael's fascination with Diana - some would later see it as an obsession - would last for many years. I used to just sit in the corner and watch the way she moved. I studied the way she moved, the way she sang - just the way she was.' He told her: 'I want to be just like you, Diana.' She said: 'You just be yourself.' But Michael's mother, Katherine, had no need to worry about her influence. She would go to bed early in order to be up on time for her many appointments. He, in turn, clearly had an impact on her, though he may not have realised it. When it was time for him to go back to his family, she was crestfallen, particularly after Katherine thanked her profusely for what she had done, but then added, pointedly: 'He needs his mother.' Diana, whose life had been devoted entirely to her career since she was 15, seemed put out by the reminder that she might no longer be as influential in young Michael's life.

She was not only a mother figure when his own was thousands of miles away, she was an accomplished performer whom he studied constantly. If anything, she passed on to Michael a work ethic that would serve him well. She had loved being his 'mother', even for such a short time. It wouldn't be long before she would have children of her own - three girls, and then later two boys - and devote as much of herself to them as she would to her career.

'I just want to tell you how much I enjoyed you guys,' she said. She told the boys she was going to do all she could to help them in their career - and she meant it. 'Well, to tell you the truth, I had just about given up hope,' he replied with a grin. Next question, please.' For a while after this, he lived with Ross at her Hollywood Hills home.

Still, she gave it everything she had, treated Michael like a son and became attached to him.

Over breakfast she would tell him: 'You are going to be a great, great star.

'I wanted Diana to teach him whatever she could,' said Berry Gordy, boss of the Motown label.

'I asked her if she minded, and she said she didn't. It was good for her to have someone else besides herself to think about.' Consumed by the demands of her own career, she probably wasn't prepared for the role of surrogate mother.

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