With best friends like Lenny Kravitz and Denzel Washington you'd think it would be easy to get carried away in Hollywood.

But with a mix of celebrity and "normal" friends Richie says he has managed to stay focused and grounded for the most part.

Michael Jackson was the main topic of conversation when it came to friends - and as you can imagine, I was intrigued.

He said: "My songs are about keeping things simple and I remember when I first met Michael Jackson he was seven years old. I told him that I'd stick to the dance moves everybody could do and he could do the rest!

"The Jackson Five were incredible. I used to call Michael the Midget because that's exactly what he was. But the strange thing was he was a kid doing things a 35-year-old man would usually do. But then they'd come off stage and be kids again.

"They would have pillow fights, put itching powder in your pants and ice cubes in your shoes and then you'd remember they are just kids again. I don't see him quite as much anymore but we still stay in contact. Michael is a talented man and I have tried to convince him to get back out there but he seems happy just enjoying life."


Laughing almost hysterically, Lionel explained about a few of the disguises Jackson would use to come to his concerts.

"He used to come to my concerts and I always busted him. Once I was like, ‘Who is that guy in the giant afro wig?' I didn't realise it was him and totally blew his disguise. I was like, Michael, if you're going to come in disguise, come looking like someone else, don't come in the only afro wig in the audience. A giant afro wig - talk about attracting attention to yourself.

"Last time he came to a concert he sat on the front row as Michael Jackson and I said, ‘That's Michael Jackson right there. What are you doing here?' It was either that or a guy dressed up like Michael Jackson - obviously it's Michael Jackson."

‘Sincere insincerity'

So what's the key to surviving Hollywood?

"Don't take it too seriously. We are a town of sincere insincerity. We are sincerely insincere - if you're hot I love you, cold - how are you? If you pick up a few friends along the way - great.

"Kenny Rogers is the older brother. I'm not going to say father because he'll be like, whatever and kill me, but this guy is the coolest on the planet. I think we got along so well on the first day. He's just a funny, sincere guy.

"We sing in the same key and we like the same songs. Writing for him was so easy because we do the same thing. Anytime I was writing an album he'd call and say ‘Anything left over?'

"He's doing an album now and he's doing two of my songs - his 50th anniversary is coming up".

"My best celebrity friends are probably Lenny Kravitz and Denzel Washington. They are really fun guys but I have many non-famous friends who are mostly lawyers and doctors and I call them my stable people - normal people."