Troubled pop star MICHAEL JACKSON saw in the New Year (03/04) with an unexpected guest - former child actor Mark Lester.

Jackson, who is awaiting trial on child molestation charges, invited the star of hit 1968 musical OLIVER! to stay at the Beverly Hills mansion he made home after moving out of his sprawling Neverland ranch.

The pair welcomed 2004 by watching DICK CLARK'S PRIMETIME NEW YEAR'S ROCKIN' EVE on TV.

Lester and Jackson, both 45, met in the 1970s when the BAD singer was riding high in the charts with the Jackson five. A lifelong friendship developed and Lester has been a frequent visitor at Jackson's Neverland Ranch. It was there that Lester met the 12-year-old boy Jackson has been charged with molesting.

Lester, now an osteopath in his native Britain, says of the accusations levelled at his pal, "He's the godfather to my children. There's not one malicious bone in his body. It's absolutely impossible that he could sexually molest a child."

But Lester does wish his eccentric friend would at least stop broadcasting the fact he has shared his bed with youngsters. In a recent interview with Fox NEWS he said of Jackson, "He needs someone to tell him to put a sock in his mouth. He can be his own worst enemy."

11/01/2004 21:26