09/02/2002 at 01:00 AM EDT
After taking in Siegfried and Roy's July 30 gig in Las Vegas, Michael Jackson had a trick up his sleeve for his illusionist pals. Ducking backstage, Jackson brought along son Prince Michael, 5, and daughter Paris, 4—and a 6-month-old boy the magicians had never seen before. "The baby was a surprise," says a source. "[Jackson] said, 'This is my third child.' "
It appears the secretive King of Pop, 44, is a pop again. One close Jackson friend says that contrary to some accounts, the boy is not adopted and was conceived "the natural way." With whom? Mum's the word. His friend thinks Jackson's ex-wife Debbie Rowe, 43, who gave birth to Prince and Paris before their '99 divorce, can't be ruled out. "Anything's possible," he says. "They still have a relationship."
The tot's name, too, is something of a mystery. Jackson has introduced him to several friends as Prince Michael II. Would he really give his sons the same name? "That's correct, Prince I and Prince II," says producer Gary Pudney, who met the "very cute" infant in April and was told, "I'm very happy," by a beaming Michael. Jackson's other pal, though, is skeptical about that moniker. "A lot of things are done just to throw the public off," he says, adding that Jackson calls the baby "the third" or "No. 3."
In any case, he's keen on keeping the kid entertained: On two recent visits to the Denny &c Lee Magic Studios shop in Las Vegas—one with former dermatologist's assistant Rowe at his side—Jackson bought $7,000 in tomes and tricks, including a gadget with multihued lightbulbs he said his baby son would like. "He said that he does magic shows for his kids at Neverland," says store co-owner Scott Alexander. "He wanted things they hadn't seen before." Despite his peculiarities, Jackson "is extremely impressive as a father," says Pudney. "He had a very lonely childhood. His motivation in having children is partly because of that but mainly because he loves them. Now he has three beautiful children."