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I never showed Eminem any love .. it made him the bitter, foul-mouthed star he is now; DAD WHO DUMPED RAP HERO TELLS OF HIS PAIN.

Byline: RUKI SAYID

THE scrawny little boy ran home sobbing from yet another beating at school.

His head throbbing and with tears streaming down his pinched face, he knew what to do.

He would write to the estranged father he had been named after and, like all the super heroes in the comic books he adored, his dad would race to his rescue and deal with the bullies.

But, like the other letters Marshall Bruce Mathers III had written to his dad, it came back unopened, marked with the familiar words: "Return to Sender".

It was an experience the heartbroken boy neither forgot - nor forgave.

Little wonder then that when the child became millionaire rap star Eminem and his absent father miraculously appeared, begging for a reconciliation, his response was as angry as it was obscene.

Marshall Bruce Mathers II, was so stung by the venom in his son's attack and on the track My Name Is, he withdrew from his life as quickly as he had appeared.

Eminem had rapped: "When you see my dad/Tell him that I slit his throat in this dream I had."

Unrepentant, the sneering 28-year-old says now: "My father? I never knew him. I've never even seen a picture of him.

"I heard my dad is trying to get in contact with me, but not now. I never got one letter.

"I never got anything from him and I think he could have at least tried to write. He could have done something - made an effort."

Yesterday, Eminem - revered or reviled as the world's most foul- mouthed rapper - began a sell-out three-day UK tour.

Despite a wave of outrage from gays and women's groups who feel he promotes homophobia and domestic violence, he has been nominated for a Brit and four Grammies.

The success of the macabre No 1 hit Stan and Top 10 single The Real Slim Shady have turned the kid who calls himself "trailer park trash" into a multi-millionaire.

His album The Marshall Mathers LP has sold 10 million copies worldwide.

If his 52-year-old father thought he could jump on the Eminem bandwagon, he really doesn't know the man his son has become.

He had walked out on his teenage wife Debbie and 11-month-old Marshall 27 years ago.

Now anxious to play down the charge that he abandoned his young family and now wants to cash in on his son's fame, Marshall Snr says: "His mum and I split up, and she went her way and I went mine. Debbie and Marshall kept moving, so it was impossible to find him.

"I tried for years to reach him through his mum's family, but couldn't get through."

Speaking to The Mirror from his modest flat near San Diego, California, the factory worker revealed he just wanted his angry rapper son to know he was after his forgiveness - not his money.

His only memory of his son is a faded baby picture he took with him when he left.

Struggling to control his emotions, Marshall said: "I desperately want to meet my son and tell him I love him.

"I'm not interested in his money. I just want to talk to him. I want him to know that I'm here for him if he lets me back into his life."

Marshall's second wife Teresa Harbin, 40, adds: "Marshall hasn't seen his son since he was a baby and all he has is one picture of him holding the boy.

"He hasn't seen him since shortly after the picture was taken and he would love to hold him once again.

"But Eminem has made it quite clear he wants nothing to do with him at the moment."

If there was any room for doubt, Em dispels it.

"I don't know anything about my dad and I don't care," he says.

"I think his name is the same as mine. Did I ask my mother? No, why should I?"

Marshall Senior lives in the predominantly Mexican area of Chula Vista, just south of San Diego where he regularly attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and counselling sessions at a drugs and booze rehab centre.

His son lives in a pounds 500,000 mansion in Detroit, Michigan - the town where he made his name as a street rapper.

When Marshall Bruce Mathers II walked out on his baby son it was an act which scarred the boy for life.

Eminem's mother, Debbie Mathers-Briggs, now 45, turned into an over-protective parent, but any thoughts of gratitude she might have expected when he hit the big time were shortlived.

She, too, is lambasted in a series of spiteful tracks, one of which is the subject of a pounds 7million law suit.

"He has hurt me terribly," says Debbie, who runs a small cab firm in St Joseph, Missouri. "I once asked him why he was so angry with me. He said it was because he didn't have a dad."

DEBBIE was just 15 when she married Marshall who worked in a wood veneer shop near Kansas City, Missouri.

Marshall - seven years his wife's senior - also played in a band and toured bars and hotels. Debbie went on the road with him and played tambourine until, at 17, she fell pregnant.

Within a year, Marshall, a heavy drinker, tired of the demands of family life and walked out. Penniless, Debbie drifted from one ghetto to another, trying to stay a step ahead of the rent man.

By the age of seven Em had moved towns and schools at least 12 times and recalls: "We never had any money.

"We were evicted from a few apartments, but mostly we just left in a hurry.

"I know my mother tried to do her best, but I was bounced around so much it seemed like we moved every two or three months. I would go to six different schools in a year.

"I was poor white trash ... no glitter, no glamour."

When he was nine, he almost died after a vicious attack at school and spent five days in a coma - but still there was no sign of his father.

Em and his mum had settled in Detroit where her gran had given her full use of her house.

He started at Dort Elementary School and among the children of different ethnic backgrounds, there was racial tension. The school bully felt the new skinny white boy needed to be taught a lesson.

Gang leader D'Angelo Bailey - two years older and considerably bigger than Eminem - took great delight on picking on him, but one day the beatings went too far

Now the rapper says: "It was real stupid. Some girl hit me with a snowball and this boy started laughing, so I threw him against a wall.

"What I didn't know was that the boy was best mates with D'Angelo. Everyone in school was terrified of him, especially me because I was small and skinny." D'Angelo struck, throwing Em to the ground and knocking him out.

"When I got home that night my ear started bleeding and my mum took me to hospital," says Em. "The doctors were doing a scan when I slipped into a coma. I was out for five days. When I came round I remember telling them I could spell 'elephant'."

Unable to hit back then, the angry little boy filed it away and years later savoured his revenge when he spat out his bitterness in the track, Brain Damage. But the bullying just increased his yearning for his dad and he wrote him countless letters, spelling out his anguish.

His granny, Betty Kresin says: "Marshall wrote his dad many, many letters but they just got returned. He so wanted a father figure."

Em - who has a five-year-old daughter Hailie Jade - is determined to give her the fatherly love and security he lacked.

He says: "I want to raise my daughter the right way and not cut out on her like my father did to me." Although he dotes on the little girl, he has a volatile love-hate relationship with her 25-year-old mum, Kim.

The couple were high school sweethearts and have been together for 13 years but their stormy relationship has been the subject of some of Eminem's most violent lyrics.

He has a tattoo of a tombstone on his chest with the chilling epitaph "Kim, Rot In Pieces" and has written explicit songs about killing her.

The couple secretly married almost two years ago, but friends say they are never far from each other's throats. Em is presently facing up to five years in jail, accused of pistol whipping ex-bouncer John Guerra after seeing him kiss Kim in a car park.

When his tour finishes here on Saturday, he flies back to America to face assault charges.

Ironically, if he goes to prison, he will lose the one thing he values most - precious time with his daughter, Hailie Jade.

TOMORROW: DON'T MISS BRIAN READE'S EMINEM GIG REVIEW

CAPTION(S):

SO SORRY: Eminem's dad, Marshall Mathers II; ABANDONED: Young rapper and mum Debbie; BULLIED: Little Marshall; REVENGE: Eminem the star; HARD LIFE: Growing up with no dad turned the little boy into an angry man; THEN; NOW
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 9, 2001
Words:1528
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