Michael In Australia In 1987, Doing What He Did Best…Making Sick Kids Happy!
Conspiracy theories by their very nature are just that-theories. And generally, I try to steer clear of them. But it has already been well established that most of Michael Jackson’s enemies are actually a very small but intimate group. That part is no longer a theory. In 2005, The Veritas Project established a firm and undeniable connection between Michael’s accusers, prosecutor Tom Sneddon, and all the various individuals who were playing a hand either in directly bringing about the allegations or in smearing Michael’s name in the media.
Since then, many astute Michael Jackson researchers have carried the seminal Veritas Project further to establish the very intimate connections between Michael’s accusers, their attorneys and respective therapists, as well as Tom Sneddon, Diane Dimond, and a small host of former friends-turned-enemies. What has been well proven by this research is that the tangled web of relationships between Michael Jackson’s enemies goes well beyond the professional level. Indeed, these people are intimate friends who “stick together” and have one another’s backs. They attend one another’s weddings, birthday parties, and conduct themselves in every respect as long and trusted family friends. This point has by now been so well established that they don’t even bother trying to hide it anymore. Diane Dimond wrote openly and gloatingly about attending Gavin Arvizo’s wedding. Prosecuting attorney Ron Zonen gushes at seminars about what a fine, upstanding, young Christian man Gavin Arvizo has turned out to be, making it no secret in the process that he obviously keeps in regular touch. Diane Dimond and self-proclaimed Jackson family “friend” Stacy Brown can both be found on their respective Twitter accounts, coyly “wink winking” at each other as they openly strategize, pat each other on the backs, and defend each other against “those crazy MJ fans.” Time and again, photos surface of various members of this “happy family” at some personal occasion, toasting each other with gleeful smiles. Mind you, these are not in most cases private photos, but rather, photos they have purposely and brazenly made public as if to rub it in that, yes, they are all best buds; yes, they stick together, and yes, they are united in one very big, common purpose-the destruction of one individual, namely Michael Joseph Jackson. And that furthermore, they don’t care if Michael Jackson fans know it.
The Enemies of Michael Jackson-They Wine, Dine, and Toast Together! Diane Dimond and Ron Zonen On The Left; Stacy Brown (in red) On The Right!
Not that any of them would ever admit, openly, to being such devious, mustache-twirling villains. I’m sure if you asked any of them why they all appear to be as thick as old gravy, they would put it down to something like being united in a common cause or common belief. Maybe they have genuinely convinced themselves that they are standing united against a world that continues to adore Michael Jackson. For many of them, this has been a more than two decades long obsession; indeed, a crusade. That is their common ground. But it begs an even bigger question. Why would individuals who claim to care so much about abused children spend the better part of two decades endlessly obsessing over one individual, rather than spreading their energies equally to include other individuals and cases for which there was obviously much more evidence and where obviously the perpetrators were actually guilty? Why are they more concerned with doggedly trying to prove one man guilty, rather than taking active interests in cases where guilt is obvious?
We know that Dimond, in particular, has a long and vested interest in Michael Jackson ever since she was forced to eat crow after the 2005 verdict. Similarly, many who found themselves embarrassingly on the wrong side of victory in that case have been on a vendetta ever since to somehow “right” that outcome. Not surprisingly, these are the individuals who have gloried in the recent allegations brought by Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck. But could it be more than this? Could it be that some of these same individuals are still pulling far more strings than we know? To be sure, Diane Dimond is definitely thick as thieves right now with Robson, Safechuck, and their attorney. But that still doesn’t necessarily mean she is a mastermind behind the operation. She could just be what she would have us believe-a salivating journalist “with the scoop.”
However, I am going to venture out on a limb to say that Wade’s so-called supporters and friends are, in fact, playing a much bigger role in current events. And while I can’t exactly say who the real masterminds are (give me a break, I’m a teacher and writer, not an investigative reporter!) I can safely say that I have been watching their patterns for enough years to start piecing some things together. Many of you may be wondering where the heck I am going with all of this cryptic talk about “the Australian connection.” Well, I’ll solve the mystery in this post, and will further reassure anyone (especially Michael’s many devoted fans and followers from Down Under) that this is not in reference to some huge, covert operation, but simply the piecing together of a few very obvious facts that I find too interesting to ignore.
But first, I would like to address the psychological mindset of a Michael Jackson hater, and in particular, the mindset of this rather small but highly organized group that is directly responsible for much of the current smear campaign against Michael. How does one even begin to explain why so much obsessive hatred is, again, directed toward one individual? While these people will mock MJ fans for the excessive amount of time they devote to discussing and researching MJ, it is clearly obvious that they are devoting just as much (in fact, even double and triple) that amount of time to Michael Jackson. Indeed, so great is their passion that they put up entire websites and facebook pages dedicated to this cause. They spend countless hours stalking fansites-even posing as fans-going undercover; they obsessively follow all news of MJ; they spam every article related to him, especially those that have unmoderated comments; they often bully and harass fans on social media. However, there is a particular sub group who are even more dangerous and devious in their tactics, since they will also regularly bully Michael’s friends, family, and supporters.
It’s Not So Much That Haters Don’t Do Research; It’s That They Like To Distort and Misrepresent What They Find.
It is a myth that Michael Jackson haters are people who do not do research. Indeed, I would daresay that a good many of them have an encyclopedic knowledge that would seriously challenge even the most dedicated fan. The problem is not that they don’t read court transcripts or do research, but rather, the fact that they will cherry pick what suits their agenda, ignore what doesn’t, and will filter all of it through their own biases. They do not mind purposely misrepresenting information, taking facts out of context, or running with half a truth-if they think they can get away with it. To be totally fair, I know that they level many of these same accusations at fan sites and vindication blogs, and there may be something to be said for the fact that we are both approaching whatever facts we present from a biased perspective. Obviously, a fan who wants to believe in Michael’s innocence will read the same document quite differently from a hater who wants to believe in his guilt. Often, when I see debates between fans and haters on the internet, both sides will often link to documents and info, but in every case, the quickest comeback will be, “That information isn’t reliable. It comes from a fan site” or “That link isn’t credible; it’s just a hater site.” Both sides have some measure of validity to their claim, because in both cases, they are linking to sites with an obvious bias. However, it might be worth noting that if one is looking for a completely neutral, unbiased source of information on Michael Jackson’s “guilt” or “innocence” on the internet, that simply isn’t going to be found. And the reason is quite simple. It takes passion and dedication to invest the hours’ of one’s life it takes to set up a website, and to compile and archive information-not to mention the fact that court transcripts and documents are not given away freely. In short, people who care enough to do all of the above are people who are passionately dedicated, either through love or its polar opposite-hatred. I am sure you all know the old saying that there is a very thin line between love and hate. Well, the phenomenon of MJ hate is kind of like that. The truth is, there is a small but highly organized and dangerously obsessive group of individuals who are as determined to “prove” Michael’s guilt as his fans and vindicators are determined to prove the opposite.
One might ask, why so much hatred for Michael Jackson, a man who who was unarguably one of our greatest entertainers, who unarguably brought the world so much joy with his music and dancing, and who was obviously a great humanitarian who strove to do as much good for the world as possible? What could there possibly be about such a person to invoke such strong hatred, to the point that many individuals will endlessly obsess over it? Certainly there are far worthier figures in the world to project so much hatred and negativity upon.
Why Has So Much Hate Been Heaped On Someone Who Tried To Do So Much Good? That Is The Million Dollar Question.
My guess is that it is precisely because Michael Jackson inspires so much love and devotion. To understand how his haters think, you have to put yourself in the mindset of a hater. There is a general consensus among them that Michael Jackson is a man who was somehow “given a pass” and “got away” with his “crimes.” Rather than being satisfied that he was acquitted, and rather than accepting that there was never enough evidence to convict him of any crime, these people spend their lives on an endless crusade to convince the world that Michael Jackson is undeserving of benefit of the doubt, and undeserving of the accolades he continues to receive as a recognized musical genius. Another trait they often share is a need to somehow tear down Michael’s image and “prove” that everything the world most admired about him is an illusion-and sometimes a case of delusion. There seems to be a consensus that by somehow “outting” Michael Jackson of all his worst faults, they can strip away whatever blinders they think his admirers are wearing. And, of course, chief among those is the belief in his innocence. A common-and often noted-trend among his haters is just how few of them actually seem to be invested in any capacity with actual concern for abused children (though some put up a good cover of such, as I will get to shortly).
While Michael Jackson “hater” sites and facebook pages pop up with amazing regularity-as well as so-called “support” sites for the “victims” of Michael Jackson-how many sites exist that claim to support the victims of actual molestors like Jerry Sandusky, Jimmy Saville, or Ian Watkins? I conducted an informal search prior to this writing and, not surprisingly, found that there are none! So indeed, this seems to be a phenomenon unique to Michael Jackson. Why is that?
Well, this is a point that has been raised before, and not surprisingly, it is often raised whenever/wherever MJ fans and haters are prone to encounter each other and debate-that is, when they can manage to engage in any kind of civil dialog at all, which is rare. And I, too, have raised this question with some professed haters. Why the double standard, and why the apparent lack of interest in proven pedophiles as opposed to a man who was merely accused-if indeed the justification is the protection of children or concern for victims?
The answer is always a variant of the same response. Since those persons were actually convicted, there is apparently nothing to be gained from going on a crusade against them. So the assumed outrage against MJ, if they are to be believed, stems from a sense that justice hasn’t been served. Not only was Michael NOT convicted, but he continues to be loved and honored all over the world. So then, by that definition, if Michael had been convicted in 2005, would everything be just honky dorey peachey keen then? Because to me, that denotes a rather shallow approach to caring about children who have been abused. I am sure that the real victims of monsters like Ian Watkins-all of whom are still children as of this writing- would appreciate if they got one half the outpouring of “support” that these people waste endlessly on Robson, Safechuck, Chandler, and Arvizo. No, let’s be honest. This has nothing to do with the so-called victims, but everything to do with who the accused party is.
But I realize I still haven’t addressed the question of just what I think “the Australian conspiracy” is, or its role in current events. Obviously, I could go on and on all day about what makes haters hate, and still not arrive at any definitive answer, since to do so would involve getting much deeper into the human psyche than I have time and space for. However, since about 2010, the amount of organized MJ hate on the web has increased exponentially, and with it, an increasingly alarming amount of misinformation that is being spread. While this group is small in number, its perpetrators are frighteningly dedicated in their purpose. And because I believe their role in current events to be larger than mere spectators, they are worth looking into.
Why do so many fingers seem to point to Australia as the current hotbed of this latest conspiracy? Well, allow me to quote my favorite character of the stage, Shakespeare’s Iago: “I speak not yet of proof.” However, there are definitely a lot of “coincidences” that seem to be coming together, and which may bear closer scrutiny. It seems that these days-especially in the case of the current allegations being made against Michael Jackson-that there are an unusually large number of Aussies who appear to be sticking quite closely together.
Dylan Howard (left) of Radar Online, Wade Robson Ally and Fellow Aussie
Obviously, we have Wade Robson who is himself from Brisbane, Australia. Not to mention, we next have his web of family and friends (including at least one “cousin” whom Mike Par of the Wade Robson Facebook support page claims to get a goodly amount of information from). Dylan Howard of Radar Online-who has become both Wade’s and Mike Par’s immediate “go to” media source for spreading filth in the media- is a fellow Aussie. This could all be coincidence, of course, but there is something else, too:
The MJFacts website, which seems to be the central headquarters for much of this current hater faction, appears to have very strong ties to Australia. For years, MJ fans have been trying to determine exactly who is behind this website, which mysteriously appeared in 2010 (an early rumor that it was Ray Chandler was eventually debunked). Since I have a life and a job, I don’t have time to do extensive research on hater sites or to try to track down who is behind them. I would much rather put that time and energy into researching Michael and his life. However, about a year ago I did stumble across some very interesting information on this website via Alexa.com, which charts the average visitors to most websites according to age, race, and geographic location (unfortunately, Alexa no longer lists this info for sites ranking less than 100, 000). Interestingly enough, MJFacts seems to have originated out of Australia, or at least its original domain was in Australia. According to Worthofwebcom, its IP address is now a proxy out of Singapore, but a year ago Alexa’s graphs showed that most of the site’s traffic (well over 80%) still comes from out of Australia and that, interestingly enough, its average visitors tended to be white males between the ages of 35-44 (typically, I suspect, the age, gender, and ethnicity of most professional MJ haters. It’s also a bit telling that most of the key word searches for the site seem to come from people researching “Michael Jackson Nice Guy” (which seems an unusual search term, to say the least) and “Michael Jackson Brett Barnes.” Honestly, I know these people are obsessed with the belief that Michael molested his friend Brett Barnes (who is also from Australia) but why on earth would Brett Barnes’s name come up higher in the key word searches for this site than the names of the two kids he was actually accused of molesting? Anyway, I highly suspect that the site is still from out of Australia, and that the Singapore proxy is just that.
A quick check of the site’s Whois history (btw this isn’t illegal stalking; all of this info is freely available in the public domain) reveals that the site does operate on a proxy server, which indicates that for whatever reason, they do not want the site’s exact geographic location known. The administrator’s name and location is listed as “private.” That may or may not mean much; administrators are entitled to keep this information private if they wish, but usually administrators who have nothing to hide do not mind making this info public.
Generally, the IP and hosting histories listed on these sites do not mean much, since they may extend to include websites hosted on those IP’s and servers long before the site in question. The current listing of the site’s Whois history indicates multiple IP and host changes but this will be the case if you look up most any website, including this one. However, it is known that this site has had to change host servers at least once due to a legal suit that was brought against them, when the administrator attempted to impersonate journalist and well known MJ defender Charles Thomson. The resultant legal action taken by Thomson caused MJFacts to be permanently suspended from their then host server Yola. You can read more about that incident at the following links:
However, getting suspended from a host server isn’t a terribly huge deal, since host servers can be switched out as easily as changing socks. (A pain in the butt, yes, but nevertheless, it can be done). So after a bit of down time, MJFacts was back with a brand new host and a brand new “fake” IP from out of Singapore-and a brand new disclaimer. Rather than stating the truth about why they were taken down-that they were suspended as a result of legal action pending from their impersonating of an individual-they lied outright and stated that their move was necessitated by the actions of MJ fans. That is pure bullshit and, of course, they know it. Such lies are infuriating because not only did most fans know the truth, but because people who come to the site will naturally not know the difference. To add further insult to injury, the site administrators offered no recourse for the truth, since all comments from fans or even neutral parties are either blocked or ridiculed to the point that most won’t bother, and instead of having an email or contact info like most normal websites, readers are instead instructed to go to the Topix forum, which as anyone who knows anything about Michael Jackson knows, is nothing these days but a free-for-all hotbed where the sycophants of this website and of Desiree’s blog have taken over.
Both the strategy of this website and of Desiree’s blog-the two main hater sites responsible for the sycophant followers who now attempt to “terrorize” and monopolize most unmoderated MJ discussion forums and articles, have subtley changed over time, and their method is transparently obvious. One thing that every MJ hater is usually most quick to defend is that fact that they are, indeed, haters. They prefer that unknowing readers think of them as merely objective researchers. Obviously, adopting this tone and style would appear-on the surface at least-to give their sites more credibility, and thus, unsuspecting readers might be more apt to trust the information they report as reliable and objective.
However, a quick glance at MJFacts’s past and current screenshots tells the history quite plainly, and since we know that this site has not undergone any change of hands since its inception, it is quite obvious that this site began as a blatantly obvious hater site. What else would you call a site that advertises “Wacko Facts?” (I apologize for even posting these offensive screenshots here, but I really want you to see with your own eyes that this is one and the same website; thus, it is obvious that this site’s administrators have no interest in presenting objective facts).
The various screenshots from the MJFacts website, courtesy of Worthofweb.com, clearly show the site’s transition over the past four years from a blatant “hater site” to a much more cleverly disguised-but still transparent- “hater site” that pretends to have neutral objectivity as its goal. Note how the prominently displayed “Wacko Facts” of the site’s earlier incarnation has now been replaced by the much more neutral sounding “Michael Jackson Facts” and, finally, MJFacts (but make no mistake, it has always been the same site run by the same individual as before!)
Over time, perhaps realizing that one can catch more flies with honey than vinegar (and as a front to ward off the accusations that their information lacks credibility since it comes from an obvious “hater” site) they changed from “Wacko Facts” to the more deceptively neutral sounding “MJFacts” (a misleading name indeed since there are very few “facts” to be found on this website). You can also clearly see that, over time, they have purposely changed their tone and approach. This is for one reason and one reason only-so that unsuspecting readers who stumble onto the site will be “tricked” into believing they are reading more neutral, factual information than they will get from a fan site.
Even more curious is the weird strategy taken by the other notorious hater blog, Desiree Speaks. And for the record, I am one of those who believes firmly that Desiree is neither female nor black, let alone a 20-something-year-old college student as “she” claims. I know there are some who believe otherwise, including the admins behind this counter blog which was designed for the purpose of “outting” Desiree and exposing her many dubious web activities.
However, something about this whole charade just feels very “off” to me, as it has from the get-go. For starters, I work with college students every day. The average college student has far too much on their plate to devote hours on end to researching and writing about Michael Jackson, not to mention the fact that in addition to studies and exams and extraccular activities, most have a demanding social life beyond school. Additionally, most college students can barely afford theirtextbooks, and yet we are somehow to believe that this 22-year-old college student can afford to pay website hosting fees, shell out money for expensive court documents (which even yours truly can only afford very sparingly on my teachers’ salary!) and brag (as she did in at least one entry) of forking out over a hundred and fifty bucks for an out of print edition of Victor Guiterrez’s book! It may be possible that there is a Ladonna Desiree Hill from Las Vegas who is the “Desiree” behind this site; however, identities can also be bought, borrowed, and stolen. I’m just not sure, but since this is splitting hairs anyway, let’s move on.
What I do know is that both of these websites mysteriously sprang up at about the same time, and both seemed to be a curious response/reaction to the outpouring of worldwide grief over Michael Jackson’s death-and, which, in turn, led to a mini-explosion of new fan sites and “serious” vindication sites. I can’t really vouch for what the cyberspace MJ world was like before June of 2009, but I do know that when I first started researching him in those weeks following June 25th, 2009, all I could find for the most part were fan club forums. Other than Aphrodite Jones’s well touted Conspiracy, Lynne Guests’s book and maybe a handful of others, there wasn’t much recourse for those seriously interested in researching what happened to Michael Jackson in 1993 and in 2003-2005. Over the next few months, many individual blogs began popping up, and for the first time (I suspect) there were many websites dedicating themselves solely to the serious research of the allegations made against Michael Jackson. It is no coincidence, then, that these “hater” blogs sprang up as a direct reaction to the sudden proliferation of vindication sites in late 2009. Clearly, someone viewed this new proliferation of vindication sites as a threat, as it meant that for the first time, factual information about the cases made against Michael Jackson could be had with the click of a mouse.
Desiree’s blog took an even more sneaky and circuitous route than MJFacts, beginning innocuously enough as the kind of generic “whatever is on my mind” blog that many young people start up, ostensibly to discuss any topic of burning interest. However, it didn’t take long for Michael Jackson to become the dominant subject of the blog. Weirdly enough, in her earliest entries, Desiree pretended to be a fan, if albeit a fan with some rather unconventional (and, I will admit, sometimes interesting) views. Her earliest entries defended Michael against accusations of pedophilia; defended him as a vitiligo sufferer, and defended him as the biological father of his kids (even if, again, via some outlandish theory that he desired to have “designer” children). However, it didn’t take long for the tune to be changed drastically. By the time of Michael’s first death anniversary, barely a few months into starting the blog, she was already writing posts that took stabs at his sexuality and which began to give more and more credence to sources written by his detractors. In so doing, she tried-unsuccessfully, I might add-to give the impression of a fan who, over time, had become a doubting skeptic. In truth, this was a very sneaky way to lure in fans and lull them with a sense that “hey, I’m on your side.” Within months-if indeed that long-she was responsible for writing some of the most scathing and hate-filled posts on Michael imaginable. And make no bones about it, Desiree is a hater, as I have had enough unfortunate correspondence with her in the past to personally see some of the most vile spewing against an individual-and his children!-I have ever witnessed.
But curiously enough, after many months of seeming inactivity when the blog appeared dead for all purposes, she suddently reemerged with these latest allegations. Like her cohorts over at MJFacts, she has given her blog a whole new facelift and a seemingly (somewhat) new identity. Gone now are all the over-the-top, shrill rantings about “wacko Jacko.” Like her Aussie cronies, she is now making a very concentrated effort to make her blog appear like a neutral place where rational, thinking people can get objective information.
It’s Not About The Kids; It’s Not About “Victims”…It’s All About Michael!
And along with these newest allegations, we now have a whole new “celebrity hater” who has emerged on the scene, the alleged Mike Par who started up the Wade Robson support Facebook page, and who spams and bullies all over the internet under the guise of “allysforwaderobson.” Again, what strikes me as really odd about this whole thing is that I see no other “victim” of any alleged child abuse case-celebrity or otherwise-who gets their own Facebook page of supporters. And again, just as with all of these other organized sites, there is no apparent interest in the topic of child abuse other than as it pertains to Michael Jackson, and no interest in any victims of child sexual abuse other than those allegedly at the hands of Michael Jackson. So again, their topic of going concern is not the sexual abuse of children, but in Michael Jackson as a subject of study, ridicule, and dissection.
Again, I make the distinction between a few, random casual haters and what I call “professional haters” who obviously are riding Michael Jackson’s coattails for their own attention and glory. Individually, none of these people would be worth the time of day. But as a group, they do bear some looking into because they are obviously working as a unit and as co-conspirators. Mike Par may not, strictly speaking, be part of the “Aussie conspiracy” if indeed he’s an Amercian from New England (who really knows, or cares?) but the fact that he is in thick cahoots with many individuals who are directly part of the conspiracy is reason enough.
I have heard the rumors that Mike Par may even be Wade Robson himself; that Robson is the one behind the page and behind the alias. I have my doubts about that, and believe such rumors are stretching credibility a bit. That being said, I will only say that I have seen a very interesting piece of evidence that definitely lends credibility to the theory that Robson has been far more pro-active in this page and in starting it than what they would have us-the naive public-believe. In other words, I have seen enough to convince me that this wasn’t just a case of some abuse victim who felt sympathy for Wade as a fellow abuse victim, and who (as per his baloney story) simply wanted to start a support group for him. I believe this guy and Wade have been in cahoots from the start.
From the Wade Robson Support Group FB page: A phony number bought with ads! 18,346 likes
It has already been a well established fact that Mike Par illegally inflated the “likes” on his FB page by inciting them with ads for products (placed mostly in Egypt) which even though he barely has twenty followers on Twitter and Youtube, managed to balloon his FB “likes” to over 10,000 in a shockingly short time. MattFTR, though he can sometimes be a little over the top in his rants, did an excellent job of exposing Par’s practices in this video:
I will add to this something else I KNOW is fact from just a very casual observation of this page. Most of the regular commentors on this page are fake Facebook profiles. There are a few that may be legit, but the profiles of all the most frequent commentors on the page are quite clearly fakes. They are easy to spot because if you actually click on them, you are led to FB pages that are, in fact, only “shells,” with no profile info, no other apparent “friends” and no indication whatsoever that a living, breathing person by that name actually created that page. Now, granted, that in itself doesn’t necessarily mean that the people are fake or that their comments aren’t genuine. The “fake” pages could well be a cover, designed exactly for this purpose-that is, to protect their actual identities from those who come prying. Perhaps. But it still indicates a kind of covertness and seakiness that usually isn’t necessary if everything is on the up and up. There is also a highly unusual number of persons commenting via pages that may have been made by real people, but rather than being personal pages, are simply pages created for the express purpose of commenting on this page. If anyone were to go on my Allforloveblog Facebook page and click on any of the profiles of my usual commentors, you will find in every case that these are real profiles made by real people. The sheer prevalence of these “fake profiles” on the Wade Robson support page indicates they are no random accident. If it were simply random individuals protecting their anonymity, there might be a couple of such fake profiles, but c’mon, almost every single regular contributor? I have a hunch that Mike Par himself probably created most of these pages. Even if he didn’t, the sheer amount of time and energy it takes to put into creating fake profiles and fake pages speaks volumes about the mindset of these people.
Let’s go back to the question I posed earlier. Why do they do it? As I have already pointed out, it doesn’t seem to be about genuine concern for child abuse victims. Their outright mocking of many actual victims of child abuse; their continual harrassment of any of Michael’s friends who insist on his innocence; their use of Michael Jackson’s name continuously to further their own agendas, all contradict any noble ideas that they are in this for any purpose except hate and slander. Desiree has perhaps said it best, via one of her oft-used phrases: “I want to be on the right side of history” (a dead giveaway, btw, when she comments on various MJ articles under her sock puppet pseudonyms; she is so in love with her own phrase that she can’t resist using it). Mike Par endlessly tweets every talk show host and anyone with a platform who might give him five minutes of the day (but so far has found an ally only in Dylan Howard). Like Diane Dimond, who had delusions of grandeur of herself as the journalist who “exposed” Michael Jackson, they are narcissistic sociopaths who are deluded into thinking they are on the verge of some great revisionist epoch; that they will somehow have the power to change how people think about Michael Jackson. They glory in thinking that the world will come beating on their doors, seeking interviews; maybe they think that one day they will get a Nobel peace prize or something.
Really, who knows what the “f” they think? However, when we look at this latest cast of characters in the Wade Robson/Jimmy Safechuck saga, it’s interesting to note that just like with the “big, happy” family that grew out of the ashes of the Arvizo case, we are seeing a coagulation of many of the same names and faces who are banding together. In the coming months, we are no doubt going to see this new “family” joining ranks to spread lies and false or misleading information. There is already evidence that Mike Par and his Aussie bud Dylan Howard are working together to create falsified articles (for sure, he is getting “tip offs” of these articles long before they appear in print). The purpose of this post isn’t to give them more power or attention than they deserve, but as a kind of red flag warning that they are out there. And like I said, though small in number, they are dangerously committed in their purpose.
For the record, I have never joined the ranks of those who have tried to get these sites shut down. That, to me, is censorship and an interference with right to free speech. As much as I disagree with the hater sites on principle, they have the right to exist. It sucks, but it’s the reality. Yes, I certainly question whythe need for them, and I question what kind of individual wants to devote so much time and energy to hate. Nevertheless, I always say to them, “You’re free to say what you want on your own turf; when you come over to mine, it’s a different story.” This isn’t about people who disagree with me. My concern, however, is that the pattern does show an increasing amount of “coming together” within their ranks, and I don’t believe their role in these current allegations is completely incidental. I believe that at least a few of them may well be the movers and shakers behind it all. For sure, they are not, as they would have the naive believe, a grass roots movement comprised of random people who suddenly awoke one morning with a burning conscience about the so called “victims” of Michael Jackson.
However, lest we give any of them more credit than they deserve, here’s something I found that is interesting, and will share with you just for giggles. Out of curiosity, I looked up the rankings of these sites on Worthofweb and compared them to this site. A web site’s worth is based on many factors, but generally, the biggest factors are the amount of traffic and unique visitors the site receives on a daily basis. In other words, a website’s “worth” is directly correlated to how many people are actually reading, visiting, and returning to the site. In turn, these figures directly correlate to the website’s ranking and can be said to be a measure of its overall popularity and, perhaps, influence. So…
Here is the net worth for MJFacts, a grand total of $396!
How much is mjfacts.info worth?
estimated worth, $ 396
WOW Score:40 / 100
Here is the net worth for Desiree Speaks, which tops out at a whopping $138!
How much is desireespeakssolisten.blogspot.com worth?
estimated worth, $ 138
WOW Score:38 / 100
By contrast, here is the networth for Allforloveblog!
How much is allforloveblog.com worth?
estimated worth, $ 1,223
WOW Score:47 / 100
And, just out of further curiosity, I looked up the net worth of a fellow MJ site, Vindicating Michael:
How much is vindicatemj.wordpress.com worth?
estimated worth, $ 1,210
WOW Score:52 / 100
Wow! Maybe-just maybe-love really is more powerful than hate after all, huh!
Next installment, I am going to take on some of the most common myths that this group is using as part of their anti-MJ propaganda.
Just taking another quick detour to address an issue that’s been on my mind for some time, and has recently been heightened by the release of A Place With No Name.
When the video premiered, I watched with much excitement and anticipation, as did thousands of MJ fans across the globe. My initial impression was that it was lovely; certainly quite beautifully filmed and the integration of the In The Closet footage is cleverly edited into the storyline of the couple. It is definitely several notches above the Love Never Felt So Good video in quality and ambition, as well as a loving homage to one of Michael’s sexiest yet most underrated videos. However, I was so caught up in paying attention to the visuals that I failed to notice something glaringly obvious about the lyrics: An entire portion of the bridge is missing!
The lines in question are the ones that follow right after “This place is filled with love and happiness/Why in the world would I wanna leave.” In the complete version as it is sung in the demo and on both track versions of Xscape, the verse goes on to state:
So then I went in my pocket
Took my wallet on out
With my pictures of my family and girl
This is the place you choose to be with me
When you thought you could be
In another world
Recently, a single edit surfaced that contained the same omission. I don’t know if it was the “official” single edit, but now there is a “single edit” version that has the full track intact and the “edited” one seems to have disappeared.
It is still a bit disturbing, however, that such a glaring omission has been made to a video that is now going to be seen by millions.
Why this matters is because it is an omission that ever so subtley changes the entire meaning of the song. While it’s not unsual for such edits to sometimes be made in the interest of time, that excuse can’t really be applied here. Radio and single edits will occasionally lop off pieces of an instrumental section, or fade out the final few seconds of a track, to shave off a few minutes of time, but rarely are entire lines and verses cut from the song. I can think of a few exceptions where this was done, going back to some songs I remember from my youth where, upon finally hearing the full album version of a song, I would go, “Whoa, there was a whole other verse in there I never heard before!” But in all cases, those were either exceedingly long tracks or cases where some verse had been censored due to controversial lyrics. These days, for example, the lines from Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing that refer to “the little f****t” are often edited out when it is played on classic radio stations.
Neither justification seems to really apply here. The length of A Place With No Name, even with the full bridge intact, is only about 4:36, well within the average length of most singles released today. The omitted line adds, at best, an additional thirty seconds or so to the song, and I find it hard to justify that this additional thirty seconds or so would be a “make or break” as far as length.
Nor is there any other obviously justifiable reason for omitting the lyric, except that for whatever reason, it seems someone wanted to “tweak” the song’s dark twist.
The omitted line is crucual to the overall meaning of the song because, just as with many of Michael’s songs about giving in to the temptations of lust, it becomes a morality tale about the consequences of one’s actions. The narrator is obviously enjoying being taken to places he’s never been, but the photos in the wallet are a jarring reminder of hisreality. It is not clear in the end what his ultimate decision is, or where his loyalties will lie, but the fact that he must ponder the wages of that decision is ultimately the crux of the entire song. Just as with Billie Jean, Dirty Diana, Dangerous, Blood on the Dancefloor and so many others, Michael is taking us deep into the male psyche and taking some hard hits at what transpires when light and darkness collide.
By eliminating this line, it takes away the “moral consequence” element of the song and reduces it to merely a kind of sexy romp in the hay. The emphasis here is on the light and the joy of that utopia, but that is only part of the picture as that utopic vision eventually becomes tainted for the narrator.
My guess is that they wanted to keep the message here upbeat and positive. Maybe it became problematic trying to figure out how to work that element of the song into the video’s concept. But the bottom line is: They should have found a way. To do any less is a disservice to the artist and the artist’s intent. In The Closet-the video that served as the inspiration here-was likewise a video that juxtaposed a very upbeat and erotic visual storyline, while maintaining the dark edge of the lyrics (it is a tug-of-war battle between the power of the seductress and the male who says he will only give in if she agrees to keep their love a secret).
But I have noticed this seems to be an ongoing trend with some of Michael’s posthumously released work. The emphasis is on the positive, and a lot of the darker aspects are either being censored out or presented in a misleading way. In the case of A Place With No Name, it seems they wanted to keep it upbeat, without introducing the darker element. But really, why? Billie Jean wasn’t exactly a cheery video, either, but it made history.
And another recent example: The bridge to the title track, Xscape, is clearly referencing either death or the desire to die in order to “get away.”
What Michael clearly states in the bridge is:
When I go (or when I’m gone)
This problem world won’t bother me
(Some lyric sites quote the line as “When I go” but “When I’m gone” seems more logical, as it is a true rhyme with “alone,” the last word of the verse that the backup chorus sings).
Either way, the intended meaning of the passage is quite clear. In fact, it was made so very clear that when the track first leaked back in 2003, fans were concerned because they thought Michael might be contemplating suicide.
The line does appear intact on the track, but here is something interesting to note: In the album liner notes, the lyric to this bridge is printed thus:
Xscape, where did I go
This problem world won’t bother me
Is that a printing error, or a genuine attempt to mislead the lyrics?
The bridge as Michael sings it is a clear reference to the idea of death as the ultimate escape. But the misprint in the liner notes (whether intentional or not!) makes it sound like he’s just referring to slipping away on a vacation! (Or worse yet, feeding into the death hoax theory).
Clearly, Michael isn’t asking “Where did I go?” He’s saying “When I’m gone” as in “When I’m dead.”
By watering this down, whether purposely or unintentionally, it alters the meaning of the song to a simple tale of needing to get away from all the pressures. Well, the song isabout that, but it is very misleading if someone is purposely trying to paint it as if he’s not hinting that death might be the only way this will ultimately be possible for him.
I have to wonder if someone didn’t simply make the decision that the line was too dark, or might incite too much controversy, and so chose to alter it? Thankfully, the bridge is intact on the album, but what happens if it’s ever released as a single or video? Are they going to cut that out, too?
As subtle as all of this may be, the fact that it’s happening at all is somewhat disturbing. Such practices do nothing to assure those who are already against the idea of releasing Michael’s music posthumously on principle.
I am certainly not opposed to the new music being released, but I want to hear it exactly as Michael wrote it and sang it. Tweaking his lines, editing them out, or misprinting them in the liner note booklet (especially if done purposely to misrepresent) is not acceptable to me. I can understand when it’s done for consideration of length, such as when his songs must be abridged for things like the Cirque du Soleil shows or TV shows like So You Think You Can Dance. But even then, great care is usually taken that all of the song’s important elements are maintained; nothing that would actually alter the song’s integrity by changing its meaning.
Again, the omission of these lines in A Place With No Name makes no sense from an editing standpoint, and there seems to be no logical reason for it.
I love the video and have no complaints with it otherwise but as someone who has great respect for Michael’s art, this does trouble me a great deal and it bothers me that a lot of people will now only hear this “watered down” version of the song. Hopefully, the radio and single edits are indications that this omission only applies to the video but it is still kind of disappointing.
On a lighter note, there may indeed be some printing errors in the Xscape booklet. I am at least 100% certain that Michael is saying “She started likin’ me/kissing me and huggin me.” But the lyric printed in the booklet states: “She started lickin’ me.”
Lol. I think we can safely say that the reference to “huggin’ and kissin me” was as graphic as Michael intended to go. The rest was supposed to be left to our imagination!
Well, it looks like I’ll have to put my planned series on Michael and race on hold just a little longer in order to address what is truly the burning issue of the fan community at the moment-these latest allegations coming from Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck. This topic is going to take several days to address in full, so I think what I will do is to write as much as I can today, and will post subsequent installments as time permits throughout the week (so please plan on checking back often this week as I update).
Not that any of this is exactly news, or should be. We’ve known for over a year that a hearing would be scheduled to determine whether Robson can proceed with his civil case against the Michael Jackson estate, MJJ Productions, and MJJ Ventures. And while things had been relatively quiet on that front for some time, I knew this would change as the actual hearing date drew nearer. To be sure, Wade and his attorney have a very strategic strategy in place, and he has a few team players who are helping him with that goal (I will get to those in due course). I predicted how a lot of this would go down over a year ago. At that time, it was also hinted that other potential accusers were waiting “in the wings”-no doubt, to see how things played out with Wade’s case. In steps Jimmy Safechuck. Well, we’ve also known since at least May-when our good “friend” Diane Dimond first broke the news (on the eve of Xscape’s U.S. release, no less) that Jimmy Safechuck was joining forces with Wade. So in other words, we’ve known this shit was gonna hit for some time. It was just a matter of when. We had to know-even through all the hype over Xscape and holograms, etc-that he was only waiting, silent as a viper, in the wings. Waiting to strike again.
There is still a very good chance (in fact, a highly probable chance) that these cases will be completely thrown out. But it was inevitable that they would engage in some form of media blitz, via their willing mouthpieces, as the time approached. I don’t think anyone is particularly shocked about that. Or shouldn’t be. But what is disturbing for many, I believe, is the especially heinous nature of these very open allegations that are being made, and how/why Wade and Jimmy are being given this platform (a platform that, frankly, even Jordan Chandler and Gavin Arvizo did not have). Due process of law would seem to guarantee that these details be kept under seal until the actual hearings. Additionally, the staggeringly and ridiculously inflated sum of money that Robson is now seeing (1.6 BILLION) is, if nothing else, bound to generate media interest in this case. One might think, whoa, this certainly LOOKS big and scary, with the bully bantam rooster flexing his wings and threatening to break the entire Michael Jackson empire. But here is the stone cold reality: Even IF he gets a trial, and even IF (god forbid) he’s awarded money, he’s not going to get anywhere near 1.6 billion. It is a strategy, just like Katherine’s civil case against AEG, to throw out the highest imaginable figure in hopes that some lower figure-any figure at all-will stick. In other words, it’s a huge bluff to see if the estate will flinch-and bite. On the other hand, Robson and Safechuck might do well to take a hint from DA Walgreen that the more reasonable you keep your charges and expectations, the more likely you are apt to come out with a favorable verdict. However, it is a more common practice in civil cases to ask for as much as possible even if the the far more likely possibility is that the plaintiff will actually receive far less. And that, of course, is in the event that the case is even decided in their favor. Criminal cases depend too much on the ability to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Civil cases are not nearly as stringent. In a civil case, the plaintiff need only convince the judge or jury via a reasonable “preponderance of the evidence.”
But all of this combined-from the ridiculously over-the-top accusations, to the inflated figure, to the very specific media outlets that are giving Wade and Jimmy this platform-make for an interesting conspiracy that smells too rotten to be ignored. Could it be possible that there IS truly something rotten…Down Under?Well, I will ponder that idea in more depth in the next few days. For the moment, since these allegations have forced us once again to consider the nature of Michael’s relationships with children, that is where I would like to start. Firstly, for anyone interested in the history of how Michael got to know Wade Robson, you can check out my earlier posts in the series on him:
I have not written much, if anything, on Jimmy Safechuck, though now that he has joined the ranks of accusers, I may get more into his history in time. For now, I am just focusing on keeping this very generalized as it pertains to all of the kids who were frequently seen in Michael’s company. I have written on this topic before, but there were still some things at the time that I was not able to delve as deeply into as I would have liked. The big question that so many have, especially those who are new to discovering MJ or have had only a casual interest and knowledge, is: What the heck WAS up with all of those kids, if it was indeed innocent in nature?
Well, for those of us who are fans and have studied not only Michael Jackson’s life and art but also his philanthropic, spiritual, and religious beliefs, none of it is a mystery. But I do think it goes beyond such simplistic explanations as “He didn’t have a childhood” or “He was just a big kid himself.” For the record (and I have said this before) I have never bought completely into the “lost childhood” myth, and certainly not as a way of excusing all of Michael’s behavior. Let me clarify. When I say it does not excuse “all” of his behavior, is this intended to imply guilt of criminal behavior? Absolutely not. In fact, I KNOW that Michael Jackson was a human being who strove to maintain the best ideals he had for himself, and for all humanity-including children. This was a man who DID save hundreds of children’s lives (both directly as a result of his actions, and indirectly as a result of the many millions of dollars he contributed to organizations and charities). This was a man who DID cry for all the pain and suffering that children of the world endured (and continue to endure as we speak). And, yes, he DID bear a lot of scars from his traumatic childhood. If anyone has doubts , they should go back and listen to Conrad Murray’s recording, where a very drugged Michael, with his guard completely down, says in no uncertain terms, “I didn’t have a childhood…I hurt.”
That recording, controversial as it was due to the circumstances under which it was recorded, tells us quite clearly-if anyone ever had an ounce of doubt- that, for Michael, this was no act he put on for the media. It was a constant pain inside of him, so deep that I don’t think any of us can ever completely fathom its depths, or the extent to which it impacted every aspect of his adult life. I have heard some say-even Lisa Marie Presley, his own wife-”Lots of people have a bad childhood. Get over it already.” Here is the problem, though, and it goes back to one of the first and primary rules of psychiatry. It is not up to us-any of us-to invalidate someone else’s pain or emotions. Every individual’s experience, and how they cope/react to it, is unique to that individual, and has validity. Anything less is the crudest form of insensitivity, on a par with telling a person who is grieving when it’s time to “snap out of it.” In other words, it is not up to us to judge whether Michael Jackson reacted appropriately or inappropriately, or whether he coped appropriately or inappropriately, to the traumas of his childhood. Those experiences; those emotions; those traumas (whatever they consisted of) were uniquely his own. And yes, while there is such a thing as “wallowing in victimhood” (and we are perfectly free whether we wish to indulge it or not) we absolutely must consider how Michael was being judged on a magnitude beyond anything that the average person has to endure.
But that doesn’t mean that there was no calculation whatsoever behind these relationships. Michael was, simply put, creating a myth for himself. I have heard people question what was up with all of those little boys wearing his outfits, and being made up to look just like him? This is an important point to address, since this has surfaced among the many more sinister allegations that Jimmy Safechuck has leveled. And while there are certainly more serious charges to address, it is a good starting point because “appearances” -i.e., what the public saw and certain patterns of behavior that were starting to be picked up by the media-is at the root of all of this, at least in the sense of placing in the public imagination the idea that “something odd” was going on.
Well, the truth was obvious and two fold. On the one hand, those kids idolized Michael Jackson, and in the 80′s and early 90′s nothing was more cool than to be able to dress “just like Michael.” Michael Jackson had a unique style, and as so ironically happens, the more unique the style, the more it attracts its throngs of imitators. Those kids idolized him and wanted to be just like him, his mirror image, in every respect. On Michael’s end, he encouraged this behavior probably for many reasons. For starters, I’m sure it stoked his ego, and I think he purposely courted a kind of myth for himself as a Pied Piper (or Peter Pan, if you will) whom kids would naturally flock to, and emulate. Let’s face it, he loved the idea of having all those little “mini me’s” surrounding him. It made for good copy, and the P.T. Barnum aspect of Michael could never resist good copy. Part of the problem, however, was that this seemingly rather eccentric behavior-as the public saw an increasing entourage of little “mini Mikes” accompanying him on tours and other public appearances-also came on the heels of fake but “bizarre” stories of sleeping in hyperbaric chambers and purchasing Elephant Man bones. In other words, the perfect groundwork was being laid for the idea in the public consciousness of Michael Jackson as someone who was, at best, weird and strange. It would not take much push beyond that to also view him as capable of sinister deeds. Of course, allegations of sexual misconduct against children are sinister, and it’s perfectly fair to say that it was the first, actual accusations made against him by Jordan Chandler which officially rendered everything that had heretefore seemed merely eccentric or “just Michael being Michael” into something sinister. For the most part. However, as I have discussed in depth on this blog before (and as many other MJ writers have also concluded) it was in the seeds of those very “harmless eccentricities” that a lot of the fire was fueled that sped a gullible public’s willingness to swallow those accusations without question. It all goes back to the adage of, “Who is really the one most apt to be a child molestor? The weird old guy down the street, or the upstanding businessman next door? Or dear, sweet Uncle Bob? It should be no big shocker that either the upstanding businessman OR dear, sweet Uncle Bob are far more likely candidates. But many in their naivety of actual child predators or how they operate will quickly and instinctively point fingers to the weird guy down the street.
Michael Was Creating A Myth
But it is also too easy to brush it off as merely ego, or the idea of Michael creating a larger-than-life Peter Pan myth. Indeed, it goes much deeper. In her excellent essay “Black and White and Proud” Barbara Kaufmann describes it as Michael’s belief in “Kid Power” and the “Kid Power” cultural message, citing the “silent and untapped” ability within children to “change the world”-something that Michael was keenly and intuitively aware of.
However idealistic or even naive his intentions, Michael did genuinely feel himself to be on a crusade. Through years of stardom and money and all of the superficial values that fame and riches represent, he agonized over what his true life’s mission must be. There clearly had to be more:
“A faint suspicion came to me, one that had never dawned so clearly before. What if that one in the mirror isn’t me? He feels separate. He sees problems “out there” to be solved. Maybe they will be, maybe they won’t. He’ll get along. But I don’t feel that way-those problems aren’t “out there,” not really. I feel them inside me…”-Michael Jackson, excerpted from “That One In The Mirror,” Dancing The Dream.
An excellent point was raised by someone on my Twitter timeline, and I think this is a good place to address it because part of the answer to this question ties in exactly to this idea and the whole “Kid Power” myth that Michael began to perpetuate more and more as the 80′s decade faded into the 90′s-the decade that would really see most of his problems begin. The question (sarcasm fully intended, of course) was: Did Michael suddenly become a pedophile in the 90′s? He became an adult in 1976. How come there were no accusations in the 70′s and 80′s? That is an excellent question. From a fan and “defender” perspective, it makes perfect sense. However, I can also say that I know exactly how the haters would come back and respond to that one. So let’s address it from both angles (it is important, after all, to understand their perspective in order to refute it). The obvious answer, of course, would be that, since Michael was NOT a pedophile, the reason no accusations surfaced in the 70′s and 80′s would be because there were no such accusations to report, and never were. But that’s not an answer that will satisfy skeptics, so let’s move on. The more likely reason is that, obviously, he was simply not worth going after as a target until all of the conditions and circumstances that culminated by the early 1990′s made it feasible. The simple truth is that no one cared enough to go after him as a target until, obviously, he was the richest and most powerful man in the business, and that makes perfect sense. The higher and mightier, the harder the fall-and all the more perks that can be gleaned from that fall. In the late 70′s his star was actually on the decline until the release of The Wiz and Off The Wall put him on the map again. There simply wasn’t as much incentive to go after him, nor was there really any viable reason why such a charge might stick or be remotely believable. He was still, in the public mind, “Little Michael” from The Jackson 5, whose reputation was about as pure as driven snow gets.
The Bad Era Truly Represented Michael “Coming Into His Own” As An Adult, One Who Was Now Fully Independent And In Total Control Of His Life. Unfortunately, It May Also Have Marked The Beginning Of The End.
Enter the 1980′s. Thriller becomes the biggest selling album of all time, and Michael’s star-as well as his net worth-shoots into the stratosphere. But despite this, he is still-at least for a couple of years post-Thriller, a “puppet” of the industry. While this may have had its drawbacks in terms of holding him down, it means there is still a hard shell of protection around him that is mostly implacable to the corruptive forces and vultures who will soon come sweeping down. He is a superstar, but still not completely his own entity. He still tours as a member of The Jacksons. He continues to live at home with his parents (which is maybe not a bad thing, seeing as how it restricts the people he can actually allow into his life). Michael had his share of legal woes and bubbling-just-under-the-radar scandals even then, but they were usually of the same ilk as most popular young male entertainers, paternity suits and things of that order. His acquisition of the ATV catalog, at mid decade, is what seriously starts to change the rules of the game. By the time of the Bad album, he is solidified not only as a solo act but as a “brand.” He is also (understandably) just a little drunk with some of his newfound wealth and freedom. He can call his own shots. He has severed ties with his mother’s religion. He has his own digs-nearly three thousand acres’ worth. By 1990, he has signed the most lucrative recording contract in history. In many crucial ways, I think that what we start to witness of Michael during this phase is akin to a kind of late blooming of adolescence. His behavior during this period was on a par with what we usually see in much younger performers who have suddenly acquired wealth, fame, and power. (Think Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus, maybe right before their behavior became so scandalous, or the excesses of most rock stars who usually acquire their fame in their early to mid twenties). Michael was nearly thirty by this point, and although he was certainly not new to wealth or fame, his life as a child star and as a member of a successful family group meant that until that point, he had known little in the way of actual independence. The song that baby sister Janet sang-”Control”-could have just as easily been Michael’s new theme song as well. This created a heady brew, and I think it would be naive to assume that this had no impact or bearing on him at all. Indeed, it must have felt quite exhilarating to finally have arrived at this pinnacle. In Michael’s case, the excesses did not so much manifest themselves in the usual pop star ways-lavish spending, parties, drugs and sex-but with the newfound freedom he had to fully explore his artistic vision and the kind of myths which he wished to create. Thus, I think it is why we finally see, during this phase, the full coming to fruition of what Barbara Kaufmann so aptly described as his belief in “Kid Power” and its ability to bring about world change. From that point forward, freed from the last vestiges of his Jackson family fame, he sought to “make himself over” in his new image. From this point forward, everything would be larger-than-life, bigger, better, and bolder. So one can imagine that if part of his modus operandi was to bring to light the idea of “Kid Power” and its possibilities, he was going to make it the loudest and boldest statement possible. We certainly can’t say Michael ever did anything halfway.
I stated that I know exactly how the haters and objective critics will spin this, as they have already done, over and over. They like to portray a much more sinister and Machiavellian view of Michael during this late 80′s/early 90′s phase, as someone who was simply growing bolder and bolder in “flaunting” his “perversions” to the world. And in some ways, the very scenario I have depicted-of Michael as a young, newly emancipated and powerful man who was finally free to indulge his every whim, both personally, professionally and creatively-is one that would certainly not appear, on the surface, at least, to completely contradict that view. But in the end, a lot of it simply comes down to whether one wants to look at it from a pure minded view, or a jaded and cynical one. I am convinced that the only thing Michael was guilty of “flaunting” was, perhaps, a very big ego coupled with a naive belief that he could actually “dare to be different” and go against the norm of societal expectations without expecting that there were bound to be some consequence; some form of backlash.
This Pepsi ad from 1988 featuring Jimmy Safechuck (which ironically at the time was my favorite of all Michael’s Pepsi commercials) played on the idea of Michael as a hero that every kid in the 80′s wanted to emulate:
Michael was genuinely beloved by kids everywhere (and still is today!). One only has to look at all the thousands of kids who are still constantly imitating his moves and dressing like him; or the joy on their faces when they hear his music or watch Thriller. Michael capitalized on that love in a way that was, by turns, both calculated and genuine, as a means of fulfilling his “Kid Power” vision. But also, I think kids sensed in him that he was not phony; that he genuinely loved THEM as much as they loved him. Or as Michael himself would say, “I love you more.” It was always (and still is) a reciprocal relationship that children all over the world connected and responded to.
Kids Adored Him Then. They Still Do Today!
Unfortunately, we live in a jaded world where, too often, we have seen many of our most beloved children’s heroes and mentors tainted by scandal, from “Pee Wee Herman” getting caught masturbating in an adult theater to the more recent posthumous allegations against Jimmy Saville. In the aftermath of so many actual cases where popular children’s idols have proven to be pedophiles or perverted in other ways (since I used the Pee Wee Herman example) , the cynicism and skepticism becomes easier to understand. Additionally, we have to understand that many know only the broadest and most distorted view of how Michael’s relationships with children have been portrayed. This most recent media smear campaign, unfortunately, will do little to alleviate this misunderstanding, and is only serving to further muddy the waters-quite literally, I might add. However, if it’s any comfort, I do believe that a lot of fans are needlessly overreacting to it. Not surprisingly, we pay more attention to this stuff than the average person because, for obvious reasons, it matters more to us. And, weirdly enough, there is another group at the opposite end of the spectrum whom it matters to as well- the haters. But beyond the tabloids and Hollywood gossip sites, I haven’t seen that much interest generated by these latest allegations. It’s not on the front page of CNN news; it’s not trending on Twitter; Nancy Grace isn’t shouting about it. Granted, that may change IF Robson and Safechuck are allowed to move forward with a trial, but right now, this is just a lot of hot air hooey and a lot of chest puffing designed to bluff the estate and make them sweat a bit before the hearings-and perhaps, as a bit of a macabre side note, to make the fan base squirm as well. But keep in mind no amount of publicity and no amount of campaigning their case to the media will have any bearing on the due process of law. The court, ultimately, will be the one that determines if they actually have enough grounds to proceed. But as I’ve said before, the stakes of this trial are going to have relatively little interest for the media aside from whatever salacious details can be gleaned from it. Civil trials, in general, are less interesting than criminal ones, and in this case the accused is already dead, so it’s not like there is going to be the guaranteed ratings bonanza of a possible conviction (this, more than anything, was what generated so much interest in the 2005 trial). Both the AEG trial and even the Conrad Murray death trial barely registered with the public, although both were reported. However, I guarantee that you will be hard pressed to find anyone other than the hardcore fans who could actually tell you anything that came out of either trial. I still find people every day who never even realized that Murray was convicted! Those trials, too, promised lots of salacious details about Michael’s personal life (though, granted, I think any accusation of child sex abuse concerning him will always generate more media coverage than the tragic details of his demise). All the same, however, the stakes simply aren’t as high. Michael Jackson is dead, so he can’t be criminally charged or convicted. Wade and Jimmy are grown-ass men, not little boys, and while there may be some professed sympathy from the pseudo “victim support” faction (most of which I suspect are phony in their case, anyway) it’s simply not the same as when the case involves someone who is still a child, and thus still vulnerable.
Moreover, not only are Wade and Jimmy grown-ass men, but it is well known that they are grown-ass men who gave sworn testimony that they were never abused, and did so freely of their own accord AS adults. And please, spare me all the arguments of Stockholm syndrome, etc. I am very well versed in the psychology of child abuse victims. I am very well aware that the Stockholm syndrome exists (although in this case I call bullshit on it) but all of that is beside the point. I am talking about how it looks from a legal standpoint, as well as how it has deflected much of the public sympathy that these two might have had. From what I can see, none of this (at least so far) has made any dent on the Michael Jackson brand, which is a far cry from how the public reacted in 2005. Xscape is still selling as well as ever; the Immortal shows are still packing them in every night, and just this week, So You Think You Can Dance? (a show that Wade Robson has strong affiliations with) announced a Michael Jackson themed show that will serve as the official launching premier of the new single A Place With No Name. As some have already been quick to point out, if this isn’t a snub directly in Wade’s face, I don’t know what is.
Even though it is the haters’ greatest wish, and the goal of this current conspiracy, all attempts to turn Michael Jackson into the “next Jimmy Saville” or the “next Jerry Sandusky” or to even remotely paint him into that corner have so far proven futile. He remains a beloved performer whose fan base and legacy continues to grow rather than diminish, and for whom the loyalty and resolve of those who love him only seems to strengthen with every adversity. Overall, there seems to be a general consensus among the public that Michael Jackson the man is gone, and that his life (however he lived it) and his legacy (however he made it) has been done. Most are content at this point to enjoy what he left us, and to leave whatever sins he may have committed on this earth to God’s judgement. What I have seen overall is a general jadedness and even disgust with what Wade and Jimmy are trying to do-from average citizens to celebrities, most are saying, “Enough already.”
The General Consensus Of The Public, Now That He Is Gone, Seems To Be: Let’s Just Be Content To Enjoy What He Left Us. Anything Beyond That Is In God’s Hands Now.
But to get back to the question of why no allegations before 1993, it’s more a case of the fact that there was no high profile interest in such incidents prior to the 1990′s. Diane Dimond and others have hinted at vague and unproven pre-1990 incidents, such as the one Dimond recounts in her 2005 book Be Careful Who You Love of a Mexican gardener for the Jacksons who allegedly had two sons and to whom Michael allegedly wrote a substantial check (which Diane claims enabled the family to move back to Mexico). All of this information came from a typically unnamed source-”The Mormon”-who had supposedly gone to the FBI with the information. The FBI followed through, but there was simply nothing to go on, and the investigation was closed. Also, Victor Guiterrez was already on his one-man mission to “out” Michael Jackson as a pedophile long before 1993-and long before Evan Chandler came into the picture. You can read more about Guiterrez and his “mission” in the links I posted to my previous series, especially Parts 4 and 5. You may also be interested to check out some of the reader comments below this post, where some of my fellow astute MJ researchers have pointed out the connection to “The Mormon” and Victor Guiterrez.
We also have to keep in mind that it was during the early 1990′s when the “witch hunt hysteria” against suspected child molestors reached its peak with the McMartin Preschool trial and other day-care cases, which even Wikipedia refers to as a “moral panic.” In this atmosphere, no one was truly safe from false accusation. No one was immune. I think what we can safely surmise from this is that a combination of unique factors-as well as a very interesting cast of characters-were already laying the groundwork that would ultimately culminate in making Michael a very vulnerable target by the time of the Chandler extortion. But it was the resultant publicity and settlement of that case which really opened the floodgates. Since that time, there have been a number of fake cases and “phantom victims” that have been concocted against Michael Jackson, either for attention or with the hope of some kind of pay out. Here are just a few of the more well known “scams” and scammers who tried to concoct phony child abuse sex cases against Michael.
Why have so many tried this? You would think they would know full well that they needed real evidence to make a case stick. But I think the answer is in the unique reality of the Michael Jackson cases. Partly because of Michael’s reputation, and the all too eager participation of the media in helping to create that reputation-it became easy to make a gullible public believe most anything about Michael Jackson. You can see for yourself how in the case of the Canadian ring (the first video) that Diane Dimond is only too ready to go the Canadian police with the bogus story, and it is only after the teenager confesses it’s a hoax that she back pedals on this plan.
Any story about him was at least guaranteed to give the perpetrator a windfall from going to the tabloids. I think most knew full well that their concocted stories would never hold up under the scrutiny of a court, but there was always the hope that if they created enough stir in the media that they might exert some sort of pressure for a settlement offer. And even if not, they could still line their pockets quite handsomely just from the tabloids and TV appearances alone. In other words, it didn’t take long for a kind of black market to spring up around the idea of accusing Michael Jackson-of anything. The tragedy is that death hasn’t stopped it. In fact, due to the lack of protection against defamation for the dead, it has actually increased. After all, Michael Jackson cannot answer any charges made against him now. He cannot defend himself.
Just Ask Kenya How Much Michael Jackson Loved Having Poop On His Floor!
Case in point: Just this week, claims surfaced from three conveniently unnamed maids who supposedly worked at Neverland in the 90′s, There was no point whatsoever to the article except to claim that Michael’s house was filthy, and to add the obligatory bizarre streak, often smeared with feces (?) and that he, apparently, pissed whereever the urge hit. Granted, NONE of this had anything whatsoever to do with the allegations of Wade and Jimmy, yet it doesn’t take much brain wattage to conclude that it’s all either a very calculated part of the plan or, at least, a case of shit feeding off of shit (pun fully intended). These smear campaigns tend to snowball and take on a life of their own once they get started. And even when you have stories like this which have nothing to do with the allegations, they are nevertheless obviously intended to paint a picture of the individual-in this case, reinforcing the idea of abnormality and “freakishness”. In turn, such stories create a perception of the person in the public consciousness. “Gee, this guy was so weird I wouldn’t put anything past him.”
Anyway, why I bring this up now is because not only has at least one Neverland maid stepped forward to refute this ridiculous story, but also has confirmed (again!) a fact that I have heard over and over from Michael’s friends and those who knew him, that all at various times have been offered large sums of money to dish dirt.
The fact is, even if Michael wasa slob (and yes, I have seen the pics of the Carolwood bathroom as well as the piles of junk he hoarded at Neverland), my reaction has always been, So what? I mean, what are we supposed to take from that? Last time I checked, it wasn’t a crime. (And besides, if these women were hired as maids, wasn’t it supposed to be their damned job to clean up the mess? I mean, seriously, how could Neverland be so filthy if the maids were doing their job? Michael must have had a knack for hiring some of the laziest employees in the business!). These stories, obviously, are not meant to serve any purpose except as a kind of embarrassment to the subject. As we have discussed previously in comments exchanged on this blog, the titillation is in the thrill of “outting” someone’s “secrets.” That is what the celebrity gossip industry thrives on.
Adding in the needlessly scatalogical elements and the idea of someone urinating openly in their own home was purely for shock value, to put him on a par with a wild animal or something sub human. What person in their right mind is going to urinate in the very space that they live and breathe in? Not to mention, the “poop” stories are absolutely absurd and we have proof of that in the bodyguards’ book Remember The Time. Memory jog: When did Whitfield and Beard say was the only time they ever really saw Michael furious with Prince? Hmmm? Yep, that’s right-when he stepped in the “gift” left by Kenya (the children’s Lab) on the garage floor. Prince not only received a very severe verbal dressing down, but was ordered to clean up the mess and thereafter, was a lot more vigilant about his responsibilities. This certainly doesn’t sound like the reaction of someone who “loved” poop so much that he kept his own house smeared with it.
Anyway, enough of that bs and I would not even find such a story worth mentioning except for the fact that it highlights exactly what I’m talking about here. Like I said, such stories may not be as bad as tales of anal rape, but they all to some degree serve their collective purpose, if enough of them keep piling on.
Fans have no legal recourse, and it is left mostly to his estate and family to pick up the slack-and, quite frankly, I don’t think either have done a stellar job on that front. (Just keeping it real here). To his credit, Taj Jackson has recently launched a Twitter attack against the tabloids, but it would be nice if more of them would speak up-that is, to speak up and truly defend, not just to give the same weak responses they always do. But what are some other factors that have made Michael Jackson, in particular, so vulnerable to these accusations?
There has grown up around Michael a myth of someone who was, at the very least, a “boy lover” (a term often reserved for homosexual men with a predilection for very young boys, which may or may not necessarily be sexual in nature, but does usually denote a connotation of desired intimacy). On the surface, it is certainly easy to understand how and why this myth has taken hold. Michael certainly always “seemed” to have the company of a lot of young male friends around-and all of the accusers have been male. But I’m going to propose something here quite shocking. Michael had no sexual interest in boys. Period. In fact, that was the very reason he made sure-especially in public settings-that it was boys he was seen with, and not girls (though media manipulation has had a lot to do with this perception through the years as well-just look at how many photos you see where the boys’ sisters and mothers, etc., have been cropped out of the pics so as to make it look as though it is only Michael and the boy!).
A great and well known example of a photo that has often been manipulated by the media. The full shot shows Michael carrying Lily Chandler in his arms, with Jordan walking beside them. But media outlets almost always chop the pic so that it looks as if it is only of him and Jordan!
If anything, Michael used the boys as a smokescreen. Why? Because he preferred the myth he was creating as the innocent and magical Pied Piper to the typical, pop star “horn dog” image, and because-in what has to be one of the great ironies of history-he felt safer and less apt to be judged in their company. As I have said before, Michael was from the old school era which had taught him that an adult male’s place-if he was going to be in the company of kids-was with kids of the same gender. He would have considered it far more improper to have girls sleeping in his room, or traveling with him-even though they often did in the company of their brothers and parents. However, we have to remember that Michael was raised in an era long before the current politically correct standard, in which same sex adults sharing a room with a child could still be viewed as inappropriate. Case in point: When I was a little girl, I thought nothing of being in the bathroom with my mother or grandmother as they bathed, or in the bedroom with them as they dressed. That was normal and natural. But it would have certainly felt very abnormal and weird to be in the bathroom with my father or grandfather, or to be in the bedroom with them when they dressed. Wade’s sister Chantal Robinson said-in her own words, coming from her own mouth-that she felt “uncomfortable” sharing a bed with Michael and that was why she discontinued staying in his room. She was never at any time asked or ordered to leave, but the general consensus from all parties seemed to be that it was not the proper place for a female child.
The truth is that the displays of affection that Michael lavished on these boys-and which even now, questionable “witnesses” are attempting to use against him-was the kind of affection that he lavished equally on children of both sexes. Here is an obvious example, with this video footage that recently surfaced of Michael and Sage Romero: I have seen video footage where it may appear, on first glance, that Michael’s displays of affection may seem a bit “excessive” by most peoples’ standards-he definitely believed in giving hugs and kisses!-but Michael also said that he would never deny any child what he himself had been so denied growing up. Physical but innocent affection-hugs and kisses-were what he most longed for from his own father. Yet I think these displays of affection are what many sick minds have tried to twist into something more-if the price or incentive was right. It doesn’t take much connecting of the dots to figure, for example, how people like the Quindoys- upon perhaps witnessing an innocent hug given by Michael to Macaulay Culkin-managed to transform that hug into a “groping” outside the pants and then-as the dollar price for their story increased-quickly became a case of groping “inside” the pants. And I’ve always suspected that the alleged nonsense over his “head licking” of Gavin Arvizo probably stemmed from some stupid jerk who witnessed nothing more than an affectionate kiss on the head (a gesture Michael was prone to do, including with his own kids).
Michael essentially had two distinctly different modes when he was around kids, depending on their age. Unfortunately, both have been used against him for the wrong reasons, without any serious attempt to put either in their proper context, and often in the process creating contradictions that even the accusers and haters trip all over themselves trying to keep straight. I mean, really, was he encouraging young boys to hate girls, or actively encouraging them to get turned on by watching them perform explicit sexual acts? It can’t work both ways, although I think I can shed some light on how/why some of these myths have taken hold. One myth that has grown up around Michael is the idea that he despised girls and encouraged small boys to feel likewise. Yet this is not borne out by any actual footage or evidence that we see of Michael interacting with kids at Neverland (granted, what we see is usually what Michael wanted us to see-I will go ahead and beat the haters to that punch!-but there are also far more logical reasons to debunk this nonsense). Where a lot of this myth originated-and has continued to be perpetuated over and over as part of the haters’ propaganda-is from an alleged list of “six wishes” that Michael reportedly told Jordan Chandler to repeat every day. Well, this “list” originated from Victor Guiterrez’s fantasy novel “Michael Jackson Was My Lover” (so that fact alone should tell you of its credibility) I have yet to actually see a produced copy of this “list”; however, I tend to believe the mantra probably did exist, as its wording and phrasing is very similar to words and phrases Michael tended to use-but obviously, in Guiterrez’s hands, they became twisted completely out of context:
“NO wenches, bitches, heifers or hoes (whores). NEVER give up your “bliss” (sex acts). LIVE with me in Neverland forever. NO conditioning. NEVER grow up. BE better than best friends forever (lovers)”-Excerpted from Michael Jackson Was My Lover by Victor Guiterrez.
I left the above passage completely unaltered from Guiterrez’s version for a reason, so that you can see just how he manipulated the meaning and intent of the tenets within the context of a dirty, perverted mind. Everything in parenthesis from that passage are HIS words and additions (not Michael’s).
First of all, Michael most emphatically did NOT use the word “bliss” as a code word for something sexual. He meant it exactly in the same context that he wrote in his poem “Are You Listening?” from Dancing The Dream:
Are You Listening ?
Who am I?
Who are you?
Where did we come from?
Where are we going?
Whats it all about?
Do you have the answers?
Immortalitys my game
From Bliss I came
In Bliss I am sustained
To Bliss I return
If you dont know it now
Its a shame
Are you listening?
This body of mine
Is a flux of energy
In the river of time
Eons pass, ages come and go
I appear and disappear
In the twinkling of an eye
I am the particle
I am the wave
Whirling at lightning speed
I am the fluctuation
That takes the lead
I am the Prince
I am the Knave
I am the doing
That is the deed
I am the galaxy, the void of space
In the Milky Way
I am the craze
I am the thinker, the thinking, the thought
I am the seeker, the seeking, the sought
I am the dewdrop, the sunshine, the storm
I am the phenomenon, the field, the form
I am the desert, the ocean, the sky
I am the Primeval Self
In you and I
Pure unbounded consciousness
Truth, existence, Bliss am I
In infinite expressions I come and go
In the twinkling of an eye
But immortalitys my game
Ever the same
From Bliss I came
In Bliss I am sustained
Join me in my dance
Please join me now
If you forget yourself
Youll never know how
This game is played
In the ocean bed of Eternity
Stop this agony of wishing
Play it out
Dont think, dont hesitate
Curving back within yourself
Just create just create
Immortality’s my game
From Bliss I came
In Bliss Im sustained
To Bliss I return
If you dont know it now
Its a shame Are you listening?
This reference to bliss is clearly in the theological sense of the word, as a biblical “place” or state of being (usually defined as “Heaven” and associated with the joys of the biblical Heaven) but, as has been well documented on this site and from many other great sources on Michael-both scholarly and popular-Michael redefined his personal definition of “Bliss” after his break from the strict doctrines of the Jehovah’s Witness faith to a more immanent view that included the (for him) revelatory belief that “Bliss: could exist on earth, in the here and now. It did not have to be some abstract concept, dependent upon some idea of an abstract place and an abstract God. This could be interpreted a number of ways in the tenet, but its most likely definition-given that Michael was addressing it to a child-was to not give up on what makes you happy. Keep to your dreams.
To even attempt to twist such an idea into something sexual is in itself the height of perversity. Additionally, there is no proof that the tenet “Be better than best friends forever” is meant to be construed as “being lovers.” Really, it carries no deeper meaning than two boys cutting their palms so that they can become “blood brothers.”
But what I really want to focus on-because it has been so conveniently used by haters to “prove” their agenda of Michael as a boy lover who hated girls-is the first tenet.
As I’ve said, Michael was able to compartmentalize his child empathy to fit the mental and physical ages of the children he was around. When he was around a group of kids aged 7-12 or so, he could easily be one of the “Lost Boys.” What are boys of that age group, before the hormones of puberty hit, largely interested in? Well, they are interested in sports and video games, “snails and puppy dog tails,” etc as the old saying goes but the one thing they most definitely are NOT interested in is girls. This is the height of the “girls have cooties” stage, and it is simply one of the rites of passage of boyhood. Does anyone remember Dennis The Menace, and how he hated Margaret (for no good reason except she was a “creepy girl” and “icky?”). This was an idea that was epitomized by Our Gang (The Little Rascals) in the film, “The He-Man Woman Haters’ Club” in which Spanky and Alfalfa form a club where no girls are allowed. Of course, the plot hinged on the fact that Alfalfa would be tempted by the “seductress” Darla Hood into betraying his fellow club members. To her credit, even our nemesis Desiree from the “Desiree Speaks” blog recognized and had to concede this connection.
I don’t necessarily condone referring to women as “wenches, bitches, heifers and hos” but if one looks at the tenet in context, it is really nothing more than a variant on the idea of the “He-Man Woman Haters’ Club” and a reference to this very innocent phase of boyhood, something that Michael would have understood implicitly. It could also be a kind of way of advising, “Don’t let any girl bring you down” because, usually, the most crushing thing any adolescent boy can endure is that first heartbreak inflicted by a girl.
My bottom line: This is NOT some proof that Michael had an agenda to turn boys against girls. If anything, it only shows that he understood how little boys think. It’s an age of innocence that passes all too quickly, never to return again. Michael understood that.
YET here is where it gets complicated. Often, the very same accusers (and haters) who try to claim that Michael’s modus operandi was to turn them against girls are, ironically, the same ones who will claim that Michael used straight pornography to entice them. There are stories after stories of him making crude jokes about girls in front of the boys and things of that nature. But we can see already how this paints a very contradictory picture. Did he want them to hate girls, or did he want them to be turned on by women so that he could get some perverse, vicarious pleasure from it? They seem to want it both ways, but it doesn’t work that way.
I have said that Michael was able to compartmentalize his relationships with children. Michael had many very young friends, but his method of conduct around them was very different from the way he interacted with older, adolescent boys (aged 13 and up). What I am about to say may be controversial, and it may offend some. For that, I will apologize in advance. But I have never held to the belief that Michael was some kind of saint, or anything more or less than a flawed human being, even if albeit a very talented human being with many wonderful qualities. But bear in mind, that doesn’t make him a saint. And I have said before that part of exonerating Michael as a criminal may mean accepting certain human flaws that, while they may paint his character in a less than pristine light, may be necessary in order to understand why he was NOT a criminal. If that makes sense. Bear with me.
It’s no secret that Michael kept a lot of pornography. A lot. The trial pretty much made that fact open record, so there is no point in being shy about it. Don’t get me wrong, I feel genuinely embarrassed for Michael that this stuff was ever made public record, and yes, I feel a sense of shame that I know far more about this very private aspect of Michael’s life than I should. But the pornography that was found-while excessive- was all heterosexual and legal adult pornography. I don’t judge Michael for having these items. He was an adult, after all. Nor do I buy the favorite hater line that this porn collection somehow perverted the idea of Neverland as a “kid friendly place.” Yes, it was, and Michael clearly kept those boundaries. But it was also his private home. Just because he loved the magic of childhood innocence-and wanted to give children a place where they could experience that-didn’t mean that he didn’t have adult drives that he was perfectly free to entertain in the privacy of his own quarters.
Since at least three accusers have now tried to claim that Michael showed them pornography as part of the “grooming process” this bears looking into. Among Gavin Arvizo’s claims was that Michael showed him a magazine (although when questioned under oath, he identified it as a magazine that had not even been published when the alleged incident took place!) and that Michael made a crude sexual joke with a mannequin (basically, emulating the sex act by humping it).
I will set something straight for the record. I don’t believe that Michael ever showed pornography to the younger kids, but what about the teenagers? Those who were already well past adolescence? Could it be that Michael’s desire to be “one of the boys” caused some exercises in poor judgment? Even if he never showed it to them but bragged about having it (as in keeping with the adolescent mindset) this could have led curious youngsters to snoop into his room and private stash, as happened with Gavin and Star Arvizo when they were caught by Michael’s nephew Rijo masturbating to porn in Michael’s bedroom (for the record, Michael himself was not present when this incident occurred).
But one thing we have to understand is that Michael (and this is something I have reasonably gleamed from many private conversations with those who knew him, as well as many publicly available accounts) had a sometimes bizarre-and quite frankly adolescent-sense of humor. So, just as with any normal teenage boy, there’s a good chance that a lot of braggadocio-jokes about girls’ anatomy and references to the sexual act, etc- could have occurred. It’s the sort of thing that adolescent boys do for shits and giggles. Michael wasn’t an adolescent, of course, but it’s very likely that in his mind, he saw such behavior as just another manifestation of reliving his adolescent childhood. That Michael did joke around about girls in a sexual manner with his adolescent friends has been pretty much confirmed by Frank Cascio and others. This is what Frank wrote in his book “My Friend Michael”:
“We always tried to embarrass each other in front of women. I was shy—in many ways I still am—and knowing this, Michael would put me on the spot with women, saying, “Frank thinks you’re beautiful. He wants to kiss you.” Or we’d be standing in the back of an elevator car behind an attractive hotel maid, and I’d feel Michael subtly nudging my hand toward the girl’s butt. I’d shake him off before the girl noticed. It was juvenile—maintaining this private exchange that kept the girls at a distance. “-Frank Cascio, Excerpted From “My Friend Michael.”
Now THIS is the sort of thing I’m talking about, and it seems harmless enough. Just a couple of guys goofing off and acting silly. But my point is: Imagine Michael did this sort of thing often enough with some of his young friends (and he did). So then, let’s say down the road that this kid (now an adult) decides he wants to bring an accusation in hopes of getting some money. It doesn’t take much to construe an incident like the above into something much more graphic and sinister.
In other words, what we are really talking here has more to do with questionable AGE APPROPRIATE behavior than criminal behavior per se. But it becomes easy to see how such behavior might have made him vulnerable and eventually set him up down the road, as these young men could now twist these scenarios to use for their own advantage. If he so much as bragged about his “stash” (again, very typical adolescent boy behavior); if he revealed too much about what he liked or “how he liked it”; any of that could then be twisted out of context and used against him. I have a strong suspicion that what may be happening in the case of Wade and Jimmy (unless one subscribes to the theory that they are just out and out lying and concocting all of this from scratch) is that between their shared attorney and shared psychiatrist, they are now being convinced that anyaction Michael did; any joke that ever passed between them; any gesture; any words of affection constituted “abuse.” We have already seen at least one allegation where Safechuck has tried to make something perverted out of simply holding Michael’s hand!
I feel this is important to state even if some may take issue with any idea of wrongdoing or age inappropriate behavior on Michael’s part. But this is very consistent with the kind of behavior and sense of humor that many of his closest friends have ascribed. “Jesus Juice,” for example, is another case where Michael’s sometimes off the wall humor and creative wordplay became, ultimately, the source for misunderstanding-or deliberate misrepresentation. Michael would drink wine out of coke cans to keep children (his own as well as others) from knowing he was drinking alcohol. If they asked, he would jokingly say he was drinking “Jesus Juice” and it was not for them. We all know how that seemingly innocent line later became twisted in the media reports of the trial! Suddenly, it was no longer a secret code that Michael used to keep kids from knowing he was drinking wine; it was a sinister phrase he used to entice kids to drink it with him!
In other words, I believe that when Michael was among a bunch of adolescent boys, he tended to “think” and act like an adolescent. This may or may not excuse some of his more juvenile behavior and antics, but what we seriously have to question is: Does age inappropriate behavior necessarily equate to criminal behavior? I am talking here, of course, the distinction between telling a few off color jokes or bragging about his porn stash as opposed to actually committing a brutal sex act upon a minor-that is still a vastly huge difference.
So what exactly isthe truth behind these graphic allegations, and what is the strategic purpose behind them? More importantly, who is behind them, and why?
I will try to address all of these questions-as well as getting to the heart of the “Australian Conspiracy”-later this week.
“I Will Never, Ever Sell Neverland….It Represents The Totality Of Who I Am.”
I will resume my series on Michael’s work in relation to Langston Hughes’s “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” soon, but for now, circumstances have once again intervened and required a detour. Late Wednesday, shock waves were sent throughout the fan community by a statement from the Michael Jackson estate. It is with a heavy heart that I begin this post today. First of all, here is the official statement that came late Wednesday night:
You will soon be reading news reports stating that Colony Capital has decided to sell Neverland. As the property manager, they have the right to do this. The Estate has issued the following statement in response to a media request for comment:
We are saddened at the prospect of the sale of Neverland which, under the agreement negotiated during Michael’s lifetime, Colony has the right to sell. The Estate will maintain Michael’s family home in Encino, including its iconic recording studio there. We continue to build upon Michael’s legacy as an artistic genius and humanitarian through his music and new projects such as the Michael Jackson ONE show in Las Vegas. We hope and trust that any new owners of Neverland will respect the historical importance and special nature of this wonderful property. Michael’s memory lives on in the hearts of his fans worldwide.
It is also important to the Estate that Michael’s fans understand that although the Estate has no right to stop or obstruct the sale, The Estate did explore a number of potential options for Neverland with Colony but zoning, financial and land use restrictions limited the alternatives and ultimately Colony made the decision to sell.
MJOnline The Official Online Team of The Michael Jackson Estate™
In an apparent attempt to assuage concerns and accusations that the estate had not “done enough” to preserve its stake in Neverland, another statement was released on Thursday:
MJ Estate Additional Info- Last night, we sent you a message from the Estate regarding Colony Capital’s decision to sell Neverland. Many of you have inquired about the Estate purchasing Neverland. As you know, the Estate does not disclose the details of its business dealings but last night’s statement to the fans (not included in the comment to press) states “the Estate did explore a number of potential options for Neverland with Colony” but for the reasons stated none of those options were feasible. This sentence was included specifically for your benefit to let you know that the Estate tried to find a way to keep the sale from happening but for a variety of reasons, it was not possible. Zack O’Malley Greenburg broke the news in Forbes shortly after we sent you the Estate’s statement: http://www.forbes.com/…/michael-jacksons-neverland-is…/. He offers some further insight you might find helpful in understanding the situation. Like you, the Estate is sad and disappointed by Colony’s decision. Michael’s legacy is in his music, in his humanitarian efforts, and in his spirit. The Estate hopes that whomever the new owners may turn out to be, that they will continue to appreciate the property not only for its beauty but for its historical and cultural legacy as well. MJOnline The Official Online Team of The Michael Jackson Estate™
No sooner had the news broke, then the heated battles were waging on social media between the usual factions of estate haters vs.supporters. It all comes down to a few key questions: Just how much interest DOES the estate really have in Neverland, and are they being forthright in their claims that every feasible avenue was indeed exhausted-or is it, as some are claiming, a case of unburdening a troublesome asset that has little financial incentive or priority for them? OR is it all a big bluff? These questions are ones that are being raised everywhere at the moment, and the answers are as varied and complex as every aspect of Michael Jackson’s life. The full details of Michael’s 2008 deal with Colony Capital, which prevented foreclosure of Neverland and allowed him to maintain a stake in the property-but with the understanding that Colony Capital would maintain the full right to sell-may be best left to those with more legal expertise to unravel. For the layperson, Zach O’Malley Greenburg’s article, linked to in the above statement, may be a good place to start but it still leaves many questions as to whose interests are being best served. And perhaps it is a legal web I will best leave for those who have, as I said, more expertise with which to unravel it. What is known with certainty is that Michael Jackson, contrary to popular myth, never “gave up” Neverland. True, he never had a desire to live there again after the 2003 raids and the trial, although it has been said that he was also acting on the advice of his attorney Tom Mesereau who had warned him that he would never be able to live there again even if he wanted to; that Sneddon and company would continue their mission to drive him out.
But the truth is that even though Michael Jackson never again physically lived at Neverland after 2005, he never gave it up, either. Rather, he fought valiantly to keep it-or at least, to maintain some measure of control over it on paper-just as he fought throughout the last years of his life to maintain all of his valuable assets. He could have easily sold the property in 2008, or earlier, and perhaps alleviated at least some of his financial headaches. But apparently, maintaining Neverland, and keeping it in his name, was important to him. Important enough to fight for it. What were his eventual plans for the property? We may never know for certain. It doesn’t seem likely that he ever intended on living there again. In fact, he had already set his heart-and his sights-on a luscious property in Las Vegas that he intended to purchase from the profits of This Is It and transform into his new vision-Wonderland.
Michael’s new “dream home” was said to be this Las Vegas property.He intended to purchase it from the proceedsof “This Is It”:
But Neverland had been too hard won, and as he had told us, represented the totality of who he was. Having put his whole heart and soul into Neverland, it was not something he could easily just walk away from. Perhaps it represented too much for him to be able to just give it up. The big question is: Did Michael, in his efforts to hang onto the property, get suckered into a bad deal? I have seen a lot of talk to that effect. Basically, the terms of the agreement that Michael signed to in 2008 would be what passed into the hands of the estate after his death. As much as we might fault Michael (or shoddy advice from Tohme) about signing an agreement that gave Colony Capital the right to sell at their discretion, there are still a number of factors to keep in mind. My understanding is that Michael maintained an 87.5% interest in Neverland (with Colony Capital maintaining a smaller 12. 5% interest) which, upon his passing, would have reverted to his estate. If true, this would mean that any decision to sell would have to be a mutual decision of both parties. The key, however, may be in a 2003 decision to initiate a non-renewal option on the Williamson Act, which until then had protected Neverland-just as it protects all agricultural California landowners-from massive tax liability, provided the land remains used for agricultural purposes. Under this agreement, the contract would have expired around 2013. Well, this is 2014. So maybe this IS an important piece of the puzzle that makes good sense. You can read more about Neverland and the Williamson Act here:
The irony is that when the above blog post was written, in 2012, there was much optimism that the estate would reapply for the Williamson Act when it expired. Apparently, however, upon the contract’s expiration, the decision was made not to reapply. If we go back to why Michael ever agreed to tie this asset up with Colony Capital in the first place-especially under the terms that he did-we have to remember that dying and leaving it all behind for others to unravel probably wasn’t exactly in his plan. Tom Barrack supposedly said to him when the idea was proposed, “Don’t have me do this…unless you’re really interested in building a program going forward to create some revenue for yourself.”
Message Of Welcome Carved By Michael
Michael obviously had high hopes-right up to the very last-that he could generate the revenue again to somehow make everything turn out all right. At the very least, he probably looked at Neverland as an asset that would benefit his children one day. But it is also possible that he was thinking about the potential revenue he could generate for himself, in his own lifetime, by maintaining control of this asset. Even if Michael never set foot on the property again, he could still generate a sizeable yearly income just from leasing it-a practice he had actually been doing, under the radar, for years. Here is a video clip where he discusses (besides Marc Schaffel) the leasing of Neverland property to local cattle farmers:
There are some reports claiming that Michael understood, from the get go, that the intent was to ultimately sell, but that with an estimated $70 to $80 million to be gleaned from such a sale after renovations and increased property values, it would have been quite a financial windfall for him-and his children. I don’t know if there is any truth to those reports, and I tend to believe Michael’s words that he would never sell Neverland. Whatever the case, Michael’s untimely death changed the game plan considerably. But what about Tom Barrack, the man who agreed to “bail” Michael out in 2008? Back in 2010, I did an in-depth post on Barrack and Neverland when an article ran in “New York” about Barrack’s partnership with Rob Lowe and the business of investing in “distressed celebrities.” Unfortunately, just as with everything I wrote prior to 2011, that post is currently inaccessible, but the “New York” article on which I based it is still available. While the article did a good job of humanizing Barrack and letting us get to know the man beneath the “gleaming” bald dome, it also left no doubt that, for Barrack, this was all part of a successful business model built on the idea of investing in “artificially depressed” celebrities and properties. The following passage is excerpted from Benjamin Wallace’s “New York” article:
Over the past two years, Barrack has been lining up deals that target celebrities and entertainment properties whose value he believes to be artificially depressed. In some cases, that’s because they haven’t yet figured out a way to monetize their assets. But mostly it’s because the investment is, in the classic sense, distressed—individuals like Jackson or Annie Leibovitz whose financial mismanagement has obscured their future revenue potential, or properties like the Miramax film library, which Disney is unloading at a time when no one can agree on what a studio archive is worth. This summer, Barrack created a new $500 million media-and-entertainment investment fund, working with his friend Rob Lowe, who is a partner in the fund. Together they have been on something of a shopping spree—and generating a little tabloid coverage while they’re at it. In one TMZ appearance, a paparazzo’s telephoto captured Lowe and Barrack, shirtless, checking their BlackBerrys on a yacht in the Mediterranean. In a second, the two men were video-ambushed as they entered the Mayfair restaurant C London for dinner with owner Giuseppe Cipriani and Formula One’s Flavio Briatore. Barrack has explained the timing of his new direction by musing publicly that some of the investment sectors in which he amassed his wealth can no longer generate extraordinary returns. The world right now is “an environment that has very little visibility, and whatever you guess will surely be wrong the next day,” he says, glancing at his BlackBerry. “Everybody has been abjectly wrong if they’re trying to make macro bets.” The only thing to do is position yourself for opportunities—stand in the stream and wait for fish to swim between your legs. That’s how the Neverland—(At this point in the conversation, Barrack was interrupted by the arrival of his partner Rob Lowe).
I suppose there are two ways one could look at Barrack’s practice. Some might call it savvy business dealing (and after all, isn’t taking advantage of opportunity part of every successful business model?). However, it could also be viewed another way as well-that is, simply taking advantage. And taking advantage of someone who has fallen onto hardship-however temporarily–is certainly not the most ethical practice in the world. In Wallace’s piece, it isn’t exactly made secret that Barrack’s modus operandi is to take advantage of distressed situations with an eye towards the profit they will eventually turn. It doesn’t make Barrack a crook, necessarily, but the point is that just because something is legal doesn’t make it ethical. The tragedy is that Michael-and Neverland-was ever put into such a vulnerable position to begin with, and for that, the real blame must go all the way back to Tom Sneddon. Today, the property for which Barrack initially invested $23. 5 million is guaranteed to fetch him anywhere from $50 million on the lower end of the spectrum, to $70-$80 million on its highest end. That should be good for at least an additional yacht or two to sail on the Mediterranian. The upside of the situation is that a sale on the higher end will probably guarantee Michael’s kids at least a $20 to $30 million windfall, once Colony Capital takes their end. But as some sources have reported, a sale on the lower end could possibly mean they end up with nothing. However, this is not really an issue of what will line the children’s pockets. Michael’s children are already wealthy. It’s an issue of losing something that may be far more valuable to them than money-their link to their childhood and that magical, wonderful kingdom he created. But there is another reason why Neverland may hold special sentimental value for them. It was much more than just their childhood home. It was the only permanent home they ever shared with their father. It was the last place they could ever truly call “home.” The tragedy for the fans in the loss of Neverland is nothing compared to the tragedy this must be for them. Perhaps, again, not so much for what it is-or was-as for what it represents. Had Michael lived, they might have been content to move on, because any home they eventually made with him-whether it be “Wonderland” or elsewhere-would have been “home.” But as it stands, Neverland has probably loomed large in their imaginations as a connection to a time and place when life was much more innocent, fun, and happier-and, of course, magical. But the subtitle of this post is: What does this mean for us? And that is where I would truly like to focus. Several months ago, someone kindly sent me two leaves from Neverland. I assume they must have come from a tree on the property. I sat for quite some time before beginning this piece, inhaling their woodsy fragrance and hoping to draw from their essence the inspiration on how to even begin to assess how I feel about this news. I try to look at it from all angles; to keep my balance in perspective, but I cannot overcome the empty sadness.
Even though we know that “Neverland,” as such, really died in 2003, and has stood mostly as an empty, abandoned shell since 2005, there was still the comfort of knowing it was “there”; that it was still a part of Michael, still in his name, and that any time one felt up to making the pilgrimage to the gates, they would still be there (for me, this has been on my “bucket list” for over five years). As long as the property remained in limbo, there was always the hope that something good might come of it. There had been talk of many proposed projects and ideas-a museum, a Graceland-like mecca for fans, a state park, an art school for teens, even a children’s hospital (though I don’t know how seriously the latter was ever really proposed). In the end, as we have been told over and over, none of these ideas have proven “feasible” given the reality of Neverland’s zoning and geographic location. “Los Olivas isn’t exactly Memphis,” Zach O’Malley Greenburg has stated, and he’s right. Graceland is situated in a wonderfully convenient location adjacent to the interstate, just a few miles south of downtown Memphis. It is a location that can easily accomodate the many thousands of visitors Graceland receives per year. That being said, however, there are many such rurally located tourist attractions that manage to do quite well. The D.H. Lawrence ranch in Taos, New Mexico comes to mind (and it, too, requires a trek up some very treacherous mountain roads) but I don’t think we can even begin to compare the number of average visitors to a place like the D.H. Lawrence ranch to that which would descend upon Neverland, should those gates become open to the public. But I honestly do not think most Michael Jackson fans are really concerned that the place become some huge commercial asset-in fact, most would probably prefer that it remain exactly what it is at present, even if going there must feel a bit like visiting a ghost place. That is, a quiet and tranquil place where Michael’s spiritual aura can still be felt. For most of us, that is enough. But apparently, the estate can only see the viability of hanging onto Neverland if it is generating a profit. This is what I really read between the lines of their statement. In saying every option had been exhausted, it seems what they are really saying is that every feasible option to turn Neverland into something viably commercial and profitable had been exhausted. So, in the end, I suppose, it must have come down to a choice: Either to hang onto something of great sentimental and historical value to the estate, at the cost of draining the estate’s resources, or to let it go. Apparently, they made their decision but I think it is a huge mistake. Understand that even though I’m not an estate hater, I am also not one who blindly accepts their every decision without question, and I believe those questions do need to be raised, especially when we look at the implications of what is potentially going to be lost IF this sale goes through.
They like to to tell us that the business of an estate is to generate money and to protect its assets for the heirs. It is true that an estate must make money. But they also have a responsibility for protecting and preserving the historical legacy, especially when we are talking the estate of one of the most culturally iconic performers of our time. To be sure, having Neverland sold might not exactly be the end of the world as we know it. As some have said, it may all depend, ultimately, on who buys it. Yes, it “could” end up in the hands of some very benevolent benefactor who will fully understand and respect its legacy and importance to fans-or, at least, its importance to his kids, which is really what should be our utmost concern. It would be wonderful to think that someone might buy the place who would actually consider opening it up to fans, or giving us that museum (though, no shocker, that would probably end in a lawsuit with the estate!). I even heard one very ingenious idea of turning it into a bed and breakfast establishment. I’m sure that would be a windfall for anyone, with guaranteed bookings up to ten years in advance! (And, heck, there ought to be enough guest cottages on the property to make it a perfectly feasible idea! And imagine…for an extra fee, getting Michael’s master bedroom!).
Over time, there have been rumors of many celebrities, from Justin Bieber to Lady Gaga, who have reportedly been interested in purchasing Neverland. I can’t really imagine Justin Bieber, after all of his antics, being a viable candidate (I am sure the neighbors of Los Olivas would probably be none too thrilled!) but Lady Gaga, I am sure, would at least respect the property’s connection to Michael. But while it would be wonderful to envision such a “best case” scenario, the simple truth is that we have no such guarantees. The new owners might be people who would care about and respect the property’s legacy.
But then again, they might not. What if Neverland falls into the hands of someone who could care less about Michael Jackson or his fans, and in fact, would do everything in their power to strip and dismantle all reminders of Sycamore Valley Ranch as the infamous Neverland? I am sure that, for many of us, that is our worst nightmare scenario-the idea of Neverland being taken over by some indifferent or cold hearted individual who would strip away all physical reminders and ties to “Neverland.” Even if Barrack has worked hard to restore Neverland to its “former glory” and has respected Michael’s vision, as he claims, that is no guarantee that any new owner will feel an obligation to do likewise. Imagine the beautiful flower gardens gone; the clocks taken down; the Giving Tree perhaps chopped down, and cattle grazing where the Ferris wheel once stood. Imagine those magical gates being torn down to make room for something else-a new, much colder, and more imposing barrier that says nothing. The scary thing is that we simply don’t know. The above scenario is certainly the worst case scenario, but it could happen, and there are no guarantees that it won’t. But even if Neverland is lucky and does fall into the hands of an owner who respects and values it as Michael Jackson’s home, it doesn’t change the fact that Neverland will no longer be in Michael Jackson’s name. It will no longer be under the control and protection of his estate; it will no longer belong to the family. And that, for me, is the saddest part of all. Neverland-if for nothing else, its historical value-should remain in the control of the estate. For me, it simply isn’t good enough to “hope and trust” that the new owners will respect and honor the property’s legacy. Does anyone think that Elvis Presley’s estate would simply “hope and trust” that someone would come along to take care of Graceland? Recently, a petition has begun circulating on Change.org to save Neverland. Although I am somewhat skeptical about the success of petitions, I signed it in the spirit that no turn should be left unturned. This is what I commented:
It is important that Neverland be kept within the control of the estate and of Michael’s heirs. It is much too important a part of his legacy to be turned over to other hands. Even if the future owner(s) were to honor the home’s legacy, there are no guarantees once it is passed on to the hands of others. It could end up going through countless owners, who no doubt over time will chip away until there is nothing of Michael left. The Neverland property has just as much historical value as Hayvenhurst, if not more. Michael composed many of his biggest hits on its spiritual grounds, in his beloved Given Tree. And yes, it became tainted over time but even that sad history, too, is part of the historical legacy of NL and vital for future generations to understand not only Michael’s great vision for healing children, but what he had to sacrifice and endure as well. Nothing represents the full breadth and scope of Michael’s magic, endurance, trials and tribulations like the 2700 acres of NL. Those acres are the heart of Michael; to sell it is like ripping the heart from him, more surely than the coroner’s scalpel. Consider: Michael went from a 3-room house in Gary to Neverland. There is nothing else-no other home or landmark-that physically commemorates this achievement Hayvenhurst, after all, belonged to all the Jacksons. Neverland was not only Michael’s one and only permanent home, it was his own creation.
There have been many similar “Save Neverland” campaigns and petitions started in the past. I found a few such petitions on Google, all from several years back, many with as few as a little over a hundred signatures. But now it seems there is a new sense of urgency; a sense that “this is it.” The reality is looming that Neverland could indeed really be gone forever now. This petition alone has garnered over FOUR THOUSAND signatures and counting, not to mention that many others have started up as well.
There Is A Sense Of Urgency This Time, A Sense That Neverland May Indeed Be Gone Forever
To expand further on my comment, Neverland not only stands to this day as the only permanent home that Michael Jackson ever owned, it is also the only truly physical testament to what he accomplished in going from that tiny, three room house in Gary, Indiana to a 2700 acre estate. It is, in fact, an insult to both Michael’s memory and to his accomplishments to even insinuate that Hayvenhurst is more worthy of preservation than Neverland. They should both be maintained, but again, it is Neverland that represents the “totality” of who Michael was. Over the past two days I have heard many arguments and reasons as to how we should view the potential sale and loss of Neverland. All of them have validity to some degree. Some feel that Michael set the example when he walked away from Neverland and (presumably) never looked back. And there is something to be said for the ability to just “let go.” The reality is that Neverland has sat as an abandoned shell for over six years. But although I have not been to Neverland personally, I have been told that its energy can still be felt. And I believe this very strongly, as it is part of my own Cherokee belief and my knowledge that Neverland is indeed sacred ground. It was sacred ground for thousands of years before Michael ever sat foot on it, as it was a place that Chumash Indians used for ceremonial grounds. But Michael definitely left the stamp of his own energy and presence there. Part of my personal Cherokee belief is that spirits never completely disconnect from earth or from their physical embodiment. Spirits will always maintain a connection to the places where they were happiest. If the property is taken over by someone else, it won’t take away the fact that Michael’s energy and presence is there. But over time, that energy will become diluted and dispersed, especially if it senses it is no longer welcome there. As so many have sadly noted for the past five years, one of the most tragic aspects of being a Michael Jackson fan is the fact that we have no real “center” where we can come together to feel his presence. Forest Lawn is where his body lies, but it’s not where his spirit dwells.
Where does Michael’s spirit reside, really? It is an impossible question to answer. If you are Christian, you may say he is in Heaven, or whatever is your spiritual equivalent. For most of us, we can say that he exists in our hearts, and that Neverland as a concept is something that no one can put up for sale. So if Neverland as an idea-as a place that lives in our hearts-cannot be taken away, is it worth it to fight for an empty house and a couple thousand acres of land that even Michael himself had not set foot on for years?
That may depend on personal view. I have been in a few of the same places that Michael has been. I can say I have been inside the same hotel room that he once stayed in. I sat on a bed he slept in, but other than the bragging rights of being able to say I sat on Michael Jackson’s bed, I can say it pretty much felt just like any ordinary bed. There was no “magic dust” that rolled off the sheets; no fairy dust under the pillows. I have even ridden his Ferris wheel from Neverland, and presumably sat in his favorite seat (No. 13)-at least so they told me. It was exciting, but again, having my rump on the same spot where Michael’s rump once sat still did not impart anything extraordinary or magical. It felt like any, ordinary Ferris wheel seat.
I try now to apply this same common sense logic to Neverland. It was just a house he lived in; the grounds were just grounds he once walked on. But we all know, Neverland was so much more than that. Neverland wasMichael.
The analogy I used-likening it to the moment when his heart was removed by the autopsy scalpel-may be unpleasantly graphic for some, but I stand by it. For me, that is an apt analogy as the sale of Neverland is exactly just that.
I can’t say I am totally shocked by this turn of events. I think a lot of us had seen it coming for years, but like everyone, I held out hope that eventually Neverland might be used for some good purpose that, of course, would honor Michael’s vision for it. As crass as it sounds, I always loved the idea of making it into a “Graceland” so that it would become accessible to everyone who wished to visit. But I would have been equally happy to see it become an art school or something equally productive-again, as long as it was within keeping with Michael’s original vision for the place. That could encompass a wide range, from recreational fun to spiritual healing.
I suppose the worst thing it could do would be to sit, abandoned. But there are some who say even that is not a bad thing. In the quiet stillness of its abandonment, one can still go there and find it a peaceful place to meditate, and to connect with Michael’s spirit.
Not everything can have a dollar price. I feel the estate has dropped the ball on this one. But I also have to admit that if I were pressed to ask what else should they have done-and how to offer up realistic solutions for this dilemma-I am not sure I would have those answers, either. Not without a lot of thought. I see and hear all of the well intentioned fan initiatives to “buy back Neverland.” I know such initiatives are well intentioned, but the reality is that unless a fan just happens to be a multi millionaire, it is doomed to fail. However, I just feel that selling it shouldn’t have to be that answer. And I am not consoled by reminders of saving Hayvenhurst, or the success of Michael Jackson One. New albums and Cirque du Soleil shows will come and go. They are exciting in their way. But all pale when compared to the immanence of Neverland, and what it represents. Those artificial gates in the One and Immortal shows will never compensate for the loss of the real thing.
Yes, it is possible that something good may come out of this. But it will not be the same. It is what Shakespeare meant by a “sea change.” Neverland will be transformed. In the best case scenario, we will still recognize it, and let’s hope that is the case. But the reality is that it could become something completely unrecognizable. I am reminded again of the climactic scene from Ghosts where Michael slowly disintegrates into nothingness. His legacy is not going to die, but it sometimes seems, just as with his physical remains, that much of what he left is slowly turning to dust.
Some will say it should not matter, as long as the music survives, and maybe the short films. But that is still only a part of Michael Jackson’s legacy, and maybe not even the most important part. The real essence of who Michael was-the father, the humanitarian, the man with a grand vision for himself, for the world, and its possibilities-is embodied by the grounds of Neverland.
It’s not to say we will lose the spirit and essence of Michael without Neverland. But it may be important to note that what we willlose is the closest physical representation of it that we have.
That is something worth thinking about. And yes, it should matter to all of us who care about him. No exceptions.
ETA (08/04/14): I saw this shared on Twitter last night, and found it so sickening that I wanted to also share it here (not that I enjoy sharing sickening things, that is, but sometimes they are necessary). It’s no secret that Barrack and Colony Capital have been leasing Neverland’s grounds for some time, usually for short term events such as meetings and weddings. I have not found anything that states that they are not within their legal rights to do so, as per the terms of the agreement but, if nothing else, this hits home the reality of what is happening-and will continue to happen, especially as the property goes on the market. Neverland is being invaded by people who have NO RESPECT for anything it stands for, as evidenced by the snarky comment below from a Miss Lauren Roxborough. “Happy Easter from the creepiest place on earth!” she mockingly and proudly tweeted, after being allowed privileged access onto those sacred grounds (and not just sacred because Michael lived there-Neverland has been sacred ground for thousands of years to the indigenous people of Santa Ynez Valley). It sickens me to think of disrespectful trespassers like this woman being allowed to walk the grounds of Neverland. But this may be only a hint of what the future holds for Neverland once it is gone, and no longer in the control of people who care about its legacy. I am not posting this here to stir bad feelings, or to rub salt in the wound, but rather, to show the reality of Neverland’s present and the possible reality of its future. I would rather see the gates closed permanently and the house razed to the ground than to have people like this in it.
While I am completing Part 2 of my series on Langston Hughes’s “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” here is a wonderful bridging article by Didi Cheeka that touches on many of the very points raised in Part 1 of my own article, and which I will be exploring in more depth in Part 2. Some of you may recall a popular article I published here back in 2013, just after the occasion of Michael’s 4th death anniversary, by the Nigerian writer Oris Aigbokhaevbolo, titled “Michael Jackson, 4 Years Later.”
Recently, I received an email from Oris asking if I would be interested in reprinting this article from his friend Didi Cheeka. Cheeka is also a Nigerian writer who has written quite a bit on Michael but I don’t think his work has had much exposure in the U.S. and Europe.
This is an article I would have gladly reprinted anyway, but the particular timing couldn’t have been more opportune. Since my series on the Langston Hughes essay is dealing specifically with Michael’s role as a black artist, receiving Cheeka’s piece in my email was quite a timely coincidence, to say the least.
BLOOD ON THE DANCEFLOOR
Michael Jackson: The Hidden Injuries of American Entertainment by Didi Cheeka
Marx characterized the profit system as dripping from head to toe, from every pore with blood and death. The American entertainment industry drips with the blood of countless talented individuals. In the wake of Michael Jackson’s death, the mainstream bourgeois media fell over themselves in a frenzied feasting over his life without a single attempt at offering serious analysis of the processes that produced the persona.
Born in 1958 in Gary, Indiana – a working-class suburb of Chicago – Jackson, one of nine children of Joseph Jackson, a crane operator in a steel mill, began his musical career at the age of five as the lead singer of the Jackson 5. Michael’s dancing ability as well as his singing skills quickly made him the group’s leader. Jackson would later state that for many years, the stage was his real “home,” the one place he was “most comfortable.”
Of his father, Jackson told Oprah Winfrey in a 1993 interview, “I don’t know if I was his golden child or whatever, but he was very strict, very hard, very stern. … There’s been times when he’d come to see me, I’d get sick, I’d start to regurgitate.” The singer asserted that his father was demanding, and controlling, and regularly beat him. This much was confirmed by his brothers.
“Steel Mills At Night,” A Greeting Card Image Of Gary’s Steel Mills Circa 1950.
Gary, at one time, was one of the largest steel-producing centers in the world. With the end of World War II in 1945, Chicago experienced an increase in its black and Hispanic populations. Blacks and Hispanics moved into formerly white residential areas as whites moved to the rapidly growing suburbs. World War Two marked a new stage for the black struggle in America. Over 3 million blacks registered for the armed services and at least half a million served in racially segregated units in the Pacific, Europe, and Africa.
Back home the war economy drew Blacks into the northern factories, accelerating a migratory process began in the first world war, as a million Blacks left the south for the north between 1941 and 1946. This migration turned major American cities black, as whites fled to the suburbs before this black flood.
With the end of the war black America, now organized in unions, was gripped by the determination not to return to the old conditions. To stem black revolt, which was on the rise, the US administration had encouraged the growth of a small black middle class; this policy would receive further boost in the late sixties and early seventies.
But conditions in the black ghettos rapidly deteriorated, giving rise to despair, hopelessness, and rage. All these culminated in the great urban riots of 1965-8. To white America, the blacks were burning the cities, trying to turn them into the same kind of jungles their forefathers came from.
But while Watts, Newark, Detroit, and others burned, inside Motown’s music factory, insulated from the cities’ nightly flames, the henchmen of a music mogul were working round the clock hammering out what Berry Gordy himself called “bubblegum-soul.” In the words of former US Secretary of State, Gen. Colin Powell, it was “… A time of war, a time of political turmoil, a time of the counter-culture and domestic unrest,” and yet Motown’s product “made us smile with their freshness and their cute ‘fros. We tapped our feet, felt good watching them, and our cares left for a few minutes.” (TIME July ’09)
The group, the Jackson 5, was signed by Motown in 1968. Motown, owned by Berry Gordy, a fervent believer in “Black Capitalism”, was a beneficiary of Affirmative Action. Disguised as reform, as progress, Affirmative Action was an attempt by the American ruling class to promote a layer of blacks who having a stake in the system would promote the ideas of that system. That is to say that, Affirmative Action was an attempt by the American ruling class to cut off the black rebellion.
If Michael Owed Much Of His Success To Berry Gordy, Does This Mean He Also Owed Much Of It To Affirmative Action?
Thus, in 1971, Gordy and Marvin Gaye would clash over Gaye’s desire to record an anti-Vietnam song, “What’s Going On.” Marvin Gaye, whose cousin died in Vietnam, and whose brother had done three tours, said at the time, “With the world exploding around me, how am I supposed to keep singing love songs?” Indeed, the black rebellion, civil rights, anti-war movements gave birth to an explosion of radical music. Curtis Mayfield recorded “Power To The People,” James Brown did “Say It Loud, I’m Black And Proud,” etc. In 1959, Lorraine Hansberry published her play A Raisin in the Sun, which was made into a motion picture in 1961, about a Black family’s challenge of Chicago’s segregation laws by moving to an all-white neighborhood. After Hansberry’s death from cancer, her husband, songwriter and music publisher Robert Nemiroff, adapted her letters, plays, and papers into the production To Be Young, Gifted and Black (1969). This compilation was published in book form that same year.
For the growing numbers of the black middle class moving ever closer towards the outlook of the American ruling class the Jackson 5 couldn’t have arrived at a more propitious time. “All record companies,” said Nina Simone, “prefer third-rate talents to true genius because they can push them around more easily, make them change their clothes or politics just to sell more records.” Of course, Jackson possessed real dancing and singing talents. But, all too often, talent is not enough.
The opening shots of the movement that would indirectly shape the trajectory of Michael Jackson’s musical and personal life was fired at least three years before his birth. The shot was fired on a day in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama. On that day, Mrs Rosa Parks, a black widow in her early 50’s, refused an order to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. She was dragged off the bus and fined $10.
According to the city’s segregation laws, blacks paid at the front and then board at the back. Behind the first four rows stood the sign “WHITES ONLY.” If all these seats were taken, a white person had the right to demand that blacks in the next row gave up their seat. Rosa Parks had refused to give up her seat. A boycott of the buses by blacks ensued which led to a desegregation of the buses. This victory triggered a protest movement that shook the very foundations of white supremacy in the southern states of America, as blacks rose up to challenge racist laws.
1963 was a watershed year in the black struggle. A march on Washington by 250,000 protesters forced important concessions from the state and led to the passing of a new Civil Rights Act, far wider in scope than hitherto. There were widespread arrests, beatings, injuries, death. But the rebellion continued to spread across states in the US, given an added impetus by the anti-colonial struggle sweeping across the African continent.
That same year, in June, Medgar Evans, NAACP’s moderate leader in Mississippi was murdered in front of his home. The summer of “64 was to prove a long hot one. Six blacks were murdered and 1,000 arrested, following the launching of a voter registration campaign. 30 buildings were bombed and 36 black churches burnt, and, in August of the same summer, the bodies of three freedom riders – a non-racial bus rides launched by the Congress Of Racial Equality (CORE) – were found in Mississipi, the two white men shot, and the black man chain-whipped and mutilated.
All across the south racist attacks was on the rise. In Granville, Louisiana, the sheriff presided over the savage beating, by racists, of the leader of the NAACP youth council. In Selma Jimmy Lee Jackson was beaten to death by policemen while trying to protect his mother. A non-violent demonstration of 2,000 protesters marched against this killing. The protesters were mercilessly beaten by state troopers.
The Violence Of Michael’s “Panther Dance,” As Has Now Been Well Documented, Was A Symbolic Representation Of The 1960′s Race Riots
Out of the growing radicalization of the black struggle, was raised the slogan of “Black Power,” which, by 1967, was to become the dominant ideology within the radical wing of the civil rights movement. Blacks were rediscovering themselves and affirming pride in their culture, their Blackness. Thus, in one of the most dramatic moments in Olympics history, at the award ceremony for the men’s 200 metres at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico, American track-and-field athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave the Black Power salute as the American national anthem was being played, to protest racism in the U.S. For this Smith and Carlos were suspended from the U.S and expelled from the Olympic village.
It was really a time to be Black and proud – after hundreds of years of humiliation and indignity. In the words of Mckissick, one of the leaders of Core, “…we left our imposed status of Negroes and became Black men.” Blacks “…realized their full weight in society, their dignity, their beauty and power.” But, according to black historian Manning Marable, “Black Power quickly became the cornerstone of conservative forces.”
And so Richard Nixon was happy to endorse Black Power saying, in 1968 that, “ Much of the Black militant talk these days is actually in terms far closer to the doctrines of free enterprise,” and that his policies would gravitate towards “Black ownership…Black opportunity and yes, Black Power.”
In August 1965, the Watts district of Los Angeles exploded into a race riot lasting five days. The riot left 35 people – 28 of them black – dead and over 1,000 injured. Detroit followed in “67, with 47 people killed, 2,000 injured and 2,700 businesses destroyed. Across America, between 1964 and 1972, 250 people were killed in riots and 10,000 seriously injured. Even Washington was not left out. No doubt, in the eyes of racist America, the blacks were burning the cities, “the violent, lawless, savage Blacks…endlessly spawned by welfare mothers.” In 1968 protesters staged a demonstration against the Vietnam War in Chicago during the Democratic presidential convention. Daley ordered aggressive police action to quash the protest. The ensuing violence by police led to several days of rioting.
In what would be his last public speech, at a rally in Mason Temple in Memphis, King recounted that “the masses were rising up in South Africa, in Kenya and Ghana, in New York City, Atlanta, Jackson and Memphis and everywhere their cry was the same: ‘We want to be free.’ On April 4th 1968, King was shot dead on the balcony of his hotel in Memphis by a white man, James Earl Ray. As his death was announced, further rioting broke out in major U.S cities. About three years before, on Feb. 21, Malcolm X had also been assassinated.
Faced with the increasing radicalization of significant layers of the black population, the U.S. administration, alongside its strong arm tactics, stepped-up the expansion of the black middle class, creating new, relatively high paid jobs for some black workers. This thin layer quickly became integrated into the American system and broke, at critical moments, with the struggle. And so, there was a huge shift, particularly among the top layers of the movement, away from the radicalization of the civil rights movement.
By the early 70s, the earnings of the top 5% of the black labour force had increased by 32%. Between 1969 and 1977 the total number of black-owned business increased from 163,000 to 231,195 and between 1970 and 1975, twenty-four black-owned banks were established. Also, the number of blacks entering the universities increased from 75,000 in 1950 to 660,000 by 1976.
At this point, the civil rights movement was ebbing. The tiny layer of black petit-bourgeoisie, created through affirmative action and positive discrimination, having integrated itself into the American white middle class, occupied itself with making it within American capitalism and putting the radicalism of the civil rights days behind.
Writing in The Observer Review, Keith Richburg, New York bureau chief of the Washington Post said, “In the segregated America of the 1960s and early 70s, Michael Jackson was a true “crossover” artist… I started out in Catholic schools until eight grade, when my parents sent me to a private, almost all-white school in an all-white, wealthy suburb, Grosse Pointe. There were only a handful of black students at the school, and for me, in many ways, it was an alien environment. I listened to Motown and R’n’B; the kids I now went to school with were largely into hard rock. But Michael Jackson was like a bridge; everybody liked Michael. In 1972, the year we both turned 14, his song “Ben”, from the movie, became a No 1 hit.” This is a most telling statement.
From 1968 to 1971 the ranks of the antiwar movement had expanded greatly. But, by 1972, alongside the mainstream civil rights movement, organized protests against the war dwindled. Most mainstream antiwar activists had turned from demonstrations to working within the Democratic Party. The arrival of “bubble-gum soul” coincided with this moment. And the vehicle was the integrated black and white middle class. Michael was not the “bridge,” but rather a product of this integration.
As the civil rights and anti-war movements gained momentum, they triggered a cultural reflection in the works of cultural icons like The Watts Prophets, The Last Poets, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, The Beatles, etc., who gradually transformed their art from infantile love songs into complex works about a world full of political and social upheaval. These artists correctly reflected the turmoil and change that gripped their society during the 1960s. But with the ebbing of the movement, with “bubblegum soul” and the rise of Disco, the cultural movement seemed to be in the opposite direction.
In January 1970, the Jackson 5 reached No. 1 with the single “I Want You Back;” in April, with “ABC;” In June, with “The Love You Save;” and in October, with “I’ll Be There.’ All in a single year. “Because Michael I don’t think had ever dealt with an emotion that deep in just a regular normal romance,” said Jones, another product of Affirmative Action, “(And) he cried on every take. Every take we did, he cried. I left the tears on the record because it was real.” The song in question was “She’s Out Of My Life,” a song from Off The Wall about the very bad ending of a marriage, which Jones was saving for Frank Sinatra, but later did with Michael Jackson. The lyrics of the album’s first single were suggestive enough as to reportedly incur the disapproval of Michael’s mother Katherine.
But Katherine, wrote TIME’s David Von Drehle, quoting a family friend, “Knew the only way out of Gary was through Michael … One day she turned to me and said, ‘Michael is cute now, but he won’t stay that way forever. Then what do we do? They’ve got to get a record contract now.’” They did. But, “There was a park across the street from the Motown studio, and I can remember looking at those kids playing games,” Jackson wrote in his memoir, Moon Walk. “I’d just stare at them in wonder – I couldn’t imagine such freedom, such a carefree life – and I wish more than anything I had that kind of freedom, that I could walk away and be just like them.”
And what was it like inside Motown? “Wall-to-wall work,” wrote Drehle, “The house song-writers started cranking out ‘soul bubblegum,’ as Gordy called it. The arrangers and producers and sidemen pushed the boys in search of a Jackson 5 sound. There were endless hours with the Motown fashion crew, trying on wild clothes, and more hours with Gordy’s etiquette teachers. Inside the studio, there was a name for the group handling the Jacksons: ‘the Corporation.’”
“The Corporation” Would Have Been Responsible For Much Of Michael’s Early Molding
The economic crisis that hit American capitalism in the seventies, following the worldwide economic recession of 1974, triggered the movement of industries out of the big cities and devastated the living conditions of black workers. Black neighborhoods in the big cities of the most advanced capitalist country began to resemble third-world ghettos – areas of unemployment, bad schooling, drugs and crime, as “crack” (a cheap by-product from cocaine) began to overflow the streets.
But insulated as they were from the wretched conditions of these ghetto inhabitants, the creators of “bubblegum soul” pretended this horror did not exist and closed their eyes to it, serving for American capitalism a safety valve. This, I think, is the beginning of Michael Jackson’s flight from reality. “I… used to always cry from loneliness,” he told Oprah. “Beginning at what age?” Oprah asked?” Oh, very little, 8,9,” the singer replied.
Cut off from reality, the stage, its falseness and unreality, became ‘reality,’ became “home.” The “Vultures of culture,” as Public Enemy called them in one of their songs, “They like to… Profit off the soul of black folks.” Jackson was effectively transformed into a bland, desexualized money-making machine. For quite a section of the public, left without a clear leadership, politically and intellectually adrift, Jackson became the focus of popular adulation. No doubt, the combination of these – the emotional demands and financial requirements of the public and music industry, respectively – must have been very exacting. “They think they own you, they think they made you,” Jackson said of his fans in a 1982 interview to Gerri Hirshey, author of Nowhere To Run: The Story Of Soul Music.
In suburbia, where white America fled following the great urban riots that racked America, they felt their values threatened by a strange new counterculture – hippies, punks, radicals, drugs, and all that. Added to these were the burning cities of Watts, Rochester, Newark, Detroit, and even Washington. And the burning cities were black. Blacks! Violent and sexually threatening. “… I think that Honorable Members who have experience will agree that the attitude of the African towards women and sexual matters,” said B Craddock at the British House of Commons in May 1953, “is entirely different from the attitude of the general run of Europeans…”
James Brown, the godfather of soul, with his overtly sexual gyrations and lyrics must have lent credence to these – from the point of view of white America. And yet Brown, was a fervent believer in self-improvement, and the need for minority-owned businesses within American capitalism, and owned a variety of enterprises, including recording studios, radio stations, and a real estate company. Clearly, from the point of view of the American music industry, for a “crossover” artist, one that is black, to successfully crossover, s/he must be non-violent, non-radical, non-sexually threatening – and non-black. Michael Jackson will follow this to its logical conclusion.
“But Michael also had changed,” wrote Richburg, “… His hair was no longer the tight curls from Thriller – it now looked downright straight. His nose was appreciably thinner. The thick lips he had as a child were thinner, too. The round face was more gaunt. And his skin tone had become several shades lighter, to almost a ghostly pale. Jackson later explained that his color change was the result of a rare skin disease known as vitiligo… And even if the skin disease was legitimate, it didn’t explain the nose, the hair, the lips.”
In Black or White, as if in a cry of protest, the child rappers defiantly sang: “I’m not going to spend my life being a color!” And Jackson answered, “If you’re thinking of being my brother, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white.” But it must have mattered to somebody. Actually, it became really noticeable with Thriller. In the videos Michael’s Afro had gone, in its place a straightened hair, a kind of relaxed perm. Physically, he had started to change, too.
Didi Cheeka is a Marxist critic, writer and filmmaker
My Follow-Up Commentary:
In regards to the quote from Richburg, and Cheeka’s own commentary, I wish to interject some of my own rebuttal here. Although I understand perfectly the point that is being made (it is one we cannot entirely escape or dodge if this topic is to be discussed with any degree of honesty) some of these points bear further scrutiny. I do not, for example, agree that Michael was trying to present a “less black” image simply because his curls became more relaxed. Michael maintained a curly look throughout most of his career (only occasionally in the 90′s opting for a more wavy look) but it was not until the 2000′s-his last decade-that he started to go with a predominantly straight look. However, these are cosmetic choices that I think are pretty much irrelevant as far as racial identity.
If Fan Polls Are Any Indication, This Was By Far Michael’s Most Popular “Look”-The Long Curls Of The Bad And Dangerous Eras.
I work with African-American students every day. It is not at all unusual for a student-male or female-to change hairstyles two to three times within a single week, especially what with all the options available today-wigs, hairpieces, weaves, extensions, etc-to make such instant changes possible. A student might easily have dreadlocks for a week, and the next week a trim flat top. A girl who had smooth, short hair a few days ago might suddenly appear in class with long, luscious curls cascading down her back. Many of the students are quite fashion conscious, and the desire to change and experiment with many different looks seems to be something they highly value. To some extent, it is also very much a “youth thing,” of course, but even among teens and young adults, I do not see this sort of thing nearly as much with my white students. The girls may be very fashion conscious, for example, but they will usually stick with one chosen hairstyle and color for at least a semester. So, if anything, it would seem that Michael’s embracing of his ability to change looks at a whim would only serve to affirm his black identity, if anything. And, as an entertainer, it was even more critical that his look and image continue to evolve. According to Quincy Jones, the decision to “toughen up” his image for the Bad album was a very calculated one, and with every subsequent album thereafter, we see Michael re-molding his image and look to suit the new album’s concept. Today, this sort of “chameleon effect” is not only standard for most major artists, but even expected. Michael may have simply been ahead of his time in somewhat pioneering this trend (just as Madonna did for white female performers). Many critics often point to Michael’s ditching of the Afro as the critical moment when his “black identity” began to shift, but that, too, is an absurd notion. The Afro was no longer in vogue in the 80′s. What did Michael have to gain by holding onto a look that was no longer current? (However, it is not at all unusual today to see many Afros popping up on college campuses; as with all fashion trends, everything that goes around, comes around eventually). Perhaps this sentiment has everything to do with the political statement that was initially behind the Afro’s rise in popularity in the 60′s and 70′s, and the Afros’s association with the Black Power Movement. But by the 80′s I don’t know of too many black performers, if any, who were continuing to wear them. Michael’s jheri curl was a logical step in his evolving transition, as he sought a more mature look and to create a new, adult entity that was separate from his childhood stardom and identity with The Jackson 5/Jacksons era.
I am also not entirely sure how having a more gaunt face equates to loss of racial identity. Aren’t blacks free to gain and lose weight just like everyone else? Michael explained over and over that these changes had everything to do with his change in diet. As he developed a leaner physique, his face naturally followed suit. I suppose the assumption is that even the change in his facial shape must have somehow been equated with a desire to look “more white.” I don’t get the logic of it, but such is the perplexity of the riddle we are dealing with.
But, nevertheless, small points of disagreement aside, it can’t be denied that Michael’s physical appearance did change drastically over the course of the 80′s, leaving an entire generation of his black fanbase in a bit of confusion. Keep in mind that the official explanation of vitiligo did not come about until after several years of speculation as to the cause and reasons for his lightening skin. And even if we say it’s ludicrous, many did believe that his cosmetic choices reflected a desire to look more Caucasion. It didn’t seem to matter how much or how vehemently he denied it. Humans are terribly skeptical by nature, and the media has only served to intensify that skepticism.
But it also brings up another interesting argument. Shouldn’t these kinds of aesthetic and cosmetic decisions be a matter of personal and individual choice? At what point-what arbitrary line- do they cease to be merely cosmetic or vanity decisions, and become, instead, justifiable reasons to question one’s racial identity and loyalty? And who, exactly, draws that line? And by what right?
However, shifting gears from the issue of appearance, Cheeka does establish quite clearly both Michael’s importance as a “product of integration” between blacks and whites at a crucial time in history-when the world was ripe for a black star of Michael’s magnitude. But the cost for Michael, in personal terms, meant a certain adherence to the music industry code for black performers (even if it was a subconscious adherence)-to be “non violent, non radical, [and] non sexually threatening.” Over time, of course, Michael would break and redefine all of these tenets, but again, not without some measure of cost.
The Asian comedian Margaret Cho has a very funny routine where she talks about her experience on the short-lived TV sitcom “The All American Girl.” She was routinely criticized for being both “too Asian” and “not Asian enough.” How is that even possible? At one point, they even brought in a coach to teach her how to be “more Asian.” And, of course, she was constantly being reminded that executives didn’t know how much longer they could play “the Asian thing.” Behind the humor, it is a very telling-and scathing-expose’ on a conundrum that remains unique for the minority artist, especially the minority artist in America.
These are all issues I will be continuing to explore in the coming weeks. Thanks again to Didi Cheeka for permission to reprint this piece, and to Oris Aigbokhaevbolo for bringing it to my attention.