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Xscapist Reflections

xscape1The month of May is certainly shaping up as an exciting time to be a Michael Jackson fan. As of today, I received my two FLOOR tickets for the Immortal World Tour-a show I never thought I would even get to see, let alone have floor tickets. In 2012, the show played all around me, but it was bad timing and we didn’t have the money to travel. Eventually, the tour went on to Europe and, finally, settled into a slightly different incarnation as the One show in Las Vegas. I had long ago accepted the fact that the only way I would ever experience this show would be if I got lucky enough to make it out to Vegas.

That is, until I found out that the show was not only touring again, but would be right at my back door May 6th and 7th! Well, okay, right at my backdoor might be a bit of an exaggeration. But it’s still only ten minutes to the downtown arena. The show I never thought I would ever see-the show I had experienced only through brief Youtube clips and the like-the show that was THE top grossing tour of North America in 2012-is coming to town! And this time, I’m going to be there, with two of the best seats in the house!

Well, that was reason enough to celebrate. But wait. It gets better. Next, I find out that the album Xscape-featuring many of the tracks I’ve been praying would see light of day for the last five years!-is dropping the very next week.

Ah. Now suddenly it all makes sense. Although they say never to look a gift horse in the mouth, I was wondering why Immortal was getting the encore treatment. Now I think I kind of understand. If I didn’t know better, I would swear this is all part of some clever promotional strategy. But, hey, it just means for me twice the MJ come the merry month of May-nothing wrong with that!

It Was 2012's Top Grossing Tour...But Why Is It Back, In 2014?

It Was 2012′s Top Grossing Tour…But Why Is It Back, In 2014?

But what about this new album Xscape? Well, here’s the teaser clip:

Here is the track list:

And here’s some of the buzz:

As to the above, I don’t know where this ignorance persists (or great concern, for that matter) as to the Jackson family making money off these releases. They aren’t the ones who profit off these releases. But that’s a digression I will tackle some other time.

For sure, the time is ripe for this album. It’s been over three years since “Michael.” And while the pickings seem kind of slim on this new album, I would venture to say, judging from the track list, that this is definitely a case of quality over quantity. The album is very heavy on tracks that most fans, including myself, have been clamoring for years to hear. Of course, this always begs the question…is it too little too late? The album’s strongest tracks have long been leaked, downloaded, and swapped about like the “Sneaky Pete” bottle at a girls’ slumber party. And yet, there’s still something undeniably exciting about finally having them in an “official” package. For me, “A Place With No Name” and “Do You Know Where Your Children Are” alone make this collection worth any price they care to put on it.

And before the chorus rises of “fake tracks,” etc let me just say, I can be as critical of Sony and the estate as anyone, and I certainly “got” what all of the controversy behind “Michael” was about with the Cascio tracks, but these songs are undeniably Michael and they are his creations. So why the resistance to Michael’s own work? I certainly get the whole ethical question about certain “people” making money off of Michael, but posthumous albums are a staple of the business and I certainly see no harm in releasing posthumous work from Michael IF (and these are my two diehard criteria) it is good quality work, AND if it maintains the original integrity of the tracks. I never liked, for example, what was done to tracks like “Hollywood Tonight” even if I understood that the tracks needed to be completed. If a track needs that much “completion” it probably isn’t worth releasing.

Which brings me to an interesting video blog I found on this album and the “modernization” of Michael’s music in general. Listen to this and tell me. What do you think? For sure, this guy makes a lot of very valid points. But while acknowledging that, I’m going to respectfully disagree. The way he’s talking, one would think the plan is to “update” and ‘modernize” Michael Jackson classic songs from the 80′s. That’s hardly the case.

Okay, so I was thinking pretty much the same thoughts when I turned on the car radio the other day and heard “Billie Jean.” Or walking into the health food store and suddenly hearing “The Way You Make Me Feel.” Those songs are thirty years old and they still sound cool. They still sound better than anything else on the radio, precisely because they sound nothing like anything else on the radio today. I know exactly what he means there.

But I’ve heard a good many of the tracks on this album, and they are exactly as Michael recorded them-IN the 1990′s and 2000′s, not in the 1980′s. 

And I have to say I do not entirely agree with this idea of Michael Jackson as just some product of his time and place. Michael Jackson wasn’t a nostagia act, but an artist who was continuing to grow and evolve throughout the 90′s and into the new millenium. His best music of this period-”They Don’t Care About Us,” “Earth Song,” “Stranger in Moscow” and many others-reflected that growth and the expansion of his vision, even as he was also guilty (at times) of simply retreading familiar ground. But the point I’m making is that he was never content to be like some dusty relic on a shelf. Michael himself was constantly working to “modernize” his sound; to be more relevant to contemporary audiences. Certainly we can’t say that “Invincible” sounded anything remotely like 80′s Michael. This was music for the 2000′s. And it was an album that very much reflected his eclectic and current tastes in music. From at least “Dangerous” on, he had shown an open willingness to experiment with all of the current trends, from the new jack swing of “Dangerous” to the gangsta rap influences heard on both “Blood on the Dance Floor” and “Invincible.” And even when his efforts sometimes fell embarrassingly flat on their face, no one could ever accuse him of playing it safe, or merely sticking to the tried and true. Of course, Michael’s best known tracks from the 80′s will probably always be the ones that sit most fondly in peoples’ collective memory. Nothing is going to change that, and quite honestly, once you’ve ever produced something as perfect as “Billie Jean” it’s not likely anything is ever going to top it. But I think there is plenty of room to both love and cherish those songs, and still be able to appreciate the fact that the Michael Jackson of the 90′s, 2000′s and beyond was not a static “greatest hits” artist. If this meant he was, yes, sometimes as much a follower of trends as an innovator, so be it.

Following Trends Can Sometimes Prove Just As Succesful As Setting Them...Just Ask These Guys!

Following Trends Can Sometimes Prove Just As Succesful As Setting Them…Just Ask The Beatles!

The Beatles, after all, were merely following a trend when they hopped on board the psychedelic bandwagon in 1967 to create “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” And weren’t The Bee Gees merely following a trend when they recorded what would become the biggest selling disco album of all time?

In other words, there are plenty of examples to show that good artists know both when to lead-and when to follow. In the most ideal situations, of course, what begins as merely a dabble in a latest trend emerges as something truly innovative and unique in its own right. I think that Michael was still dreaming that, ultimately, he would surpass Thriller to create his masterpiece of the new millenium, an album that would be to Michael Jackson and to the hip hop era what Sgt. Pepper had been to the Beatles and psychedelia. There was never any evidence that he wasn’t courting the hip hop generation-in fact, to the contrary, we have every evidence that this was a hot and heavy romance he wanted despertately to consumate.

But to the current generation of young rap artists who still look up to him as “Brother Mike” there should be no worries. Michael earned his place long ago, simply by being there and blazing that trail. Kids today, with their Ipods tuned religiously to their Drake and their Jay-Z, often forget that it was a very different world thirty years ago, when MTV refused to play “Billie Jean” just because…well, just because.  

Michael’s place was assured even when he lived. But he also wasn’t content with being an icon. I think a part of him always wanted that validation of knowing he could still be relevant to kids today.

The irony, of course, is that Xscape will most likely go straight to the adult contemporary AOR market. He is, after all, still ours-those of us born on the cusp of the baby boom generation, who grew up anticipating his every new release-hell, his every move!-as if it were the Second Coming. Kids today will never realize just how big is that void in their lives, where there is nothing half as big or as epic or as monumental as a Michael Jackson to fill it.

The anticipation that built up around every new Michael Jackson release was a piece of magic that has been indefinably lost in this generation of instant downloads, Youtube, and smaller-than-life celebrities.

His Brand Of Magic Has Been Lost In This Age Of Ipods, Instant Downloads, Youtube, And Smaller-Than-Life Celebrities.

His Brand Of Magic Has Been Lost In This Age Of Ipods, Instant Downloads, Youtube, And Smaller-Than-Life Celebrities.

Which brings me back to Xscape. I suppose the biggest, most inevitable reason I still love these new releases-even if albeit with all of the accompanying controversy they inevitably bring-is that, just for a little while, I can pretend that June 25, 2009 never happened. It was just all a bad dream; a horrible nightmare, but now look! He’s back. He’s on the charts; his face is on Times Square, and on posters and cut-outs in the mall record stores. Of course, it will all be short-lived. The mall record stores are dwindling; a dying breed. I realize it’s the magic of those times I miss-the hype; the buzz; the knowledge that new music from Michael was always within the realm of possibility. As always, any “new” Michael release is always a bittersweet pill.

But before I close out, I have to say it. What are thoughts on that cover? At first I wasn’t wild about it (I’m still not especially wild about it) but I guess it’s growing on me. It’s a little bit too much in the same realm as the Bani photos from “Invincible” for my tastes-a little too “out there.” I love Michael’s mature look but what’s wrong with just a simple, handsome cover? Still, judging from the buzz I have seen so far, it seems to be generating a lot of positive response from those who like that sort of edgy, futuristic, artsy kind of pics. Well, at least it is showing a willingness on Sony’s part to embrace mature Michael in its marketing, which for me represents a positive step in the right direction. For the most part, Xscape is the voice and the product of mature Michael. I know that there are valid reasons why the public at large is so reluctant to let go of those beloved images of Michael the Kid (and yes, even ”Thriller” was still very much the work of Michael The Kid) but Xscape is not the work of that kid.

I Was Never A Huge Fan Of The Bani Photos, And My Understanding Is That Michael Wasn't Overly Fond Of Them, Either. Nevertheless, A Lot Of People Seem To Really Like Them.

I Was Never A Huge Fan Of The Bani Photos, And My Understanding Is That Michael Wasn’t Overly Fond Of Them, Either. Nevertheless, A Lot Of People Seem To Really Like Them.

This album represents the best of Michael, 30 and even 40 years +. And, having already heard so many of its tracks in one form or another over the last few years, I can safely vouch (yes, before it’s even released) that these tracks are some of the best representations of what Michael was creating, quietly and confidently, behind all of the “Wacko Jacko” headlines and a world hellbent on brushing him off as a has-been or a one-trick pony.

I don’t care what anyone says. Yes, I will buy this album. I know that doing so won’t bring him back. But like I said, I need that magic fix-and, well, that magic fix is pretty darn addictive. After all, I came from the generation that salivated over every new MJ release like eager kids ripping into presents on Christmas morning.

I’m old, and old habits die hard.

So come this May, I’ll look forward to my double MJ fix and will plan to relish every magical moment. I know, of course, that eventually the house lights will come on, and the arena will empty. It will be back to reality. Michael is gone, and nothing is going to change that. I’m not fooled. These kinds of events are just little blips that, every so often, keep us reminded of what we have lost.

Still, I am thankful that we have them.


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New Exhibit In Washington Pays Tribute To Michael As A “Great American Inventor”

 I thought you might enjoy this piece by Jimmy Stamp that was published this week on the Smithsonian. com website.  It seems that Michael’s patent for the “Smooth Criminal” shoes has found its way to a quite prestigious exhibition in Washington, D.C., where his status as an American inventor is being celebrated alongside names like Washington, Jefferson, and Adams. Go Michael!



Michael Jackson: Singer, Songwriter, American Inventor

The King of Pop invented more than just amazing dance moves

By Jimmy Stamp

Here’s the scene: Michael Jackson, dressed in white suit and hat like a gangster guardian angel walks into a bar full of thugs, gamblers, and flappers, the music stops and everyone stares at him; he reaches for a gun – no, it’s just a quarter, which he flips all the way across room where it slides perfectly into a jukebox coin slot. The song starts with a synthesized crash: As he came into the window / it was the sound of a crescendo….You’ve been hit by a Smooth Criminal. Dancing, fighting, dramatic pauses, a weird slow-motion interlude, and more dancing and fighting follow. Then it happens, at about the 7:10 mark above, Michael gives a knowing smile, tilts his hat, and leans. He leans an amazing, impossible lean. It seems so simple but it’s just. so. cool.

When a 7-year old me saw it for the first time on screen, it was surely the coolest thing I had ever seen (which until that point was a teenage werewolf playing air guitar and surfing on top of a van). Smooth Criminal might still be the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s cooler than Miles Davis giving birth to cool in an igloo cool. It’s cool, man. There’s no other word for it.

Oh wait, there might be actually – how about “inventive”?

US Patent 5255452 A: “Method and means for creating anti-gravity illusion”
shoe patent

In the “Smooth Criminal’ video, the centerpiece of the wonderfully bizarre film Moonwalker (1988), the impossible lean was accomplished with wires, but to recreate the effect during live performances, Jackson worked with two designers to develop a “method and means for creating [an] anti-gravity illusion.” This signature move (among many others) was made possible by a patent for a shoe allowing the “wearer to lean forwardly beyond his center of gravity.” Though it looks like a regular loafer when worn with long pants, the shoe is actually strapped around the ankle to secure it to the dancer’s foot – but the real secret is in the heel, which conceals a slot that can lock into a small post raised on stage. Dancers click their heels into place at just the right time and–-boom–-you’ve been hit by a smooth criminal. It’s a brief moment, but it’s one of the most iconic images of Michael Jackson’s career and American pop culture.


US Patent 5255452 A: “Method and means for creating anti-gravity illusion”

shoe patent3

Michael Jackson’s patent, and more importantly, his signature is on display as part of a new exhibition at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures,” invites visitors to examine the signatures on historic documents and imagine the moment they were signed, moments that have shaped America’s history and defined its culture. No one has a signature that is exactly the same every time its written, but a signature’s variability is part of what reveals it to be authentic; each signature is a unique product of the time and place it was written. Other notable signatories on display as part of the exhibition include founding fathers such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, whose documents tell the story of a young nation in rebellion against King George III. But they are in good company with the King of Pop, whose signed patent reveals that his inventiveness extended beyond creating sweet dance moves.

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Gavin Arvizo: The Only Child Michael Jackson Ever Hated?

A Picture CAN Be Worth A Thousand Words...In Some Totally Unexpected Ways

A Picture CAN Be Worth A Thousand Words…In Some Totally Unexpected Ways

“One day he told me, ‘God forgive me, and don’t tell Katherine I ever said this, but I hate that kid. I so hate that kid…Part of me thinks that’s not right. You shouldn’t hate. But then I think, I can’t help it. I hate that kid for what he did to me.  My therapist is telling me that I need to get real and feel what I feel, not suppress it like I usually do. Well, how I feel is that I hate that kid. I do.’”-Michael Jackson, as quoted in The Magic, The Madness, The Whole Story 1958-2009 by J. Randy Taraborrelli.

For a man who befriended hundreds of children in his lifetime, who helped thousands; who donated millions of dollars to charitable children’s causes; who worked tirelessly most of his adult life to promote causes that benefitted children; who advocated for children’s rights to the point that his dedication became almost saint-like in its zeal, Gavin Arvizo has a unique distinction among them. He just may be the only child Michael Jackson ever admitted to hating, at least if we are to believe this account related by Taraborelli. Admittedly, it’s a second-hand account passed on from a source who “claims” to have heard it straight from the man, but nevertheless, I don’t doubt its authenticity. Michael was no saint, after all, and after what he was put through by Gavin Arvizo and his scheming family, he certainly had every reason to hate “that kid.”

But today, I want to take a look at what transpired in this so-called friendship even before it got to that point. There exists a persistent media myth of Michael as a man who had many “special friends” among a select group of boys. There is some partial truth mixed into the myth. Michael did form many enduring friendships with some of the young men who idolized him-friendships that lasted well into these young mens’ adulthoods, despite some claims that he tended to lose interest as the boys matured. Over the years, a lot of twisted beliefs have been purported regarding those friendships, but I’m standing by a firm belief, based both on strong theory and fact, that the nature of these friendships have been much exaggerated. However, that is a topic I will take up again when I resume the Wade Robson series.

Aside From Feeling Sorry For Him Because He Had Cancer, All Indications Seem To Point Towards Gavin Arvizo As A Kid Whom Michael Didn't Even Particularly LIKE-Let Alone Molest!

Aside From Feeling Sorry For Him Because He Had Cancer, All Indications Seem To Point Towards Gavin Arvizo As A Kid Whom Michael Didn’t Even Particularly LIKE-Let Alone Molest!

However, if we look at the history of his acquaintance with the Arvizo family, it becomes apparent that Gavin Arvizo was never a “special friend” of Michael’s. In fact, based on what I have come to know, I believe it is entirely reasonable to assume that this was never a kid that Michael even particularly liked; a kid he never wished to even get close to, let alone one he would have ever attempted to molest. That may sound cold, but based on what I have researched, what I have been told, and even from Gavin’s own words, I believe it is true. Aside from the fact that Michael paid for Gavin’s cancer treatment (a goodwill gesture Michael extended to many such kids in need) there doesn’t exist beyond that any proof that Michael much wanted anything to do with this kid-or his family-past that point. He was kind enough to pay for the boy’s treatments; he invited this family into his home when they had no place else to go; he even bought (or gave them) a car, which, like everything else, they then abused to the point that it was no longer serviceable. 

In short, though Michael Jackson may have had many such close friends among the young boys of his acquaintance, Gavin Arvizo-the only kid to ever bring Michael Jackson to court-was not one of them. Ironic when you think about it. Maybe a little too ironic. Just maybe, that was part of the whole problem.

When Gavin Arvizo got married last November, an explosion of  well-timed articles by notorious Michael Jackson hater Diane Dimond suddenly appeared in many major media outlets. I don’t have permission from Dimond to reprint her articles here (nor do I intend to seek it), but nor do I wish to give her the satisfaction of increasing traffic hits to her apologist propaganda for Gavin and this family, a family that she obviously chose to become personal friends with long ago, thus eradicating even the slightest veneer of objectivity on her part when it comes to this case. In short, I won’t be reprinting her lies here, nor linking to them. But that being said, most fans and regular readers here are familiar enough with the details of those articles, in which young Gavin was painted as a victim, as a brave survivor of cancer and child abuse; as a martyr and hero (the only “victim” courageous enough to take on Michael Jackson in court; a good religious boy so selfless that he refuses even now to take advantage of the “six figure” amounts he has supposedly been offered; a pure soul so forgiving that even when the wedding dj “unknowingly” plays a Michael Jackson song, he just shrugs it all off good-naturedly and continues to dance, as if to say, “Aw, shucks. Well, it’s all good.”

Geez, could we just hang a halo on this guy’s head and be done with already? I already feel like I need a barf bag, and those are just the highlights.

Would You Dance To The Music Of The Man Who Molested You? At Your Wedding?

Would You Dance To The Music Of The Man Who Molested You? At Your Wedding?

But I will accede a few things about Gavin Arvizo. Yes, he is a cancer survivor, and I would certainly never begrudge any child who has survived cancer the right to a happily-ever-after end to his life. In fact, I hope he is able to achieve that (I am Christian enough to believe everyone deserves some measure of Grace, and Gavin Arvizo has had a pretty tough life). Yes, I believe he was a victim and an abused child-but not a victim of Michael Jackson. His abuse came at the hands of his own family, including a father who physically beat him and a con artist mother who manipulated him from an early age to lie for her. In fact, Gavin’s psychological abuse at the hands of his manipulative (and most likely mentally ill) mother was still causing him such emotional stress that as late as 2004, it was said that he still feared that “the bad people from JC Penney’s” would come to get him and his siblings (Janet had involved her kids in a lawsuit over an alleged sexual assault by JC Penney employees). And in July of 2007, a story ran in The New York Daily News that claimed Janet had turned her back on her son for apparently failing to do a better job of convincing the jury in 2005. However, oddly enough, the story has disappeared and no links given to it seem to work. I was only aware if it myself after reading this 2010 post from the Smoke and Mirrors website:

However, it wouldn’t be a shocker for me if The New York Daily News has deleted the story.  As always, the media has gone out of its way to protect the so-called “victims” of Michael Jackson, while thinking nothing of dragging Michael’s name through the mud-a fact even more interesting when you consider the media villification of Mia and Dylan Farrow, a subject that has already been hashed out on many blogs. Clearly, the idea that the media automatically sides with the perceived “victims” in these cases is a myth. It depends on who is being accused.

But given what we know of Janet Arvizo’s mental history, the story is most likely true. Oddly enough, Janet was not even mentioned in the wedding articles ( Did she even attend? Was she even invited?). If true, this would be in perfect keeping with the pattern that has emerged in both accusation cases, since Jordan Chandler effectively “divorced” himself from his parents and had very little to do with them after the ordeal of the Michael Jackson allegations.

UPDATE (3/22/14): Janet Arvizo DID attend the wedding, as confirmed via the wedding photos.  (See link below in the comments section). 

But whatever may have transpired privately, the public Gavin has never wavered in his claims and has stood staunchly by the lies he was coaxed to believe-not only by his family, but an entire prosecution team.  Gavin’s childhood was not unlike that of poor Sartoris Snopes in William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning,” a child who is forced to back his con artist father in every scheme until he finally realizes his only chance to save himself and his own soul is to run away, leaving his family behind and starting a new life on his own. Not exactly an easy thing to do when you’re just a kid-in that time or any other.

Unfortunately, Gavin Arvizo never seems to have had any such degree of moral consciousness or awakening where his own mother was concerned-or if he did, he certainly never acted on it. The truth is that children like Sartoris Snopes probably only exist in fiction. In real life, children are usually apt to become what their parents mold them into. This certainly seems to have been the case with Gavin Arvizo. And it is enough to mitigate any sympathy that I might be inclined to feel toward him. Let’s not forget that by the time this whole mess went to trial, Gavin was fifteen years old-still a minor, yes. But old enough to be quite aware of the charade that was going on, and his own part in it.

The fact that Gavin’s claims of molestation were totally ripped to shreds in the courtroom, resulting in Michael’s acquittal on all counts, still leaves one puzzling question: If Michael didn’t molest Gavin, then why did Gavin so willingly put both himself and Michael through this ordeal? Could it have been spite of another kind?

I believe that is not only a possibility, but the most logical conclusion.

The evidence has shown that Gavin not only sought out and wanted Michael Jackson’s friendship, but even wanted him as a father figure (unless, of course, this was simply more of Janet Arvizo’s manipulation, which is possible). The kids were instructed to call Michael “Daddy.” According to what Michael said in his Shmuley Boteach interviews, he didn’t mind it at first:

SB: Do you feel that when you speak to people like Gavin, part of the pain goes away for them?

MJ: Absolutely. Because every time I talk to him he is in better spirits. When I spoke to him last night he said, “I need you. When are you coming home?” I said, “I don’t know.” He said, “I need you Michael.” Then he calls me “Dad.” I said, “You better ask your Dad if it is ok to call me that.” He shouts, “Dad, is it ok if I call Michael, ‘Dad?”‘ and he says, “Yes, no problem, whatever you want.” Kids always do that. It makes me feel happy that they feel that comfortable.-(Excerpted from The Michael Jackson Tapes, by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach). 

However, accounts I have heard from many who knew Michael contradict this. At any rate, he definitely seemed to resent being called “Daddy” by Janet Arvizo’s children as his relationship with this family soured, and especially once he began to realize that the Arvizo children calling him “Daddy” actually translated in this family’s minds to “Sugar Daddy.”

Additionally, Michael had children of his own by this point, so perhaps the word “Dad” had lost some of its appeal and luster. In other words, he didn’t quite have the driving need anymore to hear it from other kids besides his own. And I honestly think by this point, his own kids were the only ones he wanted calling him “Daddy.”

I firmly believe that Gavin Arvizo, at one point, wanted a close relationship with Michael, like the ones he may have heard that Michael had with Macauley Culkin, Frank Cascio, Brett Barnes and others, and was deeply disappointed-and later embittered-when things didn’t work out that way.

But there was one important difference. Those were friendships built on mutual respect and trust. Macauley Culkin, for example, had his own money, and wasn’t some needy kid who was co-dependent on Michael’s affections. To be fair, of course, he also wasn’t a cancer victim from a dysfunctional family. (I think the Culkins were most likley dysfunctional in a different kind of way; show business families generally are, but at any rate, they were not a family dependent on Michael for money and “perks” so therein lies the difference).

However, it didn’t take Michael long to learn that both Gavin and his family were milking the “cancer victim” thing for all it was worth. It was also proven that this family had bilked many celebrities out of millions, even though the family had medical insurance that covered most of Gavin’s treatments.

As The Cancer Went Into Remission, Gavin's True Colors Began To Show.

As The Cancer Went Into Remission, Gavin’s True Colors Began To Show.

What’s more, as soon as the illness was in remission and some of the harsher effects of the treatments had worn off, Gavin’s true personality started to emerge. From many accounts, ranging from Neverland employees to witnesses in the courtoom, it seems that Gavin Arvizo was just not a very likeable kid. Spoiled and prone to temper tantrums when he didn’t get his way, Gavin seems by most accounts to have been a testy and temperamental child who had all the early markings of a trouble maker. Court testimony would reveal quite a different story from the innocent little angel who was being depicted in the media, and even in the Living With Michael Jackson documentary. Instead, he was revealed as a bit of a hoodlum who vandalized property, terrorized the staff, acted as though he had free reign of the property, wrecked golf carts (an act he and his brother Star both seemed quite adept at), broke into the wine cellar, and on at least one occasion, were caught by one of Michael’s cousins masturbating to pornography that they had gotten access to by breaking into Michael’s private quarters. For sure, Gavin was not the innocently naive boy about sex and sexual matters that much of his testimony relied upon:

You know, I’m not going to judge Gavin’s character now because I don’t know him. Maybe adulthood has brought some level of maturity. But apparently, the Gavin Arvizo that Michael Jackson knew as a kid was one conniving little manipulator-one that Michael quickly came to see through.

It’s a complex issue because, on the one hand, here you have this kid who does seem to be desperately seeking a father figure-and some much needed guidance. Perhaps Michael tried to be as patient as he could, but in the end, his patience wore out. He had to start distancing himself from this family for his own sanity and peace of mind-and perhaps to preserve what was left of his home before these little terrorists wrecked it completely and drove away all the staff!

Before things turned sour, this rare video footage was shot of Michael showing Gavin about the grounds of Neverland. I find the body language of this video somewhat interesting. Michael is affectionate enough with Gavin, but his demeanor is very reserved and uncharacteristically withdrawn (if one notes how he usually behaved around kids). It seems that Gavin initiates much of the physical contact, such as the hand holding or locking of arms (watch at 5:13). Michael reciprocates, of course, but only after Gavin has made the initial gesture. Otherwise, Michael seems to be keeping a distance throughout the tour, usually walking ahead or to the right. Although he is heard joking around with Gavin and Star at about 6:01, his whole demeanor throughout this video seems perfunctory and rather cool. I get the feeling he was doing this more to satisfy the child’s whims than his own. Why was it being filmed? Who knows. Michael tended to document most everything in his life; most likely, he intended to use this as some sort of promotional footage down the road, just as the footage with Ryan White eventually became a very smart promotional strategy. (While Michael certainly genuinely cared for all of the sick children he helped through the years there was no argument that it was also very good for the image). Or perhaps this was merely private footage that was leaked, but I suspect there was most likely some motive behind it. Michael had also learned by this time that it paid to keep a record of everything-just in case, well, you know, someone gets it in their head to bring a lawsuit. Or to make an accusation. Which, of course, was bound to end in a lawsuit of some sort. Having most of your life on camera was one sure way to hedge a lot of it.

No one ever said it was a “normal” life.

But if we pay close attention to the body language of Michael and Gavin in this casual clip, we can see there is none of the easy camraderie that we see, for example, in similar clips of Michael and Ryan White:

Or here:

In other words, the impression I get is that Michael didn’t ever seem especially comfortable or at ease with Gavin, and his interactions with him seem more like fulfilling an obligation as the kid’s host. That seems cold, but is it possible that Michael simply never took to this kid-perhaps sensed something “off” about him, and was trying to create distance?

What we do know, based on Gavin’s own court testimony, is that over time he became bitter-not because Michael had sexually abused him, but for quite the opposite reason- because Michael ceased wanting anything to do with him, and became increasingly remote. There is even a story, revealed during Gavin’s court testimony that once, Gavin had been told Michael was not around-only to have the embarrassing and rather awkward experience of  accidentally “bumping into” him on the Neverland property. By that time, the message was loud and clear that Michael was avoiding him. Gavin would recount this incident as one that “broke his heart.” But while this statement makes Michael seem very cold and poor Gavin as a victim, let’s not forget all that Michael had done-which was certainly above and beyond-to save Gavin’s life and to ease his family’s life during this difficult time. Michael had extended kindness and lavish hospitality upon this family, only to be repaid by having his property vandalized, his employees terrorized, and his credit cards maxed as Gavin’s family helped themselves to thousands of dollars worth of shopping sprees. In short, how much did Michael owe Gavin Arvizo or this family beyond what he had already done?

William Faulkner's Classic Story "Barn Burning" Tells The Story Of A Young Boy Who Faces A Moral Dilemma-Whether To Continue To Lie And Support His Father In All Of His Various Schemes And Crimes, Or To Run Away In Order To Save His Own Soul. It Is A Story Gavin Might Have Related To. But Fiction And Real Life Are Two Entirely Different Things.

William Faulkner’s Classic Story “Barn Burning” Tells The Story Of A Young Boy Who Faces A Moral Dilemma-Whether To Continue To Lie And Support His Father In All Of His Various Schemes And Crimes, Or To Run Away In Order To Save His Own Soul. It Is A Story Gavin Might Have Related To. But Fiction And Real Life Are Two Entirely Different Things.

Intense hate is only the flipside of intense love, and it seems that in Gavin’s case he was a kid doggedly determined to be Michael’s shadow. And-here’s a fact that may surprise some of you!-he seemed to have an inclination to be very physically affectionate and touchy-touchy in a way that made MICHAEL intensely uncomfortable!

I have already pointed out that in the above video of Michael and Gavin at Neverland that it is clearly GAVIN-not Michael!-who initiates whatever physical contact is made between them, whether it be hand holding or walking arm in arm. We can see with our own eyes in this clip that Michael goes along with it and reciprocates-as most adults would-but never at any time is he the initiator of the contact. This is important in establishing the fact that IN EVERY SINGLE CASE, from sleeping in Michael’s bedroom to the infamous “hand holding” segment shown in the Bashir doc, Gavin was actually the aggressor (though in the case of the Bashir doc, there is some dispute as to whether Bashir himself was, in fact, responsible for that shot. I will get to that incident in just a bit).

Frank Cascio describes how Gavin initially asked MICHAEL if he could sleep in his room:

Michael had actually been extra cautious about allowing strange kids access to his room since what had happened with Jordan Chandler in ’93. If it had been me, I think I would have kept my resolve with a firm and unequivocal “no.” But Michael had always been a softie when it came to kids. It’s too bad that the firm resolve and distancing that he later took with Gavin may have been a case of too little, too late.

And, from Gavin’s court testimony, here is another incident that describes Gavin VOLUNTARILY resting his head on Michael’s shoulder-a gesture he was apparently prone to doing, with no prompting on Michael’s part.

19 Q. Now, you talked yesterday about someone

20 named Brett Ratner. Do you remember that.

21 A. Yes.

22 Q. And he was working on a Rush Hour movie,

23 right.

24 A. Yes, he was the director for both of them.

25 Q. And you met Brett Ratner at Neverland one

26 time, right.

27 A. Yes, he came to Neverland once.

28 Q. And you saw him in the library, right. 2029

1 A. Michael and him were in the library, and

2 they told me to go there.

3 Q. You saw him in the library with Michael,

4 correct.

5 A. They told me to go in there.

6 Q. Okay. And you sat down next to Michael

7 Jackson, didn’t you.

8 A. I sat on the couch. I sat on this red couch

9 and Michael was sitting here on the seat, and Brett

10 Ratner was sitting here also.

11 Q. At one point during that meeting, you rested

12 your head on Michael Jackson’s shoulder, didn’t you.

13 A. No. It was early in the morning, and I

14 was — we were sitting — he was sitting on another

15 chair.

16 Q. And you asked if you could go with Michael

17 and Brett Ratner to Florida, didn’t you.

18 A. I don’t remember asking that.

Gavin denies the accusation, but even so, the pattern is consistent with many behaviors on Gavin’s part that we already know to be fact. Gavin would often use such ingratiating gestures toward Michael to build up for some huge favor he wanted to ask (note that in this case, he was said to have been begging to be taken along on a vacation to Florida with Michael and Brett Ratner).

Of course, Gavin’s exaggerated advancements of affection could have had a more sinister motive. The theory has been raised by some that the Arvizos may, in fact, have been plotting from the get-go to set Michael up. It’s possible although, I believe, a little far fetched. I am more inclined to believe that this was an idea that took hold once they were within Michael’s circle and the relationship turned sour. It would not explain, for example, why the Arvizos willingly left the picture until being called back for the Bashir doc. I think the idea took hold and grew in the aftermath of the Bashir doc, when the resultant media scrutiny both resulted in a further breakdown of the relationship and gave them the idea that not only could they make this accusation fly, they could even make it somewhat “plausible,” especially after consulting Larry Feldman, the attorney for the Chandlers. Let’s not forget that the Arvizos actually tried to sell the idea that Michael had only molested Gavin AFTER the documentary had aired, which is completely ludicrous considering this would have meant Michael only decided to molest Gavin after  the eyes of the world had turned on this relationship.

Only So That He Could Then Use The Footage As An Excuse To Narrate How Michael Was

The Arvizos had actually been out of Michael’s life for some time-and might have thankfully remained so-had it not been for the Martin Bashir doc “Living With Michael Jackson.” It was reportedly Bashir’s idea to get on film some of the children Michael had helped in the past, although it is possible this idea may have at least partially originated with Michael himself. Remember that at the time, Michael was hoping to use this documentary to help promote his idea of a National Children’s holiday. Michael was also under the impression, having been falsely led by Bashir, that the purpose of this documentary was to help rehabilitate his image. People would finally be allowed to see what Michael Jackson was all about-helping kids.

What would emerge as the most controversial aspect of that documentary-aside from Michael’s “What’s wrong with sharing your bed?” comment-was the shot of Gavin apparently “cuddling” with Michael. In the footage that sent many shock waves rippling, Gavin places his head on Michael’s shoulder and holds hands with him. Had this been the sickly, emaciated child of a couple of years ago, it might not have had quite the same effect. But this was a now apparently healthy kid who, for all purposes, was making goo-goo eyes at Michael for all America and the UK to see.

However, there was apparently much more to this footage than met the eye. We have already seen that Gavin tended to behave very affectionately toward Michael, even with no encouragement from Michael. And indeed, in the rebuttal video, Gavin is seen holding hands with his own mother just as he had with Michael! Of course, this part could very well have been staged but I’ve seen enough to convince me that this was a natural reaction of Gavin’s when he was around an adult he felt close to (or perhaps wished to manipulate). Also, note Janet’s uncharacteristic make-up and perfectly manicured nails when the camera zooms in for the close-up of their clasped hands-that was all courtesy of Michael Jackson’s expense!

It was revealed a few years ago that Bashir had actually coached Gavin to lay his head on Michael’s shoulder and hold his hand during that segment. Aphrodite Jones had mentioned this in several interviews, which apparently was information relayed to her by Thomas Mesereau. I asked her about this in 2010, and she not only confirmed that I had heard correctly, but also revealed for the first time the information she relays in this radio interview of Michael’s response: “Why is this kid leaning on me?”

Let’s go back and re-visit that segment of the Bashir doc. What I find interesting is how the segment featurng Gavin segues from a previous segment showing Michael taking a group of kids through Neverland. All of this builds up to Bashir’s voice over narration reminding viewers of the Chandler allegations ten years before, and stating he would have thought that Jackson had learned to be more cautious. He then goes on to say he was “appalled” to learn that children were still sleeping over at Neverland. What is ironic in this? Because it was actually BASHIR’S idea for Michael to have that busload of kids come in that day, just for the express purpose of having footage that would show Michael interacting with kids! The true story would be laughable if it hadn’t all turned out so tragic. What Martin Bashir (whose very agenda was to portray Michael as a suspected criminal from the get-go) discovered, much to his dismay, was a Neverland without kids! At least, other than Michael’s own, but that hardly suited the agenda that he had come prepared to “prove.” So he convinced Michael to bring in a busload of kids for the express purpose of filming his Neverland interactions with kids. Granted, this was a tradition that Michael had begun at Neverland some time ago, but there were no kids on that particular day. And often, Michael was not even on the premises when these under privileged kids came and went. But…on that day, because Bashir had specifically requested that he have kids to film at Neverland, Michael makes a call and has a busload come in. (I can’t help but feel a bit sorry for him in that footage; he doesn’t even look as if he feels particularly well that day, and he’s having to entertain these kids just so Bashir can get the footage he wants, never dreaming, of course, that the finished product would be played out with that sinister narrative voice over reminding viewers of the Chandler allegations).

And the deceptive manipulation gets even better when the narration about kids “still sleeping over” cuts to Star and Gavin Arvizo, who-let’s not forget- had only been called back for the express purpose of filming this documentary!

But here’s where I want to go with this. If you watch this clip beginning at 9:01 you can see an interesting contrast between Michael’s and Gavin’s demeanor and overall body language. Whereas Gavin seems perfectly comfortable and natural holding hands with Michael. Michael clearly looks very uncomfortable and squirm-ish in the scene. Notice that his entire body and posture remains very stiff. Just as in the earlier footage from 2000, he seems to be maintaining a purposeful, physical distance from Gavin. It’s akin to the adoring partner who tries to cuddle on a sofa, while the disinterested party tries as surreptiously as possible to scoot to the opposite end-without being blatantly obvious, of course.

In fact, the more I watch this footage the more convinced I am that Michael most likely was set up in this scene. Obviously, he wasn’t going to be rude and push Gavin away with the camera rolling (in fact, I doubt he would have done so even had no cameras been rolling) but his discomfiture is quite obvious. It makes it seem even more plausible to me that he probably asked the question, “Why is this kid leaning on me?” Even if he never spoke the words, you can tell he certainly must have been thinking them!

Whatever the case, Michael and Gavin would both have their share of fall-out over that staged scene. For Michael, it would result in a nightmare of media scrutiny and a criminal investigation. For Gavin, it led to school bullying and intrusive harrassment as the pressure increased from all sides to “confess”…Something. Anything.

8 Q. Now, when you went back to school after you

9 left Neverland Ranch – okay. –

10 A. Yes.

11 Q. — March and April, you were at John

12 Burroughs, correct.

13 A. Yes.

14 Q. Did — what was — what was it like when you

15 went back to school.

16 A. All the kids would laugh at me and try to

17 push me around and stuff, and say, “That’s the kid

18 that got raped by Michael Jackson,” and stuff like

19 that.

20 Q. Did — what was your reaction to that.

21 A. I would sometimes not say anything and just

22 walk away. And if they got close enough, sometimes

23 I would fight them. After they hit me first,

24 because I didn’t like to throw the first punch,

25 because I believe that — I mean

Despite all of the bullying and media scrutiny after the Bashir doc, Gavin Arvizo was at first reluctant to go along with his family’s scheme to bring charges against Michael. So what made him change his mind? Let’s not forget that teenagers are still very emotionally vulnerable people. If you have enough adults around you hammering and chipping away at you, sooner or later you’re either going to give in, or break.

I believe strongly that what happened in Gavin’s case was that here was a man he had once idolized and looked up to, who had seemed in Gavin’s eyes to have turned on him. In Gavin’s mind, he had taken a lot of flack for being Michael’s friend, and couldn’t understand why the man he called “Daddy” had now turned on him. Perhaps he was genuinely unaware that his own bratty behavior and the questionable motives of his family had led to that distancing; that rather than being genuinely grateful for the help they had been given, their sense of entitlement had grown exponentially. Apparently, from all I have gathered, they were doing more than just taxing Michael financially. They had become a bit of an emotional burden as well, demanding that he fulfill some role that he had never been obligated to fill in the first place, as not just a financial provider but a surrogate parent as well.

I'm Convinced This Was An Abandonment Issue, Not A Molestation Issue

I’m Convinced This Was An Abandonment Issue, Not A Molestation Issue

Could it be that Gavin’s eventual resentment of Michael Jackson had more to do with abandonment issues than any supposed molestation? I am at the very least 99% convinced that this is the case. Or at least I believe it is the factor that planted the seed. Eventually, I believe that somewehere along the way-between the brainwashing of Sneddon, Feldman, Zonen, and, of course, his good friend Diane Dimond-Gavin became genuinely convinced that, even if Michael hadn’t molested him, that he was a bad man who deserved to be punished. After all of these years of the pestilence that has been poured into his ear from these factions, I’m sure he has convinced himself quite well that Michael must have been guilty of something.

13 Q. Okay. Gavin, I just have one last question

14 to ask you: Yesterday in response to Mr. Mesereau’s

15 questions, you told him that Mr. Jackson was like a

16 father figure to you; is that correct.

17 A. Michael Jackson.

18 Q. Yeah.

19 A. Yes.

20 Q. And that you thought he was one of the

21 coolest guys in the world, correct.

22 A. Yes.

23 Q. And that you admired him.

24 A. Well, I only admire God, but he was a pretty

25 cool guy.

26 Q. How do you feel about Mr. Jackson now in

27 light of what he did to you.

28 MR. MESEREAU: Objection. 352; relevance; 2073

1 leading.

2 THE COURT: Overruled.

3 THE WITNESS: I don’t really like him

4 anymore. I don’t think he’s really that deserving

5 of the respect that I was giving him and as the

6 coolest guy in the world.

But the one thing he will probably never confess-not even to himself, I would suspect-is that his resentment of Michael really began that day he was told Mr. Jackson was nowhere around, only to bump into him on the Neverland grounds. There is a part of me that pities a child who looks up to a man, who calls him “Daddy” and then has to find out the hard way that this man is actually trying to ease him out of his life. But given what we know of the Arvizos and their behavior at Neverland-as well as a past history of grifting that Michael was slowly becoming savvy to-we can’t entirely blame him for doing what he had to do. In a way, perhaps this whole, unfortunate case really claimed TWO victims-Michael, whose life would ultimately be ruined over it, and Gavin, whose innocence and ability to believe had to have at least become somewhat tarnished as a result of this experience.

But while I can feel somewhat sorry for Gavin the child, Gavin the man is a different story. He has the adult ability now to look back in hindsight and realize right from wrong. Perhaps we can argue that Michael’s way of dealing with the situation was cold, but over the years, Michael (whose life we must remember had not been “normal” since age ten) had learned early that it was sometimes the only way of coping with a bad situation. If you want a bad seed out of your life, you nip it before it even has a chance to become a bud. I would imagine the situation with Jordan Chandler had further fueled his distrust of too-clinging kids and parents with dubious motives.

Of course Gavin will probably never accept himself as that potential bad seed. I believe his view of Michael is still that of the thwarted child who has never been able to forget a promise that, in his mind, somehow went unfulfilled.

The only thing that still leaves an unsettling question in my mind is…why did Michael agree to bring the Arvizos back into his life? Surely there were many other children he had helped that he could have chosen to call in for the documentary. As Aphrodite Jones stated in the above interview, he had considered Dave Dave, the boy who was severely burned by his father. I’m sure there were many others who would have gladly accepted this offer. Why Gavin? The question is a bit of a mystery although perhaps, in the end, the sheer miraculousness of his recovery was incentive enough. Gavin, at the time, was the best example of how love and faith (along with a lot of financial help) can create a miracle. He was the best example of what Michael was innocently hoping to prove with this documentary-while also, perhaps, best fitting the bill for Bashir’s own ulterior motives.

Did Gavin ultimately feel used, perhaps even betrayed by Michael? I certainly think that we can’t rule it out as a possibility, and again, this may go a long way towards understanding how and why Gavin ultimately came to be so bitter towards a man who never touched him sexually, to the point that he was able to convince himself that Michael Jackson was a man unworthy of “the respect” he claims he had once felt for him.

But there are some things we have to keep in perspective. If Michael “used” Gavin to promote his own image, it perhaps bears no greater  culpability than the amount of “using” this family did to him in terms of milking every advanatge that could possibly be gained by this relationship-and in the end, destroying his life. Whatever the ends to the means, there is one fact we have to keep uppermost in mind. Michael didn’t have to take on the expense of this kid’s cancer treatments, nor invite them into his home and his life.  In the end, whatever you can say, Michael and God were directly responsible for giving Gavin his life. Did Michael really “owe” the Arvizos anything more beyond that? It’s great that Gavin still credits God’s role in saving him. But it is despicable the way he has treated the man who was, in essence, the other half of that healing team.

While this post may be an attempt to understand Gavin’s motives, it is by no means an excuse for them. It would be nice to say that, regardless of who was using who or who betrayed who, that in the end the score was evened between Michael and Gavin Arvizo. But that is hardly the case. While Michael lies in a tomb in Forest Lawn, Gavin Arvizo dances to MJ tunes at his wedding.

I’m sure in his mind he perceives this as a just and fitting end. At any rate, even now-nine years after “The Trial of the Century”-he certainly has enough cheerleaders in his corner to convince him that this is the case. This perceived sense of “justice winning out in the end” was certainly the entire slant of Diane Dimond’s many articles “celebrating” the event. But the reality depends on which side of the glass one is looking from. Gavin’s story did not convince a jury, and to this day, even many of the most cynical, diehard Michael Jackson haters have expressed genuine doubt over this case. While it may be true to say that Gavin was the only kid who faced Michael Jackson down in court (a fact is a fact, after all) Gavin also must live every day with the fact that his story wasn’t believed, and that the man who helped make it possible for Gavin to live to see his wedding day has paid the ultimate price. Diane Dimond didn’t bother telling that part of the tale. She never will.

Gavin Arvizo may have survived cancer, and he may have survived a dysfunctional raising. But in that regard, Gavin is no more or less courageous than the many hundreds of kids who beat those odds every single day. He managed to beat those odds, at least in part, with the help of a man he later turned on. His motives appeared to have been as genuinely muddled and confused as the case itself.

I don’t know how much credence to give the Taraborelli source. However, Michael was human and as prone to human emotion as any of us. “Hate” is a strong word, and even in this context, we see that Michael was reluctant to use it. But if he was acting on a therapist’s advice, it was advice intended to make him finally embrace his honest emotions, rather than, as he said, suppressing them “like I always do.”

Ultimately, Gavin Arvizo will be viewed as either a brave, unsung hero (if you buy the version Diane Dimond is selling) or as the villain that he is to most MJ fans. But the truth, as they always say, is probably closer to the middle. Gavin chose the most vicious way possible to lash out and “pay back” the man he felt had turned his back on him. At the time, perhaps he failed to realize that the greatest and most precious gift Michael had given him-his life-should have been one that far outweighed all other petty matters.

To be the only child that Michael ever hated is no easy feat. It took hard work and dedication to earn that title, for we know it was not a title easily won. But Michael would have been expressing these thoughts on the flipside of everything that Gavin Arvizo had put him through.

But hatred aside (which, as I’ve said, is a pretty strong word) I have come to the conclusion that Michael never even particularly liked Gavin Arvizo, at least once Gavin had gotten better and his real personality started to show itself. I believe that Michael engaged in a deliberate campaign to distance himself from Gavin and his family. At best, Gavin was a clingy, overly needy child who demanded attention and special favors. Perhaps if he could have been isolated at an early age from the influence of his mother, there might have still been hope for him. But by the time he met Michael, the damage to his personality was already complete. And thus, Michael Jackson, the man who had spent so much of his adult life “adopting” families, effectively rejected Janet Arvizo and her kids. There would be hell to pay, and indeed there was.

Only Gavin knows what was going through his mind as his hired wedding dj spun “The Way You Make Me Feel.” I would like to think that what he “felt” was at least some twinge of guilt or shame. Or something, even if only all of those old repressed feelings of betrayal and resentment. But the far more likely truth is that Diane Dimond got it right (this one thing, at least) when she said all it elicited from him was an indifferent shrug. Of course, her spin would be that Gavin has moved on from the painful memories of nine years ago.

The far more likely truth is that Gavin, true to his nature, is a man who doesn’t waste much time thinking about the consequences of his actions, especially in regard to how they affect others. “Looking out for number one” is a lesson his mother Janet taught him well.

As painful as it may be to accept, the most likely response that Gavin felt to hearing “The Way You Make Me Feel” was to feel absolutely nothing at all. In all likelihood, Gavin will raise a family and have a respectable career. He will spend as little time as possible thinking about Michael Jackson, and when he does, it will be with the conviction that he was justified in his actions. But mostly, Michael Jackson, the man who stepped in and saved his life when so many other celebrities had turned his family away, will just be an unpleasant blimp on those accomplishments. Something he would probably just as soon forget if it weren’t for his good friends like Diane Dimond and Ron Zonen who continue to make him the martyr that perhaps he never wanted to be.

Michael Could Forgive Most Anything Except For A Selfish Nature. He Was Critical Of It In Himself; Even Moreso In Others.

Michael Could Forgive Most Anything Except For A Selfish Nature. He Was Critical Of It In Himself; Even Moreso In Others.

Michael could forgive most anything except a selfish nature. He was hard on that quality in himself; even harder when he perceived it in others. Could it be that Michael saw in Gavin the quality that would compel him to bite the very hand that fed him? Perhaps. Personally, I find it revolting that Gavin would have reacted the way he did to the teasing at school after Michael had saved his life. You would think he would have been willing to whale hell out of any kid who said anything about Michael. Of course, trying to predict or second guess what goes through a teenager’s mind at any time is a risky venture. Peer pressure is a power never to be under estimated. But whatever the case, it was clear that by the time all was said and done, Michael and Gavin had clearly become two parties locked in mutual hatred, distrust, and loss of respect. Perhaps they both saw in each other some qualities that were less than admirable. But keep in mind, this is not about Michael Jackson the perfect (or imperfect) human being. It is about whether he did or did not commit a crime. In the end, that is the only thing that matters.

If Michael disliked Gavin Arvizo to the point that he was actively avoiding him, then it stands to reason that he had zero interest in molesting him, at that time or any other. But we can hardly fault him if his life didn’t revolve around Gavin Arvizo. That was never his intention. It was the Arvizos who expected Michael to deliver the moon. And apparently, a rainbow and a bridge or two.

In a way, I suppose there is a kind of twisted poetic justice in Gavin’s ability to move on with his life, reducing Michael Jackson and everything he put him through to a mere blimp on his conscience. In his mind, I believe he feels totally justified in thinking this was what Michael did to him.

It’s not exactly turnabout, since the playing field is hardly even. But it seems to suit the Arvizo family logic perfectly.

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The Day Michael Gained-And Lost-A Son

Meet Brandon Howard, The Son Michael Jackson "Gained"-And "Lost-In One Crazy Day On March 6, 2014

Meet Brandon Howard, The Son Michael Jackson “Gained”-And “Lost-In One Crazy Day On March 6, 2014

It never fails. Just when I am on the verge of being ready to post a new article that I have spent weeks putting together, there is some huge breaking story in the Michael Jackson camp that forces me to “halt the presses.” This week, we had the scandal of Brandon Howard and the bogus DNA test. And this story has sure enough been a rollercoaster ride of emotions. I went from dismissing Brandon Howard casually as “just the latest fruit loop with a hand out to the estate” to actually thinking there might be something to this. After all, as the old saying goes, DNA doesn’t lie and…well, as fishy as the whole thing seemed, they were claiming this was a legit DNA test, one that had come back 99.9% positive. And as I have said before, it would not shock me in the least to think that “maybe” there is a possibility that Michael fathered other children besides the three we know to be his legal offspring. I never believed Michael was a saint. He was, in fact, someone who had been famous for most of his life, and along with all the perks of fame come women willing to do most anything just to be near you. Michael certainly sang about his fair share of those women. They’ve become the stuff of legend-Billie Jean, Dirty Diana, Susie (who crops up in more than a few songs), and so on.

A lot of fans seemed upset about the revelation, and not without justification. The whole thing was carried out in a very tacky and tasteless manner, from the whole TMZ leak to the pseudo press conference to announce the “results” on But after the initial shock of the news wore off, my mind began to settle into the idea, and I realized…not only was I not upset, but I was actually kind of tickled pink to think that maybe Michael’s little family was really a bigger one that we intially thought. I looked at the photos of Brandon. I watched the clips of his interviews. I thought I could “see” a lot of Michael in him, but perhaps the brain and the eye sees what it wants to see. I did not know what to make of Brandon’s protestations of innocence during all of this. I didn’t quite believe him. Who gives a DNA sample unless it is for the express purpose of determining a parent? But that didn’t necessarily mean his intentions were corrupt.  He said he had no intention of going after the estate for money, so the other obvious explanations are either attention or the personal satisfaction of just wanting to know the truth. However, if it had been the latter, that could have been handled privately, I am sure, without involving the press. That leaves Option #2. Still, Brandon Howard seemed like a nice enough young man and a part of me began to half embrace the idea of looking forward to getting to know this “new” son of Michael’s. Additionally, it was kind of fun to see all the collective jaws dropping around the world from all of the idiots who had so long proclaimed Michael as either an asexual virgin or a pedophile. It seemed pretty hard to argue against scientific DNA evidence, and watching all of the creative ways that many of those people were now coming up with to back pedal their way out of those claims was at least quite entertaining.

Nevertheless, the shock waves were understandable because accepting a truth like that means, to some extent, reassessing everything we thought we knew about Michael-and that goes for all sides of the camp, fans and haters as well as anyone who has allowed their heels to dig in a little too deeply in their entrenched beliefs of who Michael was. The problem for haters, as well as those who want to cling to the caricature notion of Michael as some virginal asexual being (and this mostly includes the same people who will swear up and down that he has never fathered a biological child, either because he hated his race/didn’t like sex/was afraid to be intimate with women/ only liked boys, etc etc etc) is that any “proof” of a biological child pretty much shoots down all of those theories with one, single bullet. Also, undisputable DNA evidence that Michael fathered a child would help silence that faction who continue to insist he did not father Prince, Paris, and Blanket, at the very least putting to rest any issues of fertility or unwillingness to father a child naturally.

Inevitably, Rumors Of This Sort Will Always Arise. Every Once In Awhile, They May Force Us To Reassess What We Think We Know About Michael. That Isn't Always Necessarily A Bad AThing.

Inevitably, Rumors Of This Sort Will Always Arise. Every Once In Awhile, They May Force Us To Reassess What We Think We Know About Michael. That Isn’t Always Necessarily A Bad Thing.

Michael’s fans, on the other hand, have never had issues with accepting him as a fully intact, red blooded, and functioning man. But any story of an illegitimate child stepping forth-especially now-is bound to be met with a lot of suspicion. Additionally, there are some fans who will simply never want to accept that Michael was anything less than a pure angel who would never do such a thing-that is, father a child illegitimately and just leave the girl to raise it as best she can. And in theory, it doesn’t seem to make sense. Why would a man who claimed to want children so much turn his back on his own child? Well, of course, there could be any number of reasons, all of them perfectly legit, and all worth keeping in mind (you know, just in case this sort of thing ever comes up again, which could well happen). For starters, there is always the possibility of simply not knowing (happens to guys all the time, though in Michael’s case probably rarely since it seems likely any woman with a legit claim would take advantage of it; in Michael’s case it was far more of an issue having to disprove claims that were actually false). But still, we can’t rule out ignorance as a possibility. Secondly (and far more likely) is that such matters would have been kept in struct confidentiality, with special arrangements made between Michael and the young woman to provide for the child in a way that would not draw public scrutiny. Trust me, if Michael indeed had illegitimate children, knew of them, and had drawn up such a confidentiality agreement with the mother (or mothers) it is highly unlikely to be anything the world will ever know about except for them.

Indeed, the B. Howard story had no sooner hit than the snide (and cruel) comments were already starting to infiltrate the internet (you know the ones; how “unfair” it was for Michael’s “black” son to be left out while his “white children” inherit the fortune, and so on). My first reaction to these comments (before the story was proven false) was: And how do we know that Michael wasn’t amply providing for this kid for years?

This is worth keeping in mind regardless, because Brandon Howard hasn’t been the first and may not be the last such shocker. Even though most of these so-called “love children” of MJ never get beyond the tabloid rumor stage, there is still something worth keeping in mind, knowing as we do that Michael was both a globally famous pop star and, frankly, a human being.  As much as we sometimes like to believe that we, as fans, knew Michael inside and out, the truth is that we really didn’t. For all that he lived in the center of the public eye and a media whirlwind for most of his life, Michael was also very adept at keeping secrets. That he may have had a few skeletons in his closet doesn’t shock me (and, no, I don’t mean the Elephant Man’s Bones-sorry, couldn’t resist). And no, I am not necessarily referring to anything criminal. But Michael was a man who liked to keep his casual flings private. Perhaps compartmentalizing is a much better word. Michael was very good at compartmentalizing his life. He had to be. This is a side of him that I’ve long been aware of, ever since I first began researching him in earnest. And as a youth, Michael was just as prone as any young man to making foolish mistakes. Just because he sincerely wanted a family later in life may not have meant that he was necessarily ready to settle down to fatherhood in his early twenties, at a time when his mind was still set on building his solo career.

In other words, I think that when people say things like, “Michael would never do such a thing” it doesn’t take into account either his complexity as a man, or his right to have stumbled and made some honest mistakes in his life.

Although my connection to the Jackson family is minimal, I do have a friend whose brother-in-law has known the family well for years, and I can tell you this much: The possibility that Michael does have children other than Prince, Paris, and Blanket isn’t exactly a family secret. This, of course, is coming from a family for whom “love children” are nothing out of the norm. Joe’s “extended” family has been a common knowledge secret for years, and if we look at the history of Michael’s brothers, we see that none of the Jackson boys seem to be apples who fell too far from the family tree. For several years, I had assumed these whisperings were in regard to Omar Bhatti (though Frank Cascio debunked that myth pretty thoroughly in his book) but the B. Howard story made me start to wonder.

I am quite disgusted right now with Corey Feldman for his role in all of this. Yes, he has been up to now a good friend who has staunchly defended Michael, but why would a friend knowingly partake in something that could be so detrimental to Michael’s three children? Nevertheless, Corey has known the Jackson family for years, and his comment to The Daily Mail was quite revealing:

‘It’s not been denied that he’s part of the family, we just don’t know what part of the family.”-Corey Feldman, On The Possibility of Brandon Howard As A Jackson.
Let’s keep in mind that the Jackson family men have never been especially against sharing girlfriends and even wives, as we know to be the case with Randy and Jermaine. It’s not so shocking when you consider the unique dynamics of growing up famous and surrounded by groupies, some of whom would be willing to sleep with any Jackson in hopes of working her way up to the one that might really be her chosen prize conquest-usually Jackie or Jermaine in the early days, and Michael later. Heck, girls would even sleep with Joe if they thought it might get them a step closer to one of his sons! In such an atmosphere of sexual promiscuity and dysfunction, it’s not surprising that there are quite a few “mystery” kids in the family who, truth be told, are probably not as mysterious as we, the public, have been led to believe.
"Billie Jean"...Everything From The Lyrics To The Symbolic Red Bow Tie Stated Loss Of Innocence And Moral Consequences For The Wages Of Sin

“Billie Jean”…Everything From The Lyrics To The Symbolic Red Bow Tie Stated Loss Of Innocence And Moral Consequences For The Wages Of Sin

That Michael had somewhat of an obsession with this subject is a given. Pregnant girlfreinds, those claiming “the kid is yours” and the moral consequences of giving in to the temptations of the flesh crop up in too many songs to be mere coincidence. As news of the DNA “test results” spread (notice I am putting that in quotes considering what we learned less than 24 hours later) I started to cringe as every story brought up the lines from “Billie Jean.” This is how instant cliches’ are born! Besides, the history of Billie Jean” and that song’s origins are far more complex-and less mysterious-than any of these people know. Still, we all know how often this subject cropped up in Michael’s work. “The kid is not my son/”Don’t have a baby if you can’t feed your baby”/”She’s got your baby/It happened fast.” I don’t believe that such thematic motifs’ are accidental, or coincidence. Clearly, these were issues Michael was familiar with and working through, even if on some subconscious level. He claimed much of it came from witnessing other peoples’ experiences, but it is just as possible he was also drawing on personal experience, as well. Whatever the case may be, there was a reason why this particular topic-unwanted or unplanned children, manipulative women trying to entrap him, and the consequences of sin-was something he returned to repeatedly throughout his career, but especially in the 80′s when he was most struggling with the demands of a skyrocketing fame, experimenting with newfound maturity and independence, and all while still trying to keep a foothold in the religion that had been his lifelong anchor. It’s easy to read too much into anything, but the fact that illegitmate children seemed to crop up so often in his work-or at least the accusation of being the father-at least gives some pause for thought. It seems to be an experience that he was intimately, and painfully, familiar with, so much so that even the music became a kind of catharisis for it. It sometimes seemed that Michael was cautioning an entire generation of young men to “keep it zipped” and watch out for those wily girls who promise you anything-and only end up giving you babies with “eyes like” yours. (Ironically, while advising young men to “keep it zipped” he seemed to have no qualms in “Abortion Papers” about inadvertently advising pregnant girls that they were signing their names “against the word of God” when they signed those papers. The line he sings in “Wanna Be Starting Something”-”Don’t have a baby/If you can’t feed your baby” -is not advocating abortion, as some have mistakenly claimed. Rather, he is promoting abstinence, telling women in effect that if you can’t afford to feed it, then don’t be making it).

Now keep in mind, however, this was all going through my head during a phase of roughly about 24 hours, when I still thought there just might be something to this DNA story. But a couple of things were still nagging at me. 1: Who was to say this was actually Michael’s DNA that they had supposedly extracted from this 31-year-old orthopedic device? Had the DNA been authenticated in any way as belonging to Michael? 2: How did we know that these were authentic DNA tests that had been performed, in actual DNA laboratories? All we saw at the “press conference” was  an envelope being opened, and  a guy reading off a document that, for all we knew, might have just been a blank piece of paper! (the truth, as it turned out, was even more bizarre!).

Still…the story was growing like wildfire. Every time I hit “Google” it seemed at least one more major news outlet had added the story of “DNA TEST PROVES OHIO MAN IS MICHAEL JACKSON’S LOVE CHILD” and those words “99.9% positive” stood out like glaring head beams. A kind of surreal reality began to set in for me, that this thing just might be true, after all, and if it is…what then? I could already see the global reactions setting in, millions of us, just as I said, reeling and reassessing everything we thought we knew about Michael Jackson.

Such is the media’s power, even after all of the negative things we say and are certainly aware of. With the recent hoax of the Blanket story still fresh in our minds, however, it didn’t take long to realize something just wasn’t smelling right. I kept waiting to see an official media outlet like CNN pick up the story. When they didn’t, some doubt began creeping in. TMZ, after all, appeared to be the main culprits behind this-at least, the leaking of the story, if not the bogus test itself. In other words, we can safely say that, yes, DNA doesn’t lie…except when TMZ somehow has their hands in the DNA.

Tabloids Have Had A Field Day With Comparison Photos Like This One, Showing Brandon, Michael And Augie Johnson (Right). In The End, I Don't Know How Much Such Photos Actually "Prove"..The Eye Will See What It Wants To See.

Tabloids Have Had A Field Day With Comparison Photos Like This One, Showing Brandon, Michael And Augie Johnson (Right). In The End, I Don’t Know How Much Such Photos Actually “Prove”..The Eye Will See What It Wants To See.

As I went to bed that night, at least a dozen conflicted thoughts were swirling in my mind. I was nearing completion of an article on Gavin Arvizo that I had been working on for weeks, but those plans would have to be put on hold because I knew by morning, no one in the MJ blogosphere was going to give a damn about Gavin Arvizo and old history from 2005. Everyone’s mind was going to be on Brandon Howard, even if only to ask who is he, and why now? I thought of all the reasons why I hoped the story was true, as well as all the reasons why I hoped it was not true, trying to reconcile them all in my mind. I wondered what kind of revelations would the new day bring? Part of me already dreaded the feeding frenzy that I knew this story was going to create. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Prince, Paris, and Blanket, wondering how this story would affect them. Especially with headlines like “B Howard is Michael Jackson’s Only Biological Son.” I also felt bad for Brandon’s father, Augie Johnson. In a series of increasingly desperate sounding interviews, where his reactions ranged from denial of the story to lashing out at his son, one thing came through loud and clear-hoax or no hoax, there were real people involved, people whose lives were being torn apart over this story. What should have been a private matter for this family was being treated as headline fodder for TMZ and Alki David.

‘I KNOW Brandon’s my son – I was there in the delivery room, I have the pictures of him being born. I got the records, I got everything.

‘Before me, Miki wasn’t with anyone else – she didn’t even know Michael at that time. But you know what – I love my son and he can do whatever he likes. I’m not tripping on this – I want Brandon to have a successful career.’…

‘Brandon spent a lot of time with Jackson kids over there, this was during the time when Miki and I broke up and she was hating me for a few years because we didn’t get married.’

When asked if he would be happy to take a DNA text himself, Augie said ‘Oh yeah! That’s not a problem.

‘My name is on his birth certificate, when people talk to me, I tell them the truth. I know my son- he’s got a lot of drama going on.

Brandon was once praised as the ‘reincarnation of Michael Jackson’.

However, Augie said: ‘They have these pictures with Michael and Brand on looking alike, but how can you compare my son and Michael. Michael don’t look like that – that’s not his original look.

‘Brandon just happens to be one of those kids – the wannabe Michael kids – his whole life. He loved Michael Jackson so much.

‘He wanted to look more like him and  he had a little success in Japan, that’s where this whole thing started. It became this mystery that he would never answer.

‘It’s been a plan for a long time, he wants to help his career, that’s what I believe.

‘Any kind of controversy that gets out there in the world, right now, helps.’

Miki Howard joined Side Effect as a 16-year-old singer, and asked about any romance with Michael, Augie said: ‘She was never romantically involved with Michael. He didn’t even know her.’

Now friendly again with Miki, Augie said he spoke to her today, adding: ‘Miki thinks Brandon is losing his mind!-Excerpted From The Daily Mail



In reading Augie Johnson’s words, I thought of the very thing that fans have so often said about Michael when Mark Lester, Arnie Klein, Matt Fiddes or any of the revolving door of “wanna be dads” has tried to come forth claiming to be the father of Prince or Paris or Blanket. “It takes more than just donating sperm to be a father,” we always say. Yes, indeed. And by the same argument, I think we can pretty safely say-even had the DNA test proven authentic-that “99.9% match” or not, Michael Jackson was not Brandon Howard’s father, and never was. His father was Augie Johnson, the man who apparently was at least there in his life to change an occasional diaper and wipe his runny nose. Of course, I agree with those who have said that the only parent who probably deserves real credit as both Brandon’s mom and dad is Miki Howard.

We Know That Michael Was Father To His Kids-NOT Arnie Klein, Matt Fiddes or Mark Lester. Likewise, Brandon Howard Could Never Claim Michael Jackson As A Father, No Matter How Much He Might Want It To Be True. And No Matter What Any DNA Test, Real Or Phoney, Says.

We Know That Michael Was Father To His Kids-NOT Arnie Klein, Matt Fiddes or Mark Lester. Likewise, Brandon Howard Could Never Claim Michael Jackson As A Father, No Matter How Much He Might Want It To Be True. And No Matter What Any DNA Test, Real Or Phoney, Says.

So what is the point of trying to “prove” a biological link to Michael Jackson, even if one existed? Well, we all know the answer to that one. The media just wants a story. And Brandon wants…? Well, if not money, at least the fame and notoriety. I think Augue Johnson hit the nail on the head with that one.

All day at work, I waited until I could get to a computer to see what the latest developments on the story were. It didn’t take but a quick browse on Twitter to see that the story was already being reported as one huge hoax, and boy oh boy, what a hoax it was!

I suppose the big question is: Why would Alki David and company go to such lengths to create such a hoax in the first place? Why the driving need to create a phony DNA test to link Michael Jackson to this man? The media’s handling of this entire story-as well as the public’s reaction to it-has only served to remind me of the bizarre dichotomy that exists with both the media’s and the public’s fascination with Michael Jackson. He is probably the only person I know of who is so routinely emasculated in the media-who is so often portrayed interchangeably as asexual, or as a pedophile, or as gay-and yet, by the same token, an apparent super womanizer who has secret love children all over the planet. Heck, at least one love child is guaranteed to pop out of the woodwork every few years-and oddly enough, the media never seems to have any problem swallowing the idea that Michael Jackson-who according to them had to solicit donors to father his own, legal children-must have nevertheless been quite the stud muffin when it came to making babies he evidently didn’t want. How he managed this feat while still being, apparently, afraid of women or only interested in little boys-if you believe the popular narratives-remains the biggest mystery of the last century. Scientists, philosophers, and theologians, I’m sure, are all at work trying to figure it out.

All of which goes to show that the world’s fascination with Michael Jackson’s penis-what he did and didn’t do with it, apparently-continues to be an even greater obsession than his music.

But on a more serious level, this story-just as the phony story about Blanket that surfaced recently-points to a very disturbing media trend, and shows just what depraved lengths these people will go to. It becomes easier, perhaps, to believe and understand all of those stories such as how even after routine haircuts, the hair of Michael’s children is immediatly swept up and placed in bags, so as to avoid any attempts at DNA theivery. Such stories sound rather extreme, paranoid, and highly suspect. Until we witness what transpired this week.

It’s scary as hell to think that slimeballs like Alki David are out there; people who wouldn’t think twice about conducting a “public” DNA test on Michael’s kids-and even worse, skewering the results to fit whatever agenda they want. That, for me, has been one of the scariest and most disturbing realizations of this whole event. We tend to rely on DNA tests as definitive truth. If DNA tests are now something that can be willfully fabricated, like any tabloid story, what’s to stop them from making up any lie they want; claiming parentage or not with anybody they choose; playing God with any target they decide to go after? The media, as always, will copy and paste such stories, spreading them like wildfire with no thought as to whether they are true. In this instance, the bogus story was revealed, but only because Harry Levin (for whatever personal reason, I am sure) decided to turn the cards on Alki David and And only because, in this case, the exposure of the hoax was bound to generate even more hits than the phony story.

It has been said that the movie “The Truman Show” was based on Michael’s life. Observing what transpired this week truly makes that reality hit home. If the events of this week began with forcing us to reassess what we thought we knew about Michael and his life, it ends with a surety that is exactly what we have known for years. Michael Jackson’s life continues to be a highly manipulative and profitable media sport.

But the new levels to which that sport is sinking are scary indeed.

That's Life In The MJ Blogosphere. For Sure, It Never Gets Boring!

That’s Life In The MJ Blogosphere. For Sure, It Never Gets Boring!

So…as per my post’s apt title, Michael Jackson both “gained” and “lost” a son in less than 24 hours. I am being only partly facetious. The fake story, at least for a little while, may have shaken some deeply held beliefs about Michael on all sides, for better or worse. But now that the dust is settling, what really emerges from this is the lesson it may teach us in just how depraved the media’s tactics are, the depths to which they will sink, and the desperation of the motives of those who surrounded Michael. It’s not a new lesson by any means. But if we ever needed a refresher course, boy this was it!

As for the rumors that Brandon may, in fact, be Joe’s son instead of Michael’s…well, that’s another Jackson family soap opera I will tackle some other time, some other day. Right now I just need an Excederin. Yep, it’s been one of those weeks.

And what’s even funnier…I still get people who ask me, all the time, what can there possibly be left to write every week about a guy who’s been dead for five years?

LOL. If they only knew…

Comments: 44 Comments

Michael The Music Activist Took A Stand In ’03-And Just May Have Helped Usher In The Future of Music

Michael Became A Vocal Pro-Activist For Music Artists. But Did You Know He Was Also An Activist For YOU-The Fans?

Michael Became A Vocal Pro-Activist For Music Artists. But Did You Know He Was Also An Activist For YOU-The Fans?

Remember when this headline, featured on the home page of thepiratebay website, made a splash at the height of the SOPA protests in early 2012?

“Under SOPA, you could get five years for uploading a Michael Jackson song, one year more than the doctor who killed him.”

Well, seeing as how Murray only served two of those four years of which he was convicted, shall we rephrase that to…THREE more years than the doctor who killed him?

But how did Michael himself feel about the subject of pirated music and downloading, illegal or otherwise? Many music artists have taken a hardline stance against illegal downloading and file sharing. I can’t say that I blame them, entirely. After all, much of an artist’s revenue comes from the royalties of legally purchased music. Prince, for example, has been known to even go as far as to police uploaded videos of his music on Youtube.

More Than Just A Pretty Face...A Tireless Advocate Who Didn't Mind Stirring The Pot-Or Even Biting The Hand That Fed Him.

More Than Just A Pretty Face…A Tireless Advocate Who Didn’t Mind Stirring The Pot-Or Even Biting The Hand That Fed Him.

But in an era that has found many music artists at war with what seems an increasingly turning-and futile-tide, Michael’s own views were surprisingly progressive. Then again, perhaps that shouldn’t come as any surprise to those of us who have already been long aware of Michael’s activist role in the music industry. We already knew that Michael had spoken out against racism in the industry, and worked tirelessly to restore song rights to many black artists who were often bereft of their own royalties. But did you know about this?

In 2003, two Democratic lawmakers, John Conyers and Howard Berman, had introduced The Authors, Consumer and Computer Owners Protection and Security Act. The bill, if passed, would have made it a felony offense to illegally download music.

Michael delivered a press statement that apparently packed quite a punch in the summer of 2003. If he alone was not responsible for delivering the bill’s fatal blow, he nevertheless could certainly be credited for strengthening the public opposition against it.

“I am speechless about the idea of putting music fans in jail for downloading music. It is wrong to download but the answer cannot be jail,” Jackson said in a statement. “It is the fans that drive the success of the music business; I wish that would not be forgotten.

Here in America we create new opportunities out of adversity, not punitive laws,” he said. “We should look to new technologies, like Apple’s new Itunes Music Store, for solutions. This way, innovation continues to be the hallmark of America.”

What exactly did he mean by “creat[ing} new opportunities out of adversity?" Simple. In 2003, the music industry was in a huge slump, with physical CD sales plummeting. While many blamed the new technology for the music industry's demise, there were just as many who also had the foresight to recognize it as the wave of the future-in fact, the only way to go if the industry was to survive at all. Apparently, Michael was one of those far sighted individuals who was already predicting that Apple's Itunes, as well as the digital downloading markets then being developed by Amazon and others, was the way to go, and that the industry would have to find ways to adapt to change, rather than fighting it.

Survival Would Mean Being Willing To Change With Changing Times

Survival Would Mean Being Willing To Change With Changing Times

One thing that surprised me somewhat after I discovered Michael’s 2003 comments is just how far reaching his statement became (especially impressive considering this was the year of Bashir and the Arvizo allegations). It seemed from that point forward that almost any media article on The Authors, Consumer and Computer Owners Protection and Security Act anti-piracy bill was doomed to include at least a truncated version of Michael Jackson’s vehement disapproval.

Ouch. That must have hurt John Conyers and Howard Berman aplenty. Here they are, presumably fighting the good fight for artists, and here is the King of Pop himself giving their bill the proverbial finger. Michael’s statement was loud and clear, and one that apparently shook the core of the bill’s support. “Don’t send my fans to jail for downloading my music.” It must have been especially a little unsettling for Conyers, who likewise has fought for the protection of legendary artists:

However, I think that Michael was taking a much more far sighted view of the music piracy issue. Music artists cannot exist in a vacuum. It takes both the artist who creates the music, and the fan who listens to and appreciates that music, to create the partnership-or, to be more poetic, it takes both artist and fan to create the dance.  It’s important to note that Michael never claimed he was in favor of illegal downloading (well, of course he would never have admitted as much publicly, anyway). But, obviously, he recognized that bills intended for the sole purpose of taking punitive measures against fans were not the answer. Certainly they were not the answer to what had become the music industry’s biggest conundrum in the early 2000′s. The technology was there. To think that music fans would not find ways to take advantage of it was absurd. Clearly, the music industry was going to have to change the way things were done. The digital age had arrived. Uploading and downloading-legally or illegally-was here to stay. Michael Jackson may have been one of the first major artists to recognize-or at least to speak out and say publicly-that the old way of doing things had to change. I’m sure his endorsement of Itunes, which had only recently launched, was nothing less than a juggernaut shot in the arm to the fledgling company. (For the record, Michael was a staunch supporter of Apple and Apple products).

Coming Into A New Era

Coming Into A New Era

His views are interesting when you consider the sheer wealth of bootleg Michael Jackson music, videos, and concert footage that was available while he lived, and that proliferated even more just after his death. While Youtube videos featuring Prince songs were routinely yanked as fast as they were uploaded, it was never a problem to instantly find most any Michael Jackson song freely available on the internet. This was true for many years prior to 2009. And indeed, the sheer and staggering amount of bootleg material available could only lead to one foregone conclusion-that Michael had never gone much out of his way to stop it. Perhaps there could be a number of explanations. Perhaps, in the wake of the trial, with all of the mounting lawsuits and all of the other crap he was having to deal with, he simply didn’t have the time, energy, or inclination to go all over the internet policing his own work. Perhaps, knowing how he felt about Sony and the rich record companies in his last years, he really could have cared less. Perhaps, as at least some people I know have theorized, he may well have been the very person who was responsible for “leaking” much of it.  But let’s also keep in mind that this was the man who had donated millions’ worth of royalties to various charities; the same man who had donated all of the proceeds of his record-breaking Dangerous tour to charity.

In Michael’s case,  the vast proliferation of free music and bootleg material available seemed to point to something much more than just his being too overwhelmed to care or to be bothered-or, for that matter, about making any statement to the record industry. Rather, it seemed to fall more in line with his general philanthropic principles. Art is meant to be shared. And in Michael’s case, he believed his music was a gift from God. It begs the question: How can one effectively “own” and “sell” a gift that has been merely channeled from God?

But before going too far astray with that idea, let’s have a reality check. Michael wasn’t stupid, of course. He worked hard at what he did, and he expected to be compensated for it, just as we all would. Let’s not lightly cast aside the fact that this was a man who, in 1991, successfully negotiated the most lucrative recording contract in history. Michael certainly didn’t achieve his mass wealth by giving himself away.

But deep down inside of him, he must have never completely lost touch with what it felt like to be a poor kid who maybe just wants an upbeat tune to listen to, perhaps to escape the hell that is his life, if only for five minutes. The idea of sending a kid to jail just for downloading “Beat It” is what shook Michael to the core, and spurred him to speak out. If you want to know my honest opinion, I would say hell, yes, Michael knew exactly what was out there in the pirate cyberspace world. And frankly, what he said to the world was, yes, I know it’s out there. And I don’t give a good damn if it is. Enjoy.

Ironically, it seems it has only been since his death that the iron grip has tightened considerably. I have noticed that there aren’t nearly as many Youtube clips of his songs, and the ones that are posted tend to get yanked with fair frequency. Also, the amount of available bootleg material has also accordingly diminished since 2009. And, given the views that Michael expressed in 2003, we can only imagine what he might have made of stories like these:

If Michael, speaking out in 2003 against anti-piracy laws, could have foreseen that two fans in 2012 could successfully hack his entire Sony catalog, he might have at least had a good chuckle. (Somehow I doubt he would have been either shocked, or horrified). But how’s this for compensation?

Today, Michael Jackson albums consistently rank among the top selling Itunes and Amazon items, with the Number Ones compilation alone having recently passed the 5 million mark. That’s not even counting the continued sales of classics like Thriller, Bad, Off The Wall, and Dangerous. Digital downloads count for over 50% of all music currently sold.

When Michael spoke out and took his stand against music anti-piracy laws over a decade ago, the digital downloading age was still in its infancy. Everyone suspected it would change the future of the industry, but there was no way to know for sure how it would go. Digital downloading, for sure, was either going to destroy the industry, or completely revolutionize it.  In the wake of that revolution, Michael’s words spoken a decade ago bear repeating:

“Here in America we create new opportunities out of adversity, not punitive laws.” We should look to new technologies, like Apple’s new Itunes Music Store, for solutions. This way, innovation continues to be the hallmark of America.”-Michael Jackson.

One of the greatest joys of being a Michael Jackson fan is the continuous discovery of new and unexpected things to admire about him. I had known for years that he was an unsung civil rights activist who had struck a nerve with his eloquent  speeches against racism and the treatment of artists in the industry.

But I hadn’t known until the discovery of this 2003 press statement that he was just as fiercely outspoken and protective when it came to the rights of music fans. 

For that, we should at least owe him a tip of the hat.


Comments: 21 Comments

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