Well, it looks like I’ll have to put my planned series on Michael and race on hold just a little longer in order to address what is truly the burning issue of the fan community at the moment-these latest allegations coming from Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck. This topic is going to take several days to address in full, so I think what I will do is to write as much as I can today, and will post subsequent installments as time permits throughout the week (so please plan on checking back often this week as I update).
Not that any of this is exactly news, or should be. We’ve known for over a year that a hearing would be scheduled to determine whether Robson can proceed with his civil case against the Michael Jackson estate, MJJ Productions, and MJJ Ventures. And while things had been relatively quiet on that front for some time, I knew this would change as the actual hearing date drew nearer. To be sure, Wade and his attorney have a very strategic strategy in place, and he has a few team players who are helping him with that goal (I will get to those in due course). I predicted how a lot of this would go down over a year ago. At that time, it was also hinted that other potential accusers were waiting “in the wings”-no doubt, to see how things played out with Wade’s case. In steps Jimmy Safechuck. Well, we’ve also known since at least May-when our good “friend” Diane Dimond first broke the news (on the eve of Xscape’s U.S. release, no less) that Jimmy Safechuck was joining forces with Wade. So in other words, we’ve known this shit was gonna hit for some time. It was just a matter of when. We had to know-even through all the hype over Xscape and holograms, etc-that he was only waiting, silent as a viper, in the wings. Waiting to strike again.
There is still a very good chance (in fact, a highly probable chance) that these cases will be completely thrown out. But it was inevitable that they would engage in some form of media blitz, via their willing mouthpieces, as the time approached. I don’t think anyone is particularly shocked about that. Or shouldn’t be. But what is disturbing for many, I believe, is the especially heinous nature of these very open allegations that are being made, and how/why Wade and Jimmy are being given this platform (a platform that, frankly, even Jordan Chandler and Gavin Arvizo did not have). Due process of law would seem to guarantee that these details be kept under seal until the actual hearings. Additionally, the staggeringly and ridiculously inflated sum of money that Robson is now seeing (1.6 BILLION) is, if nothing else, bound to generate media interest in this case. One might think, whoa, this certainly LOOKS big and scary, with the bully bantam rooster flexing his wings and threatening to break the entire Michael Jackson empire. But here is the stone cold reality: Even IF he gets a trial, and even IF (god forbid) he’s awarded money, he’s not going to get anywhere near 1.6 billion. It is a strategy, just like Katherine’s civil case against AEG, to throw out the highest imaginable figure in hopes that some lower figure-any figure at all-will stick. In other words, it’s a huge bluff to see if the estate will flinch-and bite. On the other hand, Robson and Safechuck might do well to take a hint from DA Walgreen that the more reasonable you keep your charges and expectations, the more likely you are apt to come out with a favorable verdict. However, it is a more common practice in civil cases to ask for as much as possible even if the the far more likely possibility is that the plaintiff will actually receive far less. And that, of course, is in the event that the case is even decided in their favor. Criminal cases depend too much on the ability to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Civil cases are not nearly as stringent. In a civil case, the plaintiff need only convince the judge or jury via a reasonable “preponderance of the evidence.”
But all of this combined-from the ridiculously over-the-top accusations, to the inflated figure, to the very specific media outlets that are giving Wade and Jimmy this platform-make for an interesting conspiracy that smells too rotten to be ignored. Could it be possible that there IS truly something rotten…Down Under?Well, I will ponder that idea in more depth in the next few days. For the moment, since these allegations have forced us once again to consider the nature of Michael’s relationships with children, that is where I would like to start. Firstly, for anyone interested in the history of how Michael got to know Wade Robson, you can check out my earlier posts in the series on him:
I have not written much, if anything, on Jimmy Safechuck, though now that he has joined the ranks of accusers, I may get more into his history in time. For now, I am just focusing on keeping this very generalized as it pertains to all of the kids who were frequently seen in Michael’s company. I have written on this topic before, but there were still some things at the time that I was not able to delve as deeply into as I would have liked. The big question that so many have, especially those who are new to discovering MJ or have had only a casual interest and knowledge, is: What the heck WAS up with all of those kids, if it was indeed innocent in nature?
Well, for those of us who are fans and have studied not only Michael Jackson’s life and art but also his philanthropic, spiritual, and religious beliefs, none of it is a mystery. But I do think it goes beyond such simplistic explanations as “He didn’t have a childhood” or “He was just a big kid himself.” For the record (and I have said this before) I have never bought completely into the “lost childhood” myth, and certainly not as a way of excusing all of Michael’s behavior. Let me clarify. When I say it does not excuse “all” of his behavior, is this intended to imply guilt of criminal behavior? Absolutely not. In fact, I KNOW that Michael Jackson was a human being who strove to maintain the best ideals he had for himself, and for all humanity-including children. This was a man who DID save hundreds of children’s lives (both directly as a result of his actions, and indirectly as a result of the many millions of dollars he contributed to organizations and charities). This was a man who DID cry for all the pain and suffering that children of the world endured (and continue to endure as we speak). And, yes, he DID bear a lot of scars from his traumatic childhood. If anyone has doubts , they should go back and listen to Conrad Murray’s recording, where a very drugged Michael, with his guard completely down, says in no uncertain terms, “I didn’t have a childhood…I hurt.”
That recording, controversial as it was due to the circumstances under which it was recorded, tells us quite clearly-if anyone ever had an ounce of doubt- that, for Michael, this was no act he put on for the media. It was a constant pain inside of him, so deep that I don’t think any of us can ever completely fathom its depths, or the extent to which it impacted every aspect of his adult life. I have heard some say-even Lisa Marie Presley, his own wife-”Lots of people have a bad childhood. Get over it already.” Here is the problem, though, and it goes back to one of the first and primary rules of psychiatry. It is not up to us-any of us-to invalidate someone else’s pain or emotions. Every individual’s experience, and how they cope/react to it, is unique to that individual, and has validity. Anything less is the crudest form of insensitivity, on a par with telling a person who is grieving when it’s time to “snap out of it.” In other words, it is not up to us to judge whether Michael Jackson reacted appropriately or inappropriately, or whether he coped appropriately or inappropriately, to the traumas of his childhood. Those experiences; those emotions; those traumas (whatever they consisted of) were uniquely his own. And yes, while there is such a thing as “wallowing in victimhood” (and we are perfectly free whether we wish to indulge it or not) we absolutely must consider how Michael was being judged on a magnitude beyond anything that the average person has to endure.
But that doesn’t mean that there was no calculation whatsoever behind these relationships. Michael was, simply put, creating a myth for himself. I have heard people question what was up with all of those little boys wearing his outfits, and being made up to look just like him? This is an important point to address, since this has surfaced among the many more sinister allegations that Jimmy Safechuck has leveled. And while there are certainly more serious charges to address, it is a good starting point because “appearances” -i.e., what the public saw and certain patterns of behavior that were starting to be picked up by the media-is at the root of all of this, at least in the sense of placing in the public imagination the idea that “something odd” was going on.
Well, the truth was obvious and two fold. On the one hand, those kids idolized Michael Jackson, and in the 80′s and early 90′s nothing was more cool than to be able to dress “just like Michael.” Michael Jackson had a unique style, and as so ironically happens, the more unique the style, the more it attracts its throngs of imitators. Those kids idolized him and wanted to be just like him, his mirror image, in every respect. On Michael’s end, he encouraged this behavior probably for many reasons. For starters, I’m sure it stoked his ego, and I think he purposely courted a kind of myth for himself as a Pied Piper (or Peter Pan, if you will) whom kids would naturally flock to, and emulate. Let’s face it, he loved the idea of having all those little “mini me’s” surrounding him. It made for good copy, and the P.T. Barnum aspect of Michael could never resist good copy. Part of the problem, however, was that this seemingly rather eccentric behavior-as the public saw an increasing entourage of little “mini Mikes” accompanying him on tours and other public appearances-also came on the heels of fake but “bizarre” stories of sleeping in hyperbaric chambers and purchasing Elephant Man bones. In other words, the perfect groundwork was being laid for the idea in the public consciousness of Michael Jackson as someone who was, at best, weird and strange. It would not take much push beyond that to also view him as capable of sinister deeds. Of course, allegations of sexual misconduct against children are sinister, and it’s perfectly fair to say that it was the first, actual accusations made against him by Jordan Chandler which officially rendered everything that had heretefore seemed merely eccentric or “just Michael being Michael” into something sinister. For the most part. However, as I have discussed in depth on this blog before (and as many other MJ writers have also concluded) it was in the seeds of those very “harmless eccentricities” that a lot of the fire was fueled that sped a gullible public’s willingness to swallow those accusations without question. It all goes back to the adage of, “Who is really the one most apt to be a child molestor? The weird old guy down the street, or the upstanding businessman next door? Or dear, sweet Uncle Bob? It should be no big shocker that either the upstanding businessman OR dear, sweet Uncle Bob are far more likely candidates. But many in their naivety of actual child predators or how they operate will quickly and instinctively point fingers to the weird guy down the street.
Michael Was Creating A Myth
But it is also too easy to brush it off as merely ego, or the idea of Michael creating a larger-than-life Peter Pan myth. Indeed, it goes much deeper. In her excellent essay “Black and White and Proud” Barbara Kaufmann describes it as Michael’s belief in “Kid Power” and the “Kid Power” cultural message, citing the “silent and untapped” ability within children to “change the world”-something that Michael was keenly and intuitively aware of.
However idealistic or even naive his intentions, Michael did genuinely feel himself to be on a crusade. Through years of stardom and money and all of the superficial values that fame and riches represent, he agonized over what his true life’s mission must be. There clearly had to be more:
“A faint suspicion came to me, one that had never dawned so clearly before. What if that one in the mirror isn’t me? He feels separate. He sees problems “out there” to be solved. Maybe they will be, maybe they won’t. He’ll get along. But I don’t feel that way-those problems aren’t “out there,” not really. I feel them inside me…”-Michael Jackson, excerpted from “That One In The Mirror,” Dancing The Dream.
An excellent point was raised by someone on my Twitter timeline, and I think this is a good place to address it because part of the answer to this question ties in exactly to this idea and the whole “Kid Power” myth that Michael began to perpetuate more and more as the 80′s decade faded into the 90′s-the decade that would really see most of his problems begin. The question (sarcasm fully intended, of course) was: Did Michael suddenly become a pedophile in the 90′s? He became an adult in 1976. How come there were no accusations in the 70′s and 80′s? That is an excellent question. From a fan and “defender” perspective, it makes perfect sense. However, I can also say that I know exactly how the haters would come back and respond to that one. So let’s address it from both angles (it is important, after all, to understand their perspective in order to refute it). The obvious answer, of course, would be that, since Michael was NOT a pedophile, the reason no accusations surfaced in the 70′s and 80′s would be because there were no such accusations to report, and never were. But that’s not an answer that will satisfy skeptics, so let’s move on. The more likely reason is that, obviously, he was simply not worth going after as a target until all of the conditions and circumstances that culminated by the early 1990′s made it feasible. The simple truth is that no one cared enough to go after him as a target until, obviously, he was the richest and most powerful man in the business, and that makes perfect sense. The higher and mightier, the harder the fall-and all the more perks that can be gleaned from that fall. In the late 70′s his star was actually on the decline until the release of The Wiz and Off The Wall put him on the map again. There simply wasn’t as much incentive to go after him, nor was there really any viable reason why such a charge might stick or be remotely believable. He was still, in the public mind, “Little Michael” from The Jackson 5, whose reputation was about as pure as driven snow gets.
The Bad Era Truly Represented Michael “Coming Into His Own” As An Adult, One Who Was Now Fully Independent And In Total Control Of His Life. Unfortunately, It May Also Have Marked The Beginning Of The End.
Enter the 1980′s. Thriller becomes the biggest selling album of all time, and Michael’s star-as well as his net worth-shoots into the stratosphere. But despite this, he is still-at least for a couple of years post-Thriller, a “puppet” of the industry. While this may have had its drawbacks in terms of holding him down, it means there is still a hard shell of protection around him that is mostly implacable to the corruptive forces and vultures who will soon come sweeping down. He is a superstar, but still not completely his own entity. He still tours as a member of The Jacksons. He continues to live at home with his parents (which is maybe not a bad thing, seeing as how it restricts the people he can actually allow into his life). Michael had his share of legal woes and bubbling-just-under-the-radar scandals even then, but they were usually of the same ilk as most popular young male entertainers, paternity suits and things of that order. His acquisition of the ATV catalog, at mid decade, is what seriously starts to change the rules of the game. By the time of the Bad album, he is solidified not only as a solo act but as a “brand.” He is also (understandably) just a little drunk with some of his newfound wealth and freedom. He can call his own shots. He has severed ties with his mother’s religion. He has his own digs-nearly three thousand acres’ worth. By 1990, he has signed the most lucrative recording contract in history. In many crucial ways, I think that what we start to witness of Michael during this phase is akin to a kind of late blooming of adolescence. His behavior during this period was on a par with what we usually see in much younger performers who have suddenly acquired wealth, fame, and power. (Think Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus, maybe right before their behavior became so scandalous, or the excesses of most rock stars who usually acquire their fame in their early to mid twenties). Michael was nearly thirty by this point, and although he was certainly not new to wealth or fame, his life as a child star and as a member of a successful family group meant that until that point, he had known little in the way of actual independence. The song that baby sister Janet sang-”Control”-could have just as easily been Michael’s new theme song as well. This created a heady brew, and I think it would be naive to assume that this had no impact or bearing on him at all. Indeed, it must have felt quite exhilarating to finally have arrived at this pinnacle. In Michael’s case, the excesses did not so much manifest themselves in the usual pop star ways-lavish spending, parties, drugs and sex-but with the newfound freedom he had to fully explore his artistic vision and the kind of myths which he wished to create. Thus, I think it is why we finally see, during this phase, the full coming to fruition of what Barbara Kaufmann so aptly described as his belief in “Kid Power” and its ability to bring about world change. From that point forward, freed from the last vestiges of his Jackson family fame, he sought to “make himself over” in his new image. From this point forward, everything would be larger-than-life, bigger, better, and bolder. So one can imagine that if part of his modus operandi was to bring to light the idea of “Kid Power” and its possibilities, he was going to make it the loudest and boldest statement possible. We certainly can’t say Michael ever did anything halfway.
I stated that I know exactly how the haters and objective critics will spin this, as they have already done, over and over. They like to portray a much more sinister and Machiavellian view of Michael during this late 80′s/early 90′s phase, as someone who was simply growing bolder and bolder in “flaunting” his “perversions” to the world. And in some ways, the very scenario I have depicted-of Michael as a young, newly emancipated and powerful man who was finally free to indulge his every whim, both personally, professionally and creatively-is one that would certainly not appear, on the surface, at least, to completely contradict that view. But in the end, a lot of it simply comes down to whether one wants to look at it from a pure minded view, or a jaded and cynical one. I am convinced that the only thing Michael was guilty of “flaunting” was, perhaps, a very big ego coupled with a naive belief that he could actually “dare to be different” and go against the norm of societal expectations without expecting that there were bound to be some consequence; some form of backlash.
This Pepsi ad from 1988 featuring Jimmy Safechuck (which ironically at the time was my favorite of all Michael’s Pepsi commercials) played on the idea of Michael as a hero that every kid in the 80′s wanted to emulate:
Michael was genuinely beloved by kids everywhere (and still is today!). One only has to look at all the thousands of kids who are still constantly imitating his moves and dressing like him; or the joy on their faces when they hear his music or watch Thriller. Michael capitalized on that love in a way that was, by turns, both calculated and genuine, as a means of fulfilling his “Kid Power” vision. But also, I think kids sensed in him that he was not phony; that he genuinely loved THEM as much as they loved him. Or as Michael himself would say, “I love you more.” It was always (and still is) a reciprocal relationship that children all over the world connected and responded to.
Kids Adored Him Then. They Still Do Today!
Unfortunately, we live in a jaded world where, too often, we have seen many of our most beloved children’s heroes and mentors tainted by scandal, from “Pee Wee Herman” getting caught masturbating in an adult theater to the more recent posthumous allegations against Jimmy Saville. In the aftermath of so many actual cases where popular children’s idols have proven to be pedophiles or perverted in other ways (since I used the Pee Wee Herman example) , the cynicism and skepticism becomes easier to understand. Additionally, we have to understand that many know only the broadest and most distorted view of how Michael’s relationships with children have been portrayed. This most recent media smear campaign, unfortunately, will do little to alleviate this misunderstanding, and is only serving to further muddy the waters-quite literally, I might add. However, if it’s any comfort, I do believe that a lot of fans are needlessly overreacting to it. Not surprisingly, we pay more attention to this stuff than the average person because, for obvious reasons, it matters more to us. And, weirdly enough, there is another group at the opposite end of the spectrum whom it matters to as well- the haters. But beyond the tabloids and Hollywood gossip sites, I haven’t seen that much interest generated by these latest allegations. It’s not on the front page of CNN news; it’s not trending on Twitter; Nancy Grace isn’t shouting about it. Granted, that may change IF Robson and Safechuck are allowed to move forward with a trial, but right now, this is just a lot of hot air hooey and a lot of chest puffing designed to bluff the estate and make them sweat a bit before the hearings-and perhaps, as a bit of a macabre side note, to make the fan base squirm as well. But keep in mind no amount of publicity and no amount of campaigning their case to the media will have any bearing on the due process of law. The court, ultimately, will be the one that determines if they actually have enough grounds to proceed. But as I’ve said before, the stakes of this trial are going to have relatively little interest for the media aside from whatever salacious details can be gleaned from it. Civil trials, in general, are less interesting than criminal ones, and in this case the accused is already dead, so it’s not like there is going to be the guaranteed ratings bonanza of a possible conviction (this, more than anything, was what generated so much interest in the 2005 trial). Both the AEG trial and even the Conrad Murray death trial barely registered with the public, although both were reported. However, I guarantee that you will be hard pressed to find anyone other than the hardcore fans who could actually tell you anything that came out of either trial. I still find people every day who never even realized that Murray was convicted! Those trials, too, promised lots of salacious details about Michael’s personal life (though, granted, I think any accusation of child sex abuse concerning him will always generate more media coverage than the tragic details of his demise). All the same, however, the stakes simply aren’t as high. Michael Jackson is dead, so he can’t be criminally charged or convicted. Wade and Jimmy are grown-ass men, not little boys, and while there may be some professed sympathy from the pseudo “victim support” faction (most of which I suspect are phony in their case, anyway) it’s simply not the same as when the case involves someone who is still a child, and thus still vulnerable.
Moreover, not only are Wade and Jimmy grown-ass men, but it is well known that they are grown-ass men who gave sworn testimony that they were never abused, and did so freely of their own accord AS adults. And please, spare me all the arguments of Stockholm syndrome, etc. I am very well versed in the psychology of child abuse victims. I am very well aware that the Stockholm syndrome exists (although in this case I call bullshit on it) but all of that is beside the point. I am talking about how it looks from a legal standpoint, as well as how it has deflected much of the public sympathy that these two might have had. From what I can see, none of this (at least so far) has made any dent on the Michael Jackson brand, which is a far cry from how the public reacted in 2005. Xscape is still selling as well as ever; the Immortal shows are still packing them in every night, and just this week, So You Think You Can Dance? (a show that Wade Robson has strong affiliations with) announced a Michael Jackson themed show that will serve as the official launching premier of the new single A Place With No Name. As some have already been quick to point out, if this isn’t a snub directly in Wade’s face, I don’t know what is.
Even though it is the haters’ greatest wish, and the goal of this current conspiracy, all attempts to turn Michael Jackson into the “next Jimmy Saville” or the “next Jerry Sandusky” or to even remotely paint him into that corner have so far proven futile. He remains a beloved performer whose fan base and legacy continues to grow rather than diminish, and for whom the loyalty and resolve of those who love him only seems to strengthen with every adversity. Overall, there seems to be a general consensus among the public that Michael Jackson the man is gone, and that his life (however he lived it) and his legacy (however he made it) has been done. Most are content at this point to enjoy what he left us, and to leave whatever sins he may have committed on this earth to God’s judgement. What I have seen overall is a general jadedness and even disgust with what Wade and Jimmy are trying to do-from average citizens to celebrities, most are saying, “Enough already.”
The General Consensus Of The Public, Now That He Is Gone, Seems To Be: Let’s Just Be Content To Enjoy What He Left Us. Anything Beyond That Is In God’s Hands Now.
But to get back to the question of why no allegations before 1993, it’s more a case of the fact that there was no high profile interest in such incidents prior to the 1990′s. Diane Dimond and others have hinted at vague and unproven pre-1990 incidents, such as the one Dimond recounts in her 2005 book Be Careful Who You Love of a Mexican gardener for the Jacksons who allegedly had two sons and to whom Michael allegedly wrote a substantial check (which Diane claims enabled the family to move back to Mexico). All of this information came from a typically unnamed source-”The Mormon”-who had supposedly gone to the FBI with the information. The FBI followed through, but there was simply nothing to go on, and the investigation was closed. Also, Victor Guiterrez was already on his one-man mission to “out” Michael Jackson as a pedophile long before 1993-and long before Evan Chandler came into the picture. You can read more about Guiterrez and his “mission” in the links I posted to my previous series, especially Parts 4 and 5. You may also be interested to check out some of the reader comments below this post, where some of my fellow astute MJ researchers have pointed out the connection to “The Mormon” and Victor Guiterrez.
We also have to keep in mind that it was during the early 1990′s when the “witch hunt hysteria” against suspected child molestors reached its peak with the McMartin Preschool trial and other day-care cases, which even Wikipedia refers to as a “moral panic.” In this atmosphere, no one was truly safe from false accusation. No one was immune. I think what we can safely surmise from this is that a combination of unique factors-as well as a very interesting cast of characters-were already laying the groundwork that would ultimately culminate in making Michael a very vulnerable target by the time of the Chandler extortion. But it was the resultant publicity and settlement of that case which really opened the floodgates. Since that time, there have been a number of fake cases and “phantom victims” that have been concocted against Michael Jackson, either for attention or with the hope of some kind of pay out. Here are just a few of the more well known “scams” and scammers who tried to concoct phony child abuse sex cases against Michael.
Why have so many tried this? You would think they would know full well that they needed real evidence to make a case stick. But I think the answer is in the unique reality of the Michael Jackson cases. Partly because of Michael’s reputation, and the all too eager participation of the media in helping to create that reputation-it became easy to make a gullible public believe most anything about Michael Jackson. You can see for yourself how in the case of the Canadian ring (the first video) that Diane Dimond is only too ready to go the Canadian police with the bogus story, and it is only after the teenager confesses it’s a hoax that she back pedals on this plan.
Any story about him was at least guaranteed to give the perpetrator a windfall from going to the tabloids. I think most knew full well that their concocted stories would never hold up under the scrutiny of a court, but there was always the hope that if they created enough stir in the media that they might exert some sort of pressure for a settlement offer. And even if not, they could still line their pockets quite handsomely just from the tabloids and TV appearances alone. In other words, it didn’t take long for a kind of black market to spring up around the idea of accusing Michael Jackson-of anything. The tragedy is that death hasn’t stopped it. In fact, due to the lack of protection against defamation for the dead, it has actually increased. After all, Michael Jackson cannot answer any charges made against him now. He cannot defend himself.
Just Ask Kenya How Much Michael Jackson Loved Having Poop On His Floor!
Case in point: Just this week, claims surfaced from three conveniently unnamed maids who supposedly worked at Neverland in the 90′s, There was no point whatsoever to the article except to claim that Michael’s house was filthy, and to add the obligatory bizarre streak, often smeared with feces (?) and that he, apparently, pissed whereever the urge hit. Granted, NONE of this had anything whatsoever to do with the allegations of Wade and Jimmy, yet it doesn’t take much brain wattage to conclude that it’s all either a very calculated part of the plan or, at least, a case of shit feeding off of shit (pun fully intended). These smear campaigns tend to snowball and take on a life of their own once they get started. And even when you have stories like this which have nothing to do with the allegations, they are nevertheless obviously intended to paint a picture of the individual-in this case, reinforcing the idea of abnormality and “freakishness”. In turn, such stories create a perception of the person in the public consciousness. “Gee, this guy was so weird I wouldn’t put anything past him.”
Anyway, why I bring this up now is because not only has at least one Neverland maid stepped forward to refute this ridiculous story, but also has confirmed (again!) a fact that I have heard over and over from Michael’s friends and those who knew him, that all at various times have been offered large sums of money to dish dirt.
The fact is, even if Michael wasa slob (and yes, I have seen the pics of the Carolwood bathroom as well as the piles of junk he hoarded at Neverland), my reaction has always been, So what? I mean, what are we supposed to take from that? Last time I checked, it wasn’t a crime. (And besides, if these women were hired as maids, wasn’t it supposed to be their damned job to clean up the mess? I mean, seriously, how could Neverland be so filthy if the maids were doing their job? Michael must have had a knack for hiring some of the laziest employees in the business!). These stories, obviously, are not meant to serve any purpose except as a kind of embarrassment to the subject. As we have discussed previously in comments exchanged on this blog, the titillation is in the thrill of “outting” someone’s “secrets.” That is what the celebrity gossip industry thrives on.
Adding in the needlessly scatalogical elements and the idea of someone urinating openly in their own home was purely for shock value, to put him on a par with a wild animal or something sub human. What person in their right mind is going to urinate in the very space that they live and breathe in? Not to mention, the “poop” stories are absolutely absurd and we have proof of that in the bodyguards’ book Remember The Time. Memory jog: When did Whitfield and Beard say was the only time they ever really saw Michael furious with Prince? Hmmm? Yep, that’s right-when he stepped in the “gift” left by Kenya (the children’s Lab) on the garage floor. Prince not only received a very severe verbal dressing down, but was ordered to clean up the mess and thereafter, was a lot more vigilant about his responsibilities. This certainly doesn’t sound like the reaction of someone who “loved” poop so much that he kept his own house smeared with it.
Anyway, enough of that bs and I would not even find such a story worth mentioning except for the fact that it highlights exactly what I’m talking about here. Like I said, such stories may not be as bad as tales of anal rape, but they all to some degree serve their collective purpose, if enough of them keep piling on.
Fans have no legal recourse, and it is left mostly to his estate and family to pick up the slack-and, quite frankly, I don’t think either have done a stellar job on that front. (Just keeping it real here). To his credit, Taj Jackson has recently launched a Twitter attack against the tabloids, but it would be nice if more of them would speak up-that is, to speak up and truly defend, not just to give the same weak responses they always do. But what are some other factors that have made Michael Jackson, in particular, so vulnerable to these accusations?
There has grown up around Michael a myth of someone who was, at the very least, a “boy lover” (a term often reserved for homosexual men with a predilection for very young boys, which may or may not necessarily be sexual in nature, but does usually denote a connotation of desired intimacy). On the surface, it is certainly easy to understand how and why this myth has taken hold. Michael certainly always “seemed” to have the company of a lot of young male friends around-and all of the accusers have been male. But I’m going to propose something here quite shocking. Michael had no sexual interest in boys. Period. In fact, that was the very reason he made sure-especially in public settings-that it was boys he was seen with, and not girls (though media manipulation has had a lot to do with this perception through the years as well-just look at how many photos you see where the boys’ sisters and mothers, etc., have been cropped out of the pics so as to make it look as though it is only Michael and the boy!).
A great and well known example of a photo that has often been manipulated by the media. The full shot shows Michael carrying Lily Chandler in his arms, with Jordan walking beside them. But media outlets almost always chop the pic so that it looks as if it is only of him and Jordan!
If anything, Michael used the boys as a smokescreen. Why? Because he preferred the myth he was creating as the innocent and magical Pied Piper to the typical, pop star “horn dog” image, and because-in what has to be one of the great ironies of history-he felt safer and less apt to be judged in their company. As I have said before, Michael was from the old school era which had taught him that an adult male’s place-if he was going to be in the company of kids-was with kids of the same gender. He would have considered it far more improper to have girls sleeping in his room, or traveling with him-even though they often did in the company of their brothers and parents. However, we have to remember that Michael was raised in an era long before the current politically correct standard, in which same sex adults sharing a room with a child could still be viewed as inappropriate. Case in point: When I was a little girl, I thought nothing of being in the bathroom with my mother or grandmother as they bathed, or in the bedroom with them as they dressed. That was normal and natural. But it would have certainly felt very abnormal and weird to be in the bathroom with my father or grandfather, or to be in the bedroom with them when they dressed. Wade’s sister Chantal Robinson said-in her own words, coming from her own mouth-that she felt “uncomfortable” sharing a bed with Michael and that was why she discontinued staying in his room. She was never at any time asked or ordered to leave, but the general consensus from all parties seemed to be that it was not the proper place for a female child.
The truth is that the displays of affection that Michael lavished on these boys-and which even now, questionable “witnesses” are attempting to use against him-was the kind of affection that he lavished equally on children of both sexes. Here is an obvious example, with this video footage that recently surfaced of Michael and Sage Romero: I have seen video footage where it may appear, on first glance, that Michael’s displays of affection may seem a bit “excessive” by most peoples’ standards-he definitely believed in giving hugs and kisses!-but Michael also said that he would never deny any child what he himself had been so denied growing up. Physical but innocent affection-hugs and kisses-were what he most longed for from his own father. Yet I think these displays of affection are what many sick minds have tried to twist into something more-if the price or incentive was right. It doesn’t take much connecting of the dots to figure, for example, how people like the Quindoys- upon perhaps witnessing an innocent hug given by Michael to Macaulay Culkin-managed to transform that hug into a “groping” outside the pants and then-as the dollar price for their story increased-quickly became a case of groping “inside” the pants. And I’ve always suspected that the alleged nonsense over his “head licking” of Gavin Arvizo probably stemmed from some stupid jerk who witnessed nothing more than an affectionate kiss on the head (a gesture Michael was prone to do, including with his own kids).
Michael essentially had two distinctly different modes when he was around kids, depending on their age. Unfortunately, both have been used against him for the wrong reasons, without any serious attempt to put either in their proper context, and often in the process creating contradictions that even the accusers and haters trip all over themselves trying to keep straight. I mean, really, was he encouraging young boys to hate girls, or actively encouraging them to get turned on by watching them perform explicit sexual acts? It can’t work both ways, although I think I can shed some light on how/why some of these myths have taken hold. One myth that has grown up around Michael is the idea that he despised girls and encouraged small boys to feel likewise. Yet this is not borne out by any actual footage or evidence that we see of Michael interacting with kids at Neverland (granted, what we see is usually what Michael wanted us to see-I will go ahead and beat the haters to that punch!-but there are also far more logical reasons to debunk this nonsense). Where a lot of this myth originated-and has continued to be perpetuated over and over as part of the haters’ propaganda-is from an alleged list of “six wishes” that Michael reportedly told Jordan Chandler to repeat every day. Well, this “list” originated from Victor Guiterrez’s fantasy novel “Michael Jackson Was My Lover” (so that fact alone should tell you of its credibility) I have yet to actually see a produced copy of this “list”; however, I tend to believe the mantra probably did exist, as its wording and phrasing is very similar to words and phrases Michael tended to use-but obviously, in Guiterrez’s hands, they became twisted completely out of context:
“NO wenches, bitches, heifers or hoes (whores). NEVER give up your “bliss” (sex acts). LIVE with me in Neverland forever. NO conditioning. NEVER grow up. BE better than best friends forever (lovers)”-Excerpted from Michael Jackson Was My Lover by Victor Guiterrez.
I left the above passage completely unaltered from Guiterrez’s version for a reason, so that you can see just how he manipulated the meaning and intent of the tenets within the context of a dirty, perverted mind. Everything in parenthesis from that passage are HIS words and additions (not Michael’s).
First of all, Michael most emphatically did NOT use the word “bliss” as a code word for something sexual. He meant it exactly in the same context that he wrote in his poem “Are You Listening?” from Dancing The Dream:
Are You Listening ?
Who am I?
Who are you?
Where did we come from?
Where are we going?
Whats it all about?
Do you have the answers?
Immortalitys my game
From Bliss I came
In Bliss I am sustained
To Bliss I return
If you dont know it now
Its a shame
Are you listening?
This body of mine
Is a flux of energy
In the river of time
Eons pass, ages come and go
I appear and disappear
In the twinkling of an eye
I am the particle
I am the wave
Whirling at lightning speed
I am the fluctuation
That takes the lead
I am the Prince
I am the Knave
I am the doing
That is the deed
I am the galaxy, the void of space
In the Milky Way
I am the craze
I am the thinker, the thinking, the thought
I am the seeker, the seeking, the sought
I am the dewdrop, the sunshine, the storm
I am the phenomenon, the field, the form
I am the desert, the ocean, the sky
I am the Primeval Self
In you and I
Pure unbounded consciousness
Truth, existence, Bliss am I
In infinite expressions I come and go
In the twinkling of an eye
But immortalitys my game
Ever the same
From Bliss I came
In Bliss I am sustained
Join me in my dance
Please join me now
If you forget yourself
Youll never know how
This game is played
In the ocean bed of Eternity
Stop this agony of wishing
Play it out
Dont think, dont hesitate
Curving back within yourself
Just create just create
Immortality’s my game
From Bliss I came
In Bliss Im sustained
To Bliss I return
If you dont know it now
Its a shame Are you listening?
This reference to bliss is clearly in the theological sense of the word, as a biblical “place” or state of being (usually defined as “Heaven” and associated with the joys of the biblical Heaven) but, as has been well documented on this site and from many other great sources on Michael-both scholarly and popular-Michael redefined his personal definition of “Bliss” after his break from the strict doctrines of the Jehovah’s Witness faith to a more immanent view that included the (for him) revelatory belief that “Bliss: could exist on earth, in the here and now. It did not have to be some abstract concept, dependent upon some idea of an abstract place and an abstract God. This could be interpreted a number of ways in the tenet, but its most likely definition-given that Michael was addressing it to a child-was to not give up on what makes you happy. Keep to your dreams.
To even attempt to twist such an idea into something sexual is in itself the height of perversity. Additionally, there is no proof that the tenet “Be better than best friends forever” is meant to be construed as “being lovers.” Really, it carries no deeper meaning than two boys cutting their palms so that they can become “blood brothers.”
But what I really want to focus on-because it has been so conveniently used by haters to “prove” their agenda of Michael as a boy lover who hated girls-is the first tenet.
As I’ve said, Michael was able to compartmentalize his child empathy to fit the mental and physical ages of the children he was around. When he was around a group of kids aged 7-12 or so, he could easily be one of the “Lost Boys.” What are boys of that age group, before the hormones of puberty hit, largely interested in? Well, they are interested in sports and video games, “snails and puppy dog tails,” etc as the old saying goes but the one thing they most definitely are NOT interested in is girls. This is the height of the “girls have cooties” stage, and it is simply one of the rites of passage of boyhood. Does anyone remember Dennis The Menace, and how he hated Margaret (for no good reason except she was a “creepy girl” and “icky?”). This was an idea that was epitomized by Our Gang (The Little Rascals) in the film, “The He-Man Woman Haters’ Club” in which Spanky and Alfalfa form a club where no girls are allowed. Of course, the plot hinged on the fact that Alfalfa would be tempted by the “seductress” Darla Hood into betraying his fellow club members. To her credit, even our nemesis Desiree from the “Desiree Speaks” blog recognized and had to concede this connection.
I don’t necessarily condone referring to women as “wenches, bitches, heifers and hos” but if one looks at the tenet in context, it is really nothing more than a variant on the idea of the “He-Man Woman Haters’ Club” and a reference to this very innocent phase of boyhood, something that Michael would have understood implicitly. It could also be a kind of way of advising, “Don’t let any girl bring you down” because, usually, the most crushing thing any adolescent boy can endure is that first heartbreak inflicted by a girl.
My bottom line: This is NOT some proof that Michael had an agenda to turn boys against girls. If anything, it only shows that he understood how little boys think. It’s an age of innocence that passes all too quickly, never to return again. Michael understood that.
YET here is where it gets complicated. Often, the very same accusers (and haters) who try to claim that Michael’s modus operandi was to turn them against girls are, ironically, the same ones who will claim that Michael used straight pornography to entice them. There are stories after stories of him making crude jokes about girls in front of the boys and things of that nature. But we can see already how this paints a very contradictory picture. Did he want them to hate girls, or did he want them to be turned on by women so that he could get some perverse, vicarious pleasure from it? They seem to want it both ways, but it doesn’t work that way.
I have said that Michael was able to compartmentalize his relationships with children. Michael had many very young friends, but his method of conduct around them was very different from the way he interacted with older, adolescent boys (aged 13 and up). What I am about to say may be controversial, and it may offend some. For that, I will apologize in advance. But I have never held to the belief that Michael was some kind of saint, or anything more or less than a flawed human being, even if albeit a very talented human being with many wonderful qualities. But bear in mind, that doesn’t make him a saint. And I have said before that part of exonerating Michael as a criminal may mean accepting certain human flaws that, while they may paint his character in a less than pristine light, may be necessary in order to understand why he was NOT a criminal. If that makes sense. Bear with me.
It’s no secret that Michael kept a lot of pornography. A lot. The trial pretty much made that fact open record, so there is no point in being shy about it. Don’t get me wrong, I feel genuinely embarrassed for Michael that this stuff was ever made public record, and yes, I feel a sense of shame that I know far more about this very private aspect of Michael’s life than I should. But the pornography that was found-while excessive- was all heterosexual and legal adult pornography. I don’t judge Michael for having these items. He was an adult, after all. Nor do I buy the favorite hater line that this porn collection somehow perverted the idea of Neverland as a “kid friendly place.” Yes, it was, and Michael clearly kept those boundaries. But it was also his private home. Just because he loved the magic of childhood innocence-and wanted to give children a place where they could experience that-didn’t mean that he didn’t have adult drives that he was perfectly free to entertain in the privacy of his own quarters.
Since at least three accusers have now tried to claim that Michael showed them pornography as part of the “grooming process” this bears looking into. Among Gavin Arvizo’s claims was that Michael showed him a magazine (although when questioned under oath, he identified it as a magazine that had not even been published when the alleged incident took place!) and that Michael made a crude sexual joke with a mannequin (basically, emulating the sex act by humping it).
I will set something straight for the record. I don’t believe that Michael ever showed pornography to the younger kids, but what about the teenagers? Those who were already well past adolescence? Could it be that Michael’s desire to be “one of the boys” caused some exercises in poor judgment? Even if he never showed it to them but bragged about having it (as in keeping with the adolescent mindset) this could have led curious youngsters to snoop into his room and private stash, as happened with Gavin and Star Arvizo when they were caught by Michael’s nephew Rijo masturbating to porn in Michael’s bedroom (for the record, Michael himself was not present when this incident occurred).
But one thing we have to understand is that Michael (and this is something I have reasonably gleamed from many private conversations with those who knew him, as well as many publicly available accounts) had a sometimes bizarre-and quite frankly adolescent-sense of humor. So, just as with any normal teenage boy, there’s a good chance that a lot of braggadocio-jokes about girls’ anatomy and references to the sexual act, etc- could have occurred. It’s the sort of thing that adolescent boys do for shits and giggles. Michael wasn’t an adolescent, of course, but it’s very likely that in his mind, he saw such behavior as just another manifestation of reliving his adolescent childhood. That Michael did joke around about girls in a sexual manner with his adolescent friends has been pretty much confirmed by Frank Cascio and others. This is what Frank wrote in his book “My Friend Michael”:
“We always tried to embarrass each other in front of women. I was shy—in many ways I still am—and knowing this, Michael would put me on the spot with women, saying, “Frank thinks you’re beautiful. He wants to kiss you.” Or we’d be standing in the back of an elevator car behind an attractive hotel maid, and I’d feel Michael subtly nudging my hand toward the girl’s butt. I’d shake him off before the girl noticed. It was juvenile—maintaining this private exchange that kept the girls at a distance. “-Frank Cascio, Excerpted From “My Friend Michael.”
Now THIS is the sort of thing I’m talking about, and it seems harmless enough. Just a couple of guys goofing off and acting silly. But my point is: Imagine Michael did this sort of thing often enough with some of his young friends (and he did). So then, let’s say down the road that this kid (now an adult) decides he wants to bring an accusation in hopes of getting some money. It doesn’t take much to construe an incident like the above into something much more graphic and sinister.
In other words, what we are really talking here has more to do with questionable AGE APPROPRIATE behavior than criminal behavior per se. But it becomes easy to see how such behavior might have made him vulnerable and eventually set him up down the road, as these young men could now twist these scenarios to use for their own advantage. If he so much as bragged about his “stash” (again, very typical adolescent boy behavior); if he revealed too much about what he liked or “how he liked it”; any of that could then be twisted out of context and used against him. I have a strong suspicion that what may be happening in the case of Wade and Jimmy (unless one subscribes to the theory that they are just out and out lying and concocting all of this from scratch) is that between their shared attorney and shared psychiatrist, they are now being convinced that anyaction Michael did; any joke that ever passed between them; any gesture; any words of affection constituted “abuse.” We have already seen at least one allegation where Safechuck has tried to make something perverted out of simply holding Michael’s hand!
I feel this is important to state even if some may take issue with any idea of wrongdoing or age inappropriate behavior on Michael’s part. But this is very consistent with the kind of behavior and sense of humor that many of his closest friends have ascribed. “Jesus Juice,” for example, is another case where Michael’s sometimes off the wall humor and creative wordplay became, ultimately, the source for misunderstanding-or deliberate misrepresentation. Michael would drink wine out of coke cans to keep children (his own as well as others) from knowing he was drinking alcohol. If they asked, he would jokingly say he was drinking “Jesus Juice” and it was not for them. We all know how that seemingly innocent line later became twisted in the media reports of the trial! Suddenly, it was no longer a secret code that Michael used to keep kids from knowing he was drinking wine; it was a sinister phrase he used to entice kids to drink it with him!
In other words, I believe that when Michael was among a bunch of adolescent boys, he tended to “think” and act like an adolescent. This may or may not excuse some of his more juvenile behavior and antics, but what we seriously have to question is: Does age inappropriate behavior necessarily equate to criminal behavior? I am talking here, of course, the distinction between telling a few off color jokes or bragging about his porn stash as opposed to actually committing a brutal sex act upon a minor-that is still a vastly huge difference.
So what exactly isthe truth behind these graphic allegations, and what is the strategic purpose behind them? More importantly, who is behind them, and why?
I will try to address all of these questions-as well as getting to the heart of the “Australian Conspiracy”-later this week.
After finishing Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard’s Remember the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson In His Final Days last night, I am left with a lot of burning, impotent anger and sadness. “Impotent” is the right word to use. These emotions are impotent simply because, as strong as those emotions may be after finishing this book, there is left, above all, the lingering sense of helplessness. Michael’s life is what it became, and now he is gone. He is gone, and no one can do anything about it; no one can go back and change anything. We cannot undo all of the damage that was done to a human being. We can only, somehow, stand in the ashes and try to make sense of it. That, above all else, is what I take from this book. I believe that Whitfield and Beard, in their own way, are still trying to make sense of what really happened to Michael Jackson, the man they knew affectionately as “Boss” and their intent is to help the fans understand as well.
To what extent the book fails or succeeds in that regard is largely up to what the reader wishes to take from it. It has its areas of strengths and weaknesses.
But let’s back up. The title is a bit cliche’-ish, not to mention it is already the title of another MJ book, the one written by Theresa Gonsalves. But titles can’t be copyrighted and, anyway, it’s definitely not the same book by any stretch of the imagination.
If The Bodyguards’ Book Sounds Familiar, At Least In Part, There Is A Good Reason For That!
However, most MJ fans and savvy readers will know why certain parts of the book DO seem very familiar. That is because a good bulwark of this book has been told before, by Dr. Karen Moriarty in her self-published book Defending A King: His Life & Legacy. That book had its beginnings when Dr. Moriarty had originally met with Whitfield, Beard and Michael Garcia (who later pulled out) with the intention of becoming their ghost writer for the book. What ultimately happened to that “understanding” is detailed in the introduction to Moriarty’s book, where she states that eventually they realized they were simply not on the same page in regards to the story they wanted to tell. The upshot was that Moriarty’s book, while still relying heavily on the bodyguards’ stories in the chapters portraying the last two years of his life and especially of his time in Las Vegas, became ultimately very much its own book, less memoir and more biography.
After reading the book, I have a clearer understanding of why these differences occurred. But I will address those issues in a bit.
The choice of cover photograph is an interesting one. It’s the same photo that was used for the promos of the Martin Bashir “Living With Michael Jackson” documentary. It is a very handsome photo from Michael’s mature era, which is appropriate since this is a book whose time span is covering the last two and a half years or so of his life, but it is also a photo that seems to emphasize the loneliness and isolation of its subject. (Michael isn’t smiling in the photo; it is a seemingly contemplative pose with a meditative, melancholy expression, as he gazes outward as if searching for something that isn’t there). It’s a fitting and haunting image for a reader’s first impression of the book, since Michael’s isolation really becomes the central theme of the book.
My Recommended Recipe For Reading MJ Memoirs-An Open Mind, And The Occasional, Handy Pinch of Salt
Any time that I read a book written by someone who actually knew or worked with Michael, a list that is growing exponentially longer every day, I try to keep both an open mind and a heaping grain of salt nearby (you know, just in case it comes in handy!). The open mind is important, because the one thing I always have to keep uppermost in mind is that I can’t pretend to know more about Michael than those who were actually around him 24-7. So that means if, occasionally, the picture they present doesn’t jibe with the Michael I thought I knew so well, then so be it (however, I never really found that to be the case here; fortunately, I don’t carry around some idyllic vision of who I believe Michael was, so I suppose that helps in keeping the open mind). However, that little pinch of salt doesn’t hurt, either. Because I also know that, ultimately, anyone’s views of Michael Jackson-even those who claimed to be friends or were employees working for him every day-will inevitably have perceptions that are colored by their own experiences, whether positive or negative. There is also always the danger of the “I was the only one he could trust/the only one he could confide in” syndrome, which a savvy reader has to be aware of anytime they pick up a book written by any individual claiming to be someone who got close to Michael. To their credit, Whitfield and Beard are very honest about this syndrome (they do not claim to be immune to it or as lone exceptions to the rule)and, in fact, go to some lengths in the book to analyze this peculiar phenomenon of celebrity-one that isn’t actually so curious if one keeps in mind that, when talking Michael Jackson and his empire, it was all about the power struggle-who had control; who had his ear at any given moment. And, not to be excluded, the fact that Michael himself had that innate ability-that aura-that always made everyone around him feel somehow special, as if they were the only one in his world who mattered. It was a special gift Michael possessed, but in many ways, one that also proved his undoing.
Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard
But Whitfield and Beard were used to being around famous people, even if admittedly they were a bit starstruck at first to realize they were working for Michael Jackson. However, being starstruck was something that soon wore off, as they settled into the job of simply protecting a family-a single father, his three children, and an ever growing menagerie of pets as the children attempted to fill the void of being uprooted from Neverland, the only permanent home they had ever known. There are times when the story seems almost as though it could have been the pilot for “The Brady Bunch”-”Here’s the story of a lovely father/Who was bringing up three very lovely kids”-and, hey, all that’s needed to complete the picture is an “Alice” or two-so now we have Grace, Bill, and Javon, who essentially take on that role even if they do carry lots of big guns. It’s all very sweet, but over it all looms the knowledge that this is a family marred by tragedy; a family that has had to learn to live inside a protective bubble and can never be truly “normal” (though their attempts at normalcy form the poignant heart of the book) and a story where, unfortunately, we already know the fatal outcome. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some fun and sweet moments along the way. Like a very good tear jerker movie, it’s possible to enjoy the journey even if you know this isn’t going to be a happy ending.
But it begs some of the same questions as watching a movie like Titanic,for example. If we already know how the story ends, why do we read books like this? Easy answer. Any time we already know how the story ends, we read not for the destination, but for the journey. We read because we are always hungry to learn more about who Michael was/is. There is still the ongoing fascination with who this man was. Yes, we can say he told us all we needed to know in his music-in fact, he told us more in his music and poems than we will ever get from any biography. But there is still an unsatiated desire to know…what was life like for him, on a day to day basis? What was he like to be around? How on earth did he cope with the insanity of his life, and with those constant power struggles going on all around him? And we read because we are still hungry for answers. What happened to Michael Jackson, especially in his final days? Remember The Time doesn’t provide all those answers, but it does give us plenty of glimpses into that life. I think most will come away from this book feeling as I did, that even with all Michael’s money and world fame, I wouldn’t have traded my life for his. Throughout the book, I had many emotions, sometimes smiling or even laughing-”Yes, that sounds just like Michael!”-; sometimes feeling their exasperation and helplessness as they saw things spiraling out of control around Michael (things they could only witness but were powerless to stop). I often had to stop reading to wipe away tears, and by the end, I felt Whitfield’s burning rage as he sat through the memorial service, witnessing first hand the hypocrisy of all those who claimed to be Michael’s best friend-but were never there.
I hope this is not too much of a spoiler for those who haven’t read it yet (if so, just feel free to skip over this part) but that is exactly the note on which the book ends. It is a curious ending, in some ways. There is no real resolution; no great affirmation of reflecting upon who Michael was or what he meant to the world as an artist or as an icon; no, “Wow, if only Michael could have seen this great outpouring of love.” Instead, it ends on a note that is brutally jarring, but also brutally honest. Whitfield had been with Michael throughout all of the times of isolation and loneliness; he remembered too vividly those that never came around; those who gave lip service to supporting Michael, the ones who would call and say, “I’ll be praying for you”-but never showed their faces. I appreciate that there is no white washing of this in the book, because frankly it is a part of the story that needs to be told. This story could have ended, as it has so many times before, with strains of “Man in the Mirror” playing and everyone joining hands to remember what a great light Michael was to the planet and how we all loved him-of course we did, even if we didn’t always take enough time to say it.
A Sham of Hypocrisy Is Bill Whitfield’s Take On The Spectacle That Was The 2009 Memorial
Instead, it ends on a note as bitter and jarring as the deafening silence after a shotgun blast. Like I said, it’s not pleasant, and it will leave a reader feeling unsettled, but I can appreciate that it is honest emotion we get, not some sugar coated white washed version of it. Maybe there are some people who “need” to hear that truth. In fact, there are probably many who need to hear it.
It is honest emotion, yes, which brings up one of the many interesting differences between memoir and biography. And it is an important difference to keep in mind when discussing a book like this. Memoirs-where the authors actually knew the subject and are writing from personal experience-are, by their very nature, more intimate and personal than biographies written by neutral journalists or neutral third parties. But because of this very intimacy, they also have their expected limitations. We have to accept that we are only getting a small part of the picture, one that is being filtered through the first hand experiences of these people-and is thus limited by those experiences. Just as with any first person narrative (fictional or non fictional) the “I” speaker can only relate what the “I” knows. This becomes especially problematic when the subjects involve real life people, and especially with someone who was as complex and as adept at compartmentalizing his life as Michael was. In the same way that Michael was able to keep his dating life completely separate from the life he lived with his three children (none of Michael’s secret “friends” apparently were ever brought to his house, but always met on the sly away from the home in hotels) I believe that, often, the side of Michael that friends and employees saw was whatever side he wished to present. That isn’t to suggest anything covert on his part; I think it had simply become a coping strategy of his very unusual life. For all that he grew very close to Whitfield and Beard, and seemed to trust them, they were still employees; their expected place was still in the garage or, later, the security trailer. As readers, we have to respect that their story is filtered at least in part through this distance-a distance that both enabled them to be impartial observers, and yet (because the staff had literally dwindled by then to a skeleton crew) created its own brand of intimacy. You know the old saying about flies on a wall. Right. So essentially they were always there, and “not there”-a witness to events, and sometimes even a part of those events, yet never intimately connected to them.
No Story; No Book Can Ever Be The Definitive “Truth.” Every Individual’s Perception Of Him Is Inevitably Filtered Through The Lenses Of Their Own Experience
So, in other words, we can never accept any one individual’s story as the entire, definitive picture of who Michael was or how he lived his life. Rather, each individual’s story is a small piece to the puzzle. I try hard to approach any memoir written about him for what it is; as nothing more or less than one person’s (or in this case, two persons) version of “their” truth as they experienced it. And, while I hate to borrow Wade Robson’s oft-mocked phrase, it is nevertheless an apt one in the sense that personal experience and personal perception will always filter how one relates real-life events. Keep in mind that the root word of “memoir” is memory. I have found, over time, that the books I tend to enjoy most about Michael are those that portray him honestly as a human being with flaws, not for the purpose of exploiting or tearing him down (God knows there are enough of those books out there!) but simply to present him in all his human complexity, with neither devil horns nor wings and a halo. As I have always said, my interest is in Michael Jackson as a human being, not as a deity. Remember The Time strikes that balance, but as I cautioned, we have to keep in mind the limitations of memoir.
Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard knew Michael personally for only the last two and half years of his life. They have received some flack because the book’s subtitle is “Protecting Michael Jackson In His Final Days” but if one reads the book, they are honest in acknowledging that they were not with him during those final months in LA. By then, their on-hand responsibilities had been greatly reduced and they had stayed behind in Las Vegas (indeed, Whitfield particularly beats himself up pretty good for this in the end of the book); thus, the final chapters of the book are really more hearsay than personal experience. In other words, they know the details of what happened during those final months in Holmby Hills pretty much the same way as all the rest of us-by what they have read and heard in the media, and what they were able to piece together after the fact. In this regard, the book disappoints somewhat if one is expecting to gain any new insight based on what actually happened to Michael in those final days. The bodyguards simply don’t have those answers-or if they do, they are keeping quiet for perhaps good reason. Like so many books, there is a lot of speculation, but in the end, what happened to Michael in his actual final days-other than what is already public knowledge via the trials and media reports-remains a mystery.
But what Whitfield and Beard ARE able to provide is a fascinating glimpse into those months immediatly leading up to Michael’s LA departure, and they spare little in revealing who the major game players were in creating the trap that ultimately consumed and killed Michael Jackson. What emerges is a rather horrifying picture. And what one is left with is the haunting image of a man literally consumed by his own empire-one that he himself had created, but one which, eventually, had become bigger than himself, and bigger than even he could control.
Looking Cozy Here, But Former Manager Raymone Bain Comes Out Very Scathed By The End Of The Book-However, She’s Not The Only One!
Again, because Whitfield and Beard’s experiences are limited to those last two and half years that they knew him, we also have to keep in mind that theirs is not-nor should it be expected to be-the definitive portrayal of who Michael was. We have to keep some things in perspective. The man that Whitfield and Beard got to know was a man who had just come out of exile after experiencing one of the most traumatic events that any person could be put through. Michael was still suffering the effects of post traumatic stress, inflicted not only by the trial and accusations, but by years of negative press; by years of being perceived by the world as “Wacko Jacko;” by years of dealing with lawsuits and vultures and pressure. He wasn’t burned out creatively, but he was burned out on life pretty much by this point. Such post traumatic stress disorder, which would be understandable for any human being who had undergone so much, would probably go far in explaining why Michael, by this point, simply wanted to isolate himself and his children away from the world. He wanted to be left the hell alone. As he said many times, he just wanted to be left alone and to live his life with his kids.
Still My Favorite Photo Of The Little Family
Michael’s isolation becomes a central focus of the book. As I had mentioned a few years back when I first reviewed Dr. Moriarty’s book, perhaps the most heart wrenching aspect of this story is that of a single father and his children whose lives had become increasingly narrowed by circumstance. Their existence had gone from the sprawling freedom of a 2700 acre estate, to an endless revolving door of hotels and rental houses, to finally a cramped residence where one couldn’t even swim in the backyard pool without being spied by neighbors. And to anyone reading this who might be tempted to say, “Well, it’s still a better life than I could give my kids any day-I don’t even have a back yard pool!” think again. That would have been my first thought, too. Until you get a first hand account of what it’s like to not even be able to sit in on a Chuck E Cheese birthday party with your daughter, or to have to sit parked in a hot car at a neighborhood park, only able to watch your kids play from a distance. That last image, in fact, is one that has haunted me ever since I closed the book. It’s not that I wasn’t already aware of these aspects of Michael’s life. It’s just that sometimes it takes a good writer or storyteller putting you there in that moment-making you experience what it was like to be there with Michael in that parked car, only able to view his kids at play from a distance-that really brings it home. Michael Jackson, the man who had spent so much of his childhood years enviously watching other kids play-could now only sit by in a parked car, with the windows cracked, watching his own kids play from a distance. Worse yet, imagine not even knowing if you and your kids will be able to sleep peacefully through the night under your own roof-or if you will be ripped urgently out of slumber by an emergency call and security banging on the door, telling you and your kids that you must get out for your own safety-that there’s been a threat.
Michael’s kids had any material possession they wanted, for sure. And as long as their father lived, they had a center; a parent they knew would always be there for them. But toys and material possessions aside, this was the life they lived, and one could see how it must have been eating their father up inside. What parent doesn’twant to provide a secure life for their children? That Michael was not able to provide this in his final years-the one thing his children needed more than all the games and toys within FAO Schwartz combined-was the thing that was eating him up inside.
This was the man that Whitfield and Beard came to know-a man who had been traumatized by terrible events in his life, and who was struggling for the sake of his kids to hold it all together. Given these circumstances, it’s no surprise that he wanted to withdraw from life. Withdrawal is a natural survival instinct of those suffering from any form of post traumatic stress. Even though Beard and Whitfield often blame others, at least in part, for Michael’s isolation, I have to wonder if this isolation wasn’t at least to some degree a result of the vibe that Michael was giving off to the world. In other words, if enough people sense-and get the hint loud and clear-that you just want to be left the hell alone, eventually they will do just that. They will leave you alone. I get the feeling that Michael during this time wasn’t exactly reaching out to others-but it could also be that, by then, maybe he was simply tired of trying. A person can only beat their head against a stone wall for so long before they finally just give up.
Withdrawal And The Desire For Isolation Are Symptomatic Of PTS
Thus, the two men do have to admit, several times, that the man they knew as “Boss” was not necessarily the same man that the world knew as The King of Pop (that was a different guy; a different persona. one they saw only on very special occasions such as the Vibe and Ebony shoots, or when he became “Michael” to a crowd of fans). He was also someone apart from the brother and son that his family knew, or the friend that many of his music contemporaries were eulogizing at the memorial. They admit that the Michael they knew was someone apart from all of this. Again, one of the book’s most poignant moments is near the end, as Whitfield sits at the memorial, incensed by the hypocrisy he sees all around. There were far too many who were just there to be seen; who weren’t even genuinely grieving. But among hundreds who had turned out just because the memorial was the trendy place to be seen that day, there were the few who were genuinely grieving-the family members who had lost a son and brother; the children who had lost a father; the fans who had loved him like their own family; a spattering of true long-term friends in the music business such as Berry Gordy; a few of the entertainers who were perhaps genuinely grieving the loss of a hero and mentor; a few women such as “Friend” who had known him as lover as well as friend and…then there was Whitfield himself, a bit of an odd man out, still trying to make sense of his own place in Michael’s life and the many emotions he was still working his way through. After all, this was the man who admits that when Michael had called, saying he needed him in LA, had hoped, somehow, that it was just another whim-“like when he asked me to find him a helicopter simulator or a Ferris wheel. I’d wait a few days before doing it to see if he’d drop it or if he’d bring it up again..And that’s how I felt about him calling me to go to L.A. It didn’t seem urgent. So that’s what I told myself. I thought, If it’s important, he’ll call back. He didn’t call back.”-Excerpted from Remember The Time by Bill Whitfield, p. 295.
It was mid-June, 2009, when Whitfield received that phone call. Like I said, we all know how this story ends.
Of course, this has been a polarizing book just as is everything, it seems, that is released by or about Michael these days. But most of the criticism seems to be coming from three factions-those who have agendas (such as pro-estate or anti-estate) who will automatically trash any book that criticizes the wrong people in their estimation (or doesn’t do enough to harshly criticize others); those who are basing their reactions off sensationalized tabloid stories, and those who simply feel that any book at all-written by anyone who knew or worked for Michael-is a betrayal, regardless of content.
I will try to address all three concerns. I can honestly say, as someone who myself has no agendas in regard to being pro or anti anything, that I don’t believe there are any hidden agendas with this book other than to get a story out there that they felt needed to be told. Raymone Bain and certain others take a pretty good beating in the book, for sure. The bodyguards pretty much limit their personal criticism to those whom they had direct dealings with, and Raymone Bain was the primary to-go person during their tenure with Michael-and thus the brunt of a lot of frustrations, especially when they went months without being paid. You will definitely come away from this book with a nasty aftertaste towards Bain, who was allegedly treating herself to some lavish digs in Vegas at Michael’s expense-and without his knowledge. It’s a pattern that, tragically, repeats itself over and over throughout the story. The names change, but the patterns and behaviors do not.
MJ…Savvy Businessman Who Became One Of The Most Powerful Forces In The Music Industry, Or Naive, Innocent Lamb Being Led To Slaughter By Wolves? How Could One Man Possibly Be The Subject Of So Much Contradiction? Is It Possible They Were, In Fact, One And The Same Person?
This book appears in many ways as a stark contrast to the other summer MJ book, Zack Greenburg’s Michael Jackson, Inc. I have not yet read Michael Jackson, Incbut my understanding is that it highlights Michael’s brilliant business savvy and how he constructed his empire, also largely crediting him for its continued success even after his death. It begs a question that is often posed: How could it be possible that the man who built a multi-million dollar empire-the man described in Michael Jackson, Inc-could be the same man described in Remember The Time, as one who had become “cash poor” (even if albeit still very rich on paper) and who seemed to have lost complete control of his money?
I have pondered over this question long and hard myself. But I don’t think these two seemingly very disparate sides of Michael-or of his story-are necessarily mutually exclusive. Rather, both are extreme opposite sides of the same reality. Michael in his youth had been untouchable and unstoppable-a musical genius whose business instincts were also razor sharp; who maintained a tight control on his empire and the people who ran it; who wisely used his ability to enact the law of attraction to make things happen for him. He was a man who, by 1990, had enough power and clout within the industry to negotiate most any terms he wanted-and did so, with what had been up until then the most lucrative recording contract in history. And all of this was in addition to his purchase of the ATV catalog and the eventual merger that resulted in Sony/ATV publishing.
But as stated earlier, the man that Whitfield and Beard came to work for was a very different and changed man, one who had endured much emotional trauma and, as a result, had withdrawn. By this point, it seemed that Michael’s way of coping with the chaos of his life (for by then, that’s what it had become) was to simply ignore any unpleasant situations or unpleasant people that he didn’t want to be bothered with; it seemed easier just to deny it all and hope it would somehow magically go away of its own accord-or that the people he trusted to make it all go away would do their jobs.
While this had always been somewhat of a pattern of Michael’s life (after all, he’d had people fighting each other to take care of him ever since he was ten years old) it seemed it was now exacerbated by the trauma and depression of all he’d had to deal with. There is one passage in particular that struck me, because it hit home just how and why Michael became so vulnerable to law suits-and may also go far towards explaining, once and for all, why an innocent man would settle an accusation of child molestation.
“…Michael Jackson was like flypaper for lawsuits. At any given time, there were hundreds of lawsuits pending against him, literally. Some of them were frivolous. Paternity suits from stalkers, that sort of thing. But a lot of these suits were serious, multimillion-dollar claims. With his business coming apart and nobody in charge, people weren’t getting paid. Deals were being reneged on.
There was a whole cast of characters. Former managers and associates who claimed they were part of this or that and they hadn’t been paid or they were owed a piece of something. People who’d worked on his albums and music videos, claiming they weren’t getting their royalty payments. It was one problem rolling over onto the next. I’d get these legal documents FedExed to me for his signature, so I saw how much money was going out the door. He’d settle for a quarter million dollars, half a million dollars, whatever it took. People usually sue when they think they can get something. And everybody knew that if you sued Michael Jackson, you’d get a settlement. He’d challenge the frivolous ones, like the paternity nonsense. He’d get those thrown out. But if you had any kind of claim that could justify going to trial? He’d just pay you to go away, because after what he went through in 2005, he was never going to set foot in a courtroom again.”-Excerpted from Remember The Time: Protecting Michael Jackson In His Final Days, by Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard, p. 194.
Of course, the Chandler settlement did not prevent the family from pursuing criminal charges (had they been so inclined) nor did it end the criminal investigation of the case. But as Michael himself said to Martin Bashir in 2003, he just wanted the whole thing to go away. “I didn’t want to do a long, drawn out thing like O.J., it just wouldn’t have looked right.”
It seemed that Michael was caught in a vicious cycle he could not break free from. The more cases he would settle, in hopes of making them simply go away, the more lawsuits that were bound to come.
Was so much discussion of Michael’s finances necessary for the book? For sure, it has been one of the book’s more controversial aspects, but I think the justification is that Whitfield and Beard really wanted readers and the fans to understand exactly what Michael was up against-and who was responsible. They make it very clear that they did not hold Michael personally responsible for a lot of what went down (they stuck with him even when doing so sometimes meant weeks or even months without pay) although sometimes they would get a bit exasperated with him, wondering why he could not just “man up” ; why he could not seem to just take the bull by the proverbial horns and re-take control of his own money. But those moments of exasperation were short-lived, as they came to realize over time that, for Michael, it was never simply going to be that easy again.
Does Knowing The Full Truth Mean Accepting Some Harsh Realities That Aren’t So Pretty-But Necessary For Understanding What He Endured?
Also, the discussion of Michael’s finances has been tabloid fodder for years, with far too many ignorant people trying to claim that it was all simply a result of his own over spending and lavish indulgences. There never seems to be any consideration that maybe he was being robbed blind by the very people who were supposed to be looking out for his best interests; or how he had literally given and given until there was almost no more to give; no consideration of a wounded soul who was literally suffocating beneath the weight of bills and lawsuits when all he really wanted was to be like a bird, free to sing and fly. Remember The Time, at least, gives that side of the story, in all of its facets. And, intrusive though it may be, it is necessary to understanding Michael’s mindset during these last two years and the desperation that drove him into the contract with AEG. It is necessary for understanding how, by the spring of 2009, there were no less than three different individuals all claiming to be Michael’s manager; all making and signing deals on his behalf. It is vital to understanding just how deep, dark, and scary the hole he was living in had become.
The downside. of course, is that the media will choose to sensationalize excerpts from the book that are taken completely out of context. A good example was a recent UK article by Peter Sheridan, for example, that completely misrepresented the passages about two of Michael’s “secret” girlfriends, “Flower” and “Friend”:
“They insist that for all the paedophile allegations – which they dismiss – Jackson was attracted to women. They reveal he enjoyed secret rendezvous with two women he gave the code names Flower and Friend. According to Whitfield the latter was “drop-dead gorgeous” with an Eastern European accent.
The bodyguards drove around while Jackson had sex in the back of his limousine.
“We had a curtain that covered the back seat, you couldn’t see the back seat,” says Whitfield, who still heard their loud exploits.
Jackson was apparently always excited when Friend came to town and sent his bodyguards to buy her lavish gifts from stores such as Tiffany.
Flower would come a few days after Friend had left and Jackson would repeat his clandestine sex sessions…”
But note that this is what Beard actually describes in the book:
“When Friend came back, one night Mr. Jackson said he wanted to take her into D. C. He wanted her to see the Lincoln Memorial and some of the sights. So we got the truck ready. It was around midnight. Grace stayed back with the kids, and me and Bill took Mr. Jackson and picked Friend up from her hotel and headed into the city. While we were driving, they were in the back, talking and whispering. The curtain was closed and we had the radio up to give them some privacy.
We parked the car about a block and a half from the Washington Monument. From there, we had to get out and walk. When we pulled up, I turned the radio down to tell Mr. Jackson we’d arrived, and all we heard was smackin’ lips behind that curtain. I knew exactly what that sound was. They were making out back there. I didn’t want to interrupt them, but I just coughed a bit and said, ‘Uh, Mr. Jackson? Mr. Jackson, we’re here.’”-Excerpted from Remember The Time, by Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard, p. 178.
So, what is apparently described as a bit of harmless petting going on in the back seat is somehow blown up, by the time the excerpt makes it into the media, to look like a full blown orgy! This is just one example where I have seen the media purposely twist and manipulate the book’s contents for the sole purpose of sensationalism.
But regardless of how one feels, personally, about this kind of information being divulged, a very important point is brought up by the bodyguards themselves. Had it been any other pop star meeting hot European models in a hotel, it would simply be par for the course, and would hardly raise an eyebrow. It would be “normal” pop star behavior. But when it is Michael Jackson, the media always tries to slant it in some way as “bizarre” behavior.
Was It Just Me, Or Did The Description of “Flower” Sound Suspiciously Like Joanna Thomae?
Yet I have to say in all honesty, on any day that the worst thing a tabloid can say about Michael Jackson is that he was having sex with women in the back of a limo, that is a pretty good day. These stories, contrary to whatever spin is put on them, ultimately only serve to humanize Michael and to make him appear a little more “normal” in the eyes of the world. As the bodyguards stated, all it said to them was that he was a normal guy wanting to be able to do the things that normal guys do.
By the way, this is purely speculation, but I found it somewhat interesting that the description of “Flower” sounded a lot like Joanna Thomae, the French girl Michael saw on and off during the early 2000′s. At any rate, she was described as someone who lived overseas and had “dirty blonde hair and freckles.” (And who, apparently, also tended to be somewhat aggressive, which sounds more than a bit like Joanna from what I know of her). Even more bizarrely, Whitfield refers to “Friend” later in the book as “Joanna” (though not her real name, I’m sure). So…”Friend” is referred to as “Joanna,” while the physical description of the real “Joanna” sounds a lot like ‘Flower.” Hmmm. Could it be that both women are merely composites of their real life counterparts?
The description of “Friend” also sounds similar to Frank Cascio’s description of a woman whom he referred to in his book as “Emily”:
“She had dark, curly hair that sort of hung in her face a bit. Petite, about fibe foot four. Nice body. Real slender…”-Javon Beard, describing “Friend,” excerpted from Remember The Time, by Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard, p. 176.
“Around this time, Michael had another friend – I’ll call her Emily – who visited the ranch regularly. She was a nice, cute girl, slender, with brown hair, in her early to midthirties. Emily didn’t want or need anything from Michael. They just liked spending time together – talking, walking around, hanging out in his bedroom. It was a romantic relationship, but as far as I know, he didn’t tell anyone about Emily but me. Michael kept her a secret – she didn’t stay in his room because he didn’t want her to be seen coming out in the morning – and even I didn’t see real evidence of the romance. That’s how I knew he was telling the truth. He wouldn’t have been so secretive if he hadn’t had something to hide. That was the longest relationship I saw Michael have: Emily was at the ranch frequently over the course of about a year.”-Frank Cascio, Excerpted from My Friend Michael: An Ordinary Friendship With An Extraordinary Man, pp. 154-155.
Of course, if by chance “Emily” and “Friend” were one and the same person, that would have been one heck of a long-standing relationship, ten years at least. In all likelihood, they may be two entirely different women (it’s not as if slender girls with brown hair aren’t exactly a dime a dozen)but it’s interesting that their physical descriptions do match up so similarly, and that both seemed to be fairly serious relationships for him. (Update: Bill Whitfield has since confirmed, via Twitter, that “Friend” was not Joanna Thomae. However, we still don’t know about “Flower”).
But, anyway, back to the book. There are still a few issues to address.
This Pic Of The Jackson Kids Is The One That Was Printed On Our Programs At The Banquet Dinner For Katherine Jackson In Gary. I Like To Think Of It Having Always Been This Way. But The Reality is A Far Different Story.
Does the book shed any new light on Michael’s sometimes difficult relationship with his family? To that end, I would say not really. Not unless you would be surprised to know that Michael specifically instructed that his family be kept out (except for Katherine) and that once, when Joe showed up unannounced, Michael said he would not see him unless he had an appointment. Just “why” Michael was so adamant about wanting nothing to do with his family is never explained, largely because Whitfield and Beard did not really know, themselves, other than that it was what “Boss” ordered, and it was their job to keep out anyone Michael did not want in-and to ask no questions. One can register a pretty good guess; however, the bodyguards make it very clear that their own position regarding the Jackson family is a neutral one. Although Randy is clearly described as showing up for one purpose-”to get my money!”-and Jermaine, they said, was usually “angling” for something, it is never clear if the other visits were for nefarious or benign purposes. In at least a couple of incidents, it seemed to be some sort of planned intervention. They had heard that their brother was “sick.” Michael’s usual response would be, “Tell them I’m fine.” This would appear, at least, to lend some credence to the family’s oft-vouched claims that they had tried to stage interventions on Michael’s behalf, but were never allowed access to him.
In regard to Michael’s allegedly strained relationship with his family in his last years, the book really raises more questions than it answers-again, largely because Whitfield and Beard do not have those answers, and never did. It wasn’t exactly the kind of thing they sat around and discussed with the client. They did what they were told. The impression I get was that Michael’s total burn out and desire to simply shut out the world had, by this point, extended to his own family as well. Their presence usually meant having to deal with more unpleasant”stuff” and Michael, by then, simply didn’t want or need anymore drama, well intentioned or not.
But it’s interesting to note that, whenever the family is questioned on the subject, they will always insist that there were people who were keeping them cut off from Michael. Whitfield and Beard may have only been following orders, but they represented the physical gatekeepers; literally, the buffers between Michael and all he did not want to deal with. I have heard some of the Jackson family members say that, once they saw Michael and would explain how they had been told he didn’t want to see them, he would always pull a shocked response and say, “Really? Who told you that?” It would be tragic indeed if all of it came down to a huge case of miscommunication, but it’s more likely that Michael never wanted to hurt their feelings by telling them directly he didn’t want to see them. It was easier to let others do that dirty work for him. The first thing Joe Jackson allegedly said to Bill Whitfield was not “Hello,” but “You must be one of the ones that’s been putting needles in my son’s arms.” Such remarks are often dropped throughout the book like loaded bombs, but are never really followed through. Where, for example, did Joe get those suspicions? From acquaintances? The media? Did he know something the bodyguards didn’t? Was he just being paranoid?
What Actually Happened To Michael During Those Final Weeks In L.A. Is Still Pretty Much Left In The Shadows
Also, as I have mentioned previously, one of the book’s weaknesses is that we still don’t really get a firsthand account of what transpired once Michael left Las Vegas and had moved to L.A. for the This Is It rehearsals. By that point, as they said, Michael Amir pretty much had his ear, then we had The Three Stooges-er, the “three managers”-Thome, DiLeo, and Leonard Rowe, all acting simultaneously on his “behalf”, not to mention a whole new security staff-and, of course, Dr. Murray.
To be frank, there isn’t a whole lot said in the book about Conrad Murray, considering he was the one who put the lethal dose in Michael’s vein; only that he had been the children’s physician briefly in Las Vegas and that Michael wanted AEG to hire him for the This Is It rehearsals and tour (these are their words paraphrased, not mine). The events of June 25th, 2009 and the details of the coroner’s report are given perfunctorily enough, but they only provide Murray’s timeline of events according to the official report he gave the police, without noting any of the wide deviations or gaps in that timeline that were brought out in court testimony, and none of the seventeen egregious errors in standard practice that were committed by Murray, according to Dr. Steven Shafer. The only concession to this is made by Whitfield when he states emotionally that he never understood the delay in getting Michael to the hospital.
“Later on, when I heard the actual 911 call, I heard them on the phone telling the operator, ‘We have a gentleman here. He’s not breathing.’ Fuck that. I would have thrown him in the car and rushed him to the hospital myself. It was only a couple miles away. I would have got him out of there. He’s not breathing? Let’s go! We gotta go! Maybe it would have been different if I’d actually been there. Maybe I’m just imagining how I would have reacted, but I really don’t think I would have just sat around waiting for paramedics.”-Bill Whitfield, excerpted from Remember The Time, p. 301.
These emotional words aside, Murray’s entire involvement and responsibility in Michael’s homicide is treated in a curiously neutral manner, and seems to lend credence to what Dr. Karen Moriarty stated in the introduction to her own book, a chapter titled “The Back Door”: “We had opposite opinions regarding Conrad Murray, and I struggled with my strong, immutable feelings of anger over Murray’s role in Michael Jackson’s death.” Ultimately, this was one of the issues, among others, that led to an amicable parting of ways-and two separate books.
It’s not exactly that they ever intimate that Murray was innocent, or that he didn’t deserve to be tried or did not deserve to be found guilty of manslaughter. But by sticking merely-to-the-facts only, as per Murray’s police interview, it is, as I stated, a curiously neutral perspective. The only reason I can attribute to this is that they had formed somewhat of a personal relationship with Murray when he was treating the kids in Las Vegas. It was Beard’s cousin, Jeff Adams, after all, who had recommended Dr. Murray in the first place (Murray was Adams’s personal physician) so it seems as though there are still some ties there. Perhaps, like so many, they believe that Murray himself was merely a fall guy. While I have never ruled out that possibility, it still in no way absolves Murray of his own role or his own responsibility in Michael’s death.
This I found to be one of the book’s major flaws. If one purchases this book in hopes of learning any new details about Michael’s final weeks or days leading up to his death, they will be disappointed because there isn’t much enlightenment to be had in that regard. It also raises for me another troubling issue that is difficult to simply dismiss. Could it be that, if Michael had come to trust Whitfield and Beard as much as they claim in the book, that he also extended this same trust by default to Dr. Murray, who after all had been introduced to him directly as a result of their employment? I’m sure that Adams meant well when he first recommended Murray (up until then, Murray had an impeccable record as a physician, so there would have been no reason to doubt him, and certainly no way to foresee the tragedy that would ultimately result from that fateful introduction) but, still, it’s a troubling issue that is hard to just sweep under the rug.
However, the book does confirm something about Michael’s insomnia that I had always theorized to be true-that it was only a problem for him during times of stress, or when he had to stick to a strictly scheduled regimen. When Michael wasn’t being stressed to “perform” or to stick to a schedule, it was no issue if he was awake all night and needed to take some down time the following day to compensate. The bodyguards would simply take the kids out to play, giving him time to decompress naturally. Without the stress of rehearsals, his body would adjust naturally to whatever rhythm it was comfortable with; thus, no need for Propofol, and no need for Murray or his “treatments.”
Insomnia In And Of Itself Wasn’t The Issue…It Was The Pressure To Perform And The Adherence To A Strict Schedule That Made It A Problem
The book’s real strength, however, is in its core narrative as a famous single father struggling to hold his family together despite tremendous obstacles. My favorite passages are the early scenes at the first house in Vegas, and later when the family sets up residence in Middleburg, Virginia (when what was “supposed” to be a family vacation ended as an indefinite, extended stay in the rural countryside). These were simple, happy times-Michael actually went shopping at Wal-Mart (one of the funniest scenes in the book); he bought firecrackers and he and the kids set them off in an open field. One almost wishes the book could freeze then and there, in those small moments where we glimpse him at his happiest.
Are books like this a betrayal of trust? There really isn’t an easy way around that issue. These guys worked for Michael Jackson. Many of the personal incidents they were privy to-even the seemingly harmless little things like hoarding Tobasco sauce or setting off firecrackers with the kids-were things Michael wished to be kept only for himself and his kids. We can only imagine how we would have felt about the revelation of the “secret” girlfriends, or the embarrassment of the world knowing his credit cards had been denied. The very first sentence of the book’s introduction states:
“You would not be reading this if Michael Jackson was still alive.”
No doubt, that is true. I “get” the modus operandi of that statement. It’s kind of like, okay, if you admit this and own it already, then at least you’ve beaten everyone else to the punch.
Are Books Like “Remember The Time” A Betrayal? It May Well Depend On How We Define Betrayal. But Remember The Alternative. Do We Really Want To Leave It To The Tabloids To Have The Last Word On Michael’s Story And Legacy?
But here is the reality. Michael isgone, and in the void that has been created by his death, it will largely be nothing but the tabloids that are left to tell his story if honest books like this one are not put out there to counter the garbage. We can say all that matters-or all that shouldmatter to the world-are his songs, his art, and his humanitarian deeds. We can say that until we’re blue in the face, but it still doesn’t change the fact that there is an insatiable market for gossip and trash. The fact is, hundreds of books have been written on, and will continue to be written, on Michael’s personal life. Many of those will be outright garbage, where Michael is simply put under a microscope and studied like some specimen, rather than understood as a complex artist, man, father, and human being. Books by fans-while often better researched and more factual than many of the major publisher offerings-are seldom taken seriously in the mainstream. Books by neutral journalists will always raise the issue of “but they didn’t even know him.” And, ultimately, books by real friends and associates-who DID know him-will often be attacked as “betrayals” even if they are largely sympathetic accounts.
In such an atmosphere, it is going to be impossible to please everyone. But I do think that books like this are crucial in helping to shift the narrative and (often mistaken) public perception of who Michael was. Sure, we won’t always be able to have all of our cake and eat it, too. For every account that exonerates him in some way, it may mean having to accept a few warts along with that exoneration. Michael wasn’t perfect, and any firsthand account that portrays him as such is bound to be a lie. However, the trade-off for accepting a few warts (okay, so he liked to spend money; he sometimes hoarded weird things like mannequins and tobasco sauce-who gives a rat’s hiney?) is in the reward of getting to know an extraordinary man and father who moved mountains with his life and music, and who struggled valiantly in the end to keep all that was most precious to him, despite every obstacle hurled against him.
THAT is the story this book strives to tell. It will make you laugh with the good moments and smile with the sweet ones. But overall, you will probably come away as I did, with a sense of impotent anger that the peaceful life and simple peace of mind that Michael so desperately craved in his life was never going to be an attainable or realistic goal.
Not as long as there was another dollar to be made, and another pound of flesh to be had.
ETA (6/13/14): An open letter from Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard has been sent out to many MJ sites, including this one. They have requested that this letter be shared to help further clear up misunderstandings that have occurred due to some of the media reviews of the book.
An Open Letter to the Michael Jackson Fan Community
It’s been a week since our new book, Remember the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson in His Final Days, went on sale. Since we hit stores, the response we’ve received from fans has been overwhelmingly positive. But there are a few questions and concerns circulating around that we’d like to address directly.
Fans on Twitter and Facebook have had a lot of questions about why we did the book, how we handled ethical concerns about Mr. Jackson’s privacy, why we didn’t take any money up front for writing the book, and so on. We’ve already addressed most of this in the in-depth Q&As published on the MJJ Community fan site and the Michael and the Truth blog, so we won’t repeat the answers here. What we would like to speak on is the reaction some fans have had based on that’s being said about the book in the tabloid media.
Yes, the tabloids have taken things from the book out of context and blown them up to make Mr. Jackson look “crazy.” Nobody should be surprised about that. And trust us, we’re more upset about it than you are. Our publishers have complained to the newspaper editors, repeatedly. One London tabloid had to be threatened with legal action to stop a story that deliberately distorted our words to the point of being libelous. That one article we were able to kill, but as Mr. Jackson knew all too well, there is only so much you can do to shut the tabloids up. The media will twist and sensationalize. They always do. Which is why we put our story in a book so that fans could go around the media and get the truth firsthand.
Our only motivation in doing this project was to give the world an honest, sincere, and respectful portrait of Mr. Jackson as a man and as a father. Still, some in the fan community have been tweeting and writing us with complaints based on the distortions in the media, not on what’s actually written in the book. The ultimate irony of all of this is that Michael Jackson’s fans are paying attention to what’s being said about Michael Jackson in the tabloids, even though you’re the ones who know that you shouldn’t pay any attention to anything the tabloids say about Michael Jackson.
All we are asking is that you judge the book on its merits, that you judge our motivation and our integrity based on what we have produced. You shouldn’t form a decision based on what the media is saying—and you shouldn’t just take our word for it, either. (Obviously, we’re a little biased.) There is only one group you should be paying attention to: the fans who have actually read the book. They know the truth.
We’ve started going through all the fan reviews we’ve received via email, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon, and we’ve compiled the best of them on our website (www.rememberthetime-book.com/fan) for you to peruse. We even reached out to a few of these readers and asked them to submit video testimonials discussing their reactions to the book in greater detail. Three of the videos have been posted so far. More will be go up in the days ahead. They are wonderful and informative to watch.
Right now, as you’ll see, the response from fans has been incredibly supportive. But we do welcome all opinion and thoughtful debate—positive and negative, celebratory and critical—as long as that opinion is based on knowledge about what is actually printed inside the book. For his entire life, Michael Jackson was plagued by people who rushed to judgement without taking the time to learn the facts and make informed decisions. We don’t need to be doing the same thing to each other.
We don’t expect every person on Earth to love the book or agree with everything we’re doing, and we understand the healthy skepticism that many in the fan community have. You were Mr. Jackson’s most passionate protectors in life, and you’ve continued that role since his passing. We respect that. All we ask is that you read what other fans have to say, watch their testimonials, and then make up your own mind.
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!
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?
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.
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:
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.
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 MICHAELintensely 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,
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,
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
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.
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
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,
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
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
2 THE COURT: Overruled.
3 THE WITNESS: I don’t really like him
4 anymore. I don’t think he’s really that deserving
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 isa 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 didMichael 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, herspin 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 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 zerointerest 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.
Other Celebrity Cases, Whether Fairly Or Not, Impact How The World Views The Michael Jackson Case.
Note: This is a draft of an article that I began before Ian Watkins’s sentencing on December 18th. I have decided to keep the original draft as I wrote it, only adding a few updates where needed. This is a case that is continuing to unfold, as more victims come forward and new evidence continues to mount. My intention here, in comparing and contrasting the two cases, is not so much aimed at a comparison of Michael and Ian Watkins-because frankly, there is no comparison here except perhaps on the most superficial of levels–but, rather, to examine the hypocrisy of the media in how both of these cases have been covered. Or, in other words, to examine the question: When a case of a real celebrity pedophile comes up against the Michael Jackson allegations, how do they stack up in terms of media coverage and public perceptions?).
Just as the pop world was shaken by those allegations made against Michael Jackson in 1993 and 2003, the world of alternative rock has taken its own hit lately with the news coming out of the UK concerning Ian Watkins. Watkins was the lead singer and frontman for Lostprophets, a band that had enjoyed enormous commercial and critical success in the UK. In the US, the group is not as well known, though they did have a big hit here back in 2004 with a pretty decent song called Last Train Home.
Well, apparently this story has been ongoing for some time, at least since late 2012. It’s just that the US media hadn’t taken much interest or notice until Watkins pleaded guilty to multiple sex crimes against children. The real kicker: At least two of these victims were babies, and one charge involves bestiality. Unfortunately, in covering this story I am going to have to link to some of the very same tabloids that, in the past, have trashed Michael’s name. I don’t normally make a practice of this, but I think in the case of this particular story, it is important since part of my objective is both in examining how some of these same outlets have covered the Watkins story (in comparison to the Michael Jackson case) and how, in some ways-albeit however small-we can take some comfort in the realization that at least part of the seeming witch hunt against Michael Jackson may have had more to do with the basic drive for celebrity scandal and ratings sensationalism than any personal vendetta against Michael Jackson in particular. The fact that it just happened to be Michael Jackson, of course-the celebrity they had long penned as “Wacko Jacko”- made for even greater copy. And the especial relish with which the media seemed to glorify in the accusations made against him is something else altogether, which I will examine briefly although it is a subject that would take many posts to really do justice to.
The details of the Watkins case are perhaps well known by now, but for those needing a quick crash course, this video is a good place to start with just the facts, and without the sensationalism:
Before I ruffle any feathers, I will explain why I am even mentioning this monster in the same breath with Michael Jackson, a man who was only accused (but never found guilty) and for whom prosecutors did not have an iota of the evidence that is continuing to pile up against Watkins. From the looks of things, this isn’t a case that is going to be as easily swept away as what happened to R. Kelly a few years back, or Roman Polanski, or even Steven Tyler. The rock world, in particular, has a long and sordid history of looking the other way in regards to pedophilia, especially when the victims are female. However, this clearly is not just another case of a guy nailing an underaged groupie, nor a case (such as that of Jerry Lee Lewis or Elvis) where a rock star may be unfairly judged for conduct in a time when the mores of the land were much different.
Ian Watkins, clearly, is in a league of his own, with only Jimmy Savile, Jerry Sandusky, and Gary Glitter perhaps, as his closest prototypes.
Ordinarily, in such circumstances, I would say let’s let the man have his day in court before convicting him, and certainly as an MJ fan, I know how the media loves these witch hunts. I would never wish that on another individual nor contribute to it, except for one fact: Since Watkins has pled guilty to these charges it pretty much clinches the deal. There will be no trial; only a sentencing. He has as good as confessed to his crimes. Which means, in exchange for his confession, he will be agreeing to a prison sentence and a life for which the term “pedophile” will forever be attached to his name. (Update: On December 18th, Watkins was sentenced to 35 years on 13 counts).
Which, for sure, casts a whole different color on things.
Guilt Or Innocence Makes No Difference To The Media. It All Adds Up To The Same Thing-Ratings And Profit
But what is disturbing is to see that, as far as the media is concerned, it doesn’t seem to make much difference whether the celebrity in question is guilty or innocent. The sliming that Watkins has taken in the press-particularly the British press-over the last few days is, while extreme, also deserved. Nevertheless, it’s scary to see that the witch hunt and hysteria that is currently unfolding against Watkins is following a pattern not unlike that which we saw with Michael Jackson, despite the vast differences in the two cases and, most importantly, despite the fact that Michael was never convicted of any crime.
One reason for comparing them is because it’s interesting to see how a case of a truly guilty pedophile stacks up against that of a man only accused, and never found guilty. But another good reason may be the lessons we can learn from each.
Also, we have to remember that even if Watkins is guilty as sin, the witch hunt hysteria will inevitably mutate into its own brand of madness, with all manner of accusers coming out of the woodwork and wild stories circulating in the press-some of which may be true, but just as many that will be totally fabricated. Just as with Michael, we will probably have many attention seekers connected to this case who only want their fifteen minutes of fame. In such an atmosphere, it becomes impossible to sift truth from fiction. Right now, if you look at any mention of the story in The Daily Mail, there is a bullet that reads “Police have appealed for anyone ‘affected’ by Watkins case to make contact.” For cases involving private citizens, this may be an effective way to encourage real victims to come forward. But as we have seen before in regards to celebrity cases, it is a tactic that usually only results in misleads, hundreds of bogus claims, and wasted time that could have been better spent investigating real leads.
I would like to start with the things that most disturb me about the Watkins case because, inevitably, I know they are parallels that some will try to draw between this and the Michael Jackson cases, and it is best to debunk them here and now.
1: Before pleading guilty to these charges, Ian Watkins had a reputation as a humanitarian for children’s causes:
Ian Watkins was children’s ambassador for Kidney Wales Foundation. The Daily Mail, of course, has made a huge splash of how Watkins used his charitable acts to gain access to children. The article mentions, in turn, how the image of Watkins going bed to bed to visit sick boys and girls is reminiscent of similar images of Jimmy Savile.
With these kinds of images, it becomes all the harder to defend Michael simply on the grounds of his great humanitarian work or acts of kindness. That is the pity of it, because real pedophiles like Watkins and Savile have pretty much sullied the image of the selfless, giving celebrity for everyone. It becomes much easier to be cynical about so called do-gooder celebrities, even sadly, those who did as much good as Michael. It also reinforces what I have said many times, which is that we can’t depend on Michael’s good deeds or acts of charitable kindness to be his sole defense. Only the evidence itself-or lack thereof-can do that. Nothing else.
However, let’s also not be too quick to let the tabloid press off the hook on this one. I, for one, find it rather disturbing that The Daily Mirror and other tabloid outlets would elect to use a photo of Watkins posing with a 10-year-old kidney patient in order to drive home the sensationalism of their story.
Perhaps Watkins used his charitable work to gain access to children. But then again, we don’t know that. Soon-to-be-convicted pedophile or not, we can’t judge what was in his heart at the time. Maybe his intentions were good. Disturbing as the fact is, pedophiles-aside from the sexual aspect of it-often do genuinely care about children and their welfare. In their sick minds, they do not look upon sex as something that harms children. Thus, as crazy as it sounds, it is perfectly plausible for someone to be a pedophile and still be someone who perhaps genuinely cares about the plight of sick children. This girl (as far as we know) was not one of his victims, and for this young lady, this was probably one of the most thrilling moments of her life. While the angle understandably sells copy, it also sullies the efforts of all who genuinely care about sick children and their efforts. Look, I’m not making excuses. I know this guy is one sick jerk. I’m just saying, though, let’s not be so quick to jump the gun in assuming he was looking to jump some baby’s bones every time he went into a hospital. Most likely, he was not. (True pedophiles are also quite adept at compartmentalizing, and evidently Watkins was someone who had succeeded for a long time in keeping his very sick private nature separate from his very humanitarian public one).
For Years, The Media Has Actually Tried To Use Michael’s Humanitarian Work Against Him. Real Pedophiles Like Ian Watkins and Jimmy Savile, Also Known For Humanitarian Work, Have Only Succeded In Making Things Worse.
But that isn’t the only parallel they will attempt to draw between Watkins and Michael. We also have:
Complicit parents: The Watkins story has understandably heightened, again, the idea of starstruck, complicit parents who will do anything for money-or to get close to someone famous. In the case of Michael Jackson, the prosecution tried to paint a picture of money hungry parents who would pimp out their children for any cost. In the Watkins case, it seemed more a case of starstruck groupies and fans who would do anything to keep their guy happy and satisfied. The latest stories involve how he would turn young fans into “Superfans” who would then aid and abet his every whim.
‘I’ve always said to the police, there’s hundreds of victims out there and you’re never going to find them because the mothers are in on it,’ Miss Majic said.
Indeed, the more stuff that is coming out about this guy, the more even the wildest stories and accusations about Michael seem tame stuff by comparison. For all the allegations of parents who supposedly accepted money and gifts in exchange for allowing Michael Jackson access to their children, there is nothing that remotely competes with Watkins’ record of having actual text messages and chatroom logs of mothers exchanging sexually explicit talk with Watkins and performing sexually explicit acts upon their own children (and my next question: When are those mothers going to be charged with sexual abuse?)
(Update: Those mothers have been convicted to 14 years and 17 years respectively).
But it still begs the question: How much of what we are reading about this case in the tabloids is actually true? I get the distinct feeling that what we’re seeing in this case is truth mixed with a whole lot of hysteria, hype, and sensationalism. In that regard, there certainly isn’t much to separate this from what was done to Michael Jackson. Even the fact that Watkins has pled guilty doesn’t entirely make this an open and shut case. True, I don’t think you can begin to compare someone who has pled guilty to such heinous charges to someone who not only staunchly denied all charges made against him, but was ultimately acquitted in a court of law. But I know that, sure as I sit here and say no innocent person would plead guilty to such a thing, there are-as we know too well-just as many who will say no innocent man would have settled a case for millions of dollars. As Michael Jackson fans, we’ve all heard the argument too many times to count.
On this blog and elsewhere we have examined, many times, what might drive an innocent person to settle:
So…what are some reasons why an innocent person might plead guilty? Obviously, a guilty plea eliminates any need for a drawn out trial, in which every embarrassing and sordid detail of a person’s life is going to be put out there for public consumption. As we know, this was at least some of Michael’s justification for settling the Chandler case in ’93, along with, perhaps, being misguided by the advice of Johnnie Cochran. Yet the court documents of the settlement clearly state that it by no means an admission of guilt or wrongdoing.
On the other hand, a plea of guilty would seem to be just that-in most cases. However, there are exceptions. In most cases, as we know, a person pleads guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence than might be imposed by a judge after a jury trial. In many cases, the accused may be poor, or may be a minority. In most cases, it occurs when the accused knows they are not likely to receive a fair trial, or cannot afford adequate defense. In other words, just as there are perfectly legit reasons why an innocent person may settle, there are also very valid reasons why an innocent person might plead guilty.
But in most cases, a guilty plea is a legal maneuver to avoid a potentially harsher sentence further down the road, or the possibility (and embarrassment) of further incrimination as details come out in trial.
Michael Didn’t Want To Settle In ’93. “I’m Ready To Go To Court Right Now!” He Said, Adding “I Don’T Want To Delay It Even One Day!”
From the looks of things, it seems that with the evidence piling up against Ian Watkins, there wasn’t much choice but to plead guilty and throw himself on the mercy of the court. It would seem that his attorneys must have convinced him that his best bet was to plead guilty and hope that a judge would buy his “somewhat” defense that he was too out of his mind on crystal meth to know what he was doing. With all the evidence, to deny he did the crimes would seem idiotic and pointless. It has been reported by some sources that Watkins told a female fan who asked why he pled guilty that he did it because he didn’t want to go to trial. On the surface, this might seem similar to those who excuse why Michael settled with the Chandler family, and even Michael himself said in the Bashir doc that “I didn’t want to do a long, drawn out thing like O.J., it just wouldn’t look right.” But that is where the comparison begins and ends. In the first place, the settlement did not prevent the Chandlers from continuing to pursue criminal charges, had they so desired, nor did it end the criminal investigation of the case, contrary to popular myth. Secondly, Watkins had to have known that he was facing a minimum of 30+ years. For someone already 36 years old, that is practically a life sentence. I don’t think that any innocent person in their right mind would willingly just give up that easily without a fight. He had to have known that a guilty verdict was going to be inevitable. And perhaps, in the end, he did it to save his family more embarrassment and humiliation (I do feel sorry for his mother, Elaine, who seems from all accounts a genuinely nice lady).
And that is where the biggest and most substantial difference between this case and anything ever levied against Michael Jackson comes into play.
For all the “talk” of “where there’s smoke there must be fire” we do know one thing for certain about the Michael Jackson allegations. Without exception, the allegations all came down to “he said, she said.” There was never one iota of actual, hardcore evidence-no photos, no video tapes, no child pornography (despite the fact that authorities searched over 66 computers taken from his home), no incriminating letters, no taped conversations; in fact, nothing but the flimsiest circumstantial evidence which, of course, haters have been trying unsuccessfully to twist into actual evidence for years. But the simple fact remains: None of it was enough to convince a jury.
Compare that to what has already surfaced on Ian Watkins:
The evidence against Watkins came from computers, laptops and mobile phones, which were seized by police. The court heard that he filmed and kept the episodes of abuse, which took place in locations including hotels in London and south Wales. Some of the evidence was deemed too extreme and distressing to report by media in court.
A 17-minute long video involving Watkins and one of the women shot in a London hotel room showed Watkins performing a sex act on an 11-month-old baby. He claims he has no memory of the event. The video was shot in a hotel room in Shepherds Bush, London, the day after the release of the band’s final album ‘Weapons’. Earlier that day, he had appeared on BBC Radio 1. Prosecutors said that Watkins and the women subsequently exchanged emails about how they would not go “easy” on the child next time.
One laptop seized from Watkins’ home was password protected with the password “If***kids”, which was uncovered when it was sent to GCHQ to be cracked.
Watkins sent a text message to one of the women saying: “If you belong to me, so does your baby.” The court also heard how Watkins sent messages to to one of his co-defendants talking of how he wanted “to cross the line”. When she responded with “A summer of incest and child porn”, he replied: “Hell yes baby.” He then told her: “The sooner we start training her the better.“
Police downloaded video footage showing one woman being encouraged to abuse her child via a conversation on Skype. In the footage, which takes the form of a split screen, Watkins is seen masturbating and refers to the woman and her baby as his “slave duo.” The child’s mother then refers to her baby as “your little **** toy.” At a later date she sent him a picture of herself having oral sex with the baby.
Prosecuting barrister Chris Clee QC told the court that drugs played a “significant part in his offending against children”. Police found meth, cocaine and GHB during their searches. Watkins also planned to “teach” the babies how to take drugs, the hearing was told. He also reportedly planned intoxicate one of his victims by blowing crystal-meth smoke into the child’s face at a Cardiff hotel. (In theory, keep in mind that this may not differ substantially from prosecution claims that Michael gave alcohol to minors. The presence of these drugs don’t necessarily prove anything, anymore than the presence of wine in MJ’s home “proved” anything).
Police also found box of camcorder cassettes which held recordings of sex acts with underage fans.
The court heard in October 2006, Watkins met up in a hotel with a 16-year-old girl from Boston, who he had met during during a Lostprophets concert. The prosecution said she had agreed to give her virginity to him and flew from Boston to New York and went to a hotel where he was staying, bringing with her a schoolgirl outfit he had asked her to dress in. They are then filmed having oral and full sex before he asks her: “Do you like being my underage slut.” He then urinated on her face and told her to ‘drink my p***’, the court heard.” (However, let’s note that this is not exactly atypical rock star behavior).
In Oct 2008 he filmed himself having sex with another 16-year-old girl, who was also a Lostprophets fan. (Again, not admirable, but not particularly shocking for a rock star, either).
The singer also admitted possessing and making child porn as well as launching the plot to rape a baby.
Claiming his innocence, Watkins had told police during interviews he was being stalked by “a crazed fan” and other people had access to his computers. He also claimed he was the “victim of a malicious campaign”.
As you can see, just from the hearing alone, the hardcore police evidence against this guy is overwhelming. This list alone is the clearest, visible reason why we can in no way even begin to compare the two as far as guilt and innocence.
Even more telling, check out the sentencing comments given to Watkins and the two complicit mothers:
And perhaps the most important detail worth noting: If we are to believe the reports that are circulating now (which apparently are true as they seem to have been corroborated) those who suspected Watkins’s crimes went straight to the police with their claims-not, let’s note, to the tabloids or to civil attorneys.Of course, the tragedy of this story is that the police reportedly did nothing (for four years!) and only acted after receiving a drug tip-off.
It only goes to show, again, that while the world was so busy focusing attention on Michael Jackson, real pedophiles were getting away with their crimes right under authority noses. Somehow it doesn’t shock me in the least that British authorities should be quicker to act on a suspicion of drug use than a report of child abuse.
Perhaps we can make a case for disgruntled or scorned people with axes to grind. I really don’t think that ex girlfriend Joanne Majic is exactly a paragon of virtue in all of this. In fact, she is already spicing up her original claims, now stating that in addition to wanting to have sex with children, Watkins had also told her that he wanted to kill them! (For some reason, this puts me in mind of people like the LeMarques, who infamously made their stories about Michael Jackson more outlandish every time a tabloid was willing to pay a higher asking price). We also have to consider that Watkins’s level of fame-and thus the lucrative bargaining power of his name-is nowhere near that of Michael Jackson. Still, I think it is quite telling that even though these people could have sold their stories to the press, they chose instead to go straight to the authorities. Something that no accuser of Michael Jackson ever did. Note what I said. Ever.Instead, the authorities only became involved after intense media scrutiny that had been instigated, first in ’93 by tabloid stories, and in 2003 following Bashir’s documentary. The people who brought accusations against Michael Jackson were only interested in how much money they could get for their stories.
Under Various Aliases Such As “Dr. Black” And “Marcel Jackson” Michael Did Have A Cyberspeace Double Life, Of Sorts…But It Was All Perfectly Adult, And Perfectly Legal
I will just say that in my own searches on Ian Watkins over the past few days, I’ve stumbled upon some pretty disturbing stuff. However, I have also run across some websites that are now blowing out of proportion what appear to have been no more than some of Watkins’s legal adult porn activity. Yes, some of it may seem like pretty depraved stuff by some standards (I won’t link to them here as they are very graphic)but all the same, perfectly legal. In that regard, there is no difference between what is happening now and what both the prosecution and haters ever since have been attempting to spin in regards to Michael’s porn activity. However, there are still some majordifferences. For starters, even if some of Watkins’s porn activity falls under the realm of legal adult porn, that doesn’t change the fact that he still possessed a sh*%& lode of illegal child porn, much of it videos he had made himself. Secondly, either Michael was a hell of a lot more discreet with his activities, or had the good sense to not put himself out in the open by having sex chats on Skype and creating blatant profiles of himself on explicit porno sites. We know that he had some secret profiles/aliases that he used for adult cruising (Dr. Black and Dr. Marcel Jackson, apparently were two favorite profile names) but the difference, again, between Michael and someone like Ian Watkins is that, while Michael’s activities were very discreet and below the radar-as would be normal for any celebrity or even private citizen-Watkins seemed to take great pleasure in putting himself “out there” for the masses-namely, his female fans. The younger, evidently, the better. His egomania, in the end, may have been his biggest undoing. It also raises another interesting topic. While rock stars and (often underaged) groupies are as old as rock ‘n’roll itself, it seems that the internet and social media has very much shaken up the old way of doing things. After all, it used to be that girls either had to wait until their idols rolled into town, or be willing to take up the gypsy lifestyle to follow them on the road. And for a musician, it meant you had to be on the road and wait until after the show to get any action. But these days, all a guy needs, it seems, is a web cam and voile! It’s instant party time. And social media has also done more than just make it easier to have casual sex. It has also, in many cases, eradicated the barriers that once existed between celebrities and, well, us common folks. In other words, there was a time when a girl would have had to put in endless hours of waiting backstage and talking up some fat roadie to get to someone like Ian Watkins. Now, all she has to do is log in with a username. I would imagine Watkins certainly isn’t the only musician out there taking advantage of the new technology. But the dangers posed are the same as with all forms of cyber sex. It becomes much easier, online, to cross taboo lines and to seduce minors. I would wager that in Watkins’s case, it was a freedom that went to his head. Once he was addicted, there was no turning back. Judging from the evidence, he slid further and further into depravity. (And perhaps one big lesson Watkins should have learned: Don’t get tattoos if you plan on putting your depravity on the internet: They only make it easier to identify you!).
By contrast, check out what was actually found when police raided Neverland:
Excessive? Maybe. But all perfectly legal, and nothing of the incriminating caliber that police evidently found after one search of Watkins’s residence.
However, as harmless as most of Michael’s porn stash might have been, it still fell under the unforgiving scrutiny of a district attorney and prosecutor determined to find him guilty at all costs, and a media only too willing to distort the truth for ratings. As mentioned in the above link, lesbian themed issues became “gay porn.” Ron Zonen attempted to argue that “Barely Legal” was indicative of an interest in “child porn” despite the fact that “Barely Legal” is an adult mainstream porn publication whose models typically range from eighteen to twenty-three. The magazine is put out by Larry Flynt of “Hustler” fame. Heck, it doesn’t get much more mainstream than that! As might be expected, the title “Barely Legal” is meant to titillate and to appeal to the desire of most men to look at pretty models who are as young as the law allows. But here one would have to argue that if this alone was enough to qualify MJ as a pedophile, then by default they would have to brand most every normal, breathing man in the world as such!
If you still have doubts, you can check it out right here:
I am only bringing all of this up to note that, yes, there are some very marked and extreme differences between what was found in Michael Jackson’s home as opposed to the very hardcore and incriminating evidence found in the home of a confessed pedophile like Ian Watkins. However, the media has operated the same in both cases, distorting details and focusing on only the most salacious angles in order to generate headlines. The tragedy is that, despite the fact that one man was never proven guilty, and the other is clearly guilty by his own admission, the media coverage of both-if we compare this case to the way the Michael Jackson case was handled from 2003-2005- has been nearly identical in its extremity. The only difference is that, in Michael’s case, the stakes were much higher because he was a bigger name. And, perhaps, an easier target. The media had been on a slow campaign to bring him down for years. It had its roots going all the way back to those rumors of the mid-80′s about hyperbaric chambers and Elephant Man bones, and perhaps even earlier, all the way back to when he was first said to be a 40-year-old midget posing as a child. It is interesting now to see the media back pedaling as it scrambles for ways to brand Ian Watkins- a critically acclaimed and award winning artist up until late 2012-a “weirdo” and “freak.” You can see the same campaign in action (Note how every photo of him that is used in conjunction with these stories is one intended to make him look demonic or demented). The crucial difference, of course, is that the media had been doing this to Michael for years. No media outlet was poking fun at Ian Watkins until he became known as “that baby fu*%$er.”
On the other hand, being accused of child molestation did not cause the media feeding frenzy and witch hunt mentality that sprung up against Michael Jackson. It merely accelerated it. In some ways, the allegations, it seems, became more the excuse than the reason. If you need proof, you don’t have to look any further than this Good Morning Britain clip promoting the Bad album in 1987, six full years before any sexual allegations were made against him:
As I have said many times before, I was not a huge Michael Jackson fan in the late 80′s and early 90′s. I was more of a rock purist in those days, more apt to be listening to Warrior Soul than Dangerous. Thus, I know from the inside circle how many of that faction felt about Michael Jackson in the wake of the sex scandal allegations. There was a kind of celebration in it; a joy in seeing this self-righteous do-gooder toppled from his pretentious throne. After all, while most rockers were always getting fingers pointed at them as the dregs of the earth-responsible for every ill of society-people like Michael Jackson were held up as exemplary role models and paragons of virtue. Such hasty generalization judgments were not fair to either party, and in many crucial ways I realize that now. But it was what it was. For many, this guy Michael Jackson was just a little too much to stomach. Was jealousy part of it? I think so. Jealousy, racism, and in some ways, just plain old musical, macho snobbery-sadly, the very thing that Michael had been trying to tear down for years. But it seemed sometimes that the harder he tried to tear down those walls, the more resistance and resentment he generated.
It Sometimes Seemed That The More He Tried To Break Down The Walls Of Resistance, The More He Was Resented
It seemed, then, that a blow of vengeance had been struck in the never ending pop vs. rock war. This is where you have bands like Kiss and rockers like Gene Simmons suddenly strutting about like bantam roosters, mocking Michael Jackson while striking their own phony, souped up macho poses and bragging about how “real men” are supposed to act and behave. I have to wonder, now that the ball has landed squarely back in the rockers’ court, how the community will react to this one. Is Gene Simmons going to rush to this guy’s defense, since their sexual tastes seem oddly similar? I am not exaggerating; there is an actual sex video of Simmons and a model who is dressed to look like a 14-year-old, not unlike some of the very tapes allegedly made by Watkins. (There has been some debate, however, as to whether the tape was simply a publicity stunt for Frank’s Energy Drink):
Well, anyone who is interested and has a strong stomach can judge for themselves, since the video is still available on many soft porn sites as well as any website that loves to slag on ugly, past their prime rockers who can’t keep it zipped!
Is Howard Stern going to trash this guy, like he did Michael, or make him into some kind of underdog hero? Will Diane Dimond plan to write any books on Ian Watkins, warning his female fans to “Be Careful” of who they love? Will Maureen Orth come on TV and blast what a depraved man he is? And will there be someone starting up a Facebook page to support Ian Watkins’s many victims? Or is that kind of energy, devotion, and dogged, loyal support only saved for the presumed “victims” of Michael Jackson?
The saddest thing of all is that, when the news of those allegations broke, no one really took the time to analyze whether Michael was guilty or not. No one cared. We were all too busy hoping he was guilty to ever consider, for a moment, that maybe he wasn’t. Somehow we needed Michael to be guilty, as if his guilt would assuage something in our own souls. We pointed fingers at “the freak” because it was easier than examining the poison in our own minds and hearts that would lead us to so easily crucify another human being.
As has been pointed out many times, we are really not that far removed from our barbaric Roman ancestors, nor our ancestors of the Spanish Inquisition. The three hundred years that separates us from the Salem witch trials is just the blink of an eye. Our reasoning and judgment is no more advanced, nor less flawed; our propensity for blood no less hot.
In 2004, the media seized upon leaked transcripts from a pre-trial grand jury hearing and used this leaked information to print many false and salacious details concerning Michael Jackson’s case.
The leak prompted this video response, posted on Michael’s web site at the time, MJJSource. com:
Yet this plea did not stop media outlets from running with those details, even though none of it at the time had been cross examined. In this clip, we can see the media’s reaction to Michael’s attempt to defend himself against the information being reported in those leaked transcripts:
As heinous as most of the current details sound in the Ian Watkins case-and even despite his guilty plea-we also have to remember that most of these details are coming to us now filtered through the same means and through the same lenses as the information we were receiving on much of the Michael Jackson case throughout 2004. Once again, what we are reading in mainstream media, in medialoid and tabloid publications are details leaked from a hearing. Once again, we have to ask the question: How much of what we are hearing is the real version of what happened? How much is being fabricated? How much exaggerated? Do we even know?
Or, once again, are we going to be content to be mere sideline spectators to the circus?
At this point you might be asking, Why should we even care, if Watkins is so obviously guilty? I can answer that one quite simply.
In 2003, when I first started reading and hearing the media reports that Michael Jackson was in trouble-again!-my immediate reaction was conditioned to his guilt. Not that I had any strong emotions about it one way or the other. But I believed he was “most likely” guilty, just as I believed-along with 99% of America-that O.J. was “most likely” guilty of murdering Nicole Simpson. I did not realize for a long time that media conditioning had everything to do with how I perceived what I knew-or thought I knew-about the case. We live in a society that has become conditioned to celebrity scandal. We probably know more about Kennedy’s exploits with Marilyn Monroe than any action he ever took in the oval office. We’ve been through everything from Watergate to the Lewinsky affair. We’ve seen a beloved American football hero become a murderer, and every day we are bombarded with news of the latest celebrity scandal. And in most cases, the scandals turn out to be true, or at least partially true, reminding us that we are all only human and that there are no real heroes; no Supermen or Wonder Women; no true role models to be had. Even our presidents, the highest leaders in the land, are only flawed and vulnerable human beings like ourselves, as apt to be victims of the press as celebrated by it.
In such increasingly cynical times, it becomes much easier to assume guilt than to presume innocence, or even benefit of the doubt. It also becomes much easier to be part of the feeding frenzy. We are fascinated by the downfall of celebrities and people in high places. I don’t think that is going to change anytime soon. It seems to be part of our genetic encoding. Why do you think the great tragedies of the classical stage were always about the fall of a hero? However, since we are not animals but human beings, we have the ability to rise above our primal instincts-or should. Or, in other words, just because a train wreck happens doesn’t mean we have to look.
However, in addition to our apparent inbred fascination with the downfall of celebrities and the never ceasing interest in the sordid details of their lives-an interest that continues to feed the tabloid industry to the tune of millions a year in revenue-there is an especial venom that is held for that most heinous of crimes, and that is crimes committed against children. It doesn’t matter how much good the person may have accomplished in the past. Once they wear the label of child molestor, they are reviled human beings. People like Jimmy Savile, Jerry Sandusky, and now Ian Watkins are not villified without justification. However, there is also something more than a bit disturbing at how quick people are to browbeat and postulate under the anonymity of the internet. I noticed some interesting trends as I was researching this piece. Many Youtube videos of Lostprophets have now had comments totally disabled. Of the ones that are still allowing comments, it is virtually impossible to find one comment now that actually focuses on the music. Instead, it is page after page of “Rot in jail, baby fu*%er” and such like. Sadly, it reminds me of those days eight years ago when almost everyone was 100% sure that Michael Jackson had molested kids, and that only his most blind, deranged fans could possibly think he was innocent.
Up until a few days ago, I might have said things haven’t changed much. But now, after seeing the absolute deluge of hate and venom being directed at Watkins, I am not so sure. In the wake of his guilty plea, he has quickly lost whatever bastion of fan support he had left. No one, it seems, can defend this guy because frankly, there is not much to defend. While I am sure that Watkins may still have some die hard supporters, their almost zero presence on the internet is very telling (in fact, quite the opposite; it was apparently several fans who, having discovered much of this disturbing info, were attempting to blow the whistle to authorities).
This proves something very fundamental about human nature, and disproves the long-cherished notion held by Michael Jackson haters that fans only continue to support Michael simply because they are star-struck fans. Blind devotion can only go so far. In the face of mounting and undeniable evidence that a heinous crime has taken place, most fans are going to jump ship. Public support for Ian Watkins has been all but completely withdrawn. Even his parents have made no attempt to deny his guilt; instead, they have only expressed their shock and their hope that, at some future point, his image can be rehabilitated somewhat.
In these clips, we see how even diehard rock fans have no sympathy for Ian Watkins (and if you watch none of the rest, you at least have to watch the third one; that girl is a hoot!).
And these are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. All of these reactions are indicative of an audience and a fanbase reething in turmoil, shock, and disgust.
Which brings me back to Michael.
One thing that began to slowly change my mind about Michael when I began researching him in 2009 was the ultimate love, devotion, and continued support of his fans. I knew that alone wasn’t enough to “prove” his innocence, of course. But it was enough to make me think, There must surely be a reason why so many continue to love this man, despite everything. You could say I was impressed first by love, and later won over by what I came to know through my own research. While I do believe there is validity to the adage that one can’t truly know unless they were there, the simple truth is that, after two criminal investigations and over ten years’ worth of FBI surveillance, nothing was ever found on Michael Jackson that could unequivocally link him to any crime against a minor.
Perhaps, every once in awhile, it takes the vileness of the truly guilty for us to appreciate the truly innocent.
Of course, Ian Watkins was not a solo act, but a member of a band. The scandal, whether fairly or not, has enveloped and tainted them as well. In the last few days, I have also seen many vile comments that have not just attacked Watkins personally, but the entire band. Inevitably, they have had to make their own decision to move on and to distance themselves from their former bandmate:
Earlier this week, we learned that the allegations of child sexual abuse against Ian were true, and that he would not be contesting them in court. Until then, we found them extremely difficult to believe and had hoped it was all a mistake. Sadly, the true extent of his appalling behaviour is now impossible to deny.
Many of you understandably want to know if we knew what Ian was doing. To be clear: We did not. We knew that Ian was a difficult character. Our personal relationships with him had deteriorated in recent years to a point that working together was a constant, miserable challenge. But despite his battles with drugs, his egotistic behaviour, and the resulting fractures and frustrations within our band, we never imagined him capable of behaviour of the type he has now admitted.
We are heartbroken, angry, and disgusted at what has been revealed. This is something that will haunt us for the rest of our lives. Being in a band has always been a labour of love and a platform to inspire people, not to take advantage of them. It’s still hard to believe this is happening and that someone we were once so close to has destroyed so many lives, lying every step of the way.
Our hearts go out to Ian’s family, the fans and friends he betrayed, and most importantly, the victims of his crimes and others like them. We hope for justice, but also that Ian will truly take responsibility for what he’s done. We would urge any other victims to contact the authorities.
Wow, that’s cold. But again, in the face of undeniable guilt, a necessary move if they are to have any hope of moving forward with their own careers-and to avoid any charges of being complicit in Watkins’s crimes.
Jennifer Batten, Who Came To Michael’s Aid Again To Shut Up Unfounded Rumors From Gene Simmons. Michael’s Band Mates have Remained Steadfast And Loyal.
But this raises another interesting question, and another important difference between Watkins and Jackson. Michael was a solo act, but what if he had been a member of a band? Would his bandmates have stayed loyal to him through his toughest times, or would they have deserted him? The closest equivalent we have are the men and women who made up his touring entourage-the singers, dancers, and musicians who toured with him for years. We know that most of these people remained incredibly loyal, many of them staying with him for more than three decades. What’s more, these people have remained some of his most ardent defenders.
As we can see already from what is happening to Lostprophets, no one in entertainment wants to be associated with a known child molestor. It simply isn’t good business. I think much of the loyalty that Michael inspired in his co-workers came from the generally accepted truth, and faith, among them that he was an innocent man. Perhaps that kind of loyalty doesn’t prove anything, but it certainly speaks volumes.
Still, the Ian Watkins case does raise some interesting questions. It is interesting to see what happens when fan loyalty is truly put to the test, or when that loyalty comes up against undeniable truths. I have often wondered how very different things might have been IF-and only saying IF-that jury had come back with a guilty verdict in 2005 (or even a partially guilty verdict; after all, let’s not forget he was charged with fourteen counts). This isn’t even a question of guilt or innocence. But sometimes, yes, juries have reached some pretty questionable decisions. So what if Michael, instead of being acquitted, had become a convicted felon in 2005? I still believe he would have had fans willing to stick by him, convinced he had been unfairly framed and railroaded. I have no doubt. But for sure, it would have been much harder to defend Michael Jackson as a convicted felon-and the label is one he would have never shaken off.
We can say that, thankfully, it never came to that, and as a result, his legacy is much different from what it might have been. But there is a downside. I’m sure that in 2005, most fans were ecstatic, thinking this was only the beginning for Michael, that he would be able to put all of this behind him and move on with his life.
But sadly, as we know now, his life had less than four years to play out. Less than four years in which to enjoy the freedom he had fought so hard for. The verdict bought him four more years of life and four more years to enjoy with his children. But the damage was irreparable.
Michael Walked Away From The 2005 Trial A Free Man. But The Damage Done To Him Was Irreperable.
Recently, I was pretty much confined to the house for several evenings due to some unseasonably nasty weather. I had to type out comments for student presentations, a very tedious task. To alleviate some of the boredom, I played Youtube videos in the background of the Michael Jackson 2005 trial. It was interesting, to say the least, to go back to those times from eight years ago and re-live the witch hunt again as it unfolded. It struck me anew how appalling it was that Michael was already treated like a convicted criminal in the media, before the trial had even begun. Journalists routinely (and without thought) tossed around adjectives like “sick” and “monster” with no thought as to whether they were actually true. No wonder the public believed he was guilty! It is sad that if we stop to consider the difference between how the Jackson and Watkins cases have played out in the media, we realize quickly enough that there is no difference in how the two cases were covered, or in the public perception of the individual that was created by the coverage. Other than the fact that one will go to prison, and one walked away a free man; one has pled guilty and admitted his crimes; the other fought with every last breath he had to proclaim his innocence; one has a mountain of evidence against him that is still growing in size as I type this; the other, none but somebody’s word against his.
One guilty and one innocent. But you would never know that from the headlines. However, I do think recent cases such as Sandusky, Savile and Watkins have had some benefit in educating the public of how true pedophiles operate. In every case, their described acts, their number of victims, and the sheer depravity with which they have carried out their acts makes everything Michael was ever accused of seem petty in comparison. Look, I’m not saying one case of molestation is any more horrific than another-ifMichael had been guilty. But rather than inviting comparisons, maybe it’s time that some take a good, long, hard look at the facts and realize that Michael Jackson was never the monster they tried to make him out to be. Ten years’ worth of FBI files, thousands of dollars invested in tracking down every possible, would-be victim all over the world, a search that scanned 60+ computer hard drives, and every possible scrap of book and paper he owned, and a costly trial that dragged on for nearly five months all yielded nothing. I know there are some conspiracy theorists who will try to argue till their dying day that he somehow “got away” with the crime of the century. Diane Dimond has made it her life’s mission. Martin Bashir piggybacked off it all the way to a career at MSNBC (although karma did finally catch up to him in backhanded kind of way, after his remarks about Sarah Palin). But let’s face it. The single ingredient that trips up most pedophiles is their seeming inability to control their need to document their conquests. That all of the searches carried out against Michael yielded not one shred of hard evidence-not one incriminating photo, video tape, “love letter,” text, or sex chat, should say everything. No matter how much some might want to cling to their suspicions, without the evidence, there is nothing.
Keeping that in mind, here is what a recent story on the Ian Watkins investigation revealed:
Authorities hacked into Watkin’s hard drive and discovered he had child abuse videos. He had encrypted his computer but expert hackers were able to access the computer and see his stash. Some of the videos were made by Watkins himself.
When fans love to point out that searches of the hard drives in all 66 of the computers seized from Michael’s house yielded nothing illegal, detractors and the cynical love just as much to point out the fact that Michael could have easily, at any time, discarded of any such incriminating evidence before the raid. But this excuse simply doesn’t hold up. Authorities not only have the means to hack into computers and to bypass difficult encryption codes, but they can also determine if hard drives have been erased, a fact that surely would have been mentioned if these examinations had yielded a suspicious number of deleted files. In fact, it is very likely that both Michael’s phone and computer activities had been tracked by the FBI for years. Perhaps he was very clever, but if we are to judge by the cases of actual convicted pedophiles, he would have had to have been truly one of the most clever and strange pedophiles in history, one who apparently documented nothing, kept nothing, and left no trail whatsoever. Such behavior is very unlikely, and very uncharacteristic of serial pedophiles.
There was nothing then, and nothing now. So why the dogged determination to keep trying to pin that label on him?
Ian Watkins is a short-term villain right now because the story is fresh, and because it’s easy to take potshots at such a heinous person. But in the end, he’s simply not important enough for his case to have much long-term impact. He will go to prison, and if he survives it long enough, he’ll be forgotten.
Michael Jackson remains the “Big One” that so many pinned their hopes on, not only a zealous prosecutor but many journalists who hoped to become celebrities themselves by riding on the coattails of this case. If any celebrity was going to take that fall, we somehow needed it to be him. Apparently, some still do. The evidence and resultant media stories that are circulating now about Ian Watkins was what Sneddon and company so desperately wanted to see in the Michael Jackson case. Sneddon wanted to see that case publicized as one with far reaching, global repercussions;hence his determination to search out “victims” all over the world.
I have to admit that with the Watkins case, some of the justification for seeking out victims throughout the world has started to make a little more sense. It’s easy to simply say that Sneddon was so desperate to find victims that he went scouting all over the globe for them. It’s easy to make him look like one very desperate, mustache-twirling villain because of this. However, celebrity pedophile cases do have far more global impact than ordinary cases, especially in the case of touring musicians who have far more opportunity than ordinary citizens to carry out their crimes in other countries. Michael Jackson, for sure, would have had had even more opportunity than someone like Ian Watkins to carry out many crimes against children in foreign countries-had he been so inclined. But here is where it gets interesting. You see, while the evidence against Watkins continues to mount, Sneddon’s dogged, worldwide search yielded for him little more fruit than the already discredited, tabloid tales of the LeMarqueses and the Quindoys:
So now I am going to speak for both Tom Sneddon and the media. It must be frustrating indeed when the one you wanted/needed so badly to be the horrible villain is maybe not the world’s biggest pop star and eccentric after all, but rather, some tattooed rocker who, until late last year, was hardly distinguishable from the pack. So “the devil,” it turns out, is not the “bleached pedo freak with the ferris wheel in his back yard” but, just maybe, really isthe guy with all the tattoos and piercings. Who woulda thunk it! Again, it will be interesting to see if people like Gene Simmons are as eager to speak out on this one, or will they simply cloak it all in a conspiracy of silence?
Some will not be content until they’ve stripped him, a bare corpse, and have laid him upon the altar fire of our sins. Only then will their own self righteous vendettas be served.
As for the driving need to make Michael Jackson the “sick, depraved one” death has changed the playing field only but a little. Some will say enough is enough. Let the man rest in peace. Others, however, will not be content until they’ve stripped him, a bare corpse, and have laid him upon the altar fire of our sins. Only then will their own self righteous vendettas be served.
Once again, a real celebrity pedophile case has only proved to highlight all of the reasons why a Santa Barbara jury in 2005 made the unanimous decision to let Michael Jackson walk out of that court room as a free man. Media hype and zealous prosecutors can only accomplish so much. Hellbent journalists and screeching legal analysts can work over time to paint a case with all the colorful brush strokes they want.
But in the end, it all has to come down to the evidence.
Unfortunately for the many victims of Ian Watkins, but perhaps fortunately for those of us who care about Michael Jackson and his legacy, that is where any comparison between the two takes a widely divergent path to a very different end.
Despite any short-term similarity in the form of media sensationalism, I think that the long term effect is going to prove much different. If there is any silver lining to take from these recent cases, it is in revealing just how vastly different the Michael Jackson case was, both in terms of evidence and the motivating factors behind it.
It is, quite simply, the difference between guilt and innocence. How much does either matter? Sadly, I think that if it’s a question that comes down to the media desire for ratings and profit, not at all.
But as far as how history will judge Michael Jackson, it is going to be very hard indeed to justify what was done to him when stacked up against cases as damning as this. Ian Watkins’s name is destined to be a footnote to musical history, but one that will forever cast a long and infamous shadow over the many victims he hurt.
Michael Jackson, on the other hand, a name that will shine on forever for the musical joy he brought, may bear the brunt of an unfair tarnishment but I think that, in time, cases such as Sandusky, Savile, and Watkins will only help to prove just how little comparison there actually is.
UPDATE 12/28/2013: On a similar note, check out the latest posting on Vindicating Michael 2.0 comparing Michael’s case to that of R. Kelly. You can see that once again again, it comes down to a matter of havingactualevidence. In keeping with the true nature of a serial pedophile, Kelly could not resist the urge to document his activities, thus resulting in his being charged. Shockingly, he was still acquitted-and never received half the public damnation that Michael has!
Michael’s Image By The Early 90′s Had Become Increasingly Quirky, Whimsical, Child-like…and More Than a Little Quixotic. Could This Have Been The Combination That, Ultimately, Did Him In?
I made an interesting find the other day that I think sheds even more light on a subject that I have been addressing in the last few installments of this series. I have been attempting to show that there were dark forces at work to paint Michael as a child molestor long before the Chandler allegations. Why this is important to understand is because it was these circumstances that helped plant the seed in the minds of people like Evan Chandler to fabricate a false claim of molestation. Once that wheel had been put into motion, we have the direct causal chain of events that have led us all the way up to Wade Robson’s allegations.
The Chandler allegations became public in August of 1993. Many will say that, up until that point, Michael’s career was riding high, untainted by any allegations of child abuse. In fact, February of 1993 is often pinpointed as the pinnacle of Michael Jackson’s solo career. Dangerous was still riding high on the charts. The Dangerous tour was an unprecedented success. He had just come off from doing the first major Superbowl half-time show, which had been a ratings smash. His Oprah interview had also garnered record ratings. And it was during that month that he was bestowed. a Grammy Living Legend Award.
But it was also in this same month-February 06, 1993-that the Fox network show “In Living Color” dedicated several parody segments to Michael Jackson and The Jacksons. The results were…well, let’t just say, interesting.
For those who don’t remember, In Living Color was a hit show on the Fox network in the early 90′s that featured various comedy skits per episode. It was written and produced by Keenen and Damon Wayens. Many performers who went on to be big names got their initial start on the series, including Jim Carrey and Jamie Foxx. Setting a trend that has continued ever since, the show was notorious for taking pot shots at celebrities and pop culture. Michael Jackson, as might be guessed, was no exception to this.
I do have to say that, as an MJ fan, I nevertheless have a sense of humor. I don’t feel guilty about laughing at parodies that were funny and not too mean-spirited. I’ve laughed at jokes about Michael’s vocal and dancing tics, his “Hee hees;” his “Shamones” and “Woo hoo’s.” That sort of thing has never bothered me. But some are just cruel and nasty and not worth mentioning.
So why, might you ask, am I showcasing these? Especially on a positive site dedicated to honoring him?
For one simple reason, and an important one since time and distance has a way of dulling our memories. These parodies are like little time capsules, allowing us to accurately gauge what the national mood was towards Michael Jackson at any given time. By the early 90′s, Michael Jackson was a bonafide, global superstar. No doubt about that. But as these videos indicate, this was also a transitional time when Michael had gone from being untouchably cool, to someone that it was “okay” to laugh at. This turning point had been ongoing since at least the late 80′s. By 1993, it seems, anything about him was fair game for comedians and joke writers.
The first clip is very typical of the kind of MJ humor that had become so prevalent by the early 90′s. The only real problem I have with this one is that I don’t like the idea of using Michael’s vitiligo-a disease he couldn’t help-as a source of amusement. But we have to also remember that this was a time when we still had many unanswered questions about his changing appearance. As we see here, by February of 1993, the idea that Michael had purposely lightened his skin to be “white”-the idea that he was someone who was somehow confused about his identity-had become firmly entrenched in the public consciousness by this time. Sadly, it was going to take a lot more than a confession on Oprah to undo the damage-in fact, we are still seeing the repercussions of it to this day, when news stories still refer to his “alleged” skin disease and still act as if the whole notion of vitiligo is up for debate.
But that was not the only parody clip featured in that particular broadcast. The one I think is really worth looking at is this one, entitled “Home Alone With Michael Jackson.”
I will warn you that this clip will probably make you angry. But if you can stomach it, it’s worth watching. I want you to keep in mind that this clip was from FEBRUARY, 1993-a full six months BEFORE any allegations would be made against Michael Jackson. Yet it is very clear from the context of this clip that the foundation was already well in place. He was already being branded, at the very least, as a kind of creepy predator whose relationships with kids like Macaulay Culkin were already being held to scrutiny. If you pay close attention to the innuendo that is being hinted at between the lines in this clip, it is downright disgusting-especially given that this was supposed to be humorous! (Not to mention, I have yet to see what was remotely humorous about that horrific Pepsi accident, but here we see it mocked yet again).
Most Of The Jokes And Potshots In The Early 90′s Focused On Michael And Macaulay Culkin. Ironically, Culkin Has Remained One Of Michael’s Staunchest Defenders, Insisting Nothing Ever Happened. Who Knew Then That An Unknown Dentist Was Probably Taking Notes?
At the :30 second mark, there is even a passing reference where the kid who is supposed to be Macaulay says, “What happens if my career falls apart? Are you gonna dump me like Webster?” Clearly this is meant to refer to the mistaken idea some had that all of Michael’s special “friends” were dumped by a certain age. It also tells us, quite clearly, that a lot of these notions of Michael as a child predator were already the stuff of jokes by as early as February of 1993. And, let’s not forget that it was as early as 1992 when Bill Wyman made his infamous remark about Michael and “intense relationships with nine-year-old boys.”
What these things reveal to us is interesting, especially since it would only be a mere six months after the broadcast of this clip that Michael would be accused of molestation for real. But was this a case of an innocent person whose actions were simply misconstrued and misunderstood? Could it be possible that people like Evan Chandler then schemed to use this mindset against Michael as a way of framing him?
I would say not only is it possible, but that the timing of the allegations makes it downright fishy.
And here is something else to consider: If parodies like this were already the norm, wouldn’t it stand to reason that Michael was already well aware that his public behavior with kids was already under scrutiny? Even if, granted, the jokes still stemmed more more Michael’s perceived eccentricities than perceived crimes, it is nevertheless quite clear that Michael was already walking a very fragile tightrope. Wouldn’t this have served to make him even more cautious, rather than less so?
It’s the same logic that is so hard to explain away when people insist that he molested Gavin Arvizo, despite the fact that the alleged “molestation” would have occurred during the time that he was actually under investigationfor molesting Gavin. Confused? I thought so. Well, you’re not alone!
Are we supposed to believe that Michael apparently only got turned on and gave in to his “dark urges” during times when he was under the most intense scrutiny?
What I do believe is that, before any actual allegations were made, Michael was still driven by an idealistic sense that, ultimately, all jokes aside, his message would become clear and his idealistic good intentions would win out. The Chandler allegations forever tainted that belief (later, the Arvizo allegations would crush it completely).
Parodies like these In Living Color skits were really the result of a lot of things coming to a head. If Michael Jackson in 1993 was the biggest star in the world, it also made him a prime target. America has always had a healthy and perverse aversion to allowing its heroes to get too big. And, let’s face it, in a country where even the president-the highest official in the land-can be the butt of Saturday Night Live jokes, nothing is sacred. Part of Michael’s fault was his idealistic belief that he could somehow sell the idea of himself as a real life Peter Pan. As to just how much of that myth was reality is something I will explore in future installments. But what we see by early 1993 is that, clearly, the myth had already begun to backfire on him.
And what is also further cemented is the fact that Michael was already being molded into a suspect, long before any accusations of wrongdoing on his part were ever made. Between the fact that Victor Gutierrez had been on his campaign since at least 1986, and that the Lemarqueses had tried to sell a story to the tabloids as early as 1992, and that this In Living Color skit was broadcast a full six months prior to any actual allegations, it is evident that there was a growing conspiracy to cast him as a pedophile. Now throw into the mix a whole, upcoming cast of characters only too willing to take advantage of the situation, and you have the recipe for the perfect storm-or the perfect crime that never was.