Over a year ago, I had started a post on Michael Jackson and the #MeToo movement. At the time, Corey Feldman’s campaign to raise awareness of pedophilia in Hollywood was receiving a lot of press (most of it negative, sadly), as well as the recently surfaced tape where he could be heard clearly stating to Santa Barbara County investigator Deborah Linden in 1993 that Michael Jackson was not “that guy” and named his actual abuser, actor Jon Grissom. This was also about the same time that the Harvey Weinstein scandal erupted and an explosive New York Times article revealed that Weinstein had been guilty of planting negative stories about Michael Jackson in the press (as well as other celebrities) to cover his own crimes. And best of all, it was around this time that Wade Robson’s and Jimmy Safechuck’s civil case against Michael Jackson’s companies was finally dismissed in court for once and for all. At the time, many fans had been elated with this apparent turning tide, thinking surely now the media would catch on to how Jackson had been set up through the years. Indeed, my initial angle of the post had been as a kind of “karma catches up to all” piece. It seemed that while #MeToo was resulting in the downfall of many of the rich, famous and powerful-and exposing some of the tactics of its dirtiest in the business- it just might prove to be Michael Jackson’s saving grace. Finally, it seemed, many of the dirty players who had set him up and had contributed to the lynch mob that pursued him so relentlessly were finally being exposed. I am so very glad now that I put the piece on the backburner, so as to allow time for more perspective to be gained. As it turned out, the worst was far from over; in fact, they were just warming up! As it turned out, their dirtiest tactics yet were still up their sleeve.
This Isn’t About Wade…It’s About The Victim’s Right To Be Heard!
The rumblings started last year when journalist Louis Theroux made a sarcastic tweet in response to the Michael Jackson art exhibition Off The Wall in London, questioning (and I am paraphrasing here) why Michael Jackson was not receiving closer scrutiny in the #MeToo era (as if Michael Jackson had not already been under the glare of this kind of scrutiny for over two decades!). Then, for some inexplicable reason that still defies logic or understanding, Richard Marx (he of the famous mullet back in the 80’s and some hit songs that have been mostly forgotten now) went on an anti-Jackson Twitter rant on the occasion of Jackson’s Diamond Birthday celebration. These issues, while annoying enough, could be handled. If there is anything Jackson fans have learned, it’s that there are always going to be opinionated jerks who know nothing about the Michael Jackson allegations or his 2005 trial who will nevertheless be willing to spout their ignorance. This is nothing new.
But when the documentary Surviving R. Kelly aired and dream hampton made the inexplicable decision to somehow lump Michael Jackson into the fray just because he happened to have recorded a song R. Kelly wrote (or maybe not, if the plagiarism stories are to be believed), that faint rumble grew into an outright explosion. Nevertheless, it was an explosion that seemed peculiarly questionable. After all, many artists have collaborated with R. Kelly through the years and have recorded his songs. And, frankly, why wouldn’t other musicians want to work with him? R. Kelly’s genius as a songwriter and musician has never been in question. The artists who have worked with him is a long list that includes, among many others, Chance the Rapper, Lady Gaga and Celine Dion, but out of all of them, it was only Michael Jackson that BlackLivesMatter co-founder Patrisse Cullors chose to emphasize in a tweet that was as bizarre as it was hypocritical:
One has to ask: Why was Michael Jackson being villified for simply recording what he thought was a beautiful love ballad (which it is) and why was nothing said about Kelly’s other collaborators? For that matter, I want to go deeper with this. While it’s good that this kind of sexual predatory behavior is being held accountable, are we not creating a very slippery slope if we’re going to start trying to make an example of every artist, actor, etc who just happened to work with or had any business dealings with an accused celebrity? Is this now guilt by mere association? And how fair is it to expect that just because one celebrity works with another on a song that they somehow are privy to that person’s private doings?
After the airing of the doc, Lady Gaga (quite hypocritically, I really would like to add) immediately distanced herself from the whole affair by publicly renouncing her duet with R. Kelly, “Do What U Want” and removing it from public streaming. Don’t get me wrong; I like Lady Gaga. But I do question the suspicious timing of this sudden “awakening” that she had done wrong in simply recording a duet with a controversial performer.
But therein lies the difference. Performers like Lady Gaga, who are still alive, have the choice and the option to speak out about such matters; to defend themselves or to take action if necessary. Michael Jackson has no such recourse.
How do we really know what he would feel-today-about having recorded “You Are Not Alone?” Would he also renounce that choice, in hindsight, if he could? in all honesty, we simply don’t know. The bottom line is that he simply doesn’t have that choice. He can’t defend his actions or past choices from twenty years ago as with these other celebrities, and it was highly irresponsible for this production to make a blatant issue of a track that Michael simply, and quite innocently, recorded because he liked the song.
But, as it turned out, the stir created by Surviving R. Kelley was just the hint of much worse to come.
On January 9, the news of a four-hour hit piece, Leaving Neverland, rocked the fandom. It came as no surprise that this was Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck at work again. But the more disheartening news was that this one-sided mockumentary was going to get the star treatment via a coveted spot at the Sundance Film Festival and a premiere on both HBO and UK Channel 4 (HBO, as it turned out, was a major sponsor).
The documentary has since had its premiere, and under the auspices of what appears to be some rather shady circumstances, all of which I will touch on shortly. But before I get too deep into that muck, let me back up and talk a bit about Corey Feldman and last year’s events (all of this is more connected than what may seem apparent at first).
Corey Feldman, who was also one of the child stars in the 80’s that Michael Jackson befriended, has been working hard with little success to obtain funding for a major motion picture he has wanted to make exposing Hollywood’s pedophile ring and revealing what he says is the truth about what happened to him and his friend Corey Haim (in the day, they were a pair known affectionately as “The Two Coreys”).
But the biggest problem with Corey Feldman’s story is that no one, it seems, really wants to hear him, let alone to take his accusations seriously. In this era of the #MeToo hashtag where even the hint of an allegation has been enough to destroy the careers of many powerful men (the New York Times alone listed 51 as of November 2017), it would seem that Corey Feldman’s revelation of names would be a media bombshell. The fact that Santa Barbara officials simply sat on this evidence for nearly twenty-five years without doing anything (all simply because Tom Sneddon and Deborah Linden were too preoccupied on their witch hunt for Jackson) would appear, logically, to be yet another of the kind of bombshell stories that the media loves. But again, other than Dr. Oz and a few low key publications-the silence has been deafening. And the same players who worked so vociferously through the years to silence/ignore Feldman’s accusations (instead preferring to shift the spotlight onto Jackson as a red herring) are still apparently hard at work to make sure that Feldman’s campaign-as well as what it could potentially reveal about Jackson’s innocence and their guilt-remains silenced. Or at the very least, as low key as possible. To put it another way, the hypocrisy continues, as rampant as ever.
Corey Feldman’s interviews, which not only exonerates Jackson fully but even indicated that the accusations against Jackson may well have been initiated by actor Jon Grissom in an attempt to cover up his own abuse of Corey Feldman as a child!
Granted, that is not nor has ever been the sole purpose of Feldman’s campaign, which is about justice for himself, for his friend Corey Haim, and all other victims of Hollywood pedophilia. But by the same token, Feldman has made no secret of the fact that at least part of his modus operandi is also to clear his friend Michael Jackson’s name, for once and for all.
Vindication will come when my best friend’s perpetrators are behind bars, when the people that molested me are behind bars and when my good friend Michael Jackson is fully exonerated in the public opinion because he was never a predator-Corey Feldman
In searching through all of the various interviews with Feldman on Youtube , I found this one published by Studio 10 that I think is one of the best at most concisely summarizing and encapsulating this issue.
One thing Feldman states here that I found especially compelling is the fact that child stars are subjected to at least two very serious forms of physical and psychological abuse. One, of course, is the simple fact of being robbed of childhood by being forced to work at a capacity that even many adults would not be able to handle, all while giving up most of their earnings to their parents. The result? If the parents are unscrupulous, the child actor may well reach eighteen to find that they have nothing to show for all those years of hard labor but empty pockets (Feldman claims here that only about $40,000 was left of the millions he earned as a child star). Then, as if those issues were not enough, they are often compounded by sexual abuse. In the above interview, Feldman says he had tried to commit suicide as a child twice, and this was before any sexual abuse had even occurred! “This was before I was molested; that was my psyche going into the molestations!” he states.
The video then segues into a segment regarding the importance of Michael Jackson’s friendship, which as Feldman has stated on numerous occasions, was actually an oasis away from his abusive situations. This isn’t surprising. Throughout his adult life, Jackson reached out to both former and current child stars. The experience of shared childhood stardom was the basis of his close friendship with Elizabeth Taylor. He also reached out to many former child stars, from Shirley Temple to Mickey Rooney and many others. He also formed a close bond with Liza Minnelli, whose mother Judy Garland was a child star (Garland herself had passed away while Michael was still a small child, but I believe he was able to feel an extension to her through alliance with her daughter). With these adults, Michael was able to form a bond, and that bond was the shared pain, suffering, and unique experiences that could only come from being a child star. In the same spirit, he often reached out to those he knew were currently part of that same grist mill. This included then current child stars like Feldman, Corey Haim, Macaulay Culkin and others. The reasons really don’t seem that far fetched to comprehend. With the adults, Michael was able to commiserate about what it had all meant. With the children, there was still a chance–that is, a chance that at least one adult in their lives could provide them a sense of normalcy.
This leads to a very disturbing possible conclusion. If the bond between Jackson and Feldman was as close as he claims-and if he really was treating Michael as his confidante and the only adult in show business he could really trust-is it possible that Michael Jackson may have come to know too much? (I don’t want to claim credit for this idea; my fellow MJ advocate Helena espoused this same theory in a very interesting blog post from 2017).
But if this is true, was someone (or many someones) trying to shut him down? As has already been speculated, it seems very odd that actor Jon Grissom-who Corey Feldman has repeatedly named as one of his actual abusers-was the one who initially tipped off Santa Barbara officials that Feldman was spending “too much time with Michael Jackson.” Yet this is what actually appears when one looks up Grissom’s biography on IMDB:
Jon Grissom has a criminal record that includes a 2001 arrest for child molestation charges. He was found guilty of the crime in 2003 and served time. He is also in violation of “Megan’s Law,” which requires sex offenders to register with the state.
The truth is that, back in 1993, Santa Barbara officials (more specifically, Tom Sneddon and Deborah Linden) were far more concerned with spinning this friendship with Michael Jackson into something sinister than hearing the truth about who Feldman’s abusers actually were. This is a claim that Feldman has made for years, but the Santa Barbara sheriff’s office denied that Feldman had ever actually named names-that is, until the actual tape of that 1993 interrogation surfaced!
Here is a transcript from Feldman’s 2017 interview on The Today Show:
I sat there and I gave them the names; they’re on record. They have all of this information, but they were scanning Michael Jackson. All they cared about was trying to find something on Michael Jackson-”
“Who you said by the way did not abuse you-” (Matt Lauer)
Michael was innocent, and that was what the interview was about in 1993. I told them he is not that guy, and they said ‘well maybe you just don’t understand your friend’ and I said ‘no, I know the difference between pedophiles and somebody who’s not a pedophile because I’ve been molested. Here’s the names, go and investigate…’-Corey Feldman, Matt Lauer interview
This is the same interview, by the way, in which Feldman later noted the aggressive manner in which Lauer tried to shame him for refusing to name names. Matt Lauer, it should be noted, was the same interviewer who was first willing to give Wade Robson a platform back in 2014, and at the time of this interview with Feldman was only a few weeks away from becoming himself yet another casualty of #MeToo.
But this wasn’t the first time Corey Feldman had faced public ridicule and shaming for trying to out Hollywood’s pedophile ring. Years ago, on an episode of The View, Feldman was raked over the coals by Barbara Walters who disdainfully told him, “You’re damaging an entire industry!”
Isn’t it interesting, however, that these were some of the same people who were so quick to pounce on, believe, and even perpetuate the allegations against Michael Jackson? Isn’t it interesting that they never held his accusers to the same level of accountability? What gets me most in re-watching this clip is how Walters doesn’t even seem genuinely surprised or shocked by the allegations (her lame “And they’re still working in this business” notwithstanding) but, rather, disgust at the messenger. The reasons, of course, why Walters and others (for she is by no means the only one!) continue to defend and hold the silence is because they themselves are dependent upon “the industry” for a living. If the industry is destroyed, they go down with it.
Michael Jackson, for all his fame and record sales, was never a Hollywood “insider.” The fact that perhaps he wanted to be (for this did seem to be one of his most persistent ambitions; his last uncharted frontier, so to speak) is beside the point. In fact, this ambition may well have been part of his undoing. He was never going to be guaranteed that level of protection and loyalty because he wasn’t a “member of the club.” He was a musician; an oddball; an outsider knocking for admittance. Although #MeToo has definitely changed the playing field somewhat, it still remains true that when a musician is accused of a crime (particularly a Black musician) he or she is far more likely to be swept under the bus. Next up on the hierarchy: Black actors, then White musicians, and finally White actors. But once you get into the realm of White powerful Hollywood execs, then you are treading into very dangerous waters indeed! However, at the time the 1993 accusations serviced, Michael Jackson wasn’t exactly “just” another African-American musician and entertainer. He was already owner of the ATV catalog and had just signed what was, at the time, the most lucrative recording contract in history, one that was guaranteed (at least according to the terms of the contract) to give him a stake in the film industry. There was a time when Jackson was clearly being courted by the likes of Steven Spielberg, David Geffen, and some of Hollywood’s most powerful elite. So what went wrong?
The truth-and this is coming from someone who has spent her entire life as a movie geek who loves Hollywood-is that Hollywood is a notoriously hypocritical place, but then this could also be said for much of journalism and the media as well. When an accusation is made, the first impulse of all those not immediately affected is to instantly distance themselves publicly from the pariah as much as possible, lest their own reputation be tainted by the association. Granted, this is not always of the celebrity’s own volition. They are often acting on the advice of their own PR firms in order to protect their own brand. However, it has also been proven that this can take the form of deflecting (i.e, finding a scapegoat who can take the focus off of themselves) and the notorious Harvey Weinstein was apparently a master at it.
This brings me back to the original question raised. If, in the early 90’s, child stars like Corey Feldman did not yet have the maturity or emotional capacity to stand up to their abusers or to blow the whistle, did some feel threatened enough by Jackson’s close friendships with Feldman and other child stars to want him permanently removed from any position of power or authority he might have had in that kind of situation? By turning him into the object of suspect, perhaps? I realize this is a tough question to raise; even harder, of course, to prove. But it is certainly not a theory without some merit.
The proverbial “proof in the pudding” actually came with an explosive December 2017 New York Times article I mentioned previously, “Weinstein’s Complicity Machine.” I have quoted here the relevant (for our purposes) passage:
Over dinner in West Hollywood in late 2003 or early the next year, the men had discussed a plan to help Mr. Weinstein avoid embarrassment. While married to his first wife, he had become involved with someone else, Mr. Benza discovered. A clerk at a Los Angeles art studio where he commissioned a gift for Mr. Weinstein — a painting of a reimagined “Hollywood” sign reading “Harveywood” — volunteered to Mr. Benza that a friend, Georgina Chapman, was seeing the producer. Mr. Weinstein, who would later marry Ms. Chapman, was separated and wanted to keep the relationship confidential until he was divorced, according to his spokeswoman, Sallie Hofmeister.
Mr. Benza, then between jobs, had a suggestion. “I could supply your P.R. girls with a lot of gossip — a lot of stories — and if people come at them with the ‘Harvey’s having an affair story,’ they can barter,” Mr. Benza recalled telling Mr. Weinstein. “He said, ‘A. J., it’s got to be good stories,’ and I said, ‘Don’t you worry about it.’”
Collecting a monthly retainer, Mr. Benza said, he reported items on Roger Clemens, Michael Jackson and others and sent them to Mr. Weinstein’s communications team, though he didn’t know whether they were used to trade away stories about the producer. Mr. Weinstein’s spokeswoman said the payments to Mr. Benza were for public relations work during Miramax’s dispute with Disney.
After 10 months, Mr. Weinstein said, “I think the coast is clear; I think we beat this thing,” according to Mr. Benza, who recently had a brief stint as a writer for American Media and also runs his own gossip podcast, “Fame Is a Bitch.”
The “Mr. Benza” of the article was none other than gossip columnist A.J. Benza, famed for his sordid stories about the rich and famous, and particularly nasty stories about Michael Jackson. It was revealed that Weinstein had also worked closely with Dylan Howard, editor of Radar Online and National Enquirer, to create “smoke and mirrors” stories about other celebrities including (most notoriously) Michael Jackson. This gets doubly interesting when it is recalled that it was Dylan Howard who became the foremost “go to” person in the media for Wade Robson’s attorneys, especially the stunt they pulled in 2016 with fabricating a “fake news” story of child porn that was never found at Neverland.
With all of these forces at work, is it any surprise to learn that the new documentary Untouchable-exposing Harvey Weinstein’s crimes-was premiering at Sundance Film Festival on the exact same day as Leaving Neverland? Dear readers, do you recall seeing anything in the press this weekend about Untouchable? Neither do I. Oh yes, there were a few mentions on some very low profile outlets, but other than that, not a peep. Compare that to the media frenzy that surrounded Leaving Neverland and you get the idea. Something feels very rotten in the state of Utah right about now. Leaving Neverland was a very, very late, last minute addition to the lineup, barely making it under the wire of the deadline, and it seems there was quite a tremendous pull to get it on the bill.
Preliminary reviews have started to come in, and in the next part of this post, I will share some very critical thoughts on this film and the reactions it has garnered. Also, now that we’re getting a better idea of what is actually in the movie-and maybe more interestingly, what is not-I will be in a much better position to start critiquing it. Stay tuned. Part 2 is coming…
Dan Reed, Wade Robson and James Safechuck at the Q&A. Full dissection coming…this is gonna get brutal!