Today I am going to continue my rebuttal of Bill Wyman’s 1991 article “I Want Me Back: The Education of Michael Jackson.” This is an important article for rebuttal, as it was a major article at the time that helped fuel a lot of the myths and misunderstandings that came to be perpetuated regarding Michael Jackson. However, due to the fact that breaking this article down is proving to be ultimately more detailed and time consuming than I had initially anticipated, I have decided to take a more leisurely approach with it and will be stretching this out over a few installments, rather than the two installments I had intially planned. I will also be breaking in between to do other stories, since a topic like this obviously gets more than a little heavy-handed after awhile, and I need a break! What I’m finding, however, is that approaching an article like this for the purpose of rebuttal can-and does-lead to many other avenues of discussion, all worthy topics in their own right. Like the one I found myself grappling with today, an issue that was already apparently being whispered in many circles as early as 1991: Was Michael sexually abused as a child?
For those just joining me, you can read Part One here:
Whereas Part One was mostly concerned with issues of Jackson family dysfunction and the controversy over artist “sell out,” it is in the next several passages that Wyman really cements the damage-and where I will be placing my most intense focus.
When I concluded Part One, I had addressed the issue Wyman brought up regarding Michael’s deals with Pepsi, LA Gear, and other attempts at licensing his name and image. As I said before, this is an issue for which I’m pretty much content to let others have whatever view they wish. I understand the controversy over artistry and commercial endorsement. Its a controversy that has deeply embedded roots in the whole indie music vs. pop music rivalry, with so-called music “purists” (translation: music snobs) dictating the standards by which all artists should be judged. There was a time when I was prone to agree with artists like Neil Young that the Michael Jacksons of the pop world were sellout artists. But as I said, there are two ways one can look at this. What some might call “selling out” can also be viewed by some as simply having good business savvy-and it’s always easy for the less succesful (and less rich!) to knock what they don’t have. Michael Jackson had become, by 1991, not just a singer and entertainer, but a brand. A commodity.
And a very,very wealthy one, at the relatively young age of thirty-three.
But dispensing with what even Wyman concedes is hardly something to fault Michael too harshly for, he then proceeds to some of the most controversial aspects of Michael’s life at that time. Let’s resume our journey here (the bolded passages are my emphasis):
The second area of concern is Jackson’s sex life. In The Magic and the Madness, Taraborrelli says that rumors about Michael’s having been molested as a child had been “circulating for many years within the music industry.” Whether this or any of other numerous rumors is true is something that only certain people know, and it’s almost too easy to grasp at as a simplistic explanation for some of Michael Jackson’s hangups: the apparently complete absence of romantic involvement in his life; his fondness for, alternately, older women (Liz Taylor, Katharine Hepburn) and very young boys, preferably famous ones (Home Alone’s Macaulay Culkin, Webster’s Emmanuel Lewis).
Life on the road with the Jackson 5 was of course similar to life on the road with any other rock ‘n’ roll band. Joseph was apparently the winner in the groupie sweepstakes, and according to Taraborrelli’s book even displayed his on-the-road finds to the boys. The older brothers, Jermaine and Jackie, met a lot of women as well, and casually dragged them back to the hotel rooms, warning their younger brothers to pretend that they were asleep. None of this boded well for the boys in the family (excepting Michael): again, their marriages were routinely torn with charges of infidelity and wife-beating. (Taraborrelli reports that Hazel Gordy, who divorced Jermaine after 14 years of marriage, later charged that he attempted to rape her one night after visiting with their children.) Taraborrelli documents the family’s various sexual escapades well, tracking down groupies with stories to tell and even the woman and daughter Joseph kept on the side.
After a while, however, it becomes unnerving to realize that in all of his research, Taraborrelli can simply find no one to point to as definitely having had sex with Michael Jackson. Jackson was dating Tatum O’Neal for a while, and says in his upbeat autobiography, Moonwalker, that the pair were “romantically involved.” O’Neal, however, says the affair was never consummated. Is Michael a virgin? Is Michael gay? Why does he develop such, um, intense relationships with nine-year-old boys? Why did he live at home until he was 30? All of these are uncomfortable, prying questions, but they’re not, on balance, untoward. We all have a stake in the survival of our artists: a familial and public history that creates an aging boy-man with no discernible sex life is one that begs to be examined.
This is exactly the kind of hogwash that I’ve spent so much time refuting here, simply because 99% of it is bs! And what isn’t bs is, for the most part, irrelevent speculation.
In the very first sentence of the above passage, he refers to Michael’s sex life as “an area of major concern.” But one has to ask: A major concern to who, exactly? The fans? The media? Or to nosybody journalists with an agenda? I get that celebrities are not necessarily entitled to the same rights to privacy as an ordinary citizen, but at what point is a line of decency drawn? And what does it say about us when a celebrity’s personal sex life has become a “concern” for us all?
Well, I was around in 1991, and I can assure you that I-and most people I can speak for-weren’t sitting around obsessing over Michael Jackson’s sex life. But apparently a lot of people-people like Wyman and his apparent idol, Taraborelli, were. And they were the ones who were bent on writing the history. But why?
Before I address that question, let me back up to this issue of whether Michael was ever sexually molested as a child. The simple truth is that we don’t know. I think it would be naive to simply play pollyanna and assume it never happened. On the flipside, however, all we can say with certainty is that Michael never claimed he was abused sexually (physically was another story) and there are no reliable witnesses or sources who have ever been able to back those claims. It’s been said that when Latoya was writing her first book, she tried to convince Michael to come forward with her in making claims of sexual abuse within the family, but Michael refused to do it, and threatened legal action if Latoya went through with the claims (she didn’t).
Now, as to whether this was a case of denial, or of protecting someone, or simply a wish to keep something so traumatic private, or simply because it never happened and Michael had no wish to participate in manufactured lies, I don’t know.
There have been two widely circulated stories that claim Michael was sexually abused as a child, but both are open to suspect for various reasons. One is the claim from a woman named Antionette Holmes, a former president of The Jackson 5 fan club who also used to babysit the younger guys. In a New York Post article, she claimed that in 1969, when Michael was 10 years old and the group was staying with her while performing at the Apollo, that Michael bragged to her about having sexual relations with an adult girlfriend. The NYP link has since become disabled, but here are some sites that discuss the story:
Holmes’s attorney Davio Navarro added further fuel to the fire by stating that the “adult girlfriend” in question was “a world renowned celebrity,” leading many to speculate that it might have been Diana Ross.
But before running too wild with a story like that, there are some important facts to keep in mind, one being the fact that we simply don’t know how reliable is this one woman’s word (and other than Navarro, it doesn’t appear there are any other sources that corroborate this claim). However, even if we give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that Michael said this, how do we know this wasn’t simply childish boasting on Michael’s part? Trust me, I’ve been around enough little boys that age to know they can and will boast about all manner of imaginary conquests with older women they lust after. In fact, I remember quite well that when I was a child, the 10-year-old son of our neighbor across the street would boast constantly about his hot “girlfriend” and everything they did together. Finally one day my sister asked him point-blank who this mystery “girlfriend” was. “Farrah Fawcett,” he answered.
At ten years old, Michael definitely wasn’t too young to be entertaining fantasies about Diana Ross, and given his own admission that he’d had an early sexual awakening as a result of playing in strip clubs as young as seven years old, it’s very possible that he was simply boasting to Antionette Holmes about something he wished was true. It’s a story many have speculated about, but as it stands, it’s simply not substantial enough to be accepted as fact-certainly not substantial enough to accuse Ms. Ross of being a child molestor!
Then there is a story that supposedly came from Jermaine, via Stacy Brown and the book Jermaine was allegedly co-writing with Brown in the early 2000’s, to be entitled Legacy: Surviving The Best And The Worst (Jermaine denied on Larry King that he wrote this, and said Stacy Brown faked those pages credited to him-but then, let’s not forget, Jermaine also denied that he wrote Word To The Badd, and I’ve always had a personally hard time swallowing that excuse). Anyway, the story orginally credited to Jermaine goes that Joe used to set Michael, as a child, up for “business meetings” with important men in the industry. Jermaine allegedly said that Michael would be “sick for days” after these “meetings.”
As for Stacy Brown, you can read much more regading his brand of trustworthiness in this series:
But let’s get back to what Jermaine allegedly said. This story, along with a widely circulated report by alleged mind control victim Brice Taylor in her memoir Thanks For The Memories, has given rise to a entire cult belief that Michael Jackson was a child sex slave-in fact, an Illuminati sex slave! I swear, reading a passage like this, I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, be shocked, or just say, “Girl, please!”
“Brice Taylor relates that she and Michael Jackson and members of the Jackson family accompanied Bob Hope to a location where they were filming up-and- coming talent for TV. Reportedly Bob Hope sponsored the young Jackson boys. Brice Taylor writes: “Their father brought the boys in and I remembered seeing them taken into a side room where bright lights were on. “They all had to drop their pants and before their performance a big man raped each one of them in a lineup.”
Michael Jackson and his brothers serving as sex slaves for Bob Hope? Sounds far fetched? Well, just google “Michael Jackson Sexually Abused As A Child” and see how many articles on the Illuminati, Project MONARCH, the CIA and the child sex slave market come up! Admittedly, it’s a bit mind blowing even for a hardened, no-nonsense skeptic like me. But I’ll just say if you want to be entertained, feel free to look them up because they’re out there. I won’t bother linking to them because most of them are garbage, no better than reading something from out of “Star” or “The National Enquirer.”
(For the record, though I am not an Illuminati believer or conspiracy theorist, I will say probably the most intelligent and thought-provoking articles I have seen on the subject of Michael Jackson and the Illuminati can be found on this website: http://www.thedoggstar.com/articles/michael-jackson-illuminati/ ).
But let’s get back to reality here, and cut to the chase. Putting aside all of these wild and unprovable conspiracy theories about mind control and Illuminati sex slaves, I have to say it wouldn’t “shock” me if Michael had been a victim of child sexual abuse, and I say this only because I know how dirty Hollywood and the music business is. The truth is, it doesn’t matter if there is really a Project MONARCH, MK-Ultra, or any other government or New World Order organization-it doesn’t change the simple fact that show business in and of itself is a degnerate world filled with every kind of perversion imaginable-and those who are only too willing to exploit children!
I don’t particularly like Corey Feldman, but I have no doubt that what he had to say about the rampantness of pedophilia in Hollywood is true:
As a child in show business, Michael would have been prone to many of these same predators who destroyed young lives like Feldman and Corey Haim. Additionally, even before the group became famous, they were often working in some of the seediest environments imaginable for small children. So I would never be one to sit here and tell you emphatically that Michael was not sexually abused. All we can safely say is that Michael never came forward regarding any such abuse, and so therefore anything else is just so much speculation. If there was ever any abuse, I don’t feel that it came from within his family, but I’m cynical enough to say I wouldn’t put it past some of the people the Jackson 5 had to court in order to become succesful in show business. Such abuse-if it occurred-could well have transpired with or without Joe’s “assistance.” We simply don’t know.
This was a handwritten note that Michael gave to his sister-in-law Dee Dee when his nephews Taj, Taryll, and TJ were still very young. It was about an article Michael had read regarding sexual child abuse and incest that he found so shocking that he wanted Dee Dee to pass it on to his nephews as a warning. This note has been widely circulated on the internet, as many on both sides of the “was he or was he not a pedophile” argument have tried to theorize as to what may have motivated Michael to write it. But for me, I think it is very strong and convincing evidence that Michael was never sexually abused, at least not within the family. Judging from the tone of the letter, this seems more like someone who has just leaned something that he’s found shocking (the idea that children can even be molested by a close relative!) and wants to warn his nephews of the danger. If Michael himself had been a victim of incest, I don’t think he would have needed an article to inform him about it, nor would he be so seemingly shocked about it! He also wouldn’t have needed any article to tell him that this was something he should warn his nephews about!
It all keeps coming back to one simple phrase: We don’t know. We can only give Michael the same benefit of the doubt that would be accorded to anyone who had never made such a claim. Given that Michael was so candid and forthright about other areas of his life where he was victimized, I’m not so sure he would have chosen to remain silent on this topic if it were true. I believe it would have come out at some point, just as his true feelings for Joe, Tommy Mottola, and many others eventually came out. Michael wasn’t scared to talk-and he wasn’t scared to destroy reputations if he had to! In his last years, especially, Michael seemed on a mission to want us to know the truth, and he wasn’t taking any prisoners. So again, I’ll just say that while it wouldn’t shock me if he had been molested as a child, due to the circumstances I know he was in as a child star, there is simply no proof of it. What is left is a lot of speculating, crazy conspiracy theories about Illuminati sex rings, and questionable stories by questionable sources.
Yet the worst, and most damaging thing, about these alleged stories is that people will take them and run with them, using them to suit their own agendas. Just as there are a slew of online articles about Michael Jackson as a child sex slave and other such nonsense, there are just as many articles by do-gooder journalists and “would be” psychologists writing about how he fits the typical “profile” of a child abuse victim. As I’ve said before, poor Michael is probably the most scrutinized and most “diagnosed” celebrity to ever have lived. Every “expert” has an opinion on who he was; what “profile” he fit, etc. etc. I’m reminded of a very humorous thread title I once saw on a Michael Jackson forum: “Michael Jackson Was A Strawberry!” The writer meant to poke fun, but it was as apt a phrase as I’ve yet seen in summing up a media obsessed with “diagnosing” Michael Jackson.
The problem is that most of those who insist on pushing the “Michael Jackson was a victim of child sexual abuse” agenda are many of the same ones who continue to push the pedophile issue. Just as they are the ones often most insistent on pushing the gay agenda, and for the same reason. Just as a “gay” Michael Jackson makes their case much easier than a straight one (which complicates matters for them considerably) they also want it to be generally accepted that Michael was sexually abused himself so that it makes it more likely that he, as an adult, was simply continuing to perpetuate the cycle of abuse.
The absolute creme de la’ creme of ridiculous articles purporting this theory has to be this one:
This piece is so bad (in fact, so downright ludicrous) that it actually makes Wyman’s “The Education of Michael Jackson” look like a brilliant piece of academic scholarship by comparison! This article reads like an overcooked stew of all the most outlandish tabloid stories ever written about Michael, all gathered into one convenient pot! But here is the paragraph that is most relevant to our purpose:
Jackson also shows the signs of having been sexually abused as a child, and indeed has accused his father Joseph of abusing him, as has his sister LaToya. Michael is known to have had psycho-sexual problems since early on.
How is this for something unique…a rebuttal within a rebuttal! Only this piece of tripe is so horribly wrong that I can effectively squash it within as many sentences! How exactly did Michael show signs of having been sexually abused as a child?” The author never even bothers to explain what those “signs” are; we’re just supposed to accept his/her word at face value! (Trust me, I was a sexually abused child myself, and it’s not as if we go around wearing signs that proclaim it). Michael NEVER accused his father of sexually abusing him (where they got this I have no idea, unless they are referring to the physical abuse, but by the context of this paragraph, juxtaposing that sentence with the one before, they seem to be trying to make a case for sexual abuse). And then they have the temerity to state, as if it were an unarguable fact, that Michael was “known to have pscho-sexual problems since early on.” Says who, exactly? Oh yes. This goes straight back to where we began, with Bill Wyman’s “The Education of Michael Jackson,” based on the “well researched” The Magic and the Madness and many scraps of innuendo thrown in for good measure.
Here is another article, from a self-proclaimed “expert in sexual abuse”-a psychologist who, though more sympathetic and compassionate than the moron who wrote the above piece, nevertheless proceeds to assume Michael’s guilt (based on nothing more substantial than media reports) and to “diagnose” him as a victim of child sexual abuse–mind you, without ever having met him, spoken with him, or even having met anyone who knew him!
Even if she sidesteps the issue by simply saying it is something she “suspects” it nevertheless amounts to the same thing. Readers will assume, because she is an “expert” and gives the appearance of being a balanced and rational person, that her “suspicion” is more than most likely true, or at least is reasonable to assume.
Fortunately, there were several readers who set her straight in the comments section. I’m not out to lynch Deborah King, who seems like a nice enough person; just one who is ignorant of the facts. But the problem goes back to something I have commented on many, many times. When you have all of these medical and psychological “experts” who never met Michael; who never knew him, but continue to report these same trite, worn out myths that have, in turn, simply been pasted and re-pasted without benefit of even the most rudimentary fact checking, and then proceed to diagnose and profile him based on these “cut and pasted” assumptions, it’s like continuously ripping a scab from a wound. The wound is ignorance. The wound is misunderstanding. And it cannot heal until these people stop trying to pick apart Michael Jackson; until they stop trying to diagnose him; stop trying to see what “profile” he fits, and instead, strive to simply see and understand him for who he was.
I am here to tell you that there is no “one size fits all” profile for sexual child abuse victims. The myth that all victims are likely to abuse children themselves is simply not true. In fact, all one has to do is look at Michael’s relationship with his own kids to know that he certainly was not repeating the same cycle of abuse that had been inflicted on him! If there was one good thing to take from the Martin Bashir crock, it should have been the moment when Michael said, “…and that’s why, to this day, I never lay a finger on my children!”
Instead of repeating the cycle, Michael’s childhood trauma had, in fact, quite the opposite effect: It had made him more determined than ever to not repeat his father’s mistakes! And it doesn’t take much stretch of the imagination to know that, if this was his MO, he most likely would have viewed childhood sexual abuse in the same way-as something too horrible to even think about inflicting on another child.
But let’s get back to Wyman for a minute. He says the claims of Michael having been sexually abused as a child have been “circulating for many years within the industry” (and keep in mind he was writing this in 1991, long before any allegations had surfaced) but credits Taraborelli with this info. Well, then, where did these claims originate with Taraborelli, and how? I did some digging to see if I could find those answers. In this transcript from the VH1 special “The Secret Childhood of Michael Jackson” Taraborelli and others speak of what they considered to be Michael’s childhood sexual abuse:
Although I cannot paste this transcript, I can pretty much give you the gist of it. Taraborelli, Leiberman, and others basically spend about three-quarters of the time hashing out a lot of information that has by now pretty much become common knowledge. We know about the so-called “group gropes” (when the older brothers, Jackie and Jermaine, were bringing groupies into the room where Michael and Marlon were pretending to be asleep, but most likely watching and listening); about Joe Jackson’s liasons; about the alleged story of being locked in a room with two prostitutes. Perhaps all of this was quite revealing and shocking stuff back in ’91; perhaps thanks to twenty years’ worth of constant repetition, we have become desensitized to just how traumatic some of these things may have been for young Michael, though to be honest, I never bought that the girls coming into the room with his brothers was really that traumatic for him. In later years, he would often just laugh about those stories, and even the American Dream movie depicted those scenes in a very humorous way, with little Michael and Marlon pulling a very sneaky prank on Jermaine’s “lady friend.” Technically speaking, however, this was a form of child sexual abuse (just as forcing him to work in strip clubs at age seven) because it involved exposing an underaged child to adult sex.
Child sexual abuse is an especially complicated form of abuse because of its layers of guilt and shame. It’s important to recognize that sexual abuse doesn’t always involve body contact. Exposing a child to sexual situations or material is sexually abusive, whether or not touching is involved.
By the above definition, Michael was being sexually abused-and these are not stories that are questionable or open to dispute. These were all incidents that have been repeatedly corroborated and that Michael himself spoke openly about.
But only Michael could really say to what extent he was emotionally scarred from these experiences-or not. Taraborelli confesses in this interview that he developed a “theory” that Michael became asexual as a result of these experiences. Well, the problem you have once a writer/journalist develops a theory is that their research from then on is going to be carried out with an eye toward proving that theory-sometimes at the expense of keeping an open mind (which shouldn’t happen, but we are human, after all).
“Group gropes” is indeed an interesting term, as it seems to imply that there might have been more to these bedroom groupie encounters than just lying there watching and listening. But I have no idea where David Walsh got that term, or how much signifigance to attach to it.
Theresa Gonsalves is later quoted in the program as saying Michael had shared a “secret” with her regarding a childhood trauma that kept him from wanting to be intimate with anyone. But I know personally, from the conversation I had with Theresa in 2010, that both VH1 and Taraborelli twisted her version of events. There were some elements of truth in it (for example, the Bible story) but the story I heard (and the one she has told in her book Remember The Time)was certainly a far cry from this conflicted, sexually confused young man that Taraborelli and others were so intent to portray.
While I have always believed that Michael was, to some extent, sexually conflicted due to his Jehovah’s Witness upbringing, coupled with the events that have been discussed, I really believe that writers like Taraborelli and shows like “The Secret Childhood of Michael Jackson” have grossly exaggerated their effects on him. I’ve never bought into the whole “Michael was a virgin until age 35” myth. And anyone who believes that should go back to the Oprah interview, and watch his reaction when Oprah asks, “Are you a virgin?”
This was, hands down, the most masterful skirting of an embarrassing question I have ever heard! “I’m a gentleman,” he said, tactfully. But it was far more revealing than just a cute answer. It was, quite simply, a charming way to answer “No” to the question while managing to not look like a total horn dog in the process-and millions of fan girls fell in love, all over again!
But if “The Education of Michael Jackson” proves anything, it’s that the forces were already well in place that would set the stage for Michael’s downfall. Michael was receiving his education in how completely the media and the agendas of a few journalists can tear a person down. The “de-sexing” of Michael Jackson would become an important part of that process. More to come in Part Three.