The title of my previous post turned out to be more accurate-and prophetic!-than I could possibly have imagined.
How could I have guessed that within the very same week, a pun merely intended to question some of Paris’s choices in associating with celebrities who had badmouthed Michael would also end up accurately describing some of her own family relations! If things keep up the way they are now, it looks like Paris may be burning a lot of bridges…with her own family!
The drama of this latest Jackson family feud blew up mid week. I was at work when the media broke the story, and since my hectic summer schedule keeps me pretty much in a bubble for most of the day, as far as outside news goes, I didn’t begin piecing together the story until late that evening. With so many conflicting stories, it was hard to know what to believe-much less, whose side to take.
For anyone running across this blog who may not know what I’m referring to, please watch the above video by sanemjfan and lunajo67, which compiles the recent media coverage of this story. In a nutshell, five Jackson siblings-Randy, Tito, Janet, Rebbie, and Jermaine, have contested the validity of Michael’s will and are demanding that John Branca and John McClain step down as executors of the estate. Among their claims, they say that the executors have not done a good job, and that Michael’s mother and children-as beneficiaries of the estate-have not gotten what is rightfully theirs. They also claimed that the stress of the situation has caused Katherine to have a mini-stroke.
Paris shot back on Twitter, blasting Randy as a liar (although the “big, fat liar” remark was just a typical TMZ spin). As a rule, I don’t link to TMZ here because I don’t approve of their tactics and do not care to contribute to their hits. But this is all included in the above video.
However, I have to say the saddest part of this whole story has been in seeing the inevitable civil war erupting on social media sites between fans. It was bound to happen. There are fans who support the estate, and fans who side with the family; those who believe that the accusations made against the estate are justified.
Then, in the middle of all this, we have Paris, who has clearly drawn her own line in the sand. No doubt where her loyalties lie at the moment. The fact that she has chosen NOT to side with her aunts and uncles (even though ostensibly the whole agenda for contesting the will is allegedly for the children’s and Katherine’s benefit) is interesting and telling.
I have always been aware of the controversies and rumors surrounding the validity of Michael’s will. However, most of these suspicions have been relegated to the “conspiracy theory” outer fringes, meaning for the most part, they have not been taken very seriously. Yet there ARE a lot of unanswered questions, and I would be a fool to sit here and assume I have those answers. In truth, I have always kept an open mind to most of the theories because the reality is that we DON’T know the whole story. The validity of Michael’s will is simply not something I have researched in enough depth to really have an answer, and one of the things I have always prided myself on with this blog is presenting factual information to readers about Michael Jackson-information not grounded in unproveable conspiracy theories (as I always say, it’s okay to speculate and raise questions-you just have to be sure to make that distinction between what is factual and what is speculation!). I do think it’s an interesting point to consider that Michael was not in Los Angeles during the period from July 6th to July 9th. This was during the time that Michael was in New York with Rev. Al Sharpton, protesting against Sony and Tommy Motolla. The will was supposedly signed in Los Angeles on July 7th. However, in going back and researching the media coverage of that particular rumor, it is interesting that then-as now-Randy Jackson was at the forefront of that protest, and it was Randy who made the fact of Michael being in New York, rather than Los Angeles, a focal point of his contention. Sharpton himself confirmed, via his rep, that there was a gap in time insofar as their appearances together (which occurred on the 6th and 9th) but did say that Michael was with him on July 7th.
Howard Weitzman, the current attorney of the estate, allegedly swore that Michael signed the will in the presence of the witnesses on July 7th, 2002, but conveniently failed to address whether this signing did indeed occur in Los Angeles-or someplace else.
So…Sharpton says Michael was with him in New York on the 7th; Weitzman says he signed the will on the 7th (but where?).
Also, if one reads through the 2002 will, it’s interesting to note that Michael’s alleged signatures and initials are noticeably inconsistent at various points. While some minor inconsistencies in a person’s signature may be normal, it’s unusual to see the kind of noticeable inconsitencies that we do with Michael’s signature and initialing throughout the document, where the initials are very distinct and legible for some passages, while almost illegible for others. You can see there is a sharp distinction between the first initialing, which is very legible with no connection between the “M” and “J”; then the second, which looks most familiar to me based on other examples of Michael’s signature I have seen; then the third example, which is identical to the first; then the last two which are much more consistent with the second signature.
But as far as how much to read into something like this, I really don’t know. Michael’s handwriting-and especially his signature-wasn’t always consistent, so I’m not sure that is the best gauge to use for making such a determination.
I guess where I’m really coming from with this is that I want to be honest in acknowledging that there are valid reasons to dispute the will. I don’t think that Randy, Jermaine, Janet, Rebbie, and Tito are just talking out their backsides here. Just as I have always believed they know what they are talking about when they insist there was more to Michael’s death than just Conrad Murray acting negligently, I believe in this situation they may well have some valid and legit reasons to dispute the will’s validity.
But then, if the 2002 will is fake, wouldn’t that also mean that the ’97 will-virtually identical-was also a fake? That’s an interesting question, which also begs another one.
At what point, perhaps, do these siblings have to simply come to the realization that Michael-for whatever personal reasons-simply did not wish to make them beneficiaries of his estate?
Randy Jackson, in almost every instance, has been the most vocal sibling in protesting the will, just as he has been the most vocal sibling at the forefront of a lot of the controversies surrounding the family vs. the estate. One thing’s for sure: Either Randy Jackson is one brave soldier fighting for truth and justice, or he is a bitter fool fighting a battle he can’t win. The lines are sharply divided, and while I wish I had those answers to give, I simply don’t. Nor do I feel it is my place. I am sure that Michael’s family is privy to a lot of information I don’t have.
Paris has made her position clear, and it’s interesting that, if indeed the main reason for disputing the will and demanding the resignation of Branca and McClain is for the benefit of herself, her brothers, and her grandmother, then why would she be so vocal and vehement in blasting her aunts and uncles for contesting the will? If she felt they were justified in these claims, then wouldn’t she be on the side of her blood kin, rather than these men who are, for all purposes, strangers to her?
Well, it seems from what I’m reading that it was what Randy tweeted about Mrs. Jackson’s health, more than anything, that really set her off. But in taking to social media to blast her uncle, she also pretty much succeeded in blasting his credibility, especially among those already pro-estate. “Look, if Michael’s own daughter is on the estate’s side, then who are these people to contest them?” After all, Paris is a beneficiary. Randy, Tito, Janet, Rebbie, and Jermaine are not. Hence, therein may lie the root of the whole problem.
However, we also have to consider that it is very possible that Paris, a 14-year-old child, may not be totally aware of a lot of the uglier aspects of what happened to her father, and the controversies surrounding his finances and the executors of his estate. Branca’s reputation, in particular, has hardly been lily white, and his own relationship with Michael has been a long one filled with as much controversy as success. In 2003, Michael fired Branca as his attorney after an investigation allegedly uncovered that Branca had been embezzling funds into offshore accounts in the Caribbean:
However, David Legrand, the attorney Michael hired to investigate Branca, stated himself when he testified at Michael’s 2005 trial that he didn’t feel he had sufficient evidence against Branca:
“I was given no credible evidence to support (the) charges; I would be doing Mr. Branca a great wrong if I said otherwise.”-David Legrand
Unfortunately, when I look at such conflicting information as the above, it makes it all the more difficult to determine whose “side” to take. It would be easy to side with Michael’s family, because my personal motto has always been, “Family comes first.” Blood, as they say, is thicker than water. Yes, it would be easy if the family was united on this. But obviously, they are not. And with the family so bitterly divided over this issue, I don’t think it’s going to be an easy one to reconcile-at least not anytime soon. I just hate to see Michael’s kids caught in the middle of this mess. But the way things are shaping up now, it looks like this whole thing is going to get a lot uglier before it gets better.
I don’t think too many would argue that Branca and McClain have done an outstanding job managing Michael’e estate, if the only criteria one is looking at is dollars and cents. We’ve all seen the glowing reports of how they have managed to get the estate in the financial clear and back to doing what it should be doing-generating a profit. And I think few would argue that they have done an excellent job of managing some very lucrative deals-deals that are ensuring Michael’s legacy is kept alive.
But I guess the real question it boils down to is: Who is benefitting from those profits? And who should be benefitting from them?
If the will is indeed valid-but I guess that “if” is the big question-then Michael made his wishes clear. His fortune was to go to his children and to his mother; the rest to charity. My personal take on it is that the money Michael Jackson earned as a solo artist was his money to do with as he saw fit. If he chose not to contribute to the upkeep of his siblings-who had nothing to do with his adult success-then that was his affair to decide.
Of course, those very siblings are insisting that isn’t the case at all; that this contest has nothing to do with their wanting a share, but simply a distrust of those currently in charge. They say it is all about making sure their mother and Michael’s children get what is rightfully theirs. As some have pointed out, why would Janet-who has no need for Michael’s money-be involved in this contest? Obviously, her signature on the letter sends a strong message to anyone who thinks this is just all about “those greedy Jackson siblings again, trying to get their piece of the pie.” (And interestingly, why no signature from Latoya, who has been far more vocal against the estate for the past three years than either Janet or Rebbie?).
Unfortunately, this is one of those situations where I simply can’t take a position because, as I have said before, I simply don’t feel it is a situation where I have enough knowledge to make a judgement call. It is not for me to say that Michael’s executors are liars and thieves; it is not my place to say that his siblings are greedy liars or nutcases. I will leave all of those judgements to those who have those answers better than me-or at least think that they do.
What I can comment on with certainty, however, is the sadness of seeing another drama ripping this family apart, and as I said, knowing that this time, Michael’s children will be at the center of it. Despite all of their legendary up’s and down’s, one thing the Jackson family has always done best is in presenting a united front to the world when the chips are down. They may fight and have their squabbles, but as we saw in 2005 and again in 2011, they have always come together for the things that matter most. What we are seeing now, however, is the start of a serious rift that may take years to heal-if it ever does.
Michael’s children are still young and vulnerable, and this is a time in their lives when they need the full support of their whole family, not division and strife.
I also dread knowing how this is going to tear apart whatever fragile bonds are still holding the fan community together. There is not going to be much room for either/or here. The battle lines, it seems, are being drawn, and those who are already clearly on one side or the other are simply going to dig their heels in deeper.
Inevitably, also, will come the accusations as to which fans are estate and/or Sony “plants.” I hear these accusations thrown around quite frequently, but for the most part, I just ignore them with the contempt they deserve. I think the whole notion is ludicrous, and is being perpetuated by those who simply can’t seem to accept that Michael has a very large and diverse fan base made up of many millions who simply have different opinions. In short, it is unrealistic to expect over a million people to all agree on the same things. It should also be expected that some of us will have stronger positions on certain issues than others. For my part, I simply choose to remain neutral on some issues-not because of who I believe is wrong or right-but because I may feel that I don’t have enough factual information at my disposal to level accusations. That is my position for now, but like all of you, I will be keeping a close watch on how this drama plays out-and what information comes to light.
Right now my biggest concern is for Michael’s kids and for Katherine. In the end, I want what’s best for them because that was Michael’s wish. As for Paris, I admire her spunk but I also hope she is not being too rash in creating a rift among the very people whose familal support she needs the most right now. After all, Branca and McClain may help to keep the roof over her head and the clothes on her back. But they will never be there with arms to comfort or a shoulder to cry on when she needs it.
They are, after all, business men. Not family.
And on that note, I want to close with the following two photos, both of which I think speak louder than any words I can give.