"Remember The Time"-Review

remember the timeAfter 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!
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
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
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.

bodygurards

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
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
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.
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
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’t want 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
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?
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, Inc but 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?
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…”

http://www.express.co.uk/news/showbiz/479900/Michael-Jackson-bodyguards-book-briefcase-woman-credit-card

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?
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.
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
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
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 Book 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?
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 is gone, 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 should matter 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

 

Dear MJFam:

 

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.

 

Many thanks and God bless,

 

Bill Whitfield & Javon Beard

 

51 thoughts on “"Remember The Time"-Review”

  1. Oh many thanks Raven, havent read the book, dont read any of them & to be honest I havent seen anything being mentioned from this book we didnt really already know? Or at least suspect.A lot came out in the Murray trial anyway which gave us a hint of what life was like towards the end. I feel personally that even pre 2003/2005 Michael didnt look that happy, only he will know the reason for that. Then of course the trial just seemed to finish things off for him.Some people think maybe he should have stayed in Ireland & he would still be here but I dont think that was ever going to be possible unfortunately.

  2. Thanks, Raven, for this full review. I haven’t read the book yet in its entirety b/c I hear people say, as you did, that it makes them sad and cry, so I have to think about that aspect. I did read the parts on the ‘look inside’ option online–which is quite a bit. Clearly, things were not well organized from the getgo when MJ and kids arrived in Vegas. One small example, MJ’s cars from NL weren’t there til he asked for them, but Vegas is not THAT far away from NL, so it seemed a big oversight. I mean, how was he supposed to get around? Hire a car for every outing? Made no sense to me. Also the house was a security nightmare, according to the BGs, so why was it rented in the 1st place? etc etc.

    Another thing that was very sad was Blanket asking MJ “Can we go back to NL?” And MJ saying, “No, that place has been contaminated by evil.” Of course, in my limited view of everything, it seems strange to me that here is a huge property and house that he could go to and that he chose not to. At that time, NL had not yet had the contents or rides, etc removed (although the animals were gone). I think that was a mistake on MJ’s part, although I understand why he felt that way. On the other hand, evil can’t really ‘contaminate’ a place forever b/c it’s possible to do various space clearing ceremonies that can cleanse a place of negative influences. I feel he slammed that door shut when it might have been a refuge for him after all. Just being in that much open space can be healing. I wish he had given NL another chance.

    I agree we can’t change what happened. As Maya Angelou said, “We had him.” That was the gift.

    1. My understanding of why MJ left Neverland, is because his lawyer , Tom Mesereau, told him , he had too, because he had humiliated the DA and sheriffs, and they were already gearing up , for another criminal case against him.
      Very sad, that he had to leave the property he had loved so much at one time

      1. Thanks. I had responded to the same comment earlier before reading yours. I believe this, more than anything, was the “real” reason he left although I’ve also heard that from the time he returned from Vegas in 2003, after the raid, he slept in one of his own guest houses rather than going inside the main house (this is also mentioned in the BG’s book). I guess between his own disgust with the place after the raid, and the knowledge that he would be hounded endlessly if he stayed, was a pretty forceful combination in sealing his decision.

    2. I think this may go back to something Mesereau has said. It wasn’t so much that Michael “chose” to leave Neverland as that he really felt he had no choice. In fact, Mersereau has said that he advised him to leave because as long as he was living there, he would be a target-and Sneddon was not going to stop.

      1. Yes, Raven and Nan, thanks for this info. Karen Moriarty’s book says Mesereau advised MJ to leave. But I question this warning (maybe b/c I don’t have all the facts). For one thing, what was there left to charge him with after they threw the book at him? They tried everything and it failed, so why would it be any diferent when he was conpletely on the alert? The other issue is that you don’t have to be in the physical place where you are charged (as MJ was in Vegas when they raised NL). He could have been charged by Zonen, Santa Barbara D.A. (Sneddon had retired) in Bahrain and he would have had to return for court dates. I just thought NL might have been a place to go even for a month or so just to get away and be in nature, which he found so healing.

        1. I think they were gearing up to bring a criminal trial regarding a prescription med he had, with the label ripped off.
          Mesereau had said that he was afraid if some kid wandered onto his property, Sneddon would make an issue out of it, but I have heard others talk about alot of prescription meds were found, and they were working on making it an issue..Maybe they werent all in his name or something.
          Sneddon was just relentless, and we can still see 5 years after his death , Zonen and D Dimond are still trying to save face.
          It is a shame because ,when he left there , he had three children in tow , with no privacy..I suppose that is why he wanted a big house in England for those concerts with rolling hills , for his children to be able to play freely instead of being stuck in hotels

  3. I so looked forward to Remember the Time not so much for the “final days” portion, but for information on Michael’s life post-2005, and I wasn’t disappointed. I read Moriarty’s book as well, but came away with a much better feeling from RTT. These bodyguards felt morally compelled to stay with Michael and the kids through all the moves, all the miscommunications and all the periods of nonpayment (attributed rightly so to Bain and other mismanagers), to the detriment of their own families. And they didn’t sugarcoat anything, even questioning Michael’s remoteness from his entire extended family, stating, to the effect, they could understand distancing himself from one or two, but ALL of them, save Katherine? Could they ALL be bad?

    They reiterate over and over that Michael trusted no one during his last years. To me, the fact of their continued employment speaks volumes as Michael was known to quickly dispose of those he no longer felt trustworthy, yet they continued by his side.

    It’s a shame for fans to place RTT in the category with “betrayal books”. It’s not that at all. And worse for “fans” who haven’t read it to disavow the book based on media distortion of the authors’ intentions. If you want to know Michael Jackson, the man and father who wanted at this point in his life nothing more than to parent his children, by all means get this book. One of the best yet.

    1. Well, I do somewhat understand why some feel strongly that books like this are betrayals. But then again, if the people who knew Michael best are never willing to speak out, that void will most certainly be filled by tabloid writers, by journalists with agendas, and by impersonal scholars (who may be able to brilliantly analyze his work, but will never be able to help us get closer to understanding who Michael was as a person, or what he endured). The people who actually have first hand knowledge of Michael won’t be around forever. We’ve already lost many of them. But just as they said, there are also a lot of hypocrites out there who will call Michael their best and dearest friend now, who actually had nothing to do with him in life or had cut ties long ago. Books by people like that should be understandably suspect. This puts me in mind again of Rabbi Schmuley’s book and the controversy it created when it was published. Many felt it was a betrayal because Schmuley had been a friend, and these were private conversations. We also know that he had become estranged from Michael in more recent years, so his motives in publishing such a book were questionable. Still, I can’t deny, from the perspective of an MJ researcher, that his book hasn’t been an invaluable source (and to this day, I still see people quoting excerpts from it all the time when attempting to prove how Michael felt about this or that) so, again, I think it comes down to the fact that we can’t always have cake and eat it, too. Either we want this knowledge and information on Michael at our disposal, or we do not. He was, after all, a public figure, and one for whom endless questions and speculation still swirl. For me, when I think of the word “betrayal” I look at what people like Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck are doing. THAT is the true definition of betrayal.

      1. The problem with Schmuley is that he is a Rabbi and is strictly helt to confidentiality In the end Michael did not give him permission to publicize the book.Bodyguards by the nature of their profession I consider the same.

        As for Joe’s reference to needle marks. In the weeks and months after Michael died, Joe, who is many things but not someone who holds back anything had said that Prince had called him that he was worried about his father.Later on, probably on legal advise he kept it out of the media. Untill in the AEG case we read and heard Prince’s testimony when he does confirm that he had called his grandpa but he was not let in. One of Michaels notes which was not shown in court was to call his father to deal with AEG. From the reviews I read the bodyguards also said something to that effect. Sad, because if he had had access to Michael it could have had a different outcome. I think Michael was also terrified that his family would find out what Murray was doing. The family had reasons to be worried and I do believe the interventions. I will not go into detail but one example is in Cascios book where he wrote that he called Randy and Janet to NY to intervene because things were getting out of hand. I am not a fan who sugarcoats the drug aspects, because addiction is an illness not a crime.I know firsthand what it does to the person involved and to the family, you are in a permanent stressful alert that something might happen and there is no room for courtesy. In my case we did intervene, drastically cut out every toxic influence and things changed for the better. But it is a long process.

        My thoughts about this book are the same as about Schmuleys. Since Wade Robson I have become indifferent to what is said or written about Michael and nothing surprises me anymore. I only feel compassion for him.
        I will eventually read as I read almost everything about Michael. As long as it is from people who actually knew him or did research and used origial documents and reliable or multiple sources and Ive learned to seperate fact from fiction. If it is a 2nd or 3th hand story , not verifiable , no actual proof or it is uncharacteristic I take it with a grain of salt. Even Chandlers book,which I bought for less than a dollar gave me insight in certain people in Michaels inner circle and about his legal defense and much of what Sullivan wrote was later confirmed in court. So every book has something to take away from. The person that I think can give the best insight in a greater part of Michaels life from Neverland on is Grace. She was the most consistently present adult over a long time in many capacities in Michaels life.

        What is interesting is that fans will deny certain stories when they are told by some but accept it when told by others.
        Much has changed since Michael died. We have come to accept much more with the excuse that it’humanizes’ him. To me it is quite the opposite, its the absolute confirmation that we are taking distance from Michael as a living person who we as fans would be outraged and embarassed for, had someone told such a story if he were alive, even if it were true. Michael has really become dead, someone from the past for who no filters are needed anymore.

        The sad thing is that there are 3 kids and parents there who constantly hear these stories. What does it do to the image you have of your fater and to your identity if you ‘learn’ about him in the media . Because people have this (money)urge to share his and their personal stories with the world and not privately with them. So Prince now 17 is not given the opportunity to look these bodyguards in the eyes and question them about their stories. Wat does it do to their trust in people they hire to protect them. I hope the kids have kept enough good memories of their father as he was for them so that the depressing stories will not define who their father was.

        1. Schmuley justified his book by claiming that these were tapes Michael intended to be public, anyway. He claimed they were planning a book together. I never really bought that excuse (if so, then why didn’t said book materialize during Michael’s lifetime? It could be that, as with many projects, Michael may have had intentions of working on such a book with Schmuley but this never came to pass, and eventually they fell out. It’s a pattern that is repeated many times throughout Michael’s life). I imagine that once he knew Michael was gone-and could not protest it-he must have thought, “Well, here I am with all these tapes, and I’m sure people would love to hear them, and Michael can’t protest it, so what do I do with them?” Even if Michael had originally said, “Okay, let’s do a book” (which is debatable) he could well have felt differently about the project in the intervening years that followed.

          1. They definitely were planning a book together b/c MJ specifically said so in the opening to his Oxford Union speech in 2001 (“I also want to express a special thanks to you Shmuley, who for 11 years served as Rabbi here at Oxford. You and I have been working so hard to form Heal the Kids, as well as writing our book about childlike qualities, and in all of our efforts you have been such a supportive and loving friend.”) But by the time MJ did his MSQ 30th anniversary concerts in September 2001 altho’ he invited Schmuley and family, they didn’t attend. I have read the Honoring Child Spirit book by Schmuley but not the first one (MJ Tapes). I thought the Child Spirit one was so interesting b/c MJ discusses how he feels about kids, what he sees as children’s amazing powers, and how childen saved his life.

          2. It sounds more as if he was referring to Honoring The Child Spirit, or a book similar to it. Perhaps the tapes were recorded as part of that project, although I can’t see how discussions of his marriage to Lisa Marie or how he felt about Madonna would have been relevant to a book about childlike qualities. These tapes were delving into some very personal issues for Michael. I know that was part of how Schmuley worked; getting Michael to tap into those feelings and experiences, but could all of these discussions have been part of the book project? I don’t know. I don’t necessarily regret that the book exists because it is, as I said, a valuable reference source, but I still have my questions as whether Michael intended for all of those conversations to be public record.

          3. I am pretty sure Raven that Michael didn’t intend his intimate talks with Schmuley to be published – surely he was Michael’s spiritual director and so the talks would have been like a Christian confessing to a priest, or a patient/psychologist relationship, and therefore highly confidential and not ever to be published. That is why I will never buy any of Schmuley’s books – that really feels far to personal and confidential to me. Talks for a book about children would be another story completely.

            Am about a quarter of the way through the Remember The Time book and so far so good – no breaches of confidentialities on such a personal level there!!

          4. I am inclined to think their project might have been something more along the lines of Honoring The Child Spirit.

          5. Yes, I agree with you, Raven, that the first book Schmuley published where stuff re LMP etc was presented was not relevant to the project MJ refers to in his Oxford Union speech when he says, “You and I have been working so hard” on “our book about childlike qualities.” It’s the second book “Honoring Child Spirit” that was more in line with MJ had in mind (going by his remarks in the speech).

        2. Schmuley was the last one to write books about Michael. After they fell out, he pubically distanced himself from Michael and went as far as to apologize to Eli Wiesel for introducing him to Michael. He said that Michael could be guilty of unforgivable sins. More over he never accounted for the money that disappeared from the charity he was overseeing for Michael. And Michael got the blame. There were 9 years between the tapes and the release not surprisingly after Michael died. That says enough of Michaels intentions with the tapes. Schmuley was sverely criticized by his own fellowmen after he wrote an article about Michael on june 26. Maybe initially he had good intentions and maybe some of what he says is true, but his ego. mediawhoring and greed got in the way , As a rabbi he has no business sharing private conversations. Imo this goes for any profession that requieres high confidentiality. The people they protect or counsel are very vulnerable because for their safety or privacy they depend completely on these individuals and have to trust them 100%

          Commented Jul 1, 2009 at 13:01:51 in Entertainment

          “As a rabbi of over thirty years experience, I am appalled by the interview or Rabbi Shmuley Boteach concerning Michael Jackson. IRabbis along with other clergy are bound by the rules of confidentiality. What we discuss or experience with people who seek our counsel are meant to be kept private. Even when those that we have counselled or befriended are no longer living, the same rule applies. It in only because of this position of trust that people feel they can be open with us. I have had numerous experiences with well known people but I have never spoken of these experiences for two reasons. First, it would violate the trust of these individuals who believed they could be open and candid with me. Second, it would severely curtail my ability to be of help to others since they would feel that I was not trustworthy.

          When Rabbi Boteach spoke publicly about his experiences with Michael Jackson, he did serious harm to all rabbis and other clergy as well. No doubt Rabbi Boteach felt he was advancing his own career and public profile as the “rabbi to the stars.” But he should have given more thought to the serious damage he was doing . As he must know, he also violated several of the sacred principles of our Jewish religion which specifically prohibit tale-bearing (even when the tales may be true), gossip, and “lashon ha-ra” (meaning evil speech.)

          Rabbi Michael P. Sternfield
          Chicago Sinai Congregation
          rabbimps@yahoo.com

          http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-shmuley-boteach/the-tragic-end-of-michael_b_221341.html

          1. Thanks for this info, Sina. IMO MJ’s comments at the Oxford Union speech establish that he and Boteach were working on a book about “childlike qualities.” A book is not ‘a private conversation.’ Clearly, Boteach overstepped the line and made mistakes in judgment and maybe even misused funds. But in Child Spirit he says some good things–for ex. “I still do not believe that Michael Jackson ever did, or could, molest a child. I believe the allegations are false.”

  4. “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.” I totally agree with you Raven.

    I bought a kindle version of the Moriarty book when it came out, and have just got a kindle version of this one thanks to your review. I look forward to reading it with mixed emotions, as I did the Moriarty one. There is so much garbage out there as you say written by people who didn’t even know Michael. Personally I won’t buy those books, but only ones written by someone who actually knew Michael, because at least it will be somewhat nearer the truth!!

  5. Thanks for this review, Raven. I will receive the book tomorrow and I only ordered it because I want some more information on what happened in these two and a half years before he died. I think these bodyguards observed a crucial time between the trial and his last months in Los Angeles which led to the events following the signing of the AEG contract.

    As to your question where Joe Jackson got his suspicions about Michael getting needles in his arms I think this is quite obvious. You mention acquaintances and I think you are right. One of them is Leonard Rowe who told himself in his book that he was the one pushing Michael’s family to drug interventions because he had the impression Michael was an addict.
    Another one was Terry Harvey who is called a friend of the Jackson family, but who told everywhere that Michael was an addict. He told it to the media and we know what the media made of it. And so Michael’s family (except his mother) believed that Michael needed to be saved from drugs, they believed those acquaintances and the media more than MJ himself, though these people didn’t know anyhing about Michael. I’m sure Michael was absolutely clean after his return from Ireland and these inventions were not necessary. I’m sure this added to the rift between him and his father and siblings.
    The drug problems started only later when the problems with AEG began and Michael was not able to sleep anymore – around April 2009.

    1. As I stated, I sometimes get the feeling that there was a massive amount of miscommunication going on. It’s very tragic that Michael’s entire relationship with his family (and vice versa) had become clouded by suspicions, mistrust, and misconceptions based on third parties (again, I think this was true of both sides).

      The bodyguards claim that they never saw any signs or evidence of drug use other than one incident that is described in the book (where they kind of suspected that he might have been under the influence of something, but were not sure).

    2. That is exactly what is the problem with drugs or extreme methods to ‘cure’ a medical problem. It happens when it is triggered,
      Everyone knew something was wrong, tabloids were writing about it, Follower fans were writing letters, the cast of the show were on socialmedia about Michaels condition, the emails ‘Trouble at the front’ in the AEG trial proved that everyone knew that something was terribly wrong. Last time I checked Leonard Rowe was not one of them.
      The family had every reason to worry because something WAS wrong and he died. What more proof is needed . In the end who did it benefit to keep his family away.
      Klein and Pfeiffer spent his last Xmas with him and look how they trashed him after he died. And now the family are the only ones the kids have.

      1. “Everyone” did not know something was wrong with Michael Jackson. Kenny Ortega believed he had some psychological fear of performing. Karen Faye thought he was selfishly depriving her and others of future income, by objecting to his treatment by AEG and exaggerating his physical ailments.

        Michael was being systematically poisoned, and the only person with sense enough to state the obvious was Alif Sankey. But as a lowly associate producer, and a black woman (here I go with the racial angle again!), her concerns were not taken seriously.

        As to why MJ avoided his family members, during this time, they were trying to persuade him to perform with them as a family, in concerts, pay-per-view, which he disliked, foreign tours, etc. Even Janet Jackson wanted him to work with her. Katherine and Joe Jackson were sued by Korean interests for promising to deliver Michael and failing to do so. They sued Michael, too, who had no knowledge of the deal, and he was forced to pay a lot of money to get out of the mess. The Jacksons were concerned with their careers and finances. They were not concerned with Michael’s health. He had no desire to work with them. They forced Michael to avoid them.

        1. You make unfounded assumptions that I will not respond to. Only that I dont see what is so wrong with wanting to work with ones brother.
          Every artist out there wanted to work with him so why not his family. Michael had the right and was man enough to refuse and he did because he signed up with AEG. It turned out a big mistake.

          There is a saying :cut off your ties and you are free, cut off your roots and you are dead.
          Family may be a pain in the ass or worse. but unlike bodyguards chefs, and nannies, they would not accept a doctor come down the stairs everyday with oxygen tanks without questioning.
          Not wanting to work with family is one thing, cutting them off alltogether for reasons that in part can also be found in some of the AEG emails, sadly turned out to be the ultimate mistake.
          Who lost and who gained?

          1. Nothing in my post is “unfounded”.

            While many people, including his family members, wanted to work with MJ, he didn’t want to work with them. End of discussion.

        2. I guess this sort of goes back to what I said before. It just doesn’t seem that Michael was in any state to deal much with “stuff” at this time, and he knew that every visit from a family member was bound to have some purpose other than just a friendly visit, whether it be money, or pressure about performing with them, or simply in his estimation being nosy about his life (so-called “interventions” may be well intentioned, but the person usually doesn’t see it that way).

      2. Sina, you are talking about a completely different time. I and the bodyguards talk about the time in Las Vegas between December 2006 and November or December 2008 when Michael moved to LA, and you are talking about the time in LA between January and June 2009. During the time in Las Vegas nothing was wrong, there was no reason for interventions. Things only started to go wrong as soon as he came to LA and signed this damned contract.

  6. “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.”
    The thing is : real Michael Jackson fans – admirers-followers or whatever, I mean people that are genuinely interested in MJ, the artist and human being, do NOT need a book like that to know who he is. And those that really would have to read it, the general public, (fascinated by the gossip that they are served from tabloids), will never read that book.
    And sadly, like you mentioned in your review, some excerpts (cfr. Friend) will be taken out of context and published in the tabloids and regular media. So what is the purpose of the book then ? I did not read or order it (yet). Maybe I never will. Many of us support Cadeflaw, but on the other hand, when somebody is “gone”, there is no restriction or limitation in books that cover something what Michael cherished most : privacy. And we as fans support people that invade this privacy. BUT : if this book would be a best-seller among the haters and general public, it would be a fantastic counterweight for the tabloid-crap. So, like with almost everything Michael-related, there is always that “duality”, “controversy”…… In this moment, as you can understand, I have second thoughts about the book. But I enjoyed your review. Thanks.

    1. You hit the problem! This, unfortunately, is valid for all the books pro Michael.
      While the shit smear is published for all and large volume of voice.

      Thanks Raven for the review. I’d like to read with all my heart but I do not think there is a translation into Italian.

      1. Hopefully there will be soon. Books are usually translated if there is enough demand for them in a given country.

    2. That’s a good point. As we’ve seen, even with a book that attempts to paint an accurate picture, the media will still distort and sensationalize it. But I still think that every little bit put out there that counters so many of the popular narratives and misconceptions (that he was a virgin; that he liked pubescent boys, etc) is like seeds that are being scattered. If it forces enough people to re-think what they’ve believed about him, that is at least a positive step in the right direction.

  7. Great review, Raven! You hit some very important nails straight on the head here.

    I agree wholeheartedly that no single book could ever provide a comprehensive portrait of Michael, but all of them combined give us as many pieces of the puzzle as we can get. More accounts mean more details or nuances. I am grateful for every single book I have read about Michael, written by those who knew him. What I especially appreciate in the BG book is that they don’t attempt to talk about things they have no direct knowledge of or come up with some theories regarding sensational aspects of Michael’s public persona. That was one thing that annoyed me to no end in the rabbi’s book – his constant pushing of his opinions regarding Michael’s life that he had no clue about.

    Another thing is the confidentiality issue – great point about leaving it to the tabloids! I have seen certain people complain publicly about this and it doesn’t make any sense. How else could the truth ever emerge, if those who have first hand knowledge would not speak up? Its as if certain people who knew Michael just wish that the world would stop talking about him all together.. Well, it won’t, so it is much better to have those with real insight occupy the headlines for once.

    1. Yes, I think they do a pretty good job of remaining neutral where they realize they do not really have the authority to comment or to make judgments.

  8. I have a question : did anybody of you succeed in making anybody of your friends or family members (who is/was not already a Michael Jackson fan) read one or more of your books about Michael ? If so, how did you do bring it on to them ? I was not able to. Most of the books I bought I was thinking that I could provide these to others, for them to read. But nobody is interested.
    Very frustrating.
    Gennie :”How else could the truth ever emerge, if those who have first hand knowledge would not speak up?”.
    I understand what you mean, but every good book is again a reason for tabloids to take something out of the book and distort it, and publish it. So those that do NOT read the book, are confronted again with tabloid fodder. I love to read about Michael, but at the same time, I feel like invading his privacy. Don’t you ever have that feeling ?

    1. Well, reading a 300 page book is quite a commitment for someone who is not interested in Michael Jackson, so I would expect that anyone who does bother to read a book like this is someone who at least has a casual interest. There are still people researching him all the time (hence a lot of the traffic I get at this website, which I know isn’t all diehard fans); there are new fans who are still curious to learn, as well as people who may not necessarily be diehard MJ fans but who have a general interest in celebrities (enough to read 300 page books, lol). Those are really the people that can be reached with a book like this. Haters won’t bother; those who are completely indifferent won’t care (and some people are just lazy and don’t like to read anything more than what they can skim in five minutes). As I said, I liken it more to the idea of scattering seeds, and that is probably a fitting analogy. If enough seeds are scattered, some of them are bound to take root. I have already seen a major shift, just in the last few years, of the MJ paradigm. I think that will continue.

      I agree that reading such accounts can feel like an invasion of privacy-in a way, they are, and there is no sugar coating that fact. But Michael was/is a public figure, and one whose life has already been dissected in the media for years. When you stop to think about it, ANY discussion of Michael that is not, strictly speaking, a discussion of his art and music is an invasion of privacy. Maybe we could also except the things that are common knowledge-that he was born in Gary, Indiana, was the 7th of 9 kids, was performing by the age of 5, was signed to Motown by age eleven, had two wives and three children, etc-but any discussion of anything about his personal life beyond these dry facts is, in some ways, an invasion of privacy. 90% of the discussions we have on this website could probably be considered invasions of his privacy; in fact, that would probably have to include about 90% of all the discussions on every fan site, blog, or forum dedicated to him. It would have to include all of the discussions of every trial (the Arvizo trial; the Murray death trial; the AEG trial); every discussion of the molestation allegations (which would be impossible without delving into things that are, by nature, very private). It is almost all public record, even down to the porn he kept (again, thanks to the trials) so, in some ways, there is very little left that IS actually “private.”

      The question, of course, is whether that gives biographers, friends, former employees-and by default, readers and fans-the right to access whatever scraps of privacy are left? Different people, of course, will have different feelings on this issue. Some are curious to learn everything about him; others may be content to say they do not feel the need to know more, and that is their right. The purpose of the review, of course-of any review-is to help fans and readers make an informed decision. But, ultimately, it is up to the of the individual and what they can live with. I can only say that books about Michael’s life are going to continue to be written, and a lot of them will be garbage, so I definitely appreciate the good ones.

      1. One minor correction – the Jackson family found out that Michael could sing when he was five years old, but he wasn’t fronting the Jackson 5 at that age. The group hadn’t been formed yet, and when it was, Jermaine was the lead singer for some time. Michael was young when they were playing clubs, but he wasn’t that young.

        1. I should have worded it as that he was performing from age five. That’s really what I meant. Thanks for the correction.

    2. Greet I think only MJ fans invest that amount of time in books and blogs about him . There is an MJ word and a world outside that has no idea about all these discussions. And what fans see as positive is not neccessarly the case with nonfans. Most people I know love Michael some have seen all his concerts , have all his music mostly because they love music not because they are fans. They will always tell me if they hear MJ news. In my household at first they were very considerate and my son even joined me on a Michael journey the year after he died. But now they think I should move on and their MJ tolerance is at an all time low. Lol There is a saturation of Michael news which is understandable considering the ongoing trials and controversies. The only book that became a best seller unfortunatly was Halperins, because it was salacious and had a perfect timing around the time Michael died.

    3. Greet, like Raven said, Michael was a public figure who was already dissected in every way and mostly by wrong people for the wrong reasons. I understand what you mean by invasion of privacy, and of course it is just that. However, Since we cannot stop the discussion of Michael’s life from happening I think its important to bring the actual true accounts into this discussion. Michael will remain an important historical figure while people who a first hand experience of him won’t be around forever. I think its important that they tell their stories while they still can, if they want to, of course. Whenever someone tells the truth about Michael, they help wash away just some of the lies that had been thrown at him.

      As for getting non-fans to read books about Michael, no I haven’t tried that either and I don’t think people would unless they want to themselves. But whenever I have a discussion about MJ with non-fans and I want to set them straight about certain facts, I do quote books or trial documents and it works actually. It does sound much more convincing when its not just my fan-girl opinion, but something from a person who was around. Actually, if I was gonna convince a non-fan to read just one MJ book, I would rather have them read Man in the Music, instead of any biography or memoir.

  9. I was not a fan of MJ. I loved his music, bud did not ever buy anything. When the allegations came I knew he was innocent (feeling) and I hoped he would go free. But I did not really follow his life and career. So I was surprised that on June 25 I was so sad, and on that day my life changed considerably. I really don’t know what happened, but in the following weeks I became so curious about him. (I know there are many like me). And then, after thousands of hours of research, I got a good picture of him. But I always felt that HE had chosen me to become curious, to feel a certain connection. I still have this feeling. If people are not “ready” for him, for whatever reason, there may be hundreds of books, it will not help. Maybe, if there was a series of documentaries that are on national TV’s on prime time, maybe then there would be some viewers. But it has to be thrown at the public. Still, I don’t know what could help in educating the general public about Michael. So I continue to believe that HE one day will have to chose them, like he did with me…..Thanks for your comments.

    1. You are right, people have to become curious enough to go looking before they get educated about MJ or anything else. But when they do, here has to be answers to find, which why I’m glad there are all these first account books.

    2. Greet, your comment about feeling Michael chose you to become curious, to have a connection with him is the exact feeling I have. I literally consume everything about Michael I can. The only music I listen to is his. I tell myself I won’t stay up half the night again reading about Michael, but I always do! I am trying to figure out what part I can play in helping keep Michael’s dreams alive….

  10. I found this book to be balanced, sympathetic and touching and was surprised when I then saw so many people absolutely tearing it to pieces.

    I was then so glad to read this very considered review – you’ve written just what I would have if I was articulate enough!

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