Category Archives: Gossip

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Exposing Radar Online’s Secret Shame: The Truth About What Michael Jackson Had (And Didn’t Have) In His Bedroom-Pt 1

Cik-9E5UUAAZzbnIt truly pains me to have to spend Michael’s death anniversary debunking the media lies and distortions that have made headlines this week, but this, unfortunately, has not been just another one of those trashy little tabloid stories that can be ignored. This is a vendetta that has grown wings, thanks to the lowly tactics of one particular publication whom I long ago “outted” as having a personal invested interest in slandering Michael Jackson and tarnishing his legacy. Yes, other publications have picked up the story, too, and I’ll have my bone to pick with them later. But for the most part, those publications have simply been guilty of the same old lazy, copy and paste journalism that we have decried for so long-you know, one outlet prints it, and all the others, not wishing to be left out of the hits, jump in on it like a pool of hungry sharks. Only in this case, a few did, at least, take the time to contact the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department, and the statement obtained has been crucial in shedding light on what is actually going on here. Anyway, my point is that while other outlets have picked up and spread these false stories, we have to start where the evil truly lies-with Radar Online.

But first, let’s start by busting some of the distorted myths and outright lies that are circulating currently. I have been a dedicated Michael Jackson researcher for seven years. I have studied the in’s and out’s of the 2005 case brought against him-in which he was fully vindicated-and the 1993 Jordan Chandler settlement. And what I don’t know, I can get quickly from dedicated researchers  even more thorough and knowledgable than myself. This is going to be all about separating media sensationalism from factual truths-and be patient because this may take awhile; it is not going to be something I can neatly wrap up in a single post, though I certainly wish I could.

The first thing we must address is that the information and descriptions in these reports are NOT new or “recently unearthed” reports-this is all information that both the prosecution and defense were well aware of in 2004 when the indictment and grand jury process began. In fact, a lot of this information was leaked then and circulated in the press after the grand jury hearings, prompting a statement from both Michael’s attorney Thomas Mesereau (which was signed off by Judge Melville acknowledging that no child pornography had been found)that Michael Jackson read on air in 2004:

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Eventually, most of these items were deemed as inadmissible because they were commercially available art books that anyone can purchase legally. The “sadomasochism” books were adult books featuring adult subjects (he owned a copy of Madonna’s “Sex,” a book that was legally sold in bookstores in the early 1990’s) and because none of these materials fit the legal definition of child pornography-in fact, a lot of it wouldn’t qualify as pornography at all, but as artwork.  This left the prosecution in the rather embarrassing situation of having to build a case on Michael’s adult legal porn collection, which was-let’s just say-healthy, but not unusual for a single guy. Let’s remember, these people invaded his private quarters, after all. But essentially, this left the prosecution in the position of trying to build a case of child molestation against a man for whom the only “evidence” they had was issues of Hustler, Playboy, Penthouse, Barely Legal, and the like-along with, well, a lot of art books. The thing you have to keep in mind is that the prosecution never had one shred of what we might call “smoking gun” evidence-the kind that usually leads to an easy, “case closed” conviction. There were no explicit love letters written to any child, no photos of himself or children engaged in sexual acts, no video tapes of himself with children in lewd acts, no taped phone conversations, no online “sex chats”-in other words, none of the things that can lead to an easy conviction in most cases. You have to remember that Michael was under constant FBI surveillance for over ten years. The reports eventually concluded nothing to be found. At one point, all of his computer hard drives were seized but a search of over sixteen computer hard drives seized in the 2003 raid  revealed nothing except that he occasionally visited a few adult legal porn sites where he liked to log in as “Dr. Black” and “Marcel Jackson.” Juicy gossip fodder, yes. Illegal; no.

Madonna's "Sex"-A book Michael was known to have purchased, is typical of what the prosecution referred to as "sadomasochism" books in his collection
Madonna’s “Sex”-A book Michael was known to have purchased, is typical of what the prosecution referred to as “sadomasochism” books in his collection

In the lack of any such hard evidence, the case essentially boiled down to accuser Gavin Arvizo’s word against Michael’s. From that point forward, the only hope that district attorneys Tom Sneddon and Ron Zonen had was to construct their prosecution as a character assassination. In their desperate attempt to make “evidence” out of no evidence, the art books were argued (unsuccessfully) as books that “could” fit the definition of what a casebook pedophile would own, and the legal porn was argued to be “grooming material” (an argument that likewise did not persuade the jury, especially after Gavin Arvizo, under cross examination, admitted that a magazine he had earlier claimed to have been shown by Michael was an issue that, in fact, wasn’t even published until five months after the date of the alleged incident).

The problem is that, in the absence of any truly hardcore evidence, it becomes increasingly difficult to try to convince a jury of what someone’s “intentions” are with a particular photo or art book. You can’t second guess what is in someone’s head, or if they are using certain materials-legal or otherwise-for sexual gratification. That is getting into the realm of “reasonable doubt” and is not something that can be proven. The only thing a judge and jury can do is to look at a certain piece of exhibited evidence and ask: Is this pornography or is it not? And if it is pornographic, is it legal? Keep in mind that anything that isn’t, strictly speaking, child pornography cannot be held as admissible evidence because it is not criminal-at least certainly not in the United States-to own art books or adult legal sex books, no matter how “graphic” the imagery (which a lot of this, also, is being grossly exaggerated in the media reports, but one thing at a time).

The original Radar Online story that ran on June 20th did, in fact, acknowledge that these reports were from 2003 and are not new information, but they slanted their story in such a way that made it seem as though this was somehow “newly leaked” information or as if this was “newly discovered” evidence that somehow-for whatever unearthly reason-was never brought to light during the trial. This is simply not true, as all official court documents related to the 2005 case clearly show that these items were well known to both the prosecution and defense. Many of these items were discussed and exhibited before the jury in what came to be known as the infamous “Porn Day” at trial (a day for which Michael’s very religious mother Katherine chose to sit out). What was left out was left out simply because it was deemed not pornographic in nature and therefore, inadmissible evidence. Michael Jackson was subjected to one of the most zealous cases of prosecution that an individual could be put through. He had a district attorney who had made it his personal life’s ambition to put him behind bars-or drive him permanently from Santa Barbara County, which he eventually succeeded in doing. This was a prosecution effort that combed the globe in search of “victims,” evidence, and any witnesses willing to come forth, regardless of credibility, and that spent millions in taxpayer dollars in the process. Granted, Sneddon and Zonen may have had their moments of ineptitude, but one thing they could never be accused of was being unthorough or of committing a half assed investigation that would have left evidence of actual child pornography overlooked. Indeed, nothing in these reports was overlooked, nor was it withheld. It simply wasn’t child pornography, then or now.

This is an important fact to establish because I think the impression many are getting, from the slanted media reports, is that these items being discussed are some “shocking new bombshell” revelation that has just come to light. That simply isn’t true. This is all old news from a decade ago, and there is absolutely nothing in those reports that hasn’t already had its day in court-that is, of the items that even made it past the discovery stage. The media is trying to slant the story that way because it makes for more salacious headlines and click bait, but if you read the fine print, most have to own up at some point that these are, in fact, old documents dating to 2003 when the discovery process for the trial was underway. So, nothing new here and nothing that the attorneys, as well as the judge and jury, were not well aware of when Michael was tried and acquitted in 2005.

So the next question…why now? Well, that goes back to the close ties between Radar Online (formerly headed up by Dylan Howard)and the attorneys of Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck, as well as a certain traitorous “friend” to the Jackson family, Stacy Brown, Stacy Brown,who has made a career off of peddling smut to the tabloids. Robson and Safechuck both have civil cases pending against the Michael Jackson estate, and Radar Online has become their ally and willing mouthpiece. We know from the statement released by the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department that they did not issue the documents to Radar Online or any other media source:

Some of the documents appear to be copies of reports that were authored by Sheriff’s Office personnel as well as evidentiary photographs taken by Sheriff’s Office personnel interspersed with content that appears to be obtained off the Internet or through unknown sources. The Sheriff’s Office did not release any of the documents and/or photographs to the media. The Sheriff’s Office released all of its reports and the photographs as part of the required discovery process to the prosecution and the defense.

But what’s most disturbing-and a fact that the rest of the media outlets who have run this story seem to be turning a blind eye to-is Radar Online’s willingness to falsify official documents and photos. Many of the media outlets who copied the original story have now updated their information to include this statement. That is at least a step in the right direction, I suppose, but still doesn’t take into account their apparent willingness to run a story that has been blatantly identified by the very authorities who investigated the case as false information.

Let’s look again at that official statement released by the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department with the most crucial passages emphasized:

Some of the documents appear to be copies of reports that were authored by Sheriff’s Office personnel as well as evidentiary photographs taken by Sheriff’s Office personnel interspersed with content that appears to be obtained off the Internet or through unknown sources. The Sheriff’s Office did not release any of the documents and/or photographs to the media. The Sheriff’s Office released all of its reports and the photographs as part of the required discovery process to the prosecution and the defense.

 

This is a public statement that Radar Online intentionally falsified information being purported as official police documents. I will get more into the specifics of which parts are genuine vs. fabricated in the next installment, as well as a detailed account of those items actually listed in the official reports which were grossly exaggerated in an attempt to fabricate “evidence.”

The statement also makes it clear that someone other than an official source is responsible for feeding this information to Radar Online-someone (or someones) who timed this malicious smear campaign just in time to coincide with the remembrances and celebrations of Michael’s death anniversary-a time when the emotions of his family, friends, and fans are most vulnerable.

In the meantime, here are links to many of the media outlets that have already retracted the story and have exposed it for the malicious Radar Online hoax that it is:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/jun/23/authorities-rebut-claims-child-porn-found-michael-/?utm_campaign=shareaholic&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=socialnetwork

http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2016/06/22/michael-jacksons-family-sheriff-respond-child-porn-allegations/86225804/

http://www.people.com/article/michael-jackson-estate-blasts-porn-reports

BET, it looks like, has removed the story altogether.

Most damaging to the hoax perpetrators has been this statement from Ron Zonen himself, one of the prosecuting attorneys who certainly would have moved heaven and earth to have the “evidence” against Michael Jackson he so desperately craved:

zonen statement

Let’s go back to the most important statements given here: “…there was no child pornography. There were no videos involving children.”

So what, then, is all the hoopla about? You’d be shocked and surprised to know! Obviously, the media uses words like “shocking,” “disturbing,” “harrowing” “disgusting” and so on to create click bait. I used the same tactic here. (Do I really think Radar Online has any sense of shame? Nah!). Yet if one truly examines and dissects the materials and images being discussed, it turns out that not only are all of them from legal sources (art books and such) but that most of the more erotic images are of adults! So…what’s the deal here? It actually seems that a huge media storm is being created over Michael Jackson’s tastes in art and adult erotica. Like I said before: Gossip fodder? Yes, maybe. Evidence of criminal behavior? No.  And Radar Online is purposely tampering with many of those images to make them “appear” more explicit than they actually are, as per this example. On the right is the image as Radar online posted it. On the left is the original image from the book it was taken from. As you can see, Radar Online purposely blocked out the crotches so as to make it appear as if the young men were naked, when in fact they were actually clothed in shorts.

meowKittens

UPDATE: MJ fans do great detective work (if only the media was this thorough!). The source of the above photo is a book titled Bigood by art photographer James Bigood, whose specialty is homoerotic art. This particular photo was from a 2009 reissued edition (which Michael most likely didn’t even own since its publication date was May 15, 2009-a time when Michael would have been busy rehearsing for This Is It and had only a little over a month to live; it definitely would not have been among the books recovered in the 2003 raid of Neverland unless-as sanemjfan pointed out in the comments below-Michael owned the original edition, which is possible. However, in any event, Radar Online did clearly doctor the image to make it look more graphic than it actually is, since the image on the left is what appears in Bidgood’s book (and needless to add, this is a book of homoerotic adult art, so even if Michael did own it, there is nothing shameful or illegal about it). You can learn more about Bidgood’s book-and his art-here:

http://www.booktopia.com.au/james-bidgood-bruce-benderson/prod9783836514521.html

http://www.homohistory.com/2014/10/james-bidgood.html

I will be posting more on this topic over the next several days, but in the meantime, for those who are curious about the extent of Michael Jackson’s porn collection, this is a very good comprehensive list . For the record, the items included in that list are the only actual pornography that was found. Also, an excellent series on the art books found in Michael’s collection-much of the source of the current media frenzy-can be found here .  As far as I can tell, this was the first post of the series. You can start there and follow the rest of the series through its various installments.

There is much, much more to come as I will be tearing down and exposing Radar Online lie by lie over the coming days. But as June 25th approaches, I want to add these parting words: Seven years ago, we lost an amazing artist, man, and humanitarian. From Ferguson, Missouri and Black Lives Matter to Paris, France and, most recently in the wake of the tragedy in Orlando, Michael’s music continues to be the music of healing for our planet. Why is it that whenever tragedy strikes, or there is a new awakening for the need to bring us together as a global family, it is Michael’s music that people turn to, time and time again?

Participants in Mass Vigil For Orlando Victims Sing “Heal The World”

Michael Jackson was a rare gift to the planet, one who certainly didn’t (and still doesn’t) deserve this kind of treatment. I said it on social media the other day, and will repeat it here: If the world spent a lot more time listening to the words he wrote, rather than obsessing over what he had in his bedroom, we would be the better off. Michael’s personal life has already been well dissected. He was put through a grueling and publicly humiliating trial that left nothing to the imagination-his inner sanctity completely ransacked, his most private possessions put up for public inspection; even his own body violated.

My point is that there is nothing new here to see. All of this “evidence” was hashed out in court a decade ago. So why is Radar Online so gleefully jumping on this fabricated smear campaign, regurgitating decades old information for which Michael Jackson has long been tried for, and acquitted? My guess, which is probably not too far off the mark, is that it is all part of a carefully orchestrated plan to force the estate into a settlement with Robson and Safechuck. And in Radar Online, they have the perfect, willing accomplice-a publication that doesn’t mind bending all the rules of fair play, or even falsifying information, in order to bait a gullible public into believing that a list of items that was reviewed and dismissed as “evidence” twelve years ago is somehow front page burning news.

He Was A Gift To The World That Deserved Far More Than What It Gave Him
He Was A Gift To The World That Deserved Far More Than What It Gave Him

Strangely, perhaps, the first thing I thought of when this story hit was the recently renewed controversy over the Confederate flag. President Obama said that the Confederate flag needs to be retired permanently to a museum, where it can be remembered as a part of history, but not flown as an act of defiance for an ideal that no longer exists. I feel the same way about all of this regurgitated information from Michael Jackson’s trial. Those documents (the real ones, that is) have resided in the Santa Barbara County records’ department for over a decade. They are a part of history, but no longer relevant. The trial ended in acquittal on all fourteen counts on June 13th, 2005, and Michael Jackson died on June 25th, 2009.

But just as there are some individuals who will never accept that the Civil War ended in 1865, so, too, is a faction who will never accept that Michael Jackson was fully exonerated by a court of law in 2005. To this end, they will continue to lie, to rehash and sensationalize old stories, to distort truth and yes, even to fabricate new “evidence” where none exists. It is all merely a thinly veiled attempt to keep an old battle going that has already long been fought-and won.

If you read this and agree that we need better laws to protect the deceased against this kind of slander, please sign this petition for the Anti-Defamation Legacy Law Advocates. It is an initiative that, if passed into law, will enable the heirs of deceased persons the same laws and protection against slander and libel in the media as living persons currently have.

“We’ve Had Enough” – An appeal to the fan community to take a stand against slanderous tabloids.

UPDATE: Here is some explosive information that is just coming out via the Canadian press (big thanks to my friends  sanemjfan and Melanie who shared this breaking story on Twitter and FB): The artist of one of the photos that Radar Online “falsely added” to the 2003 police reports, Canadian artist Jonathan Hobin, has confirmed that his photo DID NOT EVEN EXIST UNTIL 2008 and therefore it could not POSSIBLY have been confiscated as part of the 2003 raid!

Here is what Radar Online originally reported:

ramsey image

The full story behind the actual photo can be found here on the CBC news site. 

In an excerpt from the above article, Jonathan Hobin states:

A lot of the work that they’re referencing in the Radar Online report isn’t in fact pornography, but images obtained online from art books, according to Hobin.

“People are manipulating the context of art for their own sinister purposes. I think again, it harkens back to poor journalism and the excitement around creating drama that doesn’t exist,” he said.

Hobin believes the best way to put an end to the misinformation is for the police department in question to deny the claims.

“(The sheriff’s department) could have put out word immediately saying that this is someone’s attempt to … corrupt a previously existing police investigation,” he said.

“I’d like them to speak to it sooner rather  than later … everyone from Vanity Fair to Daily Mail to wherever, they’re talking about this thing that supposedly exists and to some extent I question if there is some sort of intention of them to allow that discussion to continue when they can put a stop to it right now.”

So there you have it…more proof of the lengths this rag has gone to in order to falsify and sensationalize the truth. Now Michael is being accused based on a photo that 1: Isn’t child pornography by any legal definition, and that 2: He could not possibly have even owned at the time of the raid. 

Michael and Nudity? Examining Perceptions of Michael, Sexuality, and Exhibitionism

gorman2Yep, it seems just about every celebrity has “gone there” at some point, and Michael-for all his purported shyness-was no exception. When this semi nude photo from a 1987 Greg Gorman shoot surfaced recently, as part of Gorman’s recently opened exhibition in Germany, it caused quite a sensation in the MJ fan community, as well as some very polarizing reactions. Although most fans are always delighted with any images that celebrate Michael’s extraordinary beauty and sensuality, this one struck a bit of interesting discord, from accusations that it was a fake (it isn’t) to the arguments that Michael would never have posed for such a pic. Well, obviously he did, so there goes that argument. As to why it took this many years for the photo to surface, that may be another matter. It’s likely that Michael, who almost always demanded final say on these matters (and was as much of a noted perfectionist when it came to his looks and image as he was in regard to his music) wasn’t happy with the end product, and it may have been for much the same reason that he reportedly didn’t like the Bani shoots for the Invincible album.

Greg Gorman Posing At The Exhibition Where His Semi-nude of Michael Was Finally Displayed For The World To See.
Greg Gorman Posing At The Exhibition Where His Semi-nude of Michael Was Finally Displayed For The World To See.

Although I appreciate Michael’s physique as much as the next female fan, I am not overly fond of this photo, either. Maybe if it hadn’t been for the leg warmers (lol, whose idea were those, anyway!?) but the whole thing just smacks of 80’s cheesiness to me, like the models in those 80’s issues of Playgirl that I used to secretly buy and hide under my bed to keep my grandmother from finding them. Well, it was 1987, after all, and what fashion statement wasn’t complete in those days without leg warmers? However, I agree with the fans who have stated that Michael’s sensual appeal was probably much better captured in photographs such as those shot by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair, Todd Gray, Lynn Goldsmith, and Herb Ritts (responsible for Michael’s smoldering “In The Closet” look). To that list, I think we could also add the sizzling Alan Watson pole shoots from 1999, which (even though fully clothed) were still some of the sexiest shots Michael ever did. Collectively, all of these photos indicate that “less” isn’t necessarily sexier .

Michael's Sizzling Vanity Fair photos, taken by Annie Leibovitz, proved that "less" isn't necessarily sexier.
Michael’s Sizzling Vanity Fair photos, taken by Annie Leibovitz, proved that “less” isn’t necessarily sexier.

Nevertheless, since Michael did pose (and we can presume willingly) for the Gorman shoot, as well as all the others mentioned here-and did have the audacity to wear those infamous gold pants onstage that left practically nothing to imagination, I think it may be high time to examine what these images and choices can really tell us about Michael-how he viewed himself and his body (both as a work of art and as a sexually deified “object”), his particular brand of exhibitionism (which no performer can exist without to some degree) and to what extent some of these choices may have reflected his own sexual liberation during this time.

There persists an almost puritanical myth about Michael, sex, and how he viewed his body, as well as the idea of being perceived as a sexual “object” (if you will, for lack of a better word). This myth is commonly perpetuated even among some elements of the fan base, which invites a lot of fascinating and seemingly contradictory dualities. While fans may ogle and “aww” over sexy photos of Michael, many will also still insist that he was a puritanical angel, shy to the point of awkwardness over his body, who was often repulsed by the behavior of sex crazed fans. This is an idea that has been reinforced by a well circulated quote from Boteach Schmuley’s book:

“No, that’s crazy, like some of these singers who put bulges in their pants, that’s crazy.  I don’t understand that.  That’s like disgusting to me when they do stuff like that.  That’s embarrassing.  I don’t want nobody to even look at me down….like looking for that.  That would just embarrass me so bad, oh God.”
 
“When I think about it, I would never say this on TV, but if I went on stage thinking about what goes through women’s heads, I would never go out on stage.  If I was suddenly to start thinking about what they were thinking about….sex, or what I look like naked, then, oh God, that would be so embarrassing.  I could never go out.  That’s so horrible.” -Excerpted from The Michael Jackson Tapes. 
This is an interesting quote, partly because (as were all these recorded conversations with Schmuley that eventually made their way into the book) it was a frank and off the cuff, private conversation never intended for public consumption-in other words, this wasn’t the usually very carefully guarded Michael protecting an “image.” But by the same token, his own words here seem to belie many of the choices he willingly made, and certainly the onstage image he consciously presented as a sexualized performer. True, as he states, Michael never resorted to any of those hideous, cheesy tricks like stuffing his pants with socks-well, according to rumor, anyway, there was no need to, as his own assets were said to be quite sufficient in that department (and given the solid consistency of those stories, we have to assume there must be some truth to them).
The Famous Gold Pants Didn't Lie!
The Famous Gold Pants Didn’t Lie!
But I always found Michael’s protestations of total innocence on the matter (especially during the HIStory tour when he was willingly wearing those gold pants every night) a curiously charming-and at times tauntingly cruel-tactic. Sort of like the girl who goes out in a mini skirt, tight sweater and high heels, but then protests, “I don’t like guys drooling over me; I don’t like drawing attention to myself.” You get the picture. Michael was sending us a lot of mixed messages and signals, but to what extent he did so intentionally-and how much may have been mere wishful projection on the part of fans-remains a debatable issue. My personal belief is that Michael was much too smart to not realize exactly what he was doing,  the effect he was having, and why. He had perfected the coy power of creating sexual tension among his fanbase-knowing when to give it, when to draw back, and how to perpetuate the frustrations of an entire generation who were obsessed with the idea of him as some desirable, but utterly unattainable object of lust-and, for that matter, as to just how “unattainable” he really was remains a likewise debatable issue. All male rock and pop stars have their share of “groupie stories”-those rumors, whispers, and urban legends that get passed down, first by word of mouth, and eventually sometimes, even archived on websites where these women often enjoy posting about their conquests-and occasional horror stories-from the “good old days.” Michael has had his share of those stories as well-many of which may be fan fics, but nevertheless, there is a certain consistency to their details that lends, for me, at least, a degree of credibility. If you are curious about that sort of thing, there is a new website, Michael’s Human Nature that has compiled and archived many of these groupie stories and urban legends about Michael. The blog’s author does provide a disclaimer warning that the stories should be taken with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, they are certainly entertaining to read! And while I am not automatically prone to believe every groupie story about Michael that is circulated, I do find that at least a few offer some interesting consistencies in their details (making it at least somewhat plausible that they are all describing the same man in bed, who would have indulged in a fairly consistent pattern of acts with each woman-for example, the tendency to be quite loud and vocal; an apparent attraction for soft masochism; the preference for “doggie style” and an express skill for cunninlingus (a definite plus in the groupie world, where the #1 complaint is usually about selfish male musicians who demand head while giving nothing in return) and a few have offered up some interesting details that have only been confirmed in very recent years since his passing (even though many of these stories have circulated for years) such as the lack of circumcision and the clutter of his Neverland bedroom.
As tantalizingly fun  as the subject may be, however, my intent here isn’t to go off on a tangent about Michael’s offstage conquests, casual or otherwise. However, neither is it a totally irrelevant topic if we’re going to discuss Michael in terms of nudity, sexuality, how he viewed his body, and more importantly, the frustratingly contradictory perceptions he created among fans and critics alike. I don’t have to tell you that few, if any performers, have ever had every nuance of their sexuality scrutinized and psychologized to the degree that Michael Jackson has, nor has any other  performer ever  been pegged so diversely as everything from asexual and virginal (if we believe the popular mainstream media trope) to downright horn dog (according to the stories of some acquaintances), and every stop in between. Do you ever just want to say, “Will the real Michael Jackson please stand up?” Where do we begin to strip away, to deconstruct and reconstruct these myths? And perhaps the bigger question: Do we want to? For those fans who are fiercely protective of their “Michael was a saint” image, these questions remain something of a troubling paradox. Often, unwittingly, they are playing right into the mainstream narrative, which is (I believe) far more malicious in its purpose. Think about who is really most responsible for creating the myths of Michael as an asexual or virginal man-child. It certainly didn’t come from his legion of female fans. It didn’t come from his loyal following among African-Americans. Where does it spring? Not surprisingly, from white male writers who, due to the fact that they have monopolized the entertainment and music media for decades, have pretty much called the shots. In J. Randy Taraborelli’s book The Magic, The Madness, The Whole Story, Taraborelli helped plant the myth of a performer whose offstage views on girls, sex and romance were oddly at variance with his public image and onstage persona, based largely on an interview he conducted with Michael in August of 1977-a time when Michael was all of nineteen.
“I think it’s fun that girls think I’m sexy…but I don’t think that about myself. It’s all just fantasy, really. I like to make my fans happy so I might pose or dance in a way that makes them think I’m romantic. But really I guess I’m not that way.”-Excerpted from The Magic, The Madness, The Whole Story. 
 Michael further cemented this awkward, almost puritanical view of himself when he told Martin Bashir how he had “chickened out” of a romantic encounter with Tatum O’ Neal.  But while these kinds of quotes have often been circulated as “proof” that Michael must have been somehow either extremely backwards and puritanical in regard to sex, or else exhibiting some form of extreme sexual dysfunction, neither takes into account his age at the time of these reported events. For the most part, Michael made many of these statements as a teenager or, as in the case of the Tatum story, when looking back on a teenage event. If we compare those statements to some of the comments he made about girls as an even younger kid (say, about ten or so) a very different picture emerges, of an almost sexually precocious kid who giggled about women’s assets (“look at the hot cakes on her!” he would often joke when a well endowed girl walked past). These stories really do not sound unlike the adult Michael, who according to most friends, was openly flirtatious and usually didn’t miss an opportunity to comment on any t&a that caught his eye.
However, none of this is as totally inconsistent as it might sound. Michael evolved through many different stages in his life, from a cheerful and outgoing kid to a reticent, withdrawn, and seemingly troubled adolescent who became very self-conscious over his own growing body and the sometimes awkward changes that puberty wrought. Later, this extreme self consciousness would be exacerbated by some very real medical conditions, among them vitiligo and discoid lupus. But also, Michael reached a hard won maturity in his life, part of which was learning to accept and love his physical shell, what the poet Walt Whitman called “the body electric.” Whitman’s poem is rather long (as most of his works were) but I will quote here the part of the poem that I feel is most relevant to our discussion:
1
I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.
Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves?
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead?
And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul?
And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?
2
The love of the body of man or woman balks account, the body itself balks account,
That of the male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect.
The expression of the face balks account,
But the expression of a well-made man appears not only in his face,
It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the joints of his hips and wrists,
It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist and knees, dress does not hide him,
The strong sweet quality he has strikes through the cotton and broadcloth,
To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem, perhaps more,
You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck and shoulder-side…
 It is certainly interesting to compare this poem to Michael’s own similarly themed poem “I Am Beautiful” which, like Whitman’s poem, can be interpreted to be as much about a newfound sense of liberation and acceptance of his physical body as it is a celebration of spiritual rebirth and awakening:
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 “I’m Beautiful
   I’m Beautiful
   I’m Beautiful
   I’m Beautiful
   I’m Beautiful
   I’m Gorgeous
   God is for me, who can be
   against me?
   I’m Beautiful
   I’m a new person now
   Beautiful, knowing the
   secrets and Determined
   with fire to Move Mountains
   in all I do. Molding my own
   world.
   I’m Beautiful.
                                                                                        The old me is behind
                                                                                         I will march ahead anew”-
                                                                                         Michael Jackson.
I don’t think it is any coincidence that this poem was written within just a few years of the Gorman photo shoot, and also coincides with the entire, liberated awakening of self that seemed to permeate so much of his art and performance during that time. And much of this can be tied directly to his severing of ties with his Jehovah’s Witness upbringing and the gradual embracing of, what was for him, at least, much more liberated and enlightening creeds. For quite some time, the world had been aware that Michael was no longer the cute little boy who sang “ABC.” He had grown into an incredibly hot, sexy and sensual adult. But now, for the first time, he could freely indulge those fantasies without guilt (or at least without the oppressive fear of being defellowshipped).
It Was A Metaphoric Shedding Of His Old Skin; A Newfound Sense of Sexual Liberation
It Was A Metaphoric Shedding Of His Old Skin; A Newfound Sense of Sexual Liberation

To cut to the chase, I see much of what Michael was doing in this phase as a kind of metaphoric shedding of his old skin. And what better way to accomplish this-what better way to celebrate this newfound sense of self-then by posing nude (or nearly so, as the case may be).

Of course, this calls into question some of Michael’s other sometimes contradictory views and apparent double standards on sexuality and nudity (for example, some of his rather judgmental remarks about LaToya’s spread in Playboy). However, perhaps something to keep in perspective is that, while Michael obviously posed for the shoot, the photo was never made public during his lifetime. There must have been a reason for that, as well. And seeing as how Gorman is a photographer who takes great pride in his collection of celebrity photos that celebrate the male physique (and is now openly exhibiting this photo along with his celebrated semi-nudes of Keenau Reeves and others). I can pretty much guess that the decision to keep it hidden away must have been Michael’s, who probably had second thoughts about letting the photo go public.
However, my guess is that this reticence probably had more to do with dissatisfaction over the photo itself than any prurient reticence about his nudity. After all, we were going to be seeing a lot more of Michael in the very near future-literally, that is. So much so, in fact, that by the time of “You Are Not Alone” even many hardened critics were left blushing in awkward embarrassment. We might say that all of this seemed to stem from what became for Michael, during this era, an increasingly and overtly sexualized aspect of his performance. Whether it was the (for many critics at the time) puzzling mixture of auto eroticism, partial nudity  and violence that dominated the second half of the otherwise family friendly “Black or White” video, or the more romantic and classical eroticism of “You Are Not Alone” to the politically blatant exhibitionism of “They Don’t Care About Us” in which Michael finally allowed the world to see, for the first time, the ravages of vitiligo on his body (in all previous videos, any exposed area of his body had been heavily retouched and makeup used to conceal the splotchy effects of the disease). In each of these videos, his nudity or partial nudity was serving a very different purpose, but the one element in common is that, in each case, it was a purpose directly linked to that particular video’s aesthetic and artistic purpose. However, Michael’s tendency to combine eroticism and violence was certainly not lost on critics at the time, and even today it is an aspect of his art that many scholars, critics, and journalists tend to struggle uncomfortably with when attempting to interpret his work. To attempt to offer any such definitive interpretation would also, I think, be well beyond the scope of a single blog post. But it is certainly a relevant point in any discussion of Michael and nudity.
This Pic Cracked Me Up First Time I Ever Saw It! But On A More Serious Note, It Has Taken Us Nearly Two Hundred Years To Regain Our Comfort With Male Nudity...And For America That Comfort Is Still In Its Infancy
This Pic Cracked Me Up First Time I Ever Saw It! But On A More Serious Note, It Has Taken Us Nearly Two Hundred Years To Regain Our Comfort With Male Nudity…And For America That Comfort Is Still In Its Infancy
It may also be prurient to note that it was only with the ushering in of the Victorian era that male nudity became associated with feelings of repulsion and shame, or the with the sexist (and homophobic) view that only a female body was worthy of such adulation.  If we go back to the age of classical art in Greece or Rome, or to the art of the Renaissance, we see that the male body was often celebrated and glorified in art. But the Victorian era pretty much repressed any expression of sexuality at all, and by the time we emerged from that oppression in the early years of the twentieth century, homophobia had tainted the modern view of male sexuality. The pornography industry would become booming business, but it was a business that catered almost exclusively to the tastes of straight men, with women (straight or gay) and gay men being forced to seek obscure and underground alternatives to satisfy their own tastes.  The 1970’s and 80’s were a time in which both women and gay men began to openly assert their rights to “objectify” the male body in the same way that women’s bodies had been objectified for years. Along with this liberation came a proliferation of male sexuality and nudity, expressed both in the porn industry and in the arts, that had not been seen openly since the Renaissance days. In music, we saw the most blatant exploitation of this on MTV, which due to its visual appeal (at that time a novelty for the music industry) gave rise to a whole, new generation of objectified male sex symbols. This would include just about every hair metal band of the day, all of which routinely featured very pretty young males in heavy makeup who (as per the popular joke of the time, “all looked more like chicks than the groupies who pursued them”) and tight spandex pants intended to emphasize their (usually stuffed) bulging crotches. But it would also include the rise of “beefcake” performers like Bruce Springsteen (yes, he had been around for years, but had we ever really noticed just how tight his buns were in those jeans before the “Dancing in the Dark” video?). And to this category I would also add John Cougar Mellencamp’s blatantly sexualized solo dance in “Crumbling Down.”

Then there were the blatantly gender defying performers like Culture Club’s Boy George, and highly sexualized, “exotic” performers like Prince who would push those boundaries of male sexuality to their absolute limit.
And into this mix we have Michael Jackson, whom we had all watched grow up, but was now faced with the artistic dilemma of how to reinvent himself for this new, visual-oriented medium in which, male or female, sex appeal was the obvious driving factor.
Going back to the 1977 quote Michael reportedly said to Tarroborelli, I think Taraborelli may have have, indeed, missed a very important element of that quote in his rush to use it as some sort of proof that Michael had no interest in sex beyond the fantasy element of titillating his fans. “I think it’s fun that girls think I’m sexy” he had said, before adding that there was also a strong fantasy element to what he was doing-a fantasy element that he was fully willing to exploit. Even at nineteen, this does not sound like the words of a young man repulsed by being found sexy (at all!) but, rather, as one who found an element of thrill in it (even if it didn’t necessarily lead to any kind of consummation in the literal sense). Indeed, at the root of exhibitionism is the excitement and power one feels knowing that total strangers are being aroused by you. The word itself is a misunderstood term, often crudely defined merely as the act of exposing one’s genitals publicly for a sexual thrill. But in reality it is a much more complex term that encompasses many levels of both voyeurism and auto erotic fixation. It is a phenomenon known to many women and men in adult entertainment, who say it’s more than just the money that compels them to do what they do. It is also the empowerment and erotic thrill that comes with knowing they are being lusted after. And indeed, it is at the very heart of why sex has always been (and remains) at the forefront of many performers’ popular appeal-and why most of them so willingly exploit it.yana girl
So was Michael really the blushing man-child, shy to the point of awkwardness about his body? Different stories seem to both confirm and belie this myth. But as so many have pointed out, Michael did transform completely when onstage or in front of a camera. As Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard, who witnessed his sizzling 2007 Ebony shoot, so aptly pointed out in their book Remember The Time,  he instantly transformed into “King of Pop mode” in front of a camera. And along with that transformation seemed to come an uncanny knack for turning on the “It” factor.
But this was the mature MJ who had presumably shed most of his youthful awkwardness and shyness. Supposedly.
However, an early story from photographer Lynn Goldsmith indicates that even at a very young age, Michael had no shyness about undressing for the camera (and, indeed, the youthful rooftop photos that resulted from that session are among some of his most sensual from this era). The emphasis in the below quote are mine:

Photographer Lynn Goldsmith worked for Michael for 8 years. Of this photoshoot with Michael Lynn says “We were in his hotel and it’s about 7’o clock, and that’s when the sun was setting and I said ‘You know Michael, up on the roof there’s m…agic light’ so he said ‘Magic light!’ so I said ‘Yeah, you wanna go up there?’ so he said ‘Yeah’ so we snuck out and and we went up to the roof and it was something that he did, Michael started taking his clothes off on the roof which I thought I would get into big trouble for, I mean, he didn’t completely undress but even just taking his shirt off, this is not, you know, a body builder and so you never really knew what he was thinking and that made photographing him very exciting, for me.”~Lynn Goldsmith Plum TV Interview. 1981 Boston

Below: Some of the tantalizing photos that came out of Lynn Goldsmith’s rooftop session and Michael’s impromptu “striptease“:

 

goldsmithgoldsmith2goldsmith3

Similar stories have been told by many other photographers who worked with Michael. Taken collectively, these stories do seem to undermine the popular narrative of Michael Jackson as someone who was awkwardly uncomfortable in his skin. Rather, they all point to just the opposite-that here was a young man who was completely comfortable in his skin, who was confident in his sexuality and the objectification of it, and didn’t seem to mind in the least who knew it-or who enjoyed it.

However, it also seems true that certain photographers could bring out this side of him better than others. This may not be surprising. Photography is, after all, a kind of art, and it takes a special kind of artist to really connect with his or her subject. Virtually every one who ever photographed Michael has commented on how photogenic he was, but there were a handful who seemed to really know how to tap into his inner eroticism and bring it to the forefront. And it may not be surprising that most of those photographers have been women or gay men, who seemed most innately able to capture the essence of Michael’s physical appeal.

Although the Gorman photo was never released in Michael’s lifetime, a much more familiar photo from Greg Gorman is the famous “tarantula photo” which features a profile view of Michael with a huge tarantula crawling across his face. He also shot the well known “face behind the lace veil” photo that Michael originally wanted as the cover of the Bad album.

gorman3

 

gorman4

Both photos exhibit a daring avante-garde appeal that was not common in many of the photos taken of Michael during this era, but which he would begin to experiment with much more brazen daring in the coming decades (with sometimes mixed results; while Michael seemed willing to experiment, his conservatism-and/or that of Sony’s- often won out, resulting in many intriguing photo shoots that were ultimately never used).

Alan Watson’s “pole dancer” shots for the Invincible album remain among my favorites, and some of these ultimately did end up being used for the album, though as with many photo shoots, what ended up being used was only a tiny fraction of what was actually shot. This site was one of the first to feature most of the entire photo shoot, and for years, it remained my most popular post (right up there with “Why I Love The Mature Face of Michael.”). But far from simply finding them visually appealing, I’ve often been intrigued at the idea of why Michael did them in the first place, and could there be any symbolic statement to be attached to them?

The Dance Pole Is Traditionally Associated With Sexual Objectification-But Usually of Women. Here Michael Uses It To Make A Flirty and Empowering Statement For Male Sexuality.
The Dance Pole Is Traditionally Associated With Sexual Objectification-But Usually of Women. Here Michael Uses It To Make A Flirty and Empowering Statement For Male Sexuality.

Maybe an artistic statement about where he was at in this point of his life, and how he viewed his body and sex symbol status? This was, after all, the era from about 1999-2001, a time when the tabloids had really jumped on the “Michael Jackson looks like a freak” bandwagon. But as with practically every project from the 90’s and 2000’s, there seemed to be a concentrated effort to present himself in interesting visual ways that defied such easy labels or categorizations. Indeed, the same man who even as a youth had exhibited confidence in what was then a much more traditional brand of sex appeal was also many steps ahead of the game in his maturity, acutely aware that his current sexual appeal was even edgier and treading far more “taboo” or “forbidden” territory, even as he also seemed to willingly embrace the label of becoming the “beast” we had visualized. The rather bizarre dichotomy of this phenomenon (why women continued to swoon over Michael Jackson and why, for many, he became even sexier in maturity, while the media and tabloid press denounced him as a “freak”) is a subject that has been well hashed out, and more thoroughly, by myself and many other writers elsewhere, so I won’t belabor the point here except to say that it does add an interesting element to the Watson photos and others of this era like them. The dance pole, long the staple of female strippers and aerial performers (and only in more recent times becoming embraced by male strippers as well) has a long and erotic history, mostly for its phallic symbolic representation. Used for years as a symbol of objectifying the female body, it has also taken on a new status in recent times as a great equalizer for the objectivity of male and female sexuality, as well as an empowering symbol for both sexes who desire to exert control over their own objectification (for women, it can be a way of saying, “I enjoy being sexual and am the one in control” while for a man it can be a way of saying, “I am okay with being viewed as an object”-which in itself is also a powerful and liberating statement.

It is also interesting to look at how his depictions of himself, his body, and sexuality evolved in his short films and performances. We all know that the famous “crotch grab” became a well known part of his dance choreography, and the attempts to analyze what it might have possibly symbolized-if anything-could fill volumes. I have my own theories, which have been discussed in past posts, and indeed, just about every MJ critic and scholar has, at some point, added their own variations. Michael himself said it represented nothing more than a visceral reaction to the music (in an explanation reminiscent of Elvis Presley’s protestations that his controversial pelvic gyrations were just an innocent result of the music driving him). But if we go back and watch Elvis’s very blatant 1956 performance of “Hound Dog” on the Milton Berle show (before the performance was censored) we can see that this is no innocent, “aw shucks” act. Elvis was a smart cookie who knew exactly what he was doing-and the impact it would have.

Michael was essentially doing his own variant of this act, but as I had noted earlier, I think what became increasingly disturbing for many critics at the time was Michael’s apparent growing propensity for blending sexuality/eroticism with violence, largely because for them there was no apparent context in which to ground it. For many, this will instantly bring to mind the controversial Panther Dance sequence of “Black or White.”

It Was The Blending Of Eroticism and Violence That Many Critics Found Unsettling.
It Was The Blending Of Eroticism and Violence That Many Critics Found Unsettling.

In reading Steve Knopper’s The Genius of Michael Jackson (a book I will be reviewing in its entirety in a few weeks when I have finished it) I did come across this interesting passage, which I had not heard before:

“Landis struggled on the set to contain MJ’s sexual expression. At one point, as Michael reached into his crotch, Landis yelled “Cut!” and told Michael to knock it off-this was a family production. Michael defied the instruction, instead unzipping his fly and reaching his hand further into his crotch. Landis stopped filming again and said he was uncomfortable with the move. They asked choreographer Vince Paterson for his opinion; he agreed with Landis. But Michael insisted on calling Gallin, his manager. ‘Sandy was a screaming queen. A very flamboyant homosexual,’ Landis said. ‘Sandy Gallin comes to the set, looks at the playback, and he goes, ‘Do it, Michael! Do it! Do it!’ During the editing process later, Landis says he cut the most objectionable crotch-grabbing images and ‘what’s in the finished piece, I thought was fine.'”-Excerpted from The Genius of Michael Jackson by Steve Knopper, p. 196.

Whoa! Now just imagine…we know how hot, steamy and controversial were the shots that made it into the video! Imagine, then, what must have been on the cutting room floor!

Susan Fast has written that it may have been much more than just the video’s combination of sex and violence that made so many uncomfortable, but rather, the fact that Michael seemed to be indulging in an explicitly kind of feminized auto eroticism, territory that had been for the most part expressly forbidden for male performers (even though it was quite common for women to engage in various forms of auto eroticism in the videos of the day). Just as he had broken down so many barriers in other ways, Michael was also eradicating many of these sexist barriers (what was “ok” and socially acceptable for women to do in videos vs. what was “ok” for a man) and he wasn’t simply slowly eroding those barriers, but screaming until those walls came crashing down, as surely as The Royal Arms Hotel sign in the video. In a single video, Michael brazenly simulated masturbation in front of the camera; he ripped the shirt clean off his body and splashed, in slow motion, into a puddle of water, in as symbolic an act of shedding skin as could possibly be imagined, all while slinging wet strands of hair about his face and screaming like a wild animal…yeah, that was pretty hot and erotic, no doubt. With no mistake.

"Daybreat" by Maxine Parrish
“Daybreat” by Maxfield Parrish

And even when Michael’s eroticism took a more romantic, classical turn, as in “You Are Not Alone” it was in many ways no less disconcerting. The concept of “You Are Not Alone” was taken from the painting “Daybreak” by Maxfield Parrish, which featured two semi-nude female subjects in what appeared to be a classical Greek setting. I’ve always felt that the video was a kind of blatant answer to the critics who were dogging the MJ-LMP marriage as a fake; an attempt to show the world that this was a genuine, romantic relationship with real chemistry. (For the record, I never really understood all the critical dismissals of the video as “awkward”; Michael and Lisa’s scenes as they talk intimately and whisper seem to me charmingly endearing). If anything, this video would go down in history as the one in which Michael literally left nothing to imagination-yes, your eyes weren’t deceiving you; if you were watching closely, that really is a flash we get at the :18 mark, when the camera pans around his supine form to an above shot!

No, Ladies, Your Eyes Were Not Deceiving You!
No, Ladies, Your Eyes Were Not Deceiving You!

Yep, that cheesecloth was hiked up pretty high, and no, there was nothing underneath there except Michael as nature made him! That was a pretty brazen shot, and to this day, debate remains as to why it was left in. Was it an accident that was simply never edited out? Some fans just wink it and call it Michael’s “gift” to his fans. Whatever the case may be, it has kept many sharp sighted fans delighted and happily rewinding that pan shot (not to mention being the subject of many gifs) for two decades. What may be more interesting is what we don’t see in that shot-Michael’s bare feet, which remain discreetly hidden beneath a piece of draped cloth. It was said that, for whatever reason, it was the one part of his body he was most self conscious about displaying, which might also explain why the leg warmers and socks stayed on in the Gorman photo.

2e14c988badeb63a6e26e68ad11c56daAnd, just as with the “Black or White” film, there was apparently even more of Michael that didn’t make it into the final cut, according to an article that appeared in The New York Daily News prior to the video’s premier:

“The King of Pop came this close to becoming the King of Porn. Computer whizzes scrambled to digitally alter a shot in Michael Jackson’s new video that shows the superstar floating naked in water. According to the Los Angeles Times, producers panicked after they discovered the scene from the video “You Are Not Alone” shows just a little too much of the 36-year-old singer. The offending anatomy was cut from the shot via computer magic, the paper said. The video, produced to promote Jackson’s latest album, “HIStory,” is due to premiere at 9:30 tonight simultaneously on ABC, MTV and BET. With typical modesty, the 30-minute special is called “Michael Jackson changes HIStory”-Helen Reddy.

This era also marked an increasingly exhibitionistic trend in his live performances, with costumes that were (I firmly believe) purposely designed to draw attention to his assets. The leotard thong of the Dangerous tour and the legendary gold pants of the HIStory tour were obviously intended to have exactly the effect that they had. These costume choices were purposely body conscious; a blatant statement of virility that seemed to match the overly sexualized, aggressive personas that the costumes matched (note that his clothing would usually change over the course of the performance, from these overtly masculine pieces to softer, flowing shirts and less revealing pants as he segued into the philanthropic numbers that usually closed the sets out).

Certainly the surfacing of the Gorman photo, just as with all of these other examples, raises a lot of questions-most notably, how do we (or can we) reconcile these images to the same guy who assured us he was so shy and embarrassed about these matters, who said he would be terrorized if he thought about what “goes through women’s heads” when he is onstage. The answer is that, barring any kind of overly simplified “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” split personality theory, we really can’t. The only thing we can ascertain is that Michael Jackson-like most of us-was an incredibly complex individual and an even more incredibly complex artist, who was always evolving and always looking for ways to push the envelope further. He wasn’t afraid to take risks. Likewise, he was evolving in his own life, and I am convinced that many of these choices represented his personal journey toward freedom of sexual expression, acceptance of himself as a sexual being, and acceptance of his own, physical body as not only something beautiful, but as something that could be molded into great art.  It was a journey that encompassed both his own spiritual and physical awakening; a confidence that managed to bloom despite, or perhaps even as a result of, some very debilitating physical handicaps (vitiligo and discoid lupus). It was a personal metamorphosis that nevertheless. just like every single other aspect of his life, was played out on the world’s stage with all of us watching. And perhaps that, too, wasn’t entirely coincidental. Michael Jackson, following in the footsteps of every sex symbol before him (male or female) knew the power of sexual objectivity in selling his art. No doubt, he probably reaped at least some of the the benefits of exhibitionistic empowerment; after all, nothing is quite so titillating and intoxicating-and ultimately, perhaps, terrifying-as knowing that millions of people all over the world are fantasizing about you.

I think that, ultimately, Michael worked his way through all of these conflicted feelings in the only way he knew how-through his art.

The Day Michael Gained-And Lost-A Son

Meet Brandon Howard, The Son Michael Jackson "Gained"-And "Lost-In One Crazy Day On March 6, 2014
Meet Brandon Howard, The Son Michael Jackson “Gained”-And “Lost-In One Crazy Day On March 6, 2014

It never fails. Just when I am on the verge of being ready to post a new article that I have spent weeks putting together, there is some huge breaking story in the Michael Jackson camp that forces me to “halt the presses.” This week, we had the scandal of Brandon Howard and the bogus DNA test. And this story has sure enough been a rollercoaster ride of emotions. I went from dismissing Brandon Howard casually as “just the latest fruit loop with a hand out to the estate” to actually thinking there might be something to this. After all, as the old saying goes, DNA doesn’t lie and…well, as fishy as the whole thing seemed, they were claiming this was a legit DNA test, one that had come back 99.9% positive. And as I have said before, it would not shock me in the least to think that “maybe” there is a possibility that Michael fathered other children besides the three we know to be his legal offspring. I never believed Michael was a saint. He was, in fact, someone who had been famous for most of his life, and along with all the perks of fame come women willing to do most anything just to be near you. Michael certainly sang about his fair share of those women. They’ve become the stuff of legend-Billie Jean, Dirty Diana, Susie (who crops up in more than a few songs), and so on.

A lot of fans seemed upset about the revelation, and not without justification. The whole thing was carried out in a very tacky and tasteless manner, from the whole TMZ leak to the pseudo press conference to announce the “results” on FilmOn.com. But after the initial shock of the news wore off, my mind began to settle into the idea, and I realized…not only was I not upset, but I was actually kind of tickled pink to think that maybe Michael’s little family was really a bigger one that we intially thought. I looked at the photos of Brandon. I watched the clips of his interviews. I thought I could “see” a lot of Michael in him, but perhaps the brain and the eye sees what it wants to see. I did not know what to make of Brandon’s protestations of innocence during all of this. I didn’t quite believe him. Who gives a DNA sample unless it is for the express purpose of determining a parent? But that didn’t necessarily mean his intentions were corrupt.  He said he had no intention of going after the estate for money, so the other obvious explanations are either attention or the personal satisfaction of just wanting to know the truth. However, if it had been the latter, that could have been handled privately, I am sure, without involving the press. That leaves Option #2. Still, Brandon Howard seemed like a nice enough young man and a part of me began to half embrace the idea of looking forward to getting to know this “new” son of Michael’s. Additionally, it was kind of fun to see all the collective jaws dropping around the world from all of the idiots who had so long proclaimed Michael as either an asexual virgin or a pedophile. It seemed pretty hard to argue against scientific DNA evidence, and watching all of the creative ways that many of those people were now coming up with to back pedal their way out of those claims was at least quite entertaining.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEYLi7vqo8k[/tube]

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj1BfNCLLJA[/tube]

Nevertheless, the shock waves were understandable because accepting a truth like that means, to some extent, reassessing everything we thought we knew about Michael-and that goes for all sides of the camp, fans and haters as well as anyone who has allowed their heels to dig in a little too deeply in their entrenched beliefs of who Michael was. The problem for haters, as well as those who want to cling to the caricature notion of Michael as some virginal asexual being (and this mostly includes the same people who will swear up and down that he has never fathered a biological child, either because he hated his race/didn’t like sex/was afraid to be intimate with women/ only liked boys, etc etc etc) is that any “proof” of a biological child pretty much shoots down all of those theories with one, single bullet. Also, undisputable DNA evidence that Michael fathered a child would help silence that faction who continue to insist he did not father Prince, Paris, and Blanket, at the very least putting to rest any issues of fertility or unwillingness to father a child naturally.

Inevitably, Rumors Of This Sort Will Always Arise. Every Once In Awhile, They May Force Us To Reassess What We Think We Know About Michael. That Isn't Always Necessarily A Bad AThing.
Inevitably, Rumors Of This Sort Will Always Arise. Every Once In Awhile, They May Force Us To Reassess What We Think We Know About Michael. That Isn’t Always Necessarily A Bad Thing.

Michael’s fans, on the other hand, have never had issues with accepting him as a fully intact, red blooded, and functioning man. But any story of an illegitimate child stepping forth-especially now-is bound to be met with a lot of suspicion. Additionally, there are some fans who will simply never want to accept that Michael was anything less than a pure angel who would never do such a thing-that is, father a child illegitimately and just leave the girl to raise it as best she can. And in theory, it doesn’t seem to make sense. Why would a man who claimed to want children so much turn his back on his own child? Well, of course, there could be any number of reasons, all of them perfectly legit, and all worth keeping in mind (you know, just in case this sort of thing ever comes up again, which could well happen). For starters, there is always the possibility of simply not knowing (happens to guys all the time, though in Michael’s case probably rarely since it seems likely any woman with a legit claim would take advantage of it; in Michael’s case it was far more of an issue having to disprove claims that were actually false). But still, we can’t rule out ignorance as a possibility. Secondly (and far more likely) is that such matters would have been kept in struct confidentiality, with special arrangements made between Michael and the young woman to provide for the child in a way that would not draw public scrutiny. Trust me, if Michael indeed had illegitimate children, knew of them, and had drawn up such a confidentiality agreement with the mother (or mothers) it is highly unlikely to be anything the world will ever know about except for them.

Indeed, the B. Howard story had no sooner hit than the snide (and cruel) comments were already starting to infiltrate the internet (you know the ones; how “unfair” it was for Michael’s “black” son to be left out while his “white children” inherit the fortune, and so on). My first reaction to these comments (before the story was proven false) was: And how do we know that Michael wasn’t amply providing for this kid for years?

This is worth keeping in mind regardless, because Brandon Howard hasn’t been the first and may not be the last such shocker. Even though most of these so-called “love children” of MJ never get beyond the tabloid rumor stage, there is still something worth keeping in mind, knowing as we do that Michael was both a globally famous pop star and, frankly, a human being.  As much as we sometimes like to believe that we, as fans, knew Michael inside and out, the truth is that we really didn’t. For all that he lived in the center of the public eye and a media whirlwind for most of his life, Michael was also very adept at keeping secrets. That he may have had a few skeletons in his closet doesn’t shock me (and, no, I don’t mean the Elephant Man’s Bones-sorry, couldn’t resist). And no, I am not necessarily referring to anything criminal. But Michael was a man who liked to keep his casual flings private. Perhaps compartmentalizing is a much better word. Michael was very good at compartmentalizing his life. He had to be. This is a side of him that I’ve long been aware of, ever since I first began researching him in earnest. And as a youth, Michael was just as prone as any young man to making foolish mistakes. Just because he sincerely wanted a family later in life may not have meant that he was necessarily ready to settle down to fatherhood in his early twenties, at a time when his mind was still set on building his solo career.

In other words, I think that when people say things like, “Michael would never do such a thing” it doesn’t take into account either his complexity as a man, or his right to have stumbled and made some honest mistakes in his life.

Although my connection to the Jackson family is minimal, I do have a friend whose brother-in-law has known the family well for years, and I can tell you this much: The possibility that Michael does have children other than Prince, Paris, and Blanket isn’t exactly a family secret. This, of course, is coming from a family for whom “love children” are nothing out of the norm. Joe’s “extended” family has been a common knowledge secret for years, and if we look at the history of Michael’s brothers, we see that none of the Jackson boys seem to be apples who fell too far from the family tree. For several years, I had assumed these whisperings were in regard to Omar Bhatti (though Frank Cascio debunked that myth pretty thoroughly in his book) but the B. Howard story made me start to wonder.

I am quite disgusted right now with Corey Feldman for his role in all of this. Yes, he has been up to now a good friend who has staunchly defended Michael, but why would a friend knowingly partake in something that could be so detrimental to Michael’s three children? Nevertheless, Corey has known the Jackson family for years, and his comment to The Daily Mail was quite revealing:

‘It’s not been denied that he’s part of the family, we just don’t know what part of the family.”-Corey Feldman, On The Possibility of Brandon Howard As A Jackson.
Let’s keep in mind that the Jackson family men have never been especially against sharing girlfriends and even wives, as we know to be the case with Randy and Jermaine. It’s not so shocking when you consider the unique dynamics of growing up famous and surrounded by groupies, some of whom would be willing to sleep with any Jackson in hopes of working her way up to the one that might really be her chosen prize conquest-usually Jackie or Jermaine in the early days, and Michael later. Heck, girls would even sleep with Joe if they thought it might get them a step closer to one of his sons! In such an atmosphere of sexual promiscuity and dysfunction, it’s not surprising that there are quite a few “mystery” kids in the family who, truth be told, are probably not as mysterious as we, the public, have been led to believe.
"Billie Jean"...Everything From The Lyrics To The Symbolic Red Bow Tie Stated Loss Of Innocence And Moral Consequences For The Wages Of Sin
“Billie Jean”…Everything From The Lyrics To The Symbolic Red Bow Tie Stated Loss Of Innocence And Moral Consequences For The Wages Of Sin

That Michael had somewhat of an obsession with this subject is a given. Pregnant girlfreinds, those claiming “the kid is yours” and the moral consequences of giving in to the temptations of the flesh crop up in too many songs to be mere coincidence. As news of the DNA “test results” spread (notice I am putting that in quotes considering what we learned less than 24 hours later) I started to cringe as every story brought up the lines from “Billie Jean.” This is how instant cliches’ are born! Besides, the history of Billie Jean” and that song’s origins are far more complex-and less mysterious-than any of these people know. Still, we all know how often this subject cropped up in Michael’s work. “The kid is not my son/”Don’t have a baby if you can’t feed your baby”/”She’s got your baby/It happened fast.” I don’t believe that such thematic motifs’ are accidental, or coincidence. Clearly, these were issues Michael was familiar with and working through, even if on some subconscious level. He claimed much of it came from witnessing other peoples’ experiences, but it is just as possible he was also drawing on personal experience, as well. Whatever the case may be, there was a reason why this particular topic-unwanted or unplanned children, manipulative women trying to entrap him, and the consequences of sin-was something he returned to repeatedly throughout his career, but especially in the 80’s when he was most struggling with the demands of a skyrocketing fame, experimenting with newfound maturity and independence, and all while still trying to keep a foothold in the religion that had been his lifelong anchor. It’s easy to read too much into anything, but the fact that illegitmate children seemed to crop up so often in his work-or at least the accusation of being the father-at least gives some pause for thought. It seems to be an experience that he was intimately, and painfully, familiar with, so much so that even the music became a kind of catharisis for it. It sometimes seemed that Michael was cautioning an entire generation of young men to “keep it zipped” and watch out for those wily girls who promise you anything-and only end up giving you babies with “eyes like” yours. (Ironically, while advising young men to “keep it zipped” he seemed to have no qualms in “Abortion Papers” about inadvertently advising pregnant girls that they were signing their names “against the word of God” when they signed those papers. The line he sings in “Wanna Be Starting Something”-“Don’t have a baby/If you can’t feed your baby” -is not advocating abortion, as some have mistakenly claimed. Rather, he is promoting abstinence, telling women in effect that if you can’t afford to feed it, then don’t be making it).

Now keep in mind, however, this was all going through my head during a phase of roughly about 24 hours, when I still thought there just might be something to this DNA story. But a couple of things were still nagging at me. 1: Who was to say this was actually Michael’s DNA that they had supposedly extracted from this 31-year-old orthopedic device? Had the DNA been authenticated in any way as belonging to Michael? 2: How did we know that these were authentic DNA tests that had been performed, in actual DNA laboratories? All we saw at the “press conference” was  an envelope being opened, and  a guy reading off a document that, for all we knew, might have just been a blank piece of paper! (the truth, as it turned out, was even more bizarre!).

Still…the story was growing like wildfire. Every time I hit “Google” it seemed at least one more major news outlet had added the story of “DNA TEST PROVES OHIO MAN IS MICHAEL JACKSON’S LOVE CHILD” and those words “99.9% positive” stood out like glaring head beams. A kind of surreal reality began to set in for me, that this thing just might be true, after all, and if it is…what then? I could already see the global reactions setting in, millions of us, just as I said, reeling and reassessing everything we thought we knew about Michael Jackson.

Such is the media’s power, even after all of the negative things we say and are certainly aware of. With the recent hoax of the Blanket story still fresh in our minds, however, it didn’t take long to realize something just wasn’t smelling right. I kept waiting to see an official media outlet like CNN pick up the story. When they didn’t, some doubt began creeping in. TMZ, after all, appeared to be the main culprits behind this-at least, the leaking of the story, if not the bogus test itself. In other words, we can safely say that, yes, DNA doesn’t lie…except when TMZ somehow has their hands in the DNA.

Tabloids Have Had A Field Day With Comparison Photos Like This One, Showing Brandon, Michael And Augie Johnson (Right). In The End, I Don't Know How Much Such Photos Actually "Prove"..The Eye Will See What It Wants To See.
Tabloids Have Had A Field Day With Comparison Photos Like This One, Showing Brandon, Michael And Augie Johnson (Right). In The End, I Don’t Know How Much Such Photos Actually “Prove”..The Eye Will See What It Wants To See.

As I went to bed that night, at least a dozen conflicted thoughts were swirling in my mind. I was nearing completion of an article on Gavin Arvizo that I had been working on for weeks, but those plans would have to be put on hold because I knew by morning, no one in the MJ blogosphere was going to give a damn about Gavin Arvizo and old history from 2005. Everyone’s mind was going to be on Brandon Howard, even if only to ask who is he, and why now? I thought of all the reasons why I hoped the story was true, as well as all the reasons why I hoped it was not true, trying to reconcile them all in my mind. I wondered what kind of revelations would the new day bring? Part of me already dreaded the feeding frenzy that I knew this story was going to create. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Prince, Paris, and Blanket, wondering how this story would affect them. Especially with headlines like “B Howard is Michael Jackson’s Only Biological Son.” I also felt bad for Brandon’s father, Augie Johnson. In a series of increasingly desperate sounding interviews, where his reactions ranged from denial of the story to lashing out at his son, one thing came through loud and clear-hoax or no hoax, there were real people involved, people whose lives were being torn apart over this story. What should have been a private matter for this family was being treated as headline fodder for TMZ and Alki David.

‘I KNOW Brandon’s my son – I was there in the delivery room, I have the pictures of him being born. I got the records, I got everything.

‘Before me, Miki wasn’t with anyone else – she didn’t even know Michael at that time. But you know what – I love my son and he can do whatever he likes. I’m not tripping on this – I want Brandon to have a successful career.’…

‘Brandon spent a lot of time with Jackson kids over there, this was during the time when Miki and I broke up and she was hating me for a few years because we didn’t get married.’

When asked if he would be happy to take a DNA text himself, Augie said ‘Oh yeah! That’s not a problem.

‘My name is on his birth certificate, when people talk to me, I tell them the truth. I know my son- he’s got a lot of drama going on.

Brandon was once praised as the ‘reincarnation of Michael Jackson’.

However, Augie said: ‘They have these pictures with Michael and Brand on looking alike, but how can you compare my son and Michael. Michael don’t look like that – that’s not his original look.

‘Brandon just happens to be one of those kids – the wannabe Michael kids – his whole life. He loved Michael Jackson so much.

‘He wanted to look more like him and  he had a little success in Japan, that’s where this whole thing started. It became this mystery that he would never answer.

‘It’s been a plan for a long time, he wants to help his career, that’s what I believe.

‘Any kind of controversy that gets out there in the world, right now, helps.’

Miki Howard joined Side Effect as a 16-year-old singer, and asked about any romance with Michael, Augie said: ‘She was never romantically involved with Michael. He didn’t even know her.’

Now friendly again with Miki, Augie said he spoke to her today, adding: ‘Miki thinks Brandon is losing his mind!-Excerpted From The Daily Mail

 

 

In reading Augie Johnson’s words, I thought of the very thing that fans have so often said about Michael when Mark Lester, Arnie Klein, Matt Fiddes or any of the revolving door of “wanna be dads” has tried to come forth claiming to be the father of Prince or Paris or Blanket. “It takes more than just donating sperm to be a father,” we always say. Yes, indeed. And by the same argument, I think we can pretty safely say-even had the DNA test proven authentic-that “99.9% match” or not, Michael Jackson was not Brandon Howard’s father, and never was. His father was Augie Johnson, the man who apparently was at least there in his life to change an occasional diaper and wipe his runny nose. Of course, I agree with those who have said that the only parent who probably deserves real credit as both Brandon’s mom and dad is Miki Howard.

We Know That Michael Was Father To His Kids-NOT Arnie Klein, Matt Fiddes or Mark Lester. Likewise, Brandon Howard Could Never Claim Michael Jackson As A Father, No Matter How Much He Might Want It To Be True. And No Matter What Any DNA Test, Real Or Phoney, Says.
We Know That Michael Was Father To His Kids-NOT Arnie Klein, Matt Fiddes or Mark Lester. Likewise, Brandon Howard Could Never Claim Michael Jackson As A Father, No Matter How Much He Might Want It To Be True. And No Matter What Any DNA Test, Real Or Phoney, Says.

So what is the point of trying to “prove” a biological link to Michael Jackson, even if one existed? Well, we all know the answer to that one. The media just wants a story. And Brandon wants…? Well, if not money, at least the fame and notoriety. I think Augue Johnson hit the nail on the head with that one.

All day at work, I waited until I could get to a computer to see what the latest developments on the story were. It didn’t take but a quick browse on Twitter to see that the story was already being reported as one huge hoax, and boy oh boy, what a hoax it was!

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/michael-jackson-paternity-claim-b-howard-shown-false-report-article-1.1714154

I suppose the big question is: Why would Alki David and company go to such lengths to create such a hoax in the first place? Why the driving need to create a phony DNA test to link Michael Jackson to this man? The media’s handling of this entire story-as well as the public’s reaction to it-has only served to remind me of the bizarre dichotomy that exists with both the media’s and the public’s fascination with Michael Jackson. He is probably the only person I know of who is so routinely emasculated in the media-who is so often portrayed interchangeably as asexual, or as a pedophile, or as gay-and yet, by the same token, an apparent super womanizer who has secret love children all over the planet. Heck, at least one love child is guaranteed to pop out of the woodwork every few years-and oddly enough, the media never seems to have any problem swallowing the idea that Michael Jackson-who according to them had to solicit donors to father his own, legal children-must have nevertheless been quite the stud muffin when it came to making babies he evidently didn’t want. How he managed this feat while still being, apparently, afraid of women or only interested in little boys-if you believe the popular narratives-remains the biggest mystery of the last century. Scientists, philosophers, and theologians, I’m sure, are all at work trying to figure it out.

All of which goes to show that the world’s fascination with Michael Jackson’s penis-what he did and didn’t do with it, apparently-continues to be an even greater obsession than his music.

But on a more serious level, this story-just as the phony story about Blanket that surfaced recently-points to a very disturbing media trend, and shows just what depraved lengths these people will go to. It becomes easier, perhaps, to believe and understand all of those stories such as how even after routine haircuts, the hair of Michael’s children is immediatly swept up and placed in bags, so as to avoid any attempts at DNA theivery. Such stories sound rather extreme, paranoid, and highly suspect. Until we witness what transpired this week.

It’s scary as hell to think that slimeballs like Alki David are out there; people who wouldn’t think twice about conducting a “public” DNA test on Michael’s kids-and even worse, skewering the results to fit whatever agenda they want. That, for me, has been one of the scariest and most disturbing realizations of this whole event. We tend to rely on DNA tests as definitive truth. If DNA tests are now something that can be willfully fabricated, like any tabloid story, what’s to stop them from making up any lie they want; claiming parentage or not with anybody they choose; playing God with any target they decide to go after? The media, as always, will copy and paste such stories, spreading them like wildfire with no thought as to whether they are true. In this instance, the bogus story was revealed, but only because Harry Levin (for whatever personal reason, I am sure) decided to turn the cards on Alki David and FilmOn.com. And only because, in this case, the exposure of the hoax was bound to generate even more hits than the phony story.

It has been said that the movie “The Truman Show” was based on Michael’s life. Observing what transpired this week truly makes that reality hit home. If the events of this week began with forcing us to reassess what we thought we knew about Michael and his life, it ends with a surety that is exactly what we have known for years. Michael Jackson’s life continues to be a highly manipulative and profitable media sport.

But the new levels to which that sport is sinking are scary indeed.

That's Life In The MJ Blogosphere. For Sure, It Never Gets Boring!
That’s Life In The MJ Blogosphere. For Sure, It Never Gets Boring!

So…as per my post’s apt title, Michael Jackson both “gained” and “lost” a son in less than 24 hours. I am being only partly facetious. The fake story, at least for a little while, may have shaken some deeply held beliefs about Michael on all sides, for better or worse. But now that the dust is settling, what really emerges from this is the lesson it may teach us in just how depraved the media’s tactics are, the depths to which they will sink, and the desperation of the motives of those who surrounded Michael. It’s not a new lesson by any means. But if we ever needed a refresher course, boy this was it!

As for the rumors that Brandon may, in fact, be Joe’s son instead of Michael’s…well, that’s another Jackson family soap opera I will tackle some other time, some other day. Right now I just need an Excederin. Yep, it’s been one of those weeks.

And what’s even funnier…I still get people who ask me, all the time, what can there possibly be left to write every week about a guy who’s been dead for five years?

LOL. If they only knew…