(Note: All of the court documents contained here are being used with the permission of Dailymichael.com. Please do not copy without permission-thanks).
A few days ago, there was quite a ripple in the MJ fan community when Dailymichael.com released the latest bombshell information regarding the ongoing civil case between Wade Robson and Michael Jackson’s companies, MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures. While it’s not exactly a shocker to discover that Wade has been withholding evidence in the case, it’s the nature of exactly what he has been hiding that is particularly disturbing. It turns out that back in 2012, Wade Robson attempted to shop a purportedly “tell all” book about his “relationship” with Michael Jackson (note my use of quotation marks for both phrases!). This means that he was attempting to sell what he commented in 2013 as “my truth” long before any lawsuit was ever filed!
For my purposes, I don’t wish to rehash all of the details of this latest discovery process (for that important information, I urge you to consult the original source here as well as the full document) but, rather, simply to provide my own analysis of what this latest development says about Wade’s motivations and what it may mean, potentially, for the case.
Only a few weeks before this latest development hit, I had just published another piece in The Huffington Post which examined the timeline of events leading up to Wade’s lawsuit. I didn’t know at the time about the secret book manuscript which Wade had allegedly attempted to shop just prior to filing the lawsuit, as none of these documents had been released prior to this most recent discovery phase, but it appears I was pretty much spot on with everything else. The motion filed by the estate–and the surfacing of the previously hidden book manuscript-all pinpoints to a very specific set of circumstances that fell into place from around 2011-2012, or right about the exact time that Wade lost out on his bid to direct the Cirque du Soleil Immortal show and the start of his personal downward spiral, resulting in a substantial loss of income and employment opportunities. The discovery that Wade had been attempting to shop a book in early 2013 still leaves a couple of questions open: Did Wade specifically plan to write and sell this so-called book, and only turned to the lawsuit as an alternative Plan B when that course of action failed to materialize? Or was it all part of a more elaborate Machiavellian camapign in which he imagined that the book would coincide with the announcement of his case against the Michael Jackson estate? Did he have dreams of a runaway New York Times bestseller that would have catapulted his case? At this point, we can only speculate. It would be easy to imagine that Wade had planned it all purposely as part of his official “coming out” media blitz, which he must have believed would be kicked off by his Today show interview (a media blitz that he must have believed, in turn, would be bound to pressure the estate to settle the case before…well, let’s just say, before things got too nasty). Or did the whole idea of a lawsuit only emerge as a by product of the book’s failure to ignite interest in the publishing world? I have been combing these recent documents to try to find those answers, and although nothing can be stated definitively, I have to say that reading through these emails and documents has been quite enlightening in piecing together Wade’s motivations, as well as an interesting step by step guide in how this “case” was (and is continuing to be) cobbled together.
To back track just a bit, one thing we do know is that Wade’s plan for his “confession” to ignite some huge, splashy media blitz never really materialized. At least, I don’t think it materialized in the way that he had hoped or planned. The media response to these posthumous allegations against Michael Jackson was surprisingly lukewarm, and it became apparent that the only people who really cared were, of course, the same marginalized group of people who always care most passionately about any Michael Jackson related news-the fans and the haters. In the meantime, none of it proved enough to deter public sentiment against Michael Jackson, at least not anymore or less than what it had already been prior to 2013. More importantly, it certainly wasn’t enough to put a dent in the continuing posthumous success of his music catalog or related projects (Immortal went on to achieve record success and the posthumous Xscape album reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 200, all within weeks of Wade’s allegations becoming public. This had to have been a terrible blow to his ego!). In short, nothing much changed. Those who had always believed Michael was innocent continued to believe-and were sure that Wade must be lying. Those who wanted to believe he was guilty, of course, embraced the news, but what else is new? With the continued success of Michael Jackson’s name and brand, there certainly was no incentive to settle the case, even if the estate had been so inclined.
And now, thanks to the latest discovery, we learn that Wade’s plan to peddle his trashy memoir was similarly dashed. This in itself is an interesting development which is quite revealing, considering that both the media and the commercial publishing industry has pretty much had an open door policy when it comes to peddling smut written about Michael Jackson. Remember what Aphrodite Jones claimed as the reason she could not interest a major publisher in Conspiracy? It was because all of the major publishing houses only wanted to publish books that were anti Michael Jackson, and were not interested in books that explored other possibilities, let alone the idea of Michael Jackson’s innocence or his having been railroaded by the mass media. This is why I find Wade’s failure to sell his book a particularly interesting turn of events, but more about that shortly.
What is known is that after Wade’s initial scheme to ignite a media blitz that would pressure the estate to settle fizzled, he seemed to drop off the radar for a considerable time. Obviously, the case was still ongoing, but Robson and his legal team would have to take some time to draw back, rethink their strategy, and plan for another attack.
For Wade, it would turn out to be another three years-and a change in attorneys-before his next preemptive strike. This time, thanks to the underhanded savvy of a legal team that thrives on publicity, as well as Robson’s apparent friendly relation with Radar Online, they got the splash they wanted, with what essentially amounted to an internet hoax. By cleverly “leaking” to Radar Online public court documents that were, in fact, over a decade old (and which in actuality detailed nothing more than the same art and photography books that were well scrutinized in 2005) they managed to essentially create a media hoax out of the tabloid industry’s willingness to spin old court documents with lurid headlines that falsely depicted a ghastly tale of “stockpiles” of “disturbing” child pornography. This time, the damage done had far more reaching impact. The rebuttals to the false story were swift and vociferous, but not nearly enough in number to combat the tide of sheer willful ignorance perpetuated by yellow journalism. Every day, I still run across people-whether on the internet or in real life-who now believe that these stories are true. Why? Not so much because they read them on the internet, but due to the sheer pervasiveness with which the fake story took wings and grew. In my area, it was even reported on a local news channel during their nightly spot that is dedicated to news from around the world. This meant that now, Wade and his legal team had engaged in a strategy that had finally made it past the tabloids, and into the realm of mainstream news reporting. Not good.
While much of this may be old news to most readers of this blog, it’s important nevertheless both for establishing the narrative of Wade’s allegations, for establishing how the case has played out in the media (and will continue to do so) and for establishing the pattern of Wade’s motivation.
One pattern I find interesting in going back and reading the series of emails between Wade and his mother Joy Robson is that during this phase in late 2012, Wade’s biggest concern seems to be more about gathering information for his book than actually piecing together a legal case. In an email to Joy Robson he prefaces the correspondence by stating, “Here are some questions that have been coming up for me as I write.” As many have already pointed out, the emails are revealing in displaying just how little Wade actually does remember about his time with Michael Jackson. Repeatedly, he seems to ask his mother very pointed questions that are obviously designed to fit his theories. He asks specifically about a testimony from a Neverland security guard (Charli Michaels) who described Joy Robson as being distraught during a Mother’s Day weekend visit to Neverland in 1990 because Norman Staikos had allegedly told her she could not have access to Wade during the time that he was rehearsing with Michael Jackson. To that testimony, Joy Robson had emphatically replied in her email: “Wow! None of that is true!” and yet later in his deposition, Wade nevertheless still entered Charli Michael’s report, even after his own mother had denied its validity! He repeatedly asks his mother questions about his own state of physical or emotional being after certain events and dates…”How did I seem when…” which, as a sexual abuse victim myself, I find hard to believe. Granted, I am fully aware that all childhood sexual abuse victims deal with and process their abuse differently, but I find it hard to believe that he would not be able to remember for himself exactly how he felt at those times. In my case, I remember being so physically ill that I could not get up and get dressed for school. All I could taste; smell; see in my mind was a penis being forced into my mouth. Every time I would start to get up to get dressed for school, I would start retching, and it was only my empty stomach that kept me from vomiting.These are the kinds of details that a sexually abused child remembers. I wouldn’t need to ask my mother about it because, frankly, I am sure I remember it better than she does. In Wade’s case, it could be that he was merely looking for his mother to corroborate certain events he remembers, or believes he remembers. But in all honesty, his emails read more like someone trying to piece together a narrative and desperately trying to make all the pieces fit. You can see him literally latching onto any detail that might prove significant. At one point he even asks her what his father had said about sexual abuse! And in his December 2016 deposition, it is further revealed that he had emailed to himself a link to an MJFacts.com article, confirming a suspicion that many MJ fans have had for years about the link between this hater website and Robson’s case.
The biggest factor is not so much that Wade was writing the book, but that he purposely withheld this information when repeatedly asked to supply all documents in which he had discussed his allegations against Michael. This would have included, for example, not only the manuscript itself but all of the related emails between Wade and his mother in which the book was discussed, as well as emails between Wade and his literary agent and any potential publishers of the book (all of whom would have known about its contents, as this would have been Wade’s main selling point of the book).
The book became a central focus of Wade’s recent deposition on December 12, 2016 (See here for full transcripts). The exhibits produced reveal that Wade had gotten as far as securing a literary agent, and that the book had been shopped to a select handful of major publishing houses, all of whom had passed on it except for Harper Collins (who, we must assume, also eventually passed). The exhibits include a request for Wade to participate in a conference call with Harper Collins, which means the manuscript must have at least made it past the initial screening phase at that particular company.
First of all, the fact that Wade had chosen this route to publishing-taking the trouble to secure a high profile literary agent who could get the book seen by the best commercial publishing houses-suggests that money was the main motive. Wade obviously wasn’t looking to self publish this book! He was seeking a major publisher, obviously in hopes of an impressive advance figure, and for which major distribution would guarantee maximum profits. I can’t say I exactly blame him-it’s the route that most potential and wannabe writers envision as the best case scenario for their product. As a celebrity writer, however-and particularly as one writing about his association with an even bigger major celebrity-Wade would have had the benefit of additional perks. For example, it is very possible in his case that he might have sold the project on spec alone, before one word was even written! The idea alone-if correctly pitched and packaged to an interested publisher-could have guaranteed him a sizable income paid in advance, pending the manuscript’s actual completion and delivery.
What I don’t know at this point is whether Wade had an actual manuscript, or if the book was just an idea being pitched to his agent and to publishers. I do know it is possible to secure a literary agent based on a query alone, although usually most agents will at least want to see a few sample pages or chapters (you know, just to ensure that a potential client is actually producing what they claim to be producing, that they actually can write, and that the actual material lives up to the promise of the query). Some literary agents will request that clients produce the entire manuscript before they will agree to take them on, but not in every case. This is particularly true in the world of celebrity memoirs, where a pitch is often enough to at least generate agent representation. In the case of Renaissance Literary & Talent Agency-the agency that was representing Wade-it is stated that potential clients are usually required to submit at least a partial. However, if Wade’s agent was simply querying his book to potential publishers, this could explain Wade’s insistence that no publishers ever saw his manuscript. However, it still doesn’t explain or excuse why this important bit of discovery was withheld all this time (let’s remember, he was still discussing the book’s contents with many individuals, including his mother, agent and potential publishers). Also, it is far more likely that they were at least distributing a partial manuscript to these potential publishers, which would mean that Wade was clearly lying when he claimed he had never sent his manuscript to any publishers.
Having had some past experience with literary agents, how they operate and all of the various tiers within the industry (from the sharksters all the way up the chain to the most respected names in the industry) I was curious about Wade’s literary agent-Alan Nevins-and the company that agreed to represent him. Renaissance Literary & Talent Agency is, in fact, a legit agency (in other words, it is not one of those fly-by-night agencies that asks for a reading fee out of pocket or that requires a fee for representation). This would mean that the agency only takes on clients and projects that they genuinely believe they can sell. Judging from their profile, most of their clients are celebrities and they seem to specialize in celebrity memoirs. This would mean that most of the projects they agree to take on are projects that already have a built-in audience and thus, a guarantee of profit.
The following information is from Alan Nevins’s profile in Publisher’s Marketplace:
Renaissance Literary & Talent
Post Office Box 17379
Beverly Hills, California 90209
Alan Nevins started his book career working for the famed super agent Irving “Swifty” Lazar. In 1993 Nevins founded Renaissance Literary & Talent with two Hollywood based literary agents and the agency thrived.
In 1995, Renaissance acquired the Irving Paul Lazar Agency and its extensive backlist after a year of negotiations, beating several eager bidders, including one of the majors. This acquisition, and that of the H.N. Swanson Agency, gave the infant Renaissance the enviable legacy of two of Hollywood’s most colorful literary agents and solidified its place as a powerhouse boutique literary firm supplying material to the New York publishers as well as the film/television community.
After Renaissance completed a three year stint associated with Michael Ovitz’s Artists Management Group, Renaissance was quietly placed in the background and Nevins cut a deal with music and film management company, The Firm, to create a literary division that would come with longstanding and impressive relationships in Hollywood, London and New York.
After six years with The Firm, Nevins departed in late 2008 and re-established Renaissance Literary & Talent which will allow him the continued independence to represent clients who may already have other talent managers and agency representation in place but seek exclusive literary representation.
A bit further down in the profile is a list of some of the clients he has represented, and it is certainly an impressive list, including some big Hollywood and literary names!
Heidi Murkoff, Steven Saylor, Michael Curtis Ford, Lauren Bacall, Cordelia Biddle, Larry Collins & Dominique LaPierre, Marc Eliot, Rita Rudner, Kirk Douglas, Goldie Hawn, Marlee Matlin, Don Wolfe, Wendy Holden, David Eisenhower, James McGrath Morris, Jason Jennings, Liz MurrayThe Estate of Cornell Woolrich, The Estate of James Jones, The Estate of George Axelrod, The Estate of Elia Kazan
And if you are curious, you can read more about the agency and who they represent here.
Clearly, then, both Alan Nevins and his agency, Renaissance Literary & Talent Agency, have a niche and that is selling Hollywood memoirs. Thus, Wade’s own short-lived career, as well as his association with names like Michael Jackson and Britney Spears, would have been enough selling point to at least get his foot in the door and to guarantee that his pitch would at least be given some consideration. But what happened beyond that isn’t immediately clear from the emails, other than the fact that publishers simply weren’t biting.
In a world where any scandalous fodder about Michael Jackson has been fair game, one has to wonder why publisher after publisher passed on Wade’s memoir. But perhaps the reasons aren’t really that far fetched. For starters, Wade was offering a pretty shocking set of allegations against a name celebrity. However, book publishers do not necessarily abide by the same code of ethics as tabloid journalism. This meant that before being willing to put their name and reputation on the line, any major publisher would have demanded that Wade’s story had to pass a fairly thorough round of vetting and fact checking. This may explain, in part, why Wade was prodding Joy with all of those questions. Obviously, we know how full of holes his story has been from the beginning, so it’s no surprise that some publishers may have bailed out if he refused to cooperate with the vetting process, or was unable to successfully corroborate his claims. Secondly (and the biggest reason Michael Jackson books are a particularly hard sell with publishers these days) is simply that the market is so glutted. The simple fact is that books about Michael Jackson are not the guaranteed profit makers that they were in years past. There is simply too much competition, and with the advent of social media, fans have become much more savvy at creating backlashes against controversial titles (which is a good thing, except it is also a double-edged sword in that most publishers are often only looking at the bottom line: Books about Michael Jackson simply don’t sell that well anymore, and usually create more trouble than they’re worth. This means that a lot of potentially positive titles never receive consideration, either!).
Thirdly, however, there may also be a more encouraging reason why Wade’s book didn’t sell. Although many fans may find it too incredulous to believe, there really has been a paradigm shift in the way the publishing world perceives Michael Jackson. At least part of this tide stems from the knowledge that trash written about Michael Jackson simply isn’t as profitable as it used to be, and a growing awareness that the shift in public sentiment which began with his untimely passing in 2009 has continued to influence these decisions.
Or it could simply be that the book was so poorly written that not even a ghost writer could save it! That is certainly a reasonable possibility as well!
What I find most telling is how Wade responded to his book’s failure to sell. He claims his only motivation for writing the book was to help him deal with “his healing process” and to help other “victims” work through theirs’. If that were the case, why did he turn to a civil lawsuit and more importantly, perhaps, why didn’t he simply self publish his book after it failed to find a major publisher? God knows it’s easy enough to get any book on the market place these days; all one has to do is set up an Amazon account and publish away! But the catch is that self publishing doesn’t lead to the kind of monetary awards Wade was after. Self publishing his book would have only brought the wrath of the entire Michael Jackson fan community upon him, with none of the compensating rewards of a three figure advance! The best case scenario with a self published book is that he would have earned a pittance in royalties from the handful of Jackson haters who would have most likely been his only audience. Nope. Better just to try suing Michael’s estate and companies.
Whatever we are to make of Wade’s attempt to “sell” his friendship with Michael Jackson, there are two facts we can take away from this new revelation which can’t be ignored. Wade Robson-again-deliberately lied and withheld evidence. What’s more, this latest development reveals even more clearly that his motive has always been about money. In his latest deposition, he comes across even more as the lying and manipulative con artist that I believe he is, as he attempts pathetically to try to explain his way out of very pointed questions as to why this information was withheld. Whatever develops going forward, this can’t bode well for Wade’s case.