Add caIt’s hard to comprehend the naivety of Michael Jackson, until you see him being interviewed with a 12-year-old boy resting his head on his shoulder. This documentary would be the beginning of the end.
THE end of Michael Jackson begins with a 10-year-old boy who had a 7.2kg tumour in his abdomen and lesions in his lungs.
In the early 2000s, Gavin Arvizo was living with his mother Janet, his father David, his 13-year-old sister Davellin, and his nine-year-old brother Star in an East Los Angeles studio apartment. He underwent chemotherapy for a year, which caused him to lose much of his hair and made him so frail that people gasped when they saw him. Doctors told his family to prepare for his funeral.
The Arvizos had famous and influential friends. Before he got sick, Gavin and his siblings attended a summer camp at the Laugh Factory, a comedy club that opened in 1979 and went on to book just about every major stand-up — Redd Foxx, David Letterman, Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman. The club’s founder, Jamie Masada, was a philanthropist in addition to a businessman, and he held a summer comedy camp for underprivileged kids.
The Arvizos became a sort of personal charity for several comedians. Gavin gave Masada a list of famous people he wanted to meet — comedians Chris Tucker and Adam Sandler and Michael Jackson — and the Laugh Factory founder dutifully spent hours working his contacts, including someone who gave him Quincy Jones’s office number.
Some of the savvy stars who took these calls perceived the story of this sweet family with the sick child had cracks in its foundation. Jay Leno said he detected something “scripted” about the voicemails Gavin left for him. Others, such as writer-producer Louise Palanker, were touched by their story. She befriended the family, arriving at the Arvizos’ apartment one Christmas with a Sony PlayStation and a microwave oven.
Using his famous contacts, Masada landed a phone number to Neverland. Soon MJ was making his first of many calls to Gavin at the hospital. One day in 2000, a limo arrived to pick up the entire Arvizo family to take them to the ranch. The kids spent the night in a guest room; Janet and her husband, David, a grocery warehouse employee, were in a nearby room facing a lake.
At first, Gavin’s father didn’t want him to ride on the rides, because he had just had surgery, but Gavin talked him into it. The kids played in Michael’s arcade, drove his go-carts, and toured the zoo and the movie theatre on his grounds that seemed to go on forever in the perfect California weather.
The kids grew close to Michael Jackson. Michael called Gavin “Doo-Doo Head” and “Apple Head” and nicknamed his brother Star “Blow Hole”. The family became a ubiquitous presence at Neverland, indulging in the staff help, high-class meals, and luxurious bedrooms.
“The kids genuinely liked Michael, but I also remember people taking care of the mom — spending time with her, giving her money,” recalls Christian Robinson, Jackson’s videographer at the time.
One day, Michael asked Gavin Arvizo if he still wanted to be an actor. Gavin said he did. Michael told him a British broadcaster, Martin Bashir, was on the way to Neverland and would like to interview Gavin and his siblings. “I’m going to put you in the movies,” he told him. “And this is your audition. Okay?” Gavin agreed.
Michael Jackson with Gavin Arvizo at Neverland ranch in scene from TV documentary "Living with Michael Jackson".Source:News Limited
Over his 18-year career, Bashir, a British journalist, had interviewed numerous high-profile celebrities, including Princess Diana. He spent five years trying to score an interview with Michael Jackson.
“Michael adored Princess Diana ... and when Bashir knocked on my door to ask me to introduce Michael to him, he showed me a crumpled letter he carried in his wallet — a thank-you letter from Princess Diana,” says Michael’s friend Uri Geller, who introduced MJ to Bashir and calls it “my devastating mistake”,
Michael granted approval to Bashir, who at the time was working for ITV, the UK’s biggest network, to visit him at Neverland, as well as at his posh suite in Las Vegas.
Journalist Martin Bashir interviewing Michael Jackson in a scene from “Living with Michael Jackson”.Source:News Limited
Filming began in late 2002 and lasted through January 14, 2003. Living with Michael Jackson came out in February, almost exactly 10 years after Michael’s big Oprah interview. For much of the first hour of the episode, which drew 15 million viewers when it first aired on British television, Michael attempted to seduce the camera and charm the interviewer, as he’d done repeatedly since he was a kid.
He told the old stories, like the one about yearning to play with the kids in the park across the street from his Jackson 5 studio, and the one about how his musical inspiration arrived as a gift from God. Early in the episode, Bashir dutifully played the wide-eyed journalist, cowed by Neverland, gleefully racing Michael in a go-cart.
Slowly, almost undetectable, Bashir’s tone shifted from bemusement to scolding incredulity. “You never want to grow up?” he asked. “No,” Michael said. “I am Peter Pan.” Bashir corrected him: “You’re Michael Jackson.”
At this point it was clear, to both Michael and the audience, that this interviewer wasn’t empathetic Oprah. “I’m Peter Pan at heart,” Michael clarified.
Over time, as Bashir’s tone continued to change, Michael’s people began to piece together what the interviewer was doing. At one point, driving with MJ in Berlin, Dieter Wiesner, his manager, came to believe Bashir was asking “really, really bad questions”, and put his hand over the camera to stop the interview.
In some portions of Living with Michael Jackson, Michael came across more sympathetically than ever. He seemed prepared, rehearsed, suppressing sobs when detailing the iron cords and belts his father used on him and his brothers. The goodwill he generated from this portion extended through the shopping section of the show.
In Vegas, where Michael spent months at a high-end hotel because “it’s a fun place to visit”, Bashir couldn’t comprehend Michael racking up $500,000 on a couple of high-end urns or $89,000 on a chess set. He seemed to say: Can you believe this guy? But the viewing audience remained on Michael’s side.
Then Michael spent the last half-hour dismantling this goodwill. Bashir was confrontational — kind of a jerk, really — but his personality was far overshadowed by the insane language Michael used to describe himself and his lifestyle.
He stared straight into the camera and lied about his facial surgery. Cheek implants? “No!” Dimple in chin? “Oh, God!” Reconstructed eyelids? “It’s stupid! None of it is true! They made it up!” Bashir asked whether Debbie Rowe had been upset to hand over Paris so quickly after she was born. “She said, ‘Go right ahead,’” Michael claimed.
He said he swaddled Paris immediately after birth, placenta and all, and rushed her home in a towel. “They told me it was okay!”
Bashir was an eyewitness to one pivotal event in MJ history. In November 2002, Jackson had flown to Berlin for the annual Bambi Awards. He brought his entourage, including manager Wiesner and nanny Rwaramba, to a fourth-floor hotel room.
Fans began to buzz outside, and Michael made one of the worst snap decisions of his career. He seized his infant son, Prince Michael II, underneath the armpits, and displayed him to the fans below.
This surely has to be the worst move of Michael Jackson’s career.Source:News Corp Australia
He held Prince tightly — as he would later say repeatedly on camera — but his mistake was in displaying the baby on the outside rather than the inside of the balcony barrier. The incident lasted less than three seconds, but once paparazzi developed their film, the image became damning, iconic, the perfect clip to kick off the nightly news and the front page of the National Enquirer.
Michael appeared to be the most monstrous celebrity father ever. Bashir said in his TV narration months later: “I was worried. There was a manic quality about him that I had never seen before.” Wiesner, who was in the room at the time, didn’t catch any of this dark subtext. “For us, it was not something special,” he says. “Next day, we realised this disaster.”
Finally, Bashir delivered the crescendo. Capturing Michael at home in Neverland, Bashir zoomed in on 12-year-old cancer survivor Gavin Arvizo, who gazed in a fond, babyish way toward Michael and placidly rested his head on his older friend’s shoulder.
The final straw. 12-year-old Gavin rests his head on Michael Jackson’s shoulder during the interview.Source:News Limited
He seemed as comfortable as a 12-year-old boy with his head on Michael Jackson’s shoulder could be. Gavin was giddy and fast-talking. He started to ramble: “I was, like, ‘Michael, you can sleep in the bed,’ and he was like, ‘No, no, you sleep in the bed,’ and I was like, ‘No, no, no, you sleep in the bed.’ And then he said, ‘Look, if you love me, then you’ll sleep in the bed.’ I was like, ‘Oh, man.’ So I finally slept in the bed.”
Michael chose the floor — an important detail that might have allowed him to escape the interview unscathed. But instead of emphasising this point, he insisted to Bashir that a 44-year-old man sleeping in a bed with children who are not in his family was the most natural thing in the world.
This is an extract from MJ: The Genius of Michael Jackson, by Steve Knopper, published by Simon and Schuster Australia, RRP $39.99.Source:Supplied
This is an extract from MJ: The Genius of Michael Jackson, by Steve Knopper, published by Simon and Schuster Australia, RRP $39.99.