Neverland's Lost Boys | vanityfair.comNeverland's Lost Boys
The King of Pop died yesterday. According to the Los Angeles Times, Michael Jackson passed away at the UCLA Medical Center yesterday afternoon after suffering cardiac arrest at the home he had been renting in the Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles. Jackson had been staying at the $100,000-a-month chateau while rehearsing for a series of 50 sold-out concerts at London's 02 Arena. The much-publicized shows, which would have been Jackson's first in years, were meant in part to revive his musical career, and in part to rescue his troubled finances. The world will remember two Michael Jacksons. One was among the greatest artists of the twentieth century, who redefined pop music and popularity itself. The other was a troubled soul, a punch line, and a cautionary tale about the perils of that celebrity.
Jackson was only 50 when he died, but behind him trailed one of the longest and most prolific careers in American music. He recorded his first hits in the 60s, as the 11-year-old frontman of a band of brothers, the Jackson 5. From there, his fame only continued to rise, above that of his siblings, as he grew and changed, both musically and physically. His music was intense, danceable, memorable, infectious and inspired. His 1982 record Thriller broke new ground, and is to this day the number-one selling album of all time. He has recorded with such legends as Paul McCartney and his fellow Motown child star Stevie Wonder, both of whom would be honored to be at his side in the musical Pantheon.
He was different from all the other celebrities. He dressed different. He looked different. He even walked different. He did it backwards. And he aged backwards too, or at least he tried to. And that was the great tragedy of his life. His youth had been sacrificed to the music industry, spent in recording studios, and dealing with the trappings of fame. He would spend the rest of his life trying to recapture that innocence, receding into the William Randolph Hearst-like seclusion of Neverland Ranch, seeking for his own Rosebud. He surrounded himself with candy, toys, and other children, with whom he would never have normal relationships. Beginning in the early nineties, accusations of child molestation and troubling reports about his private life would overshadow even his own sublime music.
Radio stations across the country are already playing marathons of his music. What sweeter eulogy can there be?
Annie Leibovitz’s 1989 cover portrait of Jackson.
The latest charges against Michael Jackson—of molesting a 13-year-old cancer patient—are more than a déjà vu of allegations that led to his $25 million settlement with young Jordie Chandler in 1994. Once again, Jackson and his lawyers are saying the motive of the boy and his family is pure greed. But the King of Pop's shield of fame and money is wearing thin. MAUREEN ORTH reveals new information from the star's former business adviser, the ex-wife of his notorious p.i., and other insiders about alleged porn and wine seductions, the forensic search of Neverland, and how both accusers' lives have been torn apart.by Maureen Orth March 2004Michael Jackson refers to white wine as "Jesus juice" and red wine as "Jesus blood." He prefers the juice and usually drinks it out of soda cans so that nobody will know he is consuming alcohol. In and out of rehab over the years for addictions to Demerol and morphine, the King of Pop also habitually gulped down soda cans of wine, particularly when he was on airplanes. On a flight to Frankfurt in 1999, for example, his former business adviser Myung-Ho Lee, who was accompanying him, had to help the staggering Jackson stand up to get off the plane. "He was lying on the floor by the time we landed," says Lee. "I told Security, 'You can't get drunk like that on white wine,' and the security people said that it's not only wine but that he takes pills with it."The incident may be telling, because in January, Michael Jackson was arraigned on seven counts of child molestation and two counts of administering an "intoxicating agent with intent to commit a felony" between February 7 and March 10 of last year at Neverland, his 2,700-acre ranch near Santa Barbara, which he has converted into a mini Disneyland for kids. The boy in question in the case—a cancer victim who was 13 at the time—alleges that Jackson gave him wine in Coke cans on a flight from Florida in February 2003, right under the nose of the boy's unsuspecting mother. The boy knows Jackson's names for white and red wine, which Lee says "only his inner people know," adding that it "tells you that the boy spent 'quality time' with Michael." The boy and his siblings, however, have said that "all the kids around Michael" knew about Jesus juice, and that he told them, "Jesus drank it, so it must be good."...The trip the boy and his family made to Florida coincided with the airing of the British documentary on ABC last year in which Jackson, now 45, told interviewer Martin Bashir that there was nothing wrong with sharing his bed with little boys. It was a very brazen thing for Jackson to admit, given the fact that in Los Angeles in 1994 he had had to pay $25 million to Jordie Chandler and his family in order to settle a civil suit in which Jordie, then 13, charged that Jackson had masturbated and fellated him during their relationship, which ironically also included a trip to Florida. Similarities in Michael Jackson's modus operandi between the latest bizarre scandal and the one that preceded it abound, right down to the tactics of intimidation and the controversial use of the Nation of Islam for security. In 1993 armed members of tough South-Central L.A. gangs, including the notorious Bloods, were transported to Neverland. The employment of these toughs was said to have sent a strong message to Neverland employees who might have considered cooperating in the Jordie Chandler investigation, not to mention the subliminal message it gave out to other boys and their families who might have been thinking of coming forward.When 70 members of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department and D.A.'s office, including a team of forensic experts, invaded Neverland last November 18, while Jackson was in Las Vegas, they had already spent five months investigating the child's allegations. Although Jackson was reputedly taken by surprise—cops with search warrants also entered the homes and workplaces of Jackson employees and a private investigator named Bradley Miller—his high-powered and expensive criminal attorney, Mark Geragos, had already been on the case since February, a curiosity in itself, since no criminal charges had been filed.Over the years Jackson has doled out millions upon millions of dollars to lawyers, doctors, accountants, security people, con men, voodoo chiefs, business advisers, members of his bankrupted dysfunctional family, an ex-wife who allegedly threatened to tell his secrets, former staffers on remittance, and the families of young boys he has made his "special friends" all over the world. There is almost never a time when he is free of crisis, and as a result, say many who know him, it has become more and more difficult for him to trust his advisers or not to feel paranoid about something. "He has a lot of skeletons in his closet," says Lee. "Some are real and some are in his mind, which makes him a prisoner of all those around him." The result is often chaos. Jackson has a $200-million-plus bank loan—guaranteed by his half-interest in the Sony/ATV music catalogue, which owns the publishing rights to 251 Beatles songs and many other pop songs—and it falls due in 2005. These days it is difficult to get a straight read on Jackson's finances, other than the cash-flow situation, which is reportedly dire. "Nobody really knows if there is money or not," says Dieter Wiesner, one of his recent managers. The coveted Sony/ATV catalogue is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. However, as I reported in this magazine last year, Sony has the right of first refusal if Jackson is forced to sell his share, and he cannot sell, according to Lee, before October 2005, the 10th anniversary of the partnership. There are reports that Jackson is meanwhile being bailed out by a number of interested parties, including Al Malnik, the flamboyant Miami lawyer who once represented Meyer Lansky. Malnik reportedly put up much of the money to settle two civil suits against Jackson last year —a figure estimated at close to $10 million.In times of trouble in the past, most notably during the first molestation case, Jackson has turned to drugs. Kat Pellicano remembers a very high Michael Jackson in her house in August 1993, nodding out and drinking glass after glass of orange soda. Kat is a former wife of Anthony Pellicano, the private investigator who worked back then for Jackson's attorneys Bert Fields and Howard Weitzman. Fields has been questioned in a current F.B.I. investigation involving Pellicano's use of wiretapping for clients. Pellicano, who is now in jail, was then the muscle the Jackson team used to intimidate potential witnesses against the singer and to accuse Jordie Chandler's father of extortion. After the first molestation scandal broke, "Anthony wanted to get Michael out of the country as soon as possible," Kat says. "When Michael came into the house, my three-year-old daughter asked if he were a boy or a girl. I told her a boy—that some boys had long hair. 'But do they wear makeup?'" That day Kat drove her husband and Jackson to the airport, where they boarded a private jet for Asia. A few months later Jackson checked himself into a London detox center.