Martin Bashir’s documentary, “Living with Michael Jackson”

In the Summer-Autumn of 2002 British journalist and television host Martin Bashir worked on a documentary with Michael Jackson entitled Living with Michael Jackson. During the creation of that documentary Bashir suggested to Jackson that in the film he could show the public how the singer helped children with serious illnesses. Jackson presented Bashir with two examples: the story of David Rothenberg (“Dave Dave”) who was badly burned by his father when he was a child in the 1980s. Jackson took it upon himself to help Rothenberg throughout his life. Rothenberg himself talked about it on CNN’s Larry King Live in September of 2009 [1].

The other option offered was the cancer survivor Gavin Arvizo. By 2002 Rothenberg was an adult and Bashir chose to go with the still 13-year-old Gavin instead, so they invited him and his siblings, Star and Davellin to the set – even though Rothenberg was present as well, according to Gavin’s testimony in 2005.

Okay. Did you ever meet this person who was burned?

Yeah, I think Michael introduced me to him.

And when was this?

Around the same time as the Martin Bashir thing.

Was it at Neverland?


Did you talk to this person?


Do you remember the person’s name?

I think his name might have been David.

Was it Rothenberg?

I don’t know.

Was this a young man that you learned his father had poured gasoline on him and set him on fire?

I don’t know.


I think that’s what happened.

And he was supposed to be in the film with you, right?


Okay. And correct me if I’m wrong, you discussed with Michael the fact that Michael had helped this young boy, right?


Okay. Did you talk to this young boy about what he had experienced?


Okay. Did you ever see him?


And please describe for the jury what he looked like.

He looked like he was really badly burned and he had like – he was like a rocker. He was wearing, like, rocker stuff. And he was burned. And he had like only a few hairs on his head because I guess it covered all the pores when he was burned.

Did you and he appear in the film, if you know?

Later I watched it, and then — well, I watched my part, and then I don’t think he was in there.

Okay. But was he at Neverland the day you were filmed?


Okay. Did you meet him shortly after you arrived?

Yes. [2]

The shooting of the scene with Gavin and his two siblings took place in September 2002. Janet Arvizo later said that she was not aware at the time that her children would appear in the documentary.

Jackson trusted that Bashir had no hidden agenda in how he presented his relationship with Gavin and out of naivety and guilelessness allowed himself to be filmed showing affection to Gavin and holding his hand while the boy leaned his head on his shoulder. Bashir exploited Jackson’s poor judgement in public relations and drew him into a discussion of whether it was acceptable to share a bedroom with a child.

When the documentary aired in February 2003 this segment caused a storm of bad publicity for Jackson and wild speculations about the nature of his relationship with Gavin Arvizo. In reality, as you have seen above, there was no close relationship between Jackson and Gavin, and since 2000 they hardly even met.

Throughout the documentary Bashir uses suggestive and highly manipulative narration and it seems that his intention from the beginning was to create and feed in innuendo about Jackson’s relationship with children. Even Gavin admitted in his 2005 testimony that Bashir’s portrayal of Jackson in the documentary was false. After the shooting of the scene the Arvizo children stayed at the ranch for one night, but Jackson immediately left after the segment and he was again unavailable to Gavin.

At that point, could you reach Michael Jackson by telephone if you wanted to?

No, after the Martin Bashir thing, he didn’t give me any phone numbers, because he left, like, either the same day or the day after the Martin Bashir interview, and I didn’t really get any other phone numbers. [2]


[1] Larry King Live – Dave Dave: Michael Jackson Was Like A Father To Me (CNN, September 3, 2009)

[2] Gavin Arvizo’s testimony at Michael Jackson’s 2005 trial (March 14, 2005)

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