What about Jackson’s sharing his bedroom with unrelated children?

Some people base their own “guilty” verdict about Michael Jackson on his own statement of seeing nothing wrong with sharing a bed with unrelated children. To be sure, we do not advocate this behavior (that directly led to The 2005 Allegations) and it definitely was not Jackson’s wisest decision to share his bedroom with unrelated children. It is understandable why this makes people feel uncomfortable. Accompanied with his wealth, fame, naivety and eccentricities, it also made him a vulnerable target to these kind of allegations. Here we would like to offer some context to this topic.

Possibly the biggest publicity backlash that Jackson has received because of this “sharing bed” issue was after the airing of the 2003 Martin Bashir documentary, Living with Michael Jackson. In that interview the star talked about “sharing bed” with children. The infamous scene featured Jackson and his later accuser Gavin Arvizo holding hands while Jackson insisting that there was nothing wrong with “sharing bed” with unrelated children. He said that whenever a child wanted to sleep in his bed he would allow them, while he would sleep on the floor in a sleeping bag. He also said that sometimes he and children, like Macaulay Culkin and his brother Kieran, had slept in the same bed, but he usually would sleep on the floor. Jackson also stated that he had never asked children to come to his bedroom:

“[W]e have guest units, but whenever kids come here they always want to stay with me, they never want to stay in the guest rooms. And I have never invited them into my room, they always just wanna stay with me. They say, ‘Can I stay with you tonight?’, so I go ‘If it’s OK with your parents then yes you can’.” [1]

(Emephasis added.)

At the 2005 trial both the prosecution and the defense agreed that at the time of the Bashir interview there was no other occasion of Gavin sleeping in Jackson’s bedroom than that one occasion in 2000 when other people also slept in the room. In the interview with Bashir Gavin also admitted that he had specifically asked Jackson to be allowed in his bedroom and sleep there with his brother Star:

“Gavin: There was one night, I asked him if I could stay in his bedroom. He let me stay in the bedroom. And I was like, ‘Michael you can sleep in the bed’, and he was like ‘No, no, you sleep on the bed’, and I was like ‘No, no, no, you sleep on the bed’, and then he said ‘Look, if you love me, you’ll sleep in the bed’. I was like ‘Oh mannnn?” so I finally slept on the bed. But it was fun that night.

Jackson: I slept on the floor. Was it a sleeping bag?

Gavin: You packed the whole mess of blankets on the floor.” [1]

(Emphasis added.)

Despite of the public outrage and the media frenzy that went into all kind of speculations about Jackson’s relationship with Gavin due to that scene, few paid attention to what Jackson actually meant by “sharing bed” with Gavin. He meant giving up his bed to Gavin and his brother Star while he would sleep on the floor. Never in the interview is it claimed that Jackson and Gavin had slept in the same bed. In actuality, both state that Jackson slept on the floor, and at the 2005 trial Gavin testified that Jackson’s friend and personal assistant, Frank Cascio had also slept in the room that night, as well as Gavin’s brother, Star and Jackson’s two children, Prince and Paris. All the children slept on Jackson’s bed while the two adult men, Jackson and Cascio, slept on the floor [2]. In his 2011 book entitled My Friend Michael: An Ordinary Friendship with an Extraordinary Man, Cascio recalls that it were the Arvizo children who insisted that they wanted to sleep in Jackson’s bedroom despite of the fact that Jackson was reluctant to let them.

“Gavin and Star kept begging, I kept saying no, and then Janet [Arvizo – the boys’ mother] said to Michael, “They really want to stay with you. It’s okay with me.” Michael relented. He didn’t want to let the kids down. His heart got in the way, but he was fully aware of the risk. He said to me, “Frank, if they’re staying in my room, you’re staying with me. I don’t trust this mother. She’s fucked up.” I was totally against it, but I said, “All right. We do what we have to do.” Having me there as a witness would safeguard Michael against any shady ideas that the Arvizos might have been harboring. Or so we were both naive enough to think.” [3]

Nevertheless, this is the scene in the Bashir documentary that caused worldwide uproar and speculation about the nature of Jackson’s relationship with children. The picture the media painted of Jackson was of a predator, who lured children into his bedroom with the intent of sexually molesting them while keeping away their parents. In reality, Jackson’s two-storey bedroom was a gathering place for families, friends and the parents were allowed to stay there, as well as the children.

In his 2005 book entitled Lost Boy, Macaulay Culkin’s father Kit Culkin wrote the following about these so called “sleepovers”:

“Michael’s bedroom (an enormous room with alcoves and dressing rooms and a fireplace and French doors leading out to a private garden, as well as a stairway leading to the entire upstairs) was almost always an open place to hang out in, as was most all of the rest of the house.  My children would sit on the bed, as would I, to play cards or checkers, or watch television or whatever, but then we would do so most everywhere else also.  They might of occasion fall asleep there, just as they might of occasion fall asleep most anywhere else, and at most any daylight hour.  While they had a bedtime, I rarely enforced it, as they were, after all, at Neverland to play; and as is most always the case with children (as any parent will tell you), they never enforced it themselves, thinking that they should get some rest so as to be better rested to play again the coming day. Children don’t worry about “the coming day”.  Therefore, I was constantly and most usually after suppertime, having to round them up and often carry them (sometimes by golf cart) to their accommodations. They’d fall asleep watching a movie at the movie theater or playing with the toy trains in the toy trains room, and there was one occasion, I well remember, when one of them was actually found asleep on the carousel!” [4]

(Emphasis added.)

He also wrote:

“First of all, I never saw or heard anything at all during my early days of knowing Michael to suggest that he was a pedophile.  I would note that a busload or two of kids might arrive at the estate of an afternoon and be taken straight to the amusement park or the movie theater, and then just as swiftly be bused back off the grounds.  In fact, I believe that there was an entire office in an adjacent building and an entire staff that was responsible for overseeing these visits; and I noted also that on no occasion at all did any of these children ever get asked to the house for any reason whatsoever.  These were all strictly well-planned and well-supervised excursions, and the people who made them up quite apart from the people (such as those of my own family) who were actual guests. And while we’re on the subject of guests, this list was hardly confined to children. Indeed, adults roamed most everywhere, many of them from the world of government, including (just for instance) former President and neighbor Ronald Reagan, together with “Just-Say-No” Nancy, as well as Secretary of Defense William Cohen and not a few others that I’ve since forgotten; none of whom certainly gave one the feeling that the estate was (goodness knows) a den of pedophilia.” [4]

Even Jordan Chandler’s mother, June Chandler admitted in her 2005 testimony that she was allowed to go into Jackson’s bedroom and stay there whenever she wanted:

And why were you in the bedroom those ten times?

Because I’m Jordie’s mother. I’m allowed to go into the bedroom.

Were you dropping clothes off?

Oh, I might have. I don’t recall.

Did you ever sit down and watch T.V. or anything in there?

Yes.

How often did you do that?

A few times.

Did you ever have food delivered to you in Michael Jackson’s bedroom?

I don’t recall.[5]

In her 2005 testimony Wade Robson’s mother, Joy also stated that she was allowed to go to Jackson’s bedroom any time she wanted.

Did you go into Mr. Jackson’s room at all hours of the day?

At any time I wanted to, yes.

Do you recall being in his room during the day?

Yes.

Do you recall being in his room during the evening?

Yes.

Do you recall being in Mr. Jackson’s room late at night?

Yes.

Did you ever get the feeling that somebody was trying to keep you out of Mr. Jackson’s room?

No. [9]

In an interview that he gave to Larry King in 2004, Macaulay Culkin stated very firmly that all those years that he had spent time with Jackson as a child, including several occasions of sleeping in his bedroom, Jackson had never done anything inappropriate to him. He was more like a big kid who simply liked the fun of playing videogames, watching movies, going to the amusement park. According to Culkin, another reason why Jackson enjoyed children’s company was that they did not care about his celebrity and that they talked to him in a normal way. Culkin also addressed the “sharing bed” issue:

Another person who spent time with Jackson since an early childhood was Frank Cascio. Echoing Culkin’s sentiments, in his 2011 book entitled My Friend Michael: An Ordinary Friendship with an Extraordinary Man, Cascio also attested to the fact that the media often misrepresented this issue. Cascio wrote in his book:

“In Bashir’s interview, Michael was shown holding Gavin’s hand and telling the world that kids slept in his bed. Anyone who knew Michael would recognize the honesty and innocent candor of what he was trying to communicate. But Bashir was determined to cast it in a different light.

What Michael didn’t bother to explain, and what Bashir didn’t care to ask about, was that Michael’s suite at Neverland, as I’ve said before, was a gathering place, with a family room downstairs and a bedroom upstairs. Michael didn’t explain that people hung out there, and sometimes they wanted to stay over. He didn’t explain that he always offered guests his bed, and for the most part slept on the floor in the family room below. But, perhaps more important, he didn’t explain that the guest were always close friends like us Cascios and his extended family.

One of the biggest misconceptions about Michael, a story that plagued him for years following the Bashir documentary, was that he had an assortment of children sleeping in his room at any given time. The truth was that random children never came to Neverland and stayed in Michael’s room. Just as my brother Eddie and I had done when we were younger, the family and friends who did stay with Michael, did so of their own volition. Michael just allowed it to happen because his friends and family liked to be around him.

What Michael said on Bashir’s video is true. “You can have my bed if you want. Sleep in it. I’ll sleep on the floor. It’s your’s. Always give the best to the company, you know.” Michael had no hesitation about telling the truth because he had nothing to hide. He knew in his heart and mind that his actions were sincere, his motives pure, and his conscience, clear. Michael innocently and honestly said, “Yes, I share my bed, there is nothing wrong with it.” The fact of the matter is, when he was “sharing” his bed, it meant he was offering his bed to whoever wanted to sleep in it. There may have been times when we slept up there as well, but he was usually on the floor next to his bed, or downstairs sleeping on the floor. Although Bashir, for obvious reasons, kept harping on the bed, if you watch the full, uncut interview, it’s impossible not to understand what Michael was trying to make clear: when he said he shared his bed, he meant he shared his life with the people he saw as family.

Now, I know that most grown men don’t share their private quarters with children, and those who do so are almost always up to no good. But that wasn’t my experience with Michael. As one of those kids who, along with his brother, had any number of such sleepovers with Michael, I know better than anyone else what did happen and what didn’t happen. Was it normal to have children sleep over? No. But it’s also not considered especially normal for a grown man to play with Silly String or have water balloon fights, at least not with the enthusiasm Michael brought to the activities. It’s also not normal for a grown man to have an amusement park installed in his backyard. Do these things make such a man a pedophile?

I’m quite sure that the answer is no.

The bottom line: Michael’s interest in young boys had absolutely nothing to do with sex. I say this with the unassailable confidence of firsthand experience, the confidence of a young boy who slept in the same room as Michael hundreds of times, and with the absolute conviction of a man who saw Michael interact with thousands of kids. In all the years that I was close to him, I saw nothing that raised any red flags, not as a child and not as an adult. Michael may have been eccentric, but that didn’t make him a criminal.

The problem, though, was that this point of view wasn’t represented in the documentary. Listening to Michael talk, people who didn’t know him were disturbed by what he was saying, not only because his words were taken out of context but also because Bashir, the narrator, was telling them they SHOULD BE disturbed. The journalist repeatedly suggested that Michael’s statements made him very uncomfortable. Michael was quirky enough without the machinations of a mercenary newshound, to be sure, but there’s no doubt that Bashir manipulated viewers for his own ends. His questions were leading, the editing misguided. As I watched the broadcast, it seemed to me that Bashir’s plan all along had been to expose Michael in whatever way he could in order to win the highest ratings he could for his show.” [3]

It is also a misrepresentation that only boys slept in Jackson’s room. Girls did too. For example:

Nicole Richie, daughter of Lionel Richie

“Nicole, in particular, supported Jackson against the charges of improper sexual behavior with children. To that end, she offered tales of her own childhood romps at Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, during which she often slept in Jackson’s bedroom. “You know, a group of us would all sleep in the same room,” she said. “It was like, absolutely nothing more than just…an adult kind of wanting to be a kid again. Just, you know, enjoying the company of children. I grew up with him. I have spent many evenings there and many days there.” Noting that she could “only speak for myself,” she still added “that absolutely nothing went on.”

Nicole also said that she wouldn’t have held her tongue had Jackson tried anything with her. “I’m not a quiet person,” she said. “If there was something going on, I’d be like ‘who are you?’… and I’d tell my parents. But my parents would never put me in hands that they thought were dangerous. I never had any complaints, and you know, I love him.” [6]


Lottie Rose’s daughter. Lottie Rose was Michael Jackson’s hairdresser between 1981 and 1994.

“Lottie Rose: He would allow me to bring my daughter with me. She would stay the nights and slept in Michael’s bed. I would be working on him. At Neverland, because the drive was so long, I would stay and we would have our own little room.

Her daughter: I met MJ when I was 11 years old… Just so happens, I was at my mom’s hair salon on a Saturday when she received a phone call from Bill Bray, MJ’s right hand man at the time. He told my mom that MJ liked her work (she did the hair for the soft sheen print advertisements) they called soft sheen and they referred them to her.

My mom thought it was a joke until the limousine pulled up in front of the salon. She told me about MJ at the very last minute… I couldn’t believe it and went crazy while Bill was pulling the limousine around to the back of the salon. Let me tell you… it was the best night ever for an 11 year old.

Really nice guy, very friendly and the best part was that I practically had MJ’s attention all to myself.

He was not shy at all. In fact, I was very shy and afraid to meet him at first because he was MJ. However, he was very friendly and helped me to warm up to him.

MJ and I talked mostly about me and my friends, what we did for fun, where we liked to go, what it was like to go to the mall, favorite stores, amusement parks, favorite rides, going to the beach, movies and more… He would also call me at home from time to time to chat on the phone.

Michael loved to play practical jokes. He would tell my mom that muscles or bubbles was around, and then would rub her leg to make her think it was one of the animals. She would hop around and scream sometimes… was really, really funny!” [8]

Jackson’s cousin, Simone Jackson testified at the 2005 trial. Her testimony was mainly about the Arvizo boys, as she hung out with them, but from her testimony we learnt that she too slept in Jackson’s bed.

Did you ever spend the night in Michael Jackson’s room?

Yes.

Okay. By yourself?

Yes.

Did you ever spend a night in his room in his bed with him?

Yes.

By yourself?

Yes.

All right. How old were you when you did that?

I was about eight or nine. [10]

Moreover, adults were in Jackson’s bed as well – without any sexual connotation. William B. Van Valin, a heterosexual adult man, who with his family befriended Jackson in the early 2000s, wrote about staying in Jackson’s bed a few times in his book entitled “Private Conversations in Neverland”:

William van Valin

“In Michael’s room there was a couch with a King sized roll out bed in it. It was always in the rolled out position and it was always turned down like you were in a hotel. It faced the biggest TV I’d ever seen at that time. We would put in a movie, order from the kitchen whatever we were hungry for and watch movies until late at night. If Michael fell asleep while we were watching a movie, I would turn the volume down slowly, unplug it (because if I used the controller it made a loud noise as it turned off ) and quietly leave the room and go home. I remember I did this one night and was tiptoeing to the door when I heard Michael say, “See you tomorrow, Barney.” For whatever reason, it was very difficult for Michael to sleep. So, if he fell asleep I was always careful to let him stay that way. Sometimes he’d ask me to read something to him and I’d find a book and just read it out loud then slip away when it seemed he was asleep.” [7]

Elizabeth Taylor (from around 1:58).

So what did this sleepovers really meant in Jackson’s life? According to German psychologist and psycho-therapist Dieter Speck, due to his childhood trauma – his loss of childhood, his father beating him etc. –  Jackson assumed the dual roles of being a child and a father at the same time. In the children who he surrounded himself with he saw himself and he wanted to gave them the – non-sexual – fatherly affection and love that he never got from his own father.  In other contexts he was a child himself. Speck does not think that Jackson was a pedophile or that his relationship with children was sexual.

(Dieter Speck was the coauthor in 1997 of a book titled “Sexueller Missbrauch – die Einsamkeit der Öpfer und die Hilflosigkeit der Justiz” – Sexual abuse – The loneliness of the victims and the helplessness of the justice system.)

Sources:

[1] Martin Bashir – Living with Michael Jackson interview/documentary (February 2003)

[2] Gavin Arvizo’s testimony at Michael Jackson’s 2005 trial (March 14, 2005)
https://themichaeljacksonallegationsblog.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/court-transcripts.zip

[3] Frank Cascio – My Friend Michael: An Ordinary Friendship with an Extraordinary Man (HarperCollins, Kindle Edition, November 15, 2011)

[4] Kit Culkin – Lost Boy (May 09, 2005, the book was published and distributed exclusively through KitCulkin.com)

[5] June Chandler’s testimony at Michael Jackson’s 2005 trial (April 11, 2005)
https://themichaeljacksonallegationsblog.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/court-transcripts.zip

[6] Wade Paulsen – Nicole Richie defends Michael Jackson, while Paris Hilton blows off Letterman (Realitytvworld.com, November 21, 2003)
http://www.realitytvworld.com/news/nicole-richie-defends-michael-jackson-while-paris-hilton-blows-off-letterman-2017.php

[7] William B. Van Valin, MD – Private Conversations in Neverland with Michael Jackson

[8] Margena A. Christian – Michael Jackson: Our Icon (Ebony, September 2009)

[9] Joy Robson’s testimony at Michael Jackson’s 2005 trial (May 6, 2005)
https://themichaeljacksonallegationsblog.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/court-transcripts.zip

[10] Simone Jackson’s testimony at Michael Jackson’s 2005 trial (May 18, 2005)
https://themichaeljacksonallegationsblog.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/court-transcripts.zip

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