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

Many people base their own “guilty” verdict about Michael Jackson on the fact that in the 2003 Martin Bashir interview Living with Michael Jackson Jackson talked about “sharing his bed” with children. The infamous scene featured Jackson and his later accuser Gavin Arvizo. Jackson said whenever a child wants to sleep in his bed he allows them, while he would sleep on the floor on a sleeping bag. He said sometimes he and children, like Macaulay Culkin and his brother Kieran, slept in the same bed, but he usually would sleep on the floor. Jackson also stated that he 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]

In the interview this was supported by Gavin stating that he 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.)

Never in the interview is it claimed that Jackson and Gavin slept in the same bed. In actuality, both state that Jackson slept on the floor and later, at the 2005 trial Gavin testified that Jackson’s friend and personal assistant Frank Cascio also slept in the room that night, as well as Gavin’s brother, Star [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 they wanted to sleep in Jackson’s bedroom despite 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; Kindle Locations 3868-3873]

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 in his bedroom while keeping them away from their parents. In reality, Jackson’s two-story bedroom was a gathering place for families and friends, and the parents and families of the children 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]

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:

Q. And why were you in the bedroom those ten times?
A. Because I’m Jordie’s mother. I’m allowed to go into the bedroom.
Q. Were you dropping clothes off?
A. Oh, I might have. I don’t recall.
Q. Did you ever sit down and watch T.V. or anything in there?
A. Yes.
Q. How often did you do that?
A. A few times.
Q. Did you ever have food delivered to you in Michael Jackson’s bedroom?
A. I don’t recall.[5]

Macaulay Culkin explained the “bedroom sharing” in an interview he gave to Larry King in 2004 (the part about the “bedroom sharing” can be found from about 1:17):

Another person who spent time with Jackson since an early childhood was Frank Cascio. In his 2011 book entitled My Friend Michael: An Ordinary Friendship with an Extraordinary Man he too attested to the fact that the media often misrepresented this issue, which was not helped by the fact that Jackson often was misunderstood, sometimes genuinely, sometimes deliberately when he spoke about this issue in interviews. Something that Macaulay Culkin also noted in the above interview.

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; Kindle Locations 3738-3771]

Sources:

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

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

[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)

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