Cashing In On Michael Jackson’s Corpse

On the day that he died in 2009, though his family and friends (if he had any real friends) and his army of lawyers and accountants (he definitely had those) were surely bereaved and numb with grief, there must have been some small part of them that was a little relieved that Michael Jackson’s death would mean the end of the horrifying allegations of child molestation that started in 1993 and persisted through two trials, one ending in acquittal and the other ending with a $20 million out-of-court settlement, that ruined the reputation of the world’s biggest celebrity and has hung over the family name like a cloud of tear gas.

But no, it seems that even in the grave, the self-appointed King of Pop cannot escape accusations of loving little boys, because this week Wade Robson, a judge on Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance and a successful choreographer with a bunch of Britney Spears and N’Sync videos to his credit, filed suit against Jackson’s estate, alleging repeated molestation from the time Robson was 7 till he was 14.

What’s interesting about this new accusation is that Robson, both a frequent guest at the Neverland Ranch through the ’90s and the only choreographer in the world named “Wade,” was an outspoken defender of Jackson’s during his 2005 trial. One of Jackson’s housekeepers had testified to having seen Jackson sharing his bed and showering with Robson (and Macaulay Culkin, and some other kids), and Wade, his mother, and his sister all took the stand to deny it and to proclaim Jackson’s innocence and goodness of heart and world-changing generosity of spirit like everyone who’s really drunk the MJ Kool-Aid does.

So why is he changing his tune now?

Maybe the fact that Jackson is no longer around to defend himself presents an opportunity to cash in that Mr. Robson feels he can’t pass up. Maybe he just recently recovered all these (presumably) unpleasant memories in a particularly fruitful regression therapy session.

Jackson’s family is vehemently and predictably going with the former: that he’s on the record denying anything inappropriate with Jackson and that changing his story now is a transparent cash grab. And it’s certainly possible that that’s true. With all the bad press Jackson has had in this area, it’s a wonder more ex-kids haven’t come out of the woodwork to show us on the doll where MJ touched them, truth be damned, to try and get paid.

Can you really blame him?

While Wade Robson, who I never heard of before this week, is hardly a household name and almost certainly does not possess the wealth that might allow him to, I don’t know, have a giraffe or ferris wheel at his house, he is far from destitute — he’s the Randy Jackson of dancing’s answer to American Idol. He’s gainfully employed and semi-famous, and while like all of us he would probably not turn down private petting zoo money, it’s also not fair to say he “needs the money.”

And if he were somehow proven to be lying, think what that would do to his career: nobody would want to work with him if they thought him likely to slander their name — possibly posthumously, possibly with the worst possible slander — once the working relationship ended.

The working relationship, by the way, sheds some light on why he would have defended Jackson in court only to change his story years later. This guy was 7 when he met MJ, and whatever they might have gotten up to once the Jesus Juice started flowing, he also at least partially owes his career to him: he appeared as a dancer in three of Jackson’s videos before his twelfth birthday, and landed his first choreography gig at 14. It’s not difficult to imagine that the typical embarrassment and Stockholm Syndrome that some victims of child sexual abuse suffer would be exponentially amplified by one’s abuser being a) the most famous human being on Planet Earth and b) the person standing at the pinnacle of one’s chosen profession and c) your personal idol who d) has a ferris wheel at his house. If Robson is telling the truth, he must have a very knotty tangle of emotions in there.

Also, even though this guy is semi-famous in his field, he’s certainly not famous famous — but there are probably more people Googling “Wade Robson” this week than ever before. Who would want to be famous for being serviced by Michael Jackson, particularly if you’re in show business anyway? The name of MJ’s 1993 accuser eventually got out, but since the guy grew up to be a tax attorney or something unglamorous, it didn’t stay famous. Wade Robson is on TV every week judging people’s dance moves — I have a hard time believing he would want the audience at home reminding each other that he got diddled by the King Of Pop every time he tried to critique someone’s execution of a Jazz dance routine, unless it’s true.

And, starting from the deficit of having made those statements defending Jackson, dude must have some serious evidence to back up his claim, because as we’ve seen, “he said/he said” doesn’t work when your legal payroll is in the tens of millions. He’s probably got letters, photos, maybe even some blue pajamas he’s been hiding.

When I saw this photo in Life magazine, I pretty much made up my mind. Yeah.

The Jacksons, of course, have circled the wagons and are calling Robson’s case “outrageous and pathetic.” The way they see it, poor Michael has been suffering baseless slander for 20 years now and even death has not brought him any rest. (The Jacksons’ ability to rationalize and ignore face-slappingly clear evidence that Michael carried on, at best, wildly inappropriate relationships with children could and should be the basis of an extensive psychological study.) How dare these vultures make such baseless allegations about their poor fallen angel? Scum like Wade Robson just sees deep pockets and says whatever they have to say to wet their beak, to steal someone else’s hard-earned fortune, they say to each other in his 2,500 square foot dining room.

Interesting, then, that only a few days before Robson filed his claim, the Jacksons filed a lawsuit against AEG Live, the company that promoted Michael’s aborted (because of his death) “This Is It” tour, seeking to hold the company liable for wrongful death and asking for $40 billion (that’s Billion, with a B, as in Forty times a Thousand times a Million) in damages.

To put that number in perspective, Bill Gates is worth $67 billion; Michael Jackson was worth $600 million at the time of his death. So I guess the Jacksons are suggesting that Michael’s “This Is It” tour was going to multiply his net worth 66 times over? I’m sure it would have been a big success, but his biggest previous tour, the 1996 “HIStory” outing, grossed $165 million. The biggest tour of all time was U2’s 2009 “360” tour, which took in $736 million. So let’s be super generous and assume Michael would have outgrossed U2 the same year with, let’s say $800 million. You’d still have to multiply that by 50 to get to $40 billion. I think we can agree that’s an unrealistic number, no matter how hard you clap for Tinkerbell.

Let’s not forget who we’re talking about here. Nice wig/eyebrows/eyelashes/eyeliner/nosejob/chinjob/cheekjob/skinjob/lipstick/matte coat/powder coat/brooch/Willy Wonka suit there guy

Now wait a second, you’re probably asking: didn’t Michael Jackson OD on a sedative? Didn’t he beg his doctor for said sedative? How could his tour promoter possibly be held liable for that? Wasn’t his doctor, Conrad Murray, already convicted of manslaughter? Yes, and yes. Did AEG Live hire Dr. Murray? No they did not — as painstakingly detailed in Murray’s trial, Jackson met him in Las Vegas when he treated one of Jackson’s kids. MJ took a liking to him, and put him on a $150,000-a-month (ONE HUNDRED FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS PER THIRTY DAYS) salary to be his personal physician/candyman.

How many companies out there would foot that bill? Not even Jamie Dimon or that dude from “The Queen of Versailles” would sign off on that. I am certain that there is an ample paper trail detailing exactly how not on board AEG is with paying that kind of cash to MJ’s doctor and explicitly stating that he’s taken that expense on his own. Maybe he got them to kick in ten grand a month or something — you know, the reasonable going rate for doctors to the stars — but there’s no way the promoter can be held liable for the doctor Michael Jackson hired giving him something Michael Jackson begged for, and the case will be laughed out of court immediately.

So why would the Jacksons file such an obviously unwinnable claim? Here’s why: at the time of his death, Michael was $400 million in debt, was facing foreclosure on his ranch, and was borrowing hundreds of millions to keep his cash flow going. Needless to say, his finances were (and are) a mess of epic proportions, and the rest of his family has, instead of living on inheritance in the lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed, has inherited his debt and is looking for a way out. Dr. Murray didn’t have anywhere near the assets to shore them up, so they went looking for some deep pockets and said whatever they have to say to wet their beak and steal someone else’s hard-earned fortune. And let’s be real, AEG is probably not even worth $40 billion. Maybe they should have aimed a little lower, like $2 billion, or two-and-a-half times what MJ would have earned on the tour if he’d lived. (One thing about the Jacksons: you can’t say they do things halfway.)

Wade Robson is surely aware that the Jacksons are tapped out– if he hadn’t guessed it, I’m sure his lawyers told him about 1,200 times– and there’s no money to be had in the first place, so maybe (and try to stay with me here) it’s about something other than money.

Let’s not kid ourselves: Wade Robson never said anything, and in fact probably even lied about what happened between him and Michael because he loved him. He was the world’s greatest singer. The world’s greatest dancer. The world’s nicest guy. A guy with a giraffe in his back yard. A guy who shared his outsize interest in something probably not that many people in his life were into. A guy who gave him a career pursuing that interest. He probably didn’t want to do anything to hurt Michael while Michael was alive.

But now Michael’s not alive, and maybe some very icky feelings are finally coming to the surface, and maybe he’s thinking about the fact that there are somewhere between a dozen and a hundred other guys out there who also loved Michael and stayed quiet for him out of love and out of fear and maybe he’s thinking that if someone semifamous with no obvious reason (like being really poor) to make this accusation goes ahead and does it, maybe he can get the tap flowing for all the kids out there who didn’t manage to parlay their abuse into a show business career. Maybe seeing Michael’s family try and blame a fourth party for Michael’s death signaled the final recognition that these people are in total denial about Poor Michael’s faults, that no one is ever going to convince them that he fucked quite a lot of people up along the way, and the only hope of getting any kind of satisfaction for all those people is to do it himself.

Or maybe he’s full of shit, I dunno.

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