TRUE OPINION: What kind of society lets celebrities get away with abuse, wonders novelist and lawyer Miles Hunt.
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Having recently watched the documentaries Leaving Neverland and Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story one is left in shock at how Michael Jackson and Jimmy Savile managed to trick the public into idolising them, even loving them, while they went on their merry way – sexually abusing children.
It shows the wonders of fame, and the failures of society in dealing with the illegal and immoral actions of the famous. Everyone now seems to say they were tricked, that they did not see behind the red curtain, but this was a collective failure by the whole of society. One which left vulnerable young people at the mercy of evil remorseless predators.
The Michael Jackson documentary tells the harrowing tale of two boys abused by Jackson on a regular basis. One, an Australian dancer, Wade Robson, was only seven when he went to visit Neverland. He had been impersonating Jackson since he was four and won the chance to meet him at a shopping centre dance competition. He ended up on stage at a concert and then was invited to Jackson’s ranch. On his first night there, his parents let him sleep with MJ – this despite them having only known the singer for less than four hours. The mother says, she felt she knew him because he had been in their living room so often – on TV and in song.
Then the family left on a campervan vacation leaving their seven-year-old boy alone with Michael for weeks. Where he was basically raped every night. Jackson planned it all so well too – he had alarms that went off the closer people got to his bedroom so a cleaner or servant wouldn’t barge in on them, find him touching up a little boy naked in his bedroom.
This mega star, the biggest solo musician since Elvis (who himself had a child bride), had the children enraptured, the parents star-struck, the world held in collective awe at his moonwalk.
James Safechuck was 13 at the time of his abuse. He went on tour with Jackson. Danced on stage with him, wore the same gear like a miniature version, and then shared a hotel bed each night. His Mum pushed further and further away. Her thinking Michael was like another of her children, a fully grown kid who could be trusted because of who he was, because of his perceived immaturity, because of the career he was making for her kid, the house she was given as a present and the whirlwind life they were living.
Wade Robson and James Safechuck weren’t the only boys abused – in all five kids alleged similar behaviour. The first, the parents eventually settled the case – after they had let them sleep together in their own home; another went to court, where Jackson got off the criminal charges. This despite him having full on relationships with many children for years; calling them names like ‘Apple Head’ and ‘Little One’, sending them hundreds of faxes a day saying how much he missed them; and taking them on fantastic adventures around his theme-park house. It must have seemed magical. Until it was bedtime.
Amazingly, the boys felt rejected when he went on to other new boys, and many, including Robson, denied the allegations for so long it almost seemed true to himself – going so far as to protect his hero by giving evidence in support during the 2005 criminal trial. He says, at the time, he didn’t want to see Jackson hurt, or locked away. Safechuck refused to testify. He couldn’t face it after what he had been through. And then when both boys had kids of their own, it all came out. They could see the horror that had been inflicted on them by seeing the innocence of their own children. They told their families and then the world.
It’s hard to watch the four hour doco. Hard not to hate Michael Jackson afterward. Hate what he did to these innocent children. Hate the way the mothers, desperate for fame for their children let it happen on their watch. Failed to protect. Turned a blind eye. But we all contributed. Everyone turned a blind eye. Blaming his quirks, allowing his musical genius to cloud the obvious. Defending him as a child himself who never grew up. Never got a childhood because of his father, the pushy band manager, and because of his position front and centre of the Jackson Five.
All may be true in its own way, but he still abused children. Showed them pornography, touched them, fondled them, had sex with them, had them then suck him off – this is what they say, and one cannot watch this and not believe them. It is heart-wrenching, harrowing, and you cannot help feel so sorry for them, and admire them for finally coming forth to tell a truth that no one wanted to hear.
Me for one, will never listen to his music again. But really what does that achieve? The damage is done. Michael Jackson never went to jail. Society let him get away with it. It was so obvious too! It was right there for everyone to see. He was just too big. Too rich, too famous.
It was the same for Jimmy Savile, a cheeky northerner, who became a National Treasure. A DJ and presenter who everyone thought was a loveable and eccentric entertainer that made you feel at ease on camera. ‘Our Jimmy’, they called him, as he presented Top of the Pops on BBC, and then Jimmy Will Fix It – in which he made small wishes for children come true and then gave them a coveted ‘Jimmy Fixed It’ medallion.
Some of those kids had to earn them backstage. And he would threaten them after fondling them: ‘Don’t tell anyone. They won’t believe you. I’m king Jimmy.’
And none did. Those that did make a complaint were ignored. Their stories swept under the carpet by the BBC, the media, the police, as a Nation fell in love. Transfixed by the colourful character smoking a cigar and running the length of the country for charity, wearing his trademark tracksuit and robe.
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They watched as he made millions for charitable causes – fixing hospitals and children’s homes across the country. Ten million pounds he raised for Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Leeds Infirmary, Broadmoor Mental Hospital and others in the 80s. Thatcher loved him. Invited him for New Years every year, then made him a Knight of the Realm. Charles and Dianna too – they sought his counsel on their marriage, on the right hospitals to visit, and even on how the Crown should deal with a crisis.
It was like he was grooming a whole country. He volunteered in the same hospitals and children’s homes for which he donated tens of millions of pounds. Bringing smiles to the faces of the sick and infirm, at least for the cameras and the crowds. Then at night, he prowled the corridors, special permission granted by Hospital administrators addicted to the money he was collecting for them.
Donations the master key that took him to anywhere he dared. Even the morgue, where he played with the corpses alone at night. Had his weird and sick ways with dead bodies, torturing their souls even after they were gone.
He drove off in his car with young girls – hopeless cases from psych wards and detention homes – took them in groups to his private rooms and homes across the country, and then got to inflicting pain and sexual abuse. Most of his victims were girls between 10 and 15, but he didn’t discriminate – there were people of both sexes that were abused, from age 5 to 75, from 1960 to 2010, just before he died.
And he died a free man. Untouched by the law or morality. Even though the rumours were ripe. For decades it was accepted as a truth behind closed doors. Nearly costing him his knighthood, but not quite. Newspapers nearly wrote about it – one interviewer even asking him if he had a penchant for little children. But no one did anything. They were too scared. Too enthralled by his personality. Even after he died, the BBC pulled an expose, preferring the cover story of the saint over the truth of the sinner. The police felt he was too big a fish. Let him walk away from any complaints. Even threatening to arrest those that dared come forward. They Interviewed him once in 2007, almost apologetically. He was accepted by the establishment – by politicians, royalty, the wealthy and famous, and he was adored by everyone else.
Except those he abused. Those patients left alone on the ward, children taken away to his private rooms, excited teens brought back to office at the BBC – they were groped, and fondled, and kissed, and raped, their genitals touched, the bodies molested and abused by a predator. A split personality, a showman, a Machiavellian psychopath, a wolf in a tracksuit with funny white hair, who could made everyone smile. Like a Santa Claus of your worst nightmares.
A few times he almost gave it up to journalists, during his run across England, he lost his grounding, forgot which person he was playing, talked about how he liked to inflict pain on girls. Even in a book he wrote about his life, there were clues, but they all looked the other way. Everyone pretended it was all part of his quirky nature. His awful behaviour hidden by funny cute catch phrases like “Now then, now then,” or “How’s about that then?”. Or his habit of kissing people on the lips and an excited smile across his face as he hammed it up for the cameras … it was all an act. A trick to keep the victims at bay, so the public said, ‘Well, that’s just our Jimmy.’
Our Jimmy, who may just have been the worst sex predator in English history. Too big, too rich, too famous. Just like Michael Jackson. When you are that big, that loved, that adored, that connected, you can get away with anything. Even child abuse.