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Michael Jackson’s ‘One More Chance’ – A Dream that Turned into a Nightmare

Michael Jackson at the BET Awards in June 2003 presenting the Lifetime Achievement Awardto his idol and mentor James Brown.
As part of his comeback, Michael Jackson appeared at the BET Awards in June 2003 to present his idol and mentor James Brown with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Photo Credit: Sawf News

By Charles Thomson

November 30, 2010, (Sawf News) – Michael Jackson dreamt of a triumphant return to showbiz after years of seclusion with the music video of One More Chance in 2003, only to have the dream turn into his worst nightmare.

Charles Thomson speaks to the performer’s colleagues, collaborators and co-stars about his little-known final music video.

This is Part 1 of a four part feature.

1. Engineering Michael Jackson’s Comeback
2. Michael Jackson’s Dream Takes Shape
3.Filming of One More Chance
4. Dream Return Turns into a Nightmare

Engineering Michael Jackson Comeback

In Summer 2003 Michael Jackson and his team were quietly plotting an extraordinary comeback. Amid the tranquil setting of his sprawling Neverland Ranch, Jackson was meeting with his business partners, advisors and publicist on a regular basis to devise plans for a multi-faceted comeback that would re-launch the star into the stratosphere. The comeback would be surprising, seeing Jackson branch into new areas and industries and rehabilitating his image at the same time.

(actually, this might be what he’s doing right now…)

Michael Jackson’s Fallout with Sony

The past few years had not been kind to Jackson. His 2001 album Invincible had received a mixed critical reaction and had been mocked by the press as a commercial failure. In the Summer of 2002 Jackson had blamed low album sales on his record company, Sony, branding label boss Tommy Mottola ‘racist’ and ‘devilish’. He claimed the label had sabotaged Invincible by failing to promote it and, in a series of speeches, announced his intention to leave the label. However, his public fall-out with Sony had led to further tabloid mockery and his campaign had ultimately fallen flat.

In the Summer of 2002 Jackson had blamed low sales of his album Invincible on his record company, Sony, branding label boss Tommy Mottola 'racist' and 'devilish'. Here he is seen protesting against Sony in London.
In the Summer of 2002 Jackson had blamed low sales of his album Invincible on his record company, Sony, branding label boss Tommy Mottola ‘racist’ and ‘devilish’. Here he is seen protesting against Sony in London. Photo Credit: Sawf News

Negative Publicity from Martin Bashir‘s Documentary

Jackson’s confidence had been rocked by two further incidents. The singer found himself at the center of a global scandal in November 2002 after pictures of him dangling his son over a hotel balcony in Germany were beamed around the world. He was dealt another blow in February 2003 when Martin Bashir’s documentary Living with Michael Jackson caused uproar, showing Jackson holding hands with young cancer patient Gavin Arvizo and admitting to sharing his bed with other people’s children. It was at this point that Jackson’s camp decided enough was enough.

Damage Control

The concern amongst Jackson’s advisors was that the singer’s name had become little more than a punchline; an easy target for relentless mockery and abuse. His image was in desperate need of repair. The effort began with damage control. Jackson’s camp released a rebuttal to Bashir’s documentary, featuring footage of the presenter contradicting the views expressed in his own film and proving that he had omitted vital answers from the star. After exposing Bashir’s duplicity Jackson’s camp followed up with a second documentary, Michael Jackson’s Private Home Movies, in which the star presented funny and interesting clips from his archives.

An appearance at the BET Awards in June 2003 to present his idol and mentor James Brown with a Lifetime Achievement Award contributed to the wave of good PR Jackson was receiving. The star’s brief appearance on the show saw audience members burst into tears and it served Jackson well to be seen presenting an award rather than receiving one for once. Things were beginning to look up for the singer and now his elaborate comeback plans could really be put into effect.

Reinventing Michael Jackson

“Michael was regaining much of his self-esteem and self-confidence after dwelling in the shadows of public scandal and scorn,” says publicist Stuart Backerman, hired by Jackson in 2002. “In the language of marketing, Michael was about to be re-branded.

“The comeback plan was called the MJ Universe project and it was all about ‘the People’s Michael’, if you want to think of it in political terms. That’s what was underpinning this whole scheme. It was about being accessible. After all the years of living as a partial recluse and a tabloid target he wanted to reach out and be seen in an objective way.”

The first step towards making Michael Jackson more accessible would be to create a link between the star and his fans. In Vancouver a web design company called Blast Radius was secretly working on a brand new official Michael Jackson website (his old one was owned and controlled by Sony). The website would contain what Stuart Backerman describes as ‘the most unbelievable interactive videos’ and would serve as a medium for Jackson to stay in touch with his fans.

The next step was to open up Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. After the Bashir documentary his sanctuary was seen as a sinister place. In order that people could experience Neverland themselves and enjoy a brief glimpse into Jackson’s world, the star planned to launch the ranch as a resort for short breaks, generating income as well as improving his image.

Jackson’s merchandising had ‘dried up’ in recent years, says Backerman, and loose plans were in place to launch several new products, beginning with a Michael Jackson clothing line. He was also in talks with a Japanese investor to design a theme park.

From Music to Movies

But the jewel in the crown of Jackson’s comeback plans was a deal he and his camp had recently struck with a motion picture company in Montreal. For years it had been Jackson’s desire to move away from the music business and into the movie industry. In 1993 he had a deal in place with Sony to begin making movies but the plans were scrapped after Santa Barbara DA Tom Sneddon raided Jackson’s home and the star found himself accused of child molestation. In recent years Jackson had made baby steps towards launching himself as a player in the movie world, first making a cameo appearance in Men In Black II and then guest starring in low budget comedy Miss Castaway. Now he was ready to make the leap.

“He didn’t want to really start again with the music,” says Dieter Wiesner, Jackson’s manager from 1997 until 2003. “After he was done with Sony, he had a whole other plan. His focus was just not that much on the music part anymore. His feeling was that he had really made the best in his life for the music part. He created everything. He made Thriller and things like that and he knew it could be very hard to top these things. For him it was very important to be successful as a director and an actor, directing movies, making short films, things like that. He was really into it.

“He knew he had to do something for the fans but it was very clear that he couldn’t go back on tour because he was mentally not into it anymore. He wanted to do big concerts, say, at the pyramids in Egypt – big places – over two or three years. He agreed to do something like that because the fans really wanted to see him, but he felt his real future should be in the film business.”

After months of negotiations, Jackson’s camp had managed to secure financing so the star could purchase Cinegroupe, a Canadian animated features company, which Stuart Backerman says Jackson wanted to turn into ‘a whole Pixar type thing’. In anticipation of the takeover, the company had invited Jackson to begin contributing ideas to an upcoming picture, Pinocchio 3000. A decade after his film-making dreams had been squashed, Jackson was finally about to begin making the transition from music to movies. But before that he had one burning priority, and that was to release himself from his Sony contract.

“He wasn’t ever really right back on good terms with Sony,” says Stuart Backerman. “The Beatles Catalogue is one thing but after the whole Tommy Mottola business, it was over. It was not gonna really be happening with Sony again.”

According to Dieter Wiesner, Jackson had no plans to move to another label after he fulfilled his contract with Sony. The focus was squarely on movie-making and all signs pointed to the fact that Jackson was serious about achieving his goal. One morning at Neverland Ranch, during the comeback discussions, Jackson presented Stuart Backerman with a signed fedora as a thank you for all his hard work. Inside Jackson had written the inscription, “Dear Stuart, many thanks for your kind help and please don’t make plans for the next decade.”

Michael Jackson rehearsed for the One More Chance video for just one day.
Michael Jackson rehearsed for the One More Chance video for just one day. Photo Credit: Sawf News

November 30, 2010, (Sawf News) – Michael Jackson dreamt of a triumphant return to showbiz after years of seclusion with the music video of One More Chance in 2003, only to have the dream turn into his worst nightmare.

Charles Thomson speaks to the performer’s colleagues, collaborators and co-stars about his little-known final music video.

This is Part 2 of a four part feature

1. Engineering Michael Jackson’s Comeback
2. Michael Jackson’s Dream Takes Shape
3. Filming of One More Chance
4. Dream Return Turns into a Nightmare

Michael Jackson’s Dream Takes Shape

In October 2003 Michael Jackson flew to Las Vegas to begin a series of in-person appearances that would mark the beginning of his elaborate comeback plans. In keeping with his new accessible image he also took part in several autograph signing sessions, the proceeds from which went to charity. On Saturday 25th October he was presented with the key to Las Vegas at the Desert Passage Mall and three days later he appeared at the Radio Music Awards to debut his new charity single, What More Can I Give.

One More Chance Music Video

But most excitingly for the star’s fans, Jackson was in town to record a new music video. A new greatest hits compilation called Number Ones was due to be released on November 18th and, thinking that it would fulfill his contractual obligations to Sony, Jackson had contributed an unreleased track, One More Chance, and agreed to promote it as a single. Seeing the opportunity to fulfill another contractual obligation at the same time – he owed CBS a performance – Jackson decided to record an accompanying music video. The video would debut on November 26th at the end of a CBS special about the star and then go into rotation elsewhere.

After recording the video Jackson was set to embark on what Stuart Backerman describes as a ‘triumphant publicity tour’ across Europe, Africa and South America. “We were going for three months,” says the publicist. “We were going to do all kinds of autograph sessions, record signings and fan events and we were going to do something at Harrods in London, too.”

“He was going to give Muhammad Ali an award at the Bambi Awards in Germany,” adds Dieter Wiesner. “We also had a plan to do something with Nelson Mandela.”

Nick Brandt, a seasoned Jackson collaborator, was scheduled to direct the new video. Brandt had worked on numerous short films with the star in the past – most famously on the Earth Song video, which combined Jackson’s strong environmental views with the director’s acclaimed wildlife photography. Their most recent outing had been 2001’s Cry, a video Jackson reportedly refused to appear in due to his conflict with Sony.

Turning his Back to Music in Pursuit of Film

The shoot would take place at the CMX Productions studio and the concept was simple. The song was a yearning ballad about lost love in which Jackson pleaded with an ex-girlfriend for ‘one more chance at love’. The video would feature a unique role reversal in which an audience would stand onstage and watch Jackson as he performed the track in an empty, upscale nightclub, hopping banisters and jumping on tables. The set-up seemed to have little correlation with the song and appeared to be more of a comment on the press and public’s perpetual invasion into Jackson’s privacy – a common theme in the star’s videos – essentially showing a crowd of bystanders watching over Jackson in an intimate, off-stage moment, transfixed by his heartbreak.

Jackson technically owed CBS a performance so the aim was to create a hybrid that would satisfy the broadcaster and also work as a music video. An idea was hatched to give the video a live feeling by following Jackson seamlessly through the club rather than cutting from scene to scene in the typical music video style.

“We had five cameras rolling on him at all times,” says a senior crew member, who asked to remain anonymous after speaking without record label permission. “The idea was to try to capture Michael, as much as possible, doing one routine through the club, to give it kind of a live feeling. It would literally flow from one camera to the next. We also had kind of a limited time with Michael because he would set his own schedule, so we also decided to capture it that way to make sure we could get it all shot cohesively.”

Michael Jackson rehearsing for the One More Chance video.
Michael Jackson rehearsed for the One More Chance video for just one day. Photo Credit: Sawf News

Running the production on a tight schedule and a tight budget, the crew got one rehearsal day with Jackson. “Michael came in that day to do dance rehearsals with Nick and to work out how he would move around the club,” says the crew member. “That was where we determined which tables he would jump on so we could light them properly and so on. So that was probably about two to three hours of just Nick and other key crew members working with Michael – maybe four hours.

“Watching his process with Nick was quite inspiring. He really liked to create with Nick. He was involved in everything. He was obviously an experienced artist in music videos and knew what the process was all about, knew who the key people were to talk to. I mean, he and the crew had a definite conversation about composition and lighting and how to capture various dance moves with the camera and what angles to use. He was truly an artist. He didn’t just show up and not care. He was definitely excited to be there and involved in the process and really wanted to create something special.”

Jackson’s manager Dieter Wiesner, however, says the singer wasn’t quite as excited as he seemed; much of the video had been devised in the star’s absence and he was annoyed by the modest budget. “Michael was not too happy about it,” he says. “It was a relaxed situation but it was not what Michael really wanted to do. He looked still for the biggest thing and this was not something he would pick. It was not one of his high class things he did before.”

Wiesner says Jackson was also unhappy with the set’s resemblance to one of his best known videos from the 1980s. “When we arrived there, the set was already done. He was saying, ‘This is like Smooth Criminal’. But he did his job. I think when he started to do something, he did it right. He was not so happy but he had to deliver something and that’s what he did.”

Michael Jackson dreamt of a triumphant return to showbiz after years of seclusion with the music video of One More Chance in 2003, only to have the dream turn into his worst nightmare.

Michael Jackson during One More Chance video shoot.
Michael Jackson during One More Chance video shoot. Photo Credit: Sawf News

November 30, 2010, (Sawf News) – Michael Jackson dreamt of a triumphant return to showbiz after years of seclusion with the music video of One More Chance in 2003, only to have the dream turn into his worst nightmare.

Charles Thomson speaks to the performer’s colleagues, collaborators and co-stars about his little-known final music video.

This is Part 3 of a four part feature.

1. Engineering Michael Jackson’s Comeback
2. Michael Jackson’s Dream Takes Shape
3. Filming of One More Chance
4. Dream Return Turns into a Nightmare

Filming of One More Chance

On Monday 17th November 2003 a crowd of extras waited in a holding area at the CMX studio. They knew they were there for a music video, but that was all they knew. “We auditioned on the Friday and knew we were going to shoot at the soundstage on Monday,” says Ken Yesh, one of the extras chosen for the shoot. “We went the entire weekend wondering who the video was for. Then, when we got there, we signed some papers and on the back page it said ‘Michael Jackson, One More Chance, Sony Productions’. We all just flipped.”

“That right there was such a moment,” says fellow extra Juliette Myers. “As we were going down the line we were cheering because wow, you know, what an iconic moment. We were going to be a part of something that’s history.”

But the excitement was short-lived. “When we went into the soundstage they told us that ‘yes, this is a Michael Jackson video but he will not be here’,” says Ken Yesh. “So we were all pretty disappointed. He had a body double that was doing all the camera sets and all the arrangements. We thought that that was all that was going to be there – just a lookalike.”

The extras were put in bleachers on the stage in a choral arrangement while the crew tinkered with the lighting. A few extras were selected to look into the distance or look amazed and the crew panned the audience a lot, but the extras spent much of their time standing around. “If they weren’t going to use us for a scene then they’d take us back out to the waiting area,” says extra Stephen McClelland. “I remember us waiting outside while they were trying to set up some of the table things to get a rough idea.”

“Being extras, we started early but we didn’t really have to do much,” agrees Juliette Myers. “They’d set us up, they’d do some lighting and cue the music and we’d stand and do our part, then we’d cut for a break. There was never really much work. There was a very free, fun and fancy type air about the day.”

Michael Jackson’s Surprise Appearance

Several hours into the shooting day, Michael Jackson, wearing dark jeans and a white t-shirt, slipped onto the set through a back door. “When he made his entrance it wasn’t anything grand,” says Ken Yesh. “It was kind of on the down low – really hush-hush. We were onstage at the time so there were a few whispers of, ‘Oh my God, I think that’s him!’ The room was pretty dim. The whole ambience was the nightclub scene so there were some lamps on the tables and the stage lights were very dim, but he’s pretty hard to miss.”

Michael Jackson during One More Chance video shoot.
Michael Jackson during One More Chance video shoot. Photo Credit: Sawf News

“It was like electricity through the air,” adds Stephen McClelland. “Everybody was getting really excited.”

“We weren’t even prepared for him to come out,” says Juliette Myers. “We were standing in the bleachers and I was talking to somebody and all of a sudden I heard cheering. I looked up and he was just there. It’s weird how you don’t even realize how powerful he is until he’s there. It’s like a presence. I couldn’t stop screaming. I tried to be professional but that didn’t work. We were all screaming our heads off. But he let us have our time. I’m sure he knew that he was going to have fans so he gave us time to just embrace him and then we got to work.”

Michael Jackson’s Dance Moves: Inimitable

The crew had spent much of the day preparing for Jackson’s arrival in order to avoid keeping him waiting once he arrived. With everything in position and ready to go, Jackson launched into his first performance almost immediately, meandering around the nightclub and showcasing his famous dance moves.

“I think they told us he wasn’t going to be there because they wanted to see our responses on film when he started dancing,” says Ken Yesh, “because when he first came in, it wasn’t five minutes and he jumped right into it. He started going into the sequences, walking through the tables at the nightclub, going up to the stage, singing, jumping onto the tables and onto the chairs – and I was looking at everyone else and their faces were like mine. It was just disbelief.”

“It was amazing,” recalls Juliette Myers. “Part of our reaction was supposed to be shock and awe, but it was real. We were just like ‘Oh my gosh, he’s here. This is him in real life. He’s right in front of us’. It was so easy to be happy and to have the wondrous looks in our eyes. He did a move standing on a table right in front of us and it was like, ‘Wow. There it is. This is what we grew up with’. It made that reaction and that moment real.”

Michael Jackson during One More Chance video shoot.
Michael Jackson during One More Chance video shoot. Photo Credit: Sawf News

“They had genuine surprise on everyone’s face,” says Ken Yesh. “Everyone had a permanent smile across their face. They couldn’t believe it. I think we all understood what it meant. We were in the presence of one of the best entertainers ever on the face of the earth. I mean, who has the chance to do something like that?”

“It was like seeing Elvis perform live, or the Beatles,” agrees Steve McClelland. “You’ve got a legend in front of you performing. It was magical. All those rumors about him being past it were, I believe after seeing him, completely unfounded. He was still perfectly capable. He was truly magic. Truly blessed.”

Each time Jackson finished the routine, shooting would pause while the crew fixed the set for continuity; in each performance Jackson would kick lamps and wine glasses off of the nightclub tables. Between takes Jackson would interact occasionally with the extras, says Stephen McClelland.

MJ: Focused During Shoots, Caring and Concerned During Breaks

“We’d all been standing there for a long time. He’d say thing like, ‘I hope you guys aren’t too uncomfortable back there’ because the lights would come up on us and we were standing really tight together and we couldn’t move. Between takes we had to stay there. So he was just feeling for us a little bit. When he started to perform he was very focused but then he would go back to being just casual. He’d say things to us like, ‘I hope you all liked that one’. He was being funny, witty.”

Michael Jackson during One More Chance video shoot.
Michael Jackson during One More Chance video shoot. Photo Credit: Sawf News

Mostly, though, Jackson kept to himself. “He was kind of separate,” says Juliette Myers. “I think he was just really shy. I remember there was direction that he was very shy so they didn’t want us to look directly in his face.”

“I was extremely surprised at how humble he was,” adds Ken Yesh. “But when the camera started rolling and the music was on, it was like electricity. The guy was completely amazing. He would do the same dance sequence five or six times, flawlessly.”

“Michael was soft spoken and kept to himself,” confirms a crew member. “But when the cameras started rolling he just became Michael Jackson instantaneously. The moves and the walking and everything, it was just Michael Jackson through and through. It was amazing. I remember him jumping up on a table and doing a spin at one point and his hands went up in the air and it was just 100% pure Michael Jackson. I’ll never forget that memory.”

After performing the routine five or six times across roughly three hours, Michael Jackson made his exit. “He was really sweet with all the extras,” says a crew member. “When he was leaving he said a great big goodbye to them and thanked them for all their hard work. He was such a gentleman.”

“He didn’t just scurry out,” says Juliette Myers. “He respectfully said thank you. I don’t even know what he was thanking us for, though.” She laughs. “He was the star. We were just backdrop.”

Michael Jackson during One More Chance video shoot.
Michael Jackson during One More Chance video shoot. Photo Credit: Sawf News

Jackson was scheduled to return the following day to film frontal shots and close-ups. “Our intention was to shoot from behind Michael towards the audience and then, to save money on all the audience members, the following day we would flip around and shoot Michael’s close-ups,” says a crew member. “So pretty much everything we got on the first day was head to toe and shot either in profile or from behind, with the audience in the background.”

The day’s rushes showed Jackson on good form, leaping energetically from table to table, running around the club and looking genuinely happy as he high-fived the crowd. He paid subtle homage to older videos; a shot in which he pulled his jacket down over his shoulders before the excited audience was reminiscent of the Dirty Diana music video while his kicking the table decorations as he danced called to mind his controversial short film for Black or White.

Michael Jackson during One More Chance video shoot.
At the end of each take Jackson had nodded and bowed to the audience, turned his back on the stage – an enormous grin on his face – and walked out of frame. Photo Credit: Sawf News

At the end of each take Jackson had nodded and bowed to the audience, turned his back on the stage – an enormous grin on his face – and walked out of frame. This shot would serve as the end of the music video and the moment was loaded with connotations. Jackson turning his back on the stage, and on his audience, was symbolic of his intention to leave the music world behind and embark on a brand new career path. Perhaps smiling with as much relief as happiness, he was also turning his back on his final music video for Sony and, he thought, walking away from the contract that he so desperately wanted out of. In essence, he was turning his back on his old career and walking away from it, ready to follow the dream that had been snatched from him ten years previously. Michael Jackson was finally going to make movies.


Michael Jackson dreamt of a triumphant return to showbiz after years of seclusion with the music video of One More Chance in 2003, only to have the dream turn into his worst nightmare. Photo Credit: Newscom

November 30, 2010, (Sawf News) – Michael Jackson dreamt of a triumphant return to showbiz after years of seclusion with the music video of One More Chance in 2003, only to have the dream turn into his worst nightmare.

Charles Thomson speaks to the performer’s colleagues, collaborators and co-stars about his little-known final music video.

This is Part 4 of a four part feature.

1. Engineering Michael Jackson’s Comeback
2. Michael Jackson’s Dream Takes Shape
3. Filming of One More Chance
4. Dream Return Turns into a Nightmare

Dream Turns into a Nightmare

At roughly 8.30 next morning Stuart Backerman and Jackson cohort Marc Schaffel spoke on the telephone to discuss their departure for Europe the following day. Their conversation was interrupted by an incoming telephone call for Schaffel from Joe Marcus, a security coordinator at Neverland. “It was a weird hour for Joe to be calling,” says Backerman, “so Schaffel said he would call me back.”

A short while later Backerman’s telephone rang. “You gotta turn on the television,” said Schaffel. Backerman switched on his TV and saw the now famous helicopter images of police swarming Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. Led by District Attorney Tom Sneddon, 70 sheriffs from the Santa Barbara Police Department had been dispatched to raid Michael Jackson’s home. “Honestly,” Backerman recalls, “You would have thought it was an army battalion going into an Iraqi village. There were so many of them.”

His heart sank. “At that moment I realized that the European trip and the whole MJ Universe project was finished because by that point Diane Dimond was on, revealing that it was all over a second charge of child molestation.

“Michael was just getting ready to leave the 1993 allegations behind and rebrand himself. We’d just finished dealing with the Martin Bashir scandal and here it was again.” He sighs. “Here it was again.”

In Las Vegas, it fell on manager Dieter Wiesner to break the news to Michael Jackson. “Michael was still in his room,” Wiesner explains. “He was sitting next to the fireplace when I came in and he was very quiet. I had to tell him and it was not easy to tell Michael things like this because he was in such a good mood. He saw a future. When the Bashir situation arose he was very down. Now everything had changed and Michael was ready to do new things. Then, to go to his room and tell him such a bad situation… it was a disaster.

“I told him, ‘Michael, there is bad news but on the other side you have to see it as also good news. The bad news is the police are on the ranch.’ Michael was completely shocked. I was sitting next to him; I had my arm on his shoulder.

“He looked at me and he was really… You could see the blood going out of his face. He was deeply shocked. But I told him, ‘Michael, now you have the chance finally to clear up everything. Once and forever you can clear up everything.'”

News spread quickly amongst the crew. “I saw it on TV that morning and by the time I got to the hotel lobby, everybody else had already found out,” says a crew member. “So we went to work as normal and waited to see what was going to happen.

“Of course, when we got to the soundstage it was a complete zoo with paparazzi and fans. It had leaked where we were shooting. The day before, nobody knew we were shooting or anything.

“We waited that entire day for Michael to come and I think we went back a second day. Then he called finally and said, ‘I’m just not going to be able to come’.”

Jackson spent much of those two days crying, says Dieter Wiesner. “I was sitting with him day and night. He was shocked; he was crying… he didn’t know what to do. It was such a bad situation. We were supposed to go to Europe. He was ready to move on in his life and everything was prepared. It was just a beautiful situation and this news shocked him deeply. Really, it killed him.”

Two days after the Neverland raid Jackson’s depression turned to anger. When it emerged that the boy behind the accusation was none other than Gavin Arvizo, the boy whose hand Jackson had held in the Martin Bashir documentary, Jackson decided to fight.

“You know, when it was clear that this allegation was because of the Arvizos, then he started to really fight the situation,” says Wiesner. “Michael told me, ‘Dieter, you know what, they should bring this young boy into a big place, invite all the press and he should look me in the eyes and tell me that I did this.’ So he was ready to fight.”

That the allegation had come from the Arvizos made the ruination of the MJ Universe project even more galling for Stuart Backerman. “Sneddon didn’t have anything except the word of Janet Arvizo, and she was totally crazy,” says Backerman. “And I know that because I was there and I saw her. She had a track record as long as my right arm. Sneddon just wanted to get Jackson.

“It’s very frustrating to this day. We had the world’s greatest celebrity and he was more focused than he had been for a long time. But the whole thing got cut off by Sneddon.”

Almost unbelievably, Sneddon had managed for the second time to steal Jackson’s movie dream away from him just as he was on the cusp of achieving it. Prior to the 1993 allegations, moving into the movie industry had been Jackson’s greatest preoccupation. His chances ruined by the scandal of the Jordy Chandler debacle, he’d wound up back on the road – the one place he’d least wanted to be – and grown ever more weary of the music business.

Movie success was the one type of success which had always managed to evade Jackson – the most decorated entertainer in history – and it had long been the one type of success he truly longed for. Believing that One More Chance would fulfill his contract with Sony, Jackson had felt he was finally free to pursue his vision.

“I really have to say, he was a very sharp guy. He knew exactly what he wanted,” laments Dieter Wiesner. “I think if he would have had the time and if nobody had come in-between, he could have been very successful in the second part in this career, with the movies and the animated videos. In my opinion, he would still be here today.”

With movie success set firmly in his sights, Jackson was merely jumping through the necessary hoops before he could pursue that goal with one hundred percent of his attention and energy. One More Chance, he had thought, was the final hoop. Michael Jackson had believed that the single and music video win him back his freedom. It is one of life’s cruel ironies that the next time his fans saw him, he would be in handcuffs.

News Copyright © Sawf News

http://www.sawfnews.com/Entertainment/65829.aspx


Talking with Charles Thomson about Recent Divisive Events in the MJ Community


A while back, Extreme Michael Jackson was fortunate enough to be able to talk with Michael Jackson expert Charles Thomson. For those unaware of recent divisive events in the MJ community, Mr. Thomson has received an unfortunate hazing from bloggers who

have somehow decided he is involved in various conspiracies involving Michael Jackson.  There has been a flurry of unjustified misinformation based on diddly squat.

Some of Charles’ audience has decided he is a fanatical, delusional MJ fan defending a monster; others have decided he is not fan enough. The truth is that Charles never represented himself as either- his job as a journalist is to remain objective, have his own opinion when appropriate, and to uncover the facts about whatever stories he is working on.  Since music writing is his niche, he ended up writing about Jackson. Since the facts all point to Jackson’s innocence in the awful scandals he endured, Charles wrote about that. Since Charles is a professional journalist whose job it is to uncover deeper layers of information, he was involved with making Jackson’s FBI files public. Those files clarified further how distorted the media made the facts, and point further to the complete absolution of all charges against Michael Jackson. For some reason, Charles has become the victim of malicious accusations regardless of the laudable services he has done in the name of truth.

Since I did not fully understand exactly what has been going on, or why, I decided to talk with Charles and find out. The interview is extremely long: as ever, Charles is  generous with his time and expertise.  I am going to run the interview as a series, answering one or two questions at a time.

Following today’s question, I have pasted the list of questions so you can all anticipate what is to come.

Our previous interview was at this link:

http://extrememichaeljackson.wordpress.com/2010/05/11/lorette-c-luzajic-talks-with-michael-jackson-expert-charles-thomson/

What I think about Charles Thomson is hardly relevant, but since some of you have asked where I stand on what I see as a non-issue, and where I stand on MJ- as if that is hard to figure out- here is my statement:

I am a lifelong fan of Michael Jackson. I love interesting people and am fascinated by eccentrics, and I am an artist and writer and so I am drawn to unusual and creative people. Jackson is not my only hero, not by a long shot, but my admiration is unwavering- he is one of the greatest artists of all time, an absolutely unique person, grossly misunderstood, with an inexplicable ability to heal people around him and a heart of gold. I love him with all my heart. Yet part of my fascination is with public response: some people have died for him, some recoil, some are inspired, some are terrified. I see MJ as fated to have a mythological role, and part of that mythos is the tragic part. Tragic and broken in his own life- no one this unusual is entirely stable- and also tragic in that his magic and sorrow reveals the best and worst of human nature. Michael shows us a lot more about human nature than he showed about himself.

For these reasons, I do not believe in censoring anyone’s responses, even if I vehemently disagree. I believe in free speech in all areas, including this one. That does not mean I support people’s whims to spread lies: it does mean that I support people’s right to an opinion I may find reprehensible, or merely implausible.

As for Charles Thomson, he is a man I have never met, for those who were asking if we are old friends conspiring together. I certainly hope that we meet one day. I discovered Charles through my vast readings about Michael, and was impressed to say the least. He courageously spoke against the very presses that hire him, not always the best move for a young man hoping for a long career, but a move filled with integrity.  Charles is an extremely gifted writer with a commitment to facts. As a writer, I am envious of his professional skills and his dignified handling of animosity.

Do I agree with Charles on each and every detail? I trust Charles’ facts simply because I see how committed he is to honest reporting, even at great personal expense. But as for matters of opinion, not always. I’ve never met anyone yet with whom I always agree on every opinion. From what little I know, we have very different personality temperaments and different tastes in entertainment. Nonetheless, I am quite certain we would get on famously if we are ever given the chance to meet in a more personal setting. I expect we would not run out of things to talk about over a couple of pints or a fine cappuccino. I am grateful for the virtual world which has led me to this very gifted and inspiring writer.

Moving along now, let’s begin.

Charles, you’re a young writer who blasted rather quickly from school into the public eye after garnering some prestigious attention for your work on James Brown. Then you found yourself in the role of Michael Jackson expert. Was this unexpected? How did this affect the direction and state of your career?

First and foremost, I didn’t leave school and walk right into the public eye. After leaving school at age 16, I went to college for two years where I studied journalism among other subjects. From college I went to university, where I spent another three years in journalism training, graduating with honours in 2009. (NB from Lorette: Please be advised that by “school” I was referring not to high school but to college/university. It seems that Brits do not refer to higher ed as school.)

It is worth pointing out that none of this training is prerequisite for a career in British journalism. The industry qualification is issued by the National Council for Training Journalists (NCTJ) and if you enrol in a fast track course, you can qualify as a journalist in six months, whereas by studying the topic at college and university I trained for four years.

I first started contributing to newspapers at age 16 or 17, during my college years. It was a requirement of the journalism course I was enrolled in – we would interview local figures or cover local events and then write stories for the local press. During my early years at university I contributed to more local newspapers on a regular basis and by age 19 I was doing freelance work for an American music journal. By age 21 I was contributing to national newspapers and magazines.

My work as a Michael Jackson ‘expert’ was unexpected, to say the least. As I told you in a previous interview, I got a tip-off in March 2009 from an insider who gave me information on when and where Michael Jackson would fly into the UK to announce his comeback shows at the O2. The source asked me to leak the details as they felt it would create some positive PR around the concert announcements. I passed the information on to The Sun, which seemed the sensible thing to do – if you want publicity, you might as well go to the country’s biggest newspaper. The Sun realised that I was quite plugged in when it came to Michael Jackson, so they decided to keep using me.

My work with the Sun has drawn much criticism from Michael Jackson’s fans but I’m not quite sure why. At the first sign of impropriety I wrote a long and damning article, condemning them for their skewed reporting on Evan Chandler’s suicide. Before that, they’d never been anything but ethical in their dealings with me. It’s not like I’m some tabloid shill or paid Sun apologist. When I wrote that article about the Sun scrapping my research on Evan Chandler and replacing it with inaccurate information, I jeopardised any future work with the newspaper and have barely done anything for them since.

Regarding how my work on Michael Jackson has affected the state of my career, it hasn’t made me rich. It has boosted my profile, but only because the fans discovered my blogs and started posting them all over the internet. Before the fans discovered me, I was blogging about Michael Jackson in almost total obscurity. I got paid for my work with the Sun, but the hoopla surrounding Michael Jackson’s concerts and then his death only lasted from around March until October, and they didn’t consult me for every Jackson story they wrote – not by a long shot. It wasn’t a long term gig and my services were required only occasionally.

The majority of my work on Michael Jackson, particularly concerning the allegations and the trial, has been totally pro bono. I don’t get paid for my Huffington Post articles and obviously I write my own blog for free. But I don’t mind doing a certain amount of pro bono work. I consider journalism to be a vocation. I think it is a necessary job, especially in an era when many journalists are tethered by corporate ownership. So if I think a story is important, I will write it for free if need be. That goes for writing 5000 word essays about the media’s horrendous coverage of Michael Jackson’s trial, or covering important issues for my local newspapers. I’m currently covering a story in my town about local government trying to bulldoze children’s playing fields and build houses on them.

My work on Michael Jackson has made me a bit of an internet celebrity, which has brought just as many problems as it has benefits. But it hasn’t made me rich or won me a lucrative job in the media industry. I’m the same person living in the same house and doing the same stuff on a day to day basis – my name just generates more hits on Google.

Next time:

As a journalist, you were instrumental in getting Michael Jackson’s FBI records released to the public. Tell me about that process. What did those records reveal?

stay tuned for these questions during this serial:

Charles, you’re a young writer who blasted rather quickly from school into the public eye after garnering some prestigious attention for your work on James Brown. Then you found yourself in the role of Michael Jackson expert. Was this unexpected? How did this affect the direction and state of your career?

As a journalist, you were instrumental in getting Michael Jackson’s FBI records released to the public. Tell me about that process. What did those records reveal?

In an earlier interview with me, you stated that you believe in Michael Jackson’s innocence, not because you like his music, but because that’s what the evidence shows. The importance of this distinction might seem rather obvious, yet it is a distinction overlooked by Jackson’s fans and foes alike. Can you comment on that?

You wrote an excellent piece for the Huffington Post about how the tabloid lynching of Jackson is one of the media’s most shameful episodes in history. And you’ve consistently conveyed fact based journalism and analysis that champions Michael Jackson as innocent, doing much to vindicate that innocence to detractors. This has exposed many prejudiced hatemongers or the woefully misinformed for what they are. Yet recently, you have been attacked on some rather absurd premises. Can you tell me about that?

Regarding the photograph with Randy T- is Randy also a villain in this saga?

You were also accused of being someone you weren’t. Tell me about that.

Your previous interview on my blog received mostly wonderful support. But not entirely. I was asked why I’d run an interview with you on my blog, since you allegedly had not been a supporter before Jackson’s death. I mentioned that you are barely out of school and probably were not yet working during the trials. Am I wrong? Was there a time when you were giving Jackson negative press, and changed your mind?

There seems to be a phenomenon happening where some fans or bloggers or writers feel they have a monopoly on Michael’s legacy. While for the most part, I feel an extraordinary kinship and love as part of Michael’s fandom, there are some unfortunate divisions. Why can’t we all just get along?

You’ve been criticized for expressing that there were some artistic choices Jackson made that didn’t appeal to you. Can you comment?

For me, pretending a hero is beyond reproach, or pretending that every song or performance must appeal to every audience, means a danger of losing our critical faculty. Michael Jackson himself was far more critical of his work than even his toughest detractors. Can you comment on that?

I also feel it is dangerous to sweep things under the rug in order to sanitize someone’s reputation. We can’t get over stigmas and taboos about, for example, drug addiction, until we are able to honestly discuss such struggles. I’ve been criticized for referring to Jackson’s substance struggles, which is ironic given my own historical struggles and losses. Doesn’t it diminish Michael’s very humanity if we just leave important parts of the puzzle blank? In a sense, denying Jackson’s various struggles means denying his pain, the pain our society caused him.

You’ve also received support throughout this time. Tell me about that.

How did you handle the whole episode? How did it make you feel? What lessons have you learned?

What does this episode say about the dangers of fanaticism?

How will you proceed from this day forward?

We are talking with Michael Jackson expert Charles Thomson about some recent, peculiar events in the fan community. To recap, Thomson is a music journalist who frequently writes about black music. His award winning work on musicians like James Brown and Michael Jackson is widely read. He has written extensively in defense of Michael Jackson’s innocence, but has recently come under fire for his alleged secret agenda. In this lengthy serial interview, I tried to find out how things got so out of hand. One moment, Charles was a devoted, brilliant writer…the next, he was being accused, exposed, and jabbed for some absurd motivations. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on, so I decided to ask.

Read the first part of the interview (yesterday) here: http://extrememichaeljackson.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/talking-with-charles-thomson-about-recent-divisive-events-in-the-mj-community/

As a journalist, you were instrumental in getting Michael Jackson’s FBI records released to the public. Tell me about that process. What did those records reveal?

The files were released under a piece of legislation called the ‘Freedom of Information Act’. The act is designed to maintain openness and transparency in government by allowing members of the public to request information which is, for one reason or another, not public. The FBI, as a government body, is required by law to respond to FOIA requests.

While a person is alive, their FBI file is unavailable because to release it would breach privacy laws. You can get around this rule but only by getting the subject of the file to sign a privacy waiver agreement. However, once a person is deceased you can request their file and the FBI is required by law to release it unless it breaches national security. The files are often redacted, however, because they include reference to particular FBI agents or information on people who are still alive.

I was one of several people who requested Michael Jackson’s FBI file under the Freedom of Information Act, which I did because I was curious to see if it contained any additional information on the government’s repeated interferences in his life. I wasn’t sure he’d even have an FBI file so I was shocked to learn that he did and that it was 600 pages long.

Overall, I was distinctly unimpressed by the FBI’s handling of the request. Initially this was because the FBI took so long handling my request. In the UK, bodies are required by law to answer FOIA requests within 20 working days. However, I filed my request with the FBI in summer 2009 and it wasn’t released until December.

I was also unimpressed by the way in which the FBI released the documents, which I’ve never seen them do in any other case. They announced to the world’s press that the documents would be uploaded on a certain date at a certain time, which sparked a worldwide rush to download the documents and be the first to write a story about them. Meanwhile, as one of the original requesters of the file, I was not given any advance notice or priority.

The result was that the media, all racing to be the first with the story, skim-read the files and published wildly inaccurate stories about them on a global basis. I saw newspapers which claimed that the FBI had supposedly seized a videotape from Jackson and found child porn on it. The files actually said that the tape, seized from an unknown person at Palm Beach customs, was simply ‘connected to Jackson’ – and that connection appeared merely to be that somebody had written his name on the cassette’s sticky label. As for child porn, there was no record of any being found.

Other newspapers said that the FBI had investigated allegations that Jackson molested two Mexican boys in the 1980s. This was patently untrue. The FBI merely noted a phone call in which somebody claimed that they’d heard a story that the FBI had investigated such a claim. The documents further note that the FBI “searched indices, both manual and automated for any reference to the above mentioned investigation. No references were found.” In other words, somebody telephoned the FBI and made a bogus allegation. The FBI noted that allegation and found no merit to it, but the media misrepresented the allegation as the FBI’s own conclusion.

The inaccuracies in the media’s reporting on Jackson’s FBI files were countless and they went all over the world. The files supported Jackson’s innocence, showing that after ten years of investigation by both the LAPD and the FBI, neither organisation had ever been able to find one piece of evidence connecting Jackson to any crime. The release of the files should have been positive PR for Michael Jackson but the media’s ridiculously poor reporting had the opposite effect.

This is why I was so irritated by the way in which the FBI handled the release of the documents. If I had been given some kind of advance copy because I was one of those who actually requested the file, I could have read them properly and filed an accurate report, which would have been copied and pasted by lazy media outlets the world over. By releasing the documents to a global mob of salivating reporters the FBI ensured that the files were not read properly before news outlets started filing reports on them. So instead of repeating accurate claims about the FBI files, media outlets – on a global basis – were recycling distortion and misinformation.

My other gripe with the FBI was that they omitted around half of Jackson’s file and never offered any explanation as to why. My understanding is that government bodies are required by law to give an explanation as to why any information has been held back when answering an FOIA request. I never saw any record of the FBI giving any such explanation.
In an earlier interview with me, you stated that you believe in Michael Jackson’s innocence, not because you like his music, but because that’s what the evidence shows. The importance of this distinction might seem rather obvious, yet it is a distinction overlooked by Jackson’s fans and foes alike. Can you comment on that?

Michael Jackson is a divisive subject. He has some very overzealous fans and some very overzealous detractors, both of whom have attacked me for pretty much the same reason. The detractors have attacked me because they think it is impossible to believe in Michael Jackson’s innocence unless you’re an insane fan. They’ve palmed me off as a ‘floon’, a word they use to describe Jackson’s ardent supporters. But I don’t even like all of Jackson’s albums or tours and I’m certainly no apologist for his mistakes.

Unfortunately, the fact that I don’t like all of Michael Jackson’s albums or tours and don’t airbrush over his mistakes has drawn the ire of some of his fans, too. They don’t seem to be able to distinguish between a fan and a journalist and, displaying logic that is strangely similar to Jackson’s detractors, they seem to think it’s impossible to believe in Michael Jackson’s innocence unless you’re a devout fan.

I’ve said in the past – notably in my previous interview with you – that I don’t like a lot of Jackson’s later musical output or performances. Consequently, these fans have lambasted me as a ‘hypocrite’ and a traitor. Quite what my opinion on Jackson’s HIStory Tour or Invincible album has to do with my views on his trial, I’m not sure, but for some fans there is definitely a perceived connection. I can’t understand the logic that by believing Jackson is innocent and at the same time not liking some of his albums I am a hypocrite. The two, as far as I am concerned, are irrelevant to one another. It’s like calling somebody a hypocrite because they love apples and hate pears.

Next time: You wrote an excellent piece for the Huffington Post about how the tabloid lynching of Jackson is one of the media’s most shameful episodes in history. And you’ve consistently conveyed fact based journalism and analysis that champions Michael Jackson as innocent, doing much to prove that innocence to his detractors. This has exposed many prejudiced hate-mongers and the woefully misinformed for what they are. Yet recently, you have been attacked on some rather absurd premises. Can you tell me about that?

I discovered a few months ago that somebody had been impersonating me on TMZ. Worried that they’d start impersonating me elsewhere, and knowing that twitter is famous for such cases, I decided to set up a twitter account. Within a few days I had roughly 200 followers and was enjoying interacting with the fans and answering their questions.

During one discussion the subject of Michael Jackson’s drug dependencies came up. I suddenly found myself bombarded with angry and abusive tweets insisting that Jackson had never been addicted to any substance and the whole story was an evil media conspiracy. I pointed out that several of Jackson’s relatives have said in interviews since his death that they knew he was addicted to drugs and had tried to stage interventions. The fans simply claimed that these relatives were part of the conspiracy.

That incident caused some of Jackson’s fan to turn against me. My comments have been blown up since then; the product of several months’ worth of Chinese whispers. I recently saw somebody claiming they’d seen me write on twitter that I was planning a negative article about Jackson’s drug addictions – a total fabrication. The incident has been exaggerated to a ridiculous extent.

At roughly the same time, I travelled to Los Angeles for a week and while I was there I met the author J Randy Taraborrelli, who quoted my work in the latest edition of his Michael Jackson biography. We went out for dinner and while we were there we got some pictures taken. Both Randy and I posted the pictures on our facebook pages.

A while later I found out that somebody had written a blog accusing Randy and I of being involved in a Sony conspiracy to murder Michael Jackson. I emailed the blogger asking them to remove the entry because it was false. The blogger simply replied, ‘But I have a photo of you and Taraborrelli. What am I supposed to do with that?’, as though the photo was some sort of big secret. The blogger was taking an open and acknowledged friendship between myself and Randy and claiming that it was somehow secretive or suspicious.

The twitter incident combined with the animosity some fans felt towards Randy – and therefore towards me by association – created a backlash against me and my work, spurred on in no small part by the constant assertions by conspiracy theorist bloggers that I was somehow involved in a thus far unfathomable (at least to me) plot by Sony to murder Michael Jackson by writing blogs about him after his death.

I have never worked for Sony. Ever. The allegation is absurd and it is entirely without any evidential basis. Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped a number of vulnerable fans from being taken in by the claims.

The fall-out from these Sony allegations has been extremely distressing for me. I received numerous obscene and threatening messages via email and facebook. The blogger’s followers started spying on my social networking accounts and publishing details of who I was talking to and what I’d been writing.

This intrusion into my private life, as well as the hate mail, prompted me to privatise all of my social networking accounts. The blogger even tried to usethat against me, claiming that the privatisation of my accounts proved Sony had ordered me to stop interacting with the fans!

I soon came under attack from a second blogger who actually attempted to blackmail me. The blogger found my page on a website I’d joined at college that offered support for gay teens, then emailed me threatening to ‘expose’ me unless I gave them information on Sony’s involvement in Michael Jackson’s death. This was information I didn’t have, which resulted in the blogger outing me as gay.

That second blogger also unearthed an old account I had on a Michael Jackson related forum, where I made – I would estimate – in excess of 10,000 posts over approximately 5 years. The blogger selectively posted a handful of comments I’d made on the forum (many quite similar to comments I’d made in our last interview; points about not liking Jackson’s latter musical output and complaining that he didn’t help himself in terms of bad press by constantly painting a target on his back). This sparked fury among some of the more obsessive fans.

This all links into what I was saying earlier about how some fans can’t conceive of somebody believing in Jackson’s innocence but also disagreeing with some of his decisions. The stance these fans take is that you either totally support every single thing Michael Jackson has ever done or you’re a traitor and a hypocrite.

In your question you used the word ‘absurd’, and I think that’s a very accurate word to describe what has happened to me over the last few months. The allegations being levelled at me are beyond absurd. There is no evidence in existence that will tie me to Sony and I can state that with 100% certainty because I have never worked for them. Ever. I’ve never worked for Sony, I’ve never met John Branca, I’ve never been a ‘paid blogger’ for anybody and I certainly wasn’t involved in Michael Jackson’s death. Anybody claiming to have evidence supporting any of these allegations is a liar and/or a fantasist.

Sometimes, as I read the blogs making these allegations, I do still get angry at how these people can write total nonsense about me and there is nothing I can really do about it. However, I don’t get too worked up because as I browse their other content – nasty comments about Jackson’s grieving relatives, allegations that ‘This Is It’ is all body doubles and even claims that Jackson may have faked his own death – I understand that nobody of sound mind would take any notice of them.

What does make me angry is when I see vulnerable fans looking to these blogs for answers and taking them seriously. Whenever I look underneath one of those blogs and see somebody commenting, ‘Thanks – I didn’t know Charles was a hired Sony blogger. I won’t support him anymore’, that makes my blood boil. These bloggers are taking advantage of vulnerable people – and those vulnerable people are bigger victims in this situation than I am.

Read more:

http://extrememichaeljackson.wordpress.com/2010/10/02/interview-with-charles-thomson-part-3/