Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Review: New Michael Jackson Book Misses Great Stuff, Cobbles Together Old News


Part 1: If Randall Sullivan’s 700 page book about Michael Jackson, called “Untouchable,” had footnotes on its pages it would look like a mathematics printout. So Sullivan instead simply wrote his book, then tacked on a couple hundred pages of ‘chapter notes’ and explanations for how he mixed together thousands of pieces of previously published pieces about Jackson to make them look original. And got most of it wrong.

As it is, this part of “Untouchable” is more interesting than the book. It’s where I found  my own name cited at least 87 times in the book--and not always favorably. (He does say some nice things about me, for which I am certainly grateful.) I don’t know Randall Sullivan, I’ve never spoken to him or met him. He’s never tried to contact me. I’m sure I’m not the only person from whom he’s constructed his story. David Jones of the UK’s Daily Mail will find a lot of his work in there.

And 87 times isn’t enough. He’s made it seem like he reported a lot, but it’s just noted at the back, separately. Not credited to me: Michael Jackson’s prosecutors throwing a victory party before the verdict came in. Here’s the original story, which the Drudge Report picked up from me on June 11, 2005 as its top story with a flashing ambulance siren: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,159140,00.html

Indeed so much of “Untouchable” comes out of my old stories, reading the book was like re-encountering long lost friends. Sullivan is very odd about the 2005 molestation trial because he wasn’t there. And strangely, he does quote Fox News’s Wendy Murphy, who was a commentator but didn’t report on the trial. I was in Santa Maria, California for months but never met her. But Fox had Trace Gallagher and lots of good people on the ground whom I saw often.

Because he wasn’t at the trial, Sullivan’s missed two of the funniest moments. At one point Janet Arvizo, the crazy mother who accused Michael Jackson of molesting her son, told defense lawyer Tom Mesereau on the stand that she thought Michael was going to kidnap her kids and take them away “in a hot air balloon.” It was one of Mesereau’s more stunning moments. And it’s too bad Sullivan didn’t get it since he lavishes praise on Mesereau for speaking with him. Mesereau’s dazzling performance in that courtroom still has not been adequately portrayed.

This is from my trial notes, and the printed transcript:

Mesereau to Janet Arvizo: Now, you told the sheriffs at one point you thought your family might disappear in a hot air balloon from Neverland, correct?

Witness:  I made them aware that they had a variety of ways of getting my children out and that was one of  them.

Also, Sullivan, I guess, never actually saw the outtakes that Jackson’s own videographer had of the Martin Bashir interview. Michael, drunk on wine from a Coke can, tells Bashir he wanted to throw a celebrity going away party for Bubbles the Chimp. Lassie wouldn’t be able to attend, Michael said, because he was probably dead. The press saw that video four times in the courtroom, and we even threw our own “Celebrity Animal Party” one night. It was the high point of a long, pointless four months.

More in Part 2, coming up…


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedmanhttps://www.showbiz411.com
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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