Michael Jackson was not a pedophile. So says Frank Cascio, who grew up with Jackson as a kid along with his siblings. Cascio, now in his early 30s, details his life with Jackson in “My Friend Michael,” officially published tomorrow. It’s the first real, true account of Jackson, including recent books by his brother and sister, Jermaine and LaToya.
Cascio, who knew Jackson from age 5, knew Jordy Chandler and Macaulay Culkin and all the kids who passed through Neverland, writes: “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 criminal.”
Cascio details all the times he and his brothers and sister slept in Jackson’s bedroom, and shares stories of other kids who got the Neverland treatment. Cascio has always maintained this stance, since I met him in 2000. His accounts jibe with those of Culkin and other young men who visited Neverland. Cascio recounts Jackson’s reluctance settle the Chandler case out of court. And he details the story of the greedy, scheming Arvizos.
This past weekend, some press accounts concentrated on Cascio’s admission that Jackson was hooked on a variety of drugs. Fair enough. But as a historical chronicle, “My Friend Michael” is about so much more. Because Cascio and his whole family had a unique place in Jackson’s life. He lived in their homes as an adult, and the Cascios were regular visitors at Neverland, and in Bahrain when Jackson went into self imposed exile. It was Frank Cascio’s minute record keeping in 2003 during the Gavin Arvizo scandal that exonerated Jackson from child molestation and conspiracy charges.
What makes Cascio’s book so compelling for Jackson fans aren’t the drug revelations. Cascio tells the story in minute detail of Jackson’s financial situation and the machinations of various people around him during a key period–from 1994 and the Jordy Chandler scandal through 2000, the “Invincible” album, and the arrest in 2003.
Cascio has no love lost for John McClain, Jackson’s sometime manager and now, by fluke of a 2002 will, the co-executor of his estate. According to Cascio’s account, which I reported at the time, McClain was a constant thorn in his side, undermining their friendship. Years later, in 2010, it would be McClain who would make a mess of the posthumous “Michael” album by encouraging fans to doubt the veracity of tracks produced by Cascio’s brother, Eddie.
“My Friend Michael” is a must read for any Michael Jackson fan. I’ll have some more bits from it as the day goes on.