Michael Jackson Tryptych

 Michael Jackson's Dangerous Liaisons
by Carl Toms (Tom O'Carroll)  
review by Eric Tazelaar

Just how dangerous were Michael Jackson's liaisons with a succession of young and adoring male fans?

Tom O'Carroll, author of Michael Jackson's Dangerous Liaisons, makes a compelling case that, for Michael Jackson, they were very dangerous indeed, and not just for their potential for misinterpretation.

In this fascinating biography, O'Carroll does not attempt to fill in the myriad details of, say, Jackson's creative process or of his massively influential role within the music industry nor does he exhaustively plumb the depths of his strained and complex relationships with his own family. Instead, he focuses on what is perhaps the central defining feature of a (necessarily) enigmatic yet publicity-seeking cultural icon. A cultural icon who, while possessing a constrained and narrow, yet scintillating, brilliance, was inevitably doomed to suffer for his enthusiastic embrace and celebration of that passion.

In his music as well as in his extraordinarily visible public life, Michael Jackson appeared to be offering us—which is to say, the entire world—the truth of his love while otherwise (and plausibly, if one goes by his many seemingly obtuse fans) denying the greatest passion in a most passionate life—one in which a succession of young—and impossibly pretty—boys were tenderly and enthusiastically cast in the starring roles for his heart.

O'Carroll argues, in his intriguing examination of Jackson's deeply mysterious and, for most, alien love life, that the 'King of Pop' was doing just that. His terrifyingly forbidden relationships were laid visibly before us—plainly for the world to see—hidden just underneath the thinnest of veneers; waiting for something to go horribly, tragically wrong.

Michael's love of boys was, this reader is persuaded, not only fundamental to his psyche (although, whose love preferences are not?), but comprised his very raison d'être and, as such, is essential to a complete understanding of this extraordinary and utterly unique man. 

O'Carroll assertsmost persuasively—that Michael's defining passion was, almost certainly, expressed on a deeply physical and sexual level with many of the boys who lay near at hand in his famously shared bed and who were his closest companions during his all-too-brief adult life. His conclusion, naturally, is not shared by many of Jackson's fans who violently reject it, I would argue, for the simple reason of their own dissonances. Their fanatical adoration of Michael Jackson could never be reconciled with their equally fanatical revulsion for pedophilia.

I think it obvious that, had he never had boys in his life, Michael's existence would have been incomparably bleaker and bereft of joy, a likely reality that would go very far in understanding his precipitous decline towards oblivion following his acquittal on charges of sexually abusing thirteen year old Gavin Arvizo in 2005.

His acquittal was, indeed, a victory essential to his emotional, and quite possibly even physical, survival but, even so, it left him immeasurably poorer—in every sense—and he would become, as with so many in today's America, a greatly debased figure of indeterminate sexuality who would arouse great public alarm. He would be, forever after, a social contaminant to all but the most zealous of his disciples and, of course, to we other lovers of boys.

In addition to the loss of so much else which had enriched him—not the least of which would be a precipitous drop in his fan base—he was suddenly deprived of the society of adoring youngsters who had once formed a continuous presence in his life. Even to those of us who have never experienced anything on the scale of Michael Jackson's charmed existence, one can easily imagine the shock to the system such a loss would have imposed.

I think it extremely unlikely Michael would have enjoyed his extraordinary creative and commercial success without the constant companionship of the many boys in his life which, in their absence, I suspect might well have ended rather sooner than it did.

The Author's Criticisms of Michael Jackson
While O'Carroll's belief that Michael's love of boys was often fully sexually expressed, neither he nor I find that, in itself, to be objectionable; indeed it is to be vigorously defended, a view which sets us apart from the overwhelming majority of adults in our society who find our views beyond the pale.

Even so, he is hardly uncritical of other aspects of Jackson's behavior, in particular with what appears to be his frequent indifference to the welfare of some who helped him in his career and his life. His treatment of many of the adults who kept the business of "Michael Jackson" reliably profitable could be quite shabby, indeed with many finding it necessary to take him to court to demand payment for unpaid fees or damages resulting from broken contracts. Still others found themselves frozen out, often for the pettiest of disagreements or perceived dis-loyalties, even after years of faithful service.

His emotional manipulations and his ability to shed real tears in order to secure whatever the object of his desires depict a boy/man who was still, in many respects, an often emotionally immature and self-centered child himself. His overweening emotionalism was, itself, legendary and, if I do say so myself, the mawkish sentimentalism in which he often chose to immerse and express himself was not one of his more endearing qualities.

In this respect, Dangerous Liaisons is hardly a hagiography of its subject by some addled, starstruck fan. Indeed, the author demonstrates a rigorously dispassionate even-handedness which allows the factual chips to lay where they will. 

But his biggest criticisms are reserved for Michael's often not-very-smooth moves with the families of his boy friends.

O'Carroll takes particular issue with what appears to be, at times, a callous manipulation of the families of some of the boys closest to his heart, especially in his clumsy and appallingly handled relations with Evan and June Chandler, the divorced parents of Jordie Chandler. 

I was particularly astounded by the revelation that Jordie's parents were said to have been, initially, untroubled by the likelihood that he was having sex with Michael. In fact, they assumed that he was doing just that. Instead, his father was much more upset by what he perceived to be (and probably correctly) Jordie pushing him out of his life while spending more and more of his time with Michael, who made no attempts to keep relations between father and son on an even keel. Only later, when detectives and lawyers became involved, did he come to see the sex itself as being an especially aggravating factor (and opportunity). Amazing! 

Nevertheless, Evan's subsequent behavior was dangerously abusive to his son and the means he employed to extract a sexual confession from Jordie are, quite literally, like a scene from The Marathon Man. Evan Chandler was, after all, known as "the dentist to the stars" in Beverly Hills.

Michael would pay very dearly for his grave missteps and his errors of judgement in that family relational dynamic which would lead, inexorably, to the first devastating blow to strike at the very heart of his love, his freedom and his soul.

Some Remaining Questions
Obviously, those unanswered remaining questions I most want to ask cannot be answered by O'Carroll or, for that matter, anyone else besides those at the center of Michael Jackson's controversial and deeply elusive life. 

Evan Chandler, for one, is now dead - by his own hand (and gun). If Michael's own death just months before played any role in his suicide or if he had any regrets with the decisions he had made more than fifteen years earlier, we will probably never know. But one finds it difficult to imagine that he could not help but regret his role in precipitating a drama which played out before the eyes of—literally—billions of people and which clearly destroyed his relationship with his son and his relationship with his ex-wife with whom he had previously enjoyed a solid friendship following an amicable divorce. 

Jordie would, himself, essentially divorce his own parents soon after the disastrous show-trial in which his former lover was nearly destroyed by filing for legal emancipation from their care. He would remain estranged from them for many years, not seeing his own mother for more than a decade. He would eventually file a restraining order against his father who, by then clearly on the ropes, had attacked and nearly killed him with a heavy barbell and a mace.

My questions for Evan Chandler, would have to be—obviously—"why?" followed by "do you regret it?". Replies to those questions do not appear forthcoming.

And of his son, Jordie Chandler, the first boy (as far as is known) to complain of "sexual abuse", in 1993 was, it is now clear, a most willing "victim" and a most unwilling "complainant" but one who ultimately succumbed to the enormous pressures placed on him by his father and by the authorities. Of Jordie, I would most want to know how he experienced all of that pain and shame and unwanted attention which he undoubtedly did experience following the implosion that destroyed his and Michael's relationship.

I would want to know if he had suffered feelings of guilt while I would quickly assure him that he was absolutely blameless for the devastation initiated by his father and perversely expanded upon by the great evil which is our government. 

How does a mature Jordan Chandler now look upon, some twenty years later, that worst of all possible 'bad scenes' in which his father clearly set out, quite consciously—and having fully acknowledged, at the time—his intention not only to destroy Michael's life but to bring suffering and punishment upon his own son, that is, Jordie himself, as well as upon his ex-wife? 

How does he interpret, with the benefit of twenty years of "processing" or "closure", as the therapy cultists like to say, his relationship with what was clearly an extraordinarily valuable person in his life and his coerced participation in the destruction of that relationship and of the man he clearly loved? And most of all, I would want to know if he misses Michael.

That these events led to the destruction of, not only his relationship with Michael, but to the destruction of his relationship with both of his parents, is a shocking indictment of the grotesque distortion that is our system of justice and of those who betray the essential rights of children and adolescents.

I would love to meet Macaulay Culkin, perhaps alone in a nearly empty bar and, having gained his confidence, ask him some of the questions I am most dying to ask.

The successful former child actor, who had a very long term, and particularly close, relationship with Michael and who has been, in adulthood, perhaps his most unfailingly loyal and stalwart defender, must surely be holding much back, no doubt out of necessity. 

I have often wondered if Culkin feels himself unable to speak essential truths about his late friend because they would only be used to further vilify his memory, believing that any complete or honest appraisal could not possibly be understood within our presently constituted society. 

All supposition on my part, of course and, in the absence of such an unlikely appraisal from Mr. Culkin, it will remain purely speculative. But, one senses, in Macaulay's case, what I take to be a profoundly melancholy air of resignation; a deep frustration in his inability to openly discuss—in positive terms—his friend's love of boys and its essential goodness. He would also know that, for a former 'loved-boy' as much as for any boylover, such a bold and wildly unpopular assertion would certainly bring the wrath of society crashing down upon his own head, as well. Quite naturally, he may well be justifiably concerned that any breathtakingly candid admissions might also subject him to criminal perjury charges given his testimony for the defense in the Gavin Arvizo sexual abuse trial.

However, even if I were never to learn anything more from him, he is deserving of the highest of praise for his defense of his old friend and for his comportment in what he obviously feels to be his duty to Michael Jackson as a loyal protégé of a beloved mentor. For me, Macaulay Culkin appears as one of the few genuine heroes in this very sad enactment of injustice.

But what to make of Gavin Arvizo, another boy to allege "molestation" against Jackson, and what to make of his mother and his brother? 

Michael was said to have come to "hate" the boy (and presumably also his mother and brother) in which case, we might find it entirely understandable, given the insights O'Carroll provides into a familial pattern of what appears to be sociopathic grifting and parasitismlearned at his mother's kneeand which ultimately led to the court trial which gripped the world. 

Despite ending in his acquittal, the prolonged nightmare of this experience seemed to remove the last remaining chink in Jackson's armor and set the stage for his profoundly tragic, final act.

Yet still, I can't help but wonder, who is Gavin Arvizo today? What does he make of these events now nearly ten years ago? Can we assume that he is as callous and jaded and conniving today as he appeared to be when he was a kid? As for his mother or his brother, I have nothing to say.

Late in the day (just recently, and long after O'Carroll's book was published) it emerged that Wade Robson, once a Michael Jackson defender who testified on his behalf in the Arvizo trial, has since changed his mind about his old friend and greatly revised his story, trading it in for the now familiar refrain of abuse.

Having grown up, married and fathered a child of his own, he now claims that he lied on the stand and had, indeed, been "molested". Further, he claims to be tormented by the memories of his "abuse" at the hands of Jackson. He is, of course, seeking vast sums as "damages" from Michael Jackson's estate. 

While it is only my guess, but one based upon years of experience and pained observation, I would conjecture that Wade Robson never felt himself to have been abused until very recently. Indeed, he was not abused by Michael but rather he is abused now by his memories of Michael, themselves, as viewed and reinterpreted through the distorting prism of a wicked and brutalizing culture that has proven remarkably efficient in exacting its toll in human suffering. 

My questions for Wade would be, perhaps, rather more than space would allow. But I certainly don't hate him and I find his present state of mind all too familiar and entirely explicable. I do feel pity for him, but not for what Michael Jackson did to him but for what our society does to all of us.

My Own Memories and Impressions of Michael Jackson
I have long believed that Michael Jackson had a passion for young boys - a passion which I enthusiastically share. 

I had followed his career since the very beginning with the sudden explosion of The Jackson Five onto the world stage. I quickly developed a major crush on that outrageously talented boy who was only slightly younger than myself. 

I remember his first appearance on American Bandstand (with Dick Clark) and Michael'sor ratherThe Jackson Five's performance of ABC. 

I still remember Dick Clark gamely offering little Michael the opportunity to climb into the seat of the camera crane in the Bandstand studios and to take it up as high as it would go. Quickly, he towered over the audience and everyone else in the studio in what can only be seen, in retrospect, as a highly symbolic portent of the future.

I would play the 45 rpm recording of ABC and, even more rapturously, I'll Be There over and over again, all the while imagining Michael as the hottest boyfriend a boy could ever have.

As our mutual ages advanced into our early twenties, however, I found myself far less attracted to himalthough he was then still quite attractiveso much as to the unfailingly pretty boys whose company he conspicuously kept. It would appear that we had a shared interest, as it were.

My first solid suspicions of what appeared to be the King of Pop's barely concealed passions came years before those first accusations of "child molestation" from a thirteen year old Jordan Chandler or, more accurately, from his father. Those early soupçons came in a magazine interview with Jackson I had  chanced upon, perhaps between the release of his album, Off the Wall and the later release of Thriller. Its author made note of a "handsome young boy" lying in Michael's bed watching tv, an encounter which took place when he met with Michael at his home during a time in which he was still living with his parents, Katherine and Joe. 

Nothing further was written of this peculiarity but it was clear that the interviewer didn't know quite what to make of it, but neither did he dare speculate further upon its significance. It was leftstarkly and simplyas a stand-alone observation, but one which could just as easily have described instead a small white elephant in Michael's bedroom as much as a young Caucasian boy lying partially clothed on his bed.

I thought I had found additional support for my theory in the ambiguous (but easily missed) lyrics of Billie Jean and several other of his songs; yet those appear to be rather thin, even if tantalizing, clues. 

Those, however could not compare to the far more substantial evidence involving actual boys. His frequent companions of tender years, the constant parade of breathtaking "pretty young things" (and also the title of anotherespecially brilliantThriller album track) in whose company he was often photographed no doubt generated much consternation to those unaccustomed to seeing boys on the arms of adult, male pop stars. But, to me, they were further confirmation of what I strongly suspected to be true.

I believe the boy-loving Michael Jackson is best viewed in his own youthhis young adulthoodbefore the many increasingly severe and ill-advised surgical alterations to his face began slowly to describe a gradually transmogrifying, other-worldly caricature. The Thriller years Michael Jackson—perhaps with just the one nose job—was a remarkably handsome and sexually compelling young man who painted a decidedly more appealing picture of a man who loved boys as he almost certainly always did.

Allegations of pedophilia, however, would not begin to play out until more than a decade later, well after his once strikingly beautiful face had been gradually transformed into something altogether more alarming - even disturbing.

It would be this 'freak-show' Michael Jackson who would eventually stand in the 'dock', accused, in particular, of the "heinous" crime of sucking boy's penises and which appeared, not unexpectedly to the many boylovers who share this particular ardor, to be the loving, sexual gift he most liked giving to boys. A supreme irony it is that this profoundly vicarious and, I would argue, nurturing pleasure is so at odds with what so many believe to be the particular depravity of the boylover.

About Michael Jackson's Dangerous Liaisons and its author, Tom O'Carroll
I should mention that the nominal author of the book is "Carl Toms". But, as virtually everyone familiar with the initial controversy generated by the book's release will know, "Carl Toms" is really "Tom O'Carroll" his having adopted a pen name for this book. Jackson fans were quick to dig up this tidbit and make the connection, however, and Tom's longtime advocacy position on behalf of pedophilia was used to—wrongly—discredit him. The result was much shrieking from the usual array of rabid anti-pedophiles who have taken, as their particular obsessive mission in life, the suppression of all forms of child-love dissent, and for reasons upon which we can only speculate.

O'Carroll's history itself is fascinating, although largely unknown outside of the United Kingdom, except in 'child-love' circles where he is well-known and highly-regarded, especially for his ground-breaking Paedophilia: The Radical Case which exploded onto the scene just in time for the newly-emerging child- and boy-love liberationist movements in Europe and the United States. 

First published in 1980, Paedophilia provided a valuable accompaniment to the many recently formed and explicitly paedophile and boylove organizations, which included PIE in the U.K. and NAMBLA, in the United States.

As such, he is no stranger to controversy nor reticent to put himself squarely within the target of the aforementioned hysterical masses which, sadly, includes those who also work for Her Majesty's law enforcement agencies and courts. 

The cognitive dissonance of Michael's most ardent fans would become dramatically clear in the weeks following the initial publication of Dangerous Liaisons, when it was met with howls of moral outrage for its assertion that Jackson was, indeed, a boylover as well as for O'Carroll's own well-documented support of pedophilia itself. There would be, for Tom O'Carroll, hell to pay for his audacity and his rigorous honesty.

The fury which followed the book's release resulted in it being hurriedly dropped by its U.K. publisher. O'Carroll quickly took up the slack, acquiring the publisher's inventory of his book and began to sell it directly.

This is a belated review of Tom O'Carroll's book, coming some three years after its initial publication and now just four years after Michael's death. Yet, it feels like exactly the right time to look back and consider what may have been the depth of a young man for whom shallowness and delusion were widely assumed, by many, to be his métier. I think we understand him rather better.

Now, having finally read the book (and kicking myself for not having done so earlier), and having also reacquainted myself, afresh, with Jackson's most important musical creations (and accompanying visual spectacles), I have a renewed appreciation for what I believe to be a much more substantive and profoundly gifted, albeit tragic, artist than he is often given credit for. With Dangerous Liaisons, his love for boys should now be considerably less mysterious and ambiguous, as well, to those who would take the opportunity of reading it and making the attempt at understanding its implications.

Clearly, O'Carroll has spent many years painstakingly researching the difficult and elusive subject of Michael Jackson's life and passions of which this ambitious and thoroughly impressive work is the outstanding result.

The brilliance of Dangerous Liaisons is that it is not just about Michael Jackson, it is about all of us who love what is forbidden, but beautiful, and who continue to suffer—and pay the many prices—for that love.

***
Eric Tazelaar is a frequent contributor to Nambla.org

Michael Jackson's Dangerous Liaisons can be purchased on Amazon or directly from MindGlow Media which is the sole distributor in the US.
To order from MindGlow (tax and shipping are included), send $44.95 check or money order to: MindGlow Media, PO Box 160, Yonkers NY 10702.

Michael Jackson 1981

 

 

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