Tuesday 15 December 2009

PCC rules in favour of columnist who portrayed Jackson as a paedophile

The Press Complaints Commission last week responded to ten complaints made about a Guardian article in which writer Tanya Gold strongly insinuated that Michael Jackson was a paedophile.

Perplexingly, the PCC ruled in favour of the Guardian.

The PCC listed two main reasons as to why they had not ruled against the offending article. First, that Michael Jackson's family had not complained directly. The PCC said:

"Many of the concerns raised rested on the impact of the coverage on the Jackson family and the singer's memory. Two complainants were concerned that Clause 4 (Harrassment) had been breached and two individuals argued that the article was discriminatory. In this instance, the Commission felt that it must be for the Jackson family to guage such issues as this and to make clear whether they have found that there has been an incidence of harrassment or discrimination, as alleged by complainants. They had not done so."

So in other words, it is perfectly acceptable for a newspaper to strongly insinuate that an innocent man is a paedophile, unless his family complains directly to the PCC.

How and why, exactly, would the Jackson family - who live in Los Angeles - be reading the Guardian? The newspaper is published on the other side of the planet.

This rule is absurd, placing the onus on the families of well known figures to scour thousands of newspapers on a daily basis in case a libelous comment has been printed about their loved one. It is ludicrous to expect the Jackson family to dissect the world's media on a daily basis in case somebody has called their son/brother/father a paedophile. What kind of rule is that? The onus should clearly be on the newspapers not to print the libelous comments in the first place.

The family is essentially left in a catch-22 situation; either spend their entire lives scrutinising national and international newspapers on a daily basis, or simply turn a blind eye to the systematic portrayal of their loved one as a predatory paedophile. The ruling is utter nonsense.

The second get-out clause that the PCC pointed to was that the article was an opinion piece, not a news article. The PCC ruling states:

"The Commission noted that the article was an opinion piece clearly identified as such in the 'Comment is Free' section of the newspaper in line with the erms of Clause 1 (iii). The piece contained the journalist's personal impression of Michael Jackson's lifestyle and talents."

This section of the ruling is totally irrelevant. Complaints relating to Tanya Gold's editorial did not pertain to her opinion. In my own blog on the subject I stated that Ms Gold clearly has the right to an opinion. But the article did not only contain Gold's opinion. It contained a number of factually inaccurate statements.

While a writer of course has the right to his or her opinion, they do not have the right to misstate crucial information or twist facts in order to suit their agenda. Gold used numerous inaccurate statements to support her opinion.

The publication of inaccurate information most certainly is within the PCC's remit. However, in a lazy attempt to dismiss the complaint as quickly and easily as possible, the Commission has skirted around the issue of factual inaccuracies entirely.

The PCC ruling in this matter is a joke. The Commission purports to protect the victims of inaccurate reporting but in this instance it has condoned the publication of a bigoted editorial which used inaccurate statements to support the notion that Michael Jackson was a paedophile.

The PCC has ruled and it isn't pretty. Let it be known; It is perfectly acceptable to use inaccurate information to portray an innocent black man as a paedophile. The onus is on his elderly mother, as trustee of his estate, to scour newspapers on a daily basis looking for allegations that her son molested children. That the article was printed on the other side of the planet is irrelevant; it's still her responsibility.


Monday 14 December 2009

Common sense prevails in X Factor final while snobbery prevails on Facebook

For a brief moment during tonight's X Factor final, Joe McElderry's victory seemed to be in question. Before Olly Murs performed the winner's single, Simon Cowell introduced him to the stage with a knowing smile. "Singing for what could be his last time on the X Factor, although I've got a feeling it won't be," he beamed, "Olly Murs."

I wondered: 'Does he know something we don't?'

He didn't. Olly promptly murdered the winner's song - 'The Climb' - although Cowell, who was apparently experiencing the performance through a haze of mushroom-induced hallucination, proceeded to heap praise upon it anyway.

Moments later Joe McElderry took the stage and made Olly's performance look like amateur hour, giving several of the night's ropey guest performers a lesson in vocal dexterity while he was at it.

With his soaring vocals and his cheery disposition, Joe had to win this year's competition. The show was a one horse race from beginning to end, McElderry being the only stand-out vocalist of the series, easily outshining the competition every week. That he found himself in the final with a wobbly-legged Austin Drage impersonator was indicative of this year's talent drought. Even the real Austin Drage didn't make it past week four.

Newly released figures reveal that Joe ranked highly in the phone polls every week and won the last five shows of the series by a large majority, eventually beating Olly in the live final by a margin of almost 25%.

But already McElderry has been the target of overwhelming cynicism and nasty abuse on various blogs and social networking websites, much of it laced with subtle homophobia; Joe "belongs in musical theatre." The winner's single "suits Joe better because it's a girls' song."

Olly is a geezer; a snappily dressed Essex boy with a couple of dance moves under his belt that might be passable on a drunken night out in Bas Vegas. With tabloid coverage of his serial womanising and frequent mention of his apparent football skills, he's become a hero to blokey blokes up and down the country.

Joe, by comparison, is young and a tad effeminate. A drama school student, Joe is self-confessedly bored by sports, prefers to hang around with girls and tends towards ballads. He has reportedly not had a girlfriend since his early teens and a friend today claimed that he "was teased for years about his sexuality." While the friend states that at the time Joe 'was adamant he wasn't gay', the friend never states outright that he's straight.

Olly's fanbase has seemingly come to view Joe as a sissy and apparently feels that its jack-the-lad hero has been robbed. Seems to me like just another case of pointless belly-aching. Perhaps if Olly's fans had picked up their phones and voted a couple of times each then he wouldn't have lost so spectacularly.

As for Joe's tendency towards ballads - that apparent fault only served to highlight how much more talented he really was than his competitor. While Olly chose to hide behind big productions - chasing girls around the stage to loud backing tracks which disguised his often breathless vocals - Joe wasn't reliant on gimmicks. Tonight his talent has been deservedly rewarded.

Congratulations Joe - a worthy winner.

Elsewhere, the X Factor has been targeted in recent weeks by a series of vindictive campaigns to prevent this year's winner from taking the Christmas number one spot.

One such campaign, started on Facebook, aims to send Rage Against The Machine to the number one spot this year. Very christmassy. What exactly do they think they're striking a blow for? What will be achieved by sending an already filthy-rich act to the top of the charts? In what way is that combatting the supposed capitalist conspiracy they're campaigning against?

Cowell's label Syco is a branch of Sony. Sony owns Rage Against The Machine. So the money will end up in Sony's coffers either way.

Another campaign aims to send Dame Vera Lynn's 'We'll Meet Again' to the top of the charts instead of this year's X Factor winner. Why? Dame Vera Lynn didn't write or compose 'We'll Meet Again', so what exactly makes her a more legitimate artist than Joe McElderry?

The campaign is predicated on nothing more than snobbery; an assumption that anybody who enters the X Factor is a fame hungry mongrel and anybody who watches the show or buys the singles is a moron, incapable of independent thought. Such campaigns are mean-spirited and condescending.

The campaigns purport to be striking a blow against Simon Cowell's capitalist regime. However, in reality these campaigns will still favour the rich, lavishing cash upon already famous acts rather than sending it into the bank account of a young, working class lad whose only opportunity to achieve his dream is to enter a competition like the X Factor. That Christmas number one spot could change Joe McElderry's life, affording he and his family a better quality of life and opening doors that would otherwise have remained forever closed.

If the X Factor single were to lose a Christmas number one battle fair and square, that would be a different matter altogether. But these campaigns actively encourage people to buy music not because they want to listen to it, but for the specific purpose of crushing another person's dreams. Such campaigns are not only unfair, they are fundamentally spiteful.

Should any of these campaigns succeed in their aim, the impact on Cowell will be non-existent. He will still celebrate another carefree Christmas in his LA mansion. All they will achieve is to crush the spirit of a young boy who has spent much of this year working hard towards his lifelong dream.

Thursday 3 December 2009

Best-selling author to prove Jackson's innocence in TV documentary

In 2005 Aphrodite Jones was one of only two authors granted access to every day of the Michael Jackson trial. With seven New York Times bestsellers under her belt, her book looked set to fly off of shelves when it hit stores.

But when Jones came to write her book she hit wall after her wall. As one of the only journalists willing to admit that Jackson's 2005 trial had proven his innocence once and for all, Jones found that publishing houses were unwilling to give her a deal.

Thomas Mesereau, Jackson's defence lawyer, encountered the same problem. After the trial almost every major publishing house in the US approached him with lucrative book deals. When he maintained that Jackson was truly innocent and he wouldn't write anything to the contrary, every publishing house retracted its offer.

Jurors were offered book deals too. Two jurors claimed after the trial that they really thought Jackson was guilty, but only after they had signed six figure book deals. Other jurors claimed that they had been offered identical deals by the same publishing companies - but only if they too would change their opinion from innocent to guilty, casting enormous doubt over the sincerity of both rogue jurors' u-turns.

One juror, Ray Hultman, lost his publishing deal after it was revealed that his manuscript included portions plagiarised from an inaccurate Vanity Fair article. These included allegations that the former juror couldn't possibly verify, such as claims that Jackson had a detachable nose.

The book was co-written by Stacy Brown, a serial Jackson detractor who also co-wrote a book about the star with Bob Jones, Jackson's former aide. Jones was forced to admit on the stand in 2005 that portions of his book 'The Man Behind The Mask' had been fabricated by Brown in order to boost sales.

Hultman's crediblity was further damaged when it was revealed that after the verdict he had commented to one reporter, "The evidence just wasn't there. We couldn't have gone any other way." A strange comment from a man who would later insist that Jackson had been guilty.

The second juror, Eleanor Cook, also never published her book. Cook's granddaughter caused controversy when she announced during jury deliberations that the juror had already signed a book deal - and had agreed to it in principle before the trial had even begun. Ghostwriter Ernie Cariwel admitted on June 7th 2005 - five days before the verdict was reached in Jackson's trial - that he had already begun writing the book despite never having spoken to Cook.

Fellow jurors slammed the pair two months after the verdict, calling them 'traitors' and claiming that their allegations were 'ridiculous'.

As the publishing industry set about convincing the world that Jackson was guilty - printing books such as 'Be Careful Who You Love' by Diane Dimond, an author who has claimed that her sole aim in life is to destroy Michael Jackson and who writer Ishmael Reed once described as a 'Jackson stalker' - Jones began conducting deep research. Obtaining a special court order from Judge Rodney Melville, who presided over Jackson's trial, she was given access to all of the evidence and transcripts related to the case.

It took Jones days just to photocopy all of the court transcripts and a further six months to read them. The wealth of information needed for the book forced her to invest in a second computer. She used one to store all of her research and the other to store her writing. It took her a further six months to finish the manuscript.

'Michael Jackson Conspiracy' was explosive. Not only did it reveal all of the exculpatory evidence and testimony which the media had failed to present to the public, it also exposed deliberate media bias against Jackson and explained the motives behind it. The blurb described the book as follows:

"...A scathing indictment against the media for conspiring to distort, dehumanise and destroy Michael Jackson... Jones argues convincingly that the case against Jackson amounted to nothing more than a media made, tax paid scandal, and she makes an impassioned call to the public at large to think critically about, question the integrity of and demand truth in 'the news'."

Despite its sensational contents and in spite of her seven previous bestsellers, Jones was unable to convince any major publishing house to print the book. She was forced to self publish.

When I interviewed Aphrodite Jones shortly after the book's release she told me that she intended to make a documentary about Jackson's trial, describing her vision for a 'TV version of the book.' Yesterday she emailed to tell me that the project is moving forward.

"The one hour docu-show I did on Michael Jackson will air during my new series called 'True Crime'," she said. "It will begin in April 2010 on a new Discovery channel called Investigation Discovery (ID)."

The hour-long film will cover Jackson's 2005 trial, the media falsehoods which surrounded it and why Jackson 'died with a broken heart' after being 'divorced by America'. Jones insists that the 2005 trial proved Jackson's innocence and says the documentary will show this.

Jones is otherwise tight lipped about the show, saying that she can't elaborate without network approval. However, fans will be ecstatic that a factual documentary on Jackson will for once air on television, as opposed to the conveyer belt of nonsense that is usually paraded before the public.

Jacques Peretti - sit down and take notes.

Click here to read my June 2008 interview with Aphrodite Jones.

Friday 27 November 2009

How the Godfather of Soul won me a Guardian Award

Charles Thomson, award winning writer. That's how I shall be billing myself from now on.

On Wednesday evening I received a prestigious Guardian Award for my work on the late, great Godfather of Soul, James Brown.

The Guardian ceremony is the biggest and the most respected awards bash for young journalists in Britain. I was nominated back in September for 'Feature Writer of the Year'. The ceremony took place on Wednesday evening at the Proud Gallery in Camden.

At first I was disheartened. The runner up in my category was announced - it wasn't me. The winner was announced - that wasn't me either. 'That's it', I thought. 'I lost.'

But then something unexpected happened. Colin Murray, our host for the evening, announced that this year the judges had changed the format of the feature writing category. There was one particular article that the judges felt needed to be recognised, he continued. The room was abuzz with chatter. Over the noise, I heard Murray say something about James Brown - and almost fell off of my chair.

In what has now become a blur, I was presented with the special commendation award for feature writing. As such, I shall be swanning up to London at some point in the near future for a week of shifts at the Guardian.

It was an honour to receive my first journalistic award for a piece about James Brown. When I was 18 years old and just starting out, James Brown was the first artist who gave me a chance. He allowed me backstage at what would become his final concert on British soil. He let me put a question to him during his pre-show press conference and he put me on his personal guestlist for the concert.

Two months later he died. My question to him in London had been about an album he was working on. As time went by, I began wondering what had happened to it and why it was never released.

So I decided to find out. I tracked down everybody I could who was involved in the recording process; band members, session musicians, studio owners and engineers, backing vocalists, songwriters and managers. What emerged was an insight into the final two years of James Brown's life; the recording, the touring, the ill health and ultimately, his death.

To say that the article was a labour of love would be an understatement. From my first interview - which took place in London with the legendary Fred Wesley - to the article's eventual publication, the process took over a year. My work on the piece during that year was stop-start; sources had to be tracked down and then interviews had to be scheduled. Investigating the final two years of James Brown's life proved an expensive hobby too, what with all the lengthy transatlantic telephone interviews.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those who consented to interview - this is your story and I am privileged that you allowed me to tell it. Thank you to the judges - this article is the most significant that I have written and to have it acknowledged by the Guardian Awards is surreal.

And thank you to Mr Brown, who has book-ended this first chapter in my journalistic career. At 18, just weeks into my journalism degree, Mr Brown became my first high profile interviewee. At 21, the award which drew a line under my academic career was presented to me for an article inspired by that meeting with James Brown.

Me (centre) accepting my award from Guardian writer Hannah Pool and Radio 5 DJ Colin Murray. Photographer: Teri Pengilley

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Daily Mail previously rapped for Jackson 'paedophile' comments

On Friday evening I wrote of an article which appeared overnight on the Daily Mail's website calling Michael Jackson a 'common paedophile'.

The article appeared the following day in the print edition of the newspaper and contained baseless allegations that the star had seduced and molested a string of young boys.

A Press Complaints Commission webpage shows that the newspaper, which famously supported the nazi party, has previously been lambasted by the PCC for printing exactly the same allegations.

The PCC ruling states that the Daily Mail referred to Jackson as a self-centred paedophile.

According to the ruling, the newspaper was forced to 'both remove the article from its website and annotate its archive accordingly.'

Seemingly the newspaper has not learned from its mistakes.

Elsewhere, a 1996 article reveals how David Jones, author of the latest Jackson hit piece, was actively involved in a Daily Mail plot to smear a writer at the Independent for disagreeing with the newspaper's political views.

Polly Toynbee tells how the Daily Mail attempted to label her a 'marriage-breaker' simply because she began dating a separated man.

She writes:

"First hint that something was up: people start getting calls from a David Jones of the Daily Mail, digging for dirt. Colleagues in this office get calls. Mr Jones is ferreting away among friends, collecting quotes. The story he seems to be creating is the age-old saga of idyls destroyed by scarlet Jezebels. Mr Jones is throwing around words about me like 'marriage-breaker'.

"I am puzzled. I try to imagine how they can turn this everyday concatenation of domestic circumstance into A Story.

"...Suddenly I find it frightening. Neighbours are getting calls - some of them people I have never met. On Tuesday a man came over from No. 6, deeply worried by a call from the Mail asking detailed questions about what hours he had observed any men coming and going at my house. He suspected it was a burglar casing the joint. My 11-year-old son was terrified, but even more so when the house actually was broken into that day, for the first time in years. A coincidence, I am sure."

Scared by the way she was being pursued, Toynbee contacted a friend at the Mail. Subsequently, Jones claimed that he did not like the story but had been told to work on it by a senior reporter. Toynbee responded: "Unhappy bunny or gleeful weasel, my heart does not go out to Mr Jones or his employers."

Sunday 22 November 2009

Jackson biographer sheds further doubt on 1993 allegations

Jackson biographer J Randy Taraborrelli has used his Facebook page to comment on the death of Evan Chandler. Here are his comments.

"I actually knew Evan Chandler. I met him several times in the 1990s. I had lots of secret meetings with Evan Chandler, trying to get to the bottom of what was going on. I was pretty young, sort of green and wish I had my present level of expertise to be able to have applied back then. I have stories about that guy that I have never published.

"He was about as inconsistent as they come. He was so determined to get me on his side, I thought he was just a tad scary. If you read my book you sort of get how I felt -- feel -- about him. When [the book] came out he called me screaming at me for not just buying his story 100%. He actually threatened me, and I thought... okay, pal, now I know who you really are."

The writer also says that he hopes and believes he will one day score an interview with Jordan Chandler. Personally, I am skeptical.

Saturday 21 November 2009

Controversial newspaper labels Jackson a 'common paedophile'

The Daily Mail today ran an article about Evan Chandler's suicide even more ludicrous than The Mirror's offering on Thursday.

The newspaper, which famously supported the nazi party and recently came under fire for publishing a homophobic article about the death of Stephen Gately, labelled Jackson a 'common paedophile' and explicitly stated that he routinely molested young boys.

The article is factually inaccurate on every level. It claims that Jackson was found in possession of child porn - he was not. Had he been, he would have been charged with possession of child porn. Bit of a no-brainer.

It also claims that Gavin Arvizzo accused Jackson of having sex with him. A blatant fabrication.

Author of the piece David Jones pours scorn on what he portrays as conspiracy theories that the 1993 allegations were concocted by Evan Chandler for financial gain. He conveniently neglects to mention numerous pieces of factual information which prove this to be the case. He neglects to mention, for instance, that it was Evan who accused Jackson of molestation while his son maintained that he'd never been touched. He neglects to mention also that journalist Mary Fischer proved in a 1994 article how Jordan had only corroborated the story after Evan plied him with a mind-altering drug, sodium amytal, which is known to induce false memory syndrome.

But Mary Fischer is a real journalist, while David Jones simply writes obscene and factually inaccurate hit-pieces for Britain's most racist newspaper.

Like so many others, Jones points to the 1994 settlement as proof of Jackson's guilt, neglecting to mention that Jackson didn't pay the settlement - his insurance carrier did - and court documents show that Jackson didn't even agree to the settlement, which was "negotiated and paid... over the protests of Mr Jackson and his personal legal counsel."

To point out each individual inaccuracy contained within the article would probably take the best part of 5000 words. Composed largely of pure fantasy and hinging much of its information on the word of Evan Chandler's brother, the clearly biased Ray Chandler (who himself profited hugely from the fabricated claims of abuse by publishing an inadvertantly hilarious book about the 1993 scandal), the article trumps even Tanya Gold's recent Guardian editorial on the nonsense scale.

A blatant hit-piece, the article is almost certainly racially motivated and I wouldn't be at all surprised if the newspaper finds itself on the receiving end of a major lawsuit within a week. David Jones is relentlessly bilious throughout the article, which contains no hint of objectivity or journalistic integrity.

Jones repeatedly quotes US reporter Diane Dimond as some manner of expert on the case, despite the fact that she is clearly unhinged. Having repeatedly stated throughout the ninties and the early noughties that her sole ambition in life was to destroy the career of Michael Jackson, she has been described by writer Ishmael Reed as a 'Jackson stalker'. Her reporting on Jackson's trial was so biased that she was fired from CourtTV almost immediately after the verdict was announced. She has made her living slandering Jackson ever since.

Dimond subsequently penned a book about Jackson titled 'Be Careful Who You Love', which Jones inexplicably describes as 'acclaimed'. Acclaimed by who? It bombed spectacularly upon its release.

Jones has employed much the same technique as Jacques Peretti did for his 2007 documentary 'Michael Jackson: What Really Happened'. He has intentionally tracked down only interviewees who he knows have financial motives for portraying Jackson as a paedophile. He has then quoted them as objective experts.

He omits vital information which exonerates Jackson of the 1993 allegations, all the while including mountains of pure speculation, which he represents as fact. He attributes quotes to Jordan Chandler which he cannot possibly verify and even goes so far as to describe the boy's thoughts.

What he neglects to mention is that rather than being 'traumatised', as Jones claims without source in his article, Jordan Chandler reverted in later life to his original stance, which was that Jackson had never touched him. When asked to take the stand in Jackson's 2005 trial - during which Jones seems to forget that Jackson was unanimously aquitted and vindicated - Jordan refused to testify against his former friend. Meanwhile, Jackson's defence had numerous witnesses lined up who were prepared to testify that in recent years Jordan had repeatedly insisted that Jackson never touched him and his father had concocted the entire story.

A vindictive character assassination, David Jones's article is the single most irresponsible piece of journalism I have ever had the misfortune to read. He should be ashamed of himself. But somehow, I suspect that he isn't.

Thursday 19 November 2009

Chandler Suicide Highlights Media Bias Against Jackson

When it emerged yesterday that two weeks ago Evan Chandler, father of Jordan Chandler, shot himself in the head, few tears were shed despite the media's best efforts to eulogise him.

Most media outlets are touting Chandler as 'the father of the boy who accused Jackson of child molestation'. Wrong. Chandler was the father who accused Jackson of molesting his son after the star refused to negotiate script-writing deals for him.

The initial allegations against Jackson were made not by Jordie Chandler but by his father Evan, in spite of Jordie's insistence that Jackson never touched him inappropriately, a stance that the boy maintained for several months.

Relations between the boy's father and Jackson had been strained from the outset as Evan Chandler felt that Jackson was replacing him as a father. The following passage is taken from Jackson biography 'The Magic and the Madness'. Chandler spoke to the author, Randy Taraborrelli, several times:

"June and Evan had been arguing about Evan's involvement in Jordie's life; June didn't feel that Evan was spending enough time with his son. Evan disagreed. However, he couldn't help but feel that he might be losing his place in Jordie's life to Michael. He didn't believe that Michael was doing anything wrong with Jordie. Rather, he simply felt the presence of another man, an influential male figure, in his son's life - and he didn't like it. It didn't help matters that June would often make reference to the fact that Jordie saw Michael more than he did his own father. 'Michael is completely influential on your son,' she told Evan during one conversation, 'and he's taking over where you have left off.'"

The book goes on to describe Evan's chagrin as Jackson performed fatherly tasks, such as buying Jordan a computer: 'Evan was not happy about it. He had planned to buy his son the exact same computer and Michael had beaten him to it.'

Chandler noticed his son becoming distant and began to believe that Jackson was involved with his ex-wife, June: 'I felt then that maybe June should just divorce Dave, since they were having problems, and maybe hook up with Michael.' On a trip to Monaco Taraborrelli describes Jackson as looking close to June: 'In Monaco Michael was often photographed with June, Jordie and Lily. In several pictures, he is seen holding Lily in his arms while walking next to June. Jordie [...] walked ahead of them.'

When Evan first met Jackson he felt 'exhilaration' and 'awe'. However, when Jackson stopped returning his calls he became bitter. On July 8th 1993 Evan was tape recorded during a telephone conversation, complaining that Jackson had stopped telephoning him: 'There was no reason why he had to stop calling me'.

He added that he'd had a conversation with Jackson and told him 'exactly what I want out of the relationship with him'.

'I picked the nastiest son of a bitch I could find,' he said of his new attorney. 'All he wants to do is get this out in the public as fast as he can, as big as he can, and humiliate as many people as he can. He's nasty, he's mean, he's smart and he's hungry for publicity. Everything's going according to a certain plan that isn't just mine. Once I make that phonecall, this guy is going to destroy everybody in sight in any devious, nasty, cruel way that he can do it. I've given him full authority to do that.'

'If I go through with this, I win big time,' he continued. 'There is no way I lose. I will get everything I want and they will be destroyed forever. June will lose [custody] and Michael's career will be over.'

Asked whether that was good for Jordie, he replied: 'That's irrelevant to me.'

Behind the scenes an increasingly embittered Chandler had contacted Jackson and demanded that he negotiate three scriptwriting deals on his behalf. If Jackson did not comply, Chandler threatened, he would accuse him of molesting his son. Jackson didn't comply - and the rest is history.

Jordie maintained for some time that Jackson had never touched him inappropriately. Investigative journalist Mary Fischer uncovered compelling evidence - which she published in her 1994 GQ article 'Was Michael Jackson Framed?' - that Jordan Chandler only subscribed to his father's version of events after Evan - a dentist by trade - plied him with a mind-bending drug called sodium amytal, which is known to induce false memory syndrome.

Even once Jordan Chandler began to toe his father's line, his testimony was so unconvincing that DA Tom Sneddon took his case to two separate grand juries and neither allowed him to bring charges against Michael Jackson. Contrary to widely reported myth, Jordan Chandler did not accurately describe Jackson's genitals. Among other inaccuracies, he claimed that Jackson was circumcised while police photographs proved that he was not.

Unsurprisingly, none of this information has made its way into the mainstream media's reportage of Evan Chandler's death. Instead, Chandler's suicide is seen as another opportunity to sling mud at Michael Jackson and perpetuate the same, tired old myths about the 1993 allegations - particularly with regard to the settlement.

News outlets the world over are once more reporting that in 1994 Jackson paid the Chandlers a settlement. Court documents which came to light in 2005 state clearly that Jackson's insurance carrier "negotiated and paid the settlement over the protests of Mr Jackson and his personal legal counsel."

Amongst the publications that rehashed this age old nonsense was The Sun, to which I often contribute as a Michael Jackson expert. I was contacted yesterday and asked to provide information about Evan Chandler and the 1993 allegations, which I did. However, none of my information was used - most likely because it reflected too well on Jackson. Myths that imply Jackson's guilt are evidently more important than truths which exonerate him.

Noticing that The Sun's article on Chandler's suicide contained several inaccuracies (most prominently that Jordie initiated the claims of molestation and that Jackson paid the settlement) I contacted two members of staff at the newspaper - my usual contact and the journalist who wrote the article. Neither email was replied and the article was not changed.

Elsewhere, The Mirror ranked several places higher on the absurdity scale as it attempted to portray Chandler as a martyr of some kind. 'Michael Jackson sex case dad Evan Chandler wanted justice but ended up destroyed', read the headline.


If Evan Chandler had wanted justice, why did he contact Jackson and ask for a three-movie script deal before he went to the police? If he wanted justice, why did he accept a settlement from Jackson's insurance carrier? The settlement specifically did not affect the family's ability to testify in a criminal case. So if Evan Chandler wanted justice, why didn't he allow the police to press ahead with their investigation after he got his money?

The headline, along with much of the article, is nonsense.

Having taken Jackson's insurance carrier for just under $15million (not the $20million usually alluded to by the press), in 1996 Evan Chandler tried to sue Jackson for a further $60million after claiming that the star's album HIStory was a breach of the settlement's confidentiality clause. In addition to trying to sue Jackson, Chandler requested that the court allow him to produce a rebuttal album called EVANstory.

Yes, really.

So the man who The Mirror claims only 'wanted justice' thought that the best course of action after the initial media storm died down would be to release an album of music about the supposed abuse of his pre-pubescent son.

The Mirror alluded to the fact that relations between Jordan and his parents were strained after 1993, but laid the blame at Jackson's door, claiming that the trauma of the case had driven them apart.

In actuality, Jordan Chandler went to court when he was 16 and gained legal emancipation from both of his parents. When called to appear at Jackson's 2005 trial, he refused to testify against his former friend. Had he taken the stand, Jackson's legal team had a number of witnesses who were prepared to testify that Jordan - who now reportedly lives in Long Island under an assumed name - had told them in recent years that he hated his parents for what they made him say in 1993, and that Michael Jackson had never touched him.

The evidence surrounding the 1993 allegations overwhelmingly supports Michael Jackson's innocence. It is for this reason that during the lengthy investigation, which continued for many months, Michael Jackson was never arrested and was never charged with any crime.

The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that Evan Chandler masterminded the allegations as a money making scheme, believing it would help him to achieve his dream of working in Hollywood. The aforementioned tape recorded telephone conversation heard him dismiss the boy's wellbeing as 'irrelevant' and admit that he was out to take Jackson for all he was worth.

Mary Fischer's evidence shows that as well as falsifying the sexual abuse of his own son in an elaborate extortion plot, when Jordan refused to play along Evan plied him with mind-altering drugs in a bid to trick him into believing that he was molested.

But even drugging a child as part of an extortion plot wasn't Evan Chandler's lowest point. That came when he petitioned the court to allow him to release an album of music about the supposed sexual abuse of his own son.

As for the media, this latest incident cements once more the industry's almost total unwillingness to report fairly or accurately on Michael Jackson, particularly on the bogus allegations of sexual abuse that were levelled against him. None of the aforementioned information and evidence was included in any article about Chandler's suicide that I have read so far, despite the fact that I personally delivered it to at least one newspaper which specifically asked me to supply it.

Exculpatory facts are overlooked in favour of salacious myths. A black humanitarian is tarred as a paedophile and his white extortionist is painted as a martyr.

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Review: Starsuckers

Debuting at the London Film Festival last week, 'Starsuckers' is the much hyped new documentary from the team behind 'Taking Liberties', the 2007 BAFTA-nominated film which claimed that British citizens are being robbed of their freedom.

The documentary premiered last Wednesday and I had tickets to the second LFF screening on Thursday, attended by director Chris Atkins.

'Starsuckers' purports to journey through the 'dark underbelly of the modern media' and 'blow the lid on the corporations and individuals' who profit from our obsession with fame. 'Warning', reads the film's website, 'even watching this film might get you sued'.

However, 'Starsuckers' is far less revelatory than one might expect, given the hype that has surrounded its release. In fact, it is actually quite confusing. The opening scenes show Chris Atkins and a female accomplice being chased through the streets of LA by a mob of paparazzi as onlookers intermittently ask the 'Starsuckers' film crew who they are.

It transpires that Atkins has paid for a 'celebrity experience', whereby ordinary people can fork out hundreds of dollars per hour to be hounded by press so that bystanders are duped into believing they're celebrities. But the segment ends almost as soon as it begins, and does so without any explanation as to why Atkins has embarked on this experience or any exploration of its workings.

Suddenly we find ourselves watching the exploits of two parents convinced of their own son's star quality, shopping him around various Los Angeles agents in the hope that he can strike it big and help them escape their working class lifestyle. Soon, though, we have abandoned that storyline as well and are instead taken on a journey through the history of celebrity by a pair of floating magicians' gloves, which Atkins later refers to as the 'God of Starsuckers'.

In short, 'Starsuckers' suffers from an almost complete lack of direction. One could easily be left thoroughly perplexed as to what the film is trying to say. Is it about adults so obsessed by celebrity that they are willing to pay paparazzi to chase them down the street? Is it about fame's corruptive influence on our children? Is it about the public's relationship with celebrity itself? Each subject could warrant a documentary of its own. 'Starsuckers' seems like a hodgepodge of several incomplete films that have all been mashed together because they fall under the same vague umbrella subject.

The 'God of Starsuckers' - a pair of floating magicians' gloves with a booming American accent - claims that he will explain to us how media outlets conspire to manufacture celebrity addiction amongst the general public, but the whole thing plays out more like a bizarre conspiracy theory movie (see: Loose Change) than a serious documentary.

'Starsuckers' contradicts itself at every turn. The overriding message of the film is that the media is sinister and conspires to indoctrinate us all with celebrity obsession for its own financial gain, despite the fact that Atkins and his team seem to be forever turning up evidence to the contrary.

In one moment biologists tell us that man's obsession with celebrity is an evolutionary trait, but in the next moment the God of Starsuckers is telling us again that it's actually a global media conspiracy. No sooner has Nick Davies told us that it's not laziness or unprofessionalism that's killing the media but budget cuts and understaffing, than the God of Starsuckers is lecturing us on how all media outlets are nasty and manipulative.

Perhaps the most baffling portion of the film - and also the primary focus of its marketing campaign - is a segment in which Atkins and his team conspire to plant bogus celebrity stories in Britain's newspapers. The team meticulously research their subjects, making sure that they know exactly where their unwitting celebrities were the previous night and what they were wearing. They then telephone the newspapers and attempt to dupe them into printing harmless but false stories (Avril Lavigne fell asleep in a nightclub, Guy Ritchie poked himself in the eye with a spoon).

There is a slight air of menace about the whole segment - the notion of concocting an elaborate hoax with the specific intention of duping somebody and then blaming the victim when it works is a bit like a school bully pushing a little girl head first into a puddle and then laughing at her because she's wet.

Even more bafflingly, Atkins has claimed in a recent Guardian interview that the stories could have been 'easily disproved within minutes' by checking with reps for the stars. The notion that a PR worker is more likely to tell the truth than an eyewitness is one that is sure to prompt outbursts of hysterics up and down Fleet Street.

If you telephone Guy Ritchie's public relations contact and ask them whether he has ever poked himself in the eye with a spoon, it doesn't matter if he's rolling around on the floor with a spoon sticking out of his eye socket at that very moment - they're still going to say no.

The film uses as as some of it's primary interviewees two authors; Jake Halpern, who wrote 'Fame Junkies' and Nick Davies, who wrote 'Flat Earth News'. Halpern's book analyzes America's obsession with fame and posits that in some cases it has become a literal addiction. Davies' book meanwhile alleges that distortion and inaccuracy are widespread in Britain's media because cost-cutting has robbed journalists of their time and resources. Atkins is clearly inspired by both authors and this seems to be the primary motivation behind the documentary.

However, Atkins has handled both subjects clumsily and made some extremely tenuous connections between the two. Those interested in the issues raised by the film may be better off simply buying the two books.

The primary problem with 'Starsuckers' is its clumsiness. It jumps from topic to topic with little in the way of narrative. It leaves key ideas unexplored and often ignores expert opinion, instead jumping to its own conclusions. There is also an air of hypocrisy to the film, which in one breath lambasts the media for its supposedly duplicitous nature and in the next sees fit to hoodwink Max Clifford, a 66 year old man, and surreptitiously film him in the privacy of his own living room.

Overwhelmingly, though, the film seems like a wild goose chase. The website claims to 'pull the rug underneath a string of untouchables' but never quite lives up to its own boasting. At its climax, the film descends into madness as it tries to prove that Bob Geldof, alongside the world's media, conspired in the production of 'Live 8' to systematically undermine the efforts of legitimate charities.

'Starsuckers' spends almost two hours trying to convince us that the media is evil - that it cynically manipulates all of us into a frenzied celebrity addiction... That newspapers lie on purpose to make us consume celebrity TV shows, and celebrity TV shows manipulate us into buying Heat magazine. But ultimately, it fails to do so. At its worst it's actually condescending, giving the public no credit whatsoever and instead working on the assumption that we are all brainless nincompoops who will immediately consume whatever our television tells us to - that we will automatically like whatever Ant and Dec tell us to like, or buy whatever Kerry Katona tells us to buy.

But not Chris Atkins. He's too clever for that. It's just the rest of us who are stupid.

The overall viewing experience is an empty one. I left the cinema feeling like I'd been nagged for 115 minutes by a paranoid hippie. 'Starsuckers' gathers together every paranoid cliché you've ever heard about the media and combines them all to form an ultimately flat and unrevelatory film that comes nowhere close to achieving what it sets out to.

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Guardian columnist insinuates that Michael Jackson was a paedophile; Charles Thomson explodes the myths behind the 1993 case

The Guardian was today forced to disable the 'comments' function on an editorial about Michael Jackson after hundreds of readers voiced their disgust at the irresponsible factual inaccuracies that it contained.

Tanya Gold's bemusing rant about Michael Jackson provoked outrage as she lambasted the King of Pop, claiming that he couldn't write hits, wasn't a great dancer and that his innovation of the music video was meaningless.

Most shocking, however, was her strong insinuation that Jackson was a paedophile, which supported with a number of incorrect 'facts'.

Gold's editorial wrongly claimed that during Jackson's 1993 child abuse storm, Jordan Chandler had accurately described the star's genitals to police officers.

This is a fiction.

The myth that Chandler accurately described Jackson's genitals is one that has been perpetuated by hack writers for over one and a half decades.

In 2007 Jacques Peretti - also a Guardian contributor - faced a barrage of OFCOM complaints after his pseudo-documentary 'Michael Jackson - What Really Happened' also rehashed this myth.

It is well documented that Jordan Chandler did not accurately describe Michael Jackson's genitals. Among other inaccuracies, he claimed that Jackson was circumcised, whilst police photographs proved that he was not.

Here is Chandler's drawing of Jackson's penis, which he gave to police officers 1993:

Damning, I'm sure you will agree.

Chandler's failure to corroborate his allegations - including his inability to accurately describe Jackson's genitals - was the reason Jackson never faced charges in 1993.

The media would have you believe that the reason Jackson never faced trial in 1993 was because he paid off the boy's family.

This is also bogus.

The investigation into Jackson's conduct began in 1993 and lasted long into 1994. During this prolonged period - long before the financial settlement was reached - Jackson was never arrested and he was never charged. This was due to a complete lack of corroborative evidence. DA Tom Sneddon took his 'case' against Jackson to three separate grand juries - all three refused to let him bring charges against the star.

But the media won't tell you that.

Ergo, the media's widespread claim that Jackson bought his way out of a criminal trial is a myth - he was never going to stand criminal trial in the first place. When Jackson settled with the Chandler family, he was not being prosecuted. He was being sued.

To claim that Jackson settled the case at all is also a myth, although that's not the way the mainstream media tells it.

Jackson never paid the Chandlers a cent in the 1994 financial settlement. It was the the star's insurance company which covered the costs, not the Jackson himself. Furthermore, documents prove that the settlement was arranged against the star's wishes.

Court documents which came to light in 2005 stated: "The settlement agreement was for global claims of negligence and the lawsuit was defended by Mr Jackson's insurance carrier. The insurance carrier negotiated and paid the settlement over the protests of Mr Jackson and his personal legal counsel."

All of this, Tanya Gold fails to include in her editorial.

It seems to have escaped Tanya Gold's notice that Jackson was acquitted and vindicated in his 2005 trial - a trial that included testimony about the 1993 case. As such, Jackson died an innocent man, and no person has the right to insinuate otherwise.

Interestingly, Gold - who never attended a single day of Jackson's trial - seems to believe that she knows better than the 12 jurors who sat through every nanosecond of testimony.

Such breathtaking arrogance is a problem that dogged Jackson for much of his career. The media has a habit of hiring clueless laypersons to offer 'expert analysis' on subjects they don't understand and Jackson fell prey to this trend more than his fair share of times.
The problem hit fever pitch during Jackson's trial. On weekday evenings in spring/summer 2005, shows like 'Richard and Judy' would regularly invite assorted columnists to offer 'expert opinion' on the star's trial. Presumably, none of these journalists had actually attended Jackson's trial, given that it was often in session in Santa Maria at the very moment that they were discussing it on 'Richard and Judy'.

Gold is another in a long line of non-experts masquerading as an expert. Her 'facts' have no basis in reality. She claims that Chandler accurately described Jackson's genitals - he didn't. She claims that Jackson bought off the boy's family - he didn't.

Gold's pathetic editorial is indicative of the systemic failure of the British media to report accurately on black celebrities. Rather than physically check whether Chandler accurately described Jackson's private parts, Gold vaguely recalls hearing some other hack claiming that he did and assumes that this is proof enough. And if it isn't - who cares? You can't libel the dead anyway.

Another half hour of online research - which isn't too much to expect from a professional journalist - would have produced further evidence that the 1993 allegations were a crock.

In the wake of the 1993 scandal journalist Mary A Fischer penned an article entitled 'Was Michael Jackson Framed?' The investigation appeared in GQ magazine and contained compelling evidence that the star had been set-up, including transcripts of tape recorded telephone calls in which the boy's father, Evan Chandler, was heard discussing his plans to extort money from Michael Jackson.
In 2004 Geraldine Hughes, legal secretary to Jordan Chandler's lawyer during the 1993 allegations, wrote a book called 'Redemption'. In the book Hughes detailed how she had witnessed, from the inside, the boy's father and his lawyer masterminding the plot to extort money from Michael Jackson, or destroy him if he didn't comply.

During Jackson's 2005 trial Jordan Chandler was called by the prosecution, but failed to show up to court. Instead his mother, June Chandler, took the stand. During her testimony she admitted that Jordan had legally divorced both of his parents and no longer spoke to either of them.

During a subsequent Q+A at Harvard University, Jackson's lawyer Thomas Mesereau revealed that the reason Chandler divorced his parents was allegedly because he was incensed that they had forced him to lie to the police and in doing so had destroyed his friendship with Jackson.

Mesereau also stated that had Chandler taken the stand, the defence had numerous witnesses lined up who were willing to testify that Chandler repeatedly told them he was never molested by Jackson and that his parents, particularly his father, had concocted the entire story.

The evidence that Jackson abused Jordy Chandler is zero. That is why the star was never arrested and never charged. Conversely, the evidence that Jackson was innocent is overwhelming.

Tanya Gold, like many journalists, would do well to research her subjects in future, rather than arrogantly concluding that her own ill-informed assumptions trump the proven facts. Of course, every columnist has the right to his or her opinion. However, what they do not have is the right to misrepresent facts - and they certainly do not have the right to label innocent men paedophiles.
Put simply - it is irresponsible. In the digital age, the Guardian has a worldwide internet readership. This means that a potential audience of millions could happen upon Tanya Gold's nonsense editorial, consume it and retain her bogus factual information. Similarly, Jacques Peretti's 2007 show was watched by millions and has been repeated incessantly ever since.
Writers - be they journalists or columnists - have a responsibility to their audiences. This is why research is of the upmost importance.
Tanya Gold has failed in her responsibilities. Readers put trust in journalists, particularly broadsheet journalists. Gold's editorial was teeming with factual inaccuracies.
Rarely have I seen such irresponsibility, particularly in a newspaper such as the Guardian.

Sunday 18 October 2009

Walking the red carpet with the men who stare at goats

It's not every day that you walk past George Clooney and it's even rarer that you do so on the red carpet at a film premiere. But as of this week I can consider both boxes ticked.

On Thursday night Clooney's latest offering debuted in Leicester Square on day two of the Times BFI London Film Festival. The Times Gala screening of 'The Men Who Stare at Goats' was the hottest ticket in town and I was lucky enough to have a pair.

Based on Jon Ronson's non-fiction book of the same name, the film tells the tale of the US government's preoccupation with teaching factions of its military to master psychic abilities.

The gala was a glitzy affair. Photographers and TV crews lined one side of the red carpet and screaming fans lined the other. Ticketholders were ushered through Leicester Square's famous garden (closed to the public for the evening) and into the middle of the hysteria. Surrounded by flashbulbs, autograph pads and dangerous looking security guards it was a surreal experience to walk past the cast and crew as they gave live interviews. Somewhere in the world I have now shared a screen with George Clooney, however briefly.

At 7pm Clooney took the stage with director Grant Heslov, producer Paul Lister, author Jon Ronson and screenwriter Peter Straughan. The actor addressed the audience, which included John Hurt, Neve Campbell, Damian Lewis and 'Shaun of the Dead' director Edgar Wright, who is rumoured to be directing a film adaptation of Ronson's first book 'Them: Adventures with Extremists'.

"As well as being a wonderful book," Clooney told the crowd, "this screenplay was considered one of the best screenplays not to be made into a movie for a long period of time."

Starring Ewan McGregor as a fledgling reporter fleeing a failed marriage, the film is not a particularly faithful adaptation of Ronson's book. However, this was to be expected. Journalism tends not to translate well to the silver screen. Writing a book like 'The Men Who Stare At Goats' would have been a long and arduous task involving months, if not years, of painstaking research. As a narrative arc, a journalist leafing endlessly through piles of documents is unlikely to set the box office on fire.

Perhaps the biggest deviation from the book is that McGregor's character, Bob Wilton, is desperate to enter Iraq and become a war correspondent, whereas Ronson actively avoided the country. The first time I met Jon Ronson was when I invited him to deliver a guest lecture at my university, during which he spoke about his reasons for not going to Iraq. "This was 2003," he said. "The insurgency was just beginning. My son was five years old."

On his travels Wilton encounters Lyn Cassady, a former psychic spy. In a show-stealing performance from George Clooney, Cassady wears the maniacal grin of a man constantly on the verge of a breakdown. Hilarious and unnerving in equal measure, Clooney plays Cassady with the naivety and conviction of Buzz Lightyear in his first outing; a man utterly convinced of his own psychic abilities in the face of what seems like overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Cassady is an amalgamation of several psychic spies who feature in Ronson's book and while he is a fictional character the stories he tells of soldiers trying to become invisible, walk through walls and kill animals just by staring at them are true and lifted directly from Ronson's original text.

Elsewhere, Jeff Bridges is endearing as Bill Django, a hippie soldier modelled closely on Jim Channon, the Lieutenant Colonel behind the 'First Earth Battalion Manual', a tome urging soldiers to win wars through peace and love rather than combat. The juxtaposition of Django's wide-eyed enthusiasm with the rigidity of his seniors is a constant source of humour.

Kevin Spacey also appears as slimy soldier Larry Hooper, a sour-faced perpetual bonfire pisser. The only central character not based on a real person, Hooper is a thorn in the side of Cassady and Django and viewers will relish watching him get his comeuppance.

'The Men Who Stare at Goats' is a fast-paced, Coen-esque feature that expertly delivers action, pathos and pure comedy. Quality source material, a snappy script, strong direction and a fantastic cast come together to create what is surely one of this year's must see films. Eliciting belly laughs for the entirety of its 90 minute running time, it was certainly a hit with Thursday night's audience.

The Men Who Stare at Goats is released nationwide on Friday 6th November.

Thursday 15 October 2009

Is the Jackson estate paying Paul Anka for nothing?

Much has been made during the last few days of the fact that the new Michael Jackson single was actually a collaborative effort with Paul Anka. The 'My Way' singer claims that he and Jackson worked together on the song in 1983 with a working title of 'I Never Heard'. The single was released by an obscure artist called Safire in 1991 with Jackson and Anka listed as co-writers.

But all may not be as it seems.

Information held by the American Copyright Association suggests that in 1980 Jackson wrote and recorded a demo called 'This Is It'. The ACA lists the track as follows:

So it would seem that although Jackson and Anka may have tweaked the song at a later date, there was an existing demo which was exclusively written and recorded by Michael Jackson.

The question is, is the new single Jackson's solo demo or is it his Anka collaboration?

It seems to me to be the former.

Listen carefully to the new single. Several lines seem not to have any lyrics, Jackson instead scatting gibberish - placeholder vocals - to plot out the melody of the song. However, the 1991 Safire release - co-written by Jackson and Anka - boasts completed lyrics.

Has the Jackson estate just agreed to pay Paul Anka 50% of the profits for a demo in which he had no involvement?

Sunday 13 September 2009

I have been shortlisted....

Just a quick note to say that I have been shortlisted by the Guardian Student Media Awards in the Feature Writer of the Year category.

I have been shortlisted for my article 'James Brown: The Lost Album', which can be read on my website.

Winners are announced in November.

I realise that I have been neglecting the blog again. I am currently collaborating with American writer Tony Best on an article about the groundbreaking 1981 music video 'Can You Feel It'.

More on that as it develops.

Sunday 30 August 2009

Review: 'A Tribute to Michael Jackson', Jazz Cafe, Saturday 29th August 2009

‘Thriller’. ‘I Want You Back’. ‘Bad’. ‘Beat It’. ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’. ‘Can You Feel It’. Six of the most instantly recognisable and universally loved tracks in pop history. Last night’s Jazz Cafe salute to Michael Jackson – the first of two shows designed to celebrate what would have been King of Pop’s 51st birthday – opened with an instrumental medley of all six. The message was clear; who but Michael Jackson could afford to squeeze six hits into a five minute medley, and still have enough left over to fill a two hour show?

Hosted by Eric Roberson and arranged by Nick Cohen, the night was a musical journey through the career of a pop legend, featuring tracks from his childhood all the way up to his final studio album, ‘Invincible’. Between Eric Roberson’s performances, vocalists Chris Ballin, Donna Gardier, Lennox Cameron, Grammy-nominated diva Kym Mazelle and Foreign Exchange’s Phonte Coleman took turns fronting the band.

Roberson kicked off the vocal performances with an energetic rendition of his favourite Jackson track, ‘PYT’, and moved smoothly into a delicate take on ‘Human Nature’. However, his best performance of the night was a sultry, sensual, extended version of ‘Lady In My Life’.

After Chris Ballin – a former Jackson backing singer – offered up a jazzy take on ‘I Can’t Help It’, Donna Gardier delivered a gutsy performance of ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’, littered with James Brown style false stops and reprises.

Kym Mazelle’s reggae inspired performance of ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ at first threw the audience but eventually won them over. Mazelle would later belt out a funky reimagining of Jackson’s 2001 hit ‘You Rock My World’, which easily eclipsed the studio recording.

Dreadlocked keyboardist Lennox Cameron elicited screams from female spectators with his pitch perfect vocal on ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’ and later reduced several onlookers to tears when he crooned ‘Gone Too Soon’, accompanied only by Alex Bennett on keys.

Frank Tontoh delivered a knockout drum solo during an arrangement of Jackson’s 1992 hit ‘Remember The Time’ that had more bottom and funk than the original track. Credit must also go to Tim Canfield for seamlessly weaving a rousing guitar solo into the R&B classic, ‘Rock with You’.

The biggest cheers of the night, though, were reserved for Phonte Coleman, who took to the stage decked out in a t-shirt bearing the slogan, ‘My hero ain’t molest them bitch ass kids’ – a slogan that the audience enthusiastically chanted at various intervals throughout the rest of the show. Coleman’s comical take on Jackson’s Motown 25 performance of ‘Billie Jean’, including a specially written rap, provoked a deafening reaction.

There may have been a shortage of tracks from the last twenty years of Jackson’s career, and every performer fluffed a few lyrics, but the night served as a poignant reminder of the talent that we have all lost.

For two hours Roberson and co wowed the sell-out crowd with hit after hit, but such is the enormity of Jackson's back catalogue that the crowd was still left crying for the countless hits that didn't make the setlist; 'Dirty Diana', 'Smooth Criminal', 'Another Part of Me', 'Dangerous' - and earlier hits such as 'Ben', 'ABC' and 'The Love You Save'.

The Jazz Cafe’s salute to Michael Jackson epitomised his appeal and served as a sad reminder of why the star was able to sell almost a million tickets in one city; his catalogue of hits could easily fill four hours and nothing can beat the experience of hearing them performed live.

Saturday 29 August 2009

My contribution to No.1 bestseller, 'Michael Jackson - Life of a Legend'

During my hiatus from the blog, 'Headline' published the wonderful 'Michael Jackson - Life of a Legend' - a vibrant ode to the King of Pop.

In late June I was contacted by 'Headline' to contribute a half-page condolence to Michael Jackson, which I dutifully did.

Upon release, the book became an immediate bestseller all over the world and has topped the British book chart for three consecutive weeks.

Turn to page 177 to read my tribute to Michael Jackson.

For more information, please visit http://www.mjlifeofalegend.com/

Leaked O2 contract further discredits Halperin book

Michael Jackson's leaked AEG contract (download here) serves as another nail in the coffin of Ian Halperin's credibility.

As I reported over a month ago, Ian Halperin has released a string of fictional stories about Michael Jackson since late 2008 in an attempt to promote his book 'Unmasked: The Final Years of Michael Jackson'.

Halperin's stories have included allegations that the star was dying from a genetic lung disease, that he was so broke he had to perform on the yacht of a Russian billionaire and that the star was only scheduled to perform for 13 minutes per show during his residency at London's O2 arena.

As yet, there is no indication that Jackson's autopsy found any evidence of terminal or life threatening lung disease. The story about Jackson performing on the billionaire's yacht was denied by those involved. Now Jackson's leaked contract with AEG will put paid to Halperin's claims that Jackson was to perform for only 13 minutes per night in London.

The contract states that Jackson was to deliver a 'first class performance' of 'no less than 80 minutes at each show'.


Catching Up; Apologies for my absence and welcoming my brand new website

Apologies for the prolonged absence.

Shortly after posting my last entry I jetted away to Cyprus for a spot of relaxation and scuba diving. I returned in mid-August and have since been swamped in research.

I have also spent some time getting my new website polished and uploaded - a task I kept putting off because I imagined that it would be an enormous hassle, but which actually proved quite simple.

For a professional biog, portfolio of work and contact details, you can now visit www.charles-thomson.net

I realise that I never got around to writing my blog on Jacques Peretti, but it seems pointless given that it is so long now since his documentary was screened.

In time, I will get around to explaining what the blog has been so Jackson-centric so far and how I became involved in the media storm surrounding his death. But in the meantime, a few updates.


Monday 13 July 2009

Ian Halperin: King of Plop

As the media frenzy over Michael Jackson's death enters its third week, stories are beginning to run out. The seemingly endless parade of Jackson 'friends' and 'insiders' is thinning and news outlets are stuck in limbo as they await the results of Jackson's autopsy. In the absence of any new or concrete information about Jackson's death, newspapers are becoming desperate for fodder. So desperate, in fact, that British red-top The Sun today publishes two separate 'Jacko' stories attributed to one Ian Halperin.

For those who don't know, Halperin is a celebrity blogger who has spent the last 8 months publicising an upcoming Jackson biography. He has done so by releasing a steady stream of fictitious stories about the popstar to any media outlet desperate or gullible enough to print them. In this era of cost-cutting, almost every media outlet in the Western world has swallowed and regurgitated his outlandish claims without hesitation.

Today's Halperin exclusives include revelations about Jackson's 'secret gay life'. The star, alleges Halperin, would disguise himself as a woman and sneak out to a motel to sleep with a male construction worker.

But here lies the problem: Halperin is a proven liar and a fantasist.

In November 2008 Halperin made headlines the world over when he claimed that Jackson had been struck down by a genetic lung condition known as Alpha 1, leaving him blind in one eye and unable to speak. In his blog entry he fabricated a confirmation from Jermaine Jackson and offered to provide proof of his findings the following week. That proof never materialised.

Halperin is now making much of the fact that he accurately predicted Jackson's untimely demise, carefully neglecting to mention that last month's tragic events were no more than a convenient coincidence. Halperin claimed Jackson would die within 6 months of a genetic lung disease... He died 8 months later of a suspected overdose.

Shortly after his lung disease story went global, Halperin claimed that Jackson had been booked to perform on the yacht of a Russian billionaire. This story also proved untrue.

In April 2009 Halperin appeared on British television claiming that the star hadn't shown up to any of the rehearsals for his London concerts. In actuality the star was rehearsing five days per week at Centre Staging Studios in Burbank, LA.

Halperin's credibility was further diminished when, in the wake of the lung disease fallout, he was exposed as having lied about receiving a prestigious award. The blogger's bio claimed that he had been awarded the 1985 Rolling Stone award for investigative journalism. But the magazine itself issued a statement saying that nobody of that name had been handed any such award, rather that the award had been given to an entire newspaper staff, in which Halperin had been a minor player.

In spite of his track record, Halperin's Jackson biography is sure to fly off of the shelves when it is released later this month. But why does the media continue to quote him as an authoritative source on Jackson when every story he has released about the star thus far has proven entirely false?

Halperin's ability to consistently sneak his fabricated Jackson stories past fact checkers and into newspapers the world over is churnalism in action. Too few reporters filling too many pages leaves too little time for fact checking. When a chancer like Halperin comes along and hands them a story on a plate, they thank their lucky stars, lay it on a page and move onto the next task. Everybody's happy - Halperin gets his publicity and the newspaper fills vital space.

The losers, though, are Jackson's family. His fans too and, when he was still around, Jackson himself. Not to mention the general public. Misinformation is rife at the best of times, but with this rush for Jackson material, less and less time is being dedicated to fact checking.

Reporting on Michael Jackson has always been less than ethical. The man is a target for bogus stories. AEG head honcho Randy Phillips said in an interview earlier this year, "I was sitting opposite Michael Jackson in a meeting one morning and suddenly a news alert popped up that he'd been struck down with a flesh eating virus."

Halperin's articles have been repeatedly proven false. His biography is certain to be littered with similar errors. Readers beware - in death Jackson will be an even bigger target for shoddy reporting than he was in life.

More on the Jackson situation as it develops.