Peter Pan? or Bad?

(Investigator 103, 2005 July)


Michael Jackson's Thriller was: "the best selling album, of any kind, of all time." (Time 1984, March 19, p62) Many considered him the world's greatest entertainer, the "King of Pop".

Yet, Jackson also went house to house with The Watchtower and faced slammed doors like other Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs).

Then came increasing wierdness – "Jacko the Wacko" – and accusations of child sexual abuse.


Michael Jackson (b. 1958, August 29) lived in super-stardom from childhood.

The Jackson Brothers debut in 1963 started him on a treadmill of concerts and singing, pushed on by an ambitious steel-worker father, Joseph, who "rehearsed them…practically every day for at least two or three hours." (Time 1984, p70)

Of nine siblings, six boys and three girls, Jackson was seventh.

Sigmund (Jackie), Toriano (Tito), Jermaine, Marlon and Michael became famous as the Jackson Five.

The elder Jackson ferried them in his volkswagon van to perform in Gary and other cities of Indiana. Sometimes Michael got to bed at 5am and slept briefly before going to school.

In 1969 the Jackson Five auditioned for Motown Records in Detroit. As a promotion hook Motown made them a supporting act to Diana Ross and the Supremes.

Jackson broke with his father in 1981 and continued to solo stardom. His brothers produced solo records too, but only Jermaine had success. Bad feeling followed; they blamed Michael for abandoning them. Family pressure produced the Jackson Five reunion tour in 1984, titled Victory – a disaster – promoters lost $millions.

Joseph Jackson said in 1984, "My boys are very good. They're not into drugs… There's nothing wrong with having a drink once in a while, but they don't even do that. They don't smoke." (Time 1984, p69)

The squeaky clean image gradually tarnished. La Toya (b.1957) left JWs, appeared in Playboy, married a brothel owner, and described violence and cruelty in her book, Growing Up In The Jackson Family. She says, "Our father put guns to our head and pulled the trigger and then he'd laugh." Cleo magazine (1993) takes the words "I know what happened to Rebbie. I was in the same bed" to imply sexual abuse.

Another sister, Janet (b.1966), achieved pop-star fame separately and became Jackson's unfailing defender during adverse publicity.


First performance of the Jackson Five.
1968 First Jackson Five recording, Big Boy, released.

1971 Michael Jackson first solo album, Got To Be There.
1976 Jackson switched from Motown to Epic Records.
1977 With Diana Ross in The Wiz, based on The Wizard of Oz.
1979 First solo album with Epic, Off The Wall, sold 15 million.

1982 Jackson's Thriller album produced seven Top 10 singles, sold 50 million, and got him in trouble with the Jehovah's Witness hierarchy.
1983 Jackson won 8 Grammy Awards. Earned an estimated $50 million that year.
1984 The Jackson Brothers Reunion album sold 5 million and Pepsi paid $5.5 million to sponsor their Victory tour.
1985 Jackson co-wrote We Are The World, a single with 44 singers issued to raise money for Africa.
1986 Jackson starred in a 3-D video, Captain Eo, shown in Disney theme parks until 1998. Pepsi paid him $10 million to appear in several commercials.
1987 Jackson's Bad album, a smash success, sold 25 million. His tour earned $130 million. He resigned from JWs.
1988 Autobiography – Moonwalker. Neverland purchased.
1989 100 million Moonwalker videos sold.

1991 Jackson's Dangerous album, a smash success, sold 37 million.
Creation of Jackson's Heal the World Foundation.
Book by LaToya – Growing Up in the Jackson Family.
592-page Jackson biography by J R Taraborrelli.
Jackson's Black or White single topped the charts.
1993 Jackson on the Oprah Winfrey show.
In another TV appearance Jackson denied he abused children and described his "humiliating ordeal" by California police.
Janet emerged as a superstar – her albums Control and Rhythm Nation sold 10 million copies.
1994 Married Lisa Marie Presley.
1995 Jackson's album HIStory sold 30 million.
Interviewed with Lisa Marie on Prime Time about his child-abuse settlement two-years earlier.
1996 Married Debbie Rowe his former nurse. Had one son, Prince Michael, and a daughter, Paris. Divorced in 1999. Jackson retained the children.
1997 Blood on the Dance Floor album sold 7 million.
Ghosts, a 40-minute short film starring Jackson.

2001 Jackson's most expensive album Invincible sold 9 million.
Concert at Madison Square Garden, New York.
2002 Second son, Prince Michael II, with a surrogate mother.
Jackson dangled the baby over a hotel balcony in Berlin.
2003 Film by journalist Martin Bashir, Living With Michael Jackson, in which Jackson said boys shared his bed.
2005 Trial for child sexual molestation.



By his thirties many considered Jackson weird – "Jacko the Wacko".

A bundle of energy on stage he spoke softly, childlike, when off. He cultivated friendships with children. Hundreds stayed at his 1,100-hectare Neverland ranch 180km north of Los Angeles, which has a huge amusement park (including Ferris wheel, carousel and roller-coaster), a zoo, movie theatre, and a 33-room, two-story mansion where pictures of Peter Pan, Walt Disney, Albert Einstein and himself adorned walls. He liked water-balloon fights with kids and tree-climbing.

Jackson wore silk masks in public, followed strict vegetarian diets, at 5' 11" and 120 pounds looked anorexic thin, reportedly tried to buy the Elephant Man's bones, and supposedly tried to stay young by sleeping in an oxygen chamber.

Jackson's black skin had turned white, bleached some claimed with chemicals although Jackson blamed a genetic condition called vitiligo. Vitiligo gives uneven pigmentation which the sufferer might want to even out – therefore both statements could be correct each giving half the story. In 1992 older brother, Jermaine, released a single – Word To The Bad – which has the lyric, "You changed your shade; Was your color wrong?"

Repeated plastic surgery re-carved Jackson's chubby, broad-nosed, Afro face and made it effeminate with thinner nose, wider eyes, accentuated cheeks and cleft chin. Some claimed he changed himself to look like Diana Ross whom he idolised since he was ten. The surgery also obscured his age – he looked younger at 30 than at 20. This helped his Peter Pan image which, however, was contradicted by his vigorous non-Peter-Pan-like crotch grabbing on stage.

After Ross married a Norwegian in 1985 Jackson pursued other older women including Liz Taylor, Sophia Loren and Liza Minnelli but married, then divorced, Lisa Marie Presley who refused to have a child with him. Then he married his nurse Debbie Rowe and had two children, a boy and girl. After divorcing Rowe Jackson had another son with a surrogate mother.

Certainly not a typical Jehovah's Witness!

And there were many sensational allegations. In 1993-1994, for example, Jackson was victim of a $US20 million paternity suit. A woman claimed her 10-year-old son resulted from a liaison with Jackson in Californian. The case was dismissed after blood and DNA tests.

The Jacksons appeared to be always suing or being sued – the unauthorised biography, Michael Jackson: The Magic and the Madness (J R Taraborrelli 1991) used information from fifty court cases!

Michael Jackson was also a tireless philanthropist. His Heal the World Foundation benefited causes such as orphanages, drug rehabilitation, immunization, and airlifts of food and medicine to Bosnia and Africa.


In 1993 Jackson, formerly free of sex scandals and seemingly asexual, admitted sharing his bed with a 13-year-old boy.

His Pepsi-Cola-sponsored Dangerous world tour kicked off in Bangkok while in California Jordy Chandler, 13, sketched "whitish blotches" on Jackson's penis for police. Jackson denied molestation claiming he was the victim of $20million extortion scheme.

A lawsuit filed on behalf of the boy and parents claimed Jackson:

…gave expensive and lavish gifts to plaintiff…took plaintiff on trips and vacations, feigned despair and grief when plaintiff rejected sexual advances, and falsely told plaintiff it would be right and appropriate for plaintiff to comply with sexual advances. (The Advertiser 1993, September 16, p20)

Jackson's lawyer, however, compared it to "sleepovers" that many youngsters have and said, "He really lives the life of a 12-year-old." (The Advertiser 1993, December 7, p32)

Pleading migraine headaches and dehydration Jackson cancelled two concerts in Thailand and Singapore and returned to California.

A former maid claimed she saw Jackson nude with boys. LaToya, at a news conference in Israel, said she believed Jackson had molested boys for ten years, but the mother called her estranged daughter a liar. Several other boys who police interviewed had also shared Jackson's bed but denied anything sexual occurred.

The thing ended in 1994 with a hush-money deal. Californian law cannot compel juveniles to testify in sex crime cases and the boy dropped the case for a payment estimated at $15-$50 million (but recently revealed as US$24 million).

Additional allegations had Jackson addicted to pain killers, attempting suicide by drug overdose, and on a 24-hour sedative drip in London to beat his addiction.

In an interview on American ABC's Prime Time two years later Jackson declared, "It's not all this crazy, outlandish money". He also said, "Children love me. I love them… A child can come in my bed if they want."

Reader's Digest criticized this with, "…no-one has found a single girl who was invited to bed with Jackson. He slept with boys." (1996, February, p46) However, it's doubtful whether sleeping with little girls would have improved Jackson's reputation.

Another lawsuit by five former security guards Jackson fired stated:

Driven by his perverted passion, he openly travelled with young boys, had them delivered to him in limousines and boldly kept young boys in his bedroom as virtual sex toys for days at a time. (Sunday Mail 1994, March 27, p13)

Jackson survived the abuse allegations and also suppressed release of police pictures of his "private parts" for which media outlets had offered $3million!

Jackson's sister Janet meanwhile emerged from her brother's shadow with smash albums of her own, threatening to rival him as "King of Pop".

In 1996 another triumphant world tour secured Jackson another generation of adoring, screaming fans.


Jackson's mother Katherine (b.1926) was a JW and raised her children as JWs. Whether the father, Joseph, was a JW too is unclear. According to the Taraborrelli book he had an illegitimate daughter – and immorality often means leaving the sect.

Taraborrelli also chronicled sexual escapades of Jackson's brothers with girl fans, "groupies", LaToya appearing in Playboy, and Janet living with a boyfriend in her Malibu Beach house – all conduct likely to get a JW excommunicated.

In the early 1980s Jackson went door-to-door most weeks, disguised and shadowed by security guards. (Time 1984, p67) Like other JWs he attended weekly meetings, gave short talks at the "Service Meeting" where JWs learn to preach, and attended JW conventions.

The sect regarded Jackson's 1982 Grammy-winning album Thriller, and the video promoting it, as occultic. It was about things JWs officially disdain like gangs, violence and vampires. Stern-faced elders would have warned him against rebellion and "bad associations", and urged him to "be submissive to Jehovah's organization."

The JW magazine Awake! quoted the Thriller video disclaimer: "Due to my strong personal convictions, I wish to stress that this film in no way endorses a belief in the occult." Awake! also quoted Jackson: "I'll never do a video like that again. In fact, I have blocked further distribution..."

During the Victory Tour in 1984 Jackson's JW connection made news. Disguised in dark hat, suit and drooping moustache, he reportedly went door to door in Dallas and Birmingham, Alabama.

In mid 1987 Jackson left JWs. A spokesman from the Woodland Hills (Los Angeles) congregation announced he left voluntarily – disassociated. This meant all JWs were obligated to shun him.

Katherine and Rebbie were still devout and LaToya was close to Jackson. The shunning rule would have inflicted severe family stress. Other shunned ex JWs have tried to sue the Watchtower Society (the JW legal and publishing channel) but failed.

One American newspaper reported:

The emotional harm suffered by a person who is ostracized by friends and family must be tolerated by society, under the Constitution, "as a price well worth paying to safeguard the right of religious difference that all citizens enjoy," the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday. (The Herald 1987, June 11, 9A)

Why Jackson opted out at that particular time is unclear. Many JWs desert the sect whenever the leaders' prophecies fail. This, for example, happened in the mid-1970s when about 500,000 walked out because Armageddon followed by paradise on Earth didn't come. No such dramatic failure happened in the 1980s however. The sect had been predicting an imminent "international cry of peace" which would signify the start of Armageddon, and also taught that many people born long enough before 1914 to see and understand events of 1914 would live until Armageddon. As it turned out 1986 was the UN International Year of Peace, but Armageddon didn't come.

Had Jackson not left JWs he faced excommunication anyway. Although he lived chastely, and even banned sexual jokes in his presence, he didn't measure up in other ways. He attended Liz Taylor's birthday party although JWs oppose birthdays as pagan, and his dancing and lyrics were suggestive by JW standards. The sect constantly warns members against "friendship with the world" and regarded Jackson's life-style as a detrimental example.

Jackson probably lasted as long as he did because he contributed financially to the Watchtower Society and because his fame attracted new converts.

In 1988 Katherine disobeyed the shunning rule and flew to London for Jackson's 30th birthday. The Sunday Mail reported: "Jackson's mum has been kicked out of the Jehovah's Witnesses for visiting her son in Britain." (1988 September 11, p6)

Some speculated Jackson left JWs because he's "gay" but in the 1984 Time interview his parents denied he's homosexual. However, six years later, in front of guests during a barbecue, the father accused him of homosexuality. (Australasian Post 1990, August 28) Jackson thereupon finalised his $28million purchase of Neverland and left the family home.

Jackson denies being homosexual. Time recounts his reaction when propositioned: "I looked at him and said, ‘When's the last time you really read the Bible? You know, you should really read it because there is some real information in there about homosexuality.'" (p67)

In 1989 LaToya's husband announced Jackson had joined Islam, given huge donations, and promised to build a mosque. Jackson's marriage to Lisa Marie, a Scientologist, provided rumors he had joined Scientology. The Islam connection resurfaced in early 2004 when Jackson had six Nation of Islam bodyguards and sought the cult's help to fight new child-abuse allegations.


To survive one brush with the law over child-abuse accusations, then admit on film to taking kids to bed, seems stupid. But that, in public opinion, is Jackson – an April Fools Day survey of 1,030 people voted him America's most foolish person for the third straight year. (The Advertiser 2005, April 2, p59)

In the 2003 documentary Living With Michael Jackson, he admits taking kids to bed and holds hands with 13-year-old Gavin. Police investigated but the boy denied being abused. Later he changed his mind and in December police laid charges.

Jackson was accused of sexually molesting the boy, plying him with alcohol, and conspiring to kidnap his family to make them film a rebuttal to the earlier film. Ten charges centred on conspiracy to abduct, molestation, giving alcohol to a minor, and lewd acts. He faced up to 18 years in jail.

A 14-week trial with 135 witnesses followed. Rolling Stone magazine called it: "a goddam zoo, a freak show from sunup to sundown." Psychologists, character witnesses, entertainers, celebrities, former Jackson employees, his former wife, the boy's feisty and animated mother (incidentally named Janet Jackson the same as Jackson's sister), the boy himself, Jackson's former lawyer, etc. The prosecution wanted to display the 1993 photos of Jackson's "blemished" penis, but this the judge blocked. The defence portrayed Jackson as naïve and exploited by opportunists.

Jackson made a daily fashion statement – his tailors used a mannequin-duplicate of his physique to prepare new outfits every day, delivered them to Neverland before dawn, and helped him dress.

45 courtroom seats were reserved for the public. About 100 noisy fans, including a Jackson impersonator, demonstrated outside. Many piled into cars after each day, raced 45km to Neverland to greet Jackson's convoy of SUVs, and played his albums and mimicked his dance steps.

On the final day the Jackson family arrived in force – Joe, Katherine, Jermaine, Randy, LaToya, Janet and Rebbie.

In a savage closing address prosecutors said the singer groomed vulnerable boys, gave them alcohol and "took sexual liberties". A large screen displayed Jackson's statement in the 2003 film: "I have slept in a bed with many children." Jackson's lawyer labelled the accusers "con artists, actors and liars".

It ended with Jackson crying as everyone filed out.

New Idea, Australia's main women's magazine, reported Jackson had sold Neverland to cover debts and planned to escape to Australia. However, Reverend Jesse Jackson, a civil rights campaigner and friend of the Jackson family, announced the star planned no major sell-offs, and was not in debt. Other reports claimed the trial, for which he hired lawyers, detectives, legal advisers and public relations staff, would cost him $95 million. His accountant testified he spends $20 million more per year than he earns and had assets of $130 million and liabilities of $415 million.

The police cautious following skirmishes between fans and media people – got 700 men ready in case of riots.

So, is Jackson a mixed up "Off The Wall" Peter Pan? Or a "Big Boy" "Bad" and "Dangerous"? 


Michael Jackson again has something to sing and dance about. The jury found him not guilty on all charges due to "reasonable doubt".



Awake! 1984 May 22, pp 19-20
Cleo 1993 March, pp 101-103
New Idea 1991 October 19, p9; 1993 September 18, pp 10-11; 2005 June 11, pp 20-21
Reader's Digest 1996, February, pp 44-48
Rolling Stone 2005, June, pp 48-52
Sunday Mail 1990 January 7, p116; 1993 March 14, pp 4-5; 1994 January 23 p3; 1994 January 30, p126; 1996 November 24, p19; 2005 June 12, p39
The Advertiser 1993 August 28, p17; 1993 December 15, p19; 1994 November 23, p23; 2005 June 4, p76
The Advertiser Magazine 1990 January 6, p6; 1991 May 25, p5
The Australian 2005 June 15, pp 1, 8, 13
Time 1984 March 19, 62-71; 1993 September 6, pp 62-63; 1994 February 7, pp 56-57
Who Weekly 1993, September 6, p38
Woman's Day 1990 April 24, pp 10-11




Dictionary of Jehovah's Witnesses at: