Recently I had the opportunity to check out Paul Anka’s autobiography. Paul Anka worked with Jackson in 1981, co-writing several songs (one of which went on to become Jackson’s first posthumous ‘hit’, This Is It). There is a short, but succinct entry on Jackson. Paul starts by explaining how he saw Jackson’s dark, ruthless side early on.
Everyone has a dark side, but in those days no one guessed that there could be a dark side to Michael Jackson. However, I saw it early on, and it wasn’t pretty. I had a cool run of stuff in the early 70s, but at some point I decided to get back to writing with other people. I love collaboration and the diversity it brings to a song.
When I first met Michael Jackson I knew he was immensely talented—this was before Thriller and his huge hits—and I began to think about collaborating with him. I’d known the Jackson family for a while. They used to bring their kids to Caesars to see my shows when they were young. They were a theatrically driven family. You could see that. I knew of Michael’s talents, saw him growing up—everyone knew it was going to happen. Later on I met Michael again, through a guy named David Gest, a real go-getter who eventually married Liza Minnelli.
I first sat down with Michael Jackson and talked about collaborating in 1980. We started working together at my house in Carmel. It was a fun place to be—he was using my guesthouse, playing with my girls in the Jacuzzi. He clearly had a real fondness for kids—he was very childlike himself and related to them on their own level. When Michael and I talked, we were rapping. Even then he had this fascination with plastic surgery, a major obsession, obviously.
There’s that recurring theme that we seem to be reading a lot of lately – Jackson with children in a jacuzzi. Paul Anka’s daughters (he had 5), Soleil Moon Fry, Wade Robson, Brett Barnes, Jimmy Safechuck and Macauley Culkin (to name a few) have been coerced into joining Jackson in the bubble and toil that he enjoyed so much.
Anyway, Michael and I start messing around with the songs we were working on. I was very impressed with the way he went about the writing process. He knew how to make his way around a song, not only because he had an incredible vocal quality, but he also had a capacity to make complicated singing licks from an initial one-finger tune played for him on the piano. He didn’t seem at all like a disturbed character when he was working. He was just very tenacious, very focused on what he needed to do. But you could tell he was also wildly ambitious and capable of anything; I sensed an absolutely ruthless streak.
The concept of the album I was working on for Sony, Walk a Fine Line, was collaborations with other artists: Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, David Foster, and Chicago, plus the two tracks I was doing with Michael. But the thing is, while we were doing Walk a Fine Line, Michael was also doing tracks for his album Thriller. Well, Thriller comes out and is an absolute smash, and of course I can’t get Michael in the studio to finish what we are doing. But I had tapes sitting in the studio in L.A., at Sunset Sound I think it was—all the tapes from when we were working together. It was right around then I started to see Michael’s true colors. It happens.
I’m trying to finish my album, and suddenly I couldn’t get him on the phone. Then he sent one of his people over to the studio and they actually stole the tapes we’d been working on.
Yes, these were Paul Anka’s tapes for his own project – yet Jackson saw fit to steal them. Perhaps Jackson saw how much money he could realize from his music after the success of Thriller and decided he wasn’t keen on sharing the wealth with someone else.
When I heard about this, I went, “What? Michael went in and just took them? Holy shit!”
Then Michael disappears, and only after weeks of threatening did I get the tapes back—finally. But I knew then that this kid was headed for trouble.
I just thought it was a terrible thing to do. How do people become ruthless? What mania takes them over is always a mystery. What happened? This boy was a child when I first met him. Who knew what went on in that family?
While fans insist that Jackson was always kind and gentle, we have here someone who worked closely with him and actually knew him and shows another side of his personality. Fans tend to present Jackson as one dimensional, a person without depth. They portray him as someone who was perenially nice to everyone he met but, like all humans, he had many facets – from dark to light, from greedy to altruistic, from hateful to loving, and so on. It’s a shame fans dehumanize him the way they do.
Paul knew, even back then, that Jackson would end up in a very bad way. There were already signals that Jackson was going to always have difficulty keeping friends.
Some time after the stolen-tape incident, Michael called and asked to meet me. I could tell he was disturbed and sorry, but I mean, what could you say? This was a major talent who got derailed too early in his life. It was never a good situation, and see where he wound up. You could almost sense it coming.
For example, between the Jacksons and the Osmonds, there was always a certain rivalry despite the fact that they were two family groups supposedly competing with each other in a friendly way. But Michael could be scathing about the Osmonds. He thought they were a kitsch exploitation group compared to the Jackson Five.
While we were working together he’d call the Osmonds and talk them up in a nice, chatty manner, and as soon as he’d hung up he’d rip them apart behind their backs.
Once again, Paul gives us the unvarnished truth.
However, it’s this last part that made me draw breath. Paul recounts a disturbing and sordid story from late 2003.
Anyway, on this one occasion, Michael Jackson in his fashion floated to Vegas and was staying at a villa next door to us at the Mirage. I saw the parade of kids going in and out—scary. He was at the end of the stay but they were trying to get him out of there anyway. They swore never to let him return.
Earlier, Steve Wynn and Michael had been all buddy-buddy. Steve even called one of his suites the Michael Jackson Suite—but he didn’t know then what was about to erupt. And when it did erupt, Michael was ensconced at the villa next door to me. The maids and other hotel staff would come to me and say, “We can’t even go in that room; if we have room service we gotta leave it outside.” When they finally get Michael out, after weeks of trying, they go in and there’s broken glass, perfume bottles, food—the place is an unholy mess, the Jacuzzi has bubble bath pouring out of it, there’s rotting food everywhere.
Now, where had I seen this story before? It didn’t take me long to find it. The story also appeared in Diane Dimond’s 2009 book on Jackson Be Careful Who You Love. Diane describes Jackson’s stay at the Mirage. The prelude for the story is the raid on Neverland on the 18th of November 2003.
As dozens of law enforcement swarmed the Neverland Valley Ranch that day, Michael Jackson was hundreds of miles away, in Las Vegas, holed up at a luxurious villa at the Mirage Hotel – the same hotel at which he and Jordie Chandler had watched The Exorcist and shared a bed back in 1993. Jackson had been in Vegas for weeks, ostensibly finishing work on a new video that would accompany his new box-set release, Number Ones. But Jackson was preoccupied and the work was never finished.
Jackson was engrossed in a weeks-long, closed-door party with a group of young boys. All the hotel’s maids and butlers had been shooed away. Jackson wanted no housekeeping service; when food or drink was delivered to his room, the standing order to the butler was to wheel the cart up to the door, knock, and walk away. This went on for nearly three weeks.
The boys, many of whom were German speaking, were spotted outside Jackson’s room in the secluded breezeway that leads to the villas section of the hotel. They smoked cigarettes and shouted into cell phones and generally disturbed the lavish peace the Mirage creates for it’s most wealthy clientele. This revolving group of boys got noticed on a daily basis. But Jackson himself was rarely seen. When passersby did spot him through the open villa door, he was said to have looked “zonked out”and wearing a long, purple dashiki-type robe.
The top brass at the Mirage were becoming ever more frantic to figure out what to do with the growing number of complaints from other influential occupants of the other villas. One resident reported to security that boys, seemingly fresh from the streets, had joined the Jackson party. This confidential source told me, “It looked to me as though those boys were coming in for the food.”
However, relief was in store for Steve Wynn and the Mirage management – Jackson was about to leave, though the mess he left behind was reportedly the final straw in his and Wynn’s formerly close friendship. Remember all this is happening right next to Paul Anka’s room.
Upon hearing the news that Neverland was the subject of another criminal investigation, Jackson quickly decamped the Mirage Hotel. Though I never discovered where he went next, I know he remained in the Las Vegas area.
When the maids finally were allowed to enter Jackson’s villa, they found a scene of devastation. Food trays with rotting leftovers hadn’t been removed in weeks. There were mounds of cigarette butts resting on dinner plates and stuffed in drinking glasses, and burns on the expensive couches and chairs, as if someone had deliberately stubbed out their cigarettes there. Empty and broken liquor bottles were strewn about. In the end, there was an estimated $30,000 of damage to the villa. Through back channels, Michael Jackson was told he was longer welcome as a guest at the Mirage.
Let’s put to one side for the moment the disturbing revelations of Jackson being surrounded by boys for weeks on end and his total failure as a mentor, his poor example of how to behave, or the total lack of his supposed concern for children – the point here is that once again Jackson Realists have been vindicated. Paul Anka’s corroboration of Diane Dimond’s story shows that fans’ assertions that she “made it all up” is based on their own blinkered views.
To date, it has been each of Jackson’s public relations embellishments that have been slowly but surely debunked as lies, and the seemingly sensationalist stories, from those who doggedly covered his unruly life, that have been shown one by one to be the truth. How much longer can people pretend that all was sugar and light in Jackson’s world? It boggles the mind to think that any intelligent person would still be making excuses for his excesses and wrongs – unless they are in the grip of celebrity.
Written by a guest contributor.