The Dark, Dark World of Norma Staikos

 

Michael Jackson has had many employees over the years. Most we’ve never heard of, some are notorious, but there is a group of core loyal employees who made sure his life ran smoothly with minimal disruptions and maximum pampering.

Bill Bray with a young Michael Jackson
Bill Bray with a young Michael Jackson

One of those was Bill Bray, Jackson’s faithful bodyguard of two and a half decades who did his absolute best to keep him out of trouble and harm’s way and was, for the most part, successful. Until the late 1990’s Bill Bray worked with Jackson through the high times and the scandals, never once breaking confidences or talking to the press. Even when he lay dying, disappointed at being abandoned by Jackson, he remained resolutely loyal to his old boss and surrogate son.

Another loyal employee was Norma Staikos. Variously described as “Executive Vice President of MJJ Productions”, “Jackson’s personal assistant” and “Jackson’s Chief of Staff”, Norma started working for Jackson in 1989 as ranch manager at Neverland, overseeing ranch adminstrators Mark and Faye Quindoy. The Quindoys had a rocky relationship with Jackson and eventually sullied their credibility by refusing to talk to the press about what they had witnessed between Jackson and boys unless they were promised substantial amounts of money[1].

While nominally only in charge of the workers, maintenance and day to day running of the ranch, Norma quickly became an essential part of Jackson’s staff. The stocky, middle-aged woman was somewhat of a pocket dynamo, inveigling herself into every part of Jackson’s professional and personal life. Her hand guided everything from his business ventures, his tours and travels, and more importantly, his relationships.

Michael Jackson and Norma Staikos
Michael Jackson and Norma Staikos

By all reports Norma’s plan was to make herself indispensable to Jackson, and she was ambitious. She wanted if not control then influence over everything Michael Jackson related. She was a hard taskmaster, and tough not just on other employees, but also on visitors to Neverland.

When Joy Robson visited the ranch with Wade, Norma not only forbade her from entering the main house but also instructed the staff at Neverland not to speak with her to ensure that Jackson had as smooth a time with Wade as possible, with no interruptions. Joy accepted this for the most part, except on Mothers Day during one visit to Neverland in 1990. Joy became upset when she had been prevented from seeing her son the entire day, and complained to security guard Charli Michaels[2].

Norma’s tyrannical rule was a cause of friction, with her edicts such as “never say no to Michael” and “never speak directly to any of his guests unless they ask you a question”[3] grating with Neverland staff. Her seeming ambition to take over all aspects not just of Neverland but also MJJ Productions was a source of gossip. She reportedly had her eye on usurping the position of not only Bob Jones, MJJ Productions vice president of communications, but of Jackson himself[4].

Norma had been in charge of hiring and firing staff at Neverland under Jackson’s instructions, but she extended her authority when she not only went over Jackson’s head by dealing directly with security at the ranch – setting security protocols for visitors and guests – but also firing staff against Jackson’s wishes. She vowed to terminate any ranch employee who got close to Jackson or anyone close to Jackson[5].

The level of trust Jackson had in regards to Norma came to light during the infamous 1995 Dangerous copyright case. Crystal Cartier alleged that Jackson stole her song ‘Player’ and turned it into the song ‘Dangerous’ (the case was eventually dismissed). Tellingly, Jackson gave a deposition where he agreed that Norma Staikos had control over his “vault” of recorded but unreleased songs.

Jackson’s acceptance of Norma’s increasing influence seemed to be based on his appreciation of her talents. Norma had a knack of anticipating what would make Jackson happy and then organizing for it to happen, and the main thing that made Jackson happy was, of course, visits from young boys. Norma organized the comings and goings of his boys in an efficient and discrete manner, ensuring every detail went smoothly.

Norma Staikos made all the arrangements wherever he was. It was she who brought the boys to Neverland, liaising with parents to ensure travel plans went smoothly whether they were visiting from Los Angeles, Germany or Australia. It was she who organized first class flights for Wade Robson and Brett Barnes from Brisbane and Melbourne, limousine rides for Jordan Chandler and Jimmy Safechuck, and it was she who made all the arrangements when boys went on tour with Jackson.

June Chandler testified[5] to Norma Staikos’ organizational skills at Jackson’s 2005 molestation trial.

Q. You mentioned — actually, let me ask you this: Did you mention Norma Staikos earlier?

A. Yes, I did.

Q. Where did you meet Norma Staikos?

A. I’ve never met Norma Staikos.

Q. Have you ever spoken to her?

A. Yes.

Q. In what context did you speak to Norma Staikos?

A. By telephone, about where we should meet, or when Michael Jackson is coming in to New York, or things like that.

Q. Did she seem to be the person that arranged your trips?

A. Everything. Everything.

Q. Did she seem to be the person who would get plane tickets, for example?

A. Absolutely, yes.

Q. Would she be the person who would arrange transportation on your trips with Michael Jackson?

A. Yes.

Wade Robson also testified[7] that Norma Staikos was the right person to talk to when a boy wanted to connect with Jackson. Here he describes what happened after his initial meeting with Jackson.

A. And then for the next two years, we didn’t have any contact [with Jackson] at all. And I continued pursuing my dance career in Australia. And then the company that I was with, the dance company, was traveling to America to do a performance at Disneyland. So we all went. Came out, did that performance. As I said, we’d had no contact with Michael or anything. Somehow my mother got in contact with Michael’s secretary at that time, who was Norma Staikos.

Q. BY MR. MESEREAU: After your mother got in contact with Norma Staikos, what happened next?

A. She talked to Michael about — we wanted to see if we could hook up with him again and meet him again. She talked to Michael. Michael remembered me from when I met him when I was five years old, wanted to meet me again.

Did Jackson really remember Wade after two years? That is an interesting detail in itself.

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Of course, Norma Staikos arranging to bring Michael Jackson and boys together could be construed by those who think Jackson to be innocent as nothing more than facilitating friendship. However, several people have spoken about Norma knowing about Jackson’s predilection for young boys.

During his testimony at the 2005 trial, former majordomo at Neverland Phillip Lemarque said he never reported the abuse he claimed to have witnessed of Macauley Culkin (by Jackson) to Staikos because Norma “knew about it”. He didn’t elaborate further.

Q. Okay. While you were at Neverland during that ten-month period, did you observe Mr. Jackson to have child visitors?

A. Yes.

Q. You continued to work at Neverland after you saw what you claim you saw, right?

A. Yes.

Q. Was your wife working at Neverland as well?

A. Yes.

Q. You never reported this to anyone there obviously, right?

A. No, we didn’t.

Q. You never went to Miss Staikos and said, “I saw something improper going on,” right?

A. We didn’t have to do that. She knew about it[8].

In an interview with Diane Dimond in January 1994, former Jackson executive secretary Orietta Murdoch said that everyone in the office knew about Jackson’s relationships with young boys, it was common knowledge.

In early January 1994, I found and interviewed Michael Jackson’s former executive secretary, Orietta Murdoch. For two years, Murdoch had been employed at the Los Angeles offices of MJJ Productions, where she performed a variety of duties for Michael Jackson: from simple office correspondence restocking the kitchen at his secret hideout apartment.

During our interview, she told me she often fielded calls from either Jackson’s “special friends” or their parents, asking for everything from backstage concert passes to European vacations.

She was under direct orders from Norma Staikos and Jackson’s chief of security, Bill Bray, to fulfill the wishes of these callers- no questions asked.

Murdoch, a single mother, claimed she left MJJ Productions in 1991 in “good standing” to accept a higher-paying position that would enable her to better provide for her young son. She said after working at MJJ Productions for two years, she asked Norma Staikos for a raise, and was turned down, so she moved on. Murdoch told me she had already been questioned by LAPD and that investigators said she possessed information that was important to their investigation. Murdoch claimed to have heard whispers about Michael Jackson and his relationships with young boys from the very first day she joined MJJ Productions. Indeed, she said the information was common knowledge around the office.

In quiet conversation, there was talk among the office staff about all those extravagant gifts Jackson doled out to the boys, the ones Staikos called his ” little boyfriends.” They’d talk about his sense of possessiveness toward them, too. At one point, Staikos even warned Murdoch to keep a close watch on her own son-and never leave the boy alone with the star.

Staikos never explained why, and Murdoch was too afraid to ask any questions. Murdoch said she took Staikos’s warning seriously and never brought her son to the office when she believed Jackson was going to be there.

This information was reiterated in the book Michael Jackson:Unauthorized by Christopher Andersen.

Orietta Murdoch, Michael’s top assistant at MJJ Productions and the mother of a 10-year-old boy, [Norma] Staikos said to her, “Never leave your son with Michael. It’s not a good idea.”

At the time he was staying with Jackson every night at his Century City condominium while mother Joy and sister Karlee stayed at the Holiday Inn opposite, Norma Staikos also allegedly referred to Wade Robson as one of her boss’s “little boyfriends.”[9]

Staikos also allegedly told Orietta Murdoch “that kid [Jackson] better be glad I understand his problem”, referring to Jackson’s compulsion to sleep with young boys[10].

Even were these comments and behavior not be attributable to her, that Staikos appeared to be so accommodating of Jackson’s “problem” is incredible. It would be highly unlikely for her to be organizing the comings and goings of so many boys over so many nights without at least an inkling of the purpose of those visits. Add to that the gifts she procured for boys and their parents on behalf of Jackson and one can only be incredulous that she had no knowledge of Jackson’s pedophilia.

Her comment to Orietta Murdoch – “Never leave your son with Michael. It’s not a good idea” – showed both that Staikos knew what Jackson was doing, and that what he was doing was wrong. Her continued aiding and abetting of his behavior was evidence of a darkness in her soul where she put the sexual enjoyment of her boss above the safety of children.

The danger of Norma Staikos “knowing too much” became a problem in 1993 when Jordan Chandler accused Jackson of molestation. When the allegations broke in August, Norma left the United States for her native Greece to avoid questioning by law enforcement, allegedly on the instructions of Jackson’s lawyers. Howard Weitzman was careful to say at the time, “I know she’s coming back, and I’ve told this to the police. To use the word ‘flee’ is egregious.”[11] She returned after Jackson settled with his boy accuser in January 1994, only to be served with a subpoena to appear before the investigating grand jury in Santa Barbara in early February[12].

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Curiously, in the March 2004 story in Vanity Fair by Maureen Orth, Neverland’s Lost Boys, it was claimed by former Jackson account Myung-Ho Lee that Norma Staikos appeared to be blackmailing Jackson.

[Staikos] disappeared the night before she was supposed to be questioned by the police, in 1993. Lee, however, got yet another of the many surprises he experienced handling Jackson’s business affairs when one day a request came in from Greece, where Staikos was living, for $75,000. Lee wanted to know what it was for and was told, “You don’t understand, Lawyer Lee. Norma gets whatever she wants.”

Without the court documents from the case between Jackson and Lee’s company it would be impossible to verify if any payments were made to Norma Staikos, and that’s even assuming that they were actually listed in the documents. Until we have verification we can only conclude that Lee may have been telling the truth.

However with evidence that Jackson wasn’t averse to paying out large sums of money to avoid being accountable (think the Chandler and Francia payouts) it’s entirely possible that Staikos received cash from Jackson[13]. Further evidence that Norma Staikos received payments came from Diane Dimond, who said “According to three individuals who have intimate knowledge of Jackson’s finances, Staikos continued to receive substantial payments from Michael Jackson for more than a decade.”[14]

Bob Jones, in his book Michael Jackson, the Man Behind the Mask: An Insider’s Story of the King of Pop, also wrote that whatever Norma asked for, she received.

Secretary Norma Staikos was a piece of work in her own right. During the Rent~a-Wreck Family [Chandler] investigation, the authorities concluded that it was she who arranged travel for Michael and many of his special guests, and it looked like they might tum the screws on her in order to prosecute Michael.

But then one day she was gone: she moved to Greece, out of the authorities’ reach, to Michael’s considerable benefit. Still, Norma stayed in touch. Every so often, she would leave a message for
Michael at MJJ Productions and with his assistant: “I need $70,000,” or “I need $100,000.”

Whatever amount requested, it was always sent without question or delay. She’s probably been paid millions. And people wonder what happened to all of Michael’s money. In fact, Michael’s former business manager, Myung Ho Lee, testified in his lawsuit against Michael that whenever Norma called for money, it was sent to her. Lee, who settled his suit against Michael Jackson in 2002, said Norma was always given money upon request. He speculated that it was to keep her quiet.

Informed sources said Norma Staikos was extremely guarded during her two hours of testimony in front of the grand jury and “not one of her responses was negative to Michael Jackson”.[15]

While it’s obvious Norma Staikos had at best a strong suspicion, and at worst deep knowledge, of Jackson’s behavior with boys, to date she has chosen to remain silent. Now that she has been named in Wade Robson’s lawsuit and may be deposed (and the payments presumably are no longer forthcoming), there is a chance that Jackson’s most private secrets will come to light. If she does the right thing, that is.


Sources:

[1] Nightmare in Neverland by Maureen Orth http://www.vanityfair.com/magazine/1994/01/orth199401 (retrieved 12 October 2015) and Michael Jackson was My Lover by Victor Gutierrez p.142, 143

[2] Joy Robson Testimony, May 6 2005

[3] Be Careful Who You Love by Diane Dimond p. 107

[4] ibid

[5] Plaintiff Wade Robson’s Opposition To Defendants MJJ Productions Inc and MJJ Ventures Inc’s Demurrer to Robson’s Third Amended Complaint

[6] June Chandler Testimony, April 11 2005

[7] Wade Robson Testimony, May 5 2005

[8] Phillip LeMarque Testimony, April 8 2005

[9] Behind the Michael Jackson Bombshell: How a Staunch Defender Suddenly Flipped, Daily Beast http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles…how-a-staunch-defender-suddenly-flipped.html (retrieved 12 October 2015)

[10] Plaintiff Wade Robson’s Opposition To Defendants MJJ Productions Inc and MJJ Ventures Inc’s Demurrer to Robson’s Third Amended Complaint

[1] Nightmare in Neverland by Maureen Orth http://www.vanityfair.com/magazine/1994/01/orth199401 (retrieved 12 October 2015)

[12] Grand Jury Hears Ex-Jackson Aide : Investigation: Former chief of staff at Neverland ranch testifies in child molestation probe, Los Angeles Times February 11 1994 http://articles.latimes.com/1994-02-11/news/mn-21766_1_grand-jury (retrieved 10 October 2015)

[13] Interestingly, Roger Friedman, who at the time was writing for Fox News at the time, allegedly saw the documents detailing Jackson’s finances (which were filed as part of the lawsuit between Myung-Ho Lee and Michael Jackson over a $12 million payment for services rendered). Friedman details that included in those financial documents is a payment to Frank Cascio’s father for $600,000, ostensibly a loan for this restaurant. These claims were never tested in court as Jackson settled the lawsuit before it went to trial, however as this figure and who it was paid to was part of a lengthy and otherwise mostly mundane list of creditors (including payment of $1.5 million to Debbie Rowe in October 2000 and $45,000 to PR firm Rubenstein and Associates) it is good evidence of yet another of Jackson’s payouts to boys and/or their parents.
Vanity Fair Jacko Story: It Was Here First March 5, 2003 (retrieved 10 October 2015)

[14] Be Careful Who You Love by Diane Dimond p. 119

[15] ibid