Lies, Abuse & Trauma: The Biggest Bombshells About Michael Jackson from Leaving Neverland
All the shocking revelations from HBO's buzzed-about Michael Jackson documentary Leaving Neverland
Ten years after Michael Jackson‘s death, the singer is the subject of a new HBO documentary that has received buzz — and backlash — from those who knew and idolized the pop star.
Leaving Neverland follows the story Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who came to know “Bad” singer from a young age — as young as 5 in Robson’s case — and who now claim Jackson sexually molested both of them at separate times when they were children.
In late February, Jackson’s estate filed a lawsuit against HBO claiming the documentary violates a non-disparagement clause in which the network agreed to not speak ill of the singer and also cited Jackson’s 2005 acquittal of child molestation charges against him, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE.
The lawsuit hasn’t stopped HBO from going ahead with the project, which the network addressed in a statement: “Despite the desperate lengths taken to undermine the film, our plans remain unchanged. HBO will move forward with the airing of Leaving Neverland, the two-part documentary, on March 3 and 4. This will allow everyone the opportunity to assess the film and the claims in it for themselves.”
The two-part, four-hour-long documentary was filmed by Dan Reed and premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival last month. It includes intimate interviews with Robson, Safechuck, both of their mothers, their wives and Robson’s siblings.
The following includes explicit details of the allegations made by Robson and Safechuck.
Here are five of the most shocking bombshells from Leaving Neverland.
1. The abuse allegedly began at an early age.
Safechuck, 40, met Jackson when he was cast in the singer’s 1986 Pepsi commercial. He said the pop star took him and his family on tour where their relationship allegedly turned sexual when Jackson taught Safechuck how to masturbate.
“He set it up like I’m going to show you something that everybody does and you’ll enjoy it,” Safechuck said. “It felt like you were bonding, in a way. The tour was the start of this sexual, like, couple relationship.”
As for Robson, the 36-year-old choreographer met Jackson when he was 5 years old after he won a shopping mall dancing competition in his native Australia. The prize led to a meeting with Jackson backstage at his concert in Brisbane.
By 1990, when Robson was about 8 years old, the family came into contact with Jackson again during a vacation in Los Angeles. Robson alleged Jackson convinced Robson’s mother to let him stay over alone with the singer while the rest of his family went on a trip to the Grand Canyon.
It was then that Jackson allegedly performed oral sex on him and kissed him. Robson claimed Jackson told him, “You and I were brought together by God. We were meant to be together. This is how we show love.”
2. Jackson allegedly staged a “mock wedding ceremony” with Safechuck and gave him a wedding ring.
Toward the end of part one, Safechuck revealed he had a box full of expensive jewelry that he said was given to him by Jackson, including a wedding ring he alleged Jackson gave to him.
“We were like this married couple. And I say married because we had this mock wedding ceremony. We did this in his bedroom and we filled out some vows,” Safechuck said.
He claimed he and Jackson “would go buy them at jewelry stores” and “pretend like they were for somebody else, like for a female.”
“We would pretend my small hand fit whatever female we were buying it for,” Safechuck said. “I was really into jewelry and he would reward me with jewelry for doing sexual acts for him.”
3. Jackson allegedly gave Safechuck “drills” to avoid getting caught.
While Jackson and Safechuck were staying in hotels, he alleged the singer trained him to cover their tracks.
“He would run drills with me where we’d be in the hotel room and he would pretend like somebody was coming in and you had to get dressed as fast as possible without making noise,” Safechuck said.
He added, “So not getting caught was a big kind of fundamental [thing]. It was very much a secret. He would tell me that if anybody found out, his life would be over and my life would be over, and that’s something he tells you over and over again.”
Robson had a similar experience, claiming Jackson told him if anyone “ever found out what we were doing about the sexual stuff, that he and I would be pulled apart and we would never be able to see each other again. And that he and I would go to jail for the rest of our lives.”
4. Robson felt replaced by Macaulay Culkin.
When Robson’s family uprooted from Australia to Los Angeles to be closer to Jackson, his dreams were shattered when he realized he had been replaced by Macaulay Culkin, who was hot off the success of Home Alone.
Robson said he was meant to dance in the singer’s “Black or White” music video, which was released in 1991.
“That experience was really hard for me. This was the first time I came up against the new friend Macaulay Culkin,” Robson said. “Macaulay was where I was, in my previous trips. Right by Michael’s side [at] every moment… and now I was on the sidelines as far as being Michael’s friend and being his favorite.”
He added, “That was really confusing. He and Michael had all of the connection and secret things that Michael and I had before. I could recognize that. There was jealousy from me, hurt, confusion.”
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5. Jackson allegedly asked Robson’s mom to let him stay alone with the singer for a year.
Jackson allegedly asked Robson’s mother, Joy, if she would leave her son with him in Los Angeles while the rest of her family returned to Australia.
“Michael said to me, ‘Will you leave [the] little one with me for a year?'” Joy said. “I was stunned. I said, ‘Absolutely not.’ He said, ‘I would do wonders for his career. I could work with him, we could do so much together, it would be wonderful for him to stay here with me.'”
Despite the singer’s attempts to convince her, Joy continued to say no.
“I said, ‘Michael, he’s my child, he’s 7 years old, I am not going to leave him with you.’ We went through this for a couple of hours, where I tried to explain to him that it wasn’t going to happen,” she said. “And after a while, he looked at me and said, ‘I always get what I want.'”
Jackson’s brothers Tito, Marlon, Jackie and the singer’s nephew Taj, defended him in an interview with CBS This Morning on Wednesday, in which they refuted the claims made in the documentary, though they admitted they hadn’t yet viewed it.
“I don’t care to see it,” Jackie, 67, said. “No, because I know my brother. I don’t have to see that documentary. I know Michael. I’m the oldest brother. I know my brother. I know what he stood for. What he was all about. Bringing the world together. Making kids happy. That’s the kind of person he was.”
Marlon, 61, claimed that Jackson was “never inappropriate” with children.
When King asked if they ever found it “odd” that Jackson would “share a bed or have slumber parties with young children,” Taj said no.
“I grew up in it, so for me it wasn’t odd,” Taj, 45, said. “You know, I think, to the outside world, yes, I think it can be odd. I mean, I’m not oblivious to what it sounds like. But when you’re actually there in that atmosphere and you’re around it, and you’re watching movies, whether, with his kids, whether it’s Little Rascals or Three Stooges, and you’re watching these things, it’s like, it’s very innocent.”
Jackson was 50 years old when he was found dead on June 25, 2009, in his L.A. mansion and is survived by his three children: Prince Michael, 22, Paris, 20, and 17-year-old “Blanket,” who now goes by Bigi.
Leaving Neverland airs Sunday and Monday at 8 p.m. on HBO.