Guests: Diane Dimond, Jim Thomas, Walter Yetnikov
ANNOUNCER: DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.
Indicted—Michael Jackson prepares to face the music. A California grand jury says he will stand trial.
Tonight, the reporter who broke the story about this latest investigation. Court TV‘s Diane Dimond on how a superstar found himself arrested and now indicted for child molestation.
Plus, we‘ll take you inside the Jackson investigation with a former Santa Barbara sheriff. Could there be another molestation victim who‘s refused to talk?
And a look into the mind of a musical genius with the people who watched Michael grow from this to this.
Tonight, Michael Jackson, the magic and the madness.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We love you!
ANNOUNCER: From Studio 3-K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.
DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST: And good evening.
After hearing from witnesses for the last three weeks, the Santa Barbara County grand jury has indicted pop super star Michael Jackson on child molestation charges. That means there is enough evidence, in the grand jury‘s opinion, for the case to go to trial.
Jackson, who was already arraigned once in January and pleaded not guilty, is scheduled to be arraigned again one week from tomorrow. He is free on $3 million bail.
The judge has ordered a gag order in that case, and it prohibits attorneys from both sides from discussing the case. But Jackson‘s lawyers did issue the following written statement: “Mr. Jackson and his legal team are confident that after a trial on these charges, Mr. Jackson will be fully exonerated and that the allegations contained in the indictment will be shown to be patently false.”
We‘re going to take the next hour to focus on all of the aspects of the Jackson indictment: what it means, what‘s ahead, how it affects his career and a lot more.
And to start things off is Court TV‘s investigative reporter, Diane Dimond, who has been following the Michael Jackson case since the beginning and we mean the beginning. She originally broke the story way back when.
Good evening. It‘s nice to see you.
DIANE DIMOND, COURT TV: Nice to see you again.
NORVILLE: What is the significance of this indictment? Because they‘d already filed charges against him last fall.
DIMOND: The real legal significance is small.
It is sort of—it is significant in that, for those people who think it was this district attorney‘s vendetta that brought us to this point, we now know that there are 12 people in Michael Jackson‘s own community who agree. They‘ve heard the evidence. They‘ve talked to witnesses. They got to ask questions themselves.
NORVILLE: But it‘s a two-way procedure in the grand jury. Instead of the witnesses—the jury just sitting there and listening, they can say, “Well, wait a second, sir. I‘d like to ask you this.” And there is a give and take.
DIMOND: ... in writing. But they can submit all the questions they want. So, these 12 people now agree with the district attorney that there is enough evidence to take it one step further to go to trial.
NORVILLE: And we don‘t know specifically on what kinds of charges Michael Jackson‘s been indicted, because the indictment remains sealed.
DIMOND: The amount of secrecy around this is phenomenal. It‘s also disturbing for First Amendment advocates. You know?
But my sources are telling me that the indictment contains almost a mirror image of the charges that were filed in December. Lewd and lascivious acts with a minor, feeding that minor alcohol to inhibit their inhibitions so that the molestation could occur.
The number of counts we don‘t quite know.
NORVILLE: OK. The counts are seven counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a child under the age of 14 and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent.
What exactly is lewd and lascivious behavior? A great legal term, and it sounds terrible, doesn‘t it?
DIMOND: Dreadful. It is not as bad as you think. If I could just get a little bit graphic. It is not sexual penetration. It is fondling; it is rubbing. It is the sexual gratification of an adult. A pedophile...
NORVILLE: Using a child to achieve that.
DIMOND: Exactly. A pedophile is someone who loves children. Well, we all love children, but a pedophile molester can simply rub up against a child and get sexual gratification. So lewd and lascivious falls under that.
NORVILLE: And the two counts of alcohol. We‘ve learned in other news reports that it‘s being alleged that Michael Jackson put wine into soda containers and presented it to the child to get him to...
DIMOND: Right. Not only that, but I understand—and remember, this was a cancer patient. This child only has one kidney, no spleen. So, if these charges are true, why in the world would you give alcohol to a child in that condition?
Also, that there was some sort of cold medication that would tend to make you sleepy and then, coupled with alcohol, it‘s alleged actually made this child pass out.
NORVILLE: But wait a minute. If those are the allegations, then why isn‘t there one more charge of endangering the life of a child?
DIMOND: Well, I suppose there could be all sorts of charges. But, again, I think this prosecutor has been under attack, and I think maybe he‘s pinpointing things. He‘s keeping it simple.
NORVILLE: Now one of the things that makes the grand jury process, beyond taking the heat off of Tom Sneddon, because Michael Jackson in one of his own songs had politicized it and actually referred to Sneddon by name as being one of the dreadful guys who was out there trying to do him in.
DIMOND: A cold man he called him. A cold man.
NORVILLE: A cold man, Tom Sneddon. It takes the heat off D.A. Sneddon, but it also puts that veil of secrecy on the evidence, which would have been presented in open court, had a preliminary hearing been the route by which they‘d gone.
DIMOND: Right. And that is probably one of the reasons Sneddon chose to see go the grand jury route, because he can see how the witnesses react, gather the evidence in secret. He does have to turn over a transcript of everything to the defense team, ultimately, in 10 days or so.
But not only does he get to preview how his witnesses act, he also gets to stop Geragos, Mark Geragos, the defense attorney, at the best thing he does, and that is in open court to delay, delay, delay.
And in the child abuse case, remember Deborah, any good defense attorney, as Mark Geragos is a good defense attorney, wants to delay, because then the child who ultimately takes the stand looks like a young man instead of a young boy.
NORVILLE: In this case, particular delays can be critical, because this boy is gravely ill.
DIMOND: He is, although he‘s in remission. I hear he‘s happy, healthy, running around, taking self-defense courses and what not.
But, again, he‘s a recovering cancer patient with only one kidney.
You have to be concerned.
NORVILLE: While this is a case in which all parties have a gag order, the attorneys representing Mr. Jackson issued a statement today.
And they said, “Mr. Jackson and his attorneys remind the public that be an indictment is merely a formal accusation. We also remind the public that Michael Jackson, like any other person accused of a crime, is presumed to be innocent.”
Now that the indictment‘s been handed down, what else can we expect from the defense?
DIMOND: Well, the defense really, to their credit, has been dancing blind. They really have not known exactly what the state has. They still won‘t know once they read the grand jury transcripts, because you always keep something back.
But they will, once they get this transcript, get a clear-cut picture of the evidence that this district attorney felt was important enough to present to a jury to get a grand jury indictment.
This is going to be verbatim witness statements that then those witnesses, not only will the defense team have a whole lot of time to go out and check out everything said, but those witnesses...
NORVILLE: Because all of those statements could be used against them.
NORVILLE: If they deviate one dotted “I” or crossed “T”...
NORVILLE: ... that‘s a problem.
DIMOND: And you know that this team that Jackson has amassed is very skilled. They‘re very good. They‘re very experienced.
And they will take the statements made to the grand jury, and if there‘s one thing said differently, they will zero in on it and go toward credibility.
NORVILLE: One question that a lot of people wonder about is the allegations from 10 years before.
In 1993, when Michael Jackson was accused of very similar behavior, there was no legal case, because he ultimately settled in an out of court agreement with the alleged victim, who later declined to cooperate and speak with police.
Can that individual, who is now a young man in his 20‘s, be asked to testify in this case to show a pattern of behavior? Because California‘s law is more liberal than many other states in this regard.
DIMOND: It actually got more liberal after the first Michael Jackson case. And this whole idea of being—bringing in a pattern of behavior or past bad acts, as they call it, is easier now for a prosecutor to do than ever before.
Will they ask him to testify? I know they‘ve already asked him to testify. They didn‘t want him at the grand jury for certain legal reasons, but they would love for him to come to the trial proper.
NORVILLE: Can he come to the trial? I‘m guessing if there was a legal settlement, and there had been reports it was as much as $25 million back in the ‘90s, I‘m guessing that there is some sort of prohibition against any kind of public statement about the agreement.
DIMOND: Right. But, but, but nothing trumps a criminal subpoena.
You cannot make a civil contract that supersedes criminal law.
So, if—and besides all that, he‘s already gotten all the money. He got it over a series of years, and he‘s gotten his money.
He cannot defy the law. If they issue him a subpoena, he must appear. They‘re not going to force him to appear, because no one wants a reluctant witness on the stand. But I‘m told he‘s seriously considering appearing at the trial.
NORVILLE: And this would be something that the Jackson defense team would be seriously concerned about?
DIMOND: Oh, I would imagine. There‘s strength in numbers.
If there‘s one little boy on the stand with a mother who has been criticized for coaching her children to say untrue things, that‘s one thing. Then if there is a big, tall, very handsome 24-year-old who walks in and says, “Yes, me, too,” that can only add strength to the prosecutor‘s case.
NORVILLE: And there‘s one other alleged victim. We‘re going to take a break. When we come back, we‘re going to look at the timeline of Michael Jackson‘s legal problems.
Back more with Diane Dimond, who has been on this case since the get-go, as we take a look back and look ahead at today‘s developments and what‘s to come.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Still to come: legendary record producer Walter Yetnikov, who helped Michael grow from child star to adult megastar. Personal recollections about the making of the Michael machine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael! Michael!
ANNOUNCER: DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT is coming right back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM ANDERSON, SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SHERIFF: The service of the warrants was part of an ongoing investigation alleging criminal misconduct on the part of Michael Jackson. The basis for this investigation regarding Mr. Jackson, involves allegations of child molestation, 288-a of the California penal code.
Additionally, an arrest warrant for Mr. Jackson has been issued on multiple counts of child molestation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: That‘s Santa Barbara County Sheriff Jim Anderson in November when Michael Jackson‘s case first broke.
We‘re continuing our look at the indictment of the pop superstar.
Of course, this isn‘t the first time Jackson has faced allegations of child molestation. It happened back in 1993. But he was never charged with the crime when the accuser‘s family accepted a multimillion-dollar out of court settlement.
What impact could that have on this case?
We‘re back with Court TV‘s investigative reporter Diane Dimond.
Diane, we talked about that just a moment ago, but I‘m curious about the celebrity factor. We‘ve seen the spectacles outside some of the court proceedings as time has gone by. We know that Michael Jackson is known around the world. But when he walks into the courtroom, as he ultimately will at some point, that doesn‘t matter, does it?
DIMOND: Well, it depends on the jury they pick, frankly.
He is a worldwide celebrity. He is an idol to millions of people all over the world. But he‘s also bizarre. You know? So, the celebrity could help, but the bizarre behavior might hurt.
I mean, I was in court right there that day that he stood up on that SUV and waved to all the fans. And I was three feet away from him. He had on sparkly shoes and tuxedo pants and—well, you can see the outfit he was wearing. His face is motionless because—well, I don‘t know.
But when you and I talk to each other, we have little wrinkles and little smile and things move. Nothing moves on his face. He is pasty white. He has tattooed eyeliner and lipstick.
And how is this going to play in very conservative Santa Barbara County, the northern part of the county, which is very conservative? I don‘t know.
NORVILLE: Aren‘t some people going to want to be on that jury, just so that they can get the glimpse that you got during the arraignment?
DIMOND: Oh, absolutely. And to have all of the attention on them. Maybe the book deals, maybe the movie deals. I mean, come on, let‘s admit it. Some jurors think that way.
DIMOND: Again, it goes back to how they vet that jury.
NORVILLE: Yes. And that‘s going to be a very important part of it.
Of course, another very important part of it is the history, as we mentioned earlier.
Also with us tonight is NBC News analyst and former Santa Barbara County Sheriff Jim Thomas. And Mr. Thomas was in charge of investigating those allegations back in 1993 against Michael Jackson.
We thank you, sir, for being with us. We were talking...
JIM THOMAS, FORMER SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SHERIFF: Hi, Deborah.
NORVILLE: Hi. How are you?
NORVILLE: We were talking a moment ago about the ‘93 case and the possibility of the alleged victim in that case coming forward and being asked to testify.
Before we get into that, how similar is this case to the one that you were personally involved with 10 years ago?
THOMAS: Well, as far as the allegations, they‘re fairly similar. As far as where we‘ve been in the court process, there‘s a tremendous amount of difference.
Back in 1993, we had two agencies involved—actually four. Two district attorney‘s offices and two law enforcement agencies, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. Coordination was a lot more difficult. This time it‘s just one agency. So it makes it a lot easier to do this one.
I think back in 1993, we also had—it was the first case. This one, there‘s been a lot of lessons learned, and I think it‘s going to be treated a lot differently.
NORVILLE: And this would not be the second case. We understand that there was, at the same time, a second individual who was also alleging inappropriate behavior, a child, by Michael Jackson. What can you tell us about that?
THOMAS: Well, it was a boy who, when he was much younger and was actually at the home, and his mother was actually an employee of the family, who was fondled, primarily at least, what he would admit, on the outside of the closing, which in California would be a misdemeanor charge, as opposed to the felony charges that Michael Jackson is now facing.
He also said that he did not want to testify alone. So once the other boy, who we all know settled for a multimillion-dollar settlement, decided not to testify, our second youth said he didn‘t want to do it, either. He didn‘t want to go out. He did not want to be embarrassed. He did not want his friends to know about it.
That could come back to this case, however. If the judge allows, and the D.A. requests, both of those boys could testify in this case. Not the fact that they had been molested, but the fact that certain things had been done and said that would show a pattern that would be consistent with this particular case.
And I think that that could be a very, very difficult thing for the defense to overcome.
NORVILLE: So, they would not be compelled to talk about this very personal violation that they may have—may have had to suffer, but they would be asked to testify about other aspects of contact with Michael Jackson? Can you be a little bit more clear about that?
THOMAS: No. No. They would be testifying about what actually happened, but the issue of the law is not whether they were actually molested in 1993, because that‘s beyond the statute of limitations.
THOMAS: From the standpoint of law, as I understand it. I‘m not an attorney. But as I understand it, is what they would be looking for would be the pattern that would be used to seduce a child. If it was the same in 1993 as it is in this case, the boys have not met, this would be a very powerful and legal argument.
NORVILLE: Jim Thomas, what can you tell us about the search of Michael Jackson‘s ranch last fall at Neverland? And specifically about the set-up of his personal sleeping area, where there is reportedly a surveillance system, an alarm system that notifies those inside the bedroom area prior to anyone coming in from the outside?
THOMAS: Well, you hear a lot of arguments from some employees and certainly the defense team, who says there were people who were watching Michael all the time. I don‘t believe that‘s true.
His surveillance system—and I know the person that actually put that system in—was very sophisticated. Nobody could have gotten into that bedroom without him approving and knowing before they did.
NORVILLE: And, Diane, is this something that‘s going to be presented potentially as evidence in a trial?
DIMOND: I would think so. This bedroom area that you‘re talking about is big. It has—this alarm system. Down the hallway before you get to the main door, there‘s a big bedroom area, and there‘s a secret room.
So, if anyone were to come down the hallway, you hear the alarm go off. Anyone could scamper into that secret room, and when the person enters, they see no one, or maybe just Michael Jackson.
So, I would think the availability of a space to molest a child would have to come into this. I know they took pictures of that whole area back in 1993 and this time, too.
NORVILLE: Jim Thomas, one of the things that‘s been talked about is the possibility that those who are making these accusations against Michael Jackson are motivated for financial reasons.
Can you contrast the current case with the one that you had experience with back in 1993, as far as that issue goes?
THOMAS: Well, in 1993, there were no laws that precluded a case being settled civilly before the completion of a criminal case. And because of that, the laws have changed.
In this particular case, and I want to stress that the D.A. has said that this family has shown absolutely no interest in a financial settlement in this case.
But even if there was that thought in their mind, they would not be able to go through a civil case without the criminal case first coming to a conclusion. So, that would preclude somebody being bought off, so to speak, as what happened in 1993.
NORVILLE: And you believe those people in 1993 were bought off?
THOMAS: Well, I believe they accepted a settlement that they thought was to their best interest and, as a result of that, we were unable to go to trial.
That, frankly, has been a very frustrating thing for us. It‘s not an issue of vendetta. It‘s just that we believe there should have been a trial in 1993. I suspect there will be a trial in either 2004 or 2005.
DIMOND: You know, it‘s very important what Jim Thomas just said. The change in the law for anyone who says—and maybe it‘s true, but always think critically about this. For anyone who says this is a matter of extortion, this is a matter of greed—Katherine Jackson said that just yesterday through a spokesperson.
I want you to remember this. In the state of California, if you want to file a civil suit against, say, Michael Jackson, well, there‘s a criminal proceeding going on. You can file.
NORVILLE: You have to get in line.
DIMOND: It‘s frozen until the entire criminal proceeding is done, the appeals and everything.
So, if you‘re going to extort someone, why would you go to the police and start the criminal process that stops you from filing a civil lawsuit? It just doesn‘t pass the logic test, in my mind.
NORVILLE: All right. We‘ll take a break at that. Diane, you‘re going to stick around with us for the rest of the hour.
Jim Thomas, we thank you very much for joining us. We look forward to talking with you more as this case goes forward.
THOMAS: Thank you, Deborah.
NORVILLE: Coming up, we hope to shed some light on what makes Michael Jackson tick. We‘re going to take a look back at his career from someone who guided him through those legendary times. Record producer Walter Yetnikov joins our program when we return.
NORVILLE: Back with more now on the indictment of Michael Jackson.
Perhaps one man who knows him best is Walter Yetnikov, the former president and CEO of CBS Records Group. He spearheaded the label‘s operation for 15 years, creating the most profitable and prestigious stable of musical artists in music history.
He‘s generally credited with developing and nurturing the careers of a number of superstars, including Michael Jackson. He reveals so much about his dealings with the King of Pop in his new memoir called “Howling at the Moon.”
Walter Yetnikoff is back with us as well as Court TV‘s investigative reporter Diane Dimond.
Walter, you were there from the beginning with Michael and were so close that it was almost a father-son relationship.
WALTER YETNIKOV, FORMER PRESIDENT/CEO, CBS RECORDS GROUP: It was pretty much a sort of an adopted son relationship. He kept calling me his good daddy. There came a time where he came over to me and he said, “You know, my father never hugs me and tells me how well I‘ve done.”
“Come here, Michael, and I‘ll give you a hug. You know all the good things you‘ve done.”
That was long before the face job and all that kind of thing.
NORVILLE: But you talked to him about the transformation, the physical transformation.
YETNIKOV: Yes, I was having problems with it. Remember, he did a song called “Man in the Mirror,” change, some time ago. And I think what happened is he once said to me, “You can‘t understand someone like me, you know a human being. I was a star at 6. However wacky your upbringing was, you were not a star at 6.”
He sort of separated from the world at that point, and part of him never grew up. I don‘t think part of him has grown up today, you know, actually. He‘s like a child.
It‘s like a multiple—I don‘t mean schizophrenic, but many different aspects to his personality. Very shrewd businessman, but he‘s a baby.
NORVILLE: Well, when you listen to the lyrics of some of Michael Jackson‘s songs, they‘re very adult things. He talks about “my girlfriend” and “my baby” and, you know, it‘s clear that the person whose story is being told musically is someone who has an adult relationship with adult people.
Did you ever see that side of his life when you worked with him?
YETNIKOV: Yes, I did. I‘m not sure all his songs, you know, are adult relationships. “Shake your booty down to the ground.”
NORVILLE: OK. Well, not every one of them. But he did a lot of music.
YETNIKOV: He did.
NORVILLE: But there are some.
YETNIKOV: He did. He did “Nature” (ph), which was on “Off the Wall” album. Yes, there was some.
But his show business persona and his personal persona were very different. You know, on stage he was this out going in smoke and do moonwalk and all of that stuff. Then the show would end and there would be a party afterwards and he would disappear. You couldn‘t find him.
YETNIKOFF: I think he was afraid to be with people.
I think what he said to me is, since I was a star at 6, he never learned the—not social skills, but even being with people. He didn‘t know how to interact with people. You could not have a conversation with him except about his career and his music, et cetera. So, musically and show business wise, he was one person. In a personal way, he was very different, a very frightened kind of kid.
NORVILLE: Was he teachable? Was he someone that you could have taken under your wing or that someone could have taken under their wing and said, come on, kid, I know you‘ve been under pressure from the get-go, it‘s time to live, time to learn how to interact with people? Or was that not something that he perceived as necessary?
YETNIKOFF: I think he was in denial then. I think he‘s in denial about some other things now.
NORVILLE: Like what?
YETNIKOFF: Well, about the status of his popularity. He still thinks that he‘s in “Thriller” era and everything is going to be No. 1. You know, he used to call me in the middle of the night, Walter, “Thriller” is not No. 1 after about 42 weeks. What do we do? Seriously.
And I would say, we go to sleep and we start again tomorrow. But he had to be No. 1. I‘m not a real professional psychiatrist, but people who have to be No. 1 really feel they‘re not.
NORVILLE: You know more about the psychology of Michael Jackson than certainly I do. But one of the things that seems apparent to me is the increasing numbers of snafus in his life, whether they‘re the legal issues that are very serious that he‘s dealing with right now or some of the financial collisions that he‘s had along the way in terms of lawsuits or, you know, loans that have been difficult to repay, all seem to have an inverse relationship to his musical career.
When he was up here, none of that was going on. But as the record sales went like this, it was almost as though the other kinds of problems came in turn.
YETNIKOFF: Yes, I agree with that, actually.
You know, you had asked me whether I thought he was teachable. I don‘t know. I was not able to say anything to him. I could talk to him about music. I could talk to him about release of records. I could talk to him about graphics and cover. I could not talk to him about his personal life. I tried, actually.
YETNIKOFF: As his good daddy. I would say, Michael, Michael, please, you are a good-looking black kid. What are you doing? Why are you doing all this stuff? What‘s wrong with you? And he wouldn‘t look at me. He wouldn‘t answer me, but he wouldn‘t—he would turn his head the other way. He just shut it out, actually.
And there‘s a story in the book which is actually true. We were at a formal affair, all dressed up in tuxedos and whatever. And the monkey is present, Bubbles, whatever the monkey‘s name is. And Michael—monkeys are entitled to eat, also, but not in this context.
NORVILLE: He was at the table with you?
YETNIKOFF: He was at the table. We have a picture of Michael...
NORVILLE: There he is.
YETNIKOFF: ... and I. And I forget that little black kid he used to hang around with sometimes.
NORVILLE: Emmanuel Lewis.
YETNIKOFF: Yes, Emmanuel Lewis. Sitting at a formal table.
And then Michael turned to me at one of these events and said, “Walter, I have to tinkle. Can you take me to the potty?” Like a little boy. I didn‘t do that. In retrospect, maybe I should have. Then I‘d have a more interesting story for you, but I didn‘t.
So it was that little boy part of him. He also hung I thought around with inappropriate people. He would go on vacation. He could have gone with virtually anyone. He wanted to go with a security guards on vacation. So, I don‘t know that he was teachable. I still don‘t think he is.
NORVILLE: “Walter, can you take me to tinkle?” Not hanging out with appropriate people. The allegations now are that he was inappropriate with the wrong-aged people. Do you think it‘s possible?
YETNIKOFF: I don‘t know. I mean, I can construct an argument both ways, actually, one that, yes, there‘s a lot of circumstantial evidence. I‘m not familiar with it. I‘m not even familiar with the allegations, except what I‘ve heard a little bit on television.
And the other is, he is more comfortable in the presence of young kids, very young people, because he didn‘t get along in an adult world. I mean, I could argue it both ways, but I really have no inside information.
NORVILLE: And at what age was Michael Jackson when your professional relationship ended?
YETNIKOFF: Eighteen—no, 8. How old was he when it ended?NORVILLE: How old was Michael?
YETNIKOFF: Oh, he was 18 when we signed him. So that was in the early ‘80s. So he was 28.
NORVILLE: So he was 28.
YETNIKOFF: Thirty, something like that.
NORVILLE: Thirty years old.
YETNIKOFF: At the most.
NORVILLE: Still hanging out with little kids?
YETNIKOFF: Still hanging out with little kids, yes.
NORVILLE: We‘ll stop on that note.
More with Walter Yetnikoff and Diane Dimond after this.
NORVILLE: The music mogul who helped make Michael Jackson a star, an early look at Michael Jackson‘s career. Were there warning signs back then?
NORVILLE: Back more talking about the indictment of Michael Jackson. Our guests at the moment are former president and CEO of CBS Records, Walter Yetnikoff, and Court TV‘s investigative reporter Diane Dimond.
I want to look at the transformation of Michael Jackson, which occurred during in part during your time with him at CBS Records. When you put the pictures up of Michael Jackson—and let‘s just roll the tape—he‘s a very attractive young man, 1981. But you look at the progression in time and you see a person who doesn‘t look like he looked before.
And what else was changing about him as this was going?
YETNIKOFF: Well, the looks are the most—not the most important thing, but I think what he was trying to do...
NORVILLE: The most obvious.
YETNIKOFF: The most obvious thing. He also had the parabolic oxygen tent. Remember that one?
NORVILLE: I forgot that.
DIMOND: The chamber.
YETNIKOFF: Where he used to sleep in the chamber, whatever that was. He also started to act a little strange when he burnt his hair during a Pepsi commercial, you know? He was also going out with Brooke Shields at the time and I think she had a word or two which was not very flattering—or somebody mentioned that to me. She‘s written a book. I haven‘t read it, that she was ignored at various times like during the Grammys. And she was a big star herself at the time.
YETNIKOFF: But the physical stuff, you know, the desire to change the way he looked leading to change the way you feel, I think a lot of people try to do that.
DIMOND: And you look at those pictures from ‘81 to today. And in ‘81, he had a big smile on his face. He just seemed to happy. And now he seems pathetic.
NORVILLE: Who was advising him during that time, Diane? DIMOND: Back in ‘81?
NORVILLE: Well, no. In the ensuing years as the physical appearance became more and more newsworthy.
DIMOND: Well, I think Walter can say nobody in particular.
Michael Jackson hires people and fires people. Sometimes, he brings them back again. I think John Brinka (ph) has been there, I don‘t know, five or eight times back and forth. But Michael Jackson doesn‘t listen to anybody. Michael Jackson listens to Michael Jackson. So, there is no one big adviser.
Would you agree?
YETNIKOFF: At one time, it was his mother, actually. People thought it was his father. It was not his father. It was mother.
DIMOND: Now his mother can‘t get ahold of him.
YETNIKOFF: And when—all kids were very respectful of the mother. When she came into a room, allegedly, they all stood up, that kind of respect. But I agree. I don‘t think that he—getting any advice from anybody, except a whole conglomerate of people.
NORVILLE: And it would seem he picks poorly. A lot of the news stories, the flashes that come out have been disgruntled former employees who have found someone in the press that either will give them airtime or will give them some money, if it‘s one of those kinds of magazines, to tell their story.
DIMOND: Well, I think it‘s important to realize that Michael Jackson does what he wants to do. And you bring up his mother. You brought up his mother.
When I was in court the day he was arraigned, he walked in, frankly, looking dazed. I don‘t say drugged. I say dazed. And he realized then his mother was sitting directly in front of me and he stopped to say something to his mother, looked right past his father. And that‘s the last time she‘s seen him. I know from sources closes to the family Katherine Jackson is beside herself.
They feel that Jackson is going to do something bad to himself, rather than go on trial, perhaps hurt himself, or flee the country, which would make him look even more guilty.
So, I want—when I see the last look there in 2000 with the droopy eyes and the sad hairdo and the tattooed face, I feel sorry for Michael Jackson, but it is of his own doing. Wouldn‘t you agree?
YETNIKOFF: I feel sorry for him also. It was unstoppable, at least unstoppable by me at that point. And I tried a number of times, saying, what‘s wrong with you? You are riding on top of the world. You have done a whole bunch of stuff in music that no one has ever done before, certainly not the way you did it.
“Thriller” is “West Side Story.” It‘s the first marriage, really, of pop music and dance, which is exactly what he said he was going to do.
DIMOND: So talented.
NORVILLE: And “Thriller” was enormous, 40 million records sold. I mean, that is a staggering number.
YETNIKOFF: Probably more by this time.
NORVILLE: Probably more. Yes, by the time this show is over, it will be even more. They‘re still buying that record out there.
YETNIKOFF: Do you think they‘ll buy my book as quickly?
NORVILLE: We‘re hoping. Hold it up again, Walter.
NORVILLE: Hold it up again.
YETNIKOFF: Which way do we hold it up? OK.
DIMOND: Right there.
NORVILLE: On the music thing, he may be picking poorly in terms of some of the people who have been involved in his business affairs. But you said, Walter, he was all business. And you‘ve said in your book, he was brilliant about it. His instincts were great. What happened? Because his last record was I don‘t know if disaster was word, but 600,000 copies is not Michael Jackson level of album sales.
YETNIKOFF: It was going down for quite a while, though, because you went from “Thriller,” which was real good. Obviously, it was more than real good. It was superb. And then you went to “Bad.” Remember, there was Martin Scorsese video done in a subway Brooklyn in Scamahorn (ph) Street, I think, during “Bad.” For Martin Scorsese to do a video takes some doing.
But then it starred to go down precipitously. After that, you had “HiStory.” Talk about ego. History, his story. I think he had a statue of himself looking like Lenin at one time.
DIMOND: Or Stalin or somebody.
YETNIKOFF: It was Stalin or somebody.
And then I was told, I don‘t remember this, that there was a picture of the last supper and he had his place put in in place of Jesus Christ. That‘s a little over the top.
NORVILLE: A little, yes.
DIMOND: When you talk about the Pepsi commercial where his hair was burned, this is about the time that even the Jackson people will tell you he started to take narcotics because of the pain. And then, of course, he has been in rehab at least two times.
NORVILLE: Before you go, Walter, what do you predict for Michael Jackson?
YETNIKOFF: I can‘t predict the legal outcome of this thing. But basically from a commercial point of view or an artistic point of view, I don‘t think he‘s going to be up there for that much longer.
Now, 600,000 is a lot of records, but not for him. And I think artistically it‘s going down and down. People are doing what he did. They‘re marrying music and dance. Everybody does it today. There‘s nothing really unique about it anymore. And you had “Invincible,” which was almost like a challenge to be vincible. This is ego, you know, really run amok, I think.
NORVILLE: Yes. It‘s a sad commentary. Time will tell if your predictions are right.
Walter Yetnikoff, thanks. It‘s good to see you again.
YETNIKOFF: Thank you.
NORVILLE: Good luck with the book. It‘s called “Howling at the Moon.”
When we come back, Diane will stay with us. We‘ll delve into the life and times of Michael Jackson. One man who should know will be joining us, one of his biographers.
NORVILLE: Back now with Court TV reporter Diane Dimond, who has been following the Michael Jackson case. And we‘re also joined by Randy Taraborrelli, who wrote a book about Michael Jackson called “The Magic and the Madness.” He has been researching and updating that book for the last six months.
And we‘re glad to have you with us, Randy. Thanks for being here.
J. RANDY TARABORRELLI, AUTHOR, “THE MAGIC AND THE MADNESS”: It‘s great to be here, Deborah.
NORVILLE: You‘ve spend so much of your life focusing on Michael Jackson. As this indictment‘s been returned, is it just the same story from last fall all over again to you?
TARABORRELLI: Well, I think, basically, this is obviously a function of the process that Michael is going through right now. It‘s not a surprise that he was indicted. Most people expected it.
I look at it from a historical standpoint, though. You know, I‘m never about the moment with Michael. I‘m about the bigger picture. And I see this, you know, as really a consequence of a lot of bad decisions over the years and a lot of mistakes that Michael has made, but also a lot of mistakes that he was allowed to make by the people that he had in charge of his life and also, you know, by family members who perhaps weren‘t watching out for him, maybe the way they should have been.
But, in the end, you know, Michael is a grown man. And even though he is childlike and he has had a lot of burdens in his life and a lot of problems, he is responsible for his own life. And I think I agree with my friend Diane when she says that, you know, a lot of this is sort of his own doing, I‘m sorry to say.
NORVILLE: Well, it is one of two things. Either Michael Jackson is an odd public figure who attracts a lot of media attention or he is a pedophile who has done dreadful things with a child. Where do you think the truth lies?
TARABORRELLI: You know, my gut has always told me that Michael Jackson is not a pedophile. You know, my gut has always told me. I‘ve known Michael since he was 10 years old and I just can‘t see that. However, I‘m not a family friend.
NORVILLE: You can‘t see that, but you might not want to. What about that the evidence obviously the grand jury has seen and said they think it could be?
TARABORRELLI: Obviously, anything is possible, Deborah, obviously. But I think that this case has, you know, more holes in it than, you know, than a Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction.
TARABORRELLI: This case has a lot of—this case has a lot of holes in it. There are problems with the timeline. There are problems with, you know, inconsistencies.
Let me tell you, when this case gets in front of a jury, I would be amazed if Michael will be convicted based on what we know so far. Now, we don‘t know what the DA found, you know, what the search warrant is going to yield, what they found at Neverland. There are a lot of questions.
But my research over the last six months, and I know that Diane knows how I feel about this, my research has told me that this doesn‘t pass the, as I say, smell test. I think that there are a lot of problems with the case.
NORVILLE: What one thing doesn‘t pass the smell test for you that stands out for you?
TARABORRELLI: For me personally, the fact that everybody changed their story over a period of time, the mother, the brother, the sister, and the accuser.
Of course, in molestation cases, you know, the victim often eventually comes to terms with what occurred and will change his story. But does that is happen with the sister and with the brother and with the mother? I just don‘t see it. That‘s my problem with this case, the fact that everybody changed their story. At first, they all thought of Michael as being a savior and a father figure.
And then something occurred between the time of February and June where suddenly all the stories began to change.
DIMOND: And, Randy, I think you‘ve put your hand exactly on the strength of the defense case, I think, Deborah.
They are going to go to the inconsistencies in that family, go to their past lawsuit with J.C. Penney‘s and they are going to dig in hard. On that point—and Randy and I talk about this a lot together. On that point, though, I wouldn‘t say—I don‘t know if Michael Jackson is a pedophile. But I will tell you, I know a lot about pedophiles and they always pick a family in crisis.
NORVILLE: And would that apply here?
DIMOND: Yes. This family was in crisis, so much so that the father had his parental rights taken away. And that‘s hard to do. You have to be pretty bad to actually get your rights taken away.
But they—pedophiles will target a family where the child is in desperate needs of attention, desperate need of a hug, a kiss, a stroke, a fondle. And then things get out of control. Again, I‘m not saying that that‘s Michael Jackson.
Speaking of children, let me ask you both this. What will happen to Michael Jackson‘s children? Is he at any risk of losing custody of those little kids?
DIMOND: I think so.
TARABORRELLI: At this point, I don‘t think so, no. I don‘t think so at all. Of course, who knows what the future will hold?
I maintain that he will not be found guilty of these charges. And so I think that, you know, his children are going to be safe. I think that if the worst-case scenario occurs and he is found guilty, I think that they will be absorbed within the very close-knit Jackson family. There‘s no doubt about that.
DIMOND: Well, that would have to go by a judge. And child protective services has already been to question his children, to see how they‘re doing and in that Beverly Hills mansion that he hasn‘t seemed to get back to lately. He‘s been to Aspen and Hawaii and now Florida. But child protective services has them in the system now.
NORVILLE: Do you think they‘re at risk of being taken?
DIMOND: I do, but I think it depends on whether he‘s found guilty.
NORVILLE: We‘ll let that be the last word.
Randy Taraborrelli, it‘s so great to have you on the program. We appreciate your time.
Diane Dimond, you‘ve been awfully generous to spend the hour with us.
NORVILLE: And it is an interesting case. I‘m sure we‘ll all be following it.
When we come back, we‘re going to switch gears. Question: What do mad cow and Bubba the Love Sponge have in common? They‘re both getting your attention. We‘ll explain.
NORVILLE: Our show about mad cow disease and CJD last night got a lot of attention. And it was overwhelmingly positive.
This e-mail from Karen Bishop in Houston, Texas, is pretty representative of the vast majority of the messages we got. She said: “I‘m concerned that the American public does not realize how devastating this illness is. CJD has occurred sporadically for years. And not enough is known about the illness to draw specific conclusions on transmission. Thank you for running this story.”
Well, thank you for writing. You‘re going to see more stories like this on the program.
A lot of you also wrote in about my exclusive interview with fired radio shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge. Clear Channel Communications fired Bubba after the FCC find the company $755,000, the biggest fine for obscenities ever on the air.
Peter Kuhn from Denver, Colorado, wrote: “Kudos for your interview with Bubba the Love Sponge. Who‘s to say what decency is? Certainly not the government. Once again, it is all about money. And if Clear Channel, Viacom and like others want to rule the media, they have to give in, in order to be allowed to take.”
However, Miles disagrees. He said: “I became familiar with his trash due to having two teenagers who would tune in. This isn‘t about free speech. This is about disregard for civility. By allowing him to insult and denigrate people, we‘re telling our children it‘s acceptable. He is no Howard Stern, who I think has a right to say what he does, even if I‘m not a fan of his. This is just plain hurtful, hateful, abusive people.”
We love to hear from you, so send us your ideas and comments to us at NORVILLE@MSNBC.com. And beginning tomorrow, we‘re going to start posting some of your messages on our Web page. So do go to NORVILLE@MSNBC.com to see if you got up there.
That‘s our program for tonight. Thanks a lot for watching.
Tomorrow night, Americans held hostage, the frightening story of two Americans being held captive by Iraqi insurgents, Thomas Hamill—he‘s the truck driver from Macon, Mississippi—and Private First Class Keith Matthew Maupin. Their families and their communities are coming together, hoping and praying for them. We‘ll look at that and at what‘s being done to try to secure their release. Also tomorrow, an exclusive interview. The Canadian who was taken hostage in Iraq, tortured, then released, he‘ll be here to tell us about his ordeal.
That‘s our program for tonight. Thanks so much for watching. We‘ll see you tomorrow.
But now, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” is next.
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