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Living with Savitsky

Living with Michael Jackson

Living with Michael Jackson was a Granada Television documentary, in which British journalist Martin Bashir interviewed Michael Jackson over a span of 8 months, from the middle of 2002 to January 2003. It was shown first in the UK on ITV (as a Tonight special) on 3 February 2003 and in the US three days later on ABC. The revelations of Jackson's controversial personal life in the programme was one of the many factors that led to his trial for child molestation.

Martin Bashir put the proposal to Jackson as a way to show the world the truth about him and "make nothing off limits." Jackson's decision to make the documentary was made on the suggestion by his close friend Uri Geller. It later emerged that Geller had turned down another 'bid' for the interview by 'faux-naïf' journalist Louis Theroux. The interview was very unusual, as it had been extremely rare for Jackson to allow such access to his personal life, or to talk so freely about his traumatic childhood. Nevertheless, he did show some reserve when asked to discuss other personal issues, such as the plastic surgery he has had.

The Interview

Living with Michael Jackson opens up with Bashir's narration about how he persuaded the singer to allow him to interview him. It begins at the Neverland Ranch, where he and Bashir tour the estate's grounds and face off in a race car match. Later, he explains that he writes the songs by composing lyrics and not the music, because the music "will write itself." Upon being requested by Bashir, he demonstrates that through dancing, he becomes the physical embodiment of the music. Afterwards Jackson admits that the house's theme of Peter Pan is so inspirational, because he feels he is Pan. They go out to the "Giving Tree," a tree in which Jackson gets inspiration to write his songs. While watching footage of the Jackson 5, he gets emotional upon recalling how his father Joe would watch his sons rehearse the dance steps with a belt in his hand. He admits his hatred and deep fear for his father, and that is why he claims to have never laid a hand on his children. Bashir notes that this must have left a deep impact on the young Michael.

After Neverland, Bashir followed him to the Four Seasons Hotel in Las Vegas. In Las Vegas, Jackson spoke about his love life, his changing appearance, and his children. He reveals that during his early tour days, his brothers would often have sexual intercourse with groupies while he pretended to be asleep. When Bashir inquires if he had any moments, he then recounts a time when one-time girlfriend Tatum O'Neil wanted to make love to him, but he backed down at the last minute. Bashir and Jackson also visited a shopping center where the latter embarked on a spending spree, reportedly spending over a million dollars. The subject of his ever-changing appearance is brought up, but an agitated Jackson denies getting plastic surgery on his face, claiming that the media is ignorant of what they don't understand. Despite this, he mentions he suffered horrible bouts of acne as a teenager, and his father would repeatedly insult him by making fun of his nose. Afterwards, Bashir gets to meet the Jackson children Prince and Paris, who wore masks to conceal their identities. Jackson then went to Berlin, Germany. This is where the "baby dangling" incident occurred. Jackson also visited Berlin Zoo and a charity auction, and received a humanitarian award at the Bambi Awards.

Back in Neverland, Jackson reveals to Bashir that not only does he invite disadvantaged children to his ranch, he lets them stay in his bed. Gavin Arvizo, who was then a cancer patient, states that it was Jackson's support that helped him beat his diagnosis. Bashir is stunned at this revelation, but Jackson admits that he let the boy have the bed while he slept on the floor. When asked what he gets out of this, the singer replies that he gains the joy, because "my greatest inspiration comes from kids." After this, Bashir is left feeling uneasy about the apparent obsession with children. As well as this topic, he realizes that he will have to confront Jackson on certain areas of his life that he feels he had been less than honest.

During January 2003, Bashir meets with Jackson in Miami for the final interview and brings up the subject of his face. A visibly upset Jackson says that he has only had two operations (on his nose, for breathing purposes) in his life, to which Bashir tries to ask how he looks so much different from when he was an adolescent. After the singer states plastic surgery was not invented for him, Bashir comes to the conclusion that Jackson wanted to change his appearance as a result of his troubled youth and father's insults. When he asks about a comment Jackson's son Prince made that "I haven't got a mother," Jackson tells him that Deborah Rowe bore his two children as a gift for him, because he wanted to be a father so badly. On the subject of Blanket's mother, Jackson contradicts his earlier statement he had Blanket with an unnamed woman in a relationship and says that she was a surrogate mother, with whom he signed an agreement not to talk about her. In the most controversial part of the documentary, Bashir repeatedly questions Jackson on why he invites children into his room. Jackson admitted that "many children" (including the Culkin family children Macaulay, Kieran, and their other brothers and sisters) have slept in the same bed as him, but he denied having had sexual contact with any of them. He even claimed to allow his children to stay with his friends, for example with close friend Barry Gibb. Due to the confidentiality agreement, he refuses to talk about the 1993 allegations, but he reveals that he paid the accuser a settlement. Against his wishes by Sony."

Complaints

After the airing, Jackson's future accuser's mother filed a complaint of child molestation. Responding to concern after the airing, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Thomas W. Sneddon Jr. said that, under California law, merely sleeping with a child, without "affirmative, offensive conduct," isn't considered criminal.

Dissatisfaction of Jackson

Jackson felt betrayed by Bashir and complained that the film gives a distorted picture of his behaviour and conduct as a father , He claims that Bashir, in the final version of his interview, used only that material which supported Bashir's opinion of Jackson, which was not a favorable one.

Jackson has filed complaints with the UK's Independent Television Commission and the Broadcasting Standards Commission.

Jackson's lawyers claimed in a British High Court case against Martin Bashir and Granada TV that the documentary was a breach of contract and breach of confidence. The proceedings were put on hold when Jackson was charged with 10 felony counts in late 2003, but since Jackson's acquittal the proceedings could now continue.

Ann Kite, a public relations consultant hired by Jackson's advisers to counter negative publicity, called the documentary a PR-disaster.

Rebuttal video

In an attempt to repair his image following the Bashir interview, Jackson released a second interview, called "Take Two: The Footage You Were Never Meant to See" (also referred to as "the rebuttal video"). This was presented by Maury Povich, and contains material which Bashir omitted. It also features new interviews with people close to Jackson, such as his former wife Debbie Rowe. In this interview, she claimed it was on her request that the children wore masks in public. She also pointed out that the concept of "sharing a bed" can be misunderstood: for example, she herself likes watching TV in bed; when she has a visitor, often both watch TV together in bed. It also contains interviews with Bashir giving much different opinions than what he gave in past interviews as well as in the voice-overs. He is shown praising Jackson as a father as well saying that he thinks it's wonderful that he allows children to come to Neverland.

The footage that they show in this documentary was filmed by Hamid Moslehi privately. He states that he was not "secretly" videotaping the interviews, as was popularly believed. He said Martin Bashir knew they were also filming, but that Bashir probably didn't know that when he told his camera crew to cut, that he was still filming.

The video has been shown in a Fox Network special ,

Part of the footage was not aired because the videographer Hamid Moslehi refused to hand it over because of a financial dispute with Jackson , It was found by police in a search of Moslehi's home in November 2003, and showed the accuser's family praising Jackson.

Footnotes

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