While on vacation, I read Unmasked: The Final Years of Michael Jackson. Like any corny piece of crap, it contains some golden kernels (e.g. Liza Minnelli smoking pot, Mark Ronson's personal anecdotes, and interviews with Jackson's supposed gay lovers).
The book went to press within 48 hours after the King of Pop's death, and rocketed to number one on the New York Times bestseller list last week. Hastily thrown together, Unmasked is rife with typos and questionable "anonymous sources." Shoddy, shady, and sleazy, I think I read it almost as quickly as author Ian Halperin typed it up.
Halperin claims that he started the project a while back because he was out to prove, once and for all, that Michael Jackson was a pedophile, but in his research, discovered that he was not. (The resulting work is pretty biased, but some evidence presented makes for some decent-albeit comparatively crude-rebuttals to Maureen Orth's thorough and persuasive reporting on Michael Jackson for Vanity Fair.)
Much has been made of Jackson's infamous sleepovers with young boys at his Neverland Ranch, and Mark Ronson, along with his friend Sean Lennon, participated in some of them. One anecdote of Ronson's - which he originally told on a British TV show - appears in the book:
We used to watch the porn channel because we were like, ten, and, 'Oh my God, tits!' So Michael was in bed. And me and Sean said, 'Michael, do you want to see something cool?' We turned the dial to the porn channel and there were strippers shaking their tits around. We were like, 'Michael, Michael, how cool is this?' We turned around and he was cringing, saying, 'Ooh, stop it, stop it, ooh, it's so silly.' We were like, 'Michael, you have to look, maybe you're not seeing it right, it's naked girls!' He was not down with the program whatsoever! I think he had really strong feminist views on porn.
He's cute. Anyway, while the story doesn't prove that Michael always behaved appropriately around his young guests, it does kind of point to something that I always thought: He was probably gay. Halperin thinks so, too. In fact, in his book, Halperin actually claims that Michael hit on him at a pizza parlor (more on that in sec).
Halperin claimed to have spoken to two of Michael's "gay lovers." (Redundant term!) One was a "Hollywood waiter, the other an aspiring actor." He claims to have seen photos "corroborating" the relationships. The best bit comes from "Lawrence," the actor:
He was very shy, but when he started to have sex, he was insatiable. He was a bottom, but he was so thin, I worried that I would break him. The very first time he blew me, he said, 'The King of Pop's going to lick your lollipop.' I still laugh thinking about that.
One of Halperin's sources was supposedly someone who worked in Jackson's camp. The source tipped him off that Jackson and his children were going to a Hollywood pizza parlor, so Halperin "got in [his] hairdresser's disguise" and sped over there. Of the encounter Halperin said:
We talked about old Hollywood movies and hairstyles, which I had researched for months before I took on this undercover persona. Michael went on and on about the Hollywood hairstyles of the silver screen during the forties and fifties. 'No one has come along with such class and style since Deborah Kerr, Dorothy Lamour, and Susan Hayward,' he said…At one point during our conversation at the pizza joint, Jackson put his hand over mine. I then wondered if the singer was hitting on me. After staring at me for over a minute in complete silence, he told me my blue eyes reminded him of Frank Sinatra…It was one of the most intense moments I have ever experienced looking into another man's eyes.
This was also good:
I had been trying to persuade [Jackson] to change his look to a platinum blond wig with a streak of ocean-blue down the middle.
But my absolute favorite passage was in regards to Liza Minnelli. After failing to score an interview with Jackson's best friend Elizabeth Taylor, Halperin, again, went undercover as a gay hairdresser, and hung out at a dance rehearsal studio he knew Liza frequented, cornered her, and told her he had been Ava Gardner's hair and makeup artist before she died. That was the clincher, and Liza invited him to hang out with her in the back room of the studio, where she shared a joint with him and some other dancers. Despite the fact that she was stoned, Liza didn't really give up any of the goods on Jackson, but she still sounds like a fun hang:
I told her that Ava was a huge fan of Jackson and used to practice some of his dance moves. At that, she let out a trademark Liza Minnelli laugh. It proved to be infectious…especially after Liza stood up and did an impression of Ava Gardner attempting to moonwalk.