Must buy - but don't expect an all laughs fairy tale
Before I go into details, there's something that everyone should understand about this book. As Frank mentions in the prologue this book is aboutMichael Jackson - the man and not Michael Jackson - the superstar. This book is about the decades long friendship - with ups and downs- Michael and Frank had. Also realize that Frank has a different perception of Michael than we all do. To Frank Cascio , Michael Jackson is the person that he met as a kid without knowing who he was, who turned to a person that helped with his homework, to a father figure and then a friend; a friend that he laughed, worked, cried, shared and even argued at times.
As a long time fan I have also read almost every single book, article, magazine (and even court documents) and watched every documentary, news show etc about Michael. So as I was already knowledgeable about most things, many of the newer books and documentaries didn't offer much "new" stuff to me. I knew them all and they even became boring (how many times do we need to hear the Motown story, honestly?). Frank's book was refreshing in this regard. Although we all know the main events, the details mentioned in the book are new and make it an interesting read. That alone made me satisfied with my purchase.
Frank's book is divided into 3 categories : the time he spent with Michael as a child, the time period when he worked for Michael and the allegations period &later years. Each part has a different tone and their relationship differs between these time periods as well.
The time period when he was a child (from age 4 to till he was 16-18) is perhaps the most fun part of the book. Frank details his experiences with Michael and they are all inspiring to say the least. They will surely put a smile on your face. Frank also tells about Chandler's, his interactions with Michael and what he said about his father Evan - and paints the picture of a jealous father going after Michael. Although Michael went through the emotional and physical toll of the 1993 allegations and dealt with drug issues, Frank's realization about such issues are minimal as he was only a 13 year old kid at the time.
The time period when Frank worked (officially or unofficially) for Michael is the time period (1999 - 2003) that their relationship evolved to be a lot more closer, well due to the fact that Frank now was an adult and what Michael shared with an adult versus a child obviously was different and Frank was spending a lot more time with Michael and he wasn't a guest anymore. From this time period the book details 1999 bridge accident, recording of Invincible, heal the kids charitable efforts, troubles with Sony, MTV award fiasco, Living with Michael Jackson documentary, the rebuttal videos, MJ Private home movies and Arvizos. In this part Frank wonderfully details and explains the Arvizo's , their relationship with Michael, what actually went on and how calculated Janet Arvizo was.
Final part details the after second allegations, the trial, the falling out and the making up they experienced.
I will try to answer some common questions and concerns in this part
- Although Frank and his family shared a 25 year friendship with Michael, it doesn't mean he told them anything and everything. Frank openly states that when he wanted to keep something private, he simply did. Also what Michael shared with him changes according to his age and whether they had a friendship or a working relationship.
- Frank doesn't write the book in an ultimate indisputable truth format, on the contrary he writes what Michael told him, what he believed, what other people said etc. He clearly identifies what is his opinion. As the reader you are left to your devices to make up your mind to believe whatever you want.
- As everyone knows, drugs are mentioned in the book. And it refers to the 1999 -2001 period when Frank was working for Michael. Any drug use / issues that Michael might have prior to 1999 is unknown to Frank and the rest of the Cascios. Frank witnesses what he now believes to be Propofol at 1999 Munich and 2001 New York. Painkillers especially Demerol seem to be a lot more concern to him. He clearly states that Michael wasn't junkie and he was in terrible pain. The only thing that can be seen "negative" by some is that Frank on occasion questions if Michael's pain was physical or emotional - and therefore if the drugs were really needed. However as you read on Michael's emotional pain and what he had to go through is detailed and his emotional pain is also justified. What the media didn't tell you is that Frank blames doctors for not solving Michael's issues and simply prescribing him drugs. You also weren't told Frank's physical confrontation with doctors. Furthermore Frank tells that later in 2001/ 2002 Michael was working with doctors to solve his chronic pain issues and getting off the drugs. Media also failed to mention that the last time they spent considerable amount of time with Michael in 2007, he wasn't taking any drugs or even drinking alcohol. So you weren't given the full picture of Frank saying this was a period in his life that had physical and emotional pain and that Michael recovered from it and got rid off the drugs. In short Michael wasn't an addict - and isn't portrayed like one in the book.
- Michael's paranoia is also explained as a result of the allegations and business people around him taking advantage of him. More and more Michael becomes unable to trust people and becomes skeptical and even paranoid. It's all because of the people around Michael taking advantage of him and even lying to hurt him. It's his defense mechanism. This is also explained clearly.
- Michael's marriage to Lisa Marie isn't portrayed as fake. Their love, respect, trust is mentioned over and over again. Arab Prince is a story that Michael told a 13 year old Frank , media failed to tell you that Cascio's didn't believe that explanation and believed Michael married Lisa because he wanted to have family and children. As you read the book you learn more that Michael wasn't a man of confrontation and explanations and you think perhaps that was a story he came up with (and used multiple times) so that he wouldn't have to explain himself.
- Downs of his relationship with Michael is also mentioned. According to Frank people have said to Michael that Frank took money / throwbacks for setting up meetings with Michael and that some people he invited to Neverland has been problematic. These issues are resolved rather quickly sometimes even within minutes. Frank also experiences issues with some of Michael's employees after he started working with Michael and there was some animosity.
One major issue that goes on for a long time and Michael calls a betrayal is Michael's belief that Frank refused to testify on behalf of Michael during the 2005 trial. Frank details his story : after Michael's arraignment T-Mez and Frank's lawyer tells Frank to cease any contact with Michael (because if he was called to testify they wanted him to be able to say they had no contact), DA offers Frank immunity to testify against Michael - Frank refuses, Frank's lawyer maintains communication with T-Mez, Frank tells T-Mez what he knows. Initially T-Mez planned to call Frank towards the end of the defense case but then as the testimony goes on T-Mez says he doesn't need Frank to testify, they had achieved reasonable doubt and he doesn't want Frank's 20 year relationship with Michael to be opened up to cross examination.
Frank starts hearing from his family and Michael's family (Auggie) that Michael believed that he betrayed him. Frank equally gets angry to Michael for believing he would betray him. Although they start talking in 2006, they do not discuss this issue until August 2007 and kiss and make up. Michael says "someone" told him that Frank wouldn't testify and to this day Frank doesn't know who that was. They maintain a friendship after this.
- Some fans called this book depressing. It has its funny moments and moments that you can't help but smile to the antics of Michael we all know and love but at times it's also sad. I believe this to be expected as it covers 1993 allegations, 1999 bridge fall, 2001 Sony Events, 2003 allegations and 2005 trial. Simply put : those weren't happy times and it's impossible for the book to be cheery about such topics.
- Invasion of Michael's privacy was also been a concern for the fans but honestly I haven't seen reason for such concerns. Most of the book is about the details of the public business and life events of Michael that we all know. I personally didn't find that Michael loved women, kissed them, had crushes on them and been intimate with them as problematic. It was tastefully written, no details was given and to me was no different than musicians worked with Michael mentioning women and Diddy mentioning Michael came to his party to meet with Beyonce. The pot story - that Michael tried pot because Barry Gibbs told him he wrote his best songs after smoking pot - was so rock'n roll. Also after Murray trial I don't think Michael's history with Demerol and/or Propofol was private either. Probably if alive Michael wouldn't discuss the women in his life and his experimentation with pot but the mention of them wasn't alarming to me.
What was the best parts of the book?
- Michael Jackson the father as always a wonderful thing to read. Michael was also a father to Cascio kids and Omer. His interactions with his kids make you feel happy and love him more. That parts of the book was the one that most stood out actually. I believe that might be the strongest point this book makes.
- Michael Jackson the teacher is also unbelievable. His life lessons to Cascios and his kids, his love for the books, his philosophy is a must must must read for every Michael Jackson fan.
- Frank's first hand witness account of Chandlers and Arvizos is also very valuable information for all.
In the end you'll laugh (such as : peach cobbler, Mr. Donald Duck, Gary the driver, Michael choosing what to wear, Michael's pranks) and you'll get sad (such as allegations, how media treated Michael). Overall it's a good read that I recommend to everyone. Just realize it's about Michael Jackson the man, not the Michael Jackson the superstar or Michael Jackson the perfect saint.
Lisa Marie - Frank says no one knew they were dating yet alone planned to marry. The quick marriage is explained to be due Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal who formed Kingdom Entertainment with Michael, believed by marrying Michael restore his image (after 1993 allegations). There's nothing fake about the relationship or their love. Multiple times being a good fit, how much they loved and respected each other, how much Michael loved Lisa's children, how they tried to make it work, how they were intimate is mentioned.
LaC on LSA wrote it seemed like Frank blamed Michael for the marriage ending but I disagree. He mentions many elements such as
- Michael seeing his brothers marriages and divorces and the issues that come with it
- Michael wanted to be a father (suggested adoption to LMP and having a child) , Lisa Marie was not ready
- Michael was set in his ways and perhaps not emotionally ready
- Lisa Marie had problems with the people / families that were already in Michael's life (yes even the Cascios)
It seems like they rushed into marriage without having the strong emotional connection to sustain it long term.
Debbie - Frank says he knew how much Michael wanted to have kids and he wasn't surprised when he told him about Debbie being pregnant. He says Michael was the happiest he has seen. He says Debbie's intentions were true - that she wanted to give Michael the kids he wanted and he was grateful to her for making him a father. Frank says there was no romance between them but they were friends that talked and hanged with each other and got a long just fine. Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal saying "perhaps you should marry her" is mentioned and also Frank mentions Michael didn't act like the marriage was a big deal and also said "she wants nothing from me. all she cares about his her horses and besides she's Prince's mother."
Omer - Frank is introduced to "Little Michael" (Omer) and they all have dinner together. He says that night Michael told him that Omer was his son and tells this story : he had an affair with a Norwegian fan, she got pregnant, overwhelmed by having "Michael Jackson's kid", went into a mental institution, Pia Bhatti who was a nurse in that mental hospital adopted the baby with her husband and raised the boy. In Tunisia Michael hears about MJ dance contest winner, he asks to meet the kid, he realizes the similarities and thinks to himself if this could be the kid he had from his affair and it turns out he was. According to Frank the story was implausible and Michael wanted him to believe his story but they both know there wasn't any truth to it and Frank simply said "ok he's your son".
Soon after Michael tells him Omer isn't his son. Frank also says that Michael mentored and treated Omer like his son. and Omer looked up to him as a father.
Drugs - There's one chapter that details this issue. Frank says he first saw Propofol (didn't know what it was at that time) in Munich 1999 - and it was given for sleep not pain. He says Michael had chronic back pain since his fall and he had painful treatments for vitiligo (50 needles stuck to his face) and these needed pain medications. He was given Demerol. He gets concerned that Michael is getting too much Demerol. Michael tells him he doesn't understand his level of pain and Klein assures him that it was normal. Frank says he couldn't argue with that as he didn't know what he was talking about (meaning he's not qualified enough to make a determination) and took Klein's and other doctor's word that it was safe and appropriate.
"Michael wasn’t a junkie. He never acted crazy or chased a high."
He mentions - like I quoted before- his family hasn't experienced this. His mother once on tour seeing he took medicine for sleep and his father in 2000 saw him take medicine for sleep in their house.
As you read on he blames doctors for giving him too much medicine and there are also attempts by Michael to stop medicine.
- there's information about Blanket's mother. Michael choose an anonymous egg donor (her description is nice) and a surrogate carried the baby.
- Jacksons are portrayed okay. Frank only mentions Michael had complicated relationships with Latoya (due to 1993 press conference) and Jermaine (due to making contracts in Michael's name and Word to the Badd).
there's so much in the book that deserves to be read.. I'll go back to my proper reading format... oh and the stories about his fatherhood is priceless.