Damning 'Leaving Neverland' Premieres on HBO to Controversy - NBC Southern California

Damning 'Leaving Neverland' Premieres on HBO to Controversy

The allegations raised in the documentary have been denounced by the Jackson estate.

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    Michael Jackson's brothers Tito, Marlon and Jackie defend his legacy in an exclusive interview following the release of HBO's "Leaving Neverland." (Published Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019)

    HBO premiered the first part of the controversial documentary "Leaving Neverland," Sunday night and for just about all it was a difficult watch.

    The documentary, which the Michael Jackson estate sued HBO over, features interviews with Wade Robson, James "Jimmy" Safechuck, and their families as they document their entire relationships with Michael Jackson when the two boys were children, starting with how they met and going into graphic detail about how the alleged sexual abuse occurred.

    When the four-hour documentary premiered at Sundance Film Festival, healthcare professionals were made available in the lobby of the theater to help any audience members upset by the content of the film. The allegations raised in the documentary have been denounced by the Jackson estate.

    "This is yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson," the estate said in a statement to E! News around the time of the premiere. "Wade Robson and James Safechuck have both testified under oath that Michael never did anything inappropriate toward them. Safechuck and Robson, the latter a self-proclaimed 'master of deception,' filed lawsuits against Michael's Estate, asking for millions of dollars. Both lawsuits were dismissed."

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    The first part of the documentary does not address those testimonies (it ends right before the first allegations were made in 1993), but it does explore how the boys met Jackson and how their relationships played out. Here are the basics of what the Robsons and the Safechucks said during part one.

    James Safechuck
    Safechuck met Jackson on the set of a Pepsi commercial when he was 9. He was invited to Jackson's trailer, along with the makeup artist. Safechuck's mother was fine with it, because the makeup artist claimed Jackson was just like a 9-year-old child. Jackson had a film crew sent to Safechuck's house, and then Safechuck was invited to the Jackson family home in Encino, where they watched a movie. The Safechucks then opened up their home to Jackson, and he would hang out there when he needed an escape. Safechuck compared it to hanging out with a friend his own age, and Safechuck's mother thought of Jackson as a son. Jackson took the family to Hawaii for vacation, and while Jimmy's mother didn't let him sleep in Jackson's room at that point, that changed later on.

    Jackson invited Safechuck on tour with him, and he danced on stage. The family got to fly first class and stay in fancy hotel rooms and visit movie sets and meet all kinds of celebrities.

    "In Paris, he introduced me to masturbation, and that's how it started," Safechuck said, adding that he had no unpleasant memories other than trouble urinating afterwards. "It felt like we were bonding, in a way."

    Safechuck was with Michael 24/7, his mother said, and Safechuck, who was 10 at the time of the tour, went into detail about just what Jackson liked when it came to their sexual relationship, like when Safechuck would bend over in front of him.

    Safechuck's mother said that her hotel room kept getting further and further away from Michael's on each leg of the tour, and Safechuck said Michael would "run drills" with him on how to avoid the two of them getting caught.

    "It was very much a secret, and he would tell me that if anybody found out, his life would be over, and my life would be over," Safechuck said. "That's something he tells you over and over again."

    "It evolved from French kissing to kissing different parts of the body, and then finally kissing the genitals," he explained, describing a time when he woke up and Jackson told him that he had performed oral sex on him while he was sleeping, and it got more graphic than that.

    Meanwhile, Safechuck's mother was sneaking around, listening through the door to find out what was happening.

    "Playing, reading...Just kid things. They were just doing kid things," she said of what she heard.

    Jackson apparently told Jimmy that he was his first ever sexual experience.

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    "We were like this married couple, and I say married because we had this mock wedding ceremony in his bedroom," he said. "We filled out these vows, it's like we were bonded forever. It felt good."

    Safechuck even had the ring, which was shown on screen.

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    Wade Robson
    Robson, now a choreographer, became obsessed with Michael Jackson as a child, and took part in a dance contest when he was 5. He wasn't even old enough to compete, but they let him perform, and he won anyway, which meant he got to meet Jackson. Jackson then invited Robson to perform on stage with him, and later they hung out in Jackson's hotel suite together. Three years later, his family traveled to the US, and they were invited to the Neverland Ranch. Robson and his sister slept in Jackson's bed the first night.

    The next night, Robson said he woke to find Jackson crying about how the family was going to leave the next day. The rest of the family ended up going to the Grand Canyon for five days while 7-year-old Robson stayed behind at Neverland, which his mother said she had no hesitation about and Robson was ecstatic about.

    Robson said Jackson was making physical contact on the first day at Neverland, starting with hugs or a hand on a leg.

    "The first thing I remember is Michael sort of moving his hands across my legs...and then his hands got to my crotch area," Robson recalled. "And then his hands went underneath my pants and started touching my penis underneath my pants...and then him guiding me to do the same thing to him."

    Robson said Michael told him they were "brought together by God" and this touching was "how we show our love." They started taking showers together and kissing, and then Robson said Michael pulled down Wade's pants and started to perform oral sex on him, eventually having Wade do the same for him. He described Jackson asking for the same things that Safechuck described--bending over so Jackson could see his anus, touching his nipples. During the day, they would have "adventures" around the ranch.

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    Jackson tried to get Wade's mother to let him stay in LA for a year, but she wouldn't allow it, which caused an argument.

    "He looked at me and he said, 'I always get what I want,'" Wade's mother said, and while she still didn't let up, Jackson asked for them to stay longer.

    The broadcast also led to a flurry of activity on Twitter, with viewers both defending and condemning Jackson.

    "Leaving Neverland" continues with part two on Monday at 8 p.m. on HBO.