Tabloid obsessions and internet celebs come and go, but there's one star who's never, ever been far from the spotlight. Even now, the world is fascinated with Macaulay Culkin. Even though he's really only been in a handful of movies, the child superstar became a poster boy for multiple generations, one that still continues to capture our interest no matter what. In a sense, we've grown up with him as much as he's grown up with us. But amidst all the rumors and gossip and scandal, how much do we really know about this star's rollercoaster life? We dig deeper to find out exactly what happened to him, and most importantly, what really happened at Michael Jackson's 'Neverland Ranch'.
There's been many child stars before, and child stars after, but none have had quite the precocity of Macaulay Culkin. Most actors will require years, if not decades of training before they really shine. Culkin was something different: a mere kid who, the moment he stepped onto the screen, looked like a star beyond his years. Whatever he did, it was just right.
Born in 1981, it only took Culkin eight years of his life to crack it into the big time: Most will remember him from the Home Alone films, and My Girl, but his first big film was actually Uncle Buck. In that, Culkin played opposite film comedy icon John Candy - and nailed the role. There was just something about him that made Hollywood executives sit up and take notice.
First On Screen Kiss
1991 showed the world that Culkin wasn't just another bland child star, destined for obscurity. Although Home Alone had come out the year before, it was a dramatic role in My Girl that showed off his full range as an actor. This was a movie about young love on the surface, but was actually just as passionate and heartbreaking as any more "adult" movie from the era.
Forget about his (spoiler alert) drowning in the lake. It was the on-screen kiss, the first he had ever done, with Anna Chlumsky which made all our young hearts melt back then. And not just us - Culkin and Chlumsky even picked up an MTV award for the tender moment. Apparently, it took them over 15 takes before they got it right. Although we suspect they were just enjoying it a little too much.
Many of us struggle with money, dreaming of a time when we might win the lottery or become celebrities. But like some of the best Hollywood stories, this dream actually became a reality for Macaulay. Had he followed in his father's or mother's footsteps, he might just be a broke-ass nobody like the rest of us. Instead, he rose above the turmoil to really make something for himself.
How bad was it for the Culkin family? Well, Macaulay was actually one of seven children that his parents Kit and Patricia had had, making every day a battle to feed so many hungry mouths. Patricia was only a telephone operator at the time, and Kit an ex-actor with some very minor credits to his name. Times were always tight, and Macaulay could see that even from a very early age.
We don't know if it's art imitating life, or life imitating art, but Culkin's starring role in Richie Rich, in 1994, couldn't have been any more appropriate. In the film based on the comics, Macaulay portrayed the richest boy in the world, the only son of a billionaire businessman, as he gets into some good old-fashioned scrapes and hijinks. You know, the usual kids' holiday romp.
At this point, though, Macaulay was actually filthy rich. Home Alone had made an insane $476 million dollars in worldwide box office takings, making Macaulay the hottest actor in town. By the time he starred in Richie Rich, he was demanding in excess of $8 million for a single role. That's a lot of money for anyone - not least a 13-year-old boy. Just imagine if you had eight million at that age, what would you do?
Unaware Of His Millions
What would you do if you were worth tens of millions of dollars and barely a teenager? For most boys back in the 90s, the answer to that would be a half-ton of candy and a football field full of arcade cabinets. Within a few weeks, all of our teeth would have fallen out and our brains completely fried. Let's face it: kids basically have no self-control.
Which is why Macaulay's father, Kit, stepped in to make sure that Culkin wouldn't just be some spoiled, rich brat. Of course Macaulay knew that he was earning some money - he was a celebrity, after all - but he didn't exactly know how much. Kit did all the negotiations for him and hid the salaries from his son, as well as any newspapers discussing his worth.
Like Father, Like Manager
Being the parent of a child star has got to be tough work. Even without all this news that's come out about executives preying on young actors, there's still all the labor conditions, schooling, and newfound riches that can completely change a young kid's life. Without a strong parental figure, it's so easy to go off the rails and let your star status get to your head.
Like we mentioned earlier, though, Kit had been a minor actor during part of his career, so he knew some of what it was all about. He was determined to make sure that Macaulay wouldn't end up like all the other child actors, so he actually became Macaulay's manager himself. According to the top movie producers, he was one of the toughest that they had to deal with.
A family of actors is not an unusual thing. It's not what you know in this crazy biz - it's who you know, more often than not. Macaulay's dad Kit was an actor, as well as appearing a few times on Broadway, and so was his aunt, Bonnie Bedelia. She's had a few more roles than Kit - including in Die Hard and its sequel, which may explain how Macaulay got his foot in the door.
Within the Culkin family, the line hasn't stopped with Macaulay. Two of his brothers, Rory and Kieran, have also been in a few projects here and there. In fact, with movies like Signs, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, and Igby Goes Down, and TV shows like Fargo, you could probably say that the brothers have been even more successful than Macaulay.
Home Alone Scaring
Alright, we admit it. Home Alone was kind of a scary movie. And the second one, Lost In New York? We still have nightmares about that. With the idea of being trapped in your house, and the guy with his salt cart (and the pigeon lady from the second one), it really wasn't as much of a comedy as the networks claimed. More like a horror story, designed to make us children never leave our parents again.
On set, apparently, it wasn't all fun and games either. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, who took their roles as the dimwitted but menacing thieves a little too seriously, were fond of extending the scares to the cast and crew. Even the 9-year-old Macaulay wasn't immune: during the scene where Joe Pesci threatens to bite his finger off, he actually wound up injuring the young star. He's still got the scar to prove it.
Black Or White
Knowing what we know now about Michael Jackson, and his dubiously "special" relationships with young children, we might have all been a little bit more freaked out in the early 90s. Back then, somehow he had struck up a friendship with the young Macaulay Culkin, and the two shared a strong, loving bond. Could you imagine that ever happening today?
Who knows what was going on behind the scenes, but in real life, the odd pair were frequently hanging out and enjoying their time together. This relationship also resulted in one of the highlights of the 90s: the music video to Black or White, by Michael Jackson. In that, Macaulay appeared as a kind of young white gangster complete with chains against another kid and oh, just go and watch the thing yourself. We will dig deeper into their relationship later in this article. Prepare yourself.
SNL At 11
From eight years old to 14 years old, Macaulay went through his golden period. Everything worked out right for him. Every film he starred in was a huge commercial success, everyone was a fan, and it looked like he was unstoppable. A strange thing to say about a pre-teen, but that was really what it felt like at the time. We were watching a star being born, and it was beautiful.
So the opportunity to host Saturday Night Live, the long-running behemoth of top gags and heavyweight celebrities - was really just another feather in the cap of Macaulay Culkin. Except he was only 11 years old at the time! There's only one other person who's been a younger host, and that's the luminous Drew Barrymore. She did it at the age of seven.
It was at the age of 14 that things started to unravel quite terribly for Macaulay. It wasn't his fault, but life, stardom, and tragedy started to get in the way of his success. Although initially a devoted father, Kit Culkin turned out to have a very dark side, which came out in the most horrendous way possible. In 1995, he was accused of punching his wife Patricia, who was then pregnant.
Naturally, Patricia wasn't going to stick around to see if things would get better. She immediately filed for custody of Macaulay and all of his brothers and sisters, demanding that Kit not be able to see them anymore. It was a long and brutal battle in the courts, and attracted quite a lot of media attention. In the end, though, Patricia won.
In the aftermath of the messy custody battle, journalists started to dig deeper into the home life of the Culkins. What they found was not flattering to Kit. According to reports from many of the siblings, Kit's tough-as-nails manager persona wasn't just restricted to the studio. Although he wasn't abusive to his children, he didn't treat them with much respect or with love.
In one particular example, Macaulay confessed that his father would often force him to sleep on the couch instead of his own bed, if he had upset Kit in some way or "done something wrong." This was a boy worth tens of millions of dollars, forced to sleep on a couch in the living room. It got so bad with their father, in fact, that Macaulay and his brothers and sisters started calling their dad "Stinky". Not too creative, but very effective.
Next up, the very thing that's certain to bring any teenager, star or not, to the brink of a meltdown. We're talking, of course, about high school. Filled with sinister plots and brainless jocks, romantic catastrophes and smoking joints behind the bleachers, high school looks like it should be fun, based on what the movies tell us. But really, it's not. Trust us.
Macaulay went to one of those LA schools that La specializes in, targeted specifically at uber-rich child actors, dancers, and sons and daughters of movie producers. You know, the kind where just one of the students could probably buy the entire school and all its teachers. Culkin's gang there were set on raising hell, being particularly fond of vandalism and annoyance. At one point, Macaulay refused to sit on the school chairs, only using a stool that he brought along with him.
It was there, though, that Macaulay also met the first love of his life, Rachel Milner. Back then she was yet another child star navigating her way through the pitfalls of a dog-eat-dog industry, and now she's blossomed into a solid actress with such titles such as Supernatural, Bully, The Black Dahlia, and Penny Dreadful under her belt.
She moved to the high school when she was 16, and introduced herself to the mega-famous Macaulay, hoping to make a friend on the battlefield. He, however, barely registered her appearance. Things soon changed, though, and within a year they were wrapped up in a tempestuous relationship, the kind only actors and teenagers and especially actors who are teenagers can have. By 1998, they were married. If you ask us, this was an extremely young age to get married.
Divorced At 20
And then they divorced. Not many people were shocked by the outcome, especially considering how turbulent their early relationship was. Given the average lifespan of a Hollywood romance, they actually didn't do too badly. This was no Britney Spears and Jason Alexander marriage, or Carmen Electra and Dennis Rodman (remember them?). Despite their youth and inexperience, they really did try to stick it out.
But even then, it only lasted three years before the divorce was finalized, in 2002. By then Macaulay wasn't getting too much work, and Rachel's star was definitely on the rise. Both of them had graduated, and it looked like one of those high-school-sweetheart things were people just drift apart. Neither of them have married again, so unlike many other stars at least they've learned their lesson.
West End Seduction
When actors have had their fill of the rich roles, but they still want to hone their craft, there's only one place they turn to: the theater. It's more than possible that the intense scrutiny and celebrity worship that was going on in the States was giving Culkin a headache, because instead of hitting up Broadway as most American actors do, he went to the other place for high-production stage shows: West End, in London.
The show was called Madame Melville, and featured the then 20-year-old Macaulay as a 15-year-old American student in Paris, seduced in the apartment of his older French teacher. It was a difficult, awkward role for Macaulay and an interesting gamble, but it paid off for him. Many critics praised his nuanced performance, and it looked like his career was set for a massive comeback.
Deadly Apartment Fire
A little while before all this was happening, though, another bizarre incident cropped up to throw scandal in Macaulay's already messy life. Somehow, a few days before Christmas in 1998, Patricia - Macaulay's mother - started a fire in her apartment. The fire got out of control and spread to other apartments, eventually destroying the entire block. By the time it was put out, it claimed four lives and injured 22 more.
Fires happen every day, and this one - apart from the semi-celebrity source of it - was not really out of the ordinary. Neither were the eventual lawsuits that followed the fire, claiming for damages. What was really strange, though, was that some of the lawsuits were directed at Macaulay himself and not his mother. Even though he didn't start the fire. Even though he wasn't even in the apartment, or anywhere near it, at the time.
Celeb watchers these days have no shortage of scandal to feed on. Another star is arrested for doing something really, truly illegal? Yawn. With Lohan, Hilton, Cyrus, Bieber, and all the rest of those young punks causing havoc every other day, we often forget just how shocking it was, ten years ago, to see a young star arrested. This was real news.
The mugshot wasn't very flattering, and neither was the story. In 2004, Macaulay Culkin's friend was caught speeding on the I-44, and Macaulay himself was in the passenger seat. So far, so ordinary, except police decided to do a full search of the car. In Macaulay's possession, they found a significant load of drugs and promptly arrested the star. He never went to prison, but he was later bailed out for $4,000.
The Pizza Underground
So, what's Macaulay really been up to in the last decade or so? Plenty of things, apparently - just not many of them in front of the camera. Amongst his many side projects is his music. Although not the greatest player in existence, he does have one talent: a sense of humor. Consider, for example, The Pizza Underground, a band formed in 2013 by Culkin as a kind of pizza-themed tribute to The Velvet Underground.
Their songs were all covers of The Velvet Underground, replacing much of the lyrics with pizza references, and their drummer played on a pizza box. Not only that, but they gave out free pizza to anyone who came to their gigs. It wasn't enough for the humorless Velvet Underground fans to lay abuse on him, and his band was even booed off stage during the Dot To Dot festival in Nottingham's Rock City venue.
Tongue Twisters Obsession
Not that Macaulay really cares about what other people think of his mild weirdness. Sure, he might get booed off stage with his pizza band, but that's just how it goes for a real artist with real ideas. The peanut gallery will never appreciate them. Want another example of Macaulay Culkin's eccentric side? Well, how about his obsession with tongue twisters?
You know the kind: things like "she sells seashells by the sea shore", repeated enough times until your mouth explodes. Actors are often fond of them as a warm-up, but Macaulay was way more than fond. He was so in love with them that he invented his own: "Heidi was her name, hiding was her game when Heidi hid horses halted....". Not bad, although he could have just used his own name for almost the same effect.
The list of Macaulay's strange side projects just goes on and on. This man hasn't stopped his creative output because he's not on the big screen anymore. Far from it - he's just flying under the radar now. That's the beauty, really, of being a multi-millionaire: you can do whatever the hell you want. Like a movie filmed entirely on an iPhone, a viral video involving - again - pizzas, or appearing in the WWE ring.
In an interview on CNN, he said that he would do "one cool small project a year that I'm really, really proud of." Which makes sense, really, and is one of those things you'd think more high-profile actors would do. Why keep making silly blockbusters when you don't have to? To keep up that appearance of fame, no doubt. Which Macaulay doesn't care about anymore.
Blanket Jackson Rumors
Who remembers Prince Michael Jackson II, aka Blanket Jackson, aka Bigi Jackson, the late pop king's youngest son? Well, no-one apparently - even the family have forgotten to look after the now 15-year-old, mostly leaving him alone to fend for himself in an LA mansion. His is an interesting case - by all rights he should be a celebrity, as famous as his siblings, father, and aunts and uncles - but apparently all he does is play videogames and eat Snickers bars in a forgotten corner.
How does this relate to Macaulay Culkin? Well, as you'll remember, Culkin and Blanket's dad were great friends back when Michael was alive, from when Macaulay was a child star. So tight, in fact, that Macaulay is actually the godfather to the 19-year-old Paris Jackson, Michael's daughter. But there's one other thing: a persistent rumor that Michael isn't Blanket's father, but Macaulay is.
Even reading about Macaulay's troubled life and strange upbringing is a rollercoaster ride. Imagine actually being Macaulay Culkin! Whether it's from this childhood, or because of it, Macaulay has now diagnosed himself as being an agoraphobic - i.e., having a fear of crowded places or difficult situations. Like any of the other phobias, it's an anxiety disorder which can be especially debilitating. Agoraphobia affects about 1.7% of adults. The condition often begins in early adulthood and becomes less common in old age. It is rare in children.
The word itself comes from "agora" - the Greek word for a marketplace. If you can imagine yourself in a big, bustling marketplace, trapped and unable to get out, that's the kind of feeling that agoraphobia sufferers have. Whether it's on packed public transport or in front of a horde of paparazzi, the situations can get incredibly unpleasant, and very rapidly.
Let's take a moment out from the close examination of Macaulay's life to look at him at him. Like, really look at the guy. There's no doubt that with that blond hair and eternally boyish face, he's a pretty handsome kinda man. As long as he's not trying to grow his scraggly blond beard, he could date a girl half his age and no-one would think twice.
On the other hand, if you look at his eyes, you'll notice that you really don't need to be perfect to get into Hollywood. One of his eyes - his right, if you can't quite tell - is actually bigger than the other one. He covers it well with sunglasses and that wide-eyed look he perfected as Kevin McCallister, but he has said in the past that it's a part of him he wishes he could change.
All of us, from our grandmas to our cats, have at some point in our lives imagined being a celebrity. Imagine living out basically an ideal world of partying and drinking, like some decade-long episode of Entourage. What could be better? And then, at some point, you remember just how much real celebs hate it. How they literally can't do anything without it being under the microscope, written about, and yelled at by random people on the internet.
You can't even walk down the street to buy some toilet paper without being shouted at. Just ask Macaulay Culkin, who has even trained himself to not even respond to his own name anymore. Even his family have called out to him and he just walked on by, never noticing. Apparently, though, he will respond if you yell out Mack. Don't tell him we said that.
In his 37 years, Macaulay has also seen his fair share of tragedy. When you have a family of nine people, the odds really are against you, and the Culkins are no different. Although his mother and father are still alive, sadly his half-sister - Jennifer Adamson - died in 2000, when she was 29 and Macaulay 19, from a drug overdose. We could only image how difficult this was for Mac, and why he had trouble coping with life in his years ahead.
The so-called "Macaulay curse" didn't end there. Eight years later, in 2008, tragedy struck again. Dakota Culkin, who was also 29 at the time, was struck and killed by a car in Los Angeles outside an Irish bar on Lincoln Boulevard. She was the one sibling that truly stayed out of the spotlight, never attempting to become a star herself.
Adult Film Star Relationship
For years, Culkin has tried to leave the "child star" label behind. He doesn't want to be remembered for the string of 90s hits, just what he's done these days. And he certainly doesn't want to be remembered for all the gossip surrounding him, even saying in multiple TV interviews that he wants to have a private personal life now.
Even so, the tabloids and internet won't let him go. They just have to know who he's dating and when. In 2011, for example, he was spotted with adult film actress Irene Lopez while on holiday in Barcelona. Rumors flew around before Macaulay quickly tried to shoot them down, saying that she was "just a fan". But still he couldn't shake the press. We will never know the truth on whether Mac actually hooked up with her.
If you want an insight into the real Macaulay Culkin, you'd need to do what you'd do with anyone else: look inside their home. It's only there, in their most private of spaces, that celebrities and regular folk alike have the room to really express themselves. So, how would you describe Macaulay's New York City apartment, which he bought when he was 19?
In a word, messy. According to a few websites which have taken a peek inside, this place is like the morning after a year-long party, with most of the floor space and any available surface covered in cigarette packs, tequila bottles, pizza boxes, and notebooks. Recently he converted part of it into a painting studio, so we can't imagine it's gotten any cleaner. On another note, psychologists do claim that people who are messy tend to be very intelligent.
Ah, the world really loves a good death rumor, don't they? By the looks of it, you don't even have to be old to get one - just slightly famous. Macaulay Culkin's got one of his very own in 2014, when the internet exploded, saying he had died of a drug overdose mere hours beforehand. It was fun for a while, before the whole thing was busted in the best way possible...
First off, Macaulay responded to the claims himself, which is usually a pretty good sign that you're still alive and kicking. Not only that, but he tweeted a photo of himself recreating a famous scene from Weekend At Bernie's - a late 80s classic about two friends trying to pretend their murdered boss is still alive. Later on, Macaulay went even further and opened up a show with his band by screaming "I'm alive!"
Like Godfather, Like Goddaughter
Remember when we said that Macaulay was the godfather of Michael Jackson's daughter, Paris? Well, although all that happened when he was in his teenagers, he hasn't taken those duties lightly. And despite all the ups and downs and mistakes that he's made in his life, he's always been there to provide guidance and friendship, like all good godfathers should.
Although they're 18 years apart in age, Paris and Macaulay are thick as thieves, spending lots of time together whenever they can and getting up to all kinds of mischief. Harmless mischief, that is - as Paris has turned out to be quite the beautiful, young, upstanding citizen. She's working as a model and actress now, and seems to never put a foot wrong or get caught up in any scandal.
There's no denying that the life of Macaulay Culkin really has been all over the place. But whose life isn't, really? In 2012, though, it appeared to hit a new low. In fact, people close to Macaulay - and many of the public - were certain that we would soon lose the star. In a photo circulated around that time, he looked skeletal, pale, and thoroughly unhealthy.
Most people assumed that he had some kind of drug habit going on, and sources close to him seemed to confirm this. Although he denied everything, there were rumors that he was spending close to $10,000 a month on his habit, which included a potentially fatal heroin and oxytocin mix and large amounts of prescription antidepressants. Somehow, though, he pulled through, and we are extremely shocked that he was able to do so.
Not My Son
At the same time as his life was undergoing some crazy changes, there was still the problem of his family. Since the custody battle that his mother won, everyone, including Macaulay, had severed ties with his father Kit. But since that day, he had had battles of his own with his mom and siblings. Even the deaths of his half-sister and full sister couldn't bring them together, and by 2014 Macaulay wasn't speaking to any of them.
In 2014, though, Kit Culkin suffered a life-threatening stroke that he was lucky to survive. The father of the family assumed that this might patch the rift between the members, but it seemed that their feud would last longer than him. No-one visited him in hospital, and soon after he made his recovery, Kit declared that he doesn't consider any of his children to be his own anymore.
The Macaulay Culkin of this year is definitely a new and improved Macaulay. He's changed so much from the days that he was knocking on death's door with a drug addiction, and he looks like he's kicked any habit for good. It's hard to believe he's 37, in fact, with such a youthful face and sunny outlook. No matter what life has dealt him, he's kicking right back.
Not only that, but it looks like the star is ready to try and enter Hollywood through the front entrance again. Seth Green - the actor and genius behind Robot Chicken - is making a film called Changeland, and he's got Macaulay Culkin on board in a starring role. This might be the year that Culkin's star shines once again, and he returns to the mainstream.
Although Macaulay tends to generally fly under the radar - or at least tries to, anyway - there is one aspect of his life that was far more public than most. Namely, his relationship with Mila Kunis. One the one hand, it looked like the oddest match-up ever. One a beautiful, budding film and TV star, and the other a (supposedly) washed-up recluse, only good for the occasional "where are they now?"-style article.
But on the other hand, they were a genuinely adorable couple, and any sighting of them together quickly proved that the two of them were in love. Always laughing and enjoying each other's company, it's no surprise that the two of them lasted almost eight years. We may never know what caused them to split up, but we do know that it's pretty sad for everyone involved.
Digging into Macaulay Culkin's financial history would give any accountant an instant migraine. From the tens of millions he was raking in as a child, there came a decline that was at times slow, and at times painfully quick. Both his father and mother fought over the control over his finances, and much of it was gobbled up in legal fees just trying to keep some from himself.
That's not to mention the fact that he really wasn't working much, either, and the lavish lifestyle and high-profile friends he was hanging out with meant that you would think he'd be easily broke by now. In fact, he's still worth a massive $15 million dollars. Sure, that might not sound like a lot, but for a guy who's been pretty much doing what he wants his whole life, it's pretty good. We'd take it.
Sleepovers With Michael Jackson
So here's the elephant in the room. What exactly was his relationship with Michael Jackson? How healthy was their friendship, when Macaulay was just a boy? And do any of those criminal allegations that Jackson faced in his later years at all related to Macaulay? What we do know is that Macaulay often went to MJ's ranch for "sleepovers". But the rest? Macaulay denies everything, but is he telling the truth?
"He was very childlike. He liked doing the things we [kids] did," Culkin recalls about their relationship. Although the singer would have many young boys at his Neverland ranch, including Macaulay's brother Kieran, Macaulay said that it was all innocent games. "He played with us," Culkin said, adding that the singer's relationship, and wisdom on dealing with celebrity life, was "comforting."
The Neverland Ranch
In order to know what really happened between Jackson and Culkin, though, we'll have to dig a little deeper into the entire relationship. There's no better place to start the investigation than the source of all this gossip and rumours: the Neverland Ranch. As far as celebrity hangouts go, it's one of the most enduring legends of our time - up there with the Chateau Marmont and Playboy Mansion.
The ranch is like something out of a fever dream. Set near Los Olivos in Santa Barbara County, California, Neverland is an insane 3,000 acres in size. Jackson bought it for between 20 and 30 million dollars in 1988, and set about converting it into a child wonderland. Stuffed with amusement rides, waterslides, a petting zoo and even a railway, it really lived up to its Peter Pan inspired name.
Plenty Of Young Friends
As you can imagine, a place like that is essentially every child's fantasy rolled into one. All you're missing is the all-you-can-eat McDonald's, right? With a home cinema and all the latest video games, as well as the rides and gardens, Jackson's ranch unsurprisingly attracted a huge number of young guests, including Macaulay Culkin. While it wasn't open to the public, Jackson had no problem parting with his cash and time for his young friends.
Culkin is obviously the most recognized of these, along with his brother Kieran, but there were plenty more young boys who Jackson would befriend and invite to stay. In all circumstances, the families of the kids knew what was going on, and approved, although this seems to be mostly because they were star struck by Jackson. They were hoping that some of his wealth and fame would rub off on them.
A Kid At Heart
By all reports, though, that's not what Jackson had in mind. According to numerous sources, and his own biographer, Michael Jackson was just an incredibly lonely man, and a man that deep down was still a 10-year-old. He loved playing games, making friends, and eating junk food, just like any normal kid. Except, of course, he wasn't actually a kid.
If you need an example of this behavior, you don't need to look any further than Bubbles the chimp. Remember that guy? Jackson bought him in 1984, more or less to have a companion to keep him company at all times. At the Neverland Ranch, Bubbles would sleep in a crib in Jackson's room, eat candy with Jackson in the theater, use the toilet, and even helped out around the house. Does that sound... normal?
What Really Went On
As far as we can tell, no child he went to Neverland once ever refused a second invitation. Like we said, it was essentially every boy's dream life. When they weren't playing with the bumper cars or going down the water slides, they were up at the theater watching movies, eating fast food, and playing the latest video games. Did all these children's parents sue MJ just because he was loaded?
Culkin, who probably spent the most time there out of anyone, remembers his time at the Neverland Ranch with fondness. He called that time - around the age of 10 - the greatest of his life, and Jackson one of his best friends. Part of the reason wasn't just the games and fun, but the emotional support Jackson could give Culkin as a former child star himself.
Neverland Ranch is a huge place, with dozens of bedrooms and plenty of places to sleep. Which is why the most unsettling part of the entire saga is not so much that the children were there, often without adult supervision, but that more often than not - Macaulay Culkin included - the kids would spend the night in Jackson's bed. Next to Jackson.
Macaulay has been quick to deny that there was anything sexual about it. Many reports, from multiple children involved, have said that while they did sleep in the same bed both the boys and MJ would always be wearing clothes. Still, even if nothing happened there's no denying that this is a pretty creepy thing to do. It certainly doesn't help your reputation. Unfortunately we may never know the truth about it.
The First Round Of Allegations
In a way, it came as no surprise to anyone that allegations of sexual misconduct would eventually see the light of day. And that they did, in 1993, when Evan Chandler accused Jackson of molesting his 13-year-old child, Jordan. You couldn't come up with a more sordid tale, and one so full of twists and turns. Over the seven months of criminal investigations and lawyer negotiations, every possible piece of dirty laundry came to light.
Jackson was subjected to a humiliating half-hour strip search, to see if Jordan's reports on his genitalia were accurate - if he had indeed seen them. Both Jordan's and Evan's stories were changed multiple times, and Jackson cancelled the third leg of his world tour and retreated into a world of drugs to cope with intense scrutiny and hurtful allegations.
The whole thing never went to trial, interestingly enough. The criminal investigation was closed with no significant evidence found, and with Jordan's mother also denying the fact that Jackson had touched her child, it didn't seem like there was much of a case after all. Although if you had asked the tabloid media frenzy, Jackson was as good as guilty.
Not helping Jackson's image was the fact that his lawyers finally agreed to a $23 million settlement with the Chandlers. Some saw this as a tacit admission of guilt, but Jackson's camp claimed that he merely wanted the whole mess to go away. That he was completely not guilty, but the stress of the allegations was causing him physical and mental damage. If MJ was indeed innocent, he should have fought these cases all the way until the end to clear his name.
Strangely enough, after the legal circus rolled out of town in 1994, Jackson continued his ways at the Neverland Ranch. Don't forget that this was around the time Macaulay Culkin and Michael Jackson's friendship was really starting to warm up, and there were just as many young people at Neverland as there was before. Despite what the media were saying, parents still had no problems letting their kids sleep over with MJ.
To many people, this would strike you as a pretty silly thing to do - both for the parents and Jackson, especially if he was innocent. Why get so much attention all over again? Why give your attackers more fuel to add to the rumor inferno? The answer, it seems, is that Jackson really just couldn't let go of his loneliness and childhood. He really saw nothing wrong it what he was doing.
The Second Trial
For ten more years, Jackson continued to live peacefully with his friends at Neverland Ranch. But Peter Pan's eternal youth was about to come to a grinding halt. The reason for this was an airing of a TV documentary called Living With Michael Jackson, in which journalist Martin Bashir showed 13-year-old Gavin Arvizo holding hands with Jackson, and explaining their strange sleeping arrangements.
Things soon escalated, and Michael Jackson was soon charged by the state on seven counts of molestation, based on evidence given to them by Gavin Arvizo and his family. It was an 18-month trial, and one that world is unlikely to forget any time soon. Jackson pled not guilty, of course, and with rebuttals and scandal, tears and perjury, no-one quite knew how it was going to turn out.
What The Employees Said
Part of the prosecution's case involved the testimony of a few former employees of Neverland, including housekeepers and security guards. Ralph Chacon, a former security guard, testified that he had seen illicit acts performed by Jackson on the boy, as did Adrian McManus, a former maid. Their evidence was compelling, but there were a few inconsistencies that didn't quite match up.
As it turned out, both of these former employees had been part of a notorious civil case known as the "Neverland Five", a group of former staff that had filed a lawsuit against Jackson in the mid-1990s. Not only had they lost, but they were also convicted for theft of property from the ranch and forced to pay huge fines. Many believe that both Chacon and McManus had fabricated the testimony to get back at Jackson.
Macaulay Is Called In
But the star witness out of all of them was undoubtedly Macauley Culkin. He had been at Neverland ranch throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, and was considered to be one of Michael Jackson's closest friends. Since after the end of his Home Alone fame, Culkin had seemed to be in a downward spiral, people speculated that he had some skeletons in his closet involving Jackson's behavior.
Although Culkin had defended his friend many times in the past, people pointed to a self-destructive tendency that they claimed was a result of years of sexual abuse and molestation. Their relationship was, in a word, unusual. Maybe too unusual for the public to digest. So when he was called to the stand, nobody knew what he would say next... All eyes were on Mac.
Defending His Friend
He had defended Jackson over the last few years, and Macaulay did it all over again. Despite being out of the limelight for over a decade, Macaulay was well spoken and effusive, essentially telling the courtroom that nothing had happened, and that Jackson wasn't like people claimed at all. It was perhaps the most compelling testimony of the whole trial, and one that no doubt swayed the minds of the jury.
In response to the allegations, Culkin called them "absolutely ridiculous," and insisted that he'd "never seen him do anything improper with anybody." He called their friendship a "comforting thing", and when cross-examined about whether he felt that Jackson had ever been grooming him, he replied, "no, never." Even his parents were fine with his relationship, Culkin said. "They never really saw it as an issue."
A Media Storm
Jackson was acquitted of all charges in 2005, but do you think he could get his life back on track? Thanks to a media frenzy that colored him guilty from the first whisper of untruth, he never had a chance. Jackson's career was over, and his time at Neverland was done. He would always have his supporters, but the tabloids took care of the rest.
While Macaulay did all he could to help out his friend, Culkin didn't really have much pull in the wider world of entertainment either. His career was just as dead in the water as Jackson's was. In the end, Jackson gave up Neverland (which he claimed was defiled by law enforcement) and fled to Bahrain. In 2009, as he planned a comeback tour, he died of a drug overdose.
Putting The Pieces Together
The tale of Macaulay Culkin and Michael Jackson is a complicated one, and it's hard to know exactly what happened between them. Hell, it's hard to get a full picture of their individual lives, let alone their time together. There are so many of pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that just don't seem to fit together. Was their relationship really as wholesome as it seemed?
To put it mildly, Michael Jackson's behavior has always raised a few eyebrows. Even if you don't believe the allegations, there's no doubt that the Neverland Ranch has some seriously creepy undertones. And although Michael Jackson has been acquitted numerous times, what are we supposed to say to those who accused him of sex crimes? That they're all lying? No, there's something here that just doesn't add up.
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