- 07 Mar 19
Michael Jackson was defended vigorously by fans, friends and - as we show here - even people within the music industry, before and after his death. The battle for his legacy is likely to rage on for a long time.
Dan Reed's two-part documentary Leaving Neverland, which aired on Channel 4 last night, was an explosive insight into the alleged abuse the Michael Jackson committed over decades when he was at the height of his career.
Since it was first shown, arguments have broken out between those who believe the horrifying claims made by Wade Robson and James Safechuck - who detail allegations of abuse - and those fans who wish to defend Michael Jackson no matter what claims come his way.
One of the things that will likely lead to this argument ticking over for weeks and months to come is that, no matter what allegations come out, Michael Jackson will neither be able to defend himself nor be prosecuted. Those who are convinced that he's guilty will likely remain of that view, while those who have defended him throughout the years are unlikely to stop now...
Jackson In Ireland
Michael Jackson spent a considerable amount of time in Ireland, based at Grouse Lodge Studios, where he became very friendly with the owner of Grouse Lodge, Paddy Dunning.
In a memorable, in depth interview, published in Hot Press in 2010, Paddy spoke at some length about his relationship with Michael Jackson. With so many people damning the singer, we thought that Paddy Dunning’s recollections would be worth reading again. What Paddy said at the time had a ring of authenticity. Perhaps, by the time he came to Ireland, Michael Jackson had decided not to in any way run the risk associated with making 'special friends' of children. Or perhaps, he was just being himself, in a way that was without any form of guile. Either way, the portrait of Michael Jackson painted by Paddy Dunning is an intriguing and ultimately sympathetic one...
Jackie Hayden: The success of Grouse Lodge Studios, attracting acts like REM, Michael Jackson, Muse, Manic Street Preachers, The Blizzards, Sinéad O’Connor and more, all happened in a short space of time. Did that give you a sense of pride?
Paddy Dunning: I don’t take stock. I don’t know how many people I employ. I don’t know how much I made last week.
The biggest coup was Michael Jackson. How did that come about? Did somebody just call and book him in?
A lady called Grace Rwaramba came down to us. She’s his missus, his closest confidante. She’s from Rwanda. She stayed with Michael for the last fifteen years and raised his kids for him. She’s their nanny, she’s their mother, a real, caring mother. We got to know her really well. She saw our studio set up, met me and Claire. Then an agent introduced us to Michael and confirmed he was interested in coming to record in Grouse Lodge. I was aware of all the gossip about him and the media stuff he was going through. I had to think seriously about this. Suppose the press things were true did I want him around? I have two beautiful girls myself. I discussed all this with Grace and told her I didn’t want any entourage at Grouse Lodge with him. We have our own security there and it’s a serious, inspirational work place.
Can you remember that first meeting with Michael?
Of course, I thought, here’s Michael Jackson getting out of a blacked-out hired bus in my back garden! I can’t believe he’s in Westmeath! This is bizarre.
And how did you find him as a person?
He was in our care. It was a privilege to have him and to get to know him. He was just a normal person.
So the media image we got of him, especially from the American media, is in your view untrue?
Totally and utterly untrue. I know he’s not a paedophile. He’s been vilified unbelieveably. He knows he made mistakes like the plastic surgery, but to me he was a good, caring person. He could be funny too.
You looked after his kids, but would you have let him look after yours?
Yes. My kids were in contact with him and his kids. I had no worries on that score whatsoever. We took him into our family as did he with us.
Did you like him?
I got to like him, yeah. And he got to know us personally. He asked us to mind his kids all the time, trusting us. He’d walk around Grouse Lodge in a pair of my wellies with his kids on my horse. We’d go for walks or drives together. I brought him to the festival of The Fires at the hill of Uisneach near Mullingar.
His figure is in the Wax Museum.
Yes, I talked to him about the Wax Museum. We had a plan to have him here in person and stand on the balcony in Foster Place.
What else did you talk about?
He talked about his life, his trials and tribulations. We talked about Shirley Bassey and Harold Lloyd.
Did he have musicians with him for the recordings he made in Grouse Lodge? How did he work?
He worked with our engineers. I brought a guy who had just finished his course at the Sound Training Centre and the first person he gets to work with is Michael Jackson! Michael had a musician with him called Nephew who plays piano. I even jammed with Michael while he played drums. Will.I.Am came over. Roderick Jerkins too. I wanted him to meet Irish musicians like Donal Lunny, Jimmy MacCarthy, Philip King …
Would he have been open to that?
Oh yeah. He was also doing a photography course and making a film in Grouse Lodge. He was happy here. I’d take him to Dublin, Moate, Mullingar or wherever. We’d call into a chipper and get bags of chips. We’d sing together and share water. People couldn’t believe it was him if they saw him on the street. I took him through Crumlin near where I grew up too. One day I brought him down to Harry Crosby’s house and we had lunch there. He spent two hours singing Beatles songs and other stuff with us while my brother-in-law Simon played the piano.
Did you go anywhere else with him?
I went to London with him. That was amazing. I was right in the eye of the storm, in the truck with him with fans banging on the sides.
What were you in London for?
He was getting an award from the Guinness Book of Records for giving away $350 million. I was at a table with princes and princesses, royalty from all over the world. I never saw anything like it.
Did he record anything in Grouse Lodge that’s releasable?
He recorded loads of stuff.
When will any of it come out?
I don’t know, but I’m sure it will.
Did he pay his bills?
He paid me through an office in Washington. There was never a problem with money. I didn’t charge him anything extra.
Did he have any interest in Ireland?
Yeah, he read the papers every day. He knew what was going on here with the recession.
Did he drink?
Maybe a glass of wine with his meal.
What kind of a relationship was there between Michael and Grace? Was she a nanny or a business assistant?
No, no. She was the closest person to Michael Jackson.
Was it a sexual relationship?
Obviously, I didn’t know.
But did you think there was?
Yes, I assumed there was, possibly on and off.
Did you have any contact with him after he left Ireland?
Yes. He and Grace used to ring us about once a month. I also went over to his mother’s house in LA to see the kids when the film was being launched. They invited us over. We’re still very good friends with Grace.