Banning Peter Pan

“Have you seen my childhood?”

Sings the creepy wax figure as, above him, little children sail to the moon in flying boats. His legion of fans still claim he was a magical being, too sensitive and innocent for this world. Me? I’m wondering which of those flying children he molested.

I remember when the story first broke. Vividly. It was in 1993. I was on tour with a show that was playing in high schools and middle schools. Kids. Our audiences were kids. My character was a mime, but an evil mime. I wore a white mask with a small nose, a fedora, a red jacket with gold epaulets on the shoulders, and white gloves. In short, I looked like Michael Jackson.

“Hee, hee, heeeeee!”

When I would make my entrance, someone in the audience would always shout that, in the falsetto used by the creepy wax figure. This was at the height of his popularity, so the audience wasn’t making fun of me. Or him. They loved him. Which I felt gave me a way to make the show more relatable. More cool.

Since my role was largely a dance role, I had lots of room for interpretation when it came to how I played the part. So, I lifted some of Michael Jackson’s moves, and put them into my performance. Why fight what the audience wanted, right?

As a teenager, I’d watched him dance in his videos on MTV. I may not have ever bought any of his albums, but there were a few of his songs that I liked, and I had no reservations about copying him. Hey, if you’re going to steal, might as well do it honestly. Besides, it made the kids in the audience happy.

They liked my dancing. I felt like I was way cool. It all worked.

Then the allegations broke about Michael molesting little boys, and the instant I heard it, I knew it was true.

On my own, I would never have come to that conclusion about him. Sure, the plastic surgery was borderline frightening, and the tiny, high-pitched voice was right out of a horror movie, but I just figured he had a messed up childhood and left it at that. After all, many child stars are screwed up as adults. So what if he wanted to be white and androgynous? Weird, yes. Criminal, no.

However, once I heard it, there was no doubt in my mind. It made perfect sense, and explained a lot about him that hadn’t made sense until then.

Overnight, I removed all of his moves from my performance. I went through each scene, and cut any reference to him. Re-interpreted my role instead as a spider. Lower to the ground. Stealthy. That gave the character a more ominous quality, which probably worked better in the show, anyway.

Some of the actors in the cast were angry that I was so sure of his guilt. They were fans, and were quick to question the motives of his accusers. My response was simple: When it comes to working with children, all that is needed is the appearance of impropriety. That’s enough. Whether or not the allegations were true, the last thing I wanted was for the audience to be thinking about sexual misconduct while watching me.

That’s the rule I played by in the years to come, while working as a children’s party entertainer. Playing a clown, Steve from Blue’s Clues, Spiderman, an elf, Santa Claus, a Disney prince, a games master, a Wiggle, or the red Teletubby, it was always the same. When the little boys or girls were climbing all over me, I had to be careful where I placed my hands. Not just to protect them, but also to protect myself. There could be no appearance of impropriety.

If there was a DJ at the gig, I would request that they refrain from playing any songs by Michael Jackson. When they argued with me, which they often did, I would explain that he was inappropriate for a children’s party. Even if the kids were too young to know about him, their parents were not. They would hear the songs, and maybe some of them would be thinking about a creepy wax figure molesting a little boy, and their minds would drift to the thought that their own little boy might be in danger as he is sitting on my lap.

So, no to Peter Pan.

With the new documentary about the dark and disturbing happenings at Neverland, I’ve heard a lot of people wonder why bother bringing this whole ordeal up again, now that he’s dead? Why would anyone want to watch this? What’s the point of the two men coming forward now?

I can only speak for myself. As a general rule, I believe it is better to be informed than not. I have friends who were molested as children, and I don’t want to make any careless assumptions, or be dismissive. From watching this documentary, I have a better understanding of things I thought I’d already understood fairly well. (I was wrong.)

Maybe because of my own innocence, I had concluded that Michael Jackson was a damaged man who was incapable of expressing sexual intimacy with an adult, so he resorted to attempting to do that with children. That is still wrong, and bad, and it was enough for me to view him as a child molester and to ban his music from any show I was in from that point forward. However, it was nowhere near as nightmarish as the truth.

After listening to two of his victims describe their experiences, I know that Michael was not androgynous. Not sexually immature. He was a calculating and predatory rapist. He knew exactly what he was doing, and his entire Neverland estate was designed for his sick purpose. He spent years purchasing the parents, and brainwashing the boys. It was all carefully planned.

Which makes sense, when you think about how successful he was in the music industry. This was no naive waif who existed in a fairyland realm. This was a man who knew how to make lots of money. How to thrive in the new medium of music videos. He understood trends and image and created a persona that sold records and concert tickets, as well as provided cover for his sexual appetite for little boys.

Although I never bought that cover, not for a minute, I never understood what molesting little boys meant. I guess I didn’t want to know, and so just figured there was fondling and groping, and not much more.

The film is hard to watch. The two men are highly credible, and their stories include graphic descriptions of sexual acts they were asked to perform, and sexual acts that were performed on them. When they were as young as seven.

After learning the details, it is impossible to look the same way at that creepy wax figure singing in his scary movie voice, about longing for his lost childhood. Playing pirates, flying kites, sugar plum fairies, and toy land.

I’m glad I changed my performance years ago, distancing myself from any reference to him. I was right to insist that his music be banned from parties where I was performing for children. I place great value on the magic of childhood, and believe that is something worth keeping safe. From trolls under the bridge, from wolves in the forest, and especially from creepy bad guys who mean harm.

 

 

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About anunperfectactor

Actor performer storyteller.
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