Book Review: “My Friend Michael: An Ordinary Friendship with an Extraordinary Man”

My Friend Michael

by Vernay Lewis

As promised, I read my second of three Michael Jackson related books that I promised to review. This time around, it was that of longtime friend and assistant, Frank Cascio (aka Frank Tyson, then back to Frank Cascio – the name changes are explained in the book).

As reluctant as I had been to read Jermaine’s book, I was even more afraid to attempt this one. After all, Frank was actually “IN” Michael’s life, not just watching from afar as Jermaine was for most of he and Michael’s adult life. Actually, preparing to read a book from someone on the inside actually made me a bit nervous.

As with Jermaine’s book, which I previously reviewed for this site, I had no regrets once I finished the book. In fact, it actually provided something for me that Jermaine’s book had not been able to provide. I’ll explain:

As a child, there are things that I had to endure. I understand fully what it’s like to be the accuser and to not be believed by people you love and trust. Because of this, my instinct has always been to believe the child in any type of abuse situation. I dealt with my issues as a child by using Michael Jackson as an escape into a fantasy world – that later as an adult – I would never let go.

When Michael was accused of child molestation, it was as if the best thing in my life at that point had intersected with the worst thing in my life. I was frozen. As a fanatic, who worked vigorously with several MJ fan clubs throughout my life, traveled wherever I could to see him, supported him in any aspect that I could – this was a stab in the heart.

However, I never waivered from my PUBLIC support of Michael. Privately, I was struggling to cope. By the time the allegations rolled back around and he was on trial in 2005, my job had done their version of a full out intervention. I had changed. I was in a dark and very sad place. I was afraid for Michael, but even more afraid that what was said was true. Apparently it was written all over my face, to the point that the staff at the elementary school I worked at took notice.

My Friend Michael

I’ll spare you the details of this MJ intervention, but the fact that enough people there were concerned, really touched me. Long story short, I decided to change my prayer. Instead of the same chant I had said every night, “Please let Michael be found innocent’….I decided to change the prayer to, ‘God, do what you think should happen and I’ll accept that.’

When Michael was found not guilty, I took it as a personal sign to me that God was telling me it was okay and that I could love him as I always had…..but that didn’t last long.

I continued to celebrate and love Michael – my whole house is practically MJ, anyone will tell you, but those allegations had broken my heart so bad, that I couldn’t let them go. However, I decided I’d never address them with myself again.

I was going to keep loving him and leave that issue unresolved. That’s why it’s called unconditional love, right? And I did. I loved him. I ignored what I needed to for my peace of mind.

Now back to the book….as Frank detailed his long friendship with Michael – which began when Frank was five and lasted until the day Michael passed away, I found myself faced with those unspeakable issues again. Here was a grown man detailing the many years he and his brother had slept in Michael’s room.

On the surface, I kept thinking that even this relationship seemed inappropriate. But the more I read, the more I got it. Michael had always treated these, and other children, as if they were his own children. In fact, most of the stories Frank shares, you’d think Michael was one of their big brothers – doing pranks, acting silly, sharing inside jokes.

For the first time, I felt some inner peace about the allegations. I felt like everything Frank was saying was true. From the outside looking in, yes, it is difficult to not see these friendships as twisted or sexual. But from the inside looking out, which is Frank’s perspective, it appeared to not only be an amazing friendship, but a lifelong lesson for Frank.

When traveling Michael would make Frank and his brother keep journals and take pictures, all to record their experiences of various cultures, landscapes, and people. They’d sit and read books Michael had purchased. He was continually expressing the importance of education, telling them if they don’t read, they’ll be “dumb and ignorant” as he so eloquently stated.

When Frank began to speak on the first set of allegations, and then the second set of allegations, it was eye opening. After all, these were kids Frank would hang with when they were all with Michael and I was able to understand how and why everything came about. I had knew most of it, but for some reason, it was very different hearing it from the perspective of someone who lived it.

My Friend Michael

Michael would later hire Frank to work for him, speaking volumes of his dedication and trust to this family. But their friendship had many challenges and many breaking points, particularly when Frank tried to intervene with Michael’s doctors. And the stress of the trial almost damaged their friendship forever – but it didn’t.

I think overall, the book does what Jermaine’s book did – gives you a sense of Michael’s offstage persona. Clearly he loved his wine – and not in an alcoholic way of loving it, clearly he felt he needed his prescription medications, clearly he struggled with trusting those who were hired to represent him, clearly he overreacted at times, clearly he suffered from depression, clearly he loved his children (their conception is discussed, as are Michael’s marriages), clearly he was often paranoid – sometimes rightfully so…..but clearly – he was human!

My Friend Michael

There’s a small mention of smoking pot, so don’t be alarmed. And a couple of ghost stories add to the books sensationalism, but believe me, the worse part of the book is when Michael’s death is discussed. You leave the book feeling like you were on this roller coaster ride of Michael’s life right there with Frank.

When the ride ends, you can’t help but feel heartbroken – for everyone that loved him, including Frank. I read the entire book in nine hours, on two separate evenings. I was glad I did.

Next up, Latoya Jackson’s book.  Help me Lord.


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