Back in 1989, Michael Jackson made headlines for shopping at Zales jewelers in a disguise. Security thought he looked suspicious, as if he was going to rob the store. Jackson was questioned as a possible burglar before his identity was revealed. Reports at the time did not focus on his shopping companion.
Now TMZ has shared the surveillance footage, which shows Jackson — wearing a fake mustache, phony teeth, and a wig — with a young James Safechuck. Safechuck is one of the two men in the recent HBO documentary Leaving Neverland who allege that Jackson sexually assaulted them throughout their childhoods. One disturbing segment of the film involves Safechuck recalling how Jackson bought him several fancy rings, one of which was an “engagement ring.” The surveillance footage corroborates Safechuck’s account of how Jackson took him jewelry shopping.
Here’s what New York Times’ Wesley Moris wrote about that moment from Leaving Neverland:
There’s something about the way the filmmakers reserve this scene for the back end of Part 1 that ices your bones, something about the way an adult Safechuck doesn’t seem to want to go back there. But here he is, talking in a TV documentary about the vows he says that he and Jackson exchanged. Here he is, forlorn, holding the ring that he’s kept, all this time, in a handsome box.
The story of the ring and the vows feels as graphic as the memories of masturbation and French kissing and nipple tweaking. If you happen to be the sort of person who’d try to balance, say, the multiple counts of child molestation Jackson was charged with in 2003 and acquitted of later with extenuating details from Jackson’s biography (Wasn’t he abused and too famous too soon and prematurely sexualized? He never had a childhood! He’s still a child!), if you partook in the steady diet of fluffy news stories about Jackson and some little boy (often identified as “Jackson’s friend”) and thought mostly that they were cute or banal and that Jackson just related to kids as kids — like, platonically — if you thought that he couldn’t know there was a real difference between adult passion and child’s play, then perhaps you’ll find Safechuck’s memory of the ring particularly shattering. I did. It’s so private and wrong, not just to us but clearly to Jackson, who makes up a story at the jewelry store that the ring is for a woman, even though Safechuck is there by his side.