Although Michael Jackson was well-known throughout his career for his association with children (and you can take that any way you want to), what’s been interesting is the fact that none of his young friends have gone the tell-all book route, whether during his lifetime or in the 2 1/2 years since his death.

Well, if any of MJ’s friends is qualified to write a book about the pop star, it would probably be Frank Cascio. Also known as Frank Tyson, he first met Michael in the early Eighties, when he (Frank) was barely out of toddler-dom. Frank’s father was the manager of a New York City hotel that Michael frequented and the entire Cascio family wound up serving as a surrogate family to the King of Pop. The two remained close through the years, and once he reached adulthood, Frank became Michael’s personal assistant and an advisor and remained so through the early 2000s. Cascio was also named as a co-conspirator during Michael’s 2005 molestation trial. The two were not allowed to contact one another during that time, although they reconnected  shortly after Jackson was acquitted and remained friendly until Michael died.

Those expecting a puff piece from Cascio will be disappointed. Those expecting a smear job will also be disappointed. “My Friend Michael” does a good job at sketching out a picture of Michael Jackson-the human. Over the course of the book, Frank reveals Michael to be a dedicated craftsman, a doting father who thirsted for intelligence and was deeply philosophical. He also goes into some detail about Jackson’s drug addiction and his extreme paranoia, which contributed to several breaks in the relationship. While the book obviously comes from a place of warmth, Cascio makes it clear that Michael was far from a perfect human being and had faults and issues just like the rest of us-and probably worse, considering the abnormal circumstances of his life.

Frank shares a ton of interesting anecdotes-from Michael’s late night visits to the Cascio home in New Jersey to a drive across the Irish countryside that resulted in a deepening of their friendship (as well as a hilarious cod-supernatural experience.) He goes into detail about Michael’s relationships with both of his accusers (and makes clear that both children were manipulated by their parents) and reveals that Michael was plagued with a fear that honchos at his record company were conspiring to kill his career so they could take his half of the valuable Beatles catalog-something I don’t consider to be particularly farfetched in light of what ended up happening. Hey, I’m a conspiracy theorist.

Michael’s relationships with his relatives are touched on briefly (he didn’t seem to be terribly close to anyone other than his mother and had a decent relationship with his younger siblings Randy and Janet) as well as his dealings with ex-wives Lisa Marie Presley and Debbie Rowe. What Frank does better than could be expected is give someone who obviously lived an unconventional life (and made some unconventional decisions for sure) a sense of normalcy.

There have been a ridiculous amount of books written about Michael since he passed away, and there will certainly be more written in the coming months and years. However, it’ll be interesting to see if anyone with a closer vantage point to the King of Pop (at least in his later years) emerges. As it stands, “My Friend Michael” is about as “inner circle” as it gets, and is certainly worth a read.

Grade: A

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