celebrity

Inside Michael Jackson and Macaulay Culkin's unusual friendship.

The bizarre friendship between child star Macaulay Culkin and the late king of pop, Michael Jackson, who died in 2009, is an endless source of fascination.

Michael Jackson and Macaulay Culkin in 2001. Image: Getty.

The two met when the Home Alone star was 10 years old - the start of a friendship that was shrouded in controversy given the singer's past.

Michael Jackson was accused of molesting two different boys in 1993 and 2003. He was never charged in the first boy’s case, and was acquitted when tried in connection with the second boy’s allegations.

In 2005, Macaulay Culkin testified at the singer's trial - admitting that he had, on occasion, shared a bed with Jackson between the ages of 10 and 14, sometimes with other boys, but strictly denying that the star had ever molested him.

 

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Both instances allegedly took place at Jackson's amusement park-like children's paradise - Neverland Ranch, where Culkin was a regular visitor.

A simple YouTube search will uncover a ton home videos featuring the two filmed on the property. A tiny, blonde-haired Culkin - a child with one of the most recognisable faces in the world at the time - running around with unbridled glee, hand-in-hand with the striking singer, equally as filled with child-like joy.

They would engage in water balloon fights, play video games, and have sleepovers at the ranch.

Culkin even went on to appear in the film clip for Jackson's hit 'Black or White' - the lead single for his eighth studio album, Dangerous.

But while footage and photos of the unusual friendship may have made some feel uncomfortable over the years, Culkin has continually defended the legendary singer, claiming he was simply misunderstood.

Macaulay Culkin and then-girlfriend Mila Kunis attend Michael Jackson's funeral on September 3, 2009. Image: Getty.
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Macaulay Culkin testifying at Michael Jackson's child molestation trial, 2005. Image: Getty.

In an interview with Larry King in 2004, the year before Culkin appeared as a character witness for Jackson, he spoke of their relationship.

"He's not a very social person - he's been sheltered for the last 30 years. He's not very good at communicating with people," the then-23 year old said of Jackson's unusual tendency to befriend children.

When asked about Jackson admitting to sharing beds with his young guests, he added: "When he says things like that, he doesn't understand why people react the way they do."

Culkin's parents - including estranged father Kit Culkin - were apparently "fine" with the friendship.

To Culkin, Jackson was, as many have speculated before him, trapped in a psychological "Neverland" of the industry's making, having struck fame at the age of 10 as the lead singer of The Jackson Five and never experiencing a true childhood.

They're traits many have likened to Culkin's own rise to stardom - and seeming fall from grace - given his adult life is sprinkled with suspected drug abuse, run-ins with the law, and images of him looking haggard and skeletal in his late 20s to early 30s splashed across tabloids.

Macaulay Culkin performs on stage at Riot Fest Chicago 2014. Image: Getty.
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The proof of their connection, many believe, is clear in the very way in which their friendship began.

While speaking to Larry King in the same interview, Culkin recalled his first invitation to Neverland.

"I met him backstage while doing the Nutcracker [before Home Alone] and he mentioned something about it.

"[After Home Alone] he just called me up and asked me to come to his house... it was this weird out of the blue thing," he said.

At the time, Culkin said he saw Jackson as a "kid-like" adult, not a superstar, which is why he believes Jackson took a liking to him.

And now, at 37 years old - a little older than Jackson's own age when he made his first phone call to the 90s icon - his accounts of their friendship are much the same.

In a new interview on Marc Maron's WTF podcast, the millionaire child star-turned comedic musician, who now lives a charmed life in Paris and once played kazoo in a cover band called The Pizza Underground, said he never doubted Jackson's intentions.

Macaulay Culkin in Manhattan, 2017. Image: Getty.
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He agrees wholeheartedly with the widely-held belief that the singer had reached out with the intention of sharing his experience of living in the spotlight at a young age.

“Seriously, he was like my best friend for a good long stretch,” Culkin said, adding, “It was a legitimate friendship. Honestly, it never struck me as odd."

Culkin, who is still very close to Jackson’s daughter Paris, claimed he "never felt uncomfortable” during his visits to Neverland.

He described Jackson as “sweet”, “funny,” adding that they would often prank call people.

“I know it’s a big deal to everyone else, but to me it was a normal friendship,” he said.

Though his 2019 answers seem to almost mirror those he gave over a decade ago, the question will never cease to be asked - as though the world will never accept his explanation.

In a separate interview on Michael Rosenbaum's Inside Of You podcast, Culkin said again that he was grateful Jackson had reached out to him all those years ago.

He said he believed Jackson had empathy for him as a child star dealing with fame.

Macaulay and his young brother Kieran, 1991. The Jackson Five. Images: Getty.
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“I was a peerless person,” Culkin said. “Nobody else in my Catholic school had even this much idea of what I was going through and he was the kind of person who’d been through the exact same frickin' thing and wanted to make sure I wasn’t alone.”

“He reached out to me because a lot of things were happening, big and fast with me and I think he identified with that,” he said.

“At the end of the day, it’s almost easy to say it was weird or whatever but it wasn’t because it made sense.

“At the end of the day, we were friends.”

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