Thursday, May 19, 2005
Alan Goldstein and his wife, Lynn, remember they were busy getting ready to take a nice family vacation with their youngest son, Brock, and his best pal, Mac, when they overheard Brock on the phone with Mac, saying something to the effect of yeah, sure, bring him along, too.
This is how pop superstar Michael Jackson appeared at their hotel in Bermuda with a bandage on his nose, a shy smile on his famous face, and a trunkful of squirt guns, race cars and stink bombs on his bed in the VIP suite.
Nice to meet you, the Goldsteins said, or something to that effect.
Fourteen years have passed, but like some postcard from the edge, the Goldsteins' vacation has now come under the scrutiny of 12 strangers sitting in a California jury box.
And once again, Michael Jackson has popped into the lives of a hotel executive, his teacher wife and their son, now a 24-year-old bartender who finds it all "just so crazy."
But what the jury in Jackson's child molestation trial recently heard about that week in Bermuda and what the Goldsteins remember prove to be two entirely different stories: One evokes the image of a creepy predator using a gold Rolex to bait a starstruck kid; the other, of a lonely celebrity trying to reclaim a forsaken childhood by lobbing water balloons at tourists.
The surreal island idyll began when Brock Goldstein, a sometime actor in Orlando, met Macaulay Culkin on a movie set and the two 10-year-olds became fast friends. After his hit "Home Alone" was released that year, Mac Culkin made another new friend, as well: Michael Jackson.
"That sounds like fun. Mind if I tag along?" Culkin would remember Jackson saying when he mentioned the upcoming Bermuda trip with his buddy Brock.
Although prosecutors would later suggest that Jackson crashed the party, Alan Goldstein recalls that the family had been in Bermuda for a few days and had just gotten off their mopeds when the hotel relayed a message to please call "Mr. M. Jackson."
The world's best-selling voice came on the other line. "Well, I just need a break," Jackson explained. "Would you mind?" Goldstein, who grew up in Wheaton, started scrambling to find suitable quarters, until Jackson called back and said he had it all arranged -- two suites at the luxe Hamilton Princess. Goldstein swallowed hard.
"I can't afford that," he admitted.
"Don't worry," Jackson assured him, "everything's on me."