Macaulay Culkin did more for Michael Jackson 's defense in his child molestation trial yesterday than all the super-powered defense lawyers money could buy.
He simply explained who Jackson is to a beleaguered, skeptical jury.
Fending off an aggressive cross-examination, Culkin drew the necessary parallels between his and Jackson's peculiar childhoods, which were both marked by early stardom — even though the two men are a generation apart in age.
"We're unique people," Culkin said on the stand in Santa Maria. "We understood each other early on."
He then recalled how his life changed at roughly age 9 when "Home Alone" made him an overnight sensation.
"It wasn't something I chose," he said. "It just happened."
Culkin described the sudden changes in his life caused by "photographers in bushes, profiteers, people who want to get to you."
Jackson "got it," he said.
Culkin brushed off prosecutor Ron Zonen 's many attempts to make the fact that he "slept with" Jackson sound like he was molested.
When Zonen suggested that Culkin could have been molested by Jackson while he slept, the actor replied with just enough derision: "I think I would have realized that."
In the end, Culkin's almost-hour-long appearance on the stand did a lot to erase the icky feelings associated with last week's Jackson defenders — Brett Barnes, Wade Robson and their respective mothers.
Culkin's handlers did not want him to testify in this case, the young actor confirmed on the stand yesterday.
When Zonen brought up the sexually explicit magazines of all kinds that were found at Neverland, Culkin leveled the usually well-liked assistant district attorney with the most important line so far in this trial: "Overall, he's still a human being."
The jury may have almost forgotten that.
Michael Jackson's Neverland ranch has not been sold for $35 million or for any other amount of money.
Despite reports that Jackson had secretly concluded a deal with a mystery buyer, public records here in Santa Maria show only one recent transaction concerning the 2,700-acre estate.
On May 3, an $18 million loan from Bank of America was transferred to Fortress Music Trust III. A representative of the court clerk's office did, however, laugh at the idea of a reported "secret escrow."
Jackson did post a brand new $3 million bail bond with Plotkin Bail Bonds of Norwalk, Calif. He coughed up $300,000 for the new bond — unnecessarily, since the original bond set up through David Perez Bail Bonds was perfectly good. But what's another $300,000 when you're already up to 10 times that amount in debt?
Of course, keeping Neverland means Jackson may one day realize his fantasy of throwing a celebrity animal party for his beloved chimp, Bubbles .
Believe it or not, that was one of the many things courtroom observers learned yesterday when we were shown outtakes from Martin Bashir's documentary "Living With Michael Jackson."
Without any irony or self-awareness, Jackson answered Bashir's question about how Bubbles was doing. He said that he had thought about giving his retired pet a party with guests such as Lassie, Benji and simian "Tarzan" sidekick Cheetah.
He omitted Mr. Ed, Flipper, Gentle Ben and Eddie from "Frasier," but that may only have been because during the interview, Jackson seemingly became sloshed from a soda can he downed to the last drop.
"You'd be surprised that they're all still alive," he told Bashir.
Jackson's voice wavered, his eyes turned to slits and he slowly went from animated to sleepy as he described with utter seriousness his relationship with chimps.
"They love snacks," he said. "They're very intelligent. Bubbles helps me clean up my room. He cleans the bathroom. He dusts."
The two hours and 45 minutes of video outtakes made for deceptive entertainment Wednesday, just after Macaulay Culkin's testimony seemingly did much to rehabilitate Jackson in the eyes of the jury.
I say "deceptive" because despite the wackiness of some of Bashir's interview, the jury essentially got to see Jackson "testify" without cross-examination.
The total effect, while not always perfect, amounted to success for the defense on a day when it was finally able to explain Jackson's multitude of eccentricities in a sympathetic way.
What cannot be explained, however, is Bashir's oily obsequiousness and his gross attempts to ambush Jackson with feigned praise and over-enthusiastic empathies.
"No one understands what I've seen here," he kept telling Jackson as he let the singer compare himself to the unusually grouped Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Audrey Hepburn, Danny Kaye and Lady Di.
Even worse, Bashir killed off both Pope John Paul II and Elizabeth Taylor in confidential, all-knowing gossipy asides during a late 2002 interview with Jackson.
"[They] won't be with us much longer," Bashir said.
In the case of the recently deceased pope, Jackson responded with a more general question concerning popes.
"How come they all look alike?" he asked.
What followed was Bashir fishing around about priests abusing children, a subject that was certainly eye-opening given Jackson's past scandals and current trial.
But on the tape, Jackson doesn't rise to Bashir's baiting and clucks disapproval as if he's never been part of such a discussion himself.
"A lot of that was going on with the Mormons," he added with the certainty of someone who knows little of what he's saying.
Even though the Bashir outtakes were loopy, they will probably help more than hurt Jackson with the jury. He comes across as lonely, depressed and sympathetic.
More than once, he characterizes his father as a beastly, unfeeling, detached workaholic who abused and ignored him.
Joseph Jackson, sitting in court with wife Katherine, was the object of much staring yesterday as the video played. Some in court thought they saw Katherine dabbing away tears at one point.
But the jury will also have to deal with Jackson's unwillingness to come clean on obvious subjects such as his plastic surgery, the way he obtained his own children and sleeping in bed with other people's children.
Interestingly enough, viewers of the original version of the Bashir documentary certainly did not see a complete discussion of the plastic-surgery issue, much of which must have fallen like loose skin to the cutting-room floor.
"All of Hollywood has had plastic surgery," Jackson says. "Barbara Walters just had her face tightened again."
Walters, of course, hosted the Bashir special, which aired in February 2003 and precipitated this trial that continues to unravel in surprising and odd ways.