Michael Firestone, who has gained popularity for impersonating Michael Jackson across the world with his live shows, has defended the late King of Pop against allegations of sexual abuse against him in controversial documentary "Leaving Neverland". He says money is a "great motivator" behind the claims.
Las Vegas-based Firestone believes MJ is innocent and it's wrong to discredit anyone's work until all claims are proven.
"My stance on the matter is that Michael Jackson is innocent. Money is a great motivator and that is what this is all about, so I am not surprised," Firestone told IANS in an email interview.
"Leaving Neverland", a four-hour long, two-part documentary is built around the testimony of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who have alleged that they were abused as children by Jackson.
A slew of radio stations around the world pulled out Jackson's songs after the claims. The makers of "The Simpsons" also pulled down from their archives their popular episode featuring Jackson's voice.
Firestone has termed this a wrong move.
"MJ is not even alive to defend himself. It is most definitely unfair to discredit anyone's work until all claims are proven," added Firestone, who is looking forward to paying MJ a musical tribute in India with "I AM KING: The Michael Jackson Experience".
After entertaining people across the world, "I AM KING - The Michael Jackson Experience" will be held in Bengaluru at St. John's on March 16-17, following a show in Mumbai. BookMyShow is bringing the concert to India.
Firestone met MJ in 2002 in Las Vegas. Did he come across as the person who would get involved in such acts?
"Never! MJ loved children, like all of us do, and did so much for young people all over the world," said Firestone, who has been portraying Jackson on stage since he was 12.
Recalling his meeting, he said: "We spoke then and a few weeks later he called and we talked for several hours on the phone. It was eye-opening and inspirational and of course, a dream come true to get such a phone call. He would call me a few weeks later and we spent several hours on the phone talking about everything - love, life, family, the stars, space and time travel."
The 40-year-old remembers Jackson as "very spiritual and caring about every single human on earth".
"He was one of the nicest, if not the nicest person I've ever met. I loved his music and performances. Then the more I heard about his charity and kindness the more I looked up to him. As a kid, it made an impact seeing someone write a million dollar check to children's hospitals."
How would he like to honour Jackson's memory?
"I have starred in various MJ tribute shows. However, 'I AM KING' is my show. I wrote it and I wrote it to flow in such a way that it brings you up. The show is named 'I AM KING' not because I think I am king... it is because Michael Jackson is king and I will continue bringing the magic and music of Michael Jackson to venues worldwide for as long as I possibly can. There will never be another MJ."
He plans to expand his MJ universe soon too.
"We are actually considering bringing a video crew onboard in the future to start on the documentary. I am writing a book about the business and my own experience."