"I don't think the video's going to be made. You can't get everyone together," says Schaffel's attorney, Thomas Byrne. The attorney says Marc Schaffel, the "What More Can I Give?" producer, and pornographer Fred Schaffel, who directs under the name Marc Fredrics, are the same person.
Indeed, Schaffel, who wouldn't be interviewed for this article, was quoted in a recently published report admitting his involvement in gay porn--which he said was a thing of the past--and claiming that he was scapegoated to justify suppressing Jackson's charity record. He maintained to the Los Angeles Times that the project would have been a huge success if the plug hadn't been pulled by forces wanting to thwart Jackson's career.
Byrne says Schaffel and Jackson are no longer working together. "It was only for this project," he says. But he agrees that the two had been friends for years. Byrne wouldn't go into details about that friendship. But in 2001, the pair were sufficiently close that in the notes to Invincible, Jackson made a point of singling out Schaffel: "Marc Schaffel...thank you for all of your help...I love you...Michael," reads the CD's liner notes on page 18.
When Byrne is asked to discuss Schaffel's background in the gay-porn business, he refuses. A few moments later he says, "I've heard that there are transitional guys all over Hollywood who went from porn into the legit side. My understanding is that it's not that unusual."
Still, given Michael Jackson's past public-relations nightmares--in 1994, Time magazine reported that Jackson had paid a multimillion-dollar settlement to a man who claimed Michael had molested his 14-year-old son--it's hard to believe that the army of people who surround the pop icon could have thought Jackson's image would benefit from a professional association with Schaffel.
In fact, the Times suggested that it was Jackson's representatives who, upon learning of Schaffel's gay-porn involvement, urged Sony to pull the plug on the charity record--which would make Michael's cries of racism seem very strange indeed. If the report is true, either Jackson and his staff don't communicate well, Jackson is incredibly naïve or he's just looking for a convenient excuse for his flagging career.
In a career spanning about 15 years, Fredric Marc Schaffel, directing under the name Marc Fredrics, has made a slew of gay-porn films, from his first good seller, Cocktales, which marked the debut of a popular actor named Rex Chandler, to James Bond-themed efforts (View to a Thrill, The Man With the Golden Rod) and a series of films shot in Eastern Europe with extremely well-endowed and uncircumcised actors (Mansized, Measuring Up and Uncut).
One of the industry's most influential figures, distributor Stan Loeb, says he has a long association with Schaffel and his films, via his company, Paladin Video. "Fred was known for finding talent, and he did it very, very well," Loeb says, speaking from his Las Vegas office. "And the stuff he used to do was really excellent. But it's a shame what he's done to himself." Schaffel's first film, Cocktales, and its star, Rex Chandler, were both hits in the industry and showed that Schaffel had a lot of promise. But over the years, Loeb says, the quality of Schaffel's work has declined. He refuses to take any new titles from Schaffel. "As I said, you learn your lessons and move on."
Despite his feelings about Schaffel, however, the two still occasionally talk. And Loeb says he was stunned last August when Schaffel called one day and said he was going to work for Michael Jackson. "Why? You got me. He said they were very good friends and that Michael had hired him for a job." Another time, Loeb says, Schaffel claimed that he and Jackson had been childhood friends. Loeb said he doubted Schaffel's story. But in November, he received an even more startling call.
"One day Fred called and said he knew someone who was unhappy chartering flights," Loeb says. "He knew that my son has a chartering business, and he asked if I would talk to his unhappy friend. Then, he put Michael Jackson on the phone. They were driving around in Michael's limousine. My son ended up flying some of Michael's people around. That confirmed for me that Fred was really working for him." Loeb's son, Jeff Borer, acknowledged that his firm, Xtra Jet in Santa Monica, got work flying some of Jackson's people through Schaffel.
Loeb says he's mystified that Schaffel found himself working for the pop singer. "How did Fred end up with the job? I can tell you he's a great salesman. He can really promote himself. He lived in a mansion where rent was $9,000 a month and drives a Bentley, and I'm not sure how he's doing it. But that's Fred Schaffel."