Early in the 1990s, an excited Wade Robson and his family revealed to the iconic Australian kids show Agro’s Cartoon Connection he was off to meet Michael Jackson in Los Angeles.
Robson, now 36, was nearly nine years old at the time and had been a regular on the popular Channel 7 morning kids’ show that was filmed out of Brisbane for years.
The Robson family was a normal working-class Australian family that lived in the suburbs of the Queensland capital before their son’s story captured the attention of the Australian public.
Years earlier he met Jackson in 1987 when he was five, during the Bad tour.
Robson won the attention of the superstar’s team at a shopping mall dancing competition in Brisbane, which he won, eventually dancing with Jackson to Bad on stage.
Peter Andre, who was 15 at the time, was also at the Brisbane shopping mall that day.
But unlike Robson, he didn’t attract the attention of Jackson’s people.
All these years later Agro is in the spotlight again, briefly featuring on part one of the controversial new documentary Leaving Neverland.
In that documentary, both Robson and James Safechuck allege serious sexual abuse at the hands of Jackson, which has divided his billions of fans around the world and set the powerful Jackson family and estate into a PR and image-rescuing frenzy.
The American and international audiences who have watched the documentary in their millions would have been curious about the furry creature called Agro and his brief appearance.
But for any Australian who grew up in the late 1980s and early 1990s, or parents who had children of that age, Agro would have been instantly recognisable.
Robson first met Agro on a show called Seven’s Super Saturday Show the morning he performed on stage with Jackson in Brisbane in 1987.
This is the appearance that features on Leaving Neverland.
Seven’s Super Saturday Show eventually became Agro’s Cartoon Connection, with Ann-Maree Biggar as co-host with Agro.
Robson continued to be a regular, and Biggar met Robson and his family, including his mother Joy, many times.
Robson was a member of the Johnny Young Talent School and a popular performer at shopping centres around the Brisbane capital, the perfect guest for the Brisbane-based kids show that became a must-watch show for kids around the country.
So what was Robson really like at that time after he was discovered by Jackson and set to move to Los Angeles when so young?
Biggar’s memories of him and his family are only positive.
Speaking for the first time about Robson, Biggar remembers vividly the time Joy told her she was going to Los Angeles with her son for one of his meetings with Jackson. This was before they moved to the United States permanently.
“I can clearly remember the time when they came and said, ‘We’re going to America, we have his opportunity to spend time with Michael Jackson’. They were so excited,” Biggar told news.com.au
“He was going to see Michael Jackson.
“This was this little kid’s whole world and dream.
“He was just this little kid who had worked so hard on his dancing and all that kind of stuff.
“He’d put so much effort into everything, and his parents were extraordinarily proud of him.”
Some in the Jackson family and his ardent supporters have portrayed Robson’s mother Joy as a stage mother from hell who would have done anything to make her son famous and succeed at Jackson’s expense.
Joy now regrets the decision to leave her husband Dennis behind and take the family to Los Angeles as she chased opportunity for her young prodigy.
For Biggar, this image of Joy as a stage mother, or the whole family for that matter trying to cash in on Jackson and using him, couldn’t be further from the truth.
They were just your average Australian working-class family wanting the best for their son, according to Biggar.
“To me, they were just a lovely, normal family that recognised that their son had huge potential,” she said.
“Then when the opportunity came up, they actually went for that opportunity.
“My question is, what parent wouldn’t want to do that for their child?
“It was everything, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and extraordinary opportunity for a kid from Brisbane.
“What a lucky kid.”
Biggar points out things would be different today. Any parent would be sceptical about leaving their children sleeping in bed with a grown man, regardless of who he is.
But it was a different story back in the early 1990s.
The term grooming just wasn’t discussed, so Biggar understood why Robson’s mother had full trust in Jackson.
The fact he was Michael Jackson, the biggest star and most famous man in the world, also had to be taken into account.
“Nowadays, yes we would have checks and balances in place, but back then it was like no one in Australia had met Michael Jackson or had been given that kind of opportunity,” she said.
“Parents know more about these kind of situations now and raise questions, but back then it was a very taboo topic.
“His parents would have just jumped at the opportunity for their son to make it in the big time, so they took the opportunity and put enormous trust in Jackson.”
So much has changed in Robson’s life since he was a regular on Agro’s Cartoon Connection.
For one, he grew up in the United States, sounds American and has built a career in the entertainment industry.
He is an accomplished dancer and choreographer, working with Britney Spears and on the American version of So You Think You Can Dance.
Jackson’s fans will tell you it’s because of Jackson that Robson had any sort of career in the United States at all.
There has been much debate about Robson’s claims in Finding Neverland, as in the past he has denied being sexually abused by the singer
Jackson’s niece Brandi Jackson went on a media blitz last week, defending her uncle and telling the world about the Robson she knew.
Like Robson, she was also born in 1982, and the pair appeared together in the 1990 Black Or White video.
Soon after Robson moved to Los Angeles, the pair reconnected. Brandi said Robson brought it up with her uncle and requested they meet.
Speaking last week on Adelaide’s MIX 102.3FM breakfast show with Jodie and Soda, Brandi claims Robson’s mother Joy called her after Jackson’s death in 2009, saying his children Paris, Prince and Blanket should live with her.
“This was something that was very shocking for me to hear her say,” she said.
“She felt like Michael wouldn’t want them to be with their mother, they should be the Robsons…..she was trying to figure out how to position herself to stay in their lives to be completely honest.”
Brandi paints a picture of a family that would do anything to stay connected to Jackson’s legacy after his death.
However, Biggar believes Robson’s claims that Jackson sexually abused him.
She doesn’t believe the Jackson family PR machine and their damage control.
“I have enormous sympathy, I believe the kid,” she said.
“I understand why he would not have come out.
“He would have been probably too petrified to do it while Michael Jackson was alive.
“They (Jackson and his family) would have probably been quite vindictive.”
These days Biggar works as an aide for children with disabilities, a job she loves and has been doing for the past four years.
She will always remember her time as co-host with Agro on Agro’s Cartoon Connection and those memories of a young and talented dancer named Wade Robson.
Her memories of Wade and the Robson family, and of the show, will always be positive.
— Luke Dennehy is a freelance journalist. Continue the conversation @LukeDennehy