MICHAEL JACKSON: KING OF POP – RIP

 

 

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1. Michael Jackson: Under The Cover-Ups

2. Cause of Death: OD, AAD, Or AIDS?

3. Killer Thriller

4. Autopsy Turvy

5. The Last Moonwalk

6. The Price Of Superstardom

7. Fame: The Death Zone

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1. Michael Jackson: Under The Cover-Ups

 

We all want the TRUTH. Especially when a star dies. For closure, we must know why  — the real cause. Especially more in the case of an “icon.”  “A living legend.”

Elvis, Lennon, Hendrix, Janis, Morrison, Garcia, Cobain: all were icons. But we still don’t know the truth about the deaths of three.

Now, Michael Jackson. The cover-up is just beginning. Maybe it will succeed and we will never know how and why he really died either.

The architects of cover-ups are of course those who have most to lose from the revelation of the truth – those who, intentionally or not, had a part in the death. Usually those who should have been protectors – managers, handlers, family, and/or “friends.”

But imagine now the ghost of the King of Pop looking down on this investigation himself. Would he want the real truth of his tragic demise revealed? Probably not. Because how he really died was the direct result of how he, in his gated Neverland, really lived. And, in his lifetime, he did everything he could to keep this private.

But, if not secrecy, wasn’t he at least entitled to privacy? He certainly felt so, just as did Elvis and the other stars. Throughout their careers, each loathed and resented being public property. Not unjustifiably, each felt that once they left stage their responsibility to their audience was over – that their off-stage life should be no one’s business but their own. Except the reality of a “living legend’s” life is this: to the fans, the entirety of it – on and off-stage – is a performance. And, therefore, public domain.

Like many politicians, superstars are reduced to living their “private” lives as masqueraders. And, with the help of the few people they think they can trust, as cover-up artists.

With every living legend, in life and in death, there are two warring camps: the star and his spin-controllers and image protectors versus the hounds and the ferrets who are fed by anonymous “Judas” insiders. The truth is usually the first casualty in this war that soon deteriorates into denials, lawsuits, and sensationalism.

So how did Michael Jackson truly live and die?

The King of Pop has been the object of three battles. The first involved his alleged molestation of children; the second, his rumored drug abuse; the third, the true nature of his health. In the search for the cause of his death, the second two issues are being hotly debated now between the spin-controllers and the deep throats.

Between the two poles, where is the truth?

 

Speculation about his death is doubly keen because, in life, Michael Jackson seemed to be less than candid about his medical history.

Regarding his radical change in appearance, he told the BBC’s Martin Rashid that he had only had two plastic surgeries. Otherwise, “I just changed!” he vehemently insisted. NBC’s Dateline medical expert and others declared, however, that fifty procedures would have been necessary for such a transformation. An actor friend of Jackson’s, Eddie Reynoza, noted: “The whole side of his face is artificial implants. He told me, ‘I can’t go out in the sun. My face would fall off.” Other insiders said that tip of the singer’s nose was prosthetic.

Then came the skin color controversy. He and his doctor insisted that he had Vitiligo, a rare, congenital skin-lightening condition. However, his maid, Blanca Francia, asserted in an affidavit that he used powerful skin lightening creams (Solaquin, Benoquin, Fore, Retin A). “He hates dark-skinned people,” added another insider, Stacy Brown.

And what of his fair-complexioned children? He told an incredulous Bashir not only that he was the sperm-donor for the third, Blanket, but that the surrogate mother had been black as well.

As for the state of his own health, in recent years Jackson had often been seen in surgical masks, in wheelchairs, and – alarmingly gaunt – being carried by bodyguards. In 2001, when his brothers tried to stage a drug intervention, he turned them away saying, “I’ll be dead in a year anyway.”

Was he aware of having a terminal condition even then?

In the mid-eighties, his doctors announced that had been diagnosed with Lupus, a serious immunological disease. Soon after his death, insiders revealed that Jackson suffered from Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a rare lung ailment. He was injected with pulmonary protein from human blood – commonly administered to AIDS patients. In his final years, he suffered flu-like symptoms, vision loss, weight loss, hyperventilation, nausea, insomnia, mental disorientation.

In such a condition and after twelve years off-stage, the urgent question became: Could Michael Jackson ever perform again? Again, there were two diametrically opposed answers.

“I can do this,” the singer allegedly told Randy Phillips, the promoter for his “comeback” performances at London’s O2 Arena, equipped with the state-of-the-art lip-synching technology. Phillips stated that the star passed a four-hour physical for the concerts’ insurer. Would the exam have revealed drug abuse? “Absolutely,” replied the promoter.

Jackson collapsed after his second rehearsal, but endured his last at L.A.’s Staple Center. Enthused staging executive, Johnny Caswell, afterwards. “He was energetic, passionate, diligent, excited… This guy was ready to go!”

The King of Pop died 36 hours later.

He had been “terrified” of the upcoming performances, a Jackson aide told biographer, Ian Halperin: “We knew it was a disaster waiting to happen. I don’t think anybody predicted it would actually kill him but nobody believed he would end up performing.”

 

 

Now a third and climactic battle is being waged over the King of Pop, as it has over many of his iconic predecessors: the drug war.

“From my heart, I just don’t know,” Jermaine Jackson told Larry King when asked if his brother had had a problem with controlled substances.

But Michael’s friends, Uri Geller and Depak Chopra, did. And just as their own efforts to “save Michael from himself” had proved fruitless, so had those of Randy and Tito. The brothers had tried numerous times to force Michael to rehab, the last attempt shortly before his death. Didn’t they talk to Jermaine?

Another friend of the deceased, Lisa Minelli, had no illusions either. ‘When the autopsy comes, all hell’s going to break loose,” she said.

Two have come and gone. But hell has not broken loose, though the star’s body was found to be riddled with injection sites. A third autopsy has been ordered by Katherine Jackson.

Why?

Is an autopsy, particularly of such a celebrity, not a carefully monitored and exhaustive scientific procedure performed by the best professionals in the field? Even if one had been incomplete or mishandled – two?

The Jackson family is demanding a third autopsy. They suspect “foul play.” By whom? Dr. Conrad Murray and/or Jackson’s other personal physicians who allegedly, at his orders, injected him with Demerol, Dilaudid Vistaril, Xanax, Zoloft, Prosac, Proilosec, and Ritalin? Or, at his orders, rendered him comatose with the Propofol, a general anesthesia for major surgery? Or could it be the foul play of his mercenary managers?

Autopsies do not reveal who. They reveal what: the drugs in the system and the pathology of the organs. On this basis they identify three things: immediate cause of death – in Jackson’s case suffocation and cardiac arrest; proximate cause – probably toxic drug interaction; and original, root cause – likely viral.

Almost certainly, the completed two autopsies have identified the three causes. Yet authorities say publication of the results will be delayed “indefinitely.” Why? Because few insiders, including the family, are likely to want them revealed until they are “doctored” so as not to compromise the star’s memory and legacy, much less royalties or insurance policies.

And, until this happens, Jackson insiders will be looking for a scapegoat on whom they will heap all the blame so that the scientific truth – the autopsy results – will be all but irrelevant, if not buried.

 

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2. Cause of Death: OD, AAD, Or AIDS?

            Family friend, Stacy Brown, told current Michael Jackson biographer, Ian Halperin, that in 2001 Janet, Tito, and Randy staged a drug intervention on their famous brother. He sent them away saying, “I’ll be dead in a year anyway.”

Was Michael aware of having a terminal disease even then?

At that time, the star was indeed in desperate physical condition and taking many prescription drugs – not only pain killers, tranquilizers, and sedatives, but powerful antibiotic and anti-inflammatory cocktails. He had cancelled appearances due to “back problems,” “exhaustion,” and bouts with the “flu.”

In his last years, Elvis – the father-in-law whom he never met — had done the same. Both the King of Rock and the King of Pop had been diagnosed with Lupus, noted for such symptoms and many far more debilitating ones.

Jackson also suffered from AAD — Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a rare lung ailment, with emphysema-like symptoms. He was injected with pulmonary protein from human blood, a treatment usually successful, but not with him.

In addition to the flu-like symptoms, he was now often bed or wheelchair bound, suffering from vision loss, weight loss, hyperventilation, nausea, insomnia, mental disorientation.

Some of these are symptoms of Lupus, some of AAD. But all are the symptoms of advanced AIDS. Queen’s Freddy Mercury suffered from the same at the end of his life. The day before he died in 1991, Mercury confirmed long-standing rumors that he had AIDS and was homosexual.

This is not to say that Michael Jackson did in fact have AIDS. Only that his symptoms closely corresponded with those of the disease, and that a medical forensic expert would be negligent to not consider the possibility.

HIV, as is well known, is most commonly contracted sexually or through transfusion. Given his prolific surgical history, Jackson likely received a transfusion at some time. But that he was infected in this manner seems less likely than the alternative.

“He was also playing a truly dangerous game,” continues biographer, Ian Halperin (Unmasked: The Final Years of Michael Jackson). “It is clear to me that Michael was homosexual and that his taste was for young men, albeit not as young as Jordan Chandler or Gavin Arvizo [the boys Jackson was accused of molesting]…. In the course of my investigations, I spoke to two of his gay lovers, one a Hollywood waiter, the other an aspiring actor.”

Halperin goes on to say that the waiter remained friends with Jackson until the end, and that the actor provided photographs and a witness. The biographer adds: “When Jackson lived in Las Vegas, one of his closest aides told me how he would sneak off to a ‘grungy, rat-infested’ motel – often dressed as a woman to disguise his identity –‘to meet a male construction worker he had fallen in love with.’”

Though, with Elton John and others, Michael was an AIDS activist, he of course never outted himself or revealed the truth of his own condition had he indeed been HIV positive. This is regrettable since such an admission, though damaging to his reputation in homophobic circles, would have provided an immense boost to awareness and treatment of the tragic condition.

In any case, the fundamental question remains: What was the real cause of Michael Jackson’s death? Pending further autopsy and toxicology results, the original stated cause goes unchallenged: Cardiac arrest. But what caused this? An overdose of Demerol or Diprivan, as alleged by many? But, even if so, why were such narcotics and anesthetics being administered?

The question brings us full circle back to the original mystery. The kind of mystery beneath which lies not just one cause, but many and not all of them physical.

And, in the end, as with the other legendary stars, though we may one day discover how the King of Pop died, it is unlikely that we will ever understand why.

 

            Whatever Michael Jackson’s disease was, it seems indisputable that it caused him excruciating pain, both physical and psychological. Thus in his final years he was ingesting Demerol, Dilaudid Vistaril, Xanax, Zoloft, Prosac, Proilosec, and Ritalin on a daily basis and at a monthly cost of $48,000. In his last days, he begged his nurse for an IV of Propofol used in general anesthesia for major surgery.

Such a superhuman habit was rivaled by only Elvis himself. Like his father-in-law, too, Michael carried his narcotics in a huge suitcase filled with pre-loaded syringes and IV bags. In spite of his consumption, he, like Elvis, suffered from insomnia and, when he managed to briefly fall asleep, he had nightmares of being murdered.

Jackson completed several hospital detoxes but afterwards soon fell off the wagon again. So, too, had Elvis, John Lennon, Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia, and Kurt Cobain. Family and friends tried to get Hendrix and Morrison to detox, but failed.

Of all the stars, Jackson and Elvis were the only prescription junkies. Both had coast-to-coast Dr. Feelgoods and had the prescriptions made out in the names of employees and hangers-on.

Elvis’s main man was Dr. George Nichopoulos, aka “Needle Nick.” Nick prescribed 10,000 sedatives, amphetamines, and narcotics to his patient in the last eight months of his life. Several years before, when the doctor threatened to cut off his supply, the King shot him. After Elvis’s fatal OD, Dr. Nichopoulos was tried for second-degree murder and acquitted, but lost his medical license. Elvis’s father, Vernon, tried to have him assassinated in a football stadium.

Michael’s own last personal physician was Dr. Conrad Murray. Like Dr. Nick, he tried to administer CPR to his patient. Murray’s explanation for waiting a half hour to call an ambulance was that he couldn’t find a corded phone and didn’t know the address of the house he had been living in with his patient for two weeks. Similar delays in calling the authorities occurred at the death scenes of other stars; in all these cases, narcotics were removed from the premises.

The LAPD reportedly removed prescription drugs from the trunk of Dr. Murray’s Mercedes. His Houston-based lawyer now states that Dr. Murray never injected Michael Jackson with Demerol as has been alleged, nor had he ever prescribed him narcotics. The coroner discovered pill residue in the star’s stomach and countless injection sites all over the body. Four were fresh injections to the heart.

According to ABC news, in 2002 Murray’s Houston medical clinic was closed for being what authorities called a ‘pill mill.”

In any case, the fundamental question remains: What was the real cause of Michael Jackson’s death? Pending further autopsy and toxicology results, the original stated cause goes unchallenged: Cardiac arrest. But what caused this? An overdose of Demerol, as alleged by many?

But, even if so, why were such massive doses of Demerol and other narcotics being administered? Which brings us full circle and back to the original mystery. The kind of mystery beneath which lies not just one cause, but many and not all of them physical.

So, in the end, as with the other legendary stars, we may one day discover how the King of Pop died, but it is unlikely that we will ever understand why.

 

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3. Killer Thriller

 

Both the King of Pop, and his father-in-law, The King of Rock, wanted only one thing in the end: a good night’s sleep. For all their wealth and power, they couldn’t buy or command the simple rest most mortals take for granted. For years, the two icons had suffered insomnia and nightmares which, in the end, brought them to the dreamless Big Sleep itself.

Among stressed-out stars, narcotic abuse has been epidemic for years. Barbiturates and/or heroin helped kill Hendrix, Morrison, Janis, Elvis, Cobain, Garcia, and many others. Even if they failed to induce sleep, these drugs alone could induce a sweet, womblike oblivion, delivering a star briefly from the crushing pressures of being “a living legend.” For this reason, heroin in particular has become the most popular chemotherapy for super-celebrity.

Addicts say that a heroin high is as close as you can get to death, without actually dying. But Michael Jackson found an elixir which brought him even closer: Propofol. According to experts, this general anesthesia does not induce sleep, but a coma. The waking life of the King of Pop had become so unbearable that he wanted more than sleep: he wanted suspended animation.

This was not a recent development. During his 1993 Dangerous tour, Jackson traveled with an anesthesiologist who, according to insiders, “brought him down” at night, and “brought him back” the next day. The star became a sort of pharmaceutical Lazarus. He grew all the more dependent on anesthesia when his worst nightmare materialized: he was charged with child molestation.

Canceling the Dangerous tour, he retreated to a London detox clinic with friend and rehab veteran, Elizabeth Taylor. But the valium IV here was not enough to rescue the hypersensitive Michael from his terror of being found guilty, professionally ruined and personally disgraced. While lying sleepless in the hospital bed, his own break-out song may have echoed nightmarishly in his mind:

You’re fighting for your life inside a killer, thriller tonight. There’s no escapin the jaws of the alien this time –This is the end of your life.

Said one of his assistants: “In therapy, he began to see that he was his own worst enemy.” His old Bad song had particular resonance for him now. I’m starting with the man in the mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways. After detox, he settled out of court with his accuser, Jordan Chandler, for $22 million, returned to Neverland and, indeed, sought to change his ways.

 

 

But, twelve years later, his obsessed prosecutor, DA Tom Sneddon, charged Michael yet again. Though eventually acquitted, the star was devastated and irreparably wounded. And he became even more dangerously addicted to narcotic sleep aids and propofol.

Family and friends tried drug interventions. Michael excommunicated them. Doctors and nurses refused to give him more. Michael fired them.

His father-in-law, Elvis, had been even more incorrigible. When his doctors refused to prescribe more of what he called his Vitamin E, the King jumped up on a pool table, air-conditioned the ceiling with his .38, and declared, “I’ll buy the goddamed drugstore if I have to. I’m going to get what I want. People have to realize either they’re for me or against me!” When his own bodyguards refused to dose him, he told them: “I’m in charge here and if anyone wants to say different, then I may get hurt but somebody is going to die.” When his own step-brother, David Stanley, told him he was confiscating his stash, the King put a gun to his head and said, “No, you’re not.”

Other stars were just as stubborn. Said Jerry Garcia’s detox acupuncturist, Yen-wei Chong: “In ancient China, you know which kind of patient is the most difficult to treat? The Emperor.”

Long before the Doors’ Jim Morrison fatally ODed in Paris, his producer, Paul Rothchild, said of his suicidal drinking and doping: “Everybody tried to stop him. He was unstoppable!”

The same went for Hendrix, Joplin, Cobain, and many others.

So, like his predecessors, the King of Pop refused to take no for an answer. On the fatal night, Dr. Conrad Murray, in an attempt to wean his patient off the propofol, gave him only a half dose. But soon he was forced to administer six additional sedatives. By that morning, the still sleepless star was reportedly “begging” for his “milk” – the propofol. Murray gave in. Jackson died.

But fans continue to ask HOW? WHY? Expressing a common sentiment, Leonard Pitts recently wrote What Michael Jackson Needed Most: A Dr. No.  “That’s Michael Jackson’s ineffable tragedy,” the columnist concluded. “He died of an overdose of yes.”

But didn’t Michael — like Elvis, and so many other stars – fire many Dr. No’s during his years of addiction? And, had Murray said no, wouldn’t he have simply been replaced by another Dr. Yes? Just as some choose “death by cop”, others choose “death by doctor” suicide. By most accounts, Michael – devastated by the past trials, and terrified by the future “comeback” concerts – had no interest in continuing to live. He just wanted to sleep at last and forever.

Who then is responsible for his end? His unwitting accomplice? Or the man in the mirror who, tragically, could not change his ways?

 

 

 

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4. Autopsy Turvy

 

John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley. The autopsies of such legends, one would expect, should have been the most painstaking, impeccable, and impartial. But there is substantial evidence to the contrary in these historic cases and others.

Could the autopsy of Michael Jackson be the same?

The full report has not yet been publicized by the Los Angeles Medical Examiner,

Dr. Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran, who covered the murder cases of both Phil Spector and O.J. Simpson. But released details and conclusions from his report give cause for wonder even on the most basic issues.

First off, take Jackson’s weight. The L.A. coroner said the star was 136. When booked on child molestation charges in Santa Barbara in 2003, he weighed in at 120. Odd.

In the final six years of his life, Jackson handlers have expressed alarm at the singer’s weight loss, calling him “skeletal” and possibly bulimic. His own personal physician and close friend, Dr. Arnold Klein, told TMZ that toward the end the King of Pop looked like he’d “come from Auschwitz.”

112 pounds. “Geraldo at Large,” guest privy to autopsy info. a few broken ribs and damaged knees.

But the autopsy reports that Jackson gained sixteen pounds in the last six years. One would have expected a loss. Indeed, coroner inside sources said he was “skin and bones,” and told Geraldo Rivera he weighed 112.

The next area of autopsy report peculiarity: Jackson’s lungs. In his 1988 autobiography, Moon Walk, he revealed that he had been diagnosed in the seventies with a condition related to pleurisy. Subsequently, he was often hospitalized with the flu, pneumonia, and shortness of breath. He traveled with oxygen tanks.

Though the coroner found that Jackson did indeed have “chronically inflamed lungs,” he concluded that he was “fairly healthy” even so.

Since the star died of pulmonary failure, did the M.E. test for the cause of the inflammation and find it to be indeterminable or benign?

In 1987, Jackson’s close friend, Liberace, died. His personal physician recorded cardiac arrest on the death certificate. But after autopsy, the Riverside coroner concluded the entertainer had died of cytomegalovirus pneumonia from the AIDS virus. His estate’s executors filed a libel suit against the coroner’s office. They lost.

Liberace – whom Michael called “Lee, my guardian angel”—had lost 75 pounds and been bedridden and on oxygen for months. He had been diagnosed HIV-positive the year before by Dr. Elias Ghanem, Vegas’s doctor to the stars who had treated Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson, among others.

The tragic 1990 AIDs death of Michael’s young friend, Ryan White, devastated him. Soon afterwards, he was rushed to the hospital, suffering shortness of breath, vertigo, and chest pains. According to his biographer, J. Randy Taraborrelli, he tested negative for HIV.

In the last years of his life, Jackson suffered many bacterial and viral infections, flu-like fatigue, headache, and nausea, as well as skin problems, weight-loss and insomnia.

All are symptoms of AIDS. But some are symptoms of Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. Insiders told his biographer, Ian Halperin, that Jackson had suffered from this virulent  immunological disease and needed a lung transplant. In the meantime, they claimed the singer had undergone “augmentation therapy” – he was injected with pulmonary protein from human blood — commonly administered to AIDS patients.

So, did the L.A. Medical Examiner test the star for AAD or AIDS? Unlikely. Especially in the later case. According to Dr. Carol J. Huser, author of the Coroner’s Report column for the Durango Herald, an M.E. is forbidden to test for AIDS unless he – as in the Liberace case — believes the decedent may have put others at risk.

“I test [for HIV] VERY rarely, as I think do most of my colleagues,” asserts Dr. Huser. “And, in many states, the results would be confidential and the M.E. could not release them.”

But, in the unlikely event that Dr. Sathyavagiswaran and his team tested for and found the AIDS virus or some other contributing cause of death that was non-drug related, might Dr. Murray’s defense team justifiably demand disclosure?

In any case, the coroner has disclosed that Jackson’s body bore 13 puncture wounds. Insiders have gone further, claiming that it was “riddled” with injection sites from both IVs and intermuscular shots. How is it possible to conclude that such a patient is “fairly healthy.”

The toxicology report identifies only the drugs in the last injections: the benzoids and propofol administered by Dr. Murphy in the final ten hours of Jackson’s life. It should have been clear just from this that decedent was a drug addict and had built up an enormous appetite for and resistance to sedatives.

Given his prolific medical history, did the coroner’s office fulfill its legal obligation to conduct full discovery? According to California Code 27499: “The coroner shall summon and examine as witnesses every person who in his opinion or that of any of the jury has any knowledge of the facts.”

Did the coroner’s office subpoena Jackson’s medical records or interview his innumerable doctors? If so, it would have discovered a drug cornucopia: tranquillizers for nerves and panic attacks; narcotics for pain; sedatives and anesthesia for sleep; amphetamines for performance; steroids for lupus and immunological ailments; antibiotics for recurring infections.

When the full autopsy report is publicized, will all these substances be identified and their long-term combined deadly effect be appraised?

Probably not because this would be damaging to the prosecution which seeks to find Dr. Conrad Murray solely responsible for the death of Michael Jackson due to grossly negligent treatment.

As Dr. Michael M. Baden wrote in Unnatural Death, when he became the Chief Medical Examiner for New York City, “I envisioned the office as independent, scientific, apolitical…. [But] It is an arm of the DA’s office. What is really wanted is an elastic man, one who will stretch and bend his findings to suit the DA’s needs… Truth and excellence play no part in the arrangement.”

 

 

 

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5. The Last Moonwalk

 

Imagine the ghost of the King of Pop looking down on his countless investigators and coroners. Would he want the truth of his tragic demise revealed?

Like his father-in-law, Elvis, and so many other superstars, Michael Jackson had struggled mightily to keep his private life private. His death was the natural or unnatural result of how he lived that life: just as he had tried to avoid investigations, surely he would not have been an autopsy proponent.

So far, there have been two autopsies, and a third imminent.

With every living legend, in life and in death, there are two warring camps: the star and his image protectors versus the hounds who are fed by anonymous insiders. The truth is usually the first casualty in this war that soon deteriorates into wild accusations, denials, lawsuits, and sensationalism.

In life, the King of Pop was the object of three battles. The first involved his alleged molestation of children; the second, his rumored drug abuse; the third, the nature of his health. In the search for the true cause of his death, spin-controllers and the deep throats have locked horns.

Throughout his life, the Peter Pan of Pop himself seemed to have a Neverland conception of the truth even in matters of simple fact.

Regarding his radical change in appearance, he told the BBC’s Martin Rashid that he had only undergone two plastic surgeries. Otherwise, “I just changed!” he insisted. NBC’s Dateline medical expert and others declared, however, that fifty procedures would have been necessary for such a transformation.

Then came the skin color controversy. He and his doctor maintained he suffered from Vitiligo, a rare, congenital skin-lightening condition. However, his maid, Blanca Francia, asserted in an affidavit that he used powerful skin lightening creams (Solaquin, Benoquin, Fore, Retin A). “He hates dark-skinned people,” added another insider, Stacy Brown.

And what of his fair-complexioned children? He told an incredulous Bashir not only that he was the sperm-donor for the third, Blanket, but that the surrogate mother had been black as well.

As for the state of his own health, in recent years Jackson had often been seen in surgical masks, in wheelchairs, and – alarmingly gaunt – being carried by bodyguards. In 2001, he told his brothers, “I’ll be dead in a year.”

Was he aware of having a terminal condition even then?

In the mid-eighties, his doctors announced that Jackson had been diagnosed with Lupus, a serious immunological disease. Posthumously, insiders revealed that he had suffered from Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a rare lung ailment. He’d been injected with pulmonary protein from human blood – commonly administered to AIDS patients. In his final years he suffered symptoms associated with that disease: headaches, vision loss, weight loss, hyperventilation, nausea, insomnia, mental disorientation.

In such a condition and after twelve years off-stage, the urgent question became: Could Michael Jackson ever perform again? There were two diametrically opposed answers.

“I can do this,” the singer allegedly told Randy Phillips, the promoter for his “comeback” performances at London’s O2 Arena, equipped with the state-of-the-art lip-synching technology. Phillips stated that the star passed a four-hour physical for the concerts’ insurer. Would the exam have revealed drug abuse? “Absolutely,” replied the promoter.

Jackson collapsed after his second rehearsal, but endured his last at L.A.’s Staple Center. Staging executive, Johnny Caswell, afterwards enthused: “He was energetic, passionate, diligent, excited… This guy was ready to go!”

The King of Pop died 36 hours later.

He had been “terrified” of the upcoming performances, a Jackson aide told biographer, Ian Halperin. “We knew it was a disaster waiting to happen,” the insider added. “I don’t think anybody predicted it would actually kill him but nobody believed he would end up performing.

 

Now a third and climactic battle is being waged over the King of Pop, as it has over many of his iconic predecessors: the drug war.

“From my heart, I just don’t know,” Jermaine Jackson told Larry King when asked if his brother had had a problem with controlled substances.

But Michael’s friends, Uri Geller and Deepak Chopra, did. And just as their own efforts to “save Michael from himself” had proved fruitless, so had those of Randy and Tito. The brothers had tried numerous times to force Michael to rehab, the last attempt shortly before his death. Didn’t they talk to Jermaine?

Another friend of the deceased, Lisa Minelli, had no illusions either. ‘When the autopsy comes, all hell’s going to break loose,” she said.

Two have come and gone. But hell has not broken loose, though the star’s body was found to be riddled with injection sites. A third autopsy is now being demanded by Katherine Jackson.

Why?

Is an autopsy, particularly of such a celebrity, not a carefully monitored and exhaustive scientific procedure performed by the best professionals in the field? Even if one had been incomplete or mishandled – two?

The Jacksons have urged yet another exam because they suspect “foul play.” By whom? Dr. Conrad Murray or Michael’s other personal physicians who allegedly, at his orders, injected him with narcotics, sedatives, tranquilizers, and barbiturates? Or, at his orders, rendered him comatose with propofol, a general anesthesia for major surgery? Or could it be the foul play of his mercenary managers?

Autopsies do not reveal who. They reveal what: the drugs in the system and the pathology of the organs. On this basis they identify three things: immediate cause of death – in Jackson’s case suffocation and cardiac arrest; proximate cause – probably toxic drug interaction; and original, root cause – likely viral or immunological.

Almost certainly, the completed two autopsies have identified the three causes. Yet authorities say publication of the results will be delayed “indefinitely.” Why? Because few insiders, including the family, are likely to want any evidence disclosed which might compromise the star’s memory and legacy, much less royalties or insurance policies.

Meanwhile, the great question remains: who caused this tragedy? Was it truly a deceitful or negligent servant of the King of Pop? Or was it we, his fans, who kept him in a gilded cage and elevated him to a height where the star could no longer moonwalk, much less breathe?

 

 

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6. The Price Of Superstardom

“… People thought that if I kept living in seclusion the way I was, I might die the way he [Elvis] did. The parallels aren’t there as far as I’m concerned… Still, the way Elvis destroyed himself interests me, because I don’t ever want to walk those grounds myself.”

Michael Jackson, from his autobiography, Moon Walk, 1988

            But apparently the King of Pop changed his mind about The King of Rock, the father-in-law he never met.

In MySpace, Lisa Marie Presley, recalls how one day in 1993, her husband told her “with an almost calm certainty, ‘I am afraid that I am going to end up like him, the way he did.”

Lisa concludes: “The exact Scenario I saw happen on August 16th, 1977, happening again right now with Michael just as he predicted.”

All of the legendary rock stars in my THE ROCK AND ROLL BOOK OF THE DEAD, The Fatal Journeys of Rock’s Seven Immortals, also predicted an early demise for themselves. “I’m dead already,” said Jimi Hendrix, shortly before his abrupt and mysterious end at age 27. “I wonder if I’ll get as much publicity as him,” said Janis Joplin, who fatally ODed six weeks later, also at 27. “You’re drinking with Number 3,” Jim Morrison toasted his friends shortly afterwards. Cobain wanted to go out “in a flame of glory like Hendrix.” He, too, joined Club 27.

John Lennon had premonitions of an early, violent end. Jerry Garcia was amazed to reach 53, having clinically died in the hospital nine years before. And Elvis, who had many close scrapes with mortality like the others, had always felt predestined to an early grave.

His daughter goes on:  “I became very ill and emotionally/spiritually exhausted in my quest to save Michael from certain self-destructive behavior and from the awful vampires and leeches he would always manage to magnetize around him.”

The women of the seven doomed stars said much the same thing, desperately trying to, as Lisa Maria puts it, “save them from the inevitable.”

Her mother, Priscilla, tried the rescue Elvis, as did his other great love, Linda Thompson. Once Linda asked him what his greatest fault was. Without hesitation, the King replied, “I’m self-destructive. But there’s not a lot I can do about it.” The other stars conceded the same and, in his own way, so did the King of Pop.

We, the fans, are not only saddened, devastated, by the news of his passing – but we are uncomprehending. Michael Jackson and the others achieved what the rest of us can only dream of – how could they throw it all away? What is this hell inside the heaven of superstardom that consumed them all?

“I must confess I am not surprised by today’s tragic news,” said Jackson’s friend and publicist, Michael Leaven. “Michael has been on an impossibly difficult and often self-destructive journey for years. His talent was unquestionable but so too was his discomfort with the norms of the world. A human is simply cannot withstand this level of prolonged stress.”

            Prolonged stress is a euphemism for the crushing pressure of public adulation and demand; living up to an near-divine image; breathing in a fishbowl; relinquishing all privacy; being the never-ending object of gossip and rumor; being surrounded by exploiters and parasites; and, in the end, finding oneself utterly alone and loveless in spite of the adoration of millions.

All of the martyred stars were distinctly different in personality. But they became much the same in trying to maintain health and sanity in the purgatory called superstardom. Elvis and his son-in-law, Michael, were especially alike.

“Ambition,” said Elvis, “is a dream with a V-8 engine.”

All of the stars started with a super V-8. Particularly the two Kings. Michael’s ambition was to be even bigger than Elvis. After releasing the world’s biggest album – Thriller (109 million sold) – Jackson set to work trying to break his own record, and Elvis’s too. Meantime, rock’s eternal Peter Pan, built the child’s paradise, Neverland, as the boy Elvis had built Graceland years before. He wore the same fantastical costumes, indulged in every material extravagance, but gave to charity almost more than Elvis himself.

In 1984, Michael visited the White House and President Reagan decorated him for his huge contributions to drug abuse charities. Thirteen years before, President Nixon rewarded Elvis with a coveted BNDD (Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs) badge, enlisting the King to be the adminstration’s “ambassador” in the War on Drugs.

By this time, though few knew, Elvis was addicted to prescription narcotics. He insisted he needed his “medicine” for many ailments including glaucoma, hypertension, insomnia, and — according to rumor – lupus, a deadly auto-immune disease brought on and exacerbated by stress.

His son-in-law was said to have been diagnosed with lupus in 1985. And he, too, began to suffer from an array of other afflictions.

Michael Jackson’s drug abuse didn’t come to public attention until 1993. He’d recently suffered a series of mishaps: He had been badly burned while filming a Pepsi ad, he’d broken a leg, he’d injured his back. Then he was charged with child molestation. To cope, he began consuming great quantities of Oxycontin, Ativan, Xanax, and Valium. When they overwhelmed him, he cancelled his Dangerous tour, and checked into rehab just as Elvis himself had done many times two decades before.

Then Michael married Elvis’s daughter. “I wanted to save him,” Lisa Marie said. “I felt that I could do it.” But she couldn’t. She filed for divorce two years later. Her mother, Priscilla, hadn’t been able to save Elvis either. She had filed for divorce after six years. Just as Elvis had rapidly deteriorated after his marriage failed, so too did Michael.

2005 was a horror for the King of Pop. His drug dependency worsened with a second, circus-like trial for child molestation. Though acquitted, he fled in disgrace for Bahrain. His records sales had plummeted, he was rumored to be on the brink of bankruptcy. Moreover, he was no longer known as the King of Pop, but as “Jacko the Wacko.”

Elvis suffered the same purgatory in the last years of his life. His sales too were in the tank and he had to borrow against Graceland to stay afloat. He was called a rock and roll dinosaur and had become a stumbling, obese parody of himself. And, his closest old friends, his bodyguards, were publishing drugstore tell-all, revealing him as a crazed, gun-totting junkie.

In the last twenty months of his life, the King was prescribed 12,000 Schedule 1 substances and injectibles: Demerol, dilaudid, Seconal, Tuinol, Placidyl, Valmid, Quaalude, among others. He died just before dragging himself back on the road, hoping the tour would rescue him from professional and financial disaster. The coroner discovered eleven major narcotics in his system. However, his personal physician, prescriber, and enabler, Dr. George Nichopolous, aka “Needle Nick, declared that Elvis had died of “cardiac arrest.”

In 2007, a Beverly Hills pharmacy sued Michael Jackson alleging that he owed more than $100,000 for prescription drugs. Just before his death, he begrudgingly consented to a tour, hoping for financial and professional resurrection. His own personal physician and prescriber, Dr Conrad Murray. The public awaits complete autopsy results.

Meantime, the cause of death for the King of Pop is the standard for superstars: cardiac arrest. And again we see the tragic price of pop immortality. But American Idols will continue to crave as if it were salvation itself.

***

7. Fame: The Death Zone

 

Imagine the ghost of the King of Pop looking down on his countless investigators and coroners. Would he want the truth of his tragic demise revealed?

Like his father-in-law, Elvis, and so many other superstars, Michael Jackson had struggled mightily to keep his private life private. His death was the natural or unnatural result of how he lived that life: just as he had tried to avoid investigations, surely he would not have been an autopsy proponent.

So far, there have been two autopsies, and a third imminent.

With every living legend, in life and in death, there are two warring camps: the star and his image protectors versus the hounds who are fed by anonymous insiders. The truth is usually the first casualty in this war that soon deteriorates into wild accusations, denials, lawsuits, and sensationalism.

In life, the King of Pop was the object of three battles. The first involved his alleged molestation of children; the second, his rumored drug abuse; the third, the nature of his health. In the search for the true cause of his death, spin-controllers and the deep throats have locked horns.

Throughout his life, the Peter Pan of Pop himself seemed to have a Neverland conception of the truth even in matters of simple fact.

Regarding his radical change in appearance, he told the BBC’s Martin Rashid that he had only undergone two plastic surgeries. Otherwise, “I just changed!” he insisted. NBC’s Dateline medical expert and others declared, however, that fifty procedures would have been necessary for such a transformation.

Then came the skin color controversy. He and his doctor maintained he suffered from Vitiligo, a rare, congenital skin-lightening condition. However, his maid, Blanca Francia, asserted in an affidavit that he used powerful skin lightening creams (Solaquin, Benoquin, Fore, Retin A). “He hates dark-skinned people,” added another insider, Stacy Brown.

And what of his fair-complexioned children? He told an incredulous Bashir not only that he was the sperm-donor for the third, Blanket, but that the surrogate mother had been black as well.

As for the state of his own health, in recent years Jackson had often been seen in surgical masks, in wheelchairs, and – alarmingly gaunt – being carried by bodyguards. In 2001, he told his brothers, “I’ll be dead in a year.”

Was he aware of having a terminal condition even then?

In the mid-eighties, his doctors announced that Jackson had been diagnosed with Lupus, a serious immunological disease. Posthumously, insiders revealed that he had suffered from Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a rare lung ailment. He’d been injected with pulmonary protein from human blood – commonly administered to AIDS patients. In his final years he suffered symptoms associated with that disease: headaches, vision loss, weight loss, hyperventilation, nausea, insomnia, mental disorientation.

In such a condition and after twelve years off-stage, the urgent question became: Could Michael Jackson ever perform again? There were two diametrically opposed answers.

“I can do this,” the singer allegedly told Randy Phillips, the promoter for his “comeback” performances at London’s O2 Arena, equipped with the state-of-the-art lip-synching technology. Phillips stated that the star passed a four-hour physical for the concerts’ insurer. Would the exam have revealed drug abuse? “Absolutely,” replied the promoter.

Jackson collapsed after his second rehearsal, but endured his last at L.A.’s Staple Center. Staging executive, Johnny Caswell, afterwards enthused: “He was energetic, passionate, diligent, excited… This guy was ready to go!”

The King of Pop died 36 hours later.

He had been “terrified” of the upcoming performances, a Jackson aide told biographer, Ian Halperin. “We knew it was a disaster waiting to happen,” the insider added. “I don’t think anybody predicted it would actually kill him but nobody believed he would end up performing.”

            Now a third and climactic battle is being waged over the King of Pop, as it has over many of his iconic predecessors: the drug war.

“From my heart, I just don’t know,” Jermaine Jackson told Larry King when asked if his brother had had a problem with controlled substances.

But Michael’s friends, Uri Geller and Deepak Chopra, did. And just as their own efforts to “save Michael from himself” had proved fruitless, so had those of Randy and Tito. The brothers had tried numerous times to force Michael to rehab, the last attempt shortly before his death. Didn’t they talk to Jermaine?

Another friend of the deceased, Lisa Minelli, had no illusions either. ‘When the autopsy comes, all hell’s going to break loose,” she said.

Two have come and gone. But hell has not broken loose, though the star’s body was found to be riddled with injection sites. A third autopsy is now being demanded by Katherine Jackson.

Why?

Is an autopsy, particularly of such a celebrity, not a carefully monitored and exhaustive scientific procedure performed by the best professionals in the field? Even if one had been incomplete or mishandled – two?

The Jacksons have urged yet another exam because they suspect “foul play.” By whom? Dr. Conrad Murray or Michael’s other personal physicians who allegedly, at his orders, injected him with narcotics, sedatives, tranquilizers, and barbiturates? Or, at his orders, rendered him comatose with propofol, a general anesthesia for major surgery? Or could it be the foul play of his mercenary managers?

Autopsies do not reveal who. They reveal what: the drugs in the system and the pathology of the organs. On this basis they identify three things: immediate cause of death – in Jackson’s case suffocation and cardiac arrest; proximate cause – probably toxic drug interaction; and original, root cause – likely viral or immunological.

Almost certainly, the completed two autopsies have identified the three causes. Yet authorities say publication of the results will be delayed “indefinitely.” Why? Because few insiders, including the family, are likely to want any evidence disclosed which might compromise the star’s memory and legacy, much less royalties or insurance policies.

Meanwhile, the great question remains: who caused this tragedy? Was it truly a deceitful or negligent servant of the King of Pop? Or was it we, his fans, who kept him in a gilded cage where he could no longer hide, and elevated him to a height where he could no longer breathe?

 

 

 

 

 

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