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July 1 - 7, 2009
King of Pop Find profiles, videos and the latest news at telegraph.co.uk/michaeljackson
IN 1992, Michael Jackson published a slim volume of “poems and reflections” entitled Dancing The Dream.
It is a curious and, in the light of his death, poignantly revealing collection of writings on the subjects that were apparently close to his heart — music, dancing, God, his mother, the plight of the dolphin and children.
It is the nearest that Jackson ever came to autobiography.
“We have to heal our wounded world,” Jackson wrote in Children Of The World. “The chaos, despair, and senseless destruction we see today are a result of the alienation that people feel from each other and their environment. Often this has it roots in an emotionally deprived childhood. Children have had their childhood stolen from them.”
If Elvis Presley’s death can be seen as the most extreme consequence of excess, and John Lennon’s as the most horrific outcome of the malevolent attention of strangers, Jackson’s can be attributed to the imperative that was driven into him from childhood — to perform, to dazzle and to pay the bills.
It was in order to pay off debts estimated at £200million, as well as to rebuild his tarnished career, that Jackson was persuaded to return to the stage and undertake the residency at the 02 that was due to commence in two weeks.
While it is still unclear exactly what caused Jackson’s heart attack, he was not a well man. The cancellation of the first four shows due to “technical issues”, the
rumours of his absence from rehearsals and the insistence by the show’s promoters that he was a picture of health suggested that he was under enormous pressure.
Blame is being laid on the pharmacopeia of pain-killing and anxiety-abating drugs that Jackson was allegedly being fed by “enablers” in his entourage. The coroner’s report might just as well read “Death by showbusiness”.
There is a theory that applies to any child star, that the age at which you become famous is the age at which some part of you becomes forever arrested.
Jackson was just 11 years old when he first topped the American charts with the Jackson 5 single I Want You Back. By then he was already a showbusiness veteran. The seventh of nine children, his father, Joe, was a musician who projected his own, failed ambition on to his children.
By the age of seven, Michael was coming home from school at three in the afternoon to rehearsals that would often last until 10 at night. In later years, Jackson would speak of the violence and abuse that he suffered at the hands of the man he was instructed to call “Joseph” — never “Dad”.
Signed to Motown, it quickly became apparent that Michael was the star turn. He made his first solo albums while still part of the group but it was when he broke from them altogether and released Off The Wall in 1979 that his solo career truly began to blossom.
His subsequent friendships were made exclusively within the hermetically sealed world of the famous, the odd and the similarly damaged — Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Ross, Uri Geller and Liza Minelli.
The relationships that surfaced seemed to be more the stuff of the public relations department than the heart – such as dating Tatum O’Neil and his brief marriage to Lisa Marie Presley. A second
marriage — to his dermatologist’s assistant, Debbie Rowe — was even more unlikely. It produced two children, allegedly by artificial insemination, and lasted barely two years. It would be reasonable to ask whether
Jackson had ever enjoyed sexual relations with an adult.
One is left with the inescapable impression that he had little sense of who he actually was; his lifetime was to be spent in relentless pursuit of an identity he could
feel happy with, beyond colour and gender – a pursuit that would lead to plastic surgery, skin bleaching, and wreak terrible damage on his appearance.
If in some respects Jackson seemed — clearly was —
divorced from reality, he also had a shrewd grasp of his value as an entertainer and how best to exploit it, artistically and commercially.
“Part of [Michael] may be a 10 year-old, with all the enthusiasm that implies,” John Branca, Jackson’s lawyer told me. “But the other part is a 60-year-old genius. He’s the shrewdest artist I’ve ever come across.”
Yet even this surefootedness as an artist and a businessman would eventually desert him. The recordings became progressively more lacklustre, suggesting that he had lost touch with his musical gift and the tastes of his audience.
The cruellest irony of all is that his attempts to reclaim some sort of lost innocence, to find his way back to a childhood he had never known, should have proved his undoing. In 1993, the family of a 13-year-old boy named Jordan Chandler laid the first allegation of child abuse. Jackson categorically denied the charge, and for his fans it would have been easy to dismiss it as an exploitation of his generosity — had he not struck an out-of-court settlement with the family for an estimated $20million.
But there were to be further allegations of abuse that would result in his arrest in 2003. The trial two years later ended in acquittal, but where once he inspired adulation, Jackson was now a figure of revulsion and mockery.
The abiding irony is that Jackson should have died preparing for a series of performances designed to restore both his fortunes and, more importantly, his reputation as the undisputed King of Pop. Superstar, freak, the greatest showman of the 20th century, warm and loving human being, musical genius, alleged child-abuser. The roll call of adjectives and nouns will feed the Jackson myth for years to come.
Comment, pages 16 &17
By Paul Thompson in Los Angeles
THE LAWYER representing Michael Jackson’s personal doctor has denied claims that the singer was given an injection of a powerful painkiller before his death last week.
Edward Chernoff also said that Jackson was already unconscious and “wasn’t breathing” when Dr Conrad Murray found him.
“There was no Demerol. No OxyContin,” said Mr Chernoff, who was present while Dr
Murray was interviewed by police for three hours.
He described it as “fortuitous” that the doctor went to see Jackson at his rented home in Holmby Hills, Los Angeles.
“He checked for a pulse. There was a weak pulse in his femoral artery. He started administering CPR,” Mr Chernoff told the Los Angeles Times newspaper.
He said Dr Murray had not “furnished or prescribed” Demerol and was stunned by the 50-year-old’s death.
The comments deepen the
GRACE RWARAMBA FORMER NANNY TO JACKSON’S CHILDREN
ONLINE Jackson’s nanny reveals singer’s tragic secret life telegraph.co.uk/michaeljackson
mystery surrounding the death. The LA county coroner has deferred announcing a cause until the results of drug tests are known.
It had been widely reported by US media that Jackson received a shot of Demerol the night before he died.
During his interview with police, Dr Murray clarified “inconsistencies” in the account of the singer’s death and provided details of his medication. It took place as a second autopsy was carried out at the request of Jackson’s family, the results
of which will be given to them within two weeks.
Police sources reportedly said that the interview with Dr Murray had thrown up no “red flag” or “smoking gun” to suggest criminal wrongdoing. Police stressed that Dr Murray, who attempted to revive Jackson after his collapse, was not a suspect.
Friends and former employees have come forward to describe the singer’s addiction to prescription drugs, with the most damning claims coming
from his children’s former nanny, Grace Rwaramba.
She told reporters that she had been forced to pump his stomach after he took too many prescription drugs, a claim denied by the Jackson camp.
“There was one period that it was so bad that I didn’t let the children see him,” she said. Reports have indicated that Jackson was taking two other narcotic pain relievers, Dilaudid and Vicodin, in addition to Demerol, when any more than one is considered potentially lethal.