Is it possible for the Michael Jackson story to become more lurid, pathetic or extreme?
You bet your sweet Jesus juice.
Jackson’s mother and three children have sued Anschutz Entertainment Group, blaming the promoter of what was supposed to be the singer’s 2009 comeback tour for his death.
So far, the trial in downtown Los Angeles has offered a parade of horror stories, thanks to witnesses who can finally speak freely about Jackson, an entertainer whose heavenly talents were pulled down by his hellish addiction. One thing is certain now: his death came at the hands of the very person who was charged with keeping him alive.
The Jacksons are fighting with AEG over who hired Conrad Murray, the now-disgraced doctor serving a four-year manslaughter sentence for administering a fatal dose of the surgical anesthetic propofol to the singer. The family claims AEG hired Murray. AEG claims Jackson brought Murray in as his personal physician.
Whatever the outcome of the trial -- neither side is particularly sympathetic -- Jackson was the engineer of his own disintegration and death. His immense wealth, power and fame led to the virtually unchecked perversions that guaranteed he would eventually self-destruct.
Even with all we know about the weirdness that was Michael Jackson -- the rumored use of a hyperbaric chamber, the exotic pets, the extreme plastic surgery, the sleepovers with boys, the bizarre marriages, the freaky way he made his children disguise themselves, the way he hung his baby over a balcony -- the testimony in this trial has been disturbing.
“We are going to show some ugly stuff,” AEG’s defense attorney warned.
A paramedic who responded to the 911 call the day Jackson died testified he thought he was looking at “an end-stage cancer patient who had come home to die,” The Times reported. “The singer’s ribs were visible on his thin body, his eyes were dilated and dry, his lips were a faint blue.”
The paramedic was so certain he was looking at terminal patient, he asked Murray if Jackson had a “do not resuscitate” order.
A toxicologist testified that when he died, Jackson had a cornucopia of drugs in his system -- anti-anxiety meds, plus anesthetics normally found in hospital settings -- and that Jackson was the only non-medical professional in L.A. County in 14 years to die at home of propofol intoxication.
Tour producer Alif Sankey said that five days before he overdosed, she was terrified that a cold and frail Jackson was dying and that he needed to be hospitalized immediately.
In what is perhaps the creepiest turn of all, however, Wade Robson -- an Australian choreographer who during Jackson’s child molestation trial eight years ago denied under oath that the singer had abused him -- has asked to file a late claim as a creditor against the Jackson estate, alleging “childhood sexual abuse.” My colleague Richard Winton reported that the specifics of the case are under seal and include evidence from a mental health practitioner.
Jackson, you recall, was exonerated in 2005 of molesting a 13-year-old cancer patient at his Neverland Ranch in Santa Ynez. It was a runaway train of a celebrity trial, with wall-to-wall international coverage and a militantly pro-Jackson crowd outside the courthouse each day.
One of the witnesses who testified for Jackson was Robson, then 22, who had met Jackson after winning a Melbourne dance competition at age 5. Robson said he had traveled with Jackson, and visited the singer dozens of times, often sleeping in Jackson’s bed at Neverland Ranch. Any notion he’d been molested, testified Robson, was “ridiculous.”
So maybe Robson, who has filed the sexual abuse claim, is telling the truth. Maybe he’s able to face it now that Jackson is dead, his estate is very much alive and the scent of money is in the air. But who is going to believe him?
Either Robson was not being honest then -- at a moment when his story might have helped someone else -- or he is not being honest now.
What a terribly sad, ugly, and confusing situation.
Yet what a fitting coda for Michael Jackson, whose story is just as strange in death as it was in life.