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AEG planned to announce Jackson’s comeback in March with a London press conference. But as the date drew near, Jackson dropped out of sight. Inside AEG, there was growing fear.
"We are holding all the risk," Gongaware wrote to Phillips. "We let Mikey know just what this will cost him in terms of him making money. ... We cannot be forced into stopping this, which MJ will try to do because he is lazy and constantly changes his mind to fit his immediate wants."
"He is locked. He has no choice ... he signed a contract," Gongaware wrote.
Publicly, AEG projected confidence. "The man is very sane, the man is very focused, the man is very healthy," Leiweke assured a music industry symposium the day before the press conference.
Jackson made it to London, but according to emails Phillips sent to Leiweke, the star was intoxicated and refused to leave his suite. In the end, the emails show, Phillips and Jackson’s manager had to dress him.
"He is scared to death," Phillips wrote to Leiweke.
In an interview, AEG’s attorney Putnam suggested Phillips had exaggerated in his emails and said Jackson’s behavior appeared to be a case of "nerves."
Jackson arrived 90 minutes late for the news conference and his brief comments struck some of the 350 reporters gathered as disjointed and strange. Still, fan enthusiasm was undeniable: Demand for an initial 10 shows crashed Ticketmaster’s servers.
Two months later, Jackson and AEG got insurance from Lloyd’s of London, according to the policy that is contained in court records. For rehearsals in L.A., it only covered accidents. The policy would expand to include illness and death coverage when Jackson got to London and was evaluated by Lloyd’s doctors there.
AEG officials first met Dr. Conrad Murray during May rehearsals. In the trial last year that ended with Murray manslaughter conviction, witnesses testified that Jackson insisted that AEG hire the doctor as his personal physician for the London shows at $150,000 a month,
Murray, who was deep in debt and in danger of losing his home, was giving Jackson nightly doses of propofol, a powerful surgical anesthetic, for his chronic insomnia, according to the doctor’s statement to police.
In an interview, AEG’s lawyers noted that none of the emails referred to propofol and said no one at the company knew about Murray’s use of it. Jackson died before signing Murray’s contract, and the doctor was never paid by AEG.
Those rehearsing with Jackson began sounding alarms in mid-June, according to the emails, a month before his scheduled debut in London. They complained he missed rehearsals, was slow picking up routines and would have to lip-synch some of his signature numbers.
"MJ is not in shape enough yet to sing this stuff live and dance at the same time," the show’s musical director informed supervisors in an email. Jackson missed another week of rehearsals, and when he finally showed up June 19, he was too weak to perform.
Emails reviewed by The Times show far greater alarm about Jackson’s mental state than has emerged previously.
"He was a basket case," a production manager wrote. "Doubt is pervasive."
"We have a real problem here," Phillips wrote to Leiweke.
The show’s director, Kenny Ortega, told Phillips their star was not ready for the comeback and called for a psychiatric intervention: "There are strong signs of paranoia, anxiety and obsessive-like behavior. I think the very best thing we can do is get a top Psychiatrist in to evaluate him ASAP.
"It is like there are two people there. One (deep inside) trying to hold on to what he was and still can be and not wanting us to quit him, the other in this weakened and troubled state," wrote Ortega, who had known Jackson for 20 years. "I believe we need professional guidance in this matter."
Phillips brushed off the request for immediate psychiatric intervention. "It is critical that neither you, me or anyone around this show become amateur psychiatrists or physicians," Phillips wrote.
He added that Murray, "who I am gaining immense respect for as I get to deal with him more," was confident the singer was ready.Next Page >
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