New pieces about the final days of Michael Jackson are flooding the news, along with tributes, memorials, debates on the nature of the conversation about him, etc. If there's one article you have to read on it, however, it's this:
Ian Halperin, the writer of unauthorized biographies on Celene Dion, Kurt Cobain, and James Taylor, penned a piece for the Daily Mail in which he claims to have predicted the death of Michael Jackson six months and one day ago. It appears that he might be telling the truth. There's a lot inside the article, so we'll run it down, for you. Some of it might have full-bodied shades of truth, some of it could be totally off the mark. At the very least, though, it's all pretty fascinating:
- Ominous Prediction: "Had he not been driven – by a cabal of bankers, agents, doctors and advisers – to commit to the grueling 50 concerts in London's O2 Arena, I believe he would still be alive today."
- Jackson's Exhaustion: He was preparing for a string of concerts nobody in their right mind could've thought he could've completed. While leaving a Burbank studio, he reportedly told fans: 'I don't know how I'm going to do 50 shows. I'm not a big eater. I need to put some weight on. I'm really angry with them booking me up to do 50 shows. I only wanted to do ten.' One of his former employees weighed in to Halperin earlier this month: "It's like he's not in control over his own life any more."
- Dr. Tohme Tohme: Jackson's official spokesman as of last year. Incredibly seedy. Refuted a claim Halperin made that Jackson had six months to live, back in December. Tohme called it a "complete fabrication." An important player in all of this, if only to indicate the people Jackson was surrounded by near the end: "Tohme has been alternately described as a Saudi Arabian billionaire and an orthopedic surgeon, but he is actually a Lebanese businessman who does not have a medical license. At one point, Tohme claimed he was an ambassador at large for Senegal, but the Senegalese embassy said they had never heard of him." At one point, Tohme (associated with the Nation of Islam, more below) threatened an auctioneer's life if he didn't postpone an auction of Jackson memorabilia.
- Image Protection: Jackson had a huge collection of wigs that he used out in public to hide his graying, thinning hair.
- Mental Health: Feelings of despondency and suicidal thoughts started surfacing after his latest acquittal from the 2005 sexual molestation trial involving Gavin Arvizo. He was close to a "complete nervous breakdown." He was being fed "pills like candy" by those around him, who were described as "enablers." He was worried he would end up dying like Elvis (a claim backed by Lisa Marie Presley). He wasn't eating and had nightmares of being murdered. His drug of choice was OxyContin. Then there's this: "On June 21, Jackson told my contact that he wanted to die. He said that he didn't have what it would take to perform any more because he had lost his voice and dance moves. ‘It's not working out,' Jackson said. ‘I'm better off dead. I don't have anywhere left to turn. I'm done.'"
- Halperin/Jackson: Halperin began his work with Jackson believing he was guilty, but changed his mind as time went on.
- Jackson's Sexuality: "It is clear to me that Michael was homosexual and that his taste was for young men." He had two secret lovers, supposedly. One was a construction worker who he went on rendezvous with at a seedy motel in Vegas. The other was a young aspiring actor he invited over to his place in LA for late-night trysts.
- Jackson's Health: He had "Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency," which is a genetic condition that leaves the lungs vulnerable due to a lack of protein. He was receiving injections of a treatment made from human plasma that were fairly effective in combating his condition. Halperin claims sources inside the Jackson camp confirmed that this would explain the wheelchair and surgical masks Jackson could sometimes be seen in public with. He'd lost an abundance of weight in the last few months. People were worried.
- Finances: The Bahraini sheikh Jackson crashed with after the last trial sued Jackson for repayment of what Jackson thought was his "hospitality." Jackson settled on the night before it went to court specifically so his exact financial condition - miserably bad - wouldn't come to light. The only reason any attempts by Jackson to work were made over the last four years were for money. At one point, he was convinced by those around him that he could make a comeback and "be the king" again, however.
- The Beatles' catalog: One of the more insane claims Halperin makes: the only thing standing between Jackson and bankruptcy was his ownership of the Beatles catalog with Sony. Sony's dream was to own the entire thing themselves, and could've repossessed it, but didn't because they were afraid of the bad press it would get them (and potential sales it would cost them).
- Jackson's Will: He has upwards of 200 unpublished songs, the sales and royalties of which are for his children to live off of. His will's going to reveal Jackson's desire for his kids to stay with Jackson's 79 year-old mother, Katherine.
- Nation of Islam ties: Jackson's kids' nanny, Grace Rwaramba, had ties to the Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan. Rwaramba was supposedly the "Queen Bee" in Jackson's camp. The Nation of Islam supplied Jackson's security detail and started running his affairs. Farrakhan's son-in-law was Jackson's business manager for a few years, but his role diminished.
And there's so, so much more. Halperin's got a book to promote, and again, there's no telling how many of these claims are going to pan out to be true. But a lot of them are certainly strange and sad enough to be true.
The Michael Jackson story (and the story of how it's going to be handled) is going to stay a bizarre, sad one. A week ago, a Michael Jackson joke was classic if not outdated, another pop culture bar room punchline. And now the reality is that these punchlines might manifest themselves into something much more uncomfortable: the truth, without the protection of settlements and PR cover. Maybe Jackson's going to get the sympathy of a public - or a portion of the public - who went from unconditionally loving him to stigmatizing him overnight. Or maybe it's just going to get worse. This one - the way pop culture reflects on Jackson, on his music, and on his legacy - is still very much being written.