Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Michael Jackson: To Sleep, Perchance to Dream


Two years ago this afternoon, Michael Jackson died. The only person present was Dr. Conrad Murray. He administered propofol to Michael, something the singer had done before, many times. He started using the anesthesia to “sleep” on his Dangerous tour in 1996, and never stopped. Some accounts of this will surface, I am told, in a startling and revelatory new book due early this fall from Jackson’s longtime family friend and assistant, Frank Cascio.

Back in 2005, I wrote that another longtime Jackson associate, Frank DiLeo, had visited Michael at Neverland during his child molestation trial. He found a set up in Michael’s bedroom of an IV. DiLeo told me at the time it was clear that something was being administered to Jackson. He thought it was a tranquilizer. We were too naive or clueless to think that someone was allowing Michael Jackson to be given a potent drug that no other person in the world, literally, was receiving at home — and without proper supervision.

It doesn’t matter, however, how many times Michael had propofol from different doctors. In the end, if Dr. Murray was giving it to him, and didn’t do it properly, a jury will decide if he killed the most famous person in the world. Jackson obviously knew Dr. Murray’s weakness: money. He had women and children to support. He had a lifestyle. He expected a crazy salary of $150,000 a month. Luckily, he never received it. Michael Jackson was killed before the payments could be processed.

Michael knew how to administer his own injections. In 2003 he said he had a spider bite on his ankle. But that was actually an injection that had gone wrong. I was told then that he’d done it to himself. Did he try to do this again on June 25, 2009? It’s unlikely. Injections are one thing. IV needles are another. But Michael certainly knew his way around easing his own pain. He had a sustained addiction to pills, and drank a lot. He drank wine from soda cans–“Jesus juice”– to avoid being detected. During his 2005 trial for child molestation and conspiracy–which ended in acquittal on all counts–he was zonked every day.

But who could blame him? The trial was handled expertly by Thomas Mesereau, his defense attorney, despite the legal team being saddled by an incompetent (Brian Oxman) and a local lawyer (Robert Sanger) who suggested to the judge one day that Jackson’s kids weren’t his biologically. “The circumstances that relate to the birth of the children wouldn’t be admitted for the truth of the matter,” Sanger said to a mostly drowsy, sparsely attended court on May 30, 2005. “Only his love of the children.” Oxman slept in open court. Mesereau finally fired him.

Most days, Katherine Jackson came to court. Sometimes, Joseph Jackson did, too. Michael was frightened of his father, and now he was vulnerable to him. Two years ago, Joe Jackson turned up at the BET Awards–just four days after his son had died–with a Michael Jackson imitator. Jackson told press people on the red carpet that he was starting a new record label which, of course, never materialized. In 2001, on the eve of Michael’s 30th anniversary concerts at Madison Square Garden, his father told the press (me included) that he was starting an online video company. It also never materialized. But every time Michael made news, his father showed up to exploit it. You wonder what kind of pain he was in that he constantly asking to be put to sleep.

Last month, in Cannes, Joe Jackson turned up at the Carlton Hotel. He walked the red carpet and entered a private dinner held for Sean Penn and his Haiti relief programs. Jackson had new associates with him, backers from Vietnam. They didn’t speak English except for one. Jackson’s latest scheme: a Neverland style resort hotel in Vietnam, as if Neverland, Michael’s fortress away from his father, was Joe Jackson’s idea.

Hamlet, haunted by his father, considers suicide. “To sleep, perchance to dream–ay, there’s the rub.” Michael Jackson is dreaming now. His nightmares are over.


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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