Saturday, April 13, 2024

Michael Jackson: Correcting the New, and Not Very Good, Book About the Pop Star


Part 2: Randall Sullivan is just overwhelmed by his material, but gets lots of stuff wrong in his new book about Michael Jackson, called “Untouchable.” The book is panned by Michiko Kakutani in today’s New York Times.

For example, Jackson hosted a Christmas in Bahrain for friends from the U.S. (which I reported exclusively at the time). Sullivan says Michael was thrilled when “Frank Cascio and his family” arrived. Wrong. Frank Cascio never went to Bahrain. He even said so in his book this year. Michael didn’t see Frank Cascio from some time before he was arrested in November 2003 until Jackson arrived at the Cascios’ home in New Jersey (which I also reported exclusively) in August 2007.

Sullivan’s main problem is that he wasn’t there for any of it, but tried to cash in on Michael Jackson once he died. Imagine someone writing a biography of Batman and only interviewing the Penguin, the Riddler, Catwoman, and the Joker. The writer fails to speak to Robin, Alfred or Commissioner Gordon.

Sullivan’s sources are a rogues’ gallery of adversaries: Tohme, Raymone Bain, Brian Oxman, Ray Chandler (brother of Evan, uncle of Jordie), Raymone Bain, etc. Former lawyer Oxman was disbarred on July 6, 2012, which Sullivan only mentions as an aside late in his book. He needed him as a legit source.

Tohme wormed his way into Jackson’s life, and had to be excised in the final months by people who actually cared about Jackson. Apparently, Sullivan and Tohme became quite close. According to his alarming notes in the book:

“At the time, I was trying to help Tohme settle his differences with both the Jackson family and the Michael Jackson estate (and, of course, collect whatever useful information might surface in the process).”

Conflicts of interest abound:  buried deep in the book is this revelation: Sullivan introduced Katherine Jackson to her new lawyer, Perry Sanders, who was also Sullivan’s friend. Then Sullivan turned around and used Sanders and his associate Sandy Ribera as sources. Sullivan even admits he gave Ribera a first draft of the book to comment on. What is going on here?

As for Tohme: I’ve never met him, but for a time I listened to his prevarications on the phone. These included that he was a doctor of some kind, and a special ambassador to Senegal. He conceded to me that he was actually not a licensed physician finally. He held on to the ambassador story.

I received this email on March 23, 2009 from the Senegal embassy in Washington DC:


Senegal has no Ambassador at large in that name. the Ambassadors at large
are senegalese citizen. It is possible to have alien as ambassador for a
specific reason, fight for women freedom, goodwill ambassador etc..
But I don’t know this Mr. Tohme.

Fatoumata B. NDAO
Health, Environment & Education
Embassy of Senegal

Sullivan doesn’t like this piece of information. He says in his notes that I “found someone” with the Embassy who didn’t know Tohme. He says he’s seen Tohme’s Senegalese passport, with the words ‘special ambassador’ written in by the country’s dictator, er, president for life. Well, I have the email chain from the embassy. And unless Sullivan can i.d. the handwriting of the president, I think there’s a problem.

“Untouchable” is full of assumptions. And to get away with it, Sullivan admits to them in the back of his book. He writes: “I acknowledge that the long plastic surgery section in this chapter could be described as interpretive, perhaps even as opinionated. It was the result of nearly three years of research and dozens of conversations with people who knew MJ. The point of view is my own, but it’s an informed point of view.” Huh? He wrote a 700 page book but doesn’t have the facts. His informed point of view, plus 3 bucks, will get you a copy of the National Enquirer.

I do take particular exception with Sullivan’s intent to throw Michael’s long time friend and manager, the late Frank DiLeo, under the bus so to speak. DiLeo was a complex man, certainly. But he loved Michael and vice versa. Early on Frank was cheated out of millions that he could have made from Thriller and Bad.

After he and Michael split, Frank’s life was full of financial difficulties. As others grew rich from his projects, he struggled. Now Sullivan, taking Tohme’s side, thinks he can paint DiLeo as a villain to Tohme’s hero. I won’t allow it. Frank knew a charlatan when he saw one, and he disliked Tohme from the start. Now Tohme gets to exact his revenge against a dead man– and Sullivan is only too happy to help in exchange for his “exclusive” interview.

Also wrong, wrong, wrong: Frank DiLeo had open heart surgery at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles on March 21, 2011. He did not “check into a hospital in Pittsburgh.” Frank languished in coma at Cedars Sinai for three months until he was moved to a facility in Pittsburgh.

And there’s more that Sullivan gets wrong, like how the story broke that Jackson and his kids stayed in New Jersey in the summer and fall of 2007–there’s the story:,2933,312120,00.html. What Sullivan has done is  chop up a lot of pieces he’s found in research, mash them together and put them in a blender on high speed.  The result is something that tastes and smells bad.

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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