History > 2009 > USA > Arts > Music (I)
The Washington Examiner
26 June 2009
Differing Sides of Physician
Who Tended to Jackson
September 27, 2009
The New York Times
By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
HOUSTON — Dr. Conrad Murray, who became famous for treating Michael Jackson
just before the star’s death, has been sued more than a dozen times for claims
including breach of contract and unpaid child support. Yet he has never been
sued for malpractice.
The court record highlights two often-contradictory sides of the man at the
center of the controversy over Mr. Jackson’s death from an overdose of
To many of his patients, he is an affable and sympathetic physician, who took
extra time with them and found effective therapies when others had given up. At
the same time, he led a stormy and at times racy personal life, playing fast and
loose with his obligations and leaving behind a trail of unpaid bills and unwed
“It’s almost as if when I read the paper, I’m reading about another doctor,”
said Michael Goyer, a retired city manager who was treated for heart disease by
Dr. Murray in Las Vegas. “I thought he was beyond excellent.”
Dr. Murray, 56, is under investigation for his role in administering various
sedatives to Mr. Jackson in the hours before he went into cardiac arrest on the
morning of June 25.
This week, one of several women with whom Dr. Murray became romantically
entangled testified before a Los Angeles County grand jury, law enforcement
officials said. The woman, Nicole Alvarez, 27, an aspiring actress who gave
birth to Dr. Murray’s child this spring, began dating him in late 2006, around
the same time he met Mr. Jackson. She has first-hand knowledge of the doctor’s
relationship with the singer, according to her close friend Ben Harris Jr., who
says she told him she accompanied Dr. Murray on at least four visits to Mr.
Jackson’s residence in 2007.
Ms. Alvarez has declined to talk with detectives without her lawyer present, and
prosecutors are using the grand jury proceeding to compel her to testify, law
enforcement officials said.
Dr. Murray worked as Mr. Jackson’s personal physician from May until the time of
the singer’s death. He was promised a salary of $150,000 a month, but he was
never fully paid, his spokeswoman, Miranda Sevcik, said.
He maintains he did nothing wrong. The Los Angeles County medical examiner has
determined Mr. Jackson died of an overdose of propofol, a powerful sedative used
during surgery, and another sedative, lorazepam; the police are trying to
determine if Dr. Murray made mistakes, either through negligence or by
consciously disregarding risks of the drugs, that would warrant a manslaughter
or murder charge.
Dr. Murray has told the police he had been trying to wean Mr. Jackson off
propofol when he died. That night he had given him three other sedatives, but
finally relented to Mr. Jackson’s requests and gave him a dose of propofol in
the morning to knock him out, according to a police affidavit. A few minutes
later, while the doctor was taking a bathroom break, the singer’s heart stopped.
“He neither prescribed or administered anything to Michael Jackson that should
have killed him,” Ms. Sevcik said.
The key question facing prosecutors and the grand jury is whether Dr. Murray was
negligent, and if so, to what degree, legal experts said. For an involuntary
manslaughter conviction, prosecutors would have to show only that Dr. Murray
took a reckless action — one a reasonable doctor would not take — that created a
risk of death or bodily injury. For second-degree murder, however, they would
have to prove he knew the cocktail of medicines could cause death and ignored
the risk, legal experts said.
With the investigation creeping along as the state looks into whether other
doctors might have abused prescriptions for Mr. Jackson, Dr. Murray now finds
himself at a low point in the tumultuous journey that began when he was a born
to a poor single mother on a subsistence farm in Grenada. It continued in
Trinidad, where he went to high school, then took him to college and medical
school in Houston and Nashville, then on to Southern California, where he began
Finally, a personal crisis involving an extramarital affair drove him from San
Diego to Nevada, where he met Mr. Jackson.
By all accounts, Dr. Murray has always had a charitable streak, a soft spot for
poor people like the ones he grew up with. In June 2006, he founded a cardiology
clinic in the impoverished neighborhood of Houston where his father, whom he did
not know as a child, had been a doctor for years.
If he is charitable, however, he is also less than reliable in his personal
affairs. Dr. Murray has been plagued with unpaid debts, delinquent taxes and
lawsuits from creditors, legal records show.
He has fathered at least seven children with six women over the years, most of
them out of wedlock, according to a deposition he gave in a 1998 paternity suit
in San Diego and a California birth record for his youngest child, who was born
in March. He has been sued several times for unpaid child support, and in his
youth, he was arrested at least twice on charges brought by female companions,
once for fraudulent breach of trust and once for domestic violence, though never
Dr. Murray declined to be interviewed for this article. His spokeswoman, Ms.
Sevcik, said he did not regard his personal life and financial difficulties as
germane to the investigation of Mr. Jackson’s death.
Dr. Murray met Mr. Jackson in 2006, when the singer’s daughter, Paris, became
ill on a trip with Mr. Jackson to Las Vegas, Ms. Sevcik said. A member of the
singer’s entourage knew Dr. Murray and called him in to treat her; he struck up
a friendship with Mr. Jackson.
In May of this year, Mr. Jackson hired Dr. Murray to be his personal physician
on a forthcoming world tour, at a salary of $150,000 a month. Before taking the
job, Dr. Murray consulted with a friend and patient in Houston, the Rev. Floyd
N. Williams, about whether it was a good idea. He would be forsaking his
practice, he noted.
“I told him if he could make him some money, which he wasn’t making out here,
then take it,” Mr. Williams recalled. “I shed a tear that I ever said yes.”
By all accounts, Dr. Murray was in dire financial condition when he took the
job. He had fallen $100,000 behind on the mortgage payments on his
5,200-square-foot home in Las Vegas, and faced foreclosure, an official with
Stewart Title Foreclosure told The Associated Press.
Since April 2008, his practices in Nevada and Texas have faced $634,000 in court
judgments for unpaid rent on office space and medical equipment, court records
in both states show. Among the judgments was an order to pay back more than
$71,000 in loans he took out to go to Meharry Medical School in Nashville in the
He was also supporting Ms. Alvarez in Los Angeles, who had given birth to his
son in March, a California birth certificate shows.
Mr. Harris, Ms. Alvarez’s friend and a Los Angeles novelist, said Dr. Murray
became romantically involved with her four years ago in Las Vegas, where she was
working as a dancer at the Crazy Horse Too club. They met at the club when Dr.
Murray hired Ms. Alvarez for a private dance in the V.I.P. lounge, said Mr.
Harris, who was present.
“I’ve hit the jackpot,” Ms. Alvarez told Mr. Harris later that night, showing
him a check for $3,500 Dr. Murray had given her.
Mr. Harris said Dr. Murray supported Ms. Alvarez, paying the $2,700 rent on her
Santa Monica apartment.
He visited Ms. Alvarez once or twice a month and took her on trips to the
carnival in Trinidad, Mr. Harris said. Ms. Alvarez declined to comment through
her agent, Karl Sanger.
Dr. Murray’s relationship with Ms. Alvarez is notable because he and his wife,
Dr. Blanche Y. Bonnick, had left their practices in San Diego and moved to Las
Vegas in part to escape a similar situation.
The doctor had fathered a child with Nenita Malibiran, a married nurse who lived
near him in San Diego and worked at Sharp Memorial Hospital, where he was on the
staff, her lawyer, Julie A. Brown, said. In 1999, Ms. Malibiran and Dr. Murray
fought in court over child support, and the doctor acknowledged he had a history
of fathering children and then leaving their mothers, Ms. Brown said.
During the trial, Dr. Murray wept on the stand about missing his newest child,
though he had made little attempt to visit him, Ms. Brown recalled. She said the
court had a hard time determining his income because he used a corporation to
After winning the case, Ms. Malibiran had to sue Dr. Murray several times for
failing to pay, most recently gaining a $10,893 lien against him on June 10,
court records in California and Nevada show.
Since Mr. Jackson’s death, Dr. Murray has gone into hiding. He has rarely been
spotted outside his large Las Vegas home, a $1.1 million house overlooking a
Despite the controversy over Mr. Jackson’s death, he has a clean history in his
medical practice. He is licensed in four states, and has no blemishes on his
record. Several patients in Las Vegas and Houston have come forward to vouch for
Art Flowers, 80, of Las Vegas, said he turned to Dr. Murray after another
physician declined to perform an angioplasty following his second heart attack.
Dr. Murray said he would operate.
“My own doctors told me to meditate and mortuate, and he said, ‘I don’t know
what’s the matter with these people, we’ve done thousands of patients like you,’
” Mr. Flowers recalled. “When the Michael Jackson story broke, I couldn’t
believe it. Here’s a guy who is not only a very talented cardiologist, but who
saved my life.”
Differing Sides of
Physician Who Tended to Jackson, NYT, 27.9.2009,
In a Private Service, Last Goodbyes for Jackson
September 4, 2009
The New York Times
By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD
GLENDALE, Calif. — More than two months after he died, and following a steady
trickle of gossip over how and where he would be laid to rest, family members
and friends gathered Thursday night for a private entombment of Michael Jackson
at a highly guarded mausoleum in a Los Angeles suburb.
With closed streets, nervous guards and restricted airspace over the grounds,
the proceedings were taking on the feel of a presidential visit at the cemetery,
Forest Lawn Glendale, where guests began arriving for an evening service.
Only a smattering of fans of Mr. Jackson, one the biggest-selling entertainers
of all time, gathered at blockaded streets around the cemetery, with one group
unfurling a large white banner that read in part “Gone too Soon.”
Members of the news media — 460 people from the around the world received
credentials — far outnumbered the fans, and they greeted every car turning into
the gated grounds with a bouquet of camera flashes and quizzical looks. Was that
Elizabeth Taylor? Joe Jackson?
The police had the streets and airspace around Forest Lawn virtually locked
down, in keeping with the family’s wishes that the service be invitation only.
A memorial service attended by several thousand fans, family members and friends
had already been held for Mr. Jackson, 50, who died June 25. The memorial, on
July 7 at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, took place in the arena
where he had been rehearsing for a series of London concerts expected to revive
But the family never announced burial plans, and news station helicopters lost
track of the hearse carrying his gleaming gold coffin after it left the arena.
Representatives of Mr. Jackson inquired about a burial at the Neverland Ranch he
lived in for several years until after his acquittal on child molesting charges
in 2005, but that proposal would entail months of red tape, local and state
A couple of weeks ago, his family announced he would be entombed at Forest Lawn
Glendale, joining Walt Disney, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, W. C. Fields and
many other famed Hollywood figures.
The cemetery, about eight miles north of downtown Los Angeles, covers 300
verdant acres and includes the statue-studded, castle-like Great Mausoleum that
was chosen as Mr. Jackson’s final resting place.
The cemetery prides itself on a high level of security, with guards shooing away
loiterers and restricting mausoleum visits largely to people authorized by the
family of the deceased.
Mark Masek, who maintains cemeteryguide.com, which tracks entertainers’ graves,
said that a couple of weeks ago guards stopped him from taking pictures outside
the mausoleum and forced him to delete the images.
“They are not kidding,” he said, predicting fans would have trouble finding and
documenting Mr. Jackson’s crypt.
“If they wanted to restrict access and keep people out, they could not have
picked a better place,” he said.
William Martin, a spokesman for the cemetery, declined to discuss security
arrangements for Mr. Jackson’s crypt or what steps might be taken to keep out
“We are very cognizant of what may happen in the near future, and we are taking
the necessary steps,” he said.
The Glendale police have said the family will pay for the costs of security for
the event. The police asked for and received a restriction on the airspace to
safeguard helicopter patrols, a police spokesman said.
A judge Wednesday approved Mr. Jackson’s estate paying the costs, with the total
described in court papers as “extraordinary,” but the actual amount blacked out.
A Glendale police spokesman, Tom Lorenz, said police costs would be no more than
The family bought a bloc of 12 spaces in the mausoleum as a single unit.
“Mrs. Jackson and her family wish to honor her son by a funeral that seeks to
offer solace to his multitude of fans and by which the family also may be
comforted,” Burt Levitch, a lawyer for the singer’s mother, Katherine Jackson,
wrote in a court declaration.
The investigation into Mr. Jackson’s death continues. The coroner has ruled he
died from a mix of the anesthetic propofol and another sedative, injected by
Mr. Jackson’s personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, has told investigators he
gave Mr. Jackson a mix of drugs, including propofol, to help him sleep, but it
is unclear whether he will face criminal charges. Dr. Murray’s lawyer has said
he did not cause Mr. Jackson’s death.
In a Private Service,
Last Goodbyes for Jackson, NYT, 4.0.2009,
Disputed Time in Jackson Case Could Be Key
August 26, 2009
Filed at 5:16 a.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A key point of contention has emerged in the case
investigators are piecing together about the death of Michael Jackson: Exactly
when did Dr. Conrad Murray realize that his patient had stopped breathing?
There are currently two accounts of that moment on June 25, and about an hour
According to police documents, Murray told detectives he put Jackson to sleep
with drugs just minutes before he found the singer not breathing around 11 a.m.,
then let nearly 90 minutes go by -- much of that time on his cell phone --
before an ambulance was called.
But Murray's lawyer says the doctor didn't discover a stricken Jackson until
Investigators have ruled Jackson's death a homicide, based on tests showing he
was killed by the combination of the anesthetic propofol with at least two
sedatives, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press, speaking on
condition of anonymity because the finding has not been publicly released.
The homicide designation does not necessarily mean a crime was committed, though
it's a helpful starting point should prosecutors choose to seek criminal
charges. Police have said Murray is the target of an investigation into
manslaughter, defined as a homicide without malice or premeditation.
Murray told police he spent the morning of June 25 administering various
sedatives to Jackson in an attempt to get him to sleep, according to an
affidavit for a search warrant served last month on Murray's clinic in Houston.
Unsuccessful in inducing rest, the doctor ultimately gave in to the singer's
demands for a dose of propofol around 10:40 a.m.
By 11 a.m., after a short trip to the bathroom, Murray said he saw Jackson was
not breathing and began trying to revive him, both with a ''rescue'' drug and by
performing CPR, according to the documents. An ambulance was not called until
12:21 p.m. and Murray spent much of the intervening time making non-emergency
cell phone calls, police say.
That timeline is flawed, said Murray's attorney, Edward Chernoff, who was
present when investigators spent three hours interviewing the doctor June 27.
Chernoff said Murray never told police he found Jackson not breathing at 11 a.m.
-- instead, it was more like noon.
''Their theory is he came back and wasn't breathing. That's not what Dr. Murray
told them,'' Chernoff said Tuesday. ''They are confusing the time Michael
Jackson went to sleep with the time he stopped breathing.''
Chernoff did not provide additional detail about what Murray had told police.
Home use of propofol is virtually unheard of -- safe administration requires
lifesaving equipment and a trained anesthesiologist monitoring the patient at
all times. While the 25 mg dose Murray said he gave Jackson was relatively
small, its combination with the sedatives lorazepam and midazolam proved deadly.
Even if Murray found Jackson around noon, he still waited too long to call an
ambulance, said one medical expert, adding that anyone -- including doctors --
should make calling an ambulance their first priority.
''In a situation like that, time is life,'' said Dr. Douglas Zipes, an Indiana
University heart specialist and past president of the American College of
Cardiology. ''It's got to be immediate or you are going to lose the
Phone records show Murray spent 47 minutes between 11:18 and 12:05 making three
personal calls. One of the calls was to one of Murray's offices, Chernoff said,
adding that the doctor never told investigators about the calls because he
wasn't asked about them.
At 12:13 p.m., Murray made a four-second call to Jackson's personal assistant,
Michael Amir Williams, pleading for help, Williams' attorney Carl Douglas said.
Within two minutes, Williams called Alberto Alvarez, Jackson's bodyguard, with a
Douglas, who also represents Alvarez, said the bodyguard hurried to the top
floor of Jackson's rented mansion, a private sanctum where staff were not
normally allowed, and assisted a confused-looking Murray as he frantically tried
to revive Jackson. It was Alvarez that placed the 911 call at 12:21 p.m.
Douglas said Alvarez might be able to shed some light on Murray's actions but,
two months after the death, police investigators had still not formally
interviewed his client and had only spoken fleetingly with him at the hospital
immediately after Jackson was pronounced dead.
Douglas said he was ''dismayed at the seeming haphazard manner investigators
have gone about obtaining information.''
Deputy Police Chief Charlie Beck declined to comment, citing the continuing
Chernoff did not provide additional detail about what Murray had told police.
Early on in the case, the lawyer released a statement saying his client didn't
give any drugs that ''should have'' killed Jackson. Asked to elaborate on the
statement, Chernoff said: ''I stand by that assertion and I believe that will be
borne out in time.''
Disputed Time in Jackson
Case Could Be Key, NYT, 26.8.2009,
Court Papers Show Jackson Died of Propofol
August 25, 2009
The New York Times
By SOLOMON MOORE
LOS ANGELES — Lethal levels of a powerful anesthetic caused
Michael Jackson’s death, according to preliminary coroner findings cited in
Texas court documents unsealed Monday.
The documents, a pair of search warrants and affidavits filed by the police in
July to search the Houston office and storage unit of Dr. Conrad Murray, Mr.
Jackson’s private doctor, provide the most detailed evidence against Dr. Murray
by the Los Angeles Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The police told judges in Texas and Nevada that they suspected Dr. Murray of
manslaughter, according to documents filed there.
According to the warrants, Dr. Murray told investigators that he had
administered an intravenous drip of 50 milligrams of propofol, an anesthetic, to
Mr. Jackson nightly for six weeks before the singer’s death at his Holmby Hills
home to help him sleep. Dr. Murray also administered lorazepam, an anti-anxiety
drug that can be addictive, and midazolam, a muscle relaxant, to treat Mr.
The chief coroner for Los Angeles County, Dr. Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran,
indicated that his preliminary assessment of the cause of death was due to a
lethal dose of propofol, according to the court documents. They also describe
how Dr. Murray administered propofol and other drugs, including Valium, on June
25, the day Mr. Jackson died.
“After approximately 10 minutes, Murray stated he left Jackson’s side to go to
the restroom,” the documents show. “Murray stated he was out of the room for
about two minutes maximum. Upon his return, Murray noticed that Jackson was no
Dr. Murray said he tried to resuscitate Mr. Jackson and administered flumazenil,
a drug to reverse the effects of the sedatives in his system, and then called
Mr. Jackson’s personal assistant, Michael Amir Williams, for help. Dr. Murray
asked the singer’s chef to send one of his sons upstairs to the bedroom as he
continued cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Dr. Murray waited about 82 minutes before anyone called paramedics to the home,
according to the court documents.
Investigators said Dr. Murray did not initially tell paramedics or doctors that
he had given Mr. Jackson propofol.
Mr. Jackson was eventually taken to University of California Los Angeles Medical
Center, where he died. Medical experts said Monday that the combination of drugs
Mr. Jackson was given would have exacerbated the effect of the propofol.
Drugs like lorazepam and Valium have the effect of slowing a person’s breathing.
“If you are going to put on top of that some propofol, you are not only standing
on thin ice, but starting to jump up and down on that ice,” said Dr. John F.
Dombrowski, director of the Washington Pain Center. “If you don’t have someone
who knows how to manage respiratory depression, you’re going to die.” He and
others said because propofol acts so quickly to slow breathing and lower blood
pressure, it is possible that Mr. Jackson could have stopped breathing in the
short time Dr. Murray indicated he left his bedside to go to the restroom.
The documents indicate that Dr. Murray tried to revive Mr. Jackson with
flumazenil, which reverses the effects of benzodiazepines like lorazepam. But
“there’s no drug that reverses propofol per se,” said Dr. Robert R. Kirby, an
And waiting 82 minutes to call 911 was inexplicable, experts said. “Lord, no;
you’d call right away,” Dr. Kirby said.
Investigators said they found numerous bottles of medications prescribed by
various doctors at Mr. Jackson’s bedside and throughout his living quarters.
Dr. Murray said that he was not the first doctor to administer propofol to Mr.
Jackson, that he suspected Mr. Jackson was addicted to the drug and that he
tried to wean him off of it, the documents state. Dr. Murray told the police
that the singer referred to propofol as his “milk.” On the day he died, Mr.
Jackson was unable to sleep and, after repeated demands, the doctor administered
propofol in an IV drip.
Investigators also interviewed Cherilyn Lee, a nurse who described how Mr.
Jackson asked her to obtain propofol for him.
“He stated he would pay her or another doctor whatever they wanted for it,”
according to the affidavit. Ms. Lee told investigators that she refused.
On June 1, Mr. Jackson’s bodyguard called to tell her Mr. Jackson was ill.
“She heard Jackson in the background saying, ‘One side of my body is hot, and
the other side is cold,’ ” according to the affidavits. Ms. Lee told
investigators that she told the bodyguard he should go to the hospital.
Dr. Murray was a cardiologist in Houston, Las Vegas and Los Angeles for 20
years. Earlier this year, AEG, an event promoter and stadium operator, hired him
to be Mr. Jackson’s personal physician during a planned series of 50 concerts in
London, for a monthly salary of $150,000.
An agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, which investigates
prescription fraud, said records showed that despite the discovery of bottles of
propofol at Mr. Jackson’s home, Dr. Murray “never ordered, purchased nor
received any propofol.” Dr. Murray told investigators that Mr. Jackson obtained
propofol from various sources, including two unidentified doctors in Germany and
an anesthesiologist in Las Vegas.
Public records show that Dr. Murray was in serious financial trouble before he
became Mr. Jackson’s doctor, facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in debts
and liens and a Las Vegas home in foreclosure proceedings.
Ed Chernoff, a lawyer for Dr. Murray, said in a statement: “Much of what was in
the search warrant affidavit is factual. However, unfortunately, much is police
theory. Most egregiously, the timeline reported by law enforcement was not
obtained through interviews with Dr. Murray.”
Lt. Fred Corral, an investigator at the Los Angeles County coroner’s office,
said the toxicology tests and a final autopsy report had been completed but were
being kept confidential at the request of the Los Angeles Police Department,
which continues to investigate Dr. Murray.
A spokesman for the police department said he had no official statement since
the investigation was continuing.
Pam Belluck contributed reporting from Nantucket, Mass.
Court Papers Show
Jackson Died of Propofol, NYT, 25.8.2009,
Manslaughter Inquiry Into Jackson’s Doctor
July 24, 2009
The New York Times
By SOLOMON MOORE
LOS ANGELES — The cardiologist who tried to revive Michael Jackson the day he
died is being investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department on suspicion of
manslaughter, according to two sealed search warrants filed Thursday.
The search warrants confirm that the inquiry into Mr. Jackson’s death last month
has become a criminal investigation.
The warrants, filed in Harris County District Court in Texas, were executed by
officers with the Los Angeles and Houston police and agents for the Drug
Enforcement Administration during the raids Wednesday at an office and a
self-storage unit in Houston of the cardiologist, Dr. Conrad Murray.
An inventory of evidence confiscated from the search of the office, at the
Armstrong Medical Clinic, includes Rolodex cards, e-mail messages, letters, a
phone receipt and two vials of medication — phentermine, an appetite
suppressant, and clonazepam, an anti-anxiety drug. Investigators also took a
forensic copy of Dr. Murray’s computer.
A list of evidence obtained at a rental storage unit included computer hard
drives, compact discs and dozens of documents including a medical suspension
notice from a local hospital.
Investigators searched the medical clinic at 10:50 a.m. Wednesday and found
receipts for the storage unit, which they raided four hours later.
Charles Lyon, whose wife manages Eighteenth Street Self Storage, said in a
telephone interview on Thursday that Dr. Murray rented unit No. 337 on April 1
under the name of Acres Home Heart Vascular Institute.
Mr. Lyon said a Los Angeles police officer and two officers with the Houston
Police Department arrived Wednesday afternoon and asked to see the unit.
“Then they went and got a search warrant and I went up there and cut the lock,”
Dr. Murray, who worked in California, Nevada and Texas, is among several doctors
police investigators have interviewed in connection with Mr. Jackson’s death.
Dr. Murray had been recently hired by Mr. Jackson to attend to him during a
planned 50-concert tour.
Ed Winter, the assistant chief coroner for Los Angeles County, said he expected
his office to issue a final autopsy report next week.
Coroner officials confiscated several bags of medical supplies and drugs from
Mr. Jackson’s Holmby Hills home after his death. The cause of his death has been
listed as “deferred” pending a death investigation. A coroner’s official said
this week that toxicology test results had been completed, but that the results
were being analyzed.
Calls to Dr. Murray’s office and to his lawyer, Ed Chernoff, for interviews were
not returned. A statement posted Wednesday on Mr. Chernoff’s Web site confirmed
that the authorities were investigating his client on suspicion of manslaughter
and that they had taken documents and other evidence from his office.
Dr. Murray was well known in Houston, where he practiced medicine in the
predominantly black neighborhood of Acres Home, where his father, Dr. Rawle
Andrews, had established himself as one the few black doctors serving the
community before desegregation.
“Dr. Murray’s been my doctor five or six years,” said Cuney Williams, who had
surgery performed by Dr. Murray. “He saved my life and my husband’s life.”
Into Jackson’s Doctor, NYT, 24.7.2009,
Sky Saxon, Lead Singer and Bassist for the Seeds, Dies
June 27, 2009
The New York Times
By BRUCE WEBER
Sky Saxon, the mop-haired bass player and front man for the psychedelic
protopunk band the Seeds, whose 1965 song “Pushin’ Too Hard” put a Los Angeles
garage-band spin on the bad-boy rocker image personified by the Rolling Stones,
died Thursday in Austin, Tex. He was thought to be 71.
His death was announced by his wife, Sabrina Smith Saxon, on her Facebook page.
In a telephone interview on Thursday, she said the cause was heart failure.
Mr. Saxon, who had remained an active musician, played his final gig at an
Austin club with a local backup band on Saturday night and was taken to the
hospital on Monday, she said.
The Seeds, formed in 1965, were a short-lived but cultishly memorable band that
melded primitive rock rhythms with the free-love message of the flower power
generation. Both their look (mod fashions and bowl-cut hairdos) and their sound
borrowed from British rockers. Critics gave them credit for helping to
popularize psychedelic rock and for prefiguring the punk movement.
Mr. Saxon composed songs and played electric bass, but it was perhaps his
sullen, stylized lead vocals that best characterized the band. Never as
threatening as the Stones, they were, instead, rather sweetly dangerous,
appearing on white-bread television music and dance shows like “American
Bandstand” wearing tailored bellbottoms and velour shirts or shiny Nehru
jackets. Mr. Saxon voiced the vaguely menacing lyrics to songs like “Can’t Seem
to Make You Mine,” “Painted Doll” or “Pushin’ Too Hard,” a pulsing, anthemic
warning to any girlfriend with ambitions to rein in her man.
The Seeds flamed out in the early 1970s, but they lingered in the annals of rock
history as representatives of their time and place. Their songs have appeared in
movies including “Cop Land” (1997) with Sylvester Stallone and “Secretary”
(2002), the story of a dominant-submissive relationship, which starred James
Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Sky Sunlight Saxon was the name he used in later years, the middle name given to
him in the 1970s as a member of the Source Family, a spiritual cult whose leader
— known as Father Yod or Ya Ho Wha — started what has been described as the
quintessential hippie commune; Mr. Saxon was also known within it as Arelich. He
was born Richard Elvern Marsh in Salt Lake City in 1937, according to several
online sources. Ms. Saxon said her husband’s birthday was Aug. 20 but would not
confirm the year because he believed age was irrelevant, she said. He moved to
Los Angeles to start a music career after high school.
Mr. Saxon’s first marriage ended in divorce. In addition to his wife, whom he
married in 2007, his survivors include an unspecified number of siblings,
several children and grandchildren.
After the Seeds dissolved, Mr. Saxon performed and recorded with numerous bands,
including some he called the Seeds, and he occasionally played with the Source
Family’s own band, known as Ya Ho Wha 13. In 1998, he arranged for a 13-CD boxed
set of its music to be produced in Japan.
“Sky has passed over and Ya Ho Wha is waiting for him at the gate,” his wife
wrote on Facebook. “He will soon be home with his Father.”
Sky Saxon, Lead Singer
and Bassist for the Seeds, Dies, NYT, 27.6.2009,
Shock and Grief Over Jackson’s Death
June 27, 2009
The New York Times
By SHARON OTTERMAN and LIZ ROBBINS
Around the country and the world Friday, legions of grief-stricken fans of
the King of Pop mourned the sudden death of Michael Jackson with spontaneous
flower-laden memorials and emotional tributes, as the autopsy to determine the
cause of his mysterious death was scheduled to begin in Los Angeles.
The autopsy would take several hours Friday, but toxicology results could take
six to eight weeks, the Los Angeles County assistant chief coroner Lt. Ed Winter
Mr. Jackson’s brother Jermaine said on Thursday that the preliminary cause of
death was cardiac arrest. The singer, 50, had been rushed to the hospital, a
six-minute drive from the rented Bel-Air home where he was living, shortly after
noon local time by paramedics for the Los Angeles Fire Department. He was
pronounced dead at 2:26 pm.
The Los Angeles Police Department opened an investigation, as a formality and
because of Mr. Jackson’s enormous celebrity, a police spokesman said, and
detectives began their search of Mr. Jackson’s house Thursday.
Brian Oxman, a former lawyer of Mr. Jackson’s and a family friend, gave
interviews expressing his concerns about Mr. Jackson’s health, and saying that
prescription drugs might have been a factor in his death Thursday.
“I said one day, we’re going to have this experience,” Mr. Oxman said Friday on
the Today Show. “And when Anna Nicole Smith passed away, I said we cannot have
this kind of thing with Michael Jackson.”
Mr. Oxman told the Early Show on CBS: "I do not want to point fingers at anyone
because I want to hear what the toxicology report says and the coroner says. But
the plain fact of the matter is that Michael Jackson had prescription drugs at
his disposal at all times.”
The Associated Press reported that in 2007, Mr. Jackson settled a lawsuit filed
by a Beverly Hills pharmacy that claimed the singer owed more than $100,000 for
prescription drugs over a two-year period.
Mr. Jackson was a global pop icon whose behavior and appearance turned more
bizarre as his career went into decline and he appeared more frail in recent
years. He was haunted by lawsuits, failed plastic surgery and, according to
several reports, had debts of hundreds of millions of dollars.
But he was also preparing for a splashy comeback that was to begin in less than
three weeks with the first of 50 concerts at London’s O2 Arena. The tour was
named “This is It.”
Mr. Jackson’s brand of pop knew no borders and needed no translation, linking
listeners around the world through the accessible corridors of rhythm, beat, and
dance. As reaction to his sudden death began to pour in Friday, its extent
underscored how far his influence had spread. In a way, it was as if his fans
were embodying the spirit of Mr. Jackson’s mega-hit song, “We are the World.”
From Sydney to Hong Kong, China to Los Angeles, fans spoke of their shock and
sadness. They gathered outside left flowers and a teddy bear outside his
childhood home in Gary, Ind.
His music echoed from cafes and car speakers, and everyone from national leaders
on down seemed to weigh in.
President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela called the star’s death “lamentable news,”
though he criticized the media for giving it so much attention. Former South
Korean President Kim Dae-jung, who had met Mr. Jackson, said: “We lost a hero of
In Paris, fans planned a memorial moonwalk at the Eiffel Tower for Sunday, and a
ceremony in his honor is to be held at the 13th-century Notre Dame cathedral
Fans lit candles at a spontaneous gathering in Hong Kong, while in the
Philippines, a dance tribute was planned for a prison in Cebu, where Byron
Garcia, a security consultant, had 1,500 inmates join in a synchronized dance to
the “Thriller” video.
“My heart is heavy because my idol died,” he said. Online, the traffic was so
thick with people sharing news of his death that the microblogging service
Twitter crashed, and even Google, the search giant, believed it may have been
under service attack, the BBC reported.
The former Philippine first lady, Imelda Marcos, said she cried on hearing the
“Michael Jackson enriched our lives, made us happy,” she said in a statement.
“The accusations, the persecution caused him so much financial and mental
anguish. He was vindicated in court, but the battle took his life. There is
probably a lesson here for all of us.”
Quincy Jones, who worked closely with Jackson on some of his most successful
recordings, led tributes from the music world.
“I am absolutely devastated at this tragic and unexpected news,” he said of one
of the first black entertainers of the MTV generation to gain a big crossover
The film directors Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg also paid tribute. Mr.
Scorsese told MTV.com: “Michael Jackson was extraordinary. When we worked
together on “Bad,” I was in awe of his absolute mastery of movement on the one
hand, and of the music on the other. Every step he took was absolutely precise
and fluid at the same time. It was like watching quicksilver in motion.
“He was wonderful to work with, an absolute professional at all times, and — it
really goes without saying — a true artist. It will be a while before I can get
used to the idea that he’s no longer with us.”
Mr. Spielberg told Entertainment Weekly: “Just as there will never be another
Fred Astaire or Chuck Berry or Elvis Presley, there will never be anyone
comparable to Michael Jackson. His talent, his wonderment and his mystery make
Fellow singer Celine Dion said in a statement, “I am shocked. I am overwhelmed
by this tragedy. Michael Jackson has been an idol for me all my life.”
In London, where the start of Mr. Jackson’s comeback tour had been pushed back
to July 13 from July 8, and fans the culture secretary, Ben Bradshaw, issued a
statement to announce his grief. He said he was “a long-time fan of Michael
Jackson and had Billie Jean played as the first dance at his civil partnership,”
the Guardian reported.
Bands playing at the open-air Glastonbury Festival in Scotland this weekend were
expected to pay homage to Mr. Jackson’s musical achievements, and a tribute
show, “Thriller Live,” featuring his songs, was to go forward as planned in
London’s West End.
Shock and Grief Over
Jackson’s Death, NYT, 27.6.2009,
FACTBOX: Key facts about Michael Jackson
Fri Jun 26, 2009
(Reuters) - Michael Jackson, 50, one of pop music's biggest
stars, was rushed to a Los Angeles-area hospital by paramedics who found him not
breathing when they arrived at his home, the Los Angeles Times said, quoting
fire officials. The TMZ website reported later he had died.
There was no official confirmation of the reported death, and spokesmen for
Jackson could not be reached for comment.
Here are some key facts about Jackson.
* Jackson was born on August 29, 1958, in Gary, Indiana, the seventh of nine
children. Five Jackson boys -- Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael --
first performed together at a talent show when Michael was 6. They walked off
with first prize.
* Their group later became The Jackson Five, and when it was signed by Motown
Records in the late 1960s it underwent its final metamorphosis to become The
Jackson 5. Jackson made his first solo album in 1972.
* Jackson released "Thriller" in 1982, which became a smash hit that yielded
seven top-ten singles. The album sold 21 million copies in the United States and
at least 27 million worldwide.
* The next year, he unveiled his signature "moonwalk" dance move while
performing "Billie Jean" during an NBC special.
* Jackson's lifetime record sales tally is believed to be about 750 million,
which, added to the 13 Grammy Awards he has received, makes him one of the most
successful entertainers of all time.
* In 1993, Jackson was accused of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy, and police
raided his California ranch "Neverland."
* The same year, Jackson announced he had become addicted to painkillers and
abruptly canceled a world tour to promote his album, "Dangerous."
* He reached a settlement in 1994, later reported to be $23 million, with the
family of the boy he was accused of abusing.
MARRIAGE & FAMILY:
* In 1994, Jackson married Elvis Presley's only child, Lisa Marie, but the
marriage ended in divorce in 1996. Jackson married Debbie Rowe the same year and
had two children, before splitting in 1999. The couple never lived together.
* Jackson has three children named Prince Michael I, Paris Michael and Prince
Michael II, known for his brief public appearance when his father held him over
the railing of a hotel balcony, causing widespread criticism.
* A television documentary "Living with Michael Jackson" was aired in 2003,
saying that Jackson still had sleepovers with young boys and had his third child
with a surrogate mother. Jackson aired his own rebuttal.
* Jackson went on trial in 2005 on charges of molesting a 13-year-old boy in
2003, as well as conspiring to abduct the boy. The singer faced nearly 20 years
in prison if convicted.
* The four-month trial ended in June 2005 with his being acquitted of all
charges. Jackson has spent time in Bahrain, Ireland and France since the child
molestation case ended.
* After several false dawns, Jackson and music promoter AEG Live announced he
would perform 50 concerts at London's O2 Arena. Jackson had been due to start
the concerts on July 13. Jackson had been rehearsing in the Los Angeles area for
the London shows, which sold out within hours of within hours of going on sale
FACTBOX: Key facts
about Michael Jackson, R, 26.6.2009,
The Pop Star and the Private Equity Firms
June 26, 2009
The New York Times > Dealbook
Michael Jackson delighted people around the world with his music, inspired
countless amateur moonwalkers with his moves and had an untold, but surely huge,
effect on the sales of individual white gloves.
The pop superstar, who died unexpectedly on Thursday, also kept a lot of people
in high finance very busy. His wealth, and, later in his career, his expanding
debt, became fodder for deals with private equity firms such as Fortress
Investment Group and Colony Capital as well as big banks such as Citigroup and
Bank of America.
In the process, his fantastical Neverland Ranch in California was nearly put on
the auction block — saved only when one investment firm swooped in to buy the
related debt from another firm, with hopes of backing, and profiting from, a
revival of Mr. Jackson’s career.
A lot of Mr. Jackson’s monetary dealings have been conducted in private. But
several of the pivotal moments have been described in media reports over the
Driving many of the deals was Mr. Jackson’s increasingly unmanageable debt load
— something that private equity firms can probably relate to these days.
A 2006 article in The New York Times said the principal drains on Mr. Jackon’s
finances may have been “monumentally unwise investments that apparently produced
equally colossal losses” — and, later, the payments to service his debt.
A financial adviser to Mr. Jackson described how he might have frittered away
$50 million on things like amusement-park ideas and “bizarre, global kinds of
computerized Marvel comic-book characters bigger than life.”
In 2003, Fortress Investment, a private equity and hedge fund firm that has
since gone public, bought some of Mr. Jackson’s loans from Bank of America after
the pop singer missed some payments. Shortly before Christmas in 2005, Fortress
threatened to call the loans because of his delinquency, The Times reported.
A few months later, a new deal was reached, as part of a $300 million
refinancing structured by Citigroup.
Mr. Jackson’s financial problems continued, however, and in spring of 2008, it
looked as if Fortress would foreclose on the Neverland Ranch. But Colony
Capital, a private equity firm led by Thomas Barrack, stepped in to buy Mr.
Jackson’s loan from Fortress, averting an auction.
A few months later, the deed to Neverland was transferred to Sycamore Valley
Ranch Company, a joint venture between Mr. Jackson and Colony.
Just a few weeks ago, Mr. Barrack expressed optimism about Mr. Jackson’s career
and his plans for a concert series in London. “You are talking about a guy who
could make $500 million a year if he puts his mind to it,” Mr. Barrack told The
Los Angeles Times.
While the wrangling over Mr. Jackson’s Neverland Ranch was among the most
visible signs of his financial troubles, the debt ran far deeper. Over the
years, he amassed hundreds of millions of dollars in other loans to fund his
The collateral for those loans is not his real estate, but Mr. Jackson’s stake
in Sony/ATV Music Publishing. It’s a valuable asset: It holds a portfolio of
thousands of songs, including rights to 259 songs by John Lennon and Paul
The Pop Star and the
Private Equity Firms, NYT, 26.6.2009,
Michael Jackson, Pop Icon, Is Dead at 50
June 26, 2009
The New York Times
By BROOKS BARNES
LOS ANGELES — For his legions of fans, he was the Peter Pan of
pop music: the little boy who refused to grow up. But on the verge of another
attempted comeback, he is suddenly gone, this time for good.
Michael Jackson, whose quintessentially American tale of celebrity and excess
took him from musical boy wonder to global pop superstar to sad figure haunted
by lawsuits, paparazzi and failed plastic surgery, was pronounced dead on
Thursday afternoon at U.C.L.A. Medical Center after arriving in a coma, a city
official said. Mr. Jackson was 50, having spent 40 of those years in the public
eye he loved.
The singer was rushed to the hospital, a six-minute drive from the rented
Bel-Air home in which he was living, shortly after noon by paramedics for the
Los Angeles Fire Department. A hospital spokesman would not confirm reports of
cardiac arrest. He was pronounced dead at 2:26 pm.
As with Elvis Presley or the Beatles, it is impossible to calculate the full
effect Mr. Jackson had on the world of music. At the height of his career, he
was indisputably the biggest star in the world; he has sold more than 750
million albums. Radio stations across the country reacted to his death with
marathon sessions of his songs. MTV, which grew successful in part as a result
of Mr. Jackson’s groundbreaking videos, reprised its early days as a music
channel by showing his biggest hits.
From his days as the youngest brother in the Jackson 5 to his solo career in the
1980s and early 1990s, Mr. Jackson was responsible for a string of hits like “I
Want You Back,” “I’ll Be There” “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” “Billie Jean”
and “Black and White” that exploited his high voice, infectious energy and ear
for irresistible hooks.
As a solo performer, Mr. Jackson ushered in the age of pop as a global product —
not to mention an age of spectacle and pop culture celebrity. He became more
character than singer: his sequined glove, his whitened face, his moonwalk dance
move became embedded in the cultural firmament.
His entertainment career hit high-water marks with the release of “Thriller,”
from 1982, which has been certified 28 times platinum by the Recording Industry
Association of America, and with the “Victory” world tour that reunited him with
his brothers in 1984.
But soon afterward, his career started a bizarre disintegration. His darkest
moment undoubtedly came in 2003, when he was indicted on child molesting
charges. A young cancer patient claimed the singer had befriended him and then
groped him at his Neverland estate near Santa Barbara, Calif., but Mr. Jackson
was acquitted on all charges.
Reaction to his death started trickling in from the entertainment community late
“I am absolutely devastated at this tragic and unexpected news,” the music
producer Quincy Jones said in a statement. “I’ve lost my little brother today,
and part of my soul has gone with him.”
Berry Gordy, the Motown founder who helped develop the Jackson 5, told CNN that
Mr. Jackson, as a boy, “always wanted to be the best, and he was willing to work
as hard as it took to be that. And we could all see that he was a winner at that
Tommy Mottola, a former head of Sony Music, called Mr. Jackson “the cornerstone
to the entire music business.”
“He bridged the gap between rhythm and blues and pop music and made it into a
global culture,” said Mr. Mottola, who worked with Mr. Jackson until the singer
cut his ties with Sony in 2001.
Impromptu vigils broke out around the world, from Portland, Ore., where fans
organized a one-gloved bike ride (“glittery costumes strongly encouraged”) to
Hong Kong, where fans gathered with candles and sang his songs.
In Los Angeles, hundreds of fans — some chanting Mr. Jackson’s name, some doing
the “Thriller” dance — descended on the hospital and on the hillside house where
he was staying.
Jeremy Vargas, 38, hoisted his wife, Erica Renaud, 38, on his shoulders and they
danced and bopped to “Man in the Mirror” playing from an onlooker’s iPod
connected to external speakers — the boom boxes of Mr. Jackson’s hey day long
past their day.
“I am in shock and awe,” said Ms. Renaud, who was visiting from Red Hook,
Brooklyn, with her family. “He was like a family member to me.”
Dreams of a Comeback
Mr. Jackson was an object of fascination for the news media since the Jackson
5’s first hit, “I Want You Back,” in 1969. His public image wavered between that
of the musical naif, who wanted only to recapture his youth by riding on
roller-coasters and having sleepovers with his friends, to the calculated mogul
who carefully constructed his persona around his often-baffling public behavior.
Mr. Jackson had been scheduled to perform 50 concerts at the O2 arena in London
beginning next month and continuing into 2010. The shows, which quickly sold
out, were positioned as a comeback, with the potential to earn him up to $50
million, according to some reports.
But there had also been worry and speculation that Mr. Jackson was not
physically ready for such an arduous run of concerts, and his postponement of
the first of those shows to July 13 from July 8 fueled new rounds of gossip
about his health. Nevertheless, he was rehearsing Wednesday night at the Staples
Center in downtown Los Angeles. “The primary reason for the concerts wasn’t so
much that he was wanting to generate money as much as it was that he wanted to
perform for his kids,” said J. Randy Taraborrelli, whose biography, “Michael
Jackson: The Magic and the Madness,” was first published by Citadel in 1991.
“They had never seen him perform before.”
Mr. Jackson’s brothers, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Randy, have all had
performing careers, with varying success, since they stopped performing
together. (Randy, the youngest, replaced Jermaine when the Jackson 5 left
Motown.) His sisters, Rebbie, La Toya and Janet, are also singers, and Janet
Jackson has been a major star in her own right for two decades. They all survive
him, as do his parents, Joseph and Katherine Jackson, of Las Vegas, and three
children: Michael Joseph Jackson Jr., Paris Michael Katherine Jackson, born to
Mr. Jackson’s second wife, Deborah Jeanne Rowe, and Prince Michael Jackson II,
the son of a surrogate mother. Mr. Jackson was also briefly married to Lisa
Marie Presley, the daughter of Elvis Presley.
A spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department said the department assigned
its robbery and homicide division to investigate the death, but the spokesman
said that was because of Mr. Jackson’s celebrity.
“Don’t read into anything,” the spokesman told reporters gathered outside the
Bel-Air house. He said the coroner had taken possession of the body and would
conduct an investigation.
At a news conference at the hospital, Jermaine Jackson spoke to reporters about
his brother. “It is believed he suffered cardiac arrest at his home,” he said
softly. A personal physician first tried to resuscitate Michael Jackson at his
home before paramedics arrived. A team of doctors then tried to resuscitate him
for more than an hour, his brother said.
“May our love be with you always,” Jermaine Jackson concluded, his gaze aloft.
In Gary, Ind., hundreds of people descended upon the squat clapboard house were
Mr. Jackson spent his earliest years. There were tears, loud wails, and quiet
prayers as old neighbors joined hands with people who had driven in from Chicago
and other nearby towns to pay their respects.
“Just continue to glorify the man, Lord,” said Ida Boyd-King, a local pastor who
led the crowd in prayer. “Let’s give God praise for Michael.”
Shelletta Hinton, 40, drove to Gary from Chicago with her two young children.
She said they had met Mr. Jackson in Gary a couple of years ago when he received
a key to the city. “We felt like we were close to Michael,” she said. “This is a
As dusk set in, mourners lighted candles and placed them on the concrete
doorstep. Some left teddy bears and personal notes. Doris Darrington, 77, said
she remembered seeing the Jackson 5 so many times around Gary that she got sick
of them. But she, too, was feeling hurt by the sudden news of Mr. Jackson’s
“He has always been a source of pride for Gary, even though he wasn’t around
much,” she said. “The older person, that’s not the Michael we knew. We knew the
little bitty boy with the big Afro and the brown skin. That’s how I’ll always
Michael Joseph Jackson was born in Gary on Aug. 29, 1958. The second youngest of
six brothers, he began performing professionally with four of them at the age of
5 in a group that their father, Joe, a steelworker, had organized the previous
year. In 1968, the group, originally called the Jackson Brothers, was signed by
Motown Records. The Jackson 5 was an instant phenomenon. The group’s first four
singles — “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save” and “I’ll Be There” —
all reached No. 1 on the pop charts in 1970, a feat no group had accomplished
before. And young Michael was the center of attention: he handled virtually all
the lead vocals, danced with energy and finesse, and displayed a degree of
showmanship rare in a performer of any age.
In 1971, Mr. Jackson began recording under his own name, while continuing to
perform with his brothers. His recording of “Ben,” the title song from a movie
about a boy and his homicidal pet rat, was a No. 1 hit in 1972.
The brothers (minus Michael’s older brother Jermaine, who was married to the
daughter of Berry Gordy, Motown’s founder and chief executive) left Motown in
1975 and, rechristened the Jacksons, signed to Epic, a unit of CBS Records.
Three years later, Michael made his movie debut as the Scarecrow in the screen
version of the hit Broadway musical “The Wiz.” But movie stardom proved not to
be his destiny.
A Solo Sensation
Music stardom on an unprecedented level, however, was. Mr. Jackson’s first solo
album for Epic, “Off the Wall,” released in 1979, yielded four No. 1 singles and
sold seven million copies, but it was a mere prologue to what came next. His
follow-up, “Thriller,” released in 1982, became the best-selling album of all
time and helped usher in the music video age. The video for title track,
directed by John Landis, was an elaborate horror-movie pastiche that was more of
a mini-movie than a promotional clip.
Seven of the nine tracks on “Thriller” were released as singles and reached the
Top 10. The album spent two years on the Billboard album chart and sold an
estimated 100 million copies worldwide. It also won eight Grammy Awards.
The choreographer and director Vincent Paterson, who directed Mr. Jackson in
several videos recalled watching him rehearse a dance sequence for four hours in
front of a mirror until it felt like second nature.
“That’s how he developed the moonwalk, working on it for days if not weeks until
it was organic,” he said. “He took an idea that he had seen some street kids
doing and perfected it.”
Mr. Jackson’s next album, “Bad,” released in 1987, sold eight million copies and
produced five No. 1 singles and another state-of-the-art video, this one
directed by Martin Scorsese. It was a huge hit by almost anyone else’s
standards, but an inevitable letdown after “Thriller.”
It was at this point that Mr. Jackson’s bizarre private life began to overshadow
his music. He would go on to release several more albums and, from time to time,
to stage elaborate concert tours. And he would never be too far from the public
eye. But it would never again be his music that kept him there.
Even with the millions Mr. Jackson earned, his eccentric lifestyle took a severe
financial toll. In 1988 Mr. Jackson paid about $17 million for a 2,600-acre
ranch in Los Olivos, Calif., 125 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Calling it
Neverland after the mythical island of Peter Pan, he outfitted the property with
amusement-park rides, a zoo and a 50-seat theater, at a cost of $35 million,
according to reports, and the ranch became his sanctum.
But Neverland, and Mr. Jackson’s lifestyle, were expensive to maintain. A
forensic accountant who testified at Mr. Jackson’s molesting trial in 2005 said
Mr. Jackson’s annual budget in 1999 included $7.5 million for personal expenses
and $5 million to maintain Neverland. By at least the late 1990s, he began to
take out huge loans to support himself and pay debts. In 1998, he took out a
loan for $140 million from Bank of America, which two years later was increased
to $200 million. Further loans of hundreds of millions followed.
The collateral for the loans was Mr. Jackson’s 50 percent share in Sony/ATV
Music Publishing, a portfolio of thousands of songs, including rights to 259
songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, considered some of the most valuable
properties in music.
In 1985, Mr. Jackson paid $47.5 million for ATV, which included the Beatles
songs — a move that estranged him from Mr. McCartney, who had advised him to
invest in music rights — and 10 years later, Mr. Jackson sold 50 percent of his
interest to Sony for $90 million, creating a joint venture, Sony/ATV. Estimates
of the catalog’s value exceed $1 billion.
Last year, Neverland narrowly escaped foreclosure after Mr. Jackson defaulted on
$24.5 million he owed on the property. A Los Angeles real estate investment
company, Colony Capital L.L.C., bought the note, and put the title for the
property into a joint venture with Mr. Jackson.
A Scandal’s Heavy Toll
In many ways, Mr. Jackson never recovered from the child molesting trial, a
lurid affair that attracted media from around the world to watch as Mr. Jackson,
wearing a different costume each day, appeared in a small courtroom in Santa
Maria, Calif., to listen as a parade of witnesses spun a sometimes-incredible
The case ultimately turned on the credibility of Mr. Jackson’s accuser, a
15-year-old cancer survivor who said the defendant had gotten him drunk and
molested him several times. The boy’s younger brother testified that he had seen
Mr. Jackson groping his brother on two other occasions.
After 14 weeks of such testimony and seven days of deliberations, the jury
returned not-guilty verdicts on all 14 counts against Mr. Jackson: four charges
of child molesting, one charge of attempted child molesting, one conspiracy
charge and eight possible counts of providing alcohol to minors. Conviction
could have brought Mr. Jackson 20 years in prison. Instead, he walked away a
free man to try to reclaim a career that at the time had already been in decline
After his trial, Mr. Jackson largely left the United States for Bahrain, the
island nation in the Persian Gulf, where he was the guest of Sheik Abdullah, a
son of the ruler of the country, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. Mr. Jackson
would never return to live at his ranch. Instead he remained in Bahrain, Dubai
and Ireland for the next several years, managing his increasingly unstable
finances. He remained an avid shopper, however, and was spotted at shopping
malls in the black robes and veils traditionally worn by Bahraini women.
Despite the public relations blow of his trial, Mr. Jackson and his
ever-changing retinue of managers, lawyers and advisers never stopped plotting
By early this year, Mr. Jackson was living in a $100,000-a-month mansion in
Bel-Air, to be closer to “where all the action is” in the entertainment
business, his manager at the time, Tohme Tohme, told The Los Angeles Times. He
was also preparing for his upcoming London shows.
”He was just so excited about having an opportunity to come back,” said Mr.
Paterson, the director and choreographer.
Despite his troubles, the press and the public never abandoned the star. A crowd
of paparazzi and onlookers lined the street outside Mr. Jackson’s home as the
ambulance took him to the hospital.
Reporting was contributed by John M. Broder from Washington;
Randal C. Archibold from Los Angeles; Susan Saulny from Gary, Ind.; and Melena
Ryzik, Ben Sisario, Brian Stelter and Peter Keepnews from New York.
Michael Jackson, Pop
Icon, Is Dead at 50, NYT, 26.6.2009,
A Night When Harmony Reigns
May 30, 2009
The New York Times
By BEN RATLIFF
Music moves; it can’t do anything else. Grizzly Bear’s songs
rev without going anywhere. With broad vocal harmonies and harmonic motion built
from unusual guitar tunings, the band gives you beauty until you can’t stand it.
I found myself lost in a few bright, bursting moments of its show at Town Hall
on Thursday. They felt like static pleasures, though. The concert sits in my
memory like a slide show.
There is a nearly suffocating fussiness in this band. It can’t be altered: it’s
the life force of the music, which is full and tense, and extremely cold. (On
Grizzly Bear’s new album, “Veckatimest,” on the Warp label, the band has gotten
colder still, even as its pop melodies start to beckon.)
On Thursday nothing in these orchestrations was free to wriggle, but sometimes
it seemed that the drummer, Christopher Bear, could have reduced his kit down to
a bass drum and a cymbal without violating the heart of the songs. Rhythm is a
frozen concern here, several orders less important than harmony.
The set began with precise four-part vocals in “Southern Point” and then
expanded when the Brooklyn Youth Chorus joined the band for “Cheerleader” and
“Fine for Now.” There’s occasionally a churchly minor-key ambience in Grizzly
Bear, signifying the sublime. It’s an artier cousin to the early ’60s records
produced by Phil Spector and arranged by Jack Nitzsche — and the band borrowed
from that team directly in its take on the Crystals’ “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a
Kiss),” the show’s encore. But the throaty yelling of Darlene Love or the
Ronettes or the Crystals served as a streetwise release valve for the tension of
those old records. Grizzly Bear has no release valve.
The band has two songwriting powers, Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen, who both sing.
Grizzly Bear prefers full-band songwriting credits, so it’s not clear who’s
responsible for what.
But when Mr. Droste sings lead, the harmonies seem to come from the natural
properties of the voice; when Mr. Rossen sings lead, the songs get browner,
based in the harmony of his unusual guitar tunings.
I found myself wanting more Rossen. His voice is grainy, with some modesty,
opposed to Mr. Droste’s brassy swoon. But Mr. Rossen’s guitar harmonies are so
rich, and his echoing strums so carefully applied, that those songs took on an
oppressively ascetic fragility.
This was especially true live — he, like the rest of the band, has almost zero
body language — and especially in Town Hall, during a two-night stand that seems
to represent this Brooklyn indie band’s ascendance to a kind of highbrow
Burdened with murky sound for a band that has fairly high audio needs,
Thursday’s show was mostly studied, intellectual tension. I respect Grizzly Bear
for echoing unlikely moments in the history of sound: little bits and pieces in
the arrangements of its songs variously suggest, besides Phil Spector, the
Partridge Family, Dr. Dre and the ’70s folk band America.
But wow, these songs are precious, and they occasionally came spangled with
extras that made them even more so. The chorus was one of those elements, sorry
to say. Otherwise, in “Knife,” the bassist Chris Taylor ran his high vocal
harmony through a kind of Doppler effect on his microphone; elsewhere he played
single notes on the flute and clarinet on his knees through another
tone-alterer. I left Town Hall grinding my teeth.
Grizzly Bear performs on Sunday at the Music Hall of
Williamsburg, 66 North Sixth Street, Brooklyn, (718) 486-5400. The concert is
A Night When Harmony
Reigns, NYT, 30.5.2009,
Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band
Another Sold-Out Show for Hard-Bitten Times
May 23, 2009
By NATE CHINEN
The New York Times
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Reclaiming the Izod Center stage for
his encore on Thursday night, Bruce Springsteen paused for what seemed at first
like a spontaneous reflection. “We’ve played here at the Meadowlands many, many
times,” he said. High above the crowd, directly within his sightline, a banner
provided specifics: “56 Sell-Outs.”
Then, without missing a beat, Mr. Springsteen struck a pitchman’s tone: he and
the E Street Band would return to the complex in the fall “to say goodbye to old
Giants Stadium.” (Those dates are Sept. 30 and Oct. 2 and 3; tickets will go on
sale June 1.) “Before they bring the wrecking ball,” he crowed, “the wrecking
crew is coming back!”
It was a plainly triumphant declaration, if a mildly awkward one, coming as it
did before “Hard Times Come Again No More,” the Stephen Foster song that has led
off every encore on the E Street Band’s current tour. “There are many, many
people truly struggling in these times,” Mr. Springsteen said by way of
introduction, even as some in the audience were no doubt still making mental
adjustments to their fall concert budgets.
But the song, which began in something approaching an a cappella gospel style,
got the show back on track. The sober solicitation of its lyrics — “Let us pause
in life’s pleasures and count its many tears,” as one line goes — echoed the
evening’s staunchest theme.
Mr. Springsteen has long been a champion chronicler of the hard-bitten and the
luckless, and the self-directed spokesman for an idealized American conscience.
Here, when it was time to charge through “Working on a Dream,” the title track
from his most recent album, he literally sermonized, adopting a revivalist
preacher’s tone. “We’re going to build a house!” he barked, soon adding: “We
can’t do it by ourselves!”
Then came a segue into “Seeds,” an old song that found new life on this tour,
probably for topical reasons. Its lyrics depict an oilman brought to ruin, but
Mr. Springsteen slyly widened his scope. “The banker man said, ‘Sorry son, it’s
all gone,’” he sang, naming a previously unspecified villain. The next song,
“Johnny 99,” felt even more resonant, opening on the image of a shuttered auto
plant and building up to this pitiful cry: “The bank was holding my mortgage,
they’re coming to take my house away.”
The band worked admirably on these and other tough-minded songs, with a fine
chugging fury. And there was news in that regard: as on some other recent shows,
the drum chair was occupied not by Max Weinberg but by his 18-year-old son, Jay.
The substitution went off without much of a hitch, even if the younger Mr.
Weinberg has yet to find the deeper currents of the group. At times he got
carried away by his own fills, landing slightly late on a downbeat crash. But
his pounding energy was the right sort of fit.
And perhaps unintentionally, he helped nudge the band toward a renewed set of
priorities: grittiness over glossiness, looseness over exactitude, vitality over
just about everything else. Strikingly, as a consequence, there were a few
flubbed parts and missed cues. But the general impression was arresting and
potent, beginning with the example of Mr. Springsteen. He gave his usual
force-of-nature performance, barreling through some tunes and savoring others,
with strategic pockets of space cleared for crowd sing-alongs.
This leg of Mr. Springsteen’s tour ends here on Saturday, before a two-month
stretch in Europe and eventually his Meadowlands return. At that point the band
will be sending off a structure destined for rubble, a hulk with glorious
history but no future. A character, in other words, right out of a song.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band perform on Saturday at
the Izod Center in E. Rutherford, N.J.; sold out.
Another Sold-Out Show
for Hard-Bitten Times, NYT, 23.5.2009,