Jackson rehearsals caught on tape
AEG's 100 hours of footage may show singer's stateRead Katherine Jackson's court petition
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Was Michael Jackson really on the comeback trail? That tantalizing possibility may be answered more definitively than many of the more lurid questions surrounding his death because rehearsal tapes were duly recorded and have been recovered.
AEG Live, the company producing Jackson's ill-fated 50-concert London tour, filmed all the rehearsals. The company apparently retrieved and amassed 100 hours of film on Jackson and his practice run-throughs, including last Wednesday's session at the Staples Center the night before Jackson died.
The hours of video could be a telling indication of just how healthy the King of Pop was in the last two months of his life -- fit and energized as his backers (and insurers) contend or frail, out of step and tentative, as many of his friends and acquaintances have maintained since his death.
Even if not fully the old Jacko of "Thriller" or "Bad," the tapes apparently do include enough audio to fill not one but two live albums worth of material. Since Jackson never released a live album during his career, these recordings could turn out to be a gold mine --or be a more limited, and slightly creepy, collectors item indicating just how off his game the singer was weeks before his scheduled first concert at the O2 Arena in London.
"AEG spent $30 million putting this together," a source told THR. "The video, the lighting, the staging -- it's all extraordinary. They're the first to use a new 3D projection that will blow people's minds."
Certainly, the company will need to salvage whatever it can from the aborted tour extravaganza, which would have meted the singer alone some $300 million.
But first, there will be refunds.
AEG said Monday that the 750,000 fans who paid to attend could get a reimbursement -- or choose to receive the actual tickets, which it said feature graphics inspired and designed by Jackson himself. Fans have until Aug. 14 to take the ticket offer. For those opting for a refund, all service charges paid to authorized ticket sellers will be included.
Fans spent more than $90 million on tickets, which were priced between $82 and $124, though some went for hundreds of dollars on Internet auction sites.
AEG Live may be counting on die-hard fans to hold onto their tickets as bittersweet reminders of what might have been -- or to cash in later should they become collector's items. (Many did just that after Elvis Presley died in 1977.)
Jackson's death has left AEG Live, which operates the 02 Arena where the pop star was to have performed, with numerous other headaches.
The company had already shelled out millions to Jackson and spent millions more getting ready for the planned July 13 premiere -- not to mention that one of the city's biggest arenas has been left with 50 open nights.
Apparently the company spread out its risk among a number of insurers, but how completely is still unclear.
Meanwhile, the Jackson family has been moving swiftly to take control of as much of their superstar son's legacy as possible.
Jackson's mother asked a Superior Court judge on Monday to name her administrator of her late son's estate so she can ensure the King of Pop's three children are its beneficiaries.
The court filing states that Jackson's parents believe he died without a valid will, though several sources suggest early versions of such a document are stashed away in one lawyer's vault or another.
The court documents state that Katherine Jackson intends to "marshal assets of the decedent for the exclusive use of the decedent's three children -- her grandchildren -- after payment of debts and expenses of administration."
The family is also awaiting results from a second autopsy report it ordered up, with several family members having said publicly that they have "concerns" about the circumstances in which Jackson died. The official coroner's toxicology report is not likely to be complete for a month though foul play and trauma were ruled out.
Speculation is hot and heavy that Jackson was routinely taking a plethora of prescription painkillers, and that he may have been injected with Demerol or swallowed Oxycontin sometime before he went into cardiac arrest. The cardiologist attending Jackson at his Holmby Hills rented house in recent weeks, Dr. Conrad Murray, however, denied categorically to authorities that he had prescribed or injected the singer with any such painkillers.
What has come to light is the whopping bill for pills Jackson paid on a monthly basis -- reckoned to be on the order of $48,000 -- the average annual salary in the U.S.
Apparently, the prescriptions were written mostly by his Beverly Hills dermatologist, Dr. Arnold Klein, and mostly filled at his local drug store, Mickey Fine Pharmacy, also in Beverly Hills. The list of drugs prescribed is staggering and were made out to aides, nurses, and assorted others who worked for the pop star, as well as to one Omar Adam, who may very well be a fictitious alter ego for Jackson.
The police have now in their possession many vials of various drugs prescribed by Dr. Klein.
The family also went public Monday and ruled out having the burial at Neverland, but did not indicate where or when the service will take place, and what other commemorative events they will back or participate in.
Joseph Jackson did put in an eye-brow-raising appearance at the BET Awards at the Shrine Auditorium Sunday evening, working the red carpet and the press as seemingly upbeat as ever. Jackson was accompanied to the show by his publicist, a Michael Jackson lookalike named Ernesto, and Marshall Thompson of the veteran R&B group The Chi Lites. He sat up front in the theater and eventually invited Rev. Al Sharpton to sit with him.
Jackson laughed and joked about his 60th anniversary party in Las Vegas recently -- 60 years since he and Katherine were married -- and even managed to plug his new record company on the red carpet.
At the end of the show, Janet Jackson appeared on stage; she and her father didn't get to exchange a word because he and his entourage left right before she arrived.
As if these immediate family dissonances weren't enough, legal wrangling over Jackson's considerable debts and his assets is likely to drag on for years, eclipsing earlier fights for the control of assets left by other departed rock gods, including guitar hero Jimi Hendrix and reggae trailblazer Bob Marley.
Roger Friedman in Los Angeles and the Associated Press contributed to this report.