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Stress killed Jackson, says ex-publicist
June 27
Published on 28 Jun. 2009 12:29 AM IST
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VANCOUVER, JUN 27 (IANS): The stress of the upcoming concerts in London - which would have earned him $50 million to $100 million to get out of debt - killed Michael Jackson, says a former publicist. The King of Pop, who had earned $750 million, was reportedly in debt between $300 and $500 million when he died Thursday. He was working hard for his 50-date comeback ‘This Is It’ tour beginning July 13 in London. Canadian Stuart Backerman, who was Michael Jackson’s close confidante and publicist from 2002 to 2004, told the local Vancouver Sun Friday that stress killed the pop star. He also revealed unknown facts about the star’s private life and his insecurities. “To be quite honest, his lifestyle, the anxiousness he has been under, and stress in terms of the concerts in London (was incredible)” was too much for the King of Pop to handle, the Vancouver man told the newspaper. “Remember, he signed up for 50 concerts, (rehearsed) every other night. (That’s a lot) for a guy who hasn’t performed since 2001. Even in 2001 he could barely do two sets of 20 minutes at that Madison Square Garden (Motown) celebration. Since then he has not really practised,” said the Canadian who handled Jackson’s public affairs at the most difficult time in the pop star’s life. Backerman said Jackson was probably taking too much Demerol (a powerful opiate painkiller) to deal with the stress. “I have heard from very, very good sources, in fact it has been confirmed as I understand it, that at 11.30 a.m. (Thursday) he was given an injection of Demerol,” Backerman told the newspaper. “He used Demerol following the Pepsi commercial (in 1984) and the burning of his hair and the scalding of his scalp. I would say between that, (and) the pressure he’s been under trying to practise and rehearse and get in shape after all the years of doing nothing, and all the other stresses ... it created almost a lethal cocktail of situations that put him over the edge, and taxed his heart to the degree that he couldn’t handle it,” the Canadian said. He described the ill-fated Pepsi commercial in 1984 as the defining moment of Jackson’s “descent from the King of Pop to a walking tabloid headline”. Jackson was filming a TV commercial for Pepsi when his hair caught fire from a special effects explosion and he was seriously injured. “That Pepsi commercial debacle was a seminal event in Michael Jackson’s life,” Backerman said. “He was in pain, deep, incredible pain, and he was prescribed Demerol. Like a lot of people who get prescription drugs, that turned into a semi-habit. And it created the situation of him being ‘off’ sometimes, because of his Demerol,” the former publicist said. Michael Jackson started wearing wigs after that mishap to hide his scalp. “Because his scalp was burned, he could never have that gorgeous head of hair that he had in the ‘Thriller’ days that girls died for. He was such a handsome African-American male. He had the perfect, beautiful Afro, tied back, he was the handsomest guy around, really. But he couldn’t grow his hair any more, so he had to wear different wigs which made him look strange,” Backerman said. “He wore wigs. Those were all wigs, all of them. That kind of parted-down-the-middle, dopey look that you see. Sometimes you could see that he didn’t have the wig on properly, and it covered what was really just stubble on his hair, because of the accident. Cosmetically he had to get that (covered up), and that sort of led to his thinking about other cosmetic approaches”, including Jackson’s infamous nose jobs and surgeries. Backerman said Jackson probably kept trying to change his face because of his troubled relationship with his father who was very demanding as he pushed his son to stardom. “He saw a computer graphic of what he would look like at about 50 years old, and he freaked out because he thought he looked just like his father Joe Jackson,” Backerman told the newspaper. “That combined with the wig got him thinking about changing his look,” he said. “(His father) was very hard on Michael, being the lead singer and being the youngster. He pushed him around, and he pushed his brothers around. Michael was very scared of his father,” Backerman said. “He grew up ... that’s the point, he never grew up. He never really grew beyond the prepubescent 12-year-old, in a sense. That’s why he was attracted to - and I don’t necessarily mean sexually - but he was attracted to hanging out with 11, 12, 13-at-the-most year-old boys, you know? Because he felt comfortable with them. They didn’t judge him, they loved him, and he could love them.” (More on Page 10) About the lawsuits against Jackson for allegedly molesting young boys, Backerman said: “I had no personal experience seeing Michael in any dalliance. I would like to think that whatever he had going with any boys was reasonably innocent prepubescent experimentation - if that.” Backerman said he parted company with Jackson in early 2004 after the star joined hands with the controversial religious group the Nation of Islam. “They basically took over Michael’s business and isolated everybody,” Backerman alleged. He said Jackson was done in by his crazy shopping habits and unfettered spending. “He had a tremendous burn rate of several million dollars a month running Neverland, shopping and going crazy, flying people all over the world. He kept borrowing against his asset base, and put himself in a deep cash-flow situation,” Backerman said.

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