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ABC and the Posthumous Michael Jackson Economy

 I swear I’m almost done with writing about Michael Jackson, but honestly — was anyone else gobsmacked to see photos and video of Michael Jackson with his children on ABC’s Primetime Live?

It’s almost too much information for a single day. For more than a decade the singer managed to raise his three kids without a single photo being made available to the world, other than paparazzi grabs of children wearing masks or veils.

Suddenly, on the day of Jackson’s funeral – here come the family videos, with the kids tow-headed and adorable (and very white). Jackson singing Happy Birthday with his blue-eyed baby (the handsome young man at the memorial on Tuesday, Prince Michael), in one of those stock-studio poses with his two oldest children as toddlers. Kissing them on the lips. Wiping a baby’s nose. Singing to them while making a puzzle.

It’s no coincidence.

All of this comes from the secret storage room of F. Marc Schaffel, a one-time business adviser of Jackson who was shunted aside in favor of the Nation of Islam, back in 2003.

That’s why the interview dates to 2003. Before being booted, Schaffel amassed a vast storeroom of intimate Michael Jackson records and knowledge. You can believe there’s much more of this to be released into the public eye, for the right price.

That’s the new Michael Jackson posthumous economy.

There are obvious fingerprint all over the ABC special, and it all smacks of the money and fame being sucked off of Jackson’s now lifeless corpse. Stuart Backerman, a former publicist, is quoted endlessly. Debbie Rowe gets to explain – or at least she did back in 2003, when Schaffel could do the interview (not ABC) – why she’s in fact a good person, and not a money-hungry baby machine.

I doubt she made a nickel off this special. I doubt she knew it was even in the works.


Schaffel, who once produced gay porn videos but managed to win Jackson’s friendship and reinvent himself as the pop star’s business manager, has much, much more socked away.

Schaffel probably believes he deserves the payday. He already sued Jackson in 2004 for nearly $4 million he said he’d advanced the singer, while they were making documentaries to counter the damaging Martin Bashir interview Jackson gave in 2003 (that partly led to molestation charges). But the court only gave Schaffel a nominal award.

Count on seeing more private material doled out, little by little – for the right price.