Imagine the ghost of the King of Pop looking down on his countless investigators and coroners. Would he want the truth of his tragic demise revealed?
Like his father-in-law, Elvis, and so many other superstars, Michael Jackson had struggled mightily to keep his private life private. His death was the natural or unnatural result of how he lived that life — just as he had tried to avoid investigations, surely he would not have been an autopsy proponent.
So far, there have been two autopsies, and a third imminent.
With every living legend, in life and in death, there are two warring camps — the star and his image protectors versus the hounds who are fed by anonymous insiders. The truth is usually the first casualty in this war that soon deteriorates into wild accusations, denials, lawsuits, and sensationalism.
In life, the King of Pop was the object of three battles. The first involved his alleged molestation of children; the second, his rumored drug abuse; the third, the nature of his health. In the search for the true cause of his death, spin-controllers and the deep throats have locked horns.
Throughout his life, the Peter Pan of Pop himself seemed to have a Neverland conception of the truth even in matters of simple fact.
Regarding his radical change in appearance, he told the BBC’s Martin Rashid that he had only undergone two plastic surgeries. Otherwise, “I just changed!” he insisted. NBC’s "Dateline" medical expert and others declared, however, that 50 procedures would have been necessary for such a transformation.
Then came the skin color controversy. He and his doctor maintained he suffered from Vitiligo, a rare, congenital skin-lightening condition. However, his maid, Blanca Francia, asserted in an affidavit that he used powerful skin lightening creams (Solaquin, Benoquin, Fore, Retin A). “He hates dark-skinned people,” added another insider, Stacy Brown.
And what of his fair-complexioned children? He told an incredulous Bashir not only that he was the sperm donor for the third, Blanket, but that the surrogate mother had been black as well.
As for the state of his own health, in recent years Jackson had often been seen in surgical masks, in wheelchairs, and — alarmingly gaunt — being carried by bodyguards. In 2001, he told his brothers, “I’ll be dead in a year.”
Was he aware of having a terminal condition even then?
In the mid-’80s, his doctors announced that Jackson had been diagnosed with Lupus, a serious immunological disease. Posthumously, insiders revealed that he had suffered from Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a rare lung ailment. He’d been injected with pulmonary protein from human blood — commonly administered to AIDS patients.
In his final years he suffered symptoms associated with that disease: headaches, vision loss, weight loss, hyperventilation, nausea, insomnia, mental disorientation.
In such a condition and after 12 years off-stage, the urgent question became: Could Michael Jackson ever perform again? There were two diametrically opposed answers.
“I can do this,” the singer allegedly told Randy Phillips, the promoter for his “comeback” performances at London’s O2 Arena, equipped with the state-of-the-art lip-synching technology. Phillips stated that the star passed a four-hour physical for the concerts’ insurer.
Would the exam have revealed drug abuse? “Absolutely,” replied the promoter.
Jackson collapsed after his second rehearsal but endured his last at L.A.’s Staple Center. Staging executive, Johnny Caswell, afterwards enthused: “He was energetic, passionate, diligent, excited … This guy was ready to go!”
The King of Pop died 36 hours later.
He had been “terrified” of the upcoming performances, a Jackson aide told biographer, Ian Halperin. “We knew it was a disaster waiting to happen,” the insider added. “I don’t think anybody predicted it would actually kill him but nobody believed he would end up performing.”
Now a third and climactic battle is being waged over the King of Pop, as it has over many of his iconic predecessors: the drug war.
“From my heart, I just don’t know,” Jermaine Jackson told Larry King when asked if his brother had had a problem with controlled substances.
But Michael’s friends, Uri Geller and Deepak Chopra, did. And just as their own efforts to “save Michael from himself” had proved fruitless, so had those of Randy and Tito. The brothers had tried numerous times to force Michael to rehab, the last attempt shortly before his death. Didn’t they talk to Jermaine?
Another friend of the deceased, Lisa Minnelli, had no illusions, either. "When the autopsy comes, all hell’s going to break loose,” she said.
Two have come and gone. But hell has not broken loose, though the star’s body was found to be riddled with injection sites. A third autopsy is now being demanded by Katherine Jackson.
Is an autopsy, particularly of such a celebrity, not a carefully monitored and exhaustive scientific procedure performed by the best professionals in the field? Even if one had been incomplete or mishandled — two?
The Jacksons have urged yet another exam because they suspect “foul play.” By whom? Dr. Conrad Murray or Michael’s other personal physicians who allegedly, at his orders, injected him with narcotics, sedatives, tranquilizers, and barbiturates? Or, at his orders, rendered him comatose with propofol, a general anesthesia for major surgery? Or could it be the foul play of his mercenary managers?
Autopsies do not reveal who. They reveal what: the drugs in the system and the pathology of the organs. On this basis they identify three things: immediate cause of death — in Jackson’s case suffocation and cardiac arrest; proximate cause — probably toxic drug interaction; and original, root cause, likely viral or immunological.
Almost certainly, the completed two autopsies have identified the three causes. Yet authorities say publication of the results will be delayed “indefinitely.”
Why? Because few insiders, including the family, are likely to want any evidence disclosed which might compromise the star’s memory and legacy, much less royalties or insurance policies.
Meanwhile, the great question remains: Who caused this tragedy? Was it truly a deceitful or negligent servant of the King of Pop?
Or was it we, his fans, who kept him in a gilded cage and elevated him to a height where the star could no longer moonwalk, much less breathe?