Michael Jackson and Jack Wishna in 2007
Now that I’ve reestablished my connection with the blog I have to be quick as I can lose touch with it any minute, so will post shorter pieces just as they come. My notes will not be connected with Katherine’s suit – at least not at the moment. The lawsuit was narrowed down to so little that now its future is a purely technical matter limited by highly artificial boundaries. The same thing happened at Conrad Murray’s trial where not a single question was asked about AEG Live and no one was allowed to see the fuller picture.
In my opinion the truth of what happened with Michael Jackson is much more complex and goes far beyond the boundaries of Katherine’s suit. That is why I am now trying to recreate a broader picture of Michael’s life, at least for the last couple of years prior to this death. And while doing it I am trying to find answers to questions which really baffle me.
The first baffling question is the discrepancy between what the AEG people said and thought about Michael’s health. The fact that they presented to the world a glorious picture of Michael’s physical state does not surprise me a bit – they wanted to sell him and would have said anything to anyone.
But what amazed me was that despite own their doubts in his health, voiced in those leaked emails, they still booked him for 50 concerts. If they thought him to be so poor a case why did they set those 50 concerts then? Why bother with all this mess if you have to return the tickets anyway?
Let me also note that the autopsy report showed Michael to be an exceptionally healthy man for an average 50-year old, so whatever AEG said in their emails will remain a burden to their conscience, if they have it of course.
Another question is why their production process was so slow. The dancers were enrolled very late – less than two months before the premiere (one of the sources says May 19th was when the cast was finally selected) and this was inexcusably late for what was supposed to be the show of the century.
Another worrisome point is why they shortened the rehearsal period by three whole weeks if they started so late and were so terribly pressed for time. I am talking of the difference between July 26th set in the contract as the planned date of the tour start and a much earlier date – July 8th they actually shifted it to and announced to the public.
These questions may look unimportant to you but are not fitting into the picture and require an answer. And this series of posts will be an attempt to answer these questions.
But first we need to make a sort of a summary of some events prior to that and must go back to the time of Michael’s arrival in the US. I still need to tell you about one man in Michael’s surrounding, and the name of the man is Jack Wisha.
MICHAEL COMES BACK TO THE US
Michael was brought back to the US by a Las Vegas dealmaker Jack Wishna. He wanted to create and run a permanent Las Vegas show for Michael Jackson as well as a Rock City Club project where Michael was supposed to perform only three times a month – the rest of the time was to be given to new artists whom Michael was going to present:
Jul. 10, 2009
The idea that they danced around from mid-2006 to mid-2007, and again earlier this year , was to have Jackson in residence at a Las Vegas hotel, where he’d star in a concert spectacular called Michael Jackson Presents that would also feature guest appearances by the latest R&B hitmakers.
So Wishna raised that idea with Michael at the beginning of 2009 again, but Michael evidently did not agree as he was already getting ready for the AEG project. However in December 2006 when Michael was returning to the US from Ireland he was very much excited about this and other projects Wishna had for him.
Michael, the children and nanny arrived from Ireland by a private plane on December 23rd, 2006. At the airport they were met by Wishna and his wife Donna who took them to the house Jack rented for Michael for a year at the price of $1mln. The Wishnas had a great Christmas tree set up in Michael’s house with presents for him and the children.
The price of the annual rent for the Vegas house is probably the only thing I don’t like about Wishna – it looks to me too speculative. It also created for Michael a certain idea of the level of prices for renting houses in the US, and this is probably why Tohme’s offer of $100,000 a month ($1,2mln a year) for a house in Los Angeles did not surprise Michael very much though I hear that it is also unreasonably high.
When Michael arrived he was full of energy and produced on Wishna the impression of stepping direct from the Bad era. He was in great spirits, however gradually his old anxiety came back. The media and public kept painting Michael a criminal despite his full acquittal in 2005, and greeted him with the usual hate and mockery which he surely didn’t expect after the comfort he enjoyed in Ireland.
In Wishna’s view it was also Jackson’s father Joe and some other members of the family who greatly contributed to his stress at the time. They were evidently dogging him with money problems which Michael could not help anyway as he was in the financial straits himself. The family would later say that they were going to stage some “interventions” though why they would intend to stage them is unclear – the people who met Michael at the time did not say anything about any drugs. Jack Wishna did not see any of them either:
And although Jackson’s use of prescription drugs became big news after his death, Wishna said he never saw any of that kind of stuff around.
“Never saw any drugs,” Wishna said. “Never saw any intravenous, or needles or anything like that. Never met any doctors around Michael.”
It could be only due to the pressure from the outside that Michael sought utter seclusion for himself. He and his children rarely left the mansion. Tohme who for the first time met Michael in Las Vegas in 2008 said that Michael was retreating from everybody, but was still practising and writing music (if you remember he was working on the Irish album at the time):
‘When I first met him in Las Vegas, he was out of touch. Michael was secluded and retreating from everybody. It was just him and his kids. He used to use the wheelchair. I said, let’s get rid of this. You have to realise that you had to baby Michael Jackson. I wanted people to see him as a healthy human being.
‘But he was working. We put a stage in his house in Vegas because before he was practising in the local hotels. He was writing music, working with choreographers.
The reason why Michael retreated from everybody was that he could be simply afraid of people.
What he saw and heard around himself did not encourage him to think that he would get a welcome response if he went on stage. An artist must know that he is loved and appreciated by his audience, and when everyone around you calls you a ‘freak’ and a ‘child molester’ despite your full acquittal it won’t help you to build up your confidence – and confidence is what Michael needed most for the resumption of his career after a long and hard break.
Let me tell you of the feeling prevailing in the US on the eve of Michael’s arrival from Ireland – here are some typical comments taken from an article about his stay in Ireland. From his high spirits upon arrival in Las Vegas we can imagine that he had not read any of this before starting on his journey:
“He’s way too creepy for the States…….So no he’s targeting drunken Irish children, I guess he figures he’ll get lucky…….No way can he ruin that beautiful country-kick his ass out Ireland…… Leave Ireland alone, you freak!!………To the people of Ireland: Tell your young male children to hide their “Blarney stones”…….I can’t wait till he dies.”
This was how his homeland was welcoming Michael Jackson despite his full acquittal in 2005 and though unaware of it upon his return sooner or later Michael must have learned about it.
At some point of his time in Las Vegas Michael was seen in a wheelchair which could easily be a case of a lupus flair that erupted due to his stressful condition. Though people mocked at his behavior as ‘antics’ I doubt very much that a wheelchair was actually Michael’s voluntary choice. What it surely created was much negative publicity and it was due to this publicity and Michael’s quickly worsening state that Jack Wishna dropped his initial plans and suggested to Michael other projects which would not involve the necessity for him to perform.
One of them was the Cirque du Soleil project. Yes, now we find out that this project was Jack Wishna’s idea and at that time it was supposed to be an ode to the Beatles. Preliminary meetings with the Cirque du Soleil management did take place, but the plans were not realized with Michael’s participation as at that point Wishna said that Michael was “wooed” by AEG Live.
“Woo” means “to seek the affection of someone with the intent to romance, to tempt or invite, entreat, solicit, or importune” – and after seeing this type of courtship Wishna had to step aside.
Later Wishna went on with the other projects he had for Michael – the site RockCityClub which he regarded as a new way to discover talent and create rock stars:
…But the tide quickly turned. When Jackson was wooed by entertainment giant AEG Live, Wishna moved to his next big plan: develop a global social media website, RockCityClub.com, for musicians and their fans.
A Rolling stone article presenting only the AEG side of the story claims that Jack Wishna saw Michael ‘drugged up’. However Wishna never said anything of the kind. In fact he said exactly the opposite – he never saw Michael take any drugs and he never met any doctors around Michael. A quick reminder about it:
“Never saw any drugs,” Wishna said. “Never saw any intravenous, or needles or anything like that. Never met any doctors around Michael.”
When asked about a virtual possibility of obtaining them Wishna said that it could be possible, however suppositions what someone ‘could have done but didn’t do’ are irresponsible talk and it is only the fact that he never saw anything that really matters:
“Wishna said he never saw Jackson using drugs, but that he wouldn’t have had any trouble obtaining whatever he wanted—oftentimes from people who didn’t have his best interests at heart.”
This is what Jack Wishna speaks about among many other things in this video:
Jessie Jackson also saw Michael in the summer of 2007 but noticed no signs of any drugs, and as to Frank Cascio’s family where Michael stayed for about two months (since August 19th until October 2007) none of them saw any sign of medicine taken either though Frank was specially on the look out for it:
“He was alive and excited, getting back into being creative and free. He and Eddie were working in the studio during the day, and he was playing with an idea for an animated cartoon he hoped to produce. He was happy to be around my family, with whom he could be himself. There was no sign that he was on any sort of medicine. He was back to being Michael.”
Well, even Tohme who met Michael in Las Vegas in 2008 said that Michael was on a very healthy diet:
“He said the star kept himself and his children on a healthy diet, never ate red meat, didn’t drink and, as far as he knew, never took drugs”
AEG will surely argue in court that Michael’s poor health was the result of ‘drugs’ (though his system had only the medicines given to him by their own doctor Murray), so in addition to the autopsy report the evidence of all these people should not be forgotten by us.
I am more than sure that considering all Michael’s stresses the worsening of his condition was due to his anxiety and nervousness which in their turn can trigger almost every disease including lupus.
“HIS REGIMEN IS A DISASTER”
Besides insisting that Michael was free from any drugs another important Jack Wishna’s difference was that given Michael’s condition he said that he would have never booked Michael for 50 concerts and at so terrible a schedule too.
In Wishna’s opinion the regimen set for him by AEG Live was unrealistic even for a fit and young man not top mention a 50-year old like Michael.
The media did not elaborate on his idea but from the little Wishna said we can conclude that he was amazed by how Michael was treated by his new AEG partners. He was a businessman too, but valued Michael still more than his own profit or success, and even took care of his partner’s well-being by adjusting his plans according to Michael’s state:
Jul. 10, 2009
But though concert promoter AEG Live said that Jackson passed a physical with flying colors earlier this year, Wishna maintains that the 50-year-old artist had been in a “weakened state” and wasn’t able to do three shows a month in 2007, much less maintain a more rigorous schedule now.
“He would get hurt if he had to do a regimen of performances,” Wishna said. “You really have to be fit to go up on stage to do that.”
So, earlier this year, he and Jackson instead discussed creating a show in the guise of LOVE, Cirque du Soleil’s ode to the Beatles, that the King of Pop would not actually be in.
But then, Wishna said, he found out Jackson had hooked up with AEG for his London engagement.
“He said it should be fine,” Wishna recalled. “In my heart I knew he didn’t get better from the time I was with him. He was thin and weak. It’s going to be a disaster. I would never put him into a show that way. I don’t know who the doctor is that certified him for it. I didn’t think [Jackson] was capable of doing it.”
The next point from the same article habitually speaks of some ‘enablers catering to every Michael’s need’, though it is absolutely clear from the context of it that Wishna is talking here about Michael’s business and the fact that Michael does not know his deals, and it is most probably Tohme who he is referring to:
“There were so many people around him that were enablers,” the exec said. “It was one thing after another that just made it very bizarre.”
“Michael has a lot of people around him that cut deals and sometimes Michael doesn’t even know what those deals are,” he added.
The same article clarifies one more thing for us and it is Michael’s attitude to Neverland and total impossibility for him to live there. Jack Wishna says that Michael never wanted to set foot on Neverland again:
..”In Ireland, when I spoke to Michael, I said, ‘Come back and go back to Neverland.'” And Jackson said, “I never, never, never want to go back to Neverland. Never.”
“My thought is if someone buries him in Neverland he will come up out of the ground like in Thriller and strangle them,” Wishna said, referring to rumors that Jackson’s family is still considering a bid to inter Jackson on the grounds of his once-beloved ranch.
“I tried to get rid of Neverland for him. He would never set foot back on Neverland. He never wanted to go there, never wanted to sleep there— never, never.”
The above is very much different from what Tohme wanted for Neverland:
“He said he is disappointed that Jackson won’t be buried at Neverland but hopes that may change: “He deserves to be buried in the wonderful world he created.” In Jackson’s final months, Tohme said they talked about his wish to create “a special place 10 times bigger than Graceland” where fans could come to see Jackson’s memorabilia and awards. Jackson even talked about creating a veritable city for children.
By arguing that Michael should be buried in Neverland Tohme was simply arranging for his friend Tom Barrack another of those profitable deals. Apparently he and Colony Capital wanted to turn Neverland into a goldmine and circus that would draw millions of fans from the whole world to Michael’s grave which was to be put somewhere in between the Ferris Wheel and other Neverland attractions. It was a totally correct decision on Katherine Jackson’s part not to allow this circus to take place.
Jack Wishna regretted very much that he had convinced Michael to come back to the US and said that if he had not brought him from Ireland Michael would still be alive:
“In the interview broadcast on ABC News last evening, Jack Wishna stated: “I will forever feel haunted by the thought that if I did not help convince Jackson to leave Ireland and return to America, would Jackson be alive today.
“Over the years I always thought that maybe if I didn’t move Michael from Ireland back to America, back to Las Vegas, that maybe Michael would be alive today,” says entertainment power broker Jack Wishna, president of Rockrena, Inc.
That is absolutely true. If Michael had stayed in Ireland he would be alive today.
And we can also add to it that if Michael had stayed in his business with Wishna his health would be perfectly okay too and of this I have not a single doubt. Wishna was a businessman of a different kind than AEG Live – he was thinking of his partner’s interests no less than of his own.
Wishna’s died in November last year. He was 54 when he was found sitting in his Bentley in a garage dead from ‘carbon monoxide intoxication. The police ruled it to be a suicide. For his friends his death became a big surprise though some said he looked somewhat depressed prior to that.
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The above will hopefully fill in the gap between Michael’s stay in Ireland and his meeting Tohme and eventual move to Los Angeles.