AEG-Jackson trial DAY 11. Rehearsals with TRAVIS PAYNE: ‘He was very tired, all of us were’
May 13-14, 2009
There is so much going on around Michael Jackson now that it is difficult to follow each twist and turn of the AEG trial. But there is still a possibility to focus on some of its main issues. And one of the most crucial ones is whether Michael was or was not obliged to attend every rehearsal set by AEG.
1. STACEY WALKER AND TRAVIS PAYNE
Both choreographers who testified for AEG – Stacey Walker and Travis Payne – confidently said that Michael was to attend the rehearsals with the rest of the company as per AEG schedule. Well, no one really expected any other answer from them. They were AEG employees and those who have chosen to testify for AEG too, so what else could they say?
However both of them also said that the This is it tour had no new choreography except for the Drill in “They don’t care about us”. All the rest of it was done long ago and was created by Michael Jackson himself, and not only did he know his dance routines inside out, but had also repeated them a thousand times before.
Q. You said that the choreography was already done and created many years ago. Did Mr. Jackson create it?
A. Yes, Mr. Jackson created it many years ago and these routines were used already on his tours. The Thriller and Beat it routine were from his world tour the Bad tour and had been done previously and on the History tour as well…
Q. You would say that Mr. Jackson knew all this choreography well having created it?
A. Yes, he knew all the steps, all committed to memory, he created them.
Travis Payne also said that the dance steps were created decades before. Michael’s dancing seemed fine to him and he was not under the impression that Michael was grasping the material slowly. Over here he disagreed with Kenny Ortega and even said that he knows better:
Q. When you were dancing with Michael Jackson at his Carolwood house, how did he seem?
A. His dancing seemed fine to me, we worked on things that had been created decades before. So it took some time to re-imagine them. To make sure they were age appropriate.
Q.What do you mean?
A.When you’re 30 you can do more than when you’re 50.
Q.Was that case with Mr.Jackson?
Q.Was he age appropriate to you?
Q. Was it your understanding he was having a hard time picking up material?
Q. Any material?
Q. Kenny Ortega tells Paul Gongaware that Mr. Jackson is having a hard job grasping the material, correct?
Q. You disagree?
A. I disagree partly.
Q. Who has more knowledge?
A. What are talking about? In some regards I had more knowledge of choreography than Mr. Ortega.
Good. I never doubted that Michael refreshed his dance steps easily and it was only the matter of building up his stamina for 50 concerts which was a real issue.
Despite the fact that Michael was his own choreographer and knew his steps perfectly well, this did not stop AEG from working out a schedule for him which is usually set for performers whose tours are supervised by invited choreographers and who need to learn, train and incorporate the newly learned dance steps into the whole picture.
Teaching Michael his own choreography in the same way they teach it to these performers was absurd, but the AEG people were evidently of a different opinion.
The schedule they had for Michael demanded that he should train with Travis Payne for three or four hours at home and then join the company on stage in the evening singing and dancing again, and this was supposed to be done nearly every day.
Q. You’re a perfectionist, have a good background in dance and choreography, would you say that it’s necessary for a dancer to rehearse, should Mr. Jackson have been at rehearsal?
A. Yes, Mr. Jackson should have been at rehearsal more even though he was rehearsing at home with Travis Payne.
Q. You talked about Travis Payne, and what was your understanding of Mr. Payne and Mr. Jackson’s relationship.
A. They had been working together for a very long time, they had a loving relationship. Travis worked with Michael and I worked with the dancers.
Q. What was a typical rehearsal day like when Michael was there with the dancers?
A. Generally at night. Generally at night. I don’t remember the exact times but it was in the evenings.
Q. So about one… ten or eleven?
A. Travis would rehearse with Michael earlier around one at his house and then they (MJ and Payne) were in different rooms.
Travis Payne said that they were to rehearse 5 days a week. Each workday was to be 3 or 4 hours with a 10 minutes break. This was the routine they followed on most of the days in Michael’s house:
Q. Did you rehearse at Mr.Jackson’s home?
A. These were scheduled 5 days a week.
Q. And did you go 5 days a week?
Q. So you saw him frequently?
Q. Almost daily?
Q. These personal rehearsals with Mr. Jackson at Carolwood – these were 3 hour workdays?
A. No, We would take a 10 minutes break. Then resume.
Q. Were there many days you worked and were they approximately 3 or 4 hours?
A. Yes it was.
Q. Were there a number of days in May when you worked with Mr. Jackson choreographing the show?
Q. How often did you actually see Mr. Jackson?
A. I can’t say.
Q. Was it most days?
Panish: Objection. Foundation.
Q. Was Mr. Jackson there most days, at his house?
Why the Jacksons’ lawyer Panish is objecting to hearing this crucial information I don’t know but to me it does not matter. I find it essential to note that in addition to training with Travis Payne for 3 or 4 hours every day Michael was to go on stage in the evenings too. Add to it the workouts with Lou Ferrignio several times a week and you get a complete recipe for exhausting Michael even before the concerts started.
Travis Payne assumes that this schedule was set by someone “higher up in production” and I am absolutely ready to believe him.
But when he assumes that this was done with Michael’s approval I regard it as a grave crime against the truth:
Q. Do you know who was setting the rehearsal schedule?
A. I would assume the higher up in production, with Michael’s approval.
Besides dancing and singing Michael had to attend to lots of other things. The AEG attorney showed Travis their schedule for Central Staging in May 2009. At that time Michael was supposed to work mostly at home and little on stage as in May the dancers had not yet been selected. However in the Forum Michael was supposed to spend more time with the company and less at home:
Stabbins shows exhibit. Payne reads it.
Q.What is the document?
A.It just look like another schedule for May 12th.
Q. What does it all refer to?
A. It’s the location – Michael’s house. Wardrobe. Kenny after that. Center Staging for 1 hour. Rehearsal before lunch. After lunch – a 3D video meeting with the directors of the show and Michael. 3:30 – discussion of the show rundown, or rundown of previous days events. 4:30 session with Michael’s vocal trainer.
Q. Would this be a typical day during the time at Center Staging?
A. Yes, there was always people to meet, discussion to have, and if specific people had to be at the meeting, the schedule would be sent out to them.
Q. How did he seem to you?
A. He was busy with his work. He wasn’t just working with the crew and production on This is it. He was also working on an album and a book. And other things to go into his book.
Q. So he was not just working on the This is it Tour, is that correct?
Q. What other hours did you work? What was your schedule?
A. Well, from 2p, to 4-5pm I would work during the private session at Carolwood. Then resumed with the company at Staples until 6pm.
Q. These would have been shorter dance rehearsals with Mr. Jackson because of the busy schedule?
A. Yes, I would go to his house, then go to company rehearsals.
Q. Was there increasingly less time rehearsing?
A. Yes. As we got closer to the schedule we did less private rehearsing.
Q. How was Mr.Jackson’s performance?
A. He was in working process. Not show standard. He was reading, was processing. I don’t expect him to be performing as if he were in front of a crowd because he wasn’t.
We learn that even on the day of Michael’s death Michael was to rehearse with Travis Payne in his house beginning with 2p.m.:
Q. Did you feel anything was wrong with him?
A. All I saw was improvement and that we were getting closer to the goals.
Q. Was he noticeably good?
A. He had improved then what he was in the past.
.. Q. I know this is difficult. Can you say how you found out about Mr.Jackson’s passing?
A.I was headed to my 2pm rehearsal with Michael at Carolwood….
The rehearsals with Michael started as early as March which by the time of his death made at least three months:
Q. What were the time periods of rehearsals?
A. From March to when he died.
So for full three months Michael was to train for 3 or 4 hours in the day time, then to rehearse on stage in the evening and some time in between work out with Lou Ferrignio too? Yes, this was the totally exhausting schedule demanded of him by AEG.
No wonder Michael said on the night when he arrived from his last rehearsal ”I’m tired and fatigued and I’m treated like I’m a machine”.
It also seems that AEG overdid it with Michael even as compared with their own harsh standards and demands.
In May Michael was not even supposed to join the company but they still made him come again and again.
At some point of his testimony Travis Payne had to admit that Michael was not to join the rehearsals on stage until the entire company was brought together. Given that out of the 5000 invited dancers as many as 2500 people showed up the casting was a long process and the final 11 dancers were selected only by approximately the middle of May, so considering that there was no “company” before that time any talk about Michael missing rehearsals in May was impossible even by the AEG standards. There was simply nothing to miss as the troop was not yet there.
AEG naturally objected to this information:
Q. You’ve testified that Randy Phillips was almost always at rehearsals, correct?
Q. Would it be true to say that Mr. Jackson was not required to come to rehearsals until the entire company was ready?
A. I don’t think that’s completely accurate.
Q. That’s what I mean. It would not be completely accurate to say that Mr. Jackson was not required to come to rehearsals until the entire company was complete, right?
(Panish reads from Payne’s transcript testimony from yesterday)
Panish: MJ wasn’t due to come to rehearsal until the entire troop –
When the Jacksons’ lawyer pressed on Travis Payne questions about the need or no need for Michael to attend the rehearsals Payne stubbornly persisted that Michael was to come to each and every one of them:
Q. Is it truthful to say Mr. Jackson did not have to come to rehearsal?
A. No, he had to come.
Q. Is it true to say Mr. Jackson wasn’t to come to rehearsal until everyone was ready for him?
A. No, he still had to come. There were other things he had to do.
Q. Is it correct to say Mr. Jackson did not have to come to rehearsals?
A. No, he needed to come to rehearsal. It was part of the job.
So Travis Payne says that it was part of Michael’s job? I wonder who said that to him? His AEG bosses? But AEG were the boss only for Travis and not for Michael Jackson!
But if AEG were no boss to Michael Jackson why did they determine Michael’s responsibilites and how much time he was to spend in various places designated by AEG? Michael was not in their employment and was not to be pushed about!
Well, even Travis Payne says that AEG was only Michael Jackson’s partner, and such a partner too who was not even to sponsor the tour. All they provided for their tour were their facilities which they had to fill anyway, therefore the fact the Michael was filling their venue for 50 dates looks to me more like his favor done to AEG than their favor done to him.
So these facilities were the only contribution AEG was making into the partnership as their contract made it clear that all the rest of the costs (transportation, wages, accommodation, all production expenses and much more) were to be covered by Michael Jackson. This was outrageous to say the very least.
Q. Was this tour different from previous tours?
A. Yes. This time it was a partnership, not a promotion. AEG would be a partner in This is it, not a sponsor.
Q. What is the difference between being a partner as opposed to being a sponsor?
A. Sponsors make investments and the show happens. That’s it. You don’t see reps daily. For This is it – it was a partnership. Because AEG have facilities all over the world, it was a partnership. Michael told me: This is good. AEG have all these facilities. He was excited to work with AEG.
Payne repeats the word “partner” several times evidently not realizing that if Michael was only a partner to AEG , they had no right whatsoever to dictate any terms to Michael Jackson. No demands about rehearsals, no nothing – he was to determine all those things himself.
Partners are equal and are absolutely not in each other’s employment, and this is probably why Michael liked the idea of it at all – it was supposed to leave him a lot of personal space and freedom, which alas he never received from his AEG ‘partners’:
Q. In the email Mr. Ortega is saying something about Billie Jean. What is that referring to?
A.This time Billie Jean was going to illuminate. We went through the process or securing that technology. The costume would light up.
Q. Was Mr.Jackson involved in that?
Q. At the bottom of the email, it says our partner is specific about the – Who’s the partner?
Indeed, what a great ‘partner’ AEG is! They don’t sponsor anything, but nevertheless make harsh demands, declare tough love on him, monitor the artist’s every step, isolate him and block his free communication with others, force him to follow their rules and schedules – or otherwise they will ‘pull the plug’!
Q. Did you have an understanding that AEG were talking about pulling the plug on the This is it show?
Q. Did you understand that would cause significant stress on Mr. Jackson?
Q. You discussed this with Mr. Ortega – about AEG pulling the plug on This is it?
A. It wasn’t throughout, but we knew we had to get it together or the plug will be pulled.
At this point Payne’s testimony suddenly produced the idea of some ‘investments in the show’. Travis Payne must have been so brainwashed by his bosses that he doesn’t understand that if he says that Michael was only a partner of AEG who did not sponsor anything, he cannot simultaneously talk of them ‘investing’ in the show.
Making investments is absolutely not the same as lending or advancing money to someone. AEG lent the money to Michael and he invested it in the show and if the show failed he was to lose everything as he was to return the money lent plus compensate for all the ‘damages’ and other inconveniences caused to poor AEG.
Travis Payne even gets offended when the attorney asks him about his previous testimony that Randy Phillips was coming every day to watch out for his ‘investment’ in the project:
Q. You previously stated that Mr. Phillips was coming every day to watch out for his investment, didn’t you?
A. I may have. I’m not privy to that.
Q. Sir, did you testify under oath that Mr. Phillips was coming every day to the This is it rehearsals to watch out for the investment of their company?
A. I don’t understand why investment is a bad thing. You make – I don’t have dog in this race. I’m not masking anything. When you do this, its pretty aggressive. I feel like you are cornering me sometimes.
And cornered he really is as he himself is saying two totally incompatible things – on the one hand Michael is an independent partner and AEG has no power over him (they are only advancing him money which will be by all means returned to them at least in the form of Michael’s assets), but on the other hand Travis thinks that Michael is expected to fulfill each of AEG’s wishes as if he were a humble employee of theirs.
The Jacksons’ lawyer plays up to the idea of ‘investment’ implying that even if someone invests money into some project they should be at least interested in protecting their investment and should therefore have their star’s best interests at heart. After all without this star there will be no show, so shouldn’t they take care of him as their best investment?
Q. Do you have an understanding what AEG was to gain from their investment?
A. No, that’s not to my understanding as an artist.
Q. Who was in charge of the show?
A. AEG was the producer and promoter. Certainly MJ was the star and had to be happy.
Q. You have to make sure the star is okay. If not, you lost money, correct?
A. Perhaps. I’m not privy to those details.
Q. There was lots going on. If AEG doesn’t have Mr. Jackson best interests, they are not protecting their investment, correct?
To look into the original subject of missing rehearsals around which all the AEG fuss started I wondered how many rehearsals Michael did not attend. From my earlier calculations some four or five rehearsals were missed at the beginning of June due to making videos at Culver Studios, and three or four more rehearsals were missed in the middle and end of June when Michael was already dying in front of everyone’s eyes.
But to my amazement the number of rehearsals missed was downplayed by the AEG attorneys as well as Travis Payne himself.
I could hardly believe my eyes when he said that Michael missed only 5 rehearsals during the whole period of April-May-June.
And this was all? So why was AEG then threatening to pull the plug and what were they talking about at all?
A.Sometimes he was tired and lethargic and had to be, not convinced, but supported throughout rehearsals.
Q. How many times did Mr. Jackson miss rehearsals?
Q.Less than five times?
A.May be about five.
Q.Were these times throughout the whole period of preparations for the tour?
What period of time was this?
Q.Were these times in June or through the entire period of This is it rehearsals?
A.Not many times than 5 times during the company rehearsals with the whole groups. April, May and June.
Q. Other than that, were there any times when Mr.Jackson could not perform at all?
A. I know there was a time when Kenny Ortega sent Michael home. I don’t know the reasoning. There was no other time. That was the only time.
Q. Rehearsing means Mr. Jackson getting up onstage. You don’t know how many times you saw him up on the stage?
Q. No big deal, right?
When asked why Michael was missing rehearsals Travis Payne said that he “did not know”:
Q. Why did he miss rehearsals?
A. I don’t know. He was tied up sometimes.
Q. Did he have good days and bad days?
Q. Was there a pattern?
A. No. No pattern.
Travis cautiosly mentioned Michael’s frustration, only did not explain why Michael should be frustrated at all if he was so excited about the shows:
Q. How did he seem at rehearsals?
A. Some days better than other in his productivity and energy level. He was mainly excited. He had good days and bad days.
Q. Did you ever see him sick during this time period?
A. Yes, one day in particular near the end of our process. He was cold. He ultimately needed a blanket and heater to be comfortable in rehearsal. Um, I think the frustration and desire to get everything together had him on edge. But I took it that he was probably fighting cold. But I’m not certain.
If you come to think of it even a cold for a singer on the eve of his concerts must be a very grave reason for concern for the organizers of the tour and it is only for Travis that it is a mere trifle.
In fact he brushes off Michael’s health problems as unimportant and what he essentially says is that irrespective of Michael’s state production insisted on him to be on the stage. And if production wanted it Travis’s job was to ensure Michael’s coming no matter what – even despite the fact that Michael was very tired:
Q. You were at rehearsals with Mr. Jackson from 2pm to 5pm at his house?
Q. And your worked how often with Mr.Jackson at his house?
A. Almost every day. Less as we got into the process. Whether there were problems with Michael or not, the production needed him to be on site at rehearsals with the case. Because it was time for everyone to be onsite together. That was the main reason. Likewise, production wanted to make sure Michael was coming. Sometimes we would have our private sessions. But production insisted we work less at the house, as we were needed at rehearsals. He seemed very tired, we all were.
Q. During the private rehearsal session that Mr.Jackson worked with you, he was actively engaged?
2. ‘HE SEEMED VERY TIRED, WE ALL WERE’
This made me furious.
So he did notice it but simply did not care callously saying that ‘all of them were tired’? But what do I care for all of them? If even a much younger Travis was tired, how much more tired must have been the fifty-year old Michael Jackson? The only thing that really mattered at that moment is that he was very tired and as for Travis I personally don’t give a damn.
The choreographers’ job and Michael’’s job were exactly the opposite in terms of conserving and releasing the energy needed for the show. They were to do their best at the preparation stage of the show and he was to do his best after the tour started. When he was to spring into the full working mode they were already free as birds and could leave the project and enjoy all the rest they needed after the good job done.
But for Michael Jackson all of it was only starting.
It was Michael who was to put all his remaining strength into the three hours of dance and song and do it every other day too, for three months running and practically non-stop.
It was he who was to take the full burden of the concerts upon his shoulders after the rehearsals, while the choreographers could fully relax and do as they pleased.
How can Travis Payne even dare brush away as unimportant the fact that Michael Jackson was very tired on the eve of the tour? This is exactly what these people are to blame for – instead of letting him save his energy, build up his stamina, train as much as he saw fit, dispose of his time as he wanted and sleep, sleep, sleep and sleep, they were exhausting him and depriving him of the last shreds of his strength even before the tour started.
Let me make a little correction though. After the tour started Travis Payne was expected to stay on the show as Michael Jackson asked him to .… make notes on each show and tell him what corrections needed to be made:
Q. Did you create the show and go away and then Mr.Jackson comes in?
A. No, that’s what I expected would happen. But Michael told me – he made clear to me that he expected me at every show, taking notes. He wanted to know if something was not perfect. He wanted me to be his eyes. I’ve done this before. I was told I was expected to stay the whole time.
Poor tired Travis, what a hard job was awaiting him after the tour started! No wonder Michael Jackson had to persuade AEG to pay him the salary which AEG thought too high and it was only due to Michael’s involvement that the matter between AEG and Travis Payne was settled to Travis’s full satisfaction:
Q. And was that contract with AEG Live?
Q. Did Michael Jackson get personally involved with negotiating your contract with AEG live?
A. Yes. We were at a standstill about the contract being signed – about my being engaged to work – because AEG was at a deadlock with my agent. So Michael spoke to them.
Q. AEG didn’t want to pay as much as Mr. Jackson pays you?
A. You could say that. The amount definitely was not in line with my standard operating cost.
Q. Did Mr. Jackson speak to AEG on your behalf?
A. He asked them to pay my standard cost.
Q. So Mr. Jackson solved the problem?
Q. Did you get the amount you wanted?
A. It was fair.
And how nicely Travis is repaying his benefactor now – he is testifying for AEG and is probably not even telling the whole truth about the matter.
On several occasions the Jacksons’ lawyer caught him lying – for example, in the matter of how many rehearsals he did together with Jackson. When asked about the email Karen Faye sent him after Michael’s death where she asked him point blank why he was telling lies about This is it, Travis twisted and turned as if on a frying pan – he doesn’t know, he didn’t receive the message, even if he got it he erased it and he probably responded to it only he doesn’t remember about it:
Q. After Michael Jackson died, Karen Faye sent you a text message?
A. I don’t know.
Q. You don’t recall that Ms. Faye sent you a text message and asked you why you were lying to the media about Michael after he died?
A. I never received it.
Q. Are you denying it?
A. I’m saying there were many text messages. For Karen Faye to say I lied – if I got it, I erased it.
Q. Do you deny receiving a text message from Ms.Faye after Michael Jackson died? Asking you: Why are you lying to the media about Michael’s condition?
A. I don’t know if I received it. If you show it to me, I will be happy to address it.
Q. Do you have a memory of responding to Ms.Faye’s text message?
A. I certainly don’t remember. I don’t know.
Q. You deny responding to Ms.Faye’s text message?
A. I don’t know if it happened.
Q. Do you know who Charles Claypal is?
Q. Did Mr. Claypal have a different opinion than you of Mr. Jackson’s physical condition?
A.I don’t know.
We also find out that Karen Faye addressed Travis Payne with her concerns about Michael’s health but he could not care less and told her to go to Kenny Ortega. He explained his disinterest in the subject by being a ‘creative person’ and the fact that he was hired by AEG to focus on the show.
As to Michael’s health he says he didn’t really notice anything – except that Michael was very tired, was probably having a cold or flu, had to be wrapped in blankets and warm himself with space heaters in the middle of summer, had trouble with sleep, was losing weight, was hurting a lot, was sore, etc. – but except that everything was perfectly okay and there were no reasons for concern:
Q. She [Karen Faye] could say things you could not because of her closeness?
Q. In June, Ms.Faye made you aware she had become concerned about how Mr. Jackson looked, correct?
A. Yes. She was concerned. She came to me in an aggressive way. I told her: Anything you want to voice, to say – talk to Kenny.
Q. Who did Kenny Ortega report to?
A. He reported to Michael. MJ had a partnership with AEG, he worked with AEG.
Q. You say partnership. Who was partners with AEG?
A. Kenny was the producer. I don’t know the working relationship.
Q. Karen Faye had concerns about Mr.Jackson’s well-being and you didn’t do anything?
A.I said to her- because we were in the middle of rehearsal – I told her: If you feel it’s serious than converse with Kenny.
Q. Did you know if she went to Mr. Ortega?
A. I don’t know.
Q. You have seen emails of the discussion?
Q. But you said you didn’t know if she went to Mr.Ortega?
A.I said I didn’t know.
Q. Did she go to Mr. Ortega?
Q. And you didn’t do anything but tell Ms.Faye to speak to Kenny Ortega?
A. She wanted to call a doctor. There was a doctor already there. I’m a creative person. I was working on the show which I had been hired to focus on.
Q. On June 22nd, Ms.Faye was concerned about Mr.Jackson, correct?
A. I don’t know the date.
Q. She could look at Mr. Jackson and see signs you couldn’t.
Q. She was frustrated?
Q. She told you?
Q. Did you feel everything was being done for Mr. Jackson?
A. No, I wanted him to have a physical therapist, nutrionist, massage – to have his family around. This was a different scenario for Michael. This was the first time MJ was working with an entity like AEG.
Q. Mr. Jackson had previously always had full control over production?
A. Yes, with his companies. I’ve always been hired by MJJ Productions before.
Q. This was first time you were hired by other company in relation to a Michael Jackson production?
Travis is all smiles and is always ready for a good joke. At least when during his testimony he heard about Frank Dileo’s remark made two days prior to Michael’s death (“Bring him a bucket of chicken”) Travis Payne laughed, evidently considering the matter funny:
Q. Were present when Michael Bush told Frank Dileo about Michael Jackson having lost weight?
Q. You heard them talking about Mr. Jackson not eating and being thin?
Q. Was Mr. Dileo paid by AEG?
A. I don’t know.
Q. Did you hear Mr. Dileo say to get Michael Jackson a bucket of chicken?
A (laughing) No.
Q. You think that is funny?
A. Well it is now, the way you ask it.
However even despite all his indifference to Michael’s problems and infinite loyalty to AEG, closer to the end of his testimony Travis finally showed some faint signs of sympathy towards MJ. Looking at Michael’s photos he had to admit that he was too thin, was not in great physical shape and was sore. Under a heavy questioning from Jacksons’ attorney he admitted that he sensed that something was wrong and that the pressure of the show was taking a heavy toll on Michael (only he did not care):
Q. You see this in when Mr. Jackson was getting fitted for the costume’s shoulder pieces, correct?
A. Yes, this is the first time Michael saw them.
Q. Did you see Mr. Jackson in his t-shirt during that fitting?
Q. Did you see the collar-bone?
Q. He’s pretty skinny?
Q. Was this photo taken on the 19th? [June 19]
A. I believe so.
Q. He is not in great physical shape, is he?
A. No, not in great physical shape and he was sore.
Q. He was hurting?
Q. Did you believe that Mr. Ortega was of the mindset that Mr. Jackson was not ready physically for the tour, correct?
A. If he wrote that.
Q. This was in June. Five days before he died, correct?
Q. You could sense that something was up – something was wrong, but you just didn’t know what it was, correct?
Q. But you knew Mr. Jackson was different?
Q. You knew within 4 days of his death that he was not the Michael Jackson you knew, correct?
Q. And he died 4 days later?
A. Yes, on the 25th.
Q. Did you feel the pressure with the show had manifested themselves physically in Michael Jackson?
When Travis Payne says that he “does not have a dog in this race and is not masking anything” I don’t believe him.
He knew very well why Michael was very tired, lethargic and even ‘loopy’ during the rehearsals. And he also knew that Michael’s state had absolutely nothing to do with prescription drugs as the Jackson attorneys are probably trying to prove it.
Due to the impossible schedule of the 50 shows and the burden of excessive rehearsals forced on Michael by AEG Michael was exhausted, stressed-out and was having a big trouble with sleep as he actually told Travis about it:
Q. You say yesterday that Mr.Jackson was tired. Do you know why?
Panish: Objection. Judge: Overruled
Q.Michael explained to me he had trouble sleeping. But he was excited about touring again, that was it.
Q.During this time period did you notice Mr. Jackson losing weight?
A.Michael was always thin, from the time I met Michael in April I noticed he was thinner. How much he may have lost from April to June, I don’t know.
The more his testimony progressed the more evident it became that Travis Payne did have a dog in the race.
If he and other others knew all along of Michael’s problems with sleep, the fact that they willfully chose to ignore Michael’s most fundamental need makes Travis and all the rest of them accomplices in the crime of a slow and mindless killing of Michael Jackson.
Travis Payne chose to close his eyes on Michael’s problems and pretend that he was simply doing his job, though he was actually the first person who should have noticed the trouble – he was working side by side with Jackson for full three months and if he had paid Michael at least a little of his attention Michael could be alive now.
All of them knew about Michael’s problems with sleep:
Q. You knew he had sleeping problems?
Q. You knew Mr. Jackson was being treated by Dr. Murray for his sleeping problems?
Q. It was widely known knowledge that Mr. Jackson had sleeping problems, correct?
Q. It was widely known during Mr. Jackson’s tours – through the touring process, that Mr. Jackson had trouble sleeping?
Q. To your knowledge, did Mr. Ortega know about Mr. Jackson’s sleeping problems?
Q. Based on your knowledge, would you believe that anyone from AEG could not know about Mr. Jackson’s sleeping problems?
Q. You know Mr. Gongaware?
His desire to please AEG is almost unbearable. He knows that AEG were aware of Michael’s insomnia but is resisting the truth even though by now it is clear to everyone around that he is blatantly lying:
Q. Did you have an understanding that Mr. Gongaware knew about Mr. Jackson’s sleeping problems?
Q. Sir, as far as you know, it was well known within the business that Mr. Jackson had sleeping problems, correct?
A. I don’t know how well known it was. I think many people knew. Michael told me.
Q. And you knew that before the This is it tour preparations?:
Q. And to your knowledge, did Mr. Gongaware know Mr. Jackson had sleeping problems?
So Travis Payne knew that Michael was fatigued and exhausted, had trouble sleeping and was quickly losing weight but all he was concerned about was that ‘the production felt he wasn’t coming to evening rehearsals enough’:
Q. At any other time other than that rehearsal – what were your concerns?
A. I had concerns that production felt he wasn’t coming to evening rehearsals enough. I had concerns we needed to create a show that Michael would like doing. If it was too ambitious it wouldn’t be fun for him. If it was less, Michael Jackson fans would not like it. So it had to be balanced.
After his testimony there can be no doubt that in the open war AEG was waging against Michael Jackson Travis Payne chose to go over to the other side and fully collaborate with Michael’s harassers instead of helping the man who trusted him to be his friend.
Let me finish with Travis by Panish showing him the picture of all of them at the premiere of This is it:
Q. Whose is this?
A. Frank Dileo, Randy Phillips, Kenny Ortega and me at the L.A. Premiere.
Q. They look pretty happy about this?
A. Yes. You know we were just happy to put the worst behind us. It has been very difficult, things were finally coming together.
So for Travis Payne the worst was over and things were finally coming together? Oh my God….
3. THE WAY MICHAEL REHEARSED
With the matter of Travis Payne closed one more question is still preoccupying me – could AEG be at least partially right in claiming that Michael should go on stage at every rehearsal? What if it was indeed an objective need?
To be able to answer this question we need to look at the way Michael rehearsed for the previous tours and the testimony from the same two choreographers may be some help in this respect.
This is what Travis Payne said about the History tour:
Q. Do you recall how much time Mr.Jackson spent working with the dancers on this show? Did he spend a lot of time rehearsing with the dancers?
A. No, not extensively. But it’s safe to say Michael would get caught up to speed. He was very good at giving people their space. And then he would join in.
So Michael did not spend much time rehearsing with the dancers… He “gave people their space” and only then joined in. And this absolutely did not hinder him to make the phenomenal showsduring the tour!
Stacey Walker said the same about the time she took part in the History tour. The ABC7 Court News tweets are quoting her:
On the “History” tour, Walker worked about 6 months. She was one of the two girls dancer in The Way You Make Me Feel. “I feel it’s my song”. Dancers rehearsed by themselves in LA. Then went to France, rehearsed in a studio at Disneyland. MJ showed up one or two times.
So Michael Jackson showed up just one or two times at the general rehearsals with the company when they were preparing for the History tour? Interesting.
As regards the way Michael rehearsed for the Dangerous tour I recently quoted an article of December 1993 which was actually about the tour cancellation, however it mentioned somewhat in passing that the tour organizer Marcel Avram said that Michael “barely rehearsed” for the tour:
He alleges that Jackson barely rehearsed for the tour and indeed requested to cancel or postpone it on Aug. 19–less than one week before the first concert was scheduled to take place in Bangkok.
Michael ‘barely rehearsed’ the way it looked to Marcel Avram! But despite this Michael still gave first class concerts and the tour was cancelled only due to the problem with painkillers which arose in that extremely difficult period of Michael’s life when the unhealed surgery on his head was combined with the pain of all those false molestation stories.
The above is already giving us the idea that in preparation for the shows Michael was specifically avoiding too much strain to preserve his energy for the show, but I was elated to find a much more detailed information about the same from the UK choreographer Anthony King.
In his blog Anthony King analyzes every song Michael rehearsed in preparation for the Dangerous tour, sometimes providing us with precious little tips which help us understand how Michael was getting ready for the shows. Some of those points are directly applicable to This is it – like this one, for example:
JAM, the Dangerous tour rehearsal:
The final version, of the Dangerous Tour had a very good combination of live backing vocals with the rap section and the over-lines, near the end. We also hear the backing vocalist, applauding and screaming when Michael sings his first line of the rehearsal. I guess this is a sign of appreciation and respect but in my opinion just on the limit of respect. You don’t want to add pressure to Michael or the artist, so that they feel that HAVE to perform in rehearsal because everybody is watching them. If you are cheering you are probably not focusing on your job enough!
I feel like this was a major issue during “This is it” and was so because Michael felt like he had to justify himself every 10 seconds, that he wasn’t going all out and that he had to conserve his voice – this is certainly NOT acceptable. The star should NEVER have to explain themselves to crew, team and dancers or ever FEEL the need to do so.
Michael Jackson proved himself over decades and shouldn’t have to justify anything. On the other hand, they are all fans and they are all excited and the Dangerous Tour crew seemed to be a great team and most of them did know Michael for a very long time, so it’s cool and not an issue from this footage but an interesting point.
“Michael Jackson proved himself over decades and shouldn’t have to justify anything.” But this is the very essence of his problem with AEG! Michael was the master of the show and the fact that he had to justify himself every 10 minutes only testifies to how terribly humiliated and mistreated he was by those in AEG and their helpers!
In the next piece Anthony King explains that Michael did not do much dancing when rehearsing his songs. He liked rehearsing in the dark and always sang very softly at rehearsals to conserve his voice.
HUMAN NATURE, the Dangerous tour rehearsal:
Michael doesn’t do too much dancing or moving around during this song, as he is taking a rest from an energetic opening and the first two songs. Consequently the lighting is probably the most finished out of all the songs and you can see that they are using strong lights with some really nice shapes, colours and patterns. Note that Michael doesn’t rehearse with spotlights, so that would also come later to brighten the stage even more, so it’s normal if it looked a little dark – Michael liked to rehearse in the dark.
Michael was really getting into this rehearsal and singing well. He asked the technicians to turn his microphone up (“more voice”) which makes no noticeable difference (although he is singing quietly, I always think he could have sung a little louder, for that). Michael sings quite softly during this rehearsal and one of the themes of the rehearsal is to turn the microphone up.
Here is the rehearsal footage of “Will you be there” to illustrate King’s points. Michael Jackson hardly dances there and does very little singing too. In fact his singing and dancing is more like ‘marking’ what the song will be like in the future:
During the rehearsal of Bad for the Dangerous tour he barely sings and dances only when he wants to:
Anthony King speaks about the dynamics of Michael’s dance style and says that by the History tour Michael slowed down but this only added to the pace of the show :
History tour: I must comment on Michael’s dance style through the years and especially during the History tour. I think that dance vocabulary wise, MJ reached his pinnacle during the History tour. This is because he obviously had mastered and enjoyed his locking, robotics and popping and really showed this off during songs like “Stranger in Moscow” and “Billie Jean”. He also had a renewed sense of pace. He slowed down a lot compared to previous tours. Military wise and choreographically speaking he was amazing, there is a real dynamic sense of space in songs like “They don’t care about us”. He also had a renewed sense of control. Knowing to slow down and to pose and then move. A genius of dance.
During rehearsals anything can happen, so Michael’s request for a teleprompter for This is it should be no surprise. When rehearsing Beat it Michael forgot his words too. Anthony King says that (twenty years ago) it happened “as usual”:
Michael’s vocal was brilliant and almost better than on the actual Dangerous Tour! As usual, Michael forgot the words to the song, just like he did later in the “Royal concert in Brunei”
And this piece is about rehearsing “She is out of my life” and about the way Michael politely sorted out the problems with the other performers. Again he sings very quietly:
This is an initial rehearsal so we shouldn’t read too much into the mistakes and performance as they are still planning, preparing and in some cases re learning the parts. That said, the keyboards during this song are far too loud and heavy. I would go as far to say as they are missing any kind of feeling at all. In addition the keyboardist made several mistakes. I would put this down to nervousness, because the mistakes were simple ones and the mistakes were not continued during the actual Dangerous tour.
Michael was forced to say, “can you turn the piano down some, please“. Previously, I think that he was singing quietly, rather than keyboards too loud but on this occasion he was spot on – they were way over the top and way too forceful.
Michael was also very polite, considering that he had already told them to turn the keyboards down. I think that Michael was trained or just was very aware that he should be polite, all of the time, in public. I think this is because if you get chastised by the King of Pop, you’re going to remember it forever and it could potentially damage you for a long time! You aren’t going to forget that! He really was a nice guy with his team and band, as is evident from this video.
With that said, he was annoyed by it because you could hear it in his voice leading up to it and especially when he said it, even though he was extremely polite. Again, Michael was warmed up at this point and sang well and didn’t skip any of the high notes. This is a song from the tour that is based upon Michael’s solo performance and voice so we didn’t have any classic “Michael Jackson moves“, either.
Here is another video which shows the difference between rehearsals and the actual performances (the video is a great thing of its own):
And here is a valuable piece about the Bad tour and Michael eventually being introduced to lip-synching technology which was used by him when he was doing difficult dance routines:
The first shows in the first leg were completely live and Michael’s voice was amazing and perfectly on point. During the later parts of the tour Michael would begin to experiment with different backing vocals and lip syncing technology which he would later utilise in parts of Smooth Criminal, Man in the Mirror, Bad and The way you make me feel, especially. Michael would also perform songs, only in the first few shows like, Things I do for you, You are my lovely one, Shake your Body (down to the ground) which were replaced by his newer classics.
As regards choreography Travis Payne is mentioned again quoting Michael Jackson’s words: “Why change a good thing that works?” which once again confirms that when the choreography was created it was rarely changed, and this means that during This is it rehearsals Michael had nothing new to learn:
Travis Payne would go on to say, in his THIS IS IT, preparations that Michael’s philosophy was “Why change a good thing that works?” and I tend to agree! Michael would keep the foundation of many of his songs through the years and rarely change choreography, from the Bad tour through to This is it. They would enhance what they had created which is clearly seen from the Bad tour performances of “Smooth Criminal”, compared to Dangerous, History performances of Smooth Criminal with Lean, with extended Robotics sections, slowed circle slide etc.
Since the above was indeed interesting I got slightly carried away and distracted from the main subject, but the next quote from Anthony King will directly concern the matter whether Michael Jackson rehearsed much or little for his earlier tours.
In an interview Anthony King gave to Sky News sometime in September 2009 he discussed the first 13minutes from the This is it footage leaked to the press.
The perfect marvel of this conversation is that Anthony King doesn’t know that his words may drive another nail into AEG’s coffin and therefore chirps like a happy bird comparing Michael’s great rehearsals for This is it with Michael’s barely singing and dancing at the Dangerous and History rehearsals.
In fact Anthony King is amazed that at This is it rehearsals Michael is actually “going for it”. He says it is the most energetic rehearsal he has ever seen.
When the host asks him whether such full-out rehearsals could have an enormous physical strain on Michael’s body he says that it all of it depends on the preparation of the show and that Michael had his crew around him that “would be helping him”.
Oh, if only Anthony King knew … There was absolutely no one to help Michael Jackson. He was all alone and struggling for his life…
Here is the video followed by the transcript (this is the most I could make of their conversation):
Michael jackson THIS IS IT Rehearsal Sky News interview Anthony King
Host: It is extraordinary footage. He does appear on top of his game?
A.King: Very true. In actual fact if you watch some of his old rehearsal footage like in the Dangerous tour for example, he used to dance a lot less in his rehearsals, he is really going for it [now]. It is unusual from the footage I’ve seen of previous rehearsals, he is really doing it. Same choreography as before, basically. Good performance, a good performance and a pretty energetic rehearsal, even more energetic than maybe Bad rehearsals and Dangerous tour.
This choreography is from 1996, the History tour and the choreography is based on that, basically the same thing. Rehearsal wise… when he was rehearsing for his tours he used to dance ten years ago … even in the Bad tour, if you watch the Bad tour rehearsal footage he does not dance! He walks, wearing a big jacket and just walks through. But this … he is actually dancing and going for it. Musically it sounds really great – you can hear it, and the back singers sound really great. You can see that this is a rehearsal and the music is in working progress and it sounds like some parts are temporary but it sounds really good.
Host: He really means business…He is thirteen minutes on stage…
A.King: Well, it is silly… thirteen minutes is one or two songs. Obviously he was really going for it.
Host: Could it have put an enormous strain on his body if he had been exercising for some time? What is the physiological stress you put on the body during those dance moves?
A.King: Well yes, it is a case of preparation. But he’s been doing it all his life. The This is it tour wasn’t really The History tour was a lot bigger, the Bad tour was a lot bigger in a sense that he was flying around the world and was performing more dates. This is something he has been doing all his life and in that sense I don’t feel that… it is just a case of his preparation. He had his crew around him, he had his team that would have been helping him. I know the incredible Halk was helping him train and I think it is just a case.. it’s his business to prepare … I think it’s obviously a lot of stress. He does look a bit thin, but again you just build up.. it is stressful time working on a tour.. I guess that he had a lot of business activity as well, so he was probably building up to it, and it was obviously a working process but he was looking good.
In this video Anthony King told us everything we needed to know about the way Michael Jackson prepared himself for the earlier tours.
In private he trained a lot, no doubt about it, but when he joined the company he danced and sang very little saving his energy and voice for the concerts.
So the near-concert mode he displayed in the This is it footage was very unusual for him and was most probably done to appease the appetites of the AEG sharks who were demanding their “product” even at the rehearsal stage and were blackmailing Michael to perform full-time or otherwise they ‘pull the plug’.
They exhausted Michael even at the stage of rehearsals.
They forced him to perform and this is why they brought those two high-definition cameras to shoot it. They got their rehearsal footage and had their hundreds of millions for selling it, but by doing it they deprived us of the chance to see his concerts and him of the chance to live …
4. THE LAST WORD
The choreography used for This is it was known to Michael since time immemorial, and as Travis Payne said Michael was having absolutely no problem with that. So he could have come to rehearsals to simply watch the others dancing, and this would have been nothing extraordinary for him as this was his usual mode of rehearsing for the shows.
I don’t even know of the right word to call AEG for their demands towards Michael to come on stage every evening and sing and dance there as if it were a concert. There is no word to describe the tragedy they arranged for him by their willful, arrogant and criminal behavior which turned his last days into a never-ending misery and nightmare.
Anthony King has no doubts whatsoever that Michael would have made those concerts and I fully agree with him, but with one reservation only – Michael would have made those concerts if it had not been for AEG.
AEG’s mercenary plans were the major stumbling block for Michael’s dream come true. If these people did not feel like the whole universe is and should be revolving around their precious selves, we would not be sitting here now hoping to see at least a hologram of Michael, but would be seeing him in flesh and blood, and only God knows what tremendous good he would have done not only to his own family and children, but to all of us the children of this planet.
But due to AEG it will never happen.
Probably the only good thing Travis Payne said about Michael was this:
Q. Was Mr. Jackson a humanitarian?
Q. What did he do as a humanitarian?
A. He still holds the Guinness World Record for donating the most money to charity of any entertainer. Many of his songs had to do with bringing awareness, about the planet. The needs of the planet and people around the world. He was shining light on problems and what he could do to help. To get involved to effect positive change.
Q. Michael Jackson was always a dedicated humanitarian?
A. It was what I saw. I felt it was his passion.
Q. Why did Michael Jackson want to do this tour?
A. So he could unite people around the world.
So he could unite people around the world….
It suddenly struck me that the last song Michael Jackson sang during his last rehearsal on June 24th was Earth song.
At the AEG trial the picture of Michael singing this song was shown to Travis Payne and he made a remark generally untypical for sensible men like him. He said that it was a spiritual moment, almost a prayer:
There is indeed something symbolic in this last picture left to us by Michael Jackson.
This is the last day of his life. In a few hours from this moment he will die.
* * *
TeamMichaelJackson is posting full transcripts from the AEG trial. Please help them to help all of us to learn the truth: http://teammichaeljackson.com/archives/8530
Stacey Walker, Associate Producer May 13, 2013
Travis Payne, Associate Director/Choreographer May 13, 2013
Travis Payne May 14, 2013