Jacksons-AEG trial and its exhibits. IT’S FOUR YEARS SINCE MICHAEL DIED
Today is four years since Michael died. The best way to mark this day would be to see a miracle happen and have him return, but this is impossible alas, and those fans who still live in the illusion that he is somewhere in recluse should stop deceiving themselves – unfortunately Michael is dead and cannot be returned.
But he is returning to us in a different way. He is coming back to us through the media which is forced to talk about Michael though they would surely prefer to forget and not to disturb their conscience by having to talk about him every day and report his pain. He is returning to us as a hologram in a Cirque du Soleil show and people lining up to catch at least a glimpse of what Michael was like and relive his magic again. I hear that the line is so long that they are now selling tickets for the December shows.
Michael has returned and is already here among those who are working day and night to report the trial and are so terribly busy that don’t notice the miracle they are taking part in. Some attend the courtroom, some type the transcripts, some send money to buy them, some analyze, some translate, some take the truth further to the public and all of it is done without any form of coordination, in a totally self-regulatory way, with no one telling anyone what to do, on a completely selfless and voluntary basis and by the people living in different parts of the world too – oh, if Michael could only see it he wouldn’t believe his eyes.
No matter where each of us goes tomorrow we will never forget the miracle we happened to create with our own hands and the mighty, irresistible, mind-boggling appeal of it.
We’ve learned that this type of interaction between people is possible and wherever we go from now on we will surely seek it and recreate it again as the changes Michael did to us are irreversible – those who have learned to fly will no longer crawl. And it was Michael who changed us so much… These are the changes he hoped to see in people when he was writing his songs and screaming about the need to start with ourselves and heal the world this way, and the only bad thing about it is that it began happening to us only after he died.
It seems to me that some ripples of confusion have gone over the masses too. The majority of them have fallen into silence which is the first sign that they have probably started thinking at last and this may be the first step to their recovery. The haters’ comments are still there of course but they are somewhat half-hearted as if done out of obligation and sounding unsure and unconvincing as everything that is trying to fight the wind.
And the climax of it all is the AEG trial which is in full swing now, exactly in the same days of June, when four years ago Michael was silently suffering from the humiliation and merciless exploitation AEG was subjecting him to.
There is some heavenly retribution in the fact that all of it is happening exactly in the same days of June, only four years later. Just as Michael was dying in front of everyone and AEG did not give a damn, AEG is similarly falling apart now too, and no one gives a damn whether AEG exists on this planet in the future or it does not. They are reaping what they have sown and there won’t be a single person feeling sorry if they are gone. And no matter what the outcome of the trial is AEG will forever carry the stigma of a concert promoter which is exploiting people to their death.
The AEG bigwigs are sweating and puffing on the stand and this alone is a rewarding experience. It is a rare treat to see those who considered themselves untouchable to be seen ripped apart and into complete shreds too. If they have to pay back their billions it will be even a better way of handling them than putting them in jail. Money is what they value most, so let their punishment be where it hurts most.
I’ve read Brian Panish’s opening statements and found that the actual sum of the lost tour income calculated by the plaintiff’s experts is $1,5 billion and not $40 billion as the media screamed. The sum of $1,5 billion may grow indefinitely if the jurors consider that the loss sustained by the family (and the world) is greater than this amount. However there can be no price tag put on a human being and artist like Michael Jackson, and no money on earth can compensate for this loss.
So let the heavens decide on the price AEG has to pay for what they did to Michael.
THE TRIAL EXHIBITS
At this intermediate stage of the trial it is worth looking at the trial exhibits. They were recently posted by the heroic (no exaggeration) TeamMichaelJackson site, and you can find the full list on their site here: http://teammichaeljackson.com/archives/8832
My selection will be limited only to those exhibits which are able to clarify the picture further. There is a big difference between what you hear and what you see, and it is sometimes only after you see things that you realize their full meaning.
Look at this photo for example:
The picture was taken on June 19th, five days before Michael’s death. Michael’s state of health is horrendous – he is not only skeletal, but it is also obvious to anyone looking that he is terribly ill. It was after that costume trying that Michael’s skin felt icy cold and he was trembling, shaking and asking Kenny Ortega “You don’t want to kill the artist, do you?”. It was also the same day when he said that God was talking to him and both Ortega and Alif Sankey cried like babies seeing that Michael was indeed dying in front of their eyes.
But the detail I did not realize when reading those horrible accounts was that those shoulders were probably the only element of the costume which was ready by that time. Michael seems to be even wearing a T-shirt which carries a sketch similar to the final costume. So the costume was not ready? It is June 19th guys, and the show is starting in three weeks and the artist still needs to wear the costume before the show to see whether it is not too heavy and functional at all!
Of course they could not make it – Michael was getting thinner and thinner and everything they were doing had to be redone the next day. But even this did not make AEG bosses pay attention to what was going on with Michael and his health.
In my naivety I thought that the schedule for Michael Jackson was somewhat different from the one for the general company.
The young dancers were only learning their dance routines and the rehearsal schedule for Michael (if any at all) was surely not to be the same as for them.
He knew his dance steps inside out as he was the one who created the choreography, and the need to save his energy for the show was to be the principal issue for all those who were involved in the preparation of the show and were setting the schedule of his rehearsals.
So it was natural for us to expect an hour here, an hour there, but absolutely not what we see in these papers made for Michael by AEG:
So Michael had only one day off?
When you look at it you begin to realize that AEG were making him perform for two and a half months even before the tour started. It was something like 60 shows before the tour and then another 50 shows after it.
And Michael had to do it even though he was going without sleep as we know it now?
And even if he had been able to sleep who could have coped with such a crazy schedule? And what was the need for it at all? And how did they dare?
Now the AEG bosses say it themselves that it is even insulting for an artist to be told to attend rehearsals – whether he wants to rehearse or he doesn’t is solely up to the artist and to him only – so what were they thinking of at that time then?
The July schedule is no better than the rest of them. Over here I calculated the overall number of production rehearsals, dress rehearsals and concerts, and came to the number of 15.
Given that dress-rehearsals are no better than full-time shows in terms of the effort the artist puts into them this schedule means that in July 2009 Michael was supposed to work every other day.
If I only could, I would strangle those slave-masters with my own hands. Or better make Randy Phillips and Paul Gongaware dance on stage throughout the night in some God-forsaken club for three months running with only one day off.
Now comes the series of emails concerning Tohme.
Do you remember the hard time we had proving that Tohme was working for the Colony Capital and that he could not fulfill his duties of a personal manager due to a huge conflict of interest? And now we have a simple and easy answer – an email from Colony Capital which says that Tohme was working for them as a consultant, was a broker (evidently the one who brings them ‘distressed assets’), and they openly acknowledge that Tohme brought Michael to them and not them to Michael as he should have.
A personal manager should work for his employer and offer him several opportunities to choose from, and should not be taking him to the place where he receives a commission for every new client he brings in. There might be a dozen places which will offer much better terms but where he will not receive a commission from the other side. If he does and in return brings these people to his employer as the only choice, it is called bribery which is actually a criminal deed. So what Tohme was doing is not just a conflict of interest – it was a downright crime.
At the very least it was a huge conflict of interest. If you work for two opposing parties you are supposed to offer each of them the best terms. One wants to sell at the highest price, and the other wants to buy at the lowest – so working in the best interest of each of them is impossible even in theory and nothing will convince me that out of these two parties Tohme chose Michael and worked solely in his favor.
Here is an email from Richard Nanula of Colony Capital saying that Tohme is their longtime consultant:
This is followed by another interesting email. It is dated January 14th 2009 and is sent to AEG by Dennis Hawk who was actually Tohme’s lawyer. The email informs Kathy Jorrie and the AEG General Counsel Shawn Trell that Michael Jackson is the sole officer of the Michael Jackson Company and can be the only signatory to the contract on behalf of his company:
So if Michael is the only signatory it means that Tohme cannot sign for it. However this did not prevent Tohme from signing off for the Michael Jackson company and approve the production expenses on its behalf after Michael’s death. He is a nobody to that company but says that he is, and AEG knows that he is not authorized but doesn’t mind it:
The maneuver with signing off the costs by Tohme enabled AEG to write in their first report submitted to the Estate that “this summary of expenses is consistent with the approved budget”.
Approved by whom? By Tohme Tohme who was signing on behalf of the company which he had no right to represent.
The report is preceded by a cover letter which makes it clear that AEG is informing Branca and Kane of those expenses not just for the fun of it, but because they expect them to pay those expenses.
At the trial all AEG bosses will say that the report was “for review only”. Okay, but what was the purpose of all that reviewing then? Was it just for having a look and then throwing it away?
No, of course they wanted the Estate to cover those expenses and this was the main idea of that “review”.
The correct date of the report submitted to the Estate is July 17th (and not July 7th as we previously thought):
The reason why AEG insists that the report was not final is because they included Murray’s salary into the budget, and this is no small matter as it might seem at first sight. Since they wanted money to be paid to Murray (no matter by whom) it means that they acknowledged that their contract with him was final and executed, and if it was executed it means that it was no different from their other contracts – with Karen Faye, Travis Payne or Kenny Ortega. And this means that AEG employed Murray like everyone else and that Murray was in AEG’s employment in the same way as for example, Travis Payne was.
Now AEG say they made a mistake in including Murray into the budget and are fighting the Jacksons’ lawyers over this point tooth and nail.
Since Tohme was mentioned in connection with signing off the production expenses it’s worth recalling what he said to Sullivan about the salary to Murray. And to Sullivan he said that Michael insisted that the expenses on the doctor should be covered by AEG and they actually agreed to it, and this is probably why they included the salary into their budget.
It will be interesting to see what song Tohme will sing at the trial. Here is an excerpt from Sullivan’s book:
Of all the demands that Michael Jackson made during the negotiation of the contract for the O2 shows, his requirement that AEG pay for the services of a “ personal physician” had been the one that Randy Phillips and the company attorneys resisted most vigorously. Jackson’s refusal to compromise on this point suggested that his sense of self-importance had made a comeback every bit as extraordinary as the one Randy Phillips hoped to see onstage at the O2.
“ Look,” Michael told Phillips, “ my body is the mechanism that fuels this entire business. Just like President Obama, I need my own doctor attending to me twentyfour/seven.” Paul Gongaware remembered Jackson pointing to himself and saying, “ This is the machine. You have to take care of the machine.”
Frank Dileo pointed out to Phillips and Gongaware that hiring a personal physician might be a good way to separate Michael from Arnold Klein, whom all three men believed to be Jackson’s primary drug supplier. AEG agreed to pay for a private physician, even yielding to Michael’s demand that he alone be permitted to pick the MD who would live with him.
SPLITTING THE PROFIT
As regards the budget, expenses, profit and the way money was to be split another exhibit caught my attention. The exhibit looks to me like an absolutely damning document. It is a paper showing who was to receive what amount of money after making those shows and paying all the expenses:
This tables explains to us that the “premium tickets” did not make up a tiny fraction of the whole sum of the tickets as AEG earlier claimed, but were one fifth of the sum collected from the tickets sold via usual sources. Premium tickets were sold for hundreds and even thousands of dollars through secondary agencies like Viagogo.
The sum collected for the premium tickets was around $17 mln. as per May 2009. The date is important as a certain quantity of premium tickets was offered for sale right on the eve of Michael’s death – naturally at exorbitant prices and at the time when they already knew that Michael would most probably not be able to make those concerts at all. Yes, dear reader, these are the things we learn about this beautiful AEG company in the course of this beautiful AEG trial.
BBC News said about it:
Page last updated at 17:35 GMT, Tuesday, 23 June 2009 18:35 UK
More Jackson tickets up for sale
Jackson announced his comeback shows in March this year.
More tickets for Michael Jackson’s This Is It concerts at London’s O2 arena are to go on sale on Wednesday.
The “limited” number of extra seats – thought to be hundreds per show – had been held back as production logistics were worked out.
Fans who have registered on his website will be entered into a lottery system in order to buy the tickets.
The first 750,000 tickets for the 50-show run were snapped up when they went on sale in March.
The pop superstar will take to the stage for his first show on 13 July – five days later than planned.
Four initial shows were rescheduled last month when promoters AEG Live said the singer needed more time for dress rehearsals.
The second thing we learn from the breakdown of expenses is that out $133,5 mln collected only $52mln was to be paid to Michael Jackson. These are the real numbers standing behind all that soothing talk about a 90/10 split between AEG and Michael Jackson which was meant for imbeciles only.
The VAT and payment for the insurance (covered by MJ) were not be recouped by the parties, but all the rest of it was to go into AEG’s pocket. And the longer the tour lasted the more costs Michael was to incur – in 2009 the costs on running the tour were to be $12mln and the next year another $11 mln was to be added to that. In fact, even the three months break between the two legs of the tour was to cost Michael around $1,5 million!
Out of the whole $133mln collected Michael was to receive $52 mln and AEG was to receive all the rest (with VAT and insurance excluded). Even by my rough estimation it is $68 mln.
Does it look like a 90/10 split to you? To me it doesn’t.
EMAILS IN MID-JUNE
Another exhibit is the chain of emails starting on June 13th about Michael’s health which resulted in a big uproar from AEG and a riot meeting on June 16th.
It began with an innocent message from Travis Payne saying that the doctor ordered Michael a sick leave:
This was followed by an email sent by Kenny Ortega on June 14th. From the short fragments read out at the trial the intentions of Ortega were not quite clear, however the full text of the email convinces us that he was very worried about Michael’s health and that the middle of June was the time when another of those big red flags was raised, only no one reacted:
This brings us to the famous reply from Gongaware where he says that they want to remind Murray that it is AEG who is paying his salary and not Michael Jackson, and that they want him to understand what is expected of him. Now Gongaware has complete amnesia as to who, when and why wrote this email:
Kenny Ortega answers him in the early hours of June 15h with another worried email which is balancing between deep sympathy for Michael, need to explain why he is missing rehearsals, the necessity to pacify Gongaware, and concern for the future of the show:
As you know the above chain of emails ended in a meeting on June 16th which Randy Phillips called an “intervention” . Over there instead of giving Michael medical help they threatened him with pulling the plug, read to him some riot act and “played the tough love, now or never card”. This we will learn from the next package of emails called ‘Trouble at the front’.
TROUBLE AT THE FRONT EMAILS
The Trouble at the front emails were exchanged on June 19-20. They consist of at least five big blocks of emails exchanged between various people.
The correspondence starts with John Houghahl (Bugzee) who writes to Randy Phillips that he isn’t being a drama queen but Michael was sent home without setting foot on stage. “He was a basket case and Kenny was concerned he would embarrass himself on stage or worse yet – get hurt”. “Doubt is pervasive, time to circle the wagons”.
Upon hearing from Bugzee Phillips informs his boss Tim Leiweke that they have a real problem here:
Three hours later at 2 am in the morning, when Randy Phillips is long asleep (he says he goes to bed early), Ortega sends him an extremely worried email urging him to take immediate action. This is Ortega’s well-known email saying that after bringing the doctor into the fold and playing the tough love, now or never card the artist might not be able to rise to the occasion due to the emotional stuff. A strong Therapist is required. Michael was fatigued, had a terrible case of chills, was trembling, rambling and obsessing. No one was caring for him and there was no one around to even bring him a cup of hot tea…
At around 7 o’clock in the morning after having a good eight-hour sleep Randy Phillips gives Ortega a non-committal reply. He knows about the problem since the previous night but has nothing to say to Ortega except that Brigitte Segal (a lawyer who is taking care of housing in London) will be brought back as soon as possible – as if it is able to settle the problem with Michael’s health:
After noon Murray called Randy Phillips and they talked for 25 minutes. Now Phillis says it was about setting up a meeting for that day – as to what else was discussed he does not remember. However after his conversation with Murray Phillips sent to Ortega a soothing email – everything is fine, enough alarms have sounded, it is critical not to become amateur physicians for Michael, he has immense respect for the doctor, the doctor is excellent, they check everyone out, and so on and so forth with the rest of his lies.
The email was sent in reply to Ortega’s second extremely worried email Phillips received after noon. Over there Ortega again spoke about Michael’s continued physical and emotional weakening and mentioned a psychiatrist.
Oh, now I understand who was the one to talk about no need “to become an amateur psychiatrist”! Of course it was Randy Phillips. He was answering Ortega’s suggestion of bringing in a psychiatrist and at their later meeting the same day Murray simply repeated Phillips’s words to Ortega! And now they are telling us that AEG did not control Murray?
The email Randy Phillips simultaneously sends to his boss Tim Leiweke (never mind the time printed on the email, it is wrong) makes it clear to us that the only thing Randy Phillips is really worried about is not Michael Jackson’s health but Kenny Ortega and his “hysteria”.
He says that this guy (Ortega) “is really starting to concern” him:
On June 20th Branca who was rehired two days earlier replied too and offered a doctor he knew of. He wonders if there is any substance issue involved :
But Randy Phillips still thinks that the main problem is not with Michael Jackson but is with Ortega.
In the evening on June 20th he informs Gongaware and the whole party representing Michael Jackson (Kane, Branca and Frank Dileo) about the meeting he eventually had in MJ’s house with Michael, Murray and Ortega.
He says that Ortega’s “hysteria will be checked”, the doctor was “fantastic” and they “agreed on the schedule” which was naturally the main point of concern of this AEG monster.
Not a word is said about Michael’s state of health. And this is happening on June 20th, four days before Michael’s death, after the meeting where Murray, of whom Phillips knows nothing, was downright rude to the worried Ortega, basically told him to mind his own business and leave Michael’s health to him.
It was then that Murray told Ortega: “No one should become amateur psychiatrists or physicians for Michael”, most probably repeating Phillips’s earlier words this way. No wonder that the doctor was “fantastic” according to the AEG Live boss. The rest of the email is about what really worried Randy Phillips at that time – it was Joe Jackson, Leonard Rowe and AllGoodEntertainment.
Randy Phillips’s email is on the bottom, while Branca’s answer to the evening news about the meeting is on the top of the page:
Branca gives two interesting answers to Phillips’s information. In the first he says that the situation with Michael is encouraging news and thinking that some drugs are involved asks them not to let him sign anything before he reviews it (June 20th) and in the second he expresses his opinion about Joe Jackson (morning of June 21st).
I did not quite get the meaning of it, but his statement that Michael should first think of his interests and only then of his family sounds to me as a correct one. No wonder that the family is not of too high an opinion of Branca:
The light-hearted attitude displayed by Kane, Michael’s accountant, looks extremely unpleasant in a dramatic situation like this one. On the other hand his emails betray his full dependence on AEG – exactly at that very time he was asking for a $1mln advance for Michael in addition to the first $5mln he had received half a year before ($5 million is actually a minimal advance given to the artist – other artists receive from AEG $25mln and more).
However Randy Phillips refused Kane even that little.
Moreover he answered him that Michael “might be in breach of the contract” which he was absolutely not.
Phillips dismissed even the chance of more advance money for Michael and his reply impresses you by its arrogance and finality. It clearly conveys the idea who is the boss here.
In reply to Phillips’s refusal to provide money and the “breach of contract” news Kane says that “he thought it couldn’t get worse”:
In closing my short list of exhibits let me mention only one more email – the one about the “freak”. Nothing can testify to the ugliness of AEG people better than the words written by themselves:
This was actually the essence of AEG’s attitude to Michael which they displayed towards him from beginning to end. They never respected him and were just using him – in the same way others use their Xerox to make as many copies as possible while its cartridge is still alive.
From the way AEG behaves it seems that AEG has long ceased to treat human beings as human beings at all – the gigantic sums they make from their concert business corrupted them, and corrupted them in a really big and fundamental way.
AN INCIDENT WITH THE EARTH SONG
One more exhibit attracted my attention. I’ve never seen it before and it is the episode of Michael in a concert in Korea in 1996 where some fan climbed into the cherry picker where Michael was singing the Earth song. It is a rare sight and the way Michael dealt with this incredible situation is absolutely incredible too.
What also amazes me is that all major incidents on stage took place with Michael when he was singing the Earth song. In Munich a bridge under him collapsed when he was singing the Earth song, in South Korea he saved a fan from falling from a cherry picker when he was singing the Earth song, and in This Is It tour it was the last song he ever sang in his life.
It seems that the Earth song was Michael’s last hope and last appeal to the people of the planet, and it was the response to it that was constantly letting him down.
Michael held that fan so tight that there was no way he could fall. He really cared. I think this episode should be shown on every TV channel instead of that “dangling episode” they so terribly like talking about. What nonsense they are saying! If Michael didn’t allow this fan to fall he would have never allowed a small baby to fall either.
Let me accompany this trial exhibit with a few comments from people who knew Michael.
This may remind AEG what man and artist they were so mercilessly degrading and abusing. Hopefully at least now they will learn who they have ground down and eventually killed:
“He was perfect,” he said. “He was someone you wanted to be with. He was the one who pushed me to keep going. It’s unbelievable. His presence was so comforting, I’ll never get over it,” he said, beginning to cry.
Rob Hoffman (Sounds Engineer):
“I was fortunate enough to work with MJ early in my career. He was an incredible artist. TALENTED BEYOND YOUR WILDEST DREAM. Extremely generous, and a hard worker…. A completely incredible human being.
In 2003, Björk did an In Camera interview at showstudio. One of the questions came from the King of pop himself:
Michael Jackson: I have always loved and admired your creativity. Nature’s struggle to survive alongside mankind has been an inspiration for me: given the natural beauty of your Icelandic homeland, how does nature inspire your work?
Björk : I hope this doesn’t sound too naff, but being alone in nature, especially after walking for hours, just puts you in your place and you realise how small you are and how plenty of everything is all around you. Then you just let go and surrender, become part of it.
I’m so chuffed you asked me a question! I have to say you’re the best, keep fighting and it angers me how cruel everybody is to you. It’s like in the US right now, it’s illegal to be an eccentric. Maybe people would have been more understood if you were a contemporary of Ludwig II of Bavaria, who commissioned Wagner and lived with the swans. I listen to Butterflies off your last album all the time. You are a true artist! Thanks for fighting and believing in magic even though the rest of the world have forgotten about it.
Howard Reich, Arts critic:
Was Michael Jackson a genius?
No doubt about it, according to experts who convened over the weekend at the Harold Washington Library Center to explore the topic.
“He IS a genius,” proclaimed reissues producer Harry Weinger, refusing to revert to past tense.
“You may wonder, ‘How could he be so shy?'” asked Phillinganes, pointing to a performer who appeared fearless on stage.
“If you were chased (by fans), and you had to run for your life, if that’s what you experience from 11, you would be a little different, too.”
The real Michael Jackson, explained Phillinganes, was the man who stood before the microphone – particularly in the recording studio – and let all that glorious music flow out of him, without qualm or inhibition.
Toward the end of the evening, 79-year-old Oscar Walden Jr., a Chicago TV and radio producer, got up from his seat in the crowd and, leaning on his cane, prepared to read a poem he had written for Jackson.
“I love Michael,” he told the crowd, which fell to a hush.
“He was a genius.”
Maximilian Schell, German actor, in a handritten letter retyped here:
NOV. 19, 1993
TO: Michael Jackson
(somewhere on this planet)
I AM DEEPLY ASHAMED — FOR THE PRESS, FOR THE MEDIA, FOR THE WORLD – I don’t know you – we met only ONCE on one of those Award-Dinners (“Entertainer of the decade”) – We shook hands – you were kind and polite – I don’t think you knew who I was – How should you? Our worlds are too far apart – (I am more, “classical” – minded ) but I looked into your eyes — They were KIND —
You are a great artist and I admire you – my little daughter (she is 4½) loves you! Deeply – she even wants to marry you! (“But he never calls me!”) She imitates you all the time – and quite well –
We all love you.
I would like her more to listen to Mozart – but she loves YOU! And I respect her taste! —
That you survive this avalanche of dirt thrown at you – I admire tremendously –
THANK YOU FOR WHAT YOU ARE!
GOD BLESS YOU
P.S. “One can only see good with the heart – the essential is invisible for the eyes” – (“The Little Prince”)