The AEG Live exec who negotiated the deal to bring Michael Jackson to London’s O2 Arena in 2009 gave some background to the fated 50 night residency as the defence continued to present their case in the Conrad Murray trial yesterday.
Randy Phillips revealed that it was the finance company who “owned the note” on Jackson’s Neverland property that originally initiated talks between the live music giant and the late king of pop. A high profile residency in one venue, which meant no exhausting moving from city to city, appealed to Jackson, Phillips said, adding that the singer hoped his fee from the shows would enable him to buy a new home for his three children so they could stop “living like vagabonds”.
Jackson initially agreed to 31 shows, Phillips said, ten more than Prince had performed at the same venue two years earlier, but subsequently agreed to go up to 50 to meet demand. Some have claimed AEG Live pressured Jackson to increase the number of dates against his will, but Phillips insisted Jackson had gladly extended the run, insisting a rep from the Guinness Book Of Records be on hand at the final show, because he was convinced this would be the biggest residency ever.
The 50 night cap was set mainly for visa reasons, and the extension was conditional on AEG providing Jackson with a country estate – with a stream and horses – so his children wouldn’t have to live in a hotel suite for too long. Phillips added that London was chosen for the comeback show, rather than somewhere closer to home for Jackson, because it was “the hottest concert market in the world, bigger than New York and Toronto combined”.
Earlier in the day the nurse consulted by Jackson about his sleeping problems returned to the witness stand. Cherilyn Lee revealed that Jackson had asked her about using propofol to aid sleep two months before his death. She revealed the pop star told her: “I know this [propofol] will knock me out – as soon as it gets into my vein I am knocked out and I am asleep”.
Lee admitted she didn’t know much about the drug, but says that she researched it after her conversation with Jackson had learned about its significant side effects, and that it should only be used for surgery in a hospital setting. She told the court that she relayed all this information to Jackson, but that he responded: “I will be OK, I only need someone to monitor me with the equipment when I sleep”.
Jackson died, of course, when Murray failed to monitor his patient after administering the drug. Quite how much he administered, and whether Jackson himself added to the dosage, is at the heart of Murray’s manslaughter case, though many medical experts presented by the prosecution insisted that giving the late pop star any amount of propofol outside a hospital environment – and Murray has admitted he did – is sufficiently negligent for the doctor to be found guilty.
The defence’s presentation so far has been pretty run of the mill compared to some of the dramatic testimonies presented by the prosecution. Defence lawyers are trying to portray Jackson as a man on the edge, partly because of the stress caused by his 50 night O2 booking, and with an insatiable craving for prescription drugs to overcome anxiety, pain and insomnia. They may be successful in these efforts, though it seems unlikely that will be enough to convince the jury that Murray was not negligent in feeding the singer’s cravings. It remains to be seen if, like the prosecution, the defence are saving their more dramatic and persuasive witnesses for their finale.
What we do know is Murray definitely won’t testify – or, that is to say, the defence won’t call him to the witness stand. The defence team confirmed this 100% yesterday. Though judge Michael Pastor said he’d still give Murray the formal opportunity to provide a testimony, even though neither the prosecution nor the defence have requested that he do.