When famed dermatologist Arnold Klein, the Father of Botox, known for his flamboyant lifestyle and love of celebrity, landed Michael Jackson as a client, it was a dream fulfilled. But in the wake of Jackson’s death, Klein has been engulfed by a toxic cloud of accusation, litigation, and bankruptcy.
Traitors are not tolerated in the kingdom of Dr. Arnold Klein. The 67-year-old Father of Botox, who once led a Beverly Hills beauty revolution and became nearly as famous as the stars he treated, is now waging war against his enemies. The list is long. First, there are the powers in the music business who arranged the final concert tour of his most famous patient, the late Michael Jackson. He charges them with conspiring to control the singer’s estate and with using Klein as a scapegoat by alleging that he had gotten Jackson addicted to the narcotic Demerol. Then there are the rats who he says masqueraded as patients in order to issue him a subpoena, forcing him to appear before the Medical Board of California for purported irregularities. Worst of all are his former office manager and former accountant. He alleges that they have attempted to ruin him by releasing Jackson’s medical records in the involuntary-manslaughter trial of the singer’s personal doctor, Conrad Murray, who was convicted last November and sentenced to four years in prison. He also alleges that they embezzled tens of millions of dollars from him and tried to kill him. Because of them, Klein claims, he was forced to declare bankruptcy in January 2011, put one of his homes on the market, and auction off his art and memorabilia.
Klein is also striking back at the Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.), which he says is a “drug cartel” controlled by the pharmaceutical giants, and at the jackals of the media. To keep his followers and fans up-to-date, he posts intimate details about his predicament on Facebook.
I approached the doctor for an interview, but he informed me through his publicistthat if I intended to interview his former employees I would get no cooperation from him. Then one day in November my phone rang, and Klein, in a deep, gravelly voice, began talking nonstop: “I’ve given my life for other people and have gotten screwed for it Do you know I discovered the first human gene? … Do you know I treated the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia? … My great-great-uncle is Albert Einstein Lawrence Klein, my cousin, won the Nobel Prize.”
He soon got to his former office manager, Jason Pfeiffer, and former accountant, Muhammad Khilji. In January 2011, Klein filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, listing assets of about $6 million and debts of $8.4 million. In June 2011 he filed suit against Pfeiffer and Khilji, as well as various banks and investment and mortgage companies. In the suit, Klein claims that on March 20, 2009, as he was recuperating from an unstated illness at his Laguna Beach house, Pfeiffer and Khilji brought documents for him to sign, including one that would allow them to make health decisions for him during any period of incapacity; a general power of attorney; a codicil to his will, naming them as executors; and an amendment to his trust, naming them as co-trustees. According to his complaint, “Dr. Klein discovered that his investment accounts were raided, bank accounts were opened in his name without his knowledge and then pilfered, and his assets were jeopardized.”
“They stole $22 million from me, O.K.?,” Klein told me on the phone. “If you are going to mention Jason Pfeiffer [and Muhammad Khilji], these guys who embezzled from me, illegally released Michael Jackson’s records, what are you going to say? Are you going to say they are good people? They are the scum of the earth!”
At one point he demanded, “Who funded 9/11?”
“You know who?”
“Pakistani Muslims, sir,” he said. “They use a system called hawala.”
Klein has claimed on Facebook that Khilji used hawala, the ancient informal money-transfer system employed by al-Qaeda to move funds around the world, to clean out his employer’s assets and transfer them into far-flung bank accounts, to which only he and Pfeiffer had access.
“They opened 41 illegal bank accounts in my name,” said Klein. “I have records of all this stuff. Also, they tried to overdose me … so I would bleed to death They tried to overdose me on Coumadin [blood thinner], because I was in atrial flutter [abnormal heart rhythm], and they changed my will in the middle of the night without notarizing it.”
All I wanted, I told Klein, was to write a balanced story about the case, which would necessitate interviewing both the doctor and his detractors. “Their filings are part of your bankruptcy filing,” I said.
“What you may think you know is zero,” he said. “You cannot interview Jason and Muhammad. You have to swear to me that you won’t.”
I told him Vanity Fair does not make such promises.
“If I show you all the forged bank accounts and everything, what is that going to do for you?” he asked.
“I’ll print them,” I said.
“Will you give me editorial control?” he asked.
“Of course I cannot do that,” I said.
Earlier he had told me, “I treat everyone in the world. Do you know what it is like to eat fried chicken in Buckingham Palace with Queen Elizabeth? Michael [Jackson] opened every door. The other person who opened every door for me was [the actor] Danny Kaye. I’m sure you have never met the Maharaja of Baroda. I didn’t even know there was a Maharaja of Baroda when I met him I’m a Jewish kid, son of a rabbi, hyper-academic, Westinghouse scholar, who came to a weird world out in California because I hated Philadelphia.” (After speaking to me, Klein subsequently refused repeated requests for comment.)
Khilji and Pfeiffer deny all of Klein’s charges, including raiding his assets, opening illegal bank accounts, trying to overdose him, and changing his will. Khilji has said that Klein had recovered from an illness and “asked us” to bring him the documents “before something happened” to him. Both Pfeiffer and Khilji have filed counterclaims, and Khilji has said that Klein is an opportunist who squandered his fortune on a lifestyle he couldn’t afford.
The King of Lips
Arnold William Klein has always stood out. Born in the blue-collar Detroit suburb of Mount Clemens, Michigan, the bookworm forsook his family’s business—a health spa known for its mineral baths—for a degree in medicine. At the University of Pennsylvania, where he was influenced by Andy Warhol and the architect Louis Kahn, he considered specializing in psychiatry but eventually decided on dermatology. After graduating from the university’s school of medicine, he went on to become chief resident in dermatology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and then found himself languishing, at the age of 30, with a small practice in the town of Riverside, “giving light treatments and picking pimples,” he has written.
On the advice of an aunt, he tried his luck in Beverly Hills. “I was told there was no room for young doctors and I would starve,” he later wrote on Facebook. Nevertheless, he rented a 700-square-foot space and began telling local physicians, according to his own account, “ ‘Look, I’m really good, so send me your most difficult cases.’ … Six months later I had a full practice Soon, with the help of [the acne medication] Retin-A, I was fixing acne without light-treatments or voodoo.”
Within a year he was visited by Merv Griffin, who asked him to be a guest on his television show. Klein told the audience, among other things, how to recognize a melanoma. “The next day people were asking for my autograph, and soon thereafter I received 10,000 letters, many of which came from folks who said I had saved their lives.” Klein has written, “I did three more shows. On the third, I mentioned a little thing I was playing with called collagen.”
Thanks to collagen, the lips-and-wrinkle-line filler, Klein soon became known as the King of Lips. His expertise was officially recognized when the “ski jump” elevation in the upper lip was named the Glogau-Klein point in honor of him and fellow dermatologist Richard Glogau. His office expanded as his famous patients multiplied. By 1985 his reputation had grown to the point that, when he traveled to Rome for an audience with Pope John Paul II, the pontiff, according to Klein’s posting on Facebook, “lifted his pant leg to show me a skin condition no one in Rome could fix.” (Klein wrote that he had cured it.)
By 1981, Klein was living in a 30-room mansion, with his brother, two aunts, a cousin, a cook, and a housekeeper. His life was his patients, and he was on call 24–7. His office walls began filling with photographs of the beautiful and famous, including Rock Hudson. Handsome young men would soon be flocking to him with raised purple skin lesions, and Klein has written that he became the “first physician to diagnose Kaposi’s sarcoma [one of the opportunistic diseases associated with H.I.V.] in Southern California.”
“Don’t forget, I founded AmFAR in my house,” he told me, referring to the American Foundation for AIDS Research, which he helped establish with Dr. Mathilde Krim, Elizabeth Taylor, and David Geffen in 1985. “I raised $320 million for AIDS,” he said. “Who started the Elizabeth Taylor Endowment at U.C.L.A.? That was me. I gave them a million-dollar check from [the late socialite and philanthropist] Doris Duke for AIDS.”
Taylor became one of Klein’s biggest supporters. “He’s the most brilliant doctor in the world. He’s supposed to be a dermatologist, but he is so much more,” she would declare at an AIDS benefit in 2003. “I cannot tell you how many times he has seen me and said, ‘Elizabeth! Off to the hospital!’ ” She later inscribed a copy of her book Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair with Jewelry, “My beloved Arnie. I love you more than I can tell. I feel you have saved my fading life.” Klein’s artistry was visible in Taylor’s face. “She was voted the best lips in the land,” he once said.
Collagen lips became Klein’s forte. When Goldie Hawn was filming The First Wives Club (1996), Klein was flown to New York by the producers to inject her lips with saline so that they would have the inflated look often associated with rejected first wives. “The guy is a master,” Arlene Howard, his former publicist, told me. “When I would come back to my office, my staff would think I had had a face-lift. Where a lot of doctors go zip, zip, zip through injections, Klein takes his time. What one doctor would do in 20 minutes, he would do in an hour.” Klein’s friend Sandy Gibson adds, “His office was Grand Central. When he injected your face with collagen he left no needle-entry marks. A cc. here and a cc. there and no more frown lines or crow’s-feet. And you looked natural, not frozen.”
In 2002, another pharmaceutical bonanza surfaced: the F.D.A. approval of Botox (a purified form of botulinum toxin, a nerve poison produced by the bacteria that causes botulism) to relax facial muscles and soften wrinkles. Between September 2000 and December 2003, court records show, Klein or his company received nearly $500,000 from Allergan, the manufacturer of Botox.
Klein’s clinic, at 435 North Roxbury, became a virtual fountain of youth. He recently boasted on Facebook of “having been the doctor to three presidents, two Popes [and] several real queens.” According to one former observer, “Agents from CAA, whose offices were nearby, lined up.” Another recalled, “[The late movie mogul] Lew and [his wife] Edie Wasserman loved him. He was the skin doctor!” Among the testimonials on Klein’s Web site are those from David Geffen, Dustin Hoffman, Larry Ellison, and Linda Evans, and there are photos of Sharon Stone and Dolly Parton on his Facebook page. The director Penny Marshall appears on a YouTube video of a birthday party for Klein. In the video, the cake is decorated with a syringe, on top of which is a candle, and people yell, “Blow out the syringe!”
“You had to demand his attention,” one former patient told me, “because the office was booked three months out.” There was a special phone line, another former patient explained, “if you were on the A-list. If you were on the B-list, you waited three months. C-list? You never got an appointment at all.” At her concert at the Hollywood Bowl last summer, Dolly Parton announced onstage, “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap, and I owe it all to Dr. Arnie Klein.”
Klein’s résumé would eventually grow to 30 pages: honors, affiliations, memberships, 150 papers in medical journals, several textbooks, and countless appearances in the mainstream media. “If you asked him a question, he was like an encyclopedia,” said one actor, adding that, as Klein’s reputation grew, so did his bills. “I went for Botox, and while I think it was done well, the price was $5,000.”
Soon Klein was living in luxury. The walls of his house were covered with works by David Hockney, Andy Warhol, and Herb Ritts, and his dinner parties were populated with his stellar patients. “I went to a Seder at his house and sat next to Cher,” said Sandy Gibson. Klein’s weight grew with his ego, and his style of apparel segued from drab physician’s scrubs to rock-star plumage—colorful scarves, skull rings, and expensive jewelry, including a Rolex decorated with diamond-and-ruby lips, a gift from Cher. In a 2003 story titled “Dr. K and the Women,” the Los Angeles Times described Klein at a Hollywood luncheon: “He wore a black suit, a tie studded with red rhinestones (a $500 gift from a client) and a walking cane he told those within earshot was a recent gift from Michael Jackson.” Klein was introduced that day by the philanthropist Wallis Annenberg, who called him “a brilliant physician” who is “world renowned.”
One former patient told me, “He was wonderful, but his shortcoming was he adored Michael Jackson.”
Michael, Arnie, and Debbie
‘Michael was probably the purest person I ever met,” Klein told me. “He did not have a mean bone in his body He had one wish in life—or very few. One was to meet Mrs. Walt Disney, who was my patient.” According to Klein, that wish came true.
Jackson didn’t become a Klein patient until his landmark appearance at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, on the 25th anniversary of Motown, March 25, 1983, when he unleashed the Moonwalk. Among the cheering multitude in the audience was Arnie Klein. “I was blown away,” he told me. “A week later I was sitting in David Geffen’s driveway and in comes Michael Jackson. He is sitting in the back of a Lincoln Town Car and he looked very lonely. Within a week, David brought Michael to me. When I walked into the room, I took one look.” He saw what he would later call a “butterfly rash” on Jackson’s face and severe crusting of the scalp. “I diagnosed him with lupus,” Klein said, referring to the auto-immune disease that can cause skin lesions. In addition to lupus, Jackson had vitiligo, a disorder that strips pigment from the skin. In Jackson’s case, his body was spotted with pale patches.
On January 27, 1984, Jackson appeared at Los Angeles’s Shrine Auditorium to film a Pepsi commercial. Fireworks on the set went off prematurely, and his hair burst into flames. “I spent the night at the hospital, in his room, just telling him what it is like to be burned, because I was badly burned as a two-and-a-half-year-old kid,” Klein said. “That’s how we really bonded.” As Carrie Fisher would later write in Shockaholic, “They each had something that the other desperately coveted. Arnie wanted to be friends … with the biggest star on the planet … and Michael wanted access to the farthest reaches of the medical community 24–7.”
Dr. Steven Hoefflin, a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, repaired Jackson’s scalp in a series of operations that included two nose jobs. “Reportedly [Jackson] had somewhere between 20–30 nose jobs done by Dr. Hoefflin,” Klein has posted. “I know everything he does,” he told me of Hoefflin. “I was the one who got Michael to fire him—are you aware of that?—in 2003.” (Hoefflin declined to comment, citing his ongoing litigation with Klein.) After that, Klein became one of Jackson’s chief physicians, in charge of treating his vitiligo and other skin ailments. He also became, as he has often said and written, “the closest person in the world to Michael Jackson.”
According to Jackson biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli, in 1993 Jackson decided to bleach his scrotum. He used a cream Klein had prescribed many times over the years called Benoquin, but it burned his skin. Klein had Debbie Rowe, his medical assistant since 1977, look after the singer. When Jackson was embroiled in his first pedophilia lawsuit, in the 1990s, Klein vouched for him with the boy’s mother, saying that Michael was “absolutely heterosexual” and there was no reason for concern, according to Taraborrelli. Law-enforcement authorities insisted on photographing Jackson nude, however, to see if the boy’s drawing of the singer’s private parts matched, and Klein joined Jackson to facilitate the photo session. (Jackson settled that case for approximately $25 million.)
In 2000, Jackson’s longtime friend and personal assistant Frank Cascio observed his boss exhibiting symptoms that indicated addiction to the narcotic pain medication Demerol, and he voiced his concern. In Cascio’s new book, My Friend Michael, he writes: “[Jackson] dialed his dermatologist, Dr. Klein. He put the doctor on speaker and asked him to verify that the quantity of Demerol he was taking was safe and appropriate. Who was I to argue with the doctor who had been treating him for over fifteen years?”
On three occasions, Klein told CNN’s In Session, he had performed drug interventions for Jackson: once chartering a plane to Las Vegas, where, he said, he ordered a doctor administering propofol, the milky-white surgical anesthetic, out of Jackson’s suite at the Mirage hotel; another time in Hawaii, where, he said, he and his nurse slept on the floor of Jackson’s hotel room to prevent a plastic surgeon from administering propofol; and the third time in New York. That time, Klein said, he “saved” Jackson, who was already so high on propofol and another drug that he went “running down the street.”
In 1996, Debbie Rowe gave Jackson what she called the ultimate “gift”: she offered to bear his children. Although Jackson would later insist that his first two children, Prince and Paris, were produced through intercourse, Rowe, taped without her knowledge in a recording that was subsequently quoted by the News of the World in England, revealed that Prince, the first child, had been conceived through artificial insemination. (After Jackson’s death, Rowe acknowledged that both children had been artificially conceived.)
As Jackson’s two older children grew, their dark hair and facial features bore a resemblance to Klein’s, and in interviews Klein seemed to enjoy dancing around the subject, neither denying nor confirming that he was their biological father. “Once [I donated] to a sperm bank,” he said on Larry King Live. “To the best of my knowledge, I’m not the father There is something called private lives—Noël Coward wrote about that. So can’t we leave this alone?” After Jackson’s death, Klein unsuccessfully sought to be involved in the upbringing of Jackson’s children. “I have said to Arnie, ‘Please don’t say you’re the father anymore,’ ” Carrie Fisher told The New York Times in January.
Rowe, the spunky, blonde medical assistant Lisa Marie Presley called “Nursey,” who married Jackson in 1996 and was divorced from him in 1999, has never spoken publicly as to whether Klein was the sperm donor.
In 2003, Klein and Allergan, the Botox manufacturer, were sued by Irena Medavoy, the wife of Mike Medavoy, the producer and former head of Orion Pictures. Medavoy claimed that she had become seriously ill after Klein administered a series of Botox shots to the base of her skull, the back of her neck, and behind each ear to alleviate migraines. The trial divided Hollywood; some patients left Klein, but the stalwarts remained. “Arnie does not make mistakes,” Elizabeth Taylor announced. Allergan and Klein won the lawsuit, but the negative publicity took a toll.
Bears of a Feather
By 2007, Klein had become a presence in a community comprised of stocky gay men. In Shockaholic, Carrie Fisher recalls the time Jackson lent Klein his famous estate: “Arnie Klein’s birthday came around and he invited us to Michael’s Neverland Ranch to celebrate this event with Arnie’s multi-bear clan It was … Arnie and his lover, plus an assortment of Arnie’s overweight gay male buddies (called ‘bears’ by ‘the community’). Arnie is a big man himself, and he liked to surround himself with similarly fleshy bears of a feather.”
One night in November or December 2007, on bearciti.com, the bears were prowling. Jason Pfeiffer, who was out of work and between relationships, living with his parents near Pasadena, decided to “embrace my bigness,” as he put it. “Some guys like big women, and some guys like big men,” Pfeiffer told me as he plowed through a rib eye in a steak house so close to Disneyland you could see the Matterhorn attraction. “To qualify as a bear,” he explained, “you must weigh in at 250, 350-plus. There’s also the Super Chubs, which are like 500, 600 pounds. I said to myself, Well, I’m going to join [the Web site] … and maybe I’ll find somebody who is into bigger guys.”
According to Pfeiffer, a message popped up on his computer from someone calling himself “Bach.” “Hey, do you know who I am?,” Pfeiffer recalled him messaging. “I’m Michael Jackson’s doctor. I have ten cars I’m very rich Come over.”
A bit put off by this brazenness, Pfeiffer claims in court papers, he signed off, but Klein subsequently identified himself, apologized, and said he might be able to give Pfeiffer a job. Later, at Klein’s house, according to the court documents, the doctor and another man began “pawing” each other, and both men attempted to engage Pfeiffer in sex. Again Pfeiffer says he demurred and drove home. A few weeks later, Pfeiffer claims, Klein assured him that he would make no more sexual advances and invited him to spend the night. “In approximately January 2008, Pfeiffer began working as an assistant to Klein,” Pfeiffer alleges in his 28-page counterclaim to Klein’s bankruptcy proceeding, in which he also says, “The claims asserted here by Pfeiffer arise from a working environment that any rational person could only describe as a living nightmare.”
What began as a combination chauffeur-and-houseman role quickly grew to a five-day-a-week job, which included work in Klein’s medical office. “Before long it became clear that Klein expected Pfeiffer to accompany Klein everywhere on a daily basis, seven days a week,” Pfeiffer claims in court papers. In addition to traveling with him to his other homes, in Laguna Beach and Palm Springs, Pfeiffer continues, he was required to scan the Internet for the doctor as he “searched obsessively for sex partners, day and night, on web sites including bearciti.com, bear411.com, bigmusclebears.com, adam4adam.com [and] bearforest.com.” According to the court papers, “Klein advertised himself as ‘a generous man of integrity … nice guns, legs and chest I can kiss like no other and take you to places you won’t believe (in bed).’ ”
In legal documents, Pfeiffer details the duties he says he agreed to perform for Klein: “Prepare him for sexual encounters with masseurs, paid escorts, and prostitutes [and] administer Klein’s Cialis, Viagra, and similar prescription drugs In Palm Springs, Klein dispatched Pfeiffer and another employee to find a man with whom Klein could have sex. Pfeiffer and the other employee returned with a large-bodied homeless man for Klein Dr. Klein repeatedly subjected Pfeiffer to unwelcomed, unwanted, offensive sexual conduct.”
In our phone conversation and on his Facebook page, Klein insisted that he wouldn’t lower himself to Pfeiffer and Khilji’s level, calling them “evil embezzlers who will descend into hell.” He said to me, “I studied with Louis Kahn … Charles and Ray Eames … and you are going to put me on the level of a sleazebag like Jason Pfeiffer?”
Pfeiffer claims in court papers that Klein prescribed drugs in Pfeiffer’s name, including narcotics, a slew of erectile-dysfunction drugs, and amyl nitrite, an inhalant that produces euphoria—“prescription poppers Klein wanted to use during sex.” He goes on to claim that Klein instructed him to “dispense [the narcotic pain reliever] Percocet pills to a certain famous actress who had an acknowledged history of substance addiction.” Pfeiffer says in the court papers that, although he refused to dispense the Percocet to this actress, she would still come to the office and “Klein would give her ten to twenty Percocet at a time from the office supply.”
Michael to the Rescue
In early 2008, Klein promoted Pfeiffer to office manager, working with Klein’s accountant, Muhammad Khilji. When I met Khilji for dinner in the restaurant of the Holiday Inn in Long Beach, he hardly seemed the type to conduct covert transactions using a terrorist network, as Klein had implied. He was polite and soft-spoken. When it came to Klein, however, he didn’t hold back. Like Pfeiffer, Khilji went to work full-time in Klein’s office in 2008. “The break-even point of his practice was $3.6 million a year,” said Khilji. By 2007, he said, Klein’s patients were leaving in droves, and he was in serious shortfall. “Arnie [was] making less revenue than a third rate dermatologist in the Valley,” Khilji would later write in an e-mail. “He just did not have it any more … and was financially hurting.”
The $20,000 that The New York Times had reported in 2004 as Klein’s daily income had plummeted to an estimated $30,000 a month by 2011, according to his bankruptcy filing. “He was dropping money like there’s no tomorrow,” said Khilji. “On jewelry, art, just keeping people around him ... $250,000, $300,000 vacations every six months In 2007 he bought a third house, in Palm Springs.”
In his e-mail of resignation, after Klein accused him of theft, Khilji detailed the doctor’s expenses over the previous three years. “Maybe it is time to look in the mirror, Dr. Klein You have spent over $800,000 on vacations and personal travel cost with your various entourages … $550,000 on cars … $1,200,000 in random shopping … a $500,000 down payment [on the Palm Springs house] Weekly parties, maintenance and upkeep have cost an additional $850,000 … lovers or friends on payroll to the corporation over $200,000 … over $650,000 in legal, public relations and security fees [and] an additional $7,000,000 in personal luxury spending while you[r] income declined from $240,000 a month to $120,000 a month. Unfortunately with such low gross and current overhead expenses, you were always … in [the] red.”
“He was broke, and I would tell him, ‘You are losing money,’ and he would just say, ‘Look, I’m going to sue,’ ” Khilji told me, and he proceeded to list lawsuits Klein had planned to file in hopes of lucrative settlements.
A rainbow appeared in the form of Michael Jackson, who had been away from Klein’s practice for a time, living in Bahrain, Europe, and Las Vegas after his acquittal in his 2005 pedophilia trial. “In or around October 2008, Klein was contacted by Michael Jackson, who told Klein that he (Michael) needed to ‘get out of a court appearance’ and needed a ‘doctor’s note,’ ” Pfeiffer’s lawyer writes in their counterclaim. “Klein then told Pfeiffer that Klein would write a note stating that Michael had a MRSA [virulent staph] infection … and instructed Pfeiffer to get a cotton swab and swab Pfeiffer’s own nose so that Klein could fabricate test results showing that Michael had MRSA. Pfeiffer refused … so Klein swabbed Klein’s own nose instead” and produced the “doctor’s note.” The counterclaim states, “Throughout 2009, Michael Jackson was a frequent patient of Klein.”
“Arnie Klein was very happy,” said Khilji. “He said, ‘Michael is back in my life!’ I’m like, ‘That’s great for you, doc.’ ” He explained: “We all tried to chase the ghosts You know when you are losing that old brilliance. Now Michael comes back and you see a glimpse of the old brilliance again. Because Klein’s work is known by the celebrities he serves, and many of them had started to leave him.” In 2009, Khilji recalled, “Michael came in a lot He was a nice guy but, you know, he came in and nobody could do any work. He was monopolizing the nurse’s time and everyone’s time. But Klein was happy.”
“You must think I’m crazy for going to Dr. Klein’s office so much,” Michael Jackson was quoted as telling his bodyguard, Faheem Muhammad, during last fall’s criminal trial of Dr. Conrad Murray. Klein’s medical records were presented at the trial, revealing that in the three and a half months before Jackson’s death he was a frequent presence in Klein’s offices, receiving significant doses of Demerol given to him under the alias Omar Arnold.
Klein’s medical records for that period detail scores of procedures, which included some 41 shots of Demerol, leading up to Jackson’s last appointment, on June 22, 2009, three days before his death. Most of the shots were administered by Klein’s nurse, Ellen Brunn, not by Klein, who would later insist that he was in Europe in May 2009, during the time of many of the powerful Demerol injections, and that he would never have given Jackson excessive doses of the drug.
During the trial, Faheem Muhammad testified that “there were times when he was going almost every day,” and that on at least one occasion Jackson had to be assisted down the steps by a member of Klein’s staff.
According to Pfeiffer’s counterclaim, “Several times, Klein told Pfeiffer to help Michael down to the car because Michael was too drugged up and disoriented to stand on his own. Pfeiffer told Klein repeatedly that Pfeiffer was uncomfortable doing this Pfeiffer and Klein’s own nurses were worried that Michael was being ‘overmedicated’ by Klein. Klein retorted to Pfeiffer that he, Klein, knew what he was doing and that Pfeiffer should keep his mouth shut.”
Faheem Muhammad reportedly said in an interview with police, “We would park, walk him upstairs.” As his visits stretched on for “three, four hours,” Muhammad said, hundreds of his fans would gather by the front door. According to Muhammad, Jackson frequently left Klein’s office drowsy, with slowed speech. Sometimes his treatments seemed to make him more extroverted than usual. “When he would leave, sometimes he would want to go shopping in that Beverly Hills area, and that could attract up to 500 people,” Muhammad told the police. “It could get real—real ugly I would tell him, ‘Sir, we need to go out the back door and avoid the crowd’ He wouldn’t go. ‘These are my fans. We’re going out the front.’ ”
Propofol and Demerol
The extent of Jackson’s treatments at Klein’s office can be inferred by the size of his unpaid bills. “Michael was a high credit risk, because he would get services and never pay for them,” Khilji said. “Collecting money from him was becoming increasingly difficult.” I asked Khilji how much Jackson owed. “At one point it got to be as high as $80,000.”
In May 2009, according to Pfeiffer, Klein went on a European vacation, taking along Pfeiffer, Ellen Brunn, his boyfriend, and two assistants for three weeks of first-class travel to London, Paris, and Venice. However, the office records show, “Omar Arnold” came in and received Demerol six times that month.
At the Conrad Murray trial, the defendant’s lawyers did their best to shift attention from Murray’s propofol to Klein’s Demerol. Having examined the records from Klein’s office, Robert Waldman, a medical expert for the defense, testified that Jackson was probably addicted to Demerol at the time of his death. He had received “stiff doses” of 900 milligrams over three days in May 2009, Waldman observed. “A starting dose that is recommended for an opiate naive individual would be 50 milligrams.” Several experts and commentators agreed that the doses Jackson received were excessive. Klein later said that Jackson couldn’t take the pain of a Botox injection—thus the Demerol—and that the dosages he approved were absolutely justified.
In the first three weeks of June, Jackson received seven more Demerol injections in Klein’s office, more often than not getting 200 milligrams in a single day’s visit. On Jackson’s last visit, three days before his death, Klein’s medical records show, he received 100 milligrams of Demerol.
The week before he died, Jackson missed several rehearsals for “This Is It,” the long-awaited comeback tour that was set to open in London on July 16 for an unprecedented run of 50 performances. On June 19, a day that he had not visited Klein’s office, he made it to rehearsal but was unable to perform. Two days later he told his nutritionist, “One side of my body is hot and the other side is cold.” Robert Waldman testified that sensations of hot and cold are symptoms of Demerol withdrawal. By June 23 and 24, though, Jackson was back in top form at rehearsals, his bodyguard told the police. “He was really on. He was really jamming.”
Jackson’s final rehearsal ended around midnight on June 25, after which he was driven to 100 North Carolwood, his $20,000-a-month Holmby Hills rental. While his children slept, Jackson was wide awake and craving his “milk,” propofol, which he had come to rely upon to put him to sleep. Conrad Murray, the physician A.E.G. (Anschutz Entertainment Group, the tour organizer and entertainment-and-sports giant) had hired at $150,000 a month to care for Jackson, later told the police that he first tried a series of prescription sedatives. When they didn’t work, Murray claimed, he surrendered to Jackson’s demands for propofol, giving him 25 milligrams at 10:40 A.M. After leaving the bedroom for a two-minute bathroom break, Murray said, he returned to discover that his patient had stopped breathing. Jackson was taken to the U.C.L.A. Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 2:26 P.M.
“On the day Michael Jackson died, I was working with patients,” Klein later wrote. “When I am performing a procedure on a patient, I do not take telephone calls. My office manager, Jason Pfeiffer, fields all telephone calls into the office to me, and he also answers my cellular telephone. I first learned of Michael Jackson’s death from Jason Pfeiffer.”
Later that day, Debbie Rowe, who was living on the ranch she had purchased after her divorce from Jackson, called Klein’s office. “She was screaming and yelling,” Pfeiffer remembered. “I said to her, ‘I’m sorry, ma’am,’ because I hadn’t really spoken to her before. And she said, ‘I’m not a goddamn ma’am. I’m Debbie fucking Rowe.’ She wanted to talk to Klein. I transferred her and ran in because he always liked me to be in there when he took a phone call like that She started screaming at him. I heard her say, ‘What did you give him?’ And Klein said, ‘I wasn’t there. I haven’t given him Demerol for a couple days.’ ”
Following Jackson’s death, one of his associates told ABC News that the singer had a “20-plus year addiction” to Demerol, and ABC reported that the allegation was “backed by a senior law enforcement official.” Soon Klein’s name came to the attention of the authorities, and it wasn’t long before the police started receiving leads. One police document recounts: “On July 17, 2009, detectives received a call from an unknown female caller who stated that she had information on the aliases used by Jackson when he would visit Dr. Klein. She provided the names, Omar Arnold, Fernand Diaz, Peter Madonie, and Josephine Baker as names Jackson would use when seeing Dr. Klein. Detectives recovered a prescription at Jackson’s residence in the name of Omar Arnold prescribed by Dr. Klein.”
According to Khilji, Klein’s office staff went into protection mode to keep the doctor away from the press. “He really wanted to take the opportunity to go to the media and exploit it,” said Khilji. “Our plan was to try to tell him this was not a good idea.”
On July 8, however, Klein appeared on Good Morning America, denying with a wink that he was the father of Jackson’s children and lambasting doctors who prescribed addictive drugs for the singer as “criminals.” On July 11, on Larry King Live, Klein revealed that, during the cosmetic procedures he had performed on Jackson over the years, “you have to sedate him a little bit.” He added, “If you took all the pills I had given him in the last year at once, it wouldn’t do anything to you.”
“What was the strongest medication you gave him?,” King asked.
“I once—I on occasion gave him Demerol to sedate him,” Klein replied.
That was the first time Klein publicly admitted giving Jackson Demerol. Three days later, Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter paid a visit to the doctor’s offices.
‘We represent the deceased,” said Winter as we sat in the coroner’s office in downtown L.A. Winter has worked on many famous cases, including that of Lana Clarkson, the former starlet killed by record producer Phil Spector. When the corpse of Michael Jackson arrived at the coroner’s office, Winter proceeded to track the medications the singer had been prescribed. “There were over 30 vials and packages of meds, some Dr. Murray, some Dr. Klein … at the residence,” Winter told me. “We located prescription slips in the names of Omar Arnold, Peter Madonie, and other names. These were specifically from Klein.”
Winter filed a subpoena for Klein’s medical records, and soon visited Klein’s offices. Now he leaned back in his chair and smiled. “I don’t think I ever met Dr. Klein,” he said, explaining that he had always dealt with an assistant or an attorney.
In Winter’s interviews with the other doctors he found in Jackson’s medical records, he learned some surprising facts. “When we interviewed some of these doctors, they said they had not treated Michael Jackson, but Dr. Klein had used their facilities,” said Winter. He named three Beverly Hills doctors. One had told him that he had billed Klein for the use of his operating room.
When Winter served a subpoena on the Mickey Fine Pharmacy, on the ground floor of the building on North Roxbury Drive that housed Klein’s offices, the pharmacy produced more than 50 prescriptions for Jackson under a variety of aliases. Then Winter met with Debbie Rowe. “She told us about the ‘Drug Book.’ Whenever there were drugs being dispensed, Dr. Klein had a ledger that showed what was going to who.”
He didn’t question Rowe about the father of Prince and Paris, he said. “She brought it up. She said, ‘The media is saying that they think Dr. Klein was the sperm donor. But that’s bull!’ ”
I later obtained the coroner’s case notes from his visit with Rowe: “Ms. Rowe appears to have someone in Dr. Klein’s office providing her information involving this investigation She advised that there are ‘Super Bills’ and a ‘Drug Book’ in the office and that they should be checked.”
Doctors at War
Steven Hoefflin, a past president of the Los Angeles Society of Plastic Surgeons, gained fame in the 1980s for enlarging Playmates’ breasts and being Michael Jackson’s plastic surgeon. The Daily Beast has chronicled his erratic behavior, including his intention to run for president of the United States in 2008, as well as his claims of being an undercover agent for the C.I.A., the D.E.A., and the Secret Service. He has also claimed that he and his wife were targeted by death threats that were traced to the campaign of his rival for the presidency, Senator John McCain. In 2008 he was cornered by police after he had climbed up a tree near his home with a pellet gun, muttering about a conspiracy to assassinate him. In 1997 he filed lawsuits against two former medical colleagues who had told the media that Hoefflin had mocked or fondled several of his famous patients, including Elizabeth Taylor, while they were under anesthesia. After Michael Jackson’s death, Hoefflin claimed that Jackson’s mother had authorized him to investigate Jackson’s death and speak to the press. (She had apparently given him a handwritten note granting permission to “stop & correct all the bad rumors about my son,” but it was swiftly rescinded by her lawyers.)
One of the first things Hoefflin did was to write a letter to Arnold Klein:
Dr. Klein: Prior to his death, Michael Jackson asked you to send me a copy of his medical records. Those records were reviewed and are now in the hands of the Los Angeles Police Department.
In your own writing and in your own public statements, is found evidence that you:
(a) Ruined Michael’s health.
(b) Ruined his appearance.
(c) Ruined him emotionally.
(d) You caused his Demerol and other prescription pain medicine addiction.
(e) You instructed Debbie Rowe to inject large quantities of Demerol while she was alone in his home.
(f) You prevented him from entering a drug rehabilitation program.
(g) You prevented him from continuing his Dangerous Tour.
(h) You administered IV Diprivan [a brand name for propofol] to him in your own office.
(i) You instructed others to unsafely administer IV Diprivan
(m) You are definitely not the father of his two older children and are making fraudulent claims that you are.
(n) You contributed to the death of Michael Jackson.
On July 24, 2009, the British tabloid The Sun reported Hoefflin in an interview discussing the medical records that Jackson had purportedly given him in 1993, detailing some of his visits that year to Arnold Klein:
The Sun has seen proof that Dr Klein treated Jacko with vast amounts of the painkiller Demerol. They show his first major battle with drug addiction occurred shortly after the doc treated him with FOUR TIMES the daily maximum recommended amount of the drug.
Jacko’s ex-plastic surgeon and friend Dr Steven Hoefflin said the evidence from Klein’s 1993 files was “horrifying reading”. He said: “I had no idea Michael was being given this insane amount of Demerol.
“The maximum amount you should give a patient of his weight and build in SEVERE surgical pain is 200mg a day. Michael was being given 800mg a day.
“I feel Dr Klein was over-treating him to make money. I have launched a lawsuit against Dr Klein for fraud. It is my opinion that he got my patient addicted to Demerol.”
A month later, in the same tabloid, Hoefflin speculated that Klein was also involved in Jackson’s use of propofol: “Murray would have counted on Klein to be the source of propofol and guide him in its use.”
Klein fired back with a slander lawsuit, saying that Hoefflin’s accusations were “ludicrous, utterly false, and baseless,” and that Hoefflin knew it. In another filing, four months later, Klein’s lawyer said, “For reasons not apparent to Dr. Klein, Dr. Hoefflin developed an intense antipathy to Klein in the years preceding Jackson’s demise. Both doctors provided related, but different, medical treatment to a small cadre of clients.” Hoefflin had attacked Klein “for personal reasons and to obtain an unfair advantage in his competition with Dr. Klein in a very small world of potential clients.” The case is still pending, and Hoefflin has declined to comment.
On April 30, 2010, Klein told the Web site TMZ that Michael Jackson was a homosexual and that Klein’s office manager, Jason Pfeiffer, had had an affair with him. Pfeiffer was “the love of [Jackson’s] life,” Klein said. The television show Extra had just aired an interview with Pfeiffer, who declared, “I was Michael Jackson’s boyfriend He was very passionate, he was very sexual.”
Pfeiffer talked to me about his relationship with Jackson, which he said involved three or four episodes in Klein’s examining room, before Jackson received his Demerol shot, as well as one instance during a car ride.
When news of the purported affair became public, Jackson fans around the world erupted, making death threats against both Pfeiffer and Klein. On TMZ, Jackson’s brother Jermaine said, “Arnie Klein? Fuck him. He’s full of shit. Michael was not gay.” The most stinging assault came from Elizabeth Taylor, Klein’s longtime defender, who posted a four-part tweet on Twitter:
Dr. Arnie Klein declared on May 2 that he did not betray Michael Jackson by saying publicly that he had a homosexual relationship … with someone in “Arnie’s” office. It seems he supplies not only women (Debbie Rowe), but men too … how convenient Just what we want in our doctors. And then to say he did not betray Michael’s confidence. No wonder he has death threats I thought doctors, like priests, took an oath of confidentiality. May God have mercy on his soul.
Later, Klein took back his statement about the purported affair, posting on Facebook, “Allegations about … Jason being Michael Jackson’s lover are ridiculous. That story was made up.”
By then Pfeiffer’s position as office manager had devolved, according to him, into “this culture of weirdness.” After moving into Klein’s house in Los Angeles, Pfeiffer told me, “I wanted to kill myself, I was so unhappy.... I was in this big mansion, this gilded cage that you could not leave. He can call me 24–7, all hours of the night.” In his countersuit, he said that Klein repeatedly warned him, “I found you in the gutter and that’s where you’d be without me.” In September 2010, Pfeiffer walked out of the Palm Springs house and drove Klein’s white Bentley to Los Angeles, where he picked up his own car at the doctor’s house there and left for good.
The Status Quo
In television interviews and on Facebook, Klein has repeatedly and vigorously denied that his Demerol injections had anything to do with Jackson’s death. In his phone call with me, Klein insisted that he’s not the villain but the victim of a vast conspiracy. “If you don’t think everything’s interconnected—it is,” he said. He implied that the powers behind Jackson’s comeback were engaged in dark maneuvers. “A.E.G. was behind the whole thing,” he said.
Jackson’s mother and his children have filed a wrongful-death suit against A.E.G., alleging that the company contributed to Michael’s death by pressuring him to go through with a concert tour he was physically unable to endure. (When asked about the allegations, A.E.G.’s attorney Marvin Putnam said, “This lawsuit is ridiculous. No one—least of all the Jacksons—believes the concert promoter A.E.G. caused Michael Jackson’s death.”)
On November 29, 2011, Conrad Murray was given a four-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter. In a documentary that aired earlier in the month, he portrayed himself as an unfortunate bystander at Jackson’s death, “entrapped” by his patient.
Klein says it’s up to him to fight for justice. “I have to set the record straight on Michael,” he told me. “Someone has to get money for the children. It’s not going to be the family. They are all too lunatic-y All of the money is going to be eaten up by all of these corporations, by the greedy pigs.”
Meanwhile, Klein continues to fight for his professional life. He is under investigation by the Medical Board of California. According to the Daily Beast, the board has questioned witnesses regarding Klein’s allegedly using aliases on prescriptions, distributing drug samples to his patients, and prescribing narcotics to himself.
On November 30, Klein posted on Facebook that a new patient had arrived at his office. “After I examined his skin he presented me with a subpoena from the California Medical Board [issued] by Kimberly Wilson [a senior investigator who had reportedly masqueraded as a new Klein patient herself, only to be told the doctor was not in the office] and paid me with a fraudulent credit card. For Kimberly Wilson to use such criminal and fraudulent means to serve me a subpoena is illegal and I feel she has proved herself unfit to evaluate any aspect [of] my medical practice or the Jackson Case.”
Klein has claimed that Wilson was guilty of “elder abuse” against him. In a Facebook post titled “The California Medical Board: A Novel by Kafka,” he claimed that Wilson had told his nurse, “I am going to get him.” He wrote, “If you are truly concerned with [my] ability to practice I suggest you discuss it with my physicians who will assure you I am both physically and mentally healthier than I have ever been in the last 15 years. AWKlein.” (A spokesman for the Medical Board of California says the board does not comment on investigations. He adds, “As to what Dr. Klein claims about the Medical Board or its investigators, I am happy to remind him that he can file a complaint or comment about us by simply going to our website.”)
Shortly after that, Klein posted a resignation letter from one of his attorneys, in which the lawyer suggested that Klein find new representation immediately and reminded him to appear for a scheduled meeting with the Medical Board of California in order to keep it from possibly suspending his license to practice.
In November, Klein held forth at a party to celebrate the opening of his new offices, smaller quarters a couple of blocks away from his longtime offices on North Roxbury Drive. At the Beverly Park home of Dr. Paul Nassif and his wife, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Adrienne Maloof, Klein sat on a throne-like chair, wearing a black evening jacket and an electric-blue scarf, greeting his fans. “We were told he had a skiing accident,” said Greg Milam, who interviewed him at the party for Sky News, referring to Klein’s having trouble walking on his own. Milam was given a video of Sharon Stone’s glowing testimonial about Klein. He was also given a guest list for the party, which included Warren Beatty, Charlie Sheen, and Carrie Fisher, none of whom showed up while Milam’s film crew was there. Klein’s later Facebook postings, however, reported the attendance of RuPaul and Dyan Cannon.
On January 23, as Vanity Fair was going to press, some of Klein’s possessions—ranging from a Bentley once owned by Cher to a set of diamond cuff links given to him by Elizabeth Taylor, to clothing and memorabilia of Michael Jackson’s—were scheduled to be auctioned off by Bonhams.
None of this has subdued the defiant doctor or silenced his remaining loyal patients. “I went to see him late last year,” an actress who has been a patient and friend for more than 30 years told me. “He was as marvelous as always. I trust him with my face.” Klein recently posted on Facebook: “I have survived the Murray trial (which was an absolute hoax), Botox lawsuit, my nurse’s marriage, and my bankruptcy. To all those who have imitated and will imitate me I wish you great luck I will only get better!”