My final farewell to Michael
Published 19/09/2011 | 10:17
Caitriona Palmer reads Jermaine Jackson's sensational new book on his superstar brother's life and death.
In the dim light of a sterile Los Angeles hospital room, a man stood in disbelief over the emaciated body of his little brother -- a boy-man he had tried to protect for nearly 50 years -- and urged him back to life.
He kissed him on the forehead, took his still-soft hands in his, and then in a desperate gesture of grief, lifted his eyelids to "see" him one last time.
"Look at me, Michael," Jermaine Jackson urged. "Look at me."
But Michael Jackson, the king of pop and the world's most eccentric and misunderstood music star, was dead. And while a throng of paparazzi assembled just yards away, and news helicopters swooped low overhead, Jermaine rested his forehead against his little brother's and wept.
This week, in a new memoir, You Are Not Alone: Michael, Through a Brother's Eyes, Jermaine paints the most dramatic and moving account yet of the death of his brother and his controversial trial in 2005 on child molestation charges.
Sensationally, Jermaine reveals that if his brother had been convicted, he had orchestrated a plan to secretly smuggle him out of the US on a chartered DC-8 and to Bahrain -- despite the hefty jail sentence that he would surely receive for aiding a fugitive.
Last week, jury selection got under way for the forthcoming involuntary manslaughter trial of Jackson's physician, Dr Conrad Murray, who stands accused of injecting Jackson with an lethal dose of the anaesthetic Propofol.
You Are Not Alone provides explosive new details of the massive deterioration in Jackson's health a month before his death, and the extraordinary weight loss that he suffered while rehearsing for his 'This Is It' comeback tour. At the time of his autopsy, the iconic pop star weighed just 136 pounds -- a dramatic fall from his regular weight of 155 pounds.
"If a stranger had walked into the room, they would have assumed he was a man ravaged by cancer or anorexia," Jermaine said about seeing Jackson's corpse for the first time. "Or, as one of the paramedics would later say, we thought 'it was a hospice patient'.
"I knew that no amount of rigorous dancing could have left him in this state," Jermaine said.
Just a month earlier, the entire Jackson clan had assembled at an Indian restaurant in Beverly Hills to celebrate the 60th wedding anniversary of their parents, Joseph and Katherine Jackson.
At that stage, already four weeks into rehearsals for his upcoming 50-date London tour, the entertainer was upbeat, happy and in good health.
"He seemed the most centred and content I had seen him in years," remembers Jermaine.
A month later, the star would be dead.
Jackson's dramatic weight loss and bizarre behaviour in the ensuing month will be the source of inquiry and investigation by prosecutors in the upcoming trial later this month.
Despite the star's acknowledged dependency on the painkiller Demerol, Jermaine and his family are adamant that a drug problem did not contribute to Jackson's death.
By mid-June, just days before his death, Jermaine writes that members of Jackson's inner circle were increasingly concerned about his health. His behaviour was disturbingly out of character: he began to miss rehearsals, was often incoherent, and was unable to remember well-worn dance moves.
"Daddy was always cold and always slept in front of the fireplace," said his daughter Paris. He couldn't sleep, he couldn't eat. Concerned, a member of his management team placed a discreet call to a doctor and explained his symptoms. The doctor replied that he thought the star was suffering "toxic poisoning of the brain" and should get to a hospital as soon as possible.
"Was (Conrad Murray) giving Michael so much anaesthetic that it was slowly poisoning his system?" wonders 56-year-old Jermaine, who knew that his brother always struggled with insomnia before touring.
Around 12.30am on the morning of June 25, 2009, Jackson retired to his bedroom with Dr Murray by his side. Next to Jackson's bed was a tan-coloured sofa where the doctor allegedly slept. At 11.51am, Dr Murray made a call to a woman he had recently met. While she was talking to him she realised that he wasn't listening any more and that there was "a commotion -- I heard coughing and mumbling" and believed it did not belong to Murray.
At 12.21pm a 911 call was placed. At 2.26pm the star was officially pronounced dead. But any attempts to resuscitate him would have been futile, Jermaine writes, "because Michael had been dead before anyone dialled 911".
The manslaughter trial later this month, the Jackson family hopes, will finally solve the mystery of Michael's death. But his brother Jermaine hopes it will also illuminate the truth of his life.
You Are Not Alone already addresses some of the "cynical" rumours surrounding the eccentric star's life, including the claim that Jackson dyed his skin to appear white, instead of suffering from the skin disease vitiligo.
Jermaine himself has said how shocked he was when he saw the true extent of Michael's skin condition when the star removed his shirt during a hospital visit at the height of his molestation trial.
Another myth was the dramatic 2008 photograph of Michael out shopping while being pushed in a wheelchair. The photo was a stunt, writes Jermaine, designed to increase amazement at his brother's eventual comeback. "Michael was doing a Willy Wonka," writes Jermaine.
This week, Jackson's estate awarded a preliminary payment of $30m (€22.6m) to Katherine Jackson, the star's 81-year-old mother who is now taking care of his three beloved children. Although Jackson was deeply in debt when he died, his estate has generated more than $310m (€223.5m) in the two years since his death.
But while his mother acts as guardian to his three children, it is Jermaine who has undertaken care of the entertainer's misunderstood legacy. Fifty-two years on, the older brother who looked out for the little boy with the angelic voice, remains determined to defend his kid brother.
"I lost a brother, and my mother lost a son, and so did my father," he said. "We have not been the same since his passing. We'll never be the same."