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Michael Jackson's life was infused with fantasy and tragedy

He owned a statue of Marilyn, studied Chaplin and married Elvis' daughter. It seemed the perennial man-child would cease to exist if the applause ever stopped.

June 26, 2009|Geoff Boucher and Elaine Woo

He was often seen with youngsters, both famous and those plucked from the mundane world to visit his playground estate. In 1993, he was accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy who was a frequent overnight guest in his home. On tour in Asia when the charges were filed, he canceled his performances, citing exhaustion and addiction to painkillers as the reasons.

Jackson's attorney charged that the boy's father, a would-be screenwriter who had tried to obtain Jackson's backing for a project, was trying to extort money. The criminal investigation was closed after the boy refused to testify. A civil lawsuit was settled for a reported $20 million.

"I am not guilty of these allegations," Jackson, then 35, said after the settlement was reached. "But if I am guilty of anything, it is of giving all that I have to give to help children all over the world. It is of loving children of all ages and races. It is of gaining sheer joy from seeing children with their innocent and smiling faces. It is of enjoying through them the childhood that I missed myself."

He lost a Pepsi endorsement as well as a deal to develop several films. The Jackson-themed Captain EO attraction at Disneyland was scrapped.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, July 02, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 51 words Type of Material: Correction
Jackson chronology: A timeline of Michael Jackson's life and career in Friday's Section A said that on Nov. 6, 1971, the Jackson 5 released its first solo album, "Got to Be There." That was the first solo album by Michael Jackson. An article on June 14, 2005, included the same error.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, July 16, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 48 words Type of Material: Correction
Michael Jackson obituary: The obituary of singer Michael Jackson that appeared in the June 26 Section A and in Sunday's commemorative section said Jackson was the fifth of nine children. He was the seventh. The article also said the album "Thriller" won five Grammy Awards. It won eight.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, July 19, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 47 words Type of Material: Correction
Michael Jackson obituary: The obituary of singer Michael Jackson that appeared on June 26 and in the July 12 commemorative section said Jackson was the fifth of nine children. He was the seventh. The article also said his album "Thriller" won five Grammy Awards. It won eight.

A second case unfolded in November 2003, when Santa Barbara authorities, acting on accusations by a 13-year-old cancer patient who had stayed at Jackson's ranch, arrested the star. The 14-week trial featured celebrity witnesses such as Jay Leno and Macaulay Culkin and Jackson's own bizarre antics, such as showing up for court in pajama pants and a tuxedo jacket. It ended June 13, 2005, with his acquittal on all counts.

Jackson acknowledged in the interview with Bashir that, despite the earlier cases, he still invited children to share his bedroom and saw nothing wrong with it.

"It's not sexual," he insisted. "I tuck them in, have hot milk, give them cookies. It's very charming, it's very sweet."

He added that his own children "sleep with other people all the time."

By then, Jackson was a figure of pop music's past, not its present. When The Times, in 2001, asked top recording executives to name the most valuable acts in the business, Jackson failed to make the top 20.

In 2003, he settled a lawsuit by his former financial advisors after legal documents portrayed the singer as near bankruptcy.

At the same time, he was waging legal battles against his 1970s recording label, Motown Records, and his current label, Sony's Epic Records. He stirred speculation about his mental state when he contended that the latter company, and in particular Mottola, had inadequately promoted his work because of racism.

He celebrated his 45th birthday in August 2003 at a curious public event that seemed to underscore the decline of his career. Hundreds of fans paid $30 each or more for admission to an old downtown Los Angeles movie palace, where largely amateur or obscure performers sang, lip-synced or danced to the fallen idol's hits. Most of the seats reserved for A-list guests went begging.

When the honoree took the stage at the end to join in a rendition of "We Are the World," he was flanked not by the likes of Bob Dylan and Stevie Wonder, as he was when the famous song was first recorded, but by several Jackson impersonators.

Such impersonators usually model themselves on his "Thriller" persona, but the singer himself looked nothing like that in recent years.

There was intense public curiosity about his physical metamorphosis. Jackson often insisted that his wan complexion was the result of treatment for a skin disorder called vitiligo, but that did not explain why his once-broad nose became long, sleek and pertly tipped.

He publicly admitted to two nose operations, but cosmetic surgeons who studied his photographs surmised that he had undergone far more, possibly so many that he had destroyed the cartilage.

In 1996, Jackson married his former nurse, Debbie Rowe, who bore two of his three children, Prince Michael Jr. and Paris Michael Katherine. He did not disclose the identity of the mother of his third child, Prince Michael II.

He raised the children without their mothers and had them wear elaborate masks whenever they went out with him. Several months after Prince Michael II's birth, Jackson dangled the baby outside an upper-story hotel window in Berlin to show the child to fans assembled below. The incident led to accusations that the singer was an unfit father. He later acknowledged that he had shown poor judgment.

He is survived by his children; his parents; and siblings Maureen, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, Randy, LaToya and Janet.

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geoff.boucher@latimes.com

elaine.woo@latimes.com

Times staff writer Chris Lee contributed to this report.

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