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'Rambling' Jackson needed mental evaluation, tour director wrote

As he readied himself for his comeback tour in 2009, the pop singer was 'trembling' and 'obsessing,' Kenny Ortega wrote in an email six days before Jackson died.

June 13, 2013|By Jeff Gottlieb, Los Angeles Times
  • In this photo taken three months before his death in June 2009, Michael Jackson speaks at a news conference in London. His tour director at the time, Kenny Ortega, emailed AEG Live executive Randy Phillips that the pop singer was “trembling, rambling, obsessing” and eventually needed a mental health evaluation.
In this photo taken three months before his death in June 2009, Michael Jackson… (Joel Ryan / Associated Press )

As he tried to ready himself for his anticipated comeback tour, Michael Jackson was "trembling, rambling, obsessing" and eventually needed a mental health evaluation, the singer's tour director wrote in an email just six days before the pop star died.

The email from Kenny Ortega was one of several that AEG Live executive Randy Phillips received in the days before Jackson's death that expressed concern over the singer's mental and physical health as the 2009 "This Is It" tour approached.

Phillips, testifying at the wrongful-death suit Jackson's mother and three children filed against him, AEG Live and another company executive, said he had a lengthy conversation the next day with the singer's doctor, Conrad Murray. 

PHOTOS: AEG-Michael Jackson wrongful-death trial

Phillips said the doctor, who was later convicted of giving Jackson the dose of the anesthetic propofol that killed him, said that if the shows were canceled "it would be detrimental to [Jackson] because he was so looking forward to doing them."

The executive said he met the next day with Ortega, Murray and Jackson at the singer's Holmby Hills mansion to discuss the situation, the same home where Jackson later died.

Phillips said Murray was angry that he was being second-guessed and admonished Ortega "not to be an amateur physician and do a diagnosis of his patient." He described Murray's attitude as "stay in your lane. This is my lane, I have it."

The conversation turned toward preparations for the 50 concerts at the 02 Arena in London, the first of which would be held in July, and the need for Jackson to attend more rehearsals.

Jackson, Phillips testified, told Ortega he didn't need to be at all the rehearsals because he had been doing these dances for most of his career.

"I will be ready for the opening of the show," he testified that Jackson said. "You build the house and when you're done, I'll put the door on and paint it."

FULL COVERAGE: AEG-Michael Jackson wrongful death trial

Phillips was thrilled at the outcome of the meeting. "Michael looked great," he said. "Dr. Murray was reassuring.... Kenny was back on board and confident and Michael seemed to be fine." 

Phillips wrote an email the next day: "Guys, we had a very productive, solid meeting...The doctor was fantastic and I think Kenny's hysteria will be in check while MJ was alert and attentive... Let's pray MJ engages and also starts to work out and eat. "

The executive watched Jackson rehearse on June 23 and 24. "I had goose bumps watching him," Phillips said.

After rehearsals finished on the 24th, Jackson came out of his dressing room and put his arm around Phillips.

"You've gotten me this far," Phillips said the singer told him. "I can take it from here."

How did you feel? Phillips asked him.

"Like a million dollars."

It was the last time Phillips saw Jackson alive.

jeff.gottlieb@latimes.com

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