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Makeup artist describes a frail, ailing Jackson

In the family's wrongful-death suit against AEG, Karen Faye testifies that 'everybody knew' the performer wasn't well.

May 10, 2013|By Corina Knoll, Los Angeles Times

Michael Jackson's diminishing figure — so thin that a costume designer claimed he could see the pop star's heartbeat through his skin — failed to even concern his own manager, according to testimony given Friday.

"Get him a bucket of chicken," Frank DiLeo replied when told of the singer's dramatic weight loss, Karen Faye said.

"It was such a cold response," said Faye. "I mean, it broke my heart."

Over two days on the witness stand, Jackson's longtime friend and hair and makeup artist offered dramatic and sometimes emotional testimony in a trial that will determine whether the music legend's mother and three children are awarded damages in the millions — even billions — for his death.

Faye described a talented yet haunted star who descended into drug use and whose body had wasted to the point that he shook from the cold while huddling in front of a space heater.

The makeup artist, who worked with Jackson for nearly three decades and helped prepare his body for the casket, said she refused to assist technicians retouching footage for the posthumous documentary "This Is It."

"Everybody was lying after he died, sir, that Michael was well," Faye said to the Jacksons' attorney, Brian Panish. "And everybody knew he wasn't. I felt retouching Michael was just a part of that lie."

Faye said she grew especially protective of Jackson after child molestation allegations surfaced and he was in need of constant comfort and reassurance.

During that 2005 trial, Faye said she would arrive at 3 a.m. to help Jackson get ready. Although the singer once asked her if she had painkillers, she never brought up his addiction because she felt it was her duty to keep him calm before he went to court.

"I was a place of safety for him, and peace," Faye said. She added that she didn't blame him for his use of drugs, referring to the singer's emotional and psychological pain over the charges as well as his physical pain from injuries.

She said she never saw Jackson use drugs.

Faye said she did request prescriptions for Latisse, which is used to lengthen eyelashes, and the hair growth drug Propecia in her name so that she could give them to Jackson. She also inquired about but never received Botox as a possible remedy to Jackson's onstage sweating that often caused problems with his hair extensions.

First hired to do Jackson's hair and makeup for his 1982 "Thriller" album cover, Faye stayed on with the pop star and was often behind the scenes, including when he taped the 1993 statement about his decision to enter rehab.

Faye said she sometimes spoke to Jackson's siblings about his addiction. It was her understanding, she said, that the family had attempted interventions with Jackson that were unsuccessful.

The makeup artist said she parted ways with Jackson during 1996-97's HIStory World Tour, due to problems with the tour manager as well as jealousy from Debbie Rowe, the performer's wife at the time.

After a few years, Faye said, she returned to working with Jackson, and Rowe apologized.

Hired for the "This Is It" tour, Faye said she noted that the singer didn't appear to have the muscle mass necessary to do a concert but that DiLeo seemed unconcerned.

"[Frank] was saying pretty much 'I got it under control, don't worry about it,'" Faye said.

The plaintiffs have a court order for emails DiLeo wrote during preparation for the comeback concerts but were told by AEG's attorneys that the manager's computer had disappeared, the Jacksons' lawyer Kevin Boyle said.

He said the emails could include exchanges between DiLeo and AEG executives and that they may be able to recover copies from an attorney who worked with DiLeo before the manager's 2011 death.

The trial pits AEG against Jackson's mother and children, who accuse the concert promoter of negligently hiring and controlling Conrad Murray, the doctor who administered a fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol to the singer. Murray is now serving jail time for involuntary manslaughter.

Despite emotional testimony from Faye, who at times clenched a tissue and wiped her eyes, the overall mood in the courtroom was kept light by her frequent quips.

During cross-examination, she sighed at questions and told AEG attorney Marvin Putnam, "I'm 60 years old, sir, and you're talking about a 30-year span. I'm going to do the best I can. … How old are you, sir?"

After jurors and observers laughed, Faye asked slyly, "Is that hearsay?" referring to multiple hearsay objections from AEG.

"You go, girl," said one fan in the courtroom who gave the thumbs up sign.

When Putnam brought up Faye's blog and Twitter account — on which she has insisted that she was paid by AEG and once wrote, "AEG owned Michael" — she stood firm.

"I've stated the truth as far as my experience," she said.

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