Michael Jackson’s grim final days – rehearsals, paranoia and sleepless nights
Ten years ago, Michael Jackson's comeback was all that anybody could talk about.
The King Of Pop was set to crash back onto the stage with his ambitious 50 show This Is It tour – but the concerts were never to be.
To his fans, Jackson looked fighting fit and raring to go, and the O2 Arena tour promised to be packed with new songs as well as his best hits and moonwalking galore.
However, the world was left stunned when the 50-year-old singer was announced to have died of a cardiac arrest just three weeks before he was set to hit the stage, and the secrets of the late star's dark final days begun to come to light.
When it was announced that Jackson was doing a 50 show tour, eyebrows were certainly raised.
The Man In The Mirror singer was originally supposed to perform 31 gigs, but as 1.6 million people signed up to buy tickets, the number was silently upped to 50.
When she first clapped eyes on his schedule, his long-time makeup artist, Karen Faye declared: "He can't do this".
And her concerns were matched by many of the closest members of Jackson's entourage, who feared that he wouldn't have enough recuperation time between each performance.
Ever the professional, and intent on giving the "greatest performance on earth," Jackson threw himself into preparations nonetheless, but as the shows drew closer he became more and more fatigued.
As he grew more frail and thinner by the day, Faye claims that Jackson's team had to "make him go on stage" – at one time even turning up at his home and coaxing him out of the bathroom, where he had locked himself away.
It was clear that his excitement had turned to paranoia and fear, and his reluctance to rehearse was concerning not only his loved ones but also those who had splashed money on his comeback.
"I had my concerns if he was ready, and I questioned him," admits his producer Kenny Ortega. "There were days when I was like, Are you going to show up? Are you really going to be here? You need to do this".
As the tour edged closer, a rattled Jackson begun talking to himself, repeating the phrase: "Why can't I choose" over and over again.
He also told Ortega that God had been speaking to him, and appeared to be hearing voices.
His bodyguard, Matt Fiddes told The Daily Star that the singer was also growing increasingly concerned that his life was in danger.
“He was terrified about being assassinated on stage, and was making silly suggestions about wearing a bulletproof vest while performing," he said.
“We talked to him and said the public love you, you are going to have no problems, I am going to here for you with security and making sure you are looked after you.”
While Jackson's comeback tour was first and foremost a passion project, and a chance to show the world he still 'had it,' it was also undoubtedly a solution to his crippling debts.
The Smooth Criminal hitmaker was "tapped out," thanks to his frivolous spending, and owed an estimated $400-$500 million when he died.
His Neverland Ranch was a huge drain on his income with its maintenance staff, zoo and in-built train service.
Plus, he is said to have battled a secret eBay addiction, and famously spent a lot of money in high end shops on art, gifts and furniature.
However, Jackson's biggest issue was his tendency to borrow money.
It was revealed in court after his death that interest on loans – ranging from 7% to 16.8% annually – had grown over the years.
In 1993, Jackson owed $30 million, a figure that grew to a staggering $140 million by 1998. But in an eight year period between June 2001 and 2009, the popstar's debt increased by an eye-watering $170 million.
Those closest to Jackson, including his personal trainer Lou Ferrigno, speculated that the huge sums he owed are what caused his decline.
"He was under tremendous stress, so much I think it killed him," he told The Telegraph. "The debts put a huge strain on him."
On top of his erratic behaviour and money woes, Jackson suffered from chronic pain and had trouble sleeping.
He had reportedly been dependent on prescription drugs for years, but the sheer scale of his drug dependence first came to light in 2005 during the child molestation trial – for which he was acquitted – when a court heard he took 30 to 40 Xanax a night.
In the years before his tour, he is said to have hired a string of doctors to administer him with the sedative Propofol to help him sleep, even affectionately calling it his "milk," because of it's thick, white appearance.
The pop star's close friend Deepak Chopra recalls that Jackson was "a very controlled addict".
However, his addiction appeared to have been exacerbated by the upcoming tour, with his doctor Conrad Murray admitting that, despite concerns, he regularly gave him doses of the drug, which eventually caused his death.
On the night of June 24, Murray initially refused Jackson's request for Propofol, according to a police affidavit.
But after his persistent demands, he gave in the next morning, attaching the singer to an intravenous drip only for the star to pass away 10 minutes later while his doctor was in the bathroom.
Dr Murray was convicted of the involuntary manslaughter of Jackson at a trial in 2011.
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