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'Vanity Fair' writer recounts Jacko voodoo story

Editor's Note: CNN Access is a regular feature on CNN.com providing interviews with newsmakers from around the world.

Orth
Orth has been following Michael Jackson since '93 -- when child abuse allegations first surfaced against the singer.

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start quoteHe wants you to think he's some strange creature so he doesn't have to be judged as a middle-aged man who sleeps with little boys.end quote
-- Maureen Orth, Vanity Fair

(CNN) -- It seems Michael Jackson just can't stay out of the headlines. The latest story, an account in "Vanity Fair," says that Jackson hired a voodoo priest to put death curse on Steven Spielberg and David Geffen.

Vanity Fair writer Maureen Orth, who has been covering Jackson stories since '93, spoke to CNN anchor Paula Zahn on Wednesday about the pop star's alleged voodoo curses and the numbers dispute over his plastic surgery procedures.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: What's the real story with Michael Jackson? Does he really wear a prosthetic nose and what about those voodoo curses? What was it he was trying to do and who did he see to get it done?

MAUREEN ORTH, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, VANITY FAIR: He's always been surrounded by strange people that come to him. He had a woman from the Middle East come to him [in the summer of 2000] and say she could turn millions of dollars into hundreds of millions of dollars if he would just pay hundreds of thousands of dollars. Then she got him involved with these voodoo priests and he had three separate ceremonies that I know about. One, he was cleansed with sheep's blood. In another one he paid $150,000 to have 42 cows ritually sacrificed in Africa so he could curse his enemies and be blessed. Two of his enemies were David Geffen and Steven Spielberg.

ZAHN: And why were they so high on his list?

ORTH: I don't know that for certain, but I know that David Geffen did manage him in the mid-'90s when his career was taking a dive. He's always wanted to be in the movies and he's had a couple of projects with Steven Spielberg that have never turned out. But most of the people on the list were people that he worked closely with.

ZAHN: When you say that cows were sacrificed in Africa, where did these ceremonies take place?

ORTH: The ceremonies took place in Geneva, in Switzerland. They had to send a money transfer to Africa to get the cows done. Then there was a third ceremony that didn't happen. They had other animals assembled on the French-Swiss border that were also supposed to be killed for another blessing.

ZAHN: Steven Spielberg and David Geffen are alive and well -- which makes me move on to the question of Mr. Jackson's finances. He is a couple hundred million dollars in debt.

ORTH: That's right.

ZAHN: Is that what this was supposed to be all about... Trying to turn $100 bills into whatever he thought he was going to turn them into?

ORTH: Millions of dollars, yes. Exactly. He's about $240 million in debt and the loan will come due in a couple of years. And he's pledged his Beatles song book, which he co-owns with Sony Records, his record company, as his asset. Sony will be able to buy that from him if he isn't able to come up with the money, which he probably, I don't think, will ever be able to come up with that.

ZAHN: So does his desperation for cash help explain these voodoo rights?

ORTH: Well, you could make that conclusion. I don't know that. You'd have to ask Michael that.

Physical changes

ZAHN: Let's move on to the plastic surgery find. Michael, on television in his latest documentary, admitted to having two procedures and yet just last week we spoke with the head of his security at one point, named Robert Wegner. [He claims Jackson had several more plastic surgery procedures.] What have you learned about the number of plastic surgeries he had?

ORTH: I don't know about the exact numbers, but I do know I was talking to people that once you have so many surgeries and your skin becomes cauterized and the blood can't come to the skin, it turns black and can fall off. I've talked to people who saw that Michael had no tip left to his nose and he has to wear a little piece on the end of it. And if you see him without the device on, he just looks like a mummy with two nostril holes -- that is what was described to me.

ZAHN: You talked about this big loan coming due. He also faces the prospect of more lawsuits from the families of young boys who spent time at Neverland Ranch. Come back to the very first sex abuse case that got so much attention. What have you learned about that case?

Abuse allegations

ORTH: Well, I began working on that in 1993 when the allegations first surfaced. And what happened was that he was at the time 35 or 37 years old and he slept in the same room in the same bed with a 12 and 13-year-old boy for 30 nights in a row and traveled all over the world with him. And certainly the boy was able to draw precisely certain markings on Michael Jackson's genitalia.

In order to avoid arrest, the prosecutors made a deal with him and said come voluntarily and be photographed so we can see whether the boy's telling the truth or not. He didn't want to be photographed. He finally was forced to be photographed and the photographs absolutely matched what the boy drew.

That enabled the lawyer for the boy, who was suing him civilly, to collect over $25 million. At the same time, there were so many threats and harassment of the boy's family, of his lawyer, who had to get guards and of witnesses, and they had gone back a decade, one prosecutor told me, and found at least a boy for every year of the decade previous that was his "special friend."

ZAHN: Wow. I know you've tracked a lot of unusual characters over the years. Where does Michael Jackson fit in?

ORTH: I think he's right up there. He wants you to believe that he's not like a real human being, so he doesn't have to be judged. He wants you to think he's some strange creature so he doesn't have to be judged as a middle-aged man who sleeps with little boys.

ZAHN: Well, your latest piece in "Vanity Fair" is fascinating. Thanks for dropping by to share a little of it with us this morning.


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