Michael Jackson's music still on Top 10 charts five years after his death
Bodyguards reveal secrets of Jackson's last years in a new book
"When we actually saw that he really does like girls, we were high-fiving," guard says
Trials reveal Jackson died in a desperate search for sleep during comeback effort
Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009, in a desperate search for sleep as he prepared for a comeback tour that he hoped would pull him out of deep debt and restore his reputation as the world’s top entertainer.
Events of the past five years revealed how that desperation ultimately killed Jackson, while his wealth and fame have been secured in the wake of his death.
Jackson’s final days
Michael Jackson left the United States with his three young children soon after his June 13, 2005 acquittal on child molestation charges. He quietly returned to the country in late 2006, after spending a year exiled in Bahrain and several months in Ireland.
Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard spent the next two years as Jackson’s bodyguards, which they detail in a just-published book “Remember the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson in His Final Days.”
When Jackson stepped off the private jet in Las Vegas, his entourage consisted only of his children and their nanny.
“He was all alone,” Whitfield recalled in a CNN interview. “It became an unreal thing. Something’s not right. This is a joke.”
The guards, who sometimes went for months without pay, often used their own money to fund the household when Jackson’s credit cards were declined.
Lawsuits and debt collectors hounded Jackson. The guards often drove the singer to lawyers’ offices for depositions where he would have to answer questions for hours.
His managers were “beefing with security” and “doing deals behind his back,” Beard told CNN. “The guy was mentally exhausted.”
Whitfield and Beard revealed that Jackson did have a secret distraction, known only perhaps to some of his more obsessive fans. Jackson had girlfriends. The guards’ book details short visits Jackson would make to hotels to visit with two women known to them only as “Friend” and “Flower.”
The King of Pop would have make-out sessions with a woman behind a curtain in the backseat of his SUV as his guards drove, they said.
“When we actually saw that he really does like girls, we were high-fiving,” Beard said. “We knew it! To be able to see him kissing it was ‘Yes!’ Seeing it for our own eyes.”
The women, who the guards believed to be from Europe, never visited his home and never met Jackson’s children. He would always return home from his dates before Prince, Paris and Blanket would wake up in the morning, they wrote. They remained a secret part of his last years.
Jackson instructed his guards to keep his brothers, sisters and father away, although his mother was always allowed to pass through his gates, they said. Jackson’s relationship with most of his family seemed “null and void” in those last two years, Beard said.
It was Beard’s cousin who recommended Dr. Conrad Murray when Jackson asked for a doctor to visit his rented home in Las Vegas to treat daughter Paris for a cold.
Beard and Whitfield didn’t work for Jackson after he moved from Las Vegas to Los Angeles and signed a contract with AEG Live. They weren’t fired, just ignored when Jackson’s manager hired a new Los Angeles security team, Whitfield said. Murray, however, did move with Jackson to become his full-time physician as he began rehearsals for his comeback tour.
Testimony and evidence presented at Murray’s manslaughter trial and the AEG Live trial revealed Jackson’s physical and mental deterioration over May and June 2009 – a period where he was getting nightly infusions of the surgical anesthetic propofol to put him to sleep.
Murray told investigators that he used propofol every night for 60 nights to treat Jackson’s intractable insomnia, with the exception of two nights just before his death. Pharmacy records showed Murray ordered four gallons of the drug for Jackson’s use.
A Harvard Medical School sleep expert, hired by Jackson lawyers, made a startling conclusion about how the drug affected the entertainer in his last weeks.
Michael Jackson may be the only human ever to go two months without REM – rapid eye movement – sleep, which is vital to keep the brain and body alive.
“The symptoms that Mr. Jackson was exhibiting were consistent with what someone might expect to see of someone suffering from total sleep deprivation over a chronic period,” Dr. Charles Czeisler testified at the wrongful-death trial.
Jackson could not do standard dances or remember words to songs he sang for decades at rehearsals, according to e-mails sent between show producers and choreographers. He became paranoid, was talking to himself and hearing voices, and experienced severe weight loss, Czeisler said. “I believe that that constellation of symptoms was more probably than not induced by total sleep deprivation over a chronic period.”
If the singer had not died on June 25, 2009, of an overdose of the surgical anesthetic, the lack of REM sleep may have taken his life within days anyway, Czeisler said. Lab rats die after five weeks of getting no REM sleep. It was never tried on a human until Murray gave Jackson nightly propofol infusions for two months, he said.
Whitfield and Beard said that while they would have not been able to protect Jackson from Murray’s treatments if they had been with him in Los Angeles, they might have been able to protect him from the troubles that robbed him of sleep.
“There was no one there just to step up and say he needed to rest,” Whitfield said.
Murray served two years of a four-year jail sentence for involuntary manslaughter, while a jury in the civil wrongful death trial of concert promoter AEG Live decided he was competent to treat the singer.