Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Michael Jackson’s descent toward death could be pegged to any number of dates, but a sure one was June 13, 2005, the day he was acquitted of all charges in his child-molestation case. Within a week, he had bolted California for the oil-rich island nation of Bahrain, where his friendship with Prince Abdullah bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the 33-year-old second son of the king, began an odyssey of odd behavior that eventually ended up—as did many other post-trial Jackson relationships—in court, and raised more questions about the singer’s state of mind and possible deepening drug use. With the king’s blessing, Jackson immediately had access to every important power broker. And over the next year, Prince Abdullah spent about $7 million bankrolling Jackson's lifestyle in Manama. He gave the singer $500,000 in spending money and $350,000 for a holiday to Europe, as well as paying for Jackson's eight bodyguards and giving him the use of his family’s fleet of private jets. “I saw the payments as an investment in Michael's potential,” Abdullah later said as part of a lawsuit he filed against Jackson in London. ”He said he'd pay me back… through our work together." Prince Abdullah fancied himself a talented songwriter and a winnable performer. According to former Jackson employees, the prince of Bahrain decided he wanted to record a hit single with the King of Pop. At Manama's Dilmun Studios in 2005, the two recorded a remake of Elvis Presley’s hit “Hound Dog.” In the nearly three-minute video, both Jackson and the prince wore Elvis-lookalike outfits against a backdrop of 1950s New York-style gangster scenes. When Jackson’s American advisers saw the video, they were horrified. According to someone who has seen it, the singer was visibly strung out, looked emaciated and seemed “pinned out” (a term used to describe the constricted pupils and heavy eyes that are often a trademark of a heroin high). Jackson’s voice was hoarse and cracked at times, his face seemed frozen with too much Botox, and despite much editing, the final cut of the video was deemed by Jackson’s U.S. team to be a “complete embarrassment.” Jackson's advisers thought it would be better to destroy the tape than release it to the public. -Gerald Posner, The Daily Beast

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