Michael Jackson’s long-time make-up artist told a court she overhead an executive for concert promoter AEG Live insist that the singer rehearse, despite signs of his declining health.
Karen Faye, who worked with Jackson for more than 27 years, told jurors she became increasingly concerned about Jackson’s health and agreed with a fan’s assessment that the singer might die if he was pushed too hard in preparations for his This Is It concerts.
AEG executives continued to push Jackson, Ms Faye said. She told the Los Angeles court she overheard a phone conversation in which AEG executive Paul Gongaware told Jackson’s assistant to get him out of a locked bathroom and to a rehearsal.
Ms Faye described Gongaware, AEG Live’s co-CEO, as “angry and kind of desperate” in the conversation. She said Mr Gongaware told the assistant to do “whatever it takes”.
She said the only people she saw insist that Jackson rehearse were Mr Gongaware and tour director Kenny Ortega.
The make-up artist and hair stylist is giving evidence in a case brought by Jackson’s mother, Katherine, against AEG Live. The suit accuses the Los Angeles-based company of failing to properly investigate the doctor who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for the singer’s death.
Her lawyers also contend the company didn’t properly respond to concerns about the singer’s health.
AEG denies it hired Conrad Murray or bears any liability for Jackson’s death.
Ms Faye said she informed Mr Ortega, Jackson’s manager and AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips about her concerns about Jackson’s health during the preparations for the shows. She said Jackson was frustrated and after a costume fitting days before his death, repeatedly asked her: “Why can’t I choose?”
She said that after Jackson missed several rehearsals, Mr Phillips told her to ignore the singer’s instructions.
Jurors are expected to hear from Mr Ortega, Mr Phillips and Mr Gongaware later in the trial.
Choking back tears, Ms Faye read portions of an email from one of Jackson’s fans that she forwarded to his late manager, Frank Dileo, describing the singer as a skeleton.
“If we do nothing, he will die,” the fan wrote. “I know people who work for him cannot tell him anything. I know his own family tried to help him but he won’t listen.”
Ms Faye said she wrote to Mr Dileo saying she agreed with the assessment, but the manager never responded in writing.
By this point, Jackson was often cold to the touch and was becoming increasingly paranoid. Ms Faye said he became obsessed with her being within sight when he was rehearsing on stage.
In earlier evidence, she described severe pain the singer experienced after performance accidents and his increasing reliance on doctors.
She said his reliance on medications coincided with the first time he was accused of child molestation in the early 1990s.
“Michael had to go on stage every night knowing that the whole world thought he was a paedophile,” she said.