The president of AEG Live demanded a series of images depicting Michael Jackson in a skeletal state onstage be removed from his posthumous This Is It concert documentary, a court has heard. Emails exchanged between boss Randy Phillips and executive Paul Gongaware were read out in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Thursday (30May13), as the superstar's mum Katherine Jackson and his three kids continued their wrongful death battle against the concert promotion company, accusing heads of ignoring key signs the singer was seriously ill as he prepared to perform a gruelling 50-date residency in London.
In a pre-trial deposition, Gongaware alleged that there had been no mention of fears the singer would look too skinny in the This Is It documentary, which was released after his death, although prosecutors appeared to challenge that claim by producing the messages sent by the two bigwigs on 9 August, 2009 - six weeks after Jackson's death in June (09).
Phillips wrote, "Make sure we take out the shots of MJ in that red leather jacket at the song stage... He looks way too thin and skeletal", prompting Gongaware to reply, "OK, will have a look when it comes on screen."
Questioning Gongaware on the witness stand, Jackson family lawyer Brian Panish asked, "You didn't want anyone distressed that Michael Jackson looked so emaciated, correct?" The executive responded, "No, we didn't try to control anything."
The jury also heard that the Thriller hitmaker's super-skinny frame even prompted his tour production manager, John 'Bugzee' Hougdahl' to joke about fattening him up while on the road in an email sent to Gongaware on 14 June, 2009 - 11 days before the star suffered a drug overdose.
Hougdahl wrote, "He needs some cheeseburgers... and a couple of brats (sausages) and beers."
Gongaware brushed off the joke at the time and maintained in court that he had no concerns about Jackson's health in the run-up to the summer (09) tour.
Katherine Jackson's lawsuit accuses the concert promotion company of negligently hiring and controlling Dr. Conrad Murray, the medic who was jailed in 2011 for involuntary manslaughter after he was found guilty of administering a fatal dose of the surgical anaesthetic Propofol, which claimed the singer's life.
The case continues.
A stage manager helping to prepare Michael Jackson's ill-fated comeback shows warned organisers the Thriller legend would need psychiatric help to perform and said he would "fall on his a**" if he tried his trademark dance moves. Jackson was preparing to undergo a gruelling 50-night run at London's O2 Arena in 2009 but died from an accidental drug overdose just weeks before the concerts were scheduled to begin.
His mother Katherine is pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit against bosses of AEG Live, alleging her son was not in a fit condition to undertake the run of concerts, and lawyers have produced an email showing there were concerns the pop superstar could not even perform his legendary dance routines.
Stage manager John Hougdahl revealed Jackson physically deteriorated "in front of my eyes" during eight weeks of rehearsals, and was in such poor shape mentally and physically that he would need a psychiatrist and a personal trainer in order to go through with the gigs.
In the email, read to jurors at the Los Angeles court hearing, Hougdahl wrote, "I have watched him deteriorate in front of my eyes over the last eight weeks. My laymen's degree tells me he needs a shrink to get mentally prepared to get on stage and then a trainer to get him in physical shape.
"He used to do multiple 360 spins back in April. He'd fall on his a** if he tried now."