In 2000-2001, Michael Jackson
sat down with his close friend and spiritual guide, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, to record what turned out to be the most intimate and revealing conversations of his life. It was Michael's wish to bare his soul and unburden himself to a public that he knew was deeply suspicious of him. The resulting 30 hours are the basis of "The Michael Jackson Tapes." There has never been, and never will be, anything like them.
In these searingly honest conversations, Michael exposes his emotional pain and profound loneliness, his longing to be loved, and the emptiness of his fame. You discover why he was suspicious of women and how only children provided the innocence for which he so desperately longed.
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Read an excerpt about drug use by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, author of "The Michael Jackson Tapes: A Tragic Icon Reveals His Soul in Intimate Conversation" below:
Michael confused his afflictions of soul with ailments of the body. But whereas once upon a time the light of celebrity was hot enough to make him feel better, he had reached a stage where even that no longer warmed him. Drugs became the only balm by which to dull pain. As time went on I understood why things like painkillers or plastic surgery were so attractive to Michael. Michael knew nothing but pain.
Michael's drug use was difficult to detect because of how spacey and out-of-it everyone expected him to be. Plus, it was easy to assume that Michael took strong painkillers only when he was in physical pain. In the time that I knew him, he always seemed intent on me having a positive view of him and nothing untoward was ever done in my presence.
In retrospect, there were more signs that he was on something than I or anyone around him recognized or acknowledged. Michael was very forgetful. He sometimes seemed woozy. His head once drooped completely at the home of a friend that I had taken him to meet. But I just thought that with the kind of crazy hours he kept -- Michael was going to sleep at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning -- he was just always tired. Michael often called me and spoke as if he was either tremendously inspired or a bit off.
"Shmuley, I'm just calling to tell you that I love you. I looovvveee you. IIII llloooovvveee yooouuu. . ." "I love you too Michael," I would say. But by and large, those conversations were very short, and I thought to myself, yes, that's strange, but that's Michael. He's different. He's eccentric. What perhaps should have made me most suspicious was Michael's constant physical ailments. He was always complaining that a part of his body was hurting or had been injured. This, of course, became a central staple of his trial. But the Angel Ball was my earliest exposure to it. Michael claimed that he had been slammed against a wall by fans and fellow celebrities trying to get his autograph. But even if that had happened, it seemed as though the smallest knocks could completely incapacitate him. And that was either true -- Michael did have a very fragile disposition -- or he was using these ailments, which in his mind were real, as an excuse to take more painkillers.
A few weeks before the major address Michael was to give at Oxford, when he was back in California and I was in New York, Michael called to tell me he had broken his foot while practicing dancing at Neverland. "Are you going to cancel Oxford?" I asked. "No," he said. "It's way too important." In due course, Michael arrived in Britain in a foot cast and on crutches. I heard him give a number of conflicting stories about how he had broken his foot, but again, I made nothing of it, thinking that Michael was forgetful.
A doctor traveled with him to England from the United States and stayed in Michael's hotel. Whenever he would complain of terrible pain from his foot, they would go together into his room and emerge, about a half-hour later, with Michael looking glassy-eyed. I asked the doctor about his background and his practice, and as I recall he seemed to give inadequate responses. He was a personal physician who practiced in New York. I wondered why he had accompanied Michael all the way from overseas just because of a broken foot. There were doctors in England if Michael needed one. But if he was being administered more painkillers for his broken foot, which is what I suspected, Michael was still nowhere near being so out of it that he couldn't function. Michael did come three hours late to Oxford, which meant that he did not attend the dinner that was staged by the Oxford Union in his honor, and he did arrive three hours late at our mutual friend Uri Geller's wedding ceremony the next day where I officiated and Michael served as best man. But other than that, the trip to Britain went off without a hitch.
As I was about to embark on my return flight home, Michael, who was staying on in Europe, reached me on my mobile phone. "Shmuulleeeey," he dragged out the word, partially slurring it, "Yesterday at the wedding, I was just staring at you conducting the ceremony. I was staring at you because I love you, because you're my best friend. I just loooovveeee you." I responded as I always did, "I love you too, Michael." "But no," he said, you don't understand. I loovvveeee yooouuuu," dragging out the words for effect. It was a flattering phone call, but it made me alarmed that Michael was on something very strong. I would continue having conversations with him about staying off the poison of prescription drugs. He never fought me and always agreed.
When Michael was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that March, he invited me and my wife, Debbie, as his guests to the dinner at The Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. Although he was still on crutches, he seemed completely lucid. I spent a few hours in his suite helping him write his acceptance speech and he seemed cheerful and in good spirits. The next time we did a public event together was a few weeks later when we went to Newark, New Jersey. Michael's foot had healed and he was out of the cast. On that day, Michael seemed fine. Confident, chewing gum, and irritated with me as I explained earlier, but nothing more. I was certain that whatever medication he was taking had been connected with his broken foot and was now in the past.
It was a few months later, after I had severed all contact with Michael, that reports started to filter back to me from one of Michael's closest confidantes that he was hooked on prescription medication and imbibing large quantities of them. It was getting much worse, this friend said, and it was destroying his life. Demerol and Xanax, among others, were mentioned. "Is there a quack doctor giving this stuff to him?" I asked. "No," I was told. "The doctors around him seem okay. He seems to be getting his own supply; no one knows from where. Michael is injecting himself with the drugs intravenously." "Well," I said, noting that Michael and I had no interaction and I could therefore offer little assistance, you guys better do something and save him before he completely self-destructs." Michael's parents, Katherine and Joseph Jackson, were also concerned and invited me to their home in Encino, where they asked me to reinvolve myself in Michael's life. Michael's parents related to me that Michael had deteriorated significantly since I had last seen him. His state was bad enough for them to have attempted a family intervention to break the drugs' hold on him. Michael's brothers, a few weeks earlier, had arrived at Neverland unannounced to try to get him into rehab, where he had gone almost ten years earlier after admitting to an addiction to prescription drugs. Michael, however, had heard that they were coming and fled.
His parents were concerned, and I felt for them. But this just reinforced my decision. Not only was I sure that Michael would not listen to me, I knew next to nothing about helping people in this situation except to get them into rehab. Perhaps I could inspire Michael to make that decision, and his parents thought I could at least help. But I knew they were wrong. Michael had long since ceased taking my counsel. He found my advice too demanding. I was an irritant and was treated as such. Katherine, who was the anchor of Michael's life and whom I knew from the long interview I had done with her for this book, and Joseph Jackson, who I was meeting for the first and only time, had much more sway with their son than I did, and it was imperative for them to save their son's life by becoming available parents in his greatest hour of need. And if his own parents could not persuade him to get help, how could I?
Joseph Jackson also raised the subject of Michael's management with me. He said he didn't approve of the people running Michael's career at present and that he wished to reinvolve himself in Michael's management. I told him sternly, if respectfully, "Mr. Jackson, your son doesn't need a manager right now. He needs a father. You should relate to him as the father he feels he never had." I left that meeting shaken. How tragic for Michael, and how similar this was all beginning to sound to Elvis, a fallen star, in terrible emotional and mental anguish, turning to drugs for relief, until they eventually destroyed him. Would Michael end up dead at an early age as well?
According to someone very close to Michael, the year before his arrest, Michael got clean. This person told me that Michael had, by himself, "gotten off the stuff . . . he's completely clean." I was incredulous. "He didn't go for rehab?" I asked. "You're saying he got himself clean on his own?" "Yup," he said, "We're really proud of him. He's clean. I swear it's true." Well, that was good news. I was therefore extremely troubled to hear, from the same person again, that shortly after the arrest Michael had gone back on "the same stuff. He's delusional. That's how he's coping with the case. He's out of it a lot of the time." "Have you tried to get him to stop?" I asked. "Yeah, I had a meeting with him. I told him I was positive he was back on the stuff. He denied it, but I know what he's like when he takes that stuff. But he responded by sort of cutting me off from him. Now, I can't get access to him."
This, sadly, was a typical response to Michael hearing people criticize his behavior. He just shut them out. "Do the people around him know?" I asked. "I don't see how they can't," he responded. "He's drinking a lot of wine and mixing it with all this stuff." This last comment especially surprised me, because, to my knowledge, Michael never drank alcohol. Indeed, even when he came to our home for the Sabbath meals, he would reject the tiny quantity of sacramental wine I offered him, telling me that he never drank "the Jesus juice."
The fact that Michael Jackson had been taking large doses of prescription medication explained much of his erratic behavior. Why would the man who was so famously overprotective of his kids suddenly dangle his own new baby from a balcony in Berlin? Why would the man who was so famously reclusive agree to a British journalist virtually living with him for a tell-all television documentary? Michael always told me how much he hated the British press more than any other. He told me that "Whacko Jacko" had started in England. So why would he have allowed Martin Bashir to essentially live with him for so many months? Indeed, Michael's decision to grant full access to Bashir will forever remain the professional decision that most unraveled his life.
When I watched the 60 Minutes interview with Ed Bradley that preceded the trial, in which Michael accused the Santa Barbara police of locking him up for forty-five minutes in a feces-covered bathroom and roughing him up so badly that they dislocated his shoulder, it seemed so improbable that I suspected that Michael's reality had been impaired. Sure enough, twice in the interview they showed Michael stopping the interview to complain about how much his back hurt. The old opportunities (excuses) to take more prescription medication were back. I called my friend. "Did the police do all those things?" "No," he said. "They were really nice to him. Michael is delusional." Now this report may have been inaccurate, but I doubt it.
In 2004 I wrote in a public article, "If people around him don't save Michael from himself, Michael may be yet another superstar who dies young, God forbid, due to the quintessential celebrity-oriented diseases of drug and substance abuse. But a wall of silence around this problem, while it might protect Michael's image, will do nothing to protect him."
The above is an excerpt from the book The Michael Jackson Tapes: A Tragic Icon Reveals His Soul in Intimate Conversation
by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt
has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.
Copyright © 2009 Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, author of The Michael Jackson Tapes: A Tragic Icon Reveals His Soul in Intimate Conversation
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, author of The Michael Jackson Tapes: A Tragic Icon Reveals His Soul in Intimate Conversation is one of the world's leading relationship experts and spiritual authorities. His twenty-one books have been best-sellers in seventeen languages, and his award-winning syndicated column is read by a global audience of millions. He is the host of TLC's award-winning Shalom in the Home and was Oprah Winfrey's love, marriage, and parenting expert on Oprah and Friends. He served for eleven years as rabbi at Oxford University, where he built the Oxford L'Chaim Society into the University's second largest student organization. Today, Newsweek calls him the most famous rabbi in America. The winner of the highly prestigious London Times Preacher of the Year award, Rabbi Shmuley is also the recipient of the National Fatherhood Award and the American Jewish Press Association's Highest Award for Excellence in Commentary. He lives in New Jersey with his wife, Debbie, and their nine children.
Learn more about The Michael Jackson Tapes at www.michaeljacksontapes.com and www.shmuley.com.
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