Sunday, 8 May 2011

Michael Jackson Wrongful Death Suit Vs. AEG Can Proceed, Judge Rules

Katherine Jackson and family are pursuing a claim against concert promoter.
By Gil Kaufman

Michael Jackson

When he was alive, Michael Jackson was forever embroiled in a series of complex and expensive-sounding lawsuits. But even in death, the late King of Pop is the subject of major legal action. None could potentially be bigger than the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the pop icon's mother, Katherine Jackson, against concert promotion giant AEG Live.

Reuters reported that a Los Angeles judge ruled on Wednesday that the civil lawsuit can go forward. It will proceed in parallel with the criminal case against Jackson's physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, who has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with Jackson's June 2009 death from an overdose of the powerful surgical anesthetic propofol. Murray is the only person charged in Jackson's death and he is currently awaiting trial in that matter.

Katherine Jackson's lawsuit — filed in September on behalf of her and Jackson's three young children — accuses AEG of being responsible for the medical decisions made by Murray, whose salary was paid by the touring company behind Jackson's attempted "This Is It" comeback shows in London. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos denied a motion on Wednesday by AEG to dismiss Katherine Jackson's suit, but warned Jackson's attorneys that they would need to show evidence of "fraud, negligent infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy" in order to win the case.

The judge has already said she doubts they can prove the latter charge, because the suit does not detail any agreement between Murray and AEG to break the law in providing medical care to Jackson.

"If the object was to get him to rehearsals, I don't see that as a wrongful or illegal act," the judge said. A lawyer for AEG told the judge that the company could not have predicted beforehand that Murray's medical decisions would result in Jackson's death. Court papers also show that AEG "did not choose to hire Murray" and had only participated in negotiations to bring him on as an independent contractor. Michael, who had previously been treated by Murray in Las Vegas, was reportedly the one who suggested the cardiologist serve as his personal, on-call physician during the "This Is It" rehearsals and shows.

Katherine Jackson's attorney recently dropped choreographer Kenny Ortega from the lawsuit based on new information they received about his actions. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for March 22, just six days before Murray is due back in court for his trial. Jackson's father, Joseph, has twice attempted to file a wrongful death suit in the matter, though his is focused on Murray and the Las Vegas pharmacy that supplied the propofol, not AEG Live.

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Michael Jackson's 'Thriller': Story Behind The 'Glee' Cover

MJ classic is mashed up with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' 'Heads Will Roll' for post-Super Bowl episode.
By Aly Semigran

Photo: FOX

Madonna, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and now, finally, Michael Jackson. The cast of "Glee" has covered plenty of icons during their first two seasons, but it's taken 33 episodes to get around to the King of Pop.

With a huge catalog of Jackson songs, the singing, dancing students of McKinley High paid homage to the late singer with one of his biggest staples (and, arguably, the greatest music video of all time) with their take on "Thriller."

The groundbreaking single from Jackson's best-selling album of the same name was mashed up with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' "Heads Will Roll" for the post-Super Bowl episode (titled "The Sue Sylvester Bowl Shuffle"), featuring a zombie-fied "Glee" cast.

Bound to become a smash all over again (though with its nonstop rotation at Halloween parties and wedding receptions until the end of time, it's never truly gone away), here's a brief history of the dance/pop classic.

Released on January 23, 1984, "Thriller" was the seventh, and final, single to be released from Jackson's smash record. According to the RIAA, the album (released by Epic Records) has gone gold 29 times, narrowly edging out the Eagles' Greatest Hits 1971-1975 for the title of best-selling album of all time.

In 2009, MTV News estimated that the Thriller album was poised to go triple diamond, meaning 30 million records sold in the U.S. alone.

After Thriller's other singles (including "Billie Jean," "Beat It" and "Wanna Be Startin' Something") dominated the charts, it was time for the spooky, undeniably original track to take over. The song "Thriller" also appeared on many of Jackson's other albums, including the compilations HIStory and Number Ones.

Clocking in at a little under six minutes (though the radio edit was closer to four-and-a-half), the song features pop-music mainstays like synthesizers but shakes things up with its spooky sound effects, including creaking floors, howling and thunder.

The song was produced by Quincy Jones and written and composed by Rod Tempterton and spent 14 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #4.

But it's the music video for "Thriller" that truly made it the phenomenon it was in the '80s and continues to be today. Less a music video than a mini-motion picture, the video (over 13 minutes long and directed by John Landis) won three MTV Video Music Awards and has been named the best music video of all time by many outlets, including VH1 for the special "VH1: 100 Greatest Videos."

The chiller features Jackson in that iconic red leather jacket on a date with his girlfriend (played by Ola Ray) before things go terribly awry. After all, as Jackson (whose disclaimer at the start of the video reads, "This film in no way endorses a belief in the occult") sings in the opening line, "It's close to midnight and something evil's lurking in the dark." Cue werewolves, zombies, Vincent Price's soliloquy and one of the most memorable dance sequences ever.

The video was (no pun intended) a monster hit. As the Los Angeles Times notes, "At the height of the song's popularity, MTV would run the 14-minute 'Thriller' video twice an hour."

Choreographed by Jackson and Michael Peters (who, as the LA Times also reported, appears in the video as one of the zombies) and with makeup by Oscar-winner Rick Baker (also an undead "Thriller" extra) was made with a huge budget of an estimated $500,000.

Still, the efforts paid off. Landis (who told the "Today" show back in 2009 that no one wanted to give them the funds to make the risky vid) made the accompanying 45-minute documentary about the venture, called "The Making of Thriller." Featuring the behind-the-scenes wizardry, as well as the music video in full, it would go on to move more than 10 million copies.

Since then, the signature song and video have seen their share fair of tributes in movies (notably in the 2004 comedy"13 Going on 30") and TV ("South Park," "Family Guy," "30 Rock," among others), not to mention the countless flash mobs that have gone viral. (Remember the prisoners in the Philippines who became overnight phenomenons on YouTube?)

Even with the "Glee" number, this likely won't be the last incarnation of "Thriller." Billboard reported in October that a "Thriller" film is in the works. With a plot allegedly revolving around Price's narration, Kenny Ortega, who directed Jackson's last effort, "This Is It," will reportedly helm the project.

Since Jackson's untimely passing on June 25, 2009, the song and video's legacy continue to live on. In the week following Jackson's death, "Thriller" was the best-selling track in the U.S., with sales of 167,000 copies on the Billboard Hot Digital Singles chart.

Then, in December 2009, "Thriller" was the first music video to ever be inducted into the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. It seems "no mere mortal can resist ... the thriller" after all.

What did you think of the "Thriller" mash-up on "Glee"? Let us know in the comments!

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Michael Jackson Doctor Conrad Murray's Trial To Be Televised

Judge rules that camera will be allowed in the courtroom for manslaughter case.
By Gil Kaufman

Conrad Murray
Photo: AFP/ Getty Images

For what promises to be one of the most bizarre and riveting legal proceedings in years, a Los Angeles judge ruled on Monday that a television camera will be allowed in the courtroom when Michael Jackson's doctor goes on trial for involuntary manslaughter.

Reuters reported that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor, approved the presence of a camera in the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray as long as it does not interfere with the proceedings in the closely watched case.

The judge asked for the "absolute least-intrusive placement" of a TV camera in the courtroom, but blocked cameras from documenting jury selection.

Pastor also announced that he would bump up the opening date of the trail by four days to March 24, at which point jury selection will begin. Murray, who faces up to four years in prison if convicted, has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and the trial is expected to last around six weeks.

Cardiologist Murray was hired to be Jackson's personal physician in the run-up to the King of Pop's planned 50-date comeback series of shows at London's O2 arena in the summer of 2009. The doctor told police that he provided Jackson, 50, with sedatives and the surgical anesthetic propofol in order to combat the singer's chronic insomnia. He said he did so on the morning of June 25, 2009, when Jackson died of what a coroner deemed acute propofol poisoning.

TMZ reported on Tuesday (February 8) that Murray's lawyers plan to argue that Jackson was already in weak health before he died and that it's unfair to blame propofol for his passing. Unnamed sources close to the case told the gossip site that at the time of his death, Jackson's body was already failing him in part because concert promoter AEG Live had "driven [him] over the edge" with a rigorous rehearsal schedule for the shows.

Murray's lawyers reportedly plan to call witnesses to say that Jackson was not showing up for rehearsals and when he did he showed "clear signs" of frail health. They also reportedly plan to argue that it was Jackson who administered the final, fatal dose of propofol to himself while Murray was out of the room.

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Michael Jackson Estate Rakes In $310 Million To Date

Singer left behind more than $400 million in debt.

Michael Jackson
Photo: Time Life Pictures/DMI/Time Life Pictures/Getty Im

Between album sales, movie profits, licensing arrangements and lucrative deals for Cirque du Soleil shows, the estate of late King of Pop Michael Jackson has raked in more than $300 million since the singer's shocking death in June 2009.

According to TMZ, legal documents released on Thursday reveal that executors of MJ's estate have managed to make a major dent in the more than $400 million in debt that Jackson owed at the time of his death.

The first accounting from the executors shows that they have already spent around $159 million paying back various debts, income taxes and other expenses, which include providing support for the pop star's mother, Katherine Jackson, as well as his three young children.

"Although there remain unresolved creditor claims, pending litigation and additional challenging business, tax and legal issues, and the estate is not yet in a condition to be closed, the executors have made substantial progress in reducing the estate's debt," the documents state, according to a Reuters report. Two of Jackson's longtime confidants, attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain, were named as administrators in a will sign by the pop icon.

In addition to paying to make "substantial improvements" to the Jackson family's Havenhurst estate in Encino, California, the executors also spent an undetermined amount of money on "last illness and funeral and memorial service expenses." Those costs included a $900,000 payment to the Forest Lawn Memorial cemetery where Jackson is buried and $35,000 on expenses described as "costume for memorial."

TMZ reported that not only did the famously cash-strapped Jackson have more than $400 million in debt, but his estate also owed more than $40 million to concert promoter AEG tied to the scuttled This Is It Tour, for which MJ was rehearsing when he died unexpectedly. They've also paid $27.2 million in taxes and $4 million in mortgage payments on Jackson's properties.

Despite the solid sales of the Michael album and millions of units of the singer's back catalog being sold, as well as the box office of the "This Is It" movie and DVD sales, the estate is not nearly out of the woods. TMZ noted that the administrators have received more than 65 creditors' claims, some of which are subject to "extremely high" interest rates, and there are several outstanding lawsuits against the estate in several countries.

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Saturday, 7 May 2011

Michael Jackson Doctor's Trial Delayed

Judge pushes start of Conrad Murray's trial back to May.
By Gil Kaufman

Conrad Murray
Photo: AFP/ Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — Though Conrad Murray's lawyers had been pressing for a speedy trial, a judge in the involuntary manslaughter case against Michael Jackson's doctor ruled on Wednesday to delay opening statements in the proceedings until May.

The Associated Press reported that Murray's attorneys consented to the postponement after they discussed the matter with prosecutors and both agreed they could be ready for trial by May 9.

According to a transcript from the closed-door session, though opening statements will not begin for several months, Murray told Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor that he did not want to forfeit his right to a quick trial, but agreed to the delay if screening of prospective jurors begins as scheduled on March 24.

"It is only acceptable to me if this is not strung along over a long period of time," Murray told the justice. "I don't want to lose my constitutional right to speedy trial." Murray — who has pleaded not guilty to the charges — reportedly has been in favor of having the proceedings begin as soon as possible because he is facing financial troubles, but he said he understands that the delay is necessary to allow both sides to prepare for the trial.

Pastor consented because he said he didn't want to lose a jury pool, and believed a month-long delay might let potential jurors shuffle their schedules for the case, which could take up to two months to decide. The judge has reportedly clashed with Murray's defense team in recent weeks, pressing them for answers about why they had not turned over more witness notes and other potential evidence to prosecutors in the run-up to the trial.

Cardiologist Murray was hired to be Jackson's personal physician while the King of Pop prepared for his planned 50-date comeback series of shows at London's O2 arena in the summer of 2009. The doctor told police that he provided the then-50-year-old Jackson with sedatives and the surgical anesthetic propofol in order to combat the singer's chronic insomnia. He said he did so on the morning of June 25, 2009, when Jackson died of what a coroner deemed acute propofol poisoning.

Murray's lawyers reportedly plan to argue that Jackson was already in weak health before he died, that it's unfair to blame propofol for his passing and that, if the anesthetic was to blame, the pop superstar may have given himself the fatal dose by drinking the drug in a panic.

A status hearing in the case has been set for this Wednesday.

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Justin Bieber Passes Michael Jackson's Box-Office Record

'Justin Bieber: Never Say Never' has outgrossed MJ's 'This Is It' in U.S.
By Gil Kaufman

Justin Bieber in "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never"
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Michael Jackson may have dubbed himself the King of Pop, but the late icon didn't hold the box-office crown for long. Less than a year after the posthumous MJ documentary "This Is It" became the most successful concert-themed film in U.S. history, Justin Bieber is poised to snatch the mantle.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never" has earned $72.2 million in domestic box office so far, passing Jackson's $72.1 million haul. And while Bieber has racked up those impressive numbers in just six weeks, he's got a long way to go before he laps the global receipts for the MJ doc.

"This Is It" has grossed $189.1 million overseas for a global total of $261.2 million. Music films don't typically play well overseas, and THR noted that "Never Say Never" has grossed a more modest $10.8 million overseas so far, with Paramount executives predicting that it could top out around $20 million internationally.

The impressive U.S. numbers were likely goosed by the re-release of the film recently with 40 additional minutes of bonus footage from director Jon M. Chu. Bieber still has a little way to go to climb the list of the top-grossing documentaries of all time. "Never Say Never" is currently stalled out at the #3 position, around $5 million behind "March of the Penguins," according to Box Office Mojo, and well short of the all-time record held by Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," which has taken in $119.1 million to date.

Bieber set off a classic MJ-style fan frenzy a few weeks ago when he visited Liverpool, England, for his world tour. And just a week later, he posed with his new wax figure at London's Madame Tussauds, checking off another item on the list of milestones to an MJ-like career.

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Janet Jackson Thrills Fans With Greatest Hits, Michael Tribute At Radio City

Singer covered songs ranging from classic 'Pleasure Principle' to 2008's 'Feedback' at New York show.
By Vaughn Schoonmaker

Janet Jackson (file)
Photo: Christopher Polk/ Getty Images

NEW YORK — Often imitated, never duplicated, Janet Jackson's outbursts of meticulous choreography, sassy exclamations and smoldering gazes into the audience kept them on their feet for the entire two-hour set of her greatest hits at Radio City Music Hall. Monday night marked the last of three sold-out shows at the historic venue on her monumental Number Ones: Up Close and Personal Tour.

Up-and-coming boy band Mindless Behavior opened the show with songs including "#1 Girl," "Future" and their debut single, "My Girl." With their Usher-esque dance moves and shouts like "Where the ladies at?" the boys brought the tween girls out of hiding, judging by the shrill screams escaping various corner of the music hall.

At 9:00 sharp, the lights went down and Janet's fans were on the edge of their seats, watching music videos for "The Best Things in Life Are Free" and "Rhythm Nation" projected on big screens across the venue. A small shadow drifted toward center stage, and when the colorful lights came up, Jackson, wrapped in a shoulder-padded catsuit, complete with slick short hair, blasted into "The Pleasure Principle," dancing as hard and intensely choreographed as she did when the song first came out in the 1980s.

With barely a spare second between songs, Janet dazzled her way through her biggest hits, including "Miss You Much," "All for You" and "Nasty," and more recent hits like 2008's "Feedback."

Videos displayed during Jackson's costume changes included vintage clips from "Diff'rent Strokes," a funny scene from "Poetic Justice" where Jackson slyly rejects the advances of Tupac Shakur's character, and a rather heavy scene, as Jackson's character in "Why Did I Get Married" destroys her husband's house with a golf club, screaming hysterically.

Considering the tough couple of years the Jackson family has faced, the dark moments in the video seemed fitting, and everyone was beside themselves with bittersweet joy when Michael Jackson's face popped up on the big screen and she performed their hit single "Scream."

Janet emerged for her encore in a tight white one-piece disco suit, and performed "Diamonds," "Make Me" and "Together Again," which appeared to be the biggest hit of the evening. As Jackson graciously bowed out, her straight face transitioned into a smirk, suggesting that despite the hard times she has experienced recently, we can expect to see this singing and dancing pop legend shine far into the future.

"Its amazing!" Janet fan Elena Mercantini gleamed afterward. "It's like she's still 20 years old!"

"She's hot, she's amazing and she's still got it after all these years" added Alison Klinger of Long Island. "Best concert I've ever been to!"

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