Jackson Late To Court As His Lawyers Object To Photographer

Second day of testimony in breach-of-contract suit delayed because of unflattering photos.

Michael Jackson arrived four hours late to court Thursday, and the delay was blamed on photos of the reclusive pop star taken in court the day before.

Jackson's attorneys unsuccessfully objected to the presence of a press pool photographer whose pictures of Jackson on the stand Wednesday spurred gossip about plastic surgery procedures the singer may have undergone, according to wire service reports. The photographer, who was summoned to the judge's chambers, was not barred from the court. Judge Zel Cantor didn't explain Jackson's absence to jurors.

After that issue was dealt with, Jackson arrived at Santa Barbara County Superior Court in Santa Maria, California, to resume testimony in the trial, which sees him facing charges of fraud and breach of contract over a pair of canceled millennium concerts (see "Michael Jackson Takes Stand In Millennium Concert Lawsuit").

On the stand, Jackson did little to clarify the contract dispute, often had to be prompted to speak and was described as having a drowsy demeanor. In his three hours on the stand, he testified he was a "visionary" who leaves his business decisions to others so that he can concentrate on music. "Sometimes there is an overview of the cash flow," wire reports quoted him as testifying. "But I'm in the creative department, that's what I do."

Asked whether he was the one who wanted to cancel the millennium shows, Jackson would only say that he was concerned about the physical drain of doing two shows in a 24-hour period. "Every time I do a show, I lose 15 pounds," he said. "It can be dangerous. We have to balance things for my health."

A day earlier, Jackson had insisted concert promoter Marcel Avram was the one who canceled the shows during a phone conversation to his Neverland Ranch in nearby Los Olivos. When Avram attorney Louis "Skip" Miller suggested the call never happened, Jackson said, "As I remember, I was at home in the bathroom. It was a private call. He said it was about geography, and how they couldn't get me to two continents. He said it couldn't work to fly from one time zone to another.

"I remember feeling a bit upset because I was really looking forward to doing the shows. I was so excited about them that I told people in my organization that we should reach the Guinness Book of World Records because I felt that these would be the most-watched events of all time."

Miller then pointed out that Jackson earlier had said he wasn't sure where he took the call. "Isn't it a fact that you don't know if you were even in the United States when you took this call?" Miller asked.

"That's wrong," Jackson said.

Jackson also disputed Miller's suggestion that he never intended to perform the concerts, saying he had started rehearsals, of a sort. "I [would] stand in front of the mirror in my bathroom and try out the dance moves," Jackson said. "It's hard work. I don't do it in my bedroom because there are lots of games in there and they are noisy. It is a lot quieter in the bathroom. I visualize what I want the concert to look like. I conceptualize everything."

Miller then asked if "all the choreographers, technicians, backing singers and band" were in the bathroom for the rehearsal.

"I'm not sure," Jackson said. "I don't want to guess."

Avram, a European concert promoter who has worked with Jackson since 1972, filed suit in June 2000, claiming the singer cost him $21 million when he backed out of the planned concerts (see "Michael Jackson Schedules Two New Year's Eve Shows?").