If everything had gone according to plan, [artist id="1102"]Michael Jackson[/artist] would have kicked off his [article id="1606985"]This Is It concerts[/article], a spectacular, career-reviving series of greatest-hits shows at the O2 Arena in London on Monday (July 13). Instead, Jackson's family and concert promoter AEG Live are trading barbs in the press over whether the 50-year-old King of Pop was even healthy enough to perform any of the scheduled shows, to say nothing of 50.
"The comeback tour was a good idea, but the wrong idea about it," family patriarch Joseph Jackson said in an interview with ABC News. "Michael told me himself that he agreed to 10 shows. But they went and added all these other shows.
"I was worried about his health," Joe added. "No artist can do those many shows back to back like that, and so I knew Michael couldn't do all those shows without some rest in between them."
Michael's father and sister [article id="1615696"]LaToya Jackson[/article] have proclaimed in recent interviews that they believe the singer might have been the victim of foul play. "I do believe it was foul play," Joe told ABC. "I do believe that. Yes."
LaToya told England's Mail on Sunday that she believes her brother was murdered by shadowy group of advisors who encouraged him to abuse drugs.
Another Jackson associate, former financial advisor Leonard Rowe (who is not related to Jackson's ex-wife Debbie Rowe) told "Good Morning America" that even though the singer appeared full of energy in a brief [article id="1615242"]rehearsal clip release by AEG following Jackson's death[/article], the star was not well and physically unprepared for the grueling concert series.
"Michael Jackson was not ready," Rowe said. "He was not fit. If you can call weighing 110, 115 pounds fit ... no."
Jackson family representatives did not respond to calls for comment at press time. In a statement released to MTV News, AEG Live President and CEO Randy Phillips on Monday claimed Jackson had informed them that "he had no formal, informal or business agreements with Leonard Rowe."
Phillips said AEG was informed that Jackson had given "specific instructions not to involve [Rowe] with any matters concerning Michael Jackson or our relationship with him." Rowe told ABC that he never received the May 20 letter from Jackson severing their business association, adding that he was so concerned about Jackson's alleged addiction to prescription drugs that he called several Jackson family members in the days before the singer's death in an effort to set up an intervention.
"We planned to bring everyone together as soon as possible to get everyone onboard," Rowe said. "But we were just a little bit too late." He also rebutted Phillips' claims that the rehearsal clip filmed the night before Jackson's death was proof that the singer was in fine performance shape.
"Every move you see Michael Jackson doing on the rehearsal stage is a move I can do," Rowe claimed, noting the lack of some of Jackson's signature spins and more athletic steps.
Phillips told ABC that Jackson would have averaged just over two shows a week during the run of This Is It gigs, which were scheduled to wrap in March 2010, and that "if that was too many, then one would have been too many." In a statement, Phillips said that it was Jackson's request that the run of O2 gigs top out at 50.
"Our original agreement with Michael Jackson called for 31 shows," Phillips wrote in the statement. "It was our option as the promoter to only announce the first 10 concerts knowing that based on the response to the pre-sale, we could and would add the additional 21 shows to the initial on-sale. The pre-sale response was so overwhelming that we went back to Michael's representative at the time, Dr. Tohme Tohme, to inquire whether Michael would be willing to increase the number of shows. He reported that Michael was willing to increase the number of performances to 50."
Phillips said AEG did receive word from Tohme and Jackson that it was important to space the additional shows out over an extended period of time and that the company rent a nearby estate for the singer and his family so that they would not be "trapped" in a hotel suite while in London. "He told us he was also motivated by the opportunity to establish a record to be entered into the 'Guinness Book of World Records' for the run he was about to embark on," Phillips wrote.
Phillips also said in the statement that when he tried to change Jackson's mind about the length of the residency, "He told me to shove off."
Jackson's manager, Frank DiLeo, told ABC that the singer, whose age, gaunt appearance and long history of medical issues caused some to question whether he had the wherewithal to complete such a long engagement, was not being pushed in the lead-up to the O2 shows. "He built up his stamina," DiLeo said of Jackson, who was training with former bodybuilder and original "Incredible Hulk" star Lou Ferrigno. "There would have been no problems, I don't think, with him doing this tour. Nobody was pushing him into it. Nobody was overworking him. You know, all those reports are false."
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