Several weeks after announcing their intention to celebrate the life of Michael Jackson with an all-star concert called "Michael Jackson Forever," the initial lineup for the October 8 show at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, was revealed last week.
According to promoters, the Michael Forever show is slated to feature such stars as Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green and Motown legend Smokey Robinson, in addition to less globally popular talents, including Alexandra Burke, Pixie Lott, Leona Lewis, JLS, Craig David, Alien Ant Farm and a pair of Jackson-related groups, 3T and the Jackson Brothers.
The one thing the event does not have, however, is the approval of Jackson's powerful estate, which had kept silent about the show put together by parents Joseph and Katherine Jackson, along with siblings Jackie, Tito, Marlon, LaToya and Rebbie. Brothers Jermaine and Randy have not been involved in the plans and have publicly objected to the event because it falls in the middle of the involuntary manslaughter trial of Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray.
On Tuesday (August 16) a spokesperson for the estate — which has handled all of Jackson's affairs since his 2009 death — confirmed that estate lawyer Howard Weitzman sent a letter to concert organizers last week raising some pointed questions about the show.
"I represent the Executors of the Estate of Michael Jackson. As the legal caretakers of Michael's intellectual property, we believe it is our duty to contact you directly regarding the growing number of questions that have been addressed to the Estate, as well as multiple concerns that have emerged in recent days," reads the letter.
After reminding organizers that the estate is the only entity that can sign off on the use of Jackson's image or his intellectual property — the concert's website is careful not to feature any images of the singer or samples of his music — the letter said the estate was "especially disappointed" by the announcement on Monday that greasepaint rockers Kiss have been added to the bill.
Specifically, the beef was that outspoken Kiss bassist Gene Simmons has made a number of disparaging comments about Jackson in the past. "It was extraordinarily embarrassing when no sooner had you announced this 'news' that [Simmons] would participate in your concert that TMZ posted an item noting that Mr. Simmons called Michael Jackson ... a child molester, notwithstanding the fact that Michael was acquitted by a jury," read the letter.
Jackson fansite MJ4Justice was flooded with negative comments about the addition of Kiss, announced on Monday by Katherine Jackson on CNN, and has called for a boycott of the show. The concert's Facebook page has also been inundated with concerns over the booking of Kiss.
And the complaints worked. On Tuesday, the concert's promoter, Global Live Events, canceled Kiss' "invitation" to appear in the show. "We have listened to Michael's fans and are grateful to have been alerted to these unfortunate statements by Gene Simmons," CEO Chris Hunt said in a statement. "Under the circumstances we fully agree that even though Kiss is a band Michael admired we have no choice but to rescind our invitation to them to appear in our tribute concert. We offer our sincerest apologies to Mrs. Jackson and the family for this oversight — our primary concern must be to do justice to Michael's memory, and to put on a tribute that the family and the fans will find suitable and fit for a King, our King of Pop."
The estate also expressed concerns about the promotion of the concert as a charity event, noting that it is using Jackson's "good name" to promote contributions, when the charitable element of the show is voluntary. "It appears from your interviews and from your website that none of the (approximately $90-$390) per person ticket price is committed to charitable causes," the letter states. The estate asked for clarity on to whom the charitable contributions are going , as well as an explanation of the small type clause that says that refunds will not be offered if "50% or more of the number of contracted artists attend and perform."
A spokesperson for the concert had not returned requests for comment about the donations at press time. Tickets are being distributed in lottery fashion, with fans asked to register for the chance to buy them in order to, "avoid the usual frantic rush and confusion when tickets for big events go on sale," according to the concert's website.
"Michael Jackson always made sure his fans were treated to concert experiences so spectacular that they would remember the evening for the rest of their lives," lawyer Weitzman concluded. "He always treated his fans with the utmost respect. In light of the questions raised above and the confusion surrounding this 'event,' we are extremely concerned about Michael's legacy, his fans and the public-at-large." The letter asks promoter Global Live to address those concerns and those of the singer's fans as soon as possible.