Los Angeles: Michael Jackson's longtime makeup artist testified Thursday that she overheard an executive for concert promoter AEG Live insist that the singer rehearse despite signs of Jackson's declining health.
Karen Faye, who worked with Jackson for more than 27 years, told jurors she became increasingly concerned about Jackson's health and agreed with a fan's assessment that the singer might die if he was pushed too hard in preparations for his "This Is It" concerts.
AEG executives continued to push Jackson, Faye said. She testified she overheard a phone conversation in which AEG executive Paul Gongaware told Jackson's assistant to get him out of a locked bathroom and to a rehearsal.
Faye described Gongaware, AEG Live's co-CEO, as "angry and kind of desperate" in the conversation. She testified Gongaware told the assistant to do "whatever it takes."
Faye said the only people she saw insist that Jackson rehearse were Gongaware and tour director Kenny Ortega.
The makeup artist and hair stylist is testifying in a case brought by Jackson's mother, Katherine, against AEG Live LLC. The suit accuses the Los Angeles-based company of failing to properly investigate the doctor who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for the singer's death. Her attorneys also contend the company didn't properly respond to concerns about the singer's health.
AEG denies it hired Murray or bears any liability for Jackson's death.
Faye said she informed Ortega, Jackson's manager and AEG Live co-CEO Randy Phillips about her concerns about Jackson's health during the preparations for the shows. She said Jackson was frustrated and after a costume fitting days before his death repeatedly asked her, "Why can't I choose?"
She said that after Jackson missed several rehearsals, Phillips told her to ignore the singer's instructions.
Jurors are expected to hear from Ortega, Phillips and Gongaware later in the trial.
Faye, choking back tears, read portions of an email from one of Jackson's fans that she forwarded to his now deceased manager, Frank Dileo. It described the singer as a skeleton.
"If we do nothing, he will die," the fan wrote. "I know people who work for him cannot tell him anything. I know his own family tried to help him but he won't listen."
Faye said she wrote Dileo that she agreed with the assessment, but the manager never responded in writing.
By this point, Jackson was often cold to the touch and was becoming increasingly paranoid. Faye said he became obsessed with her being within sight when he was rehearsing onstage.
In earlier testimony, she described severe pain the singer experienced after performance accidents and his increasing reliance on doctors.
She said his reliance on medications coincided with the first time he was accused of child molestation in the early 1990s.
"Michael had to go on stage every night knowing that the whole world thought he was a pedophile," Faye said, shaking her head and crying.
During Jackson's "Dangerous" tour that began in 1992, Faye said she refused a request from promoters to give the Grammy winner injections of pain medications.
She said Gongaware, who handled logistics on that tour, brought in doctors who treated Jackson. The tour was halted early so Jackson could receive treatment for his prescription drug addiction.
His condition worsened during the singer's 2005 trial that ended with his acquittal of child molestation charges, Faye said.
"He couldn't eat," she said. "He was afraid. He was in pain. He got thinner. His physical pain, his back pain, it all kicked in."
Faye spent about 90 minutes testifying about her close relationship with Jackson, who hosted her wedding at his Neverland Ranch and enlisted her to travel around the world with him.
She breezily described Jackson's meetings with Princess Diana and other dignitaries, his Super Bowl performance, and other larger-than-life moments from the singer's life. Jurors and spectators laughed at times as a parade of photos and videos shot during Jackson's performances were played.
"I was from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I was just very normal," she told jurors. "I found myself working with this magical person."