And no, I’m not referring to the simple coincidence of Paris ending up confined to a psychiatric ward at UCLA Medical Center, the same hospital where her father was pronounced dead in 2009-almost four years ago to the day-although, yes, that is certainly one bizarre coincidence that has not gone unnoticed. And it has to be tough on her.
But, no, I am speaking of something else that is just as sad. An indication that this may be an early sign (or warning, if you will) that the cycle of pain that began over forty years ago in Michael’s own childhood is simply continuing to be perpetuated.
For Michael, many things came to a head in 1993, a year that, paradoxically, began as one of the most successful of his career. At the beginning of that year, he was everywhere-performing at the Superbowl, being interviewed by Oprah, winning a Grammy Legends award, and headlining one of the most successful world tours in history. By the end of that year, he had crashed and burned, tormented by the Chandler allegations, a growing dependency on painkillers that had reached crisis proportions, and a lifetime of emotional scars that had simply never been adequately dealt with.
The truth is that, while many may have seen his state in late ’93 as a drug problem, I think it went far beyond that. It was, in essence, a breakdown. It wouldn’t be the last. But for many of us, it was our first wake-up call that Michael Jackson wasn’t invincible. We had become used to thinking of him as larger than life. Even with all of his “eccentricities” He seemed even immune to the normal, routine problems that plague most celebrities. We never heard of any hints of drug issues because Michael’s image was squeaky clean. In those days, we didn’t have a clue, not even of the prescription dependency that had developed in the wake of the Pepsi accident. There were no divorces because he hadn’t married yet. He was the eternal, young bachelor whose relationships-when they did occur-were so lowkey that there was none of the usual open spats and feuding in the tabloids. Jackson family dysfunction? Yes, we had some hints of it by this time (LaToya’s book had come out a few years before, and Michael had just publicly admitted on Oprah-for the first time-that he was sometimes beaten by his father; Jermaine had released Word to the Badd) but, for the most part, the Jacksons up until 1993 were still presenting a united image of family support.
All in all, even though the media had already begun its “Wacko Jacko” campaign, there was still something about Michael that seemed magical, untouchable,and far above the scandalous trappings of those merely mortal celebrities.
This would be the watershed year that thoroughly destroyed that illusion. And the year in which Michael’s past may have finally-after many years of running and avoidance-caught up to him.
Michael didn’t attempt suicide. As far as we know. But I think his decision to enter rehab and his public confession of his problem was, in some ways, a cry for help every bit as loud as the one his daughter gave last week. It meant the world would never quite see him the same way again. And although his fans remained loyal, as they always would, I am sure this revelation was a disillusionment for many.
At the time, my own feelings were pretty much neutral. Although I liked Michael’s music, I wasn’t a huge enough fan to have a vested interest in following the up’s and down’s of his personal life. But still, I couldn’t shake off the sad feeling I had in sensing that this perfect, larger than life icon of my generation was now a little less magical. He had become vulnerable and human. But at the same time, he had also become just a wee bit smaller, and perhaps slightly more tarnished.
I remember those evenings when I sat in my living room, the TV turned to CNN. They didn’t know where Michael was, and all of the reports were treating him like a fugitive on the run. Many at the time simply believed he was on the run from the Chandler allegations. Most of us didn’t know what to believe. Sometimes there would be a rumor; someone had supposedly spotted him here, or there. The Daily Mirror held its infamous “Spot the Jacko” contest, offering a readers a trip to Disney World if they could correctly predict where Michael might turn up. Needless to say, the media was not very sympathetic to his plight. This past week, in the flurry of articles and news reports, each trying to outdo the last in getting “the big scoop” on what really happened to Paris, I couldn’t help but reflect on the headlines of November ’93.
What I recall most vividly from those few days when Michael was “missing” was a map featured on CNN for several evenings in a row. It was a map of Europe and the UK with lit, red dots on it, each of the red dots supposedly marking a city where Michael was believed to be “in hiding,” or had been seen, or reportedly taken. It’s almost funny to look back on it now and think what a huge story this was. Michael Jackson was literally MIA…and everyone wanted to know one burning question: Where was he?
Finally, this video of his deposition in Mexico showed the world that Michael really was sick! This was no act!
Where had he gone? Michael was sending the world a message, best conveyed if you took the lyrics to Leave Me Alone and Scream and meshed them into one loud “HO!” loud enough to rattle the world. And we all know, when Michael screamed “HO!” the world stopped in its tracks. Okay, I’m being facetious. But only a little.
The point I’m making is that Michael had had enough. He needed “time out” from the world. He needed to heal. Most of all, he had reached the end of running.
Do you know how it really feels when the last bit of rope has slipped from your grasp? Or when you reach the end of a long path, only to discover it dead ends in a drop off?
When I put myself back in that time and place, the autumn of 1993, I realize I was subconsciously asking myself a lot of the same questions about Michael, then, that I have been asking about Paris this week. Were we so blind to his cries for help that we simply never saw it coming?
For anyone who doesn’t know, there is very little substantive difference between treatment in rehab and psychiatric treatment. They both operate pretty much on the same principle and are structured in the same way, and the environment is practically identical. Although facilities will differ in some superficial ways-especially depending on whether they are public or private facilities-it is for the most a hospital environment, where staff may or may not do their best to make it “seem like home”-for a little while. Both revolve around structured environments of scheduled activities (which may or may not actually happen, even if they are “posted” on the schedule), group therapy, medication experiments (which may leave the patient more “zombied up” than when they arrived) as well as staff and fellow patients who can either make your life pleasant or make it hell, depending. I know, from too many years of experience with the mental health care system, that the front that is often put on in these places, to impress family on the “outside” is often a far cry from the reality behind closed doors. In fact, if families only knew some of the horror stories that go on inside, when the doors are closed, they would never, ever just dump their loved ones there-without doing a lot of investigating first. Physical abuse is common. At the very least, patients are often robbed of any sense of human dignity.
Even being a rich and famous celebrity did not guarantee Michael immunity to many of the indignities of “the system.” In fact, according to some accounts, it may even have worked against him, with the doctors and staff being that much more determined to “break” him, or to prove that he was entitled to no special favors or treatment just because of who he was.
While some such “tough love” tactics may serve a useful function (bringing a person down to earth and some sense of normalcy) it can be just as detrimental as indulging the celebrity, if taken to extremes.
It is now known that Michael spent time in two separate facilities during his rehab, the first a public facility in London, and was later transferred to a private facility outside of the city. When Michael was at the first facility, in London, he complained about his treatment there, and once even ran away, only to be physically wrestled down by orderlies and forced to go back.
Frank Cascio’s book My Friend Michael gives what I think is, perhaps, one of the best and most detailed accounts-or, certainly, the most reliable- of Michael’s time in rehab, and what that experience was like for him, since Michael kept in close contact with the Cascios throughout his ordeal.
“…He complained about how the staff at the hospital was treating him. The place was almost like a psychiatric ward, he said, and he knew full well that he wasn’t crazy.
One day he couldn’t take it anymore and made his escape, bolting down the street. Some orderlies chased him down and brought him back. Finally, Elton John stepped in and coordinated his transfer to another rehab place-a private estate outside London that was much more Michael’s speed.”-Frank Cascio, excerpted from My Friend Michael, p. 71.
Lest one is tempted to think that this is just a case of a diva superstar acting out, I should remind readers that if you’ve never been on the inside of a psychiatric ward, or have had loved ones inside there, you have no earthly idea how horrible those places can be. As I said, physical and verbal abuse is often rampant, and unchecked. Staff can get away with most anything-who’s going to know, or care? And whose word would be believed? And even in the best facilities and the best, most professional environments, there is still the inhuman loss of dignity, the surrender of independence, and the stigma of being a patient with a “drug” or “mental condition” (and, as Michael said, he would have been treated like a mental patient because most rehab facilities are structured on the principle that problems of addiction begin with the mind).
Even with all these factors aside, there is still something else, too. The sheer loneliness and sense of confinement. Cell phones have to be surrendered; there is no internet, and usually, no TV. (Sometimes there may be a common area where patients can watch TV, if you want the hassle of having to fight someone over the remote or what channel to leave it on). Personal items have to be surrendered, or if not surrendered, constantly checked for contraband. Phone calls are limited, usually to certain days and times, and the patient may not be allowed privacy during those calls. Apparently, however, this wasn’t the case with Michael during his confinement at the first facility, since he spent “hours” on the phone with the Cascios, and others, whiling away the loneliness of his isolation there.
“It got to the point where we had to install what I called a ‘bat line’ just for him. Line one was the house phone, line two was the fax, and line three was Michael’s dedicated line.”-Frank Cascio, excerpted from My Friend Michael, p. 71.
This is something I do know from the experiences of loved ones who ever had the misfortune to end up on the opposite sides of those doors (you know, the side that family and friends do not see) and that is the overpowering sense of loneliness and isolation. Just as with prisoners, any link to the outside world becomes an occasion for much anticipation and joy. Visits, phone calls, a letter or a card; they literally become a patient’s life line.
In addition to the loneliness, isolation, and sheer culture shock of being in such an environment-especially for a global superstar like Michael Jackson-there would have been, for him, the detoxification process, which is not exactly a cakewalk.
When going through a detox process, a person actually may fall sick and may experience symptoms of a variety of illnesses. Instances of vomiting, diarrhea, high fever, stomach ache, headache, and nausea are not uncommon. This is simply occurring due to the flushing out of toxins and pathogens by the body. This is especially applicable to a person undergoing liver detox, as the liver generally holds a lot of toxins. Cleansing the liver makes it release the toxins into the bloodstream, which causes a variety of symptoms to crop up as a consequence. Basically, the process of healing is not a simple one. This could not be truer than in the case of a person recovering from some form of addiction.
Additionally, given the circumstances under which Michael was admitted, it is very likely that Michael may have been subjected to “rapid detox”-a procedure used to expedite the process so that the patient may enter the facility more quickly. The repercussions of rapid detox on the body are even worse.
Some practitioners use “rapid” or “ultra rapid” detox methods to make the, what normally is, painful withdrawal process shorter. A circle of controversy surrounds rapid treatment because it is considered by some to be unethical and very unsafe.
During rapid detox, patients are placed under anesthesia while given treatment drugs. Some critics call this type of treatment expensive and unnecessary. A clinical study in 2005 on “ultra rapid detox” for heroin addicts, reported that anesthesia patients commonly underwent withdrawal when they awoke and had a similar rehab drop out rate as those who did not undergo the ultra rapid detox treatment. Another study in 2005 reported that the amount of pain between a group of patients who underwent ultra rapid detox versus those who did not was about the same.
Even though Michael was much happier-and much better adjusted-at the second facility, one can’t help but wonder how this experience must have compared to the life he had been used to. One of the most poignant passages in Frank’s book described a visit to Michael in this facility:
“This new rehab was located in a house in the country, a warm, comfortable, homey place, complete with fireplaces. Michael was really happy to see our familiar faces. He gave us a tour, introducing us to the friends he’s made and explaining his routine-like a child showing off his school. Come to think of it, it was probably the closest experience to going to school Michael had ever had. The patients had a daily schedule, spending time playing games, reading, watching movies, and doing arts and crafts. Michael was kind of proud of the artwork he’d been doing. He showed us a dinosaur he’d made out of paper and beamed like a little kid.”-Frank Cascio, excerpted from My Friend Michael, p. 72.
Ever since I first read Frank’s book, there has always been something about that description of Michael, beaming so proudly over having just constructed a paper dinosaur, that just breaks my heart. Perhaps one can’t fully appreciate this picture until they realize that this is the same man who, only a few weeks before, had been performing in arenas packed to 47,000+ capacity.
To go in a matter of months from this:
to a man whose proudest achievement is constructing a paper dinosaur in arts and crafts is… well, an interesting exercise in extremes, to say the least.
In 1995, an article from freelance journalist Rob McGibbon appeared in The Chicago Tribune. McGibbon’s article alleged to be an interview with British bodyguard Steve Tarling, who was (according to this account) with Michael throughout his rehab ordeal. Over the years, I have seen this article surface on various fan sites, usually accompanied by much debate over its validity. Obviously, even if Tarling’s story is true, he accepted money to reveal a very personal story, which in itself has been a source of contention among fans. Judging from his comments at the end of the article, he sounded like yet one more bitter ex-employee, disgruntled over lack of a paycheck, and some of his snarky comments (about Michael’s appearance, etc) seem to bear this out. But in several crucial aspects, his story appears to line up with facts that are now known, such as how Elizabeth Taylor facilitated Michael’s arrival by smuggling him into London on her private jet, and the transfer to the second facility in the country after his initial displeasure with the public facility. Also, his account seems consistent with many of the details from Frank Cascio’s account, such as Michael’s extreme discontent at the first facility, the attempted escape, and the phone privileges, which would explain how he was able to spend so many hours on the phone with the Cascios. Anyway, although I have obvious issues with stories from disgruntled ex-employees, I will include it here for its historical interest and relevance to the topic, and because I believe there is at least some validity to his account. Where I have added my own commentary, I have put in boldface.
I Smuggled Jackson into Britain
Minder tells of his secret dash to clinic
By Rob McGibbon
It was nearly 1am on a cold November night and the runway at Luton airport was deserted.
A private jet just landed and taxied to a secluded spot near the perimeter fence. Two rented minibuses, their windows blocked out with white sheets, drove to the tail section where a narrow stairway was being lowered. Driving the first van was bodyguard Steve Tarling with one thing on his mind- to get Michael Jackson off the jet as quickly and as secretly as possible. Customs and immigration officials boarded the plane to check documents and Steve moved in. Nothing could have prepared him for the shock of seeing Michael Jackson.
He says: “He was sitting alone and seemed to be asleep. A red tartan blanket was wrapped over his legs and a black trilby was tilted over his eyes.
He was wearing a black shirt with a red collar and a big black cardigan with a belt around the waist. He had black loafers on which were really scruffy.
Elizabeth Taylor, her husband Larry Fortensky and Jackson’s personal doctor David Forecast were trying to tell him to get up. Taylor shook him awake and said: ‘Michael, you have to get off now’. He was completely out of it. He was so drugged up he was like a zombie. He just looked like a lost soul.
When his hat came off and I saw his whole face for the first time I was physically shocked. I had this image of Michael Jackson the performer in my mind but the sight I saw was nothing like that — he looked terrible. He wore full make-up with smudged red lipstick and eyeliner. His face was covered in white paste like a clown. He looked like a transvestite who had some make-up on for a couple of weeks. What shocked me most was the tip of his nose — it was jet black. His whole face was white except for his nose which was like a scab. It looked awfully painful. (This comment alone has been enough to turn most fans off to the story, but keep in mind, this was coming from a guy griping that he hadn’t been paid in over nine months, so take it with a grain of salt).
I wanted to get him off immediately because the longer we stayed there, the more vulnerable we were. It was pandemonium on the plane, security men and airport ground staff were unloading baggage but Jackson was oblivious to it all.
Taylor had two dogs she wanted to take with her. It was impossible because of quarantine laws but she still asked me to smuggle them off. I said no way so she told Larry to stay on the plane with them. He looked fed up that he was being told what to do while Jackson was getting all the attention.
The original plan was for Liz and Larry to stay on the plane and fly off to Switzerland to throw the media off the scent. But Liz insisted on staying with Jackson until he got to the clinic. But when he tried to get up his legs collapsed and I had to hold him up. It was like he had drunk two bottles of Scotch and was so paralytic he couldn’t co-ordinate. It was a sad sight.
I held on to him and someone pulled the blanket up over his shoulders and covered his face with his hat.
I carried him like you would carry a tree trunk. He is very tall so he was leaning over my shoulder. It was awkward going down the narrow stairway to the tarmac and I remember thinking: ‘My God, if I fall, he’ll end up in hospital for other reasons, not his drug problem!’”
As Steve laid Jackson in the first bus, another security guard pulled off an amazing decoy stunt. Hidden in the second bus was a look alike wearing identical clothes.
As the singer was carried off, the look alike was smuggled on to the plane and curled up on his seat pretending to sleep. The decoy worked and as far as the passport control officers were concerned, Jackson had never left the plane.
The look alike and Fortensky were to wait for Taylor to return then fly to Switzerland as if the stop at Luton had only been to refuel.
Therapist Beauchamp Colclough — known to everyone as Beechy — was waiting in the first van. He began asking Jackson if he understood why he was there and if he knew he had a problem.
Beechy started explaining how the cure treatment would work.
Steve says: “Beechy was laying down the rules that Jackson would have to follow. He told him he would have to make his own bed, wash his own dishes and generally do everything for himself. Jackson was mumbling his answers and kept saying he wanted to use the phone but Beechy said that was not allowed. He told Jackson he would have to earn his phone calls.
Suddenly Jackson said very calmly and coherently, ‘Excuse me, can you turn this bus round and take me back? If I can’t use a telephone, I’m calling the whole thing off.’
It made everyone realize that he wasn’t such a spaced-out idiot after all. Beechy had to compromise and said he would allow him to make calls.”
Taylor was in the bus, and she got angry when Steve revealed he had changed the plan.
Earlier in the day he had checked out the Charter Nightingale Clinic in Marylebone, Central London, only to find photographers staking it out. He felt it was too risky to go there and had fixed up a stay at the £ 2million home of John Reid, Elton John’s manager, at Rickmansworth, Herts.
Steve says: “Taylor wasn’t happy. She said, ‘This is bull****,’ and started asking about my credentials. As I drove around a roundabout she screamed out hysterically. Apparently, the movement had hurt her back.
”As I pulled up outside the house a guard slid open the door and Jackson fell out. He slumped out like a corpse. Thankfully we caught him before he hit the ground and carried him inside. He was all floppy and dead to the world.
We lay him lay him on a settee in the living room and surrounded him with cushions, then put his hat on him. I crossed his hands over his chest. If someone had come in then and seen him they would have been convinced he was dead. His face was white, he was lying completely still and looked like he was hardly breathing. It was a bizarre sight.”
“Before Jackson had landed, Beechy had been worried sick. He said he would be finished if he didn’t succeed but would be set up for life if he did. At one point waiting for the plane he was shaking with fear. As Beechy came in the house I shouted out, ‘ Beechy, you can stop worrying now. He’s dead.’ It was a silly joke but the whole situation was so unreal.”
Within an hour Taylor insisted Jackson was taken to the clinic. She felt he would react better to treatment in a hospital environment and the doctors agreed.
Taylor returned to the plane which flew to Switzerland as other decoy stories to confuse the Press were released in Europe and the America. Some papers said he was at a clinic in the French Alps.
Steve found it easy to smuggle Jackson into the clinic. He arrived at around 5am and the few photographers still there were asleep in their cars. He drove in through the rear entrance and took Jackson to the top floor which was sealed off. But the singer locked himself in his room and refused to come out.
Steve says: “Jackson wouldn’t come out of his room. He looked himself in and turned up his radio. His room was very bare and the whole building seemed outdated and uncomfortable. (I can imagine this is true; the rooms usually are quite bare).
I knew he wouldn’t put up with it for long and I was right. I left one of Elizabeth Taylor’s bodyguards in charge while me and one of my men checked the ground floor. We were downstairs when the receptionist ran up in a panic shouting, “Quick, Michael Jackson’s trying to escape!’”
The bodyguard had been lying on his bed while Jackson had left his room and jumped in the lift. He had pressed No1 thinking it was the ground floor — the numbers are different to American lifts. Jackson had been wandering around politely asking patients, ‘How do you get out of here?’ I felt really sorry for him. You could tell he was determined to get out and was ready to walk on to the streets of London in the freezing cold. Half the world’s media were searching for this man and he nearly walked right out into the open-on his own! Can you imagine if that had happened?
I told my man to guard the back while I rushed to the first floor. Jackson was getting more and more frustrated and slapping his hand against the wall. He was saying in his high voice, ‘I wanna get out of here right now. I don’t like it here.’ The nurse and I got him into the lift. I held on to him and he started to calm down.” (However, Frank’s account seems to suggest that the escape attempt happened sometime thereafter, not on the first day. Perhaps there were two escape attempts? But anyway, I think one has to appreciate the scenario to understand how trapped and scared he must have been feeling!).
Later that first morning Jackson agreed to meet some ex-addicts. Nurses were ordered to search the star for drugs. The first session of therapy lasted about three hours but mainly concentrated on laying down the rules.
“I felt really bad when they searched Jackson’s personal things,” says Steve. “He had an old yellow bag with a tape machine and diaries inside. The nurses emptied it and found 13 bottles of pills which they confiscated. (I don’t know about the 13 bottles, but for sure, the search itself sounds plausible). The therapy session was weird, particularly when you haven’t got an addiction problem yourself.
Beechy made everyone introduce themselves and say what their problem was. Jackson was very friendly to me because he knew I didn’t have to be in there. He smiled at me when I said my bit which I thought was nice of him. Jackson didn’t want to speak but Beechy told him he had to. Eventually he said very quietly, ‘Hi, I’m Michael and I’m addicted to drugs.’” (This part made me chuckle-Michael and his sense of humor!).
Meanwhile reporters had surrounded the clinic and it was decided to smuggle Jackson out to be treated at John Reid’s house. Steve had to get all the nurses, ex-addicts and doctors out, as well as Beechy and Jackson so he could continue group therapy.
He disguised the staff as patients and throughout the day they left through the front door on foot or in black cabs. They were collected by cars waiting less than a mile away at Lord’s cricket ground.
Jackson left around midnight. Steve dressed him up in baggy tracksuit trousers, a long coat, scarf and an old baseball cap. Jackson went through an underground walkway to the building next door and waited in the basement until a message by walkie-talkie told him to walk.
Steve says: “Jackson was as cool as you like. He waited for my signal then walked to the car just outside and I drove off. He liked the disguise but refused to change his shoes. It was daft because they gave him away. He walked on his toes, just like Michael Jackson. If anyone had of looked they would have guessed. But no one did and we were gone within seconds.”
Jackson’s agony as we weaned him off drugs on to Hob-nobs
Michael Jackson’s desperate trip to Britain last year  to fight his addiction to painkillers was shrouded in secrecy. The world’s media were frantic to find out where he was being treated. Steve Tarling smuggled him into Britain and was his bodyguard for ten days. He was never paid a penny — but only now has Londoner Steve, 33, revealed the truth about being his minder.
Michael Jackson went crazy with sleepless nights as he was weaned off his addiction to painkillers and sleeping pills.
Night after night he was unable to sleep without being drugged up, so he spent hours trying to amuse himself in John Reid’s mansion where he secretly had therapy under Beechy Colclough.
Steve Tarling, the minder who protected Michael during his stay in Britain was forced to listen to the superstar’s melancholy singing. Often Jackson would wander downstairs for a chat or a drink.
Steve says: “He had a terrible time trying to get to sleep in those early days. He wasn’t used to crashing out without being full of pills. You could hear him playing music or singing at 4am. He had a portable tape machine which he sang into whenever he wanted to record a song. He seemed to be writing material all the time. (This is probably true, as Michael’s detox would have included weaning him off of opiates…and many sleepless nights). The songs seemed sad and slow rather than fast dance numbers. Maybe that was down to his state of mind.
He would spend hours on the telephone, too – the one luxury he insisted on. He would be on the phone in his room long into the early hours making calls all over the world.
“Some conversations would go on for two hours.”
“He would also come down to chat to me and my colleague Andy. He was very concerned that we weren’t getting any sleep either. We used to take him for walks in the grounds to get some fresh air.
Once he came down and asked if he could have a cup of tea. We got the impression that he expected us to make it for him but we said, ‘Sorry, Michael, you’ll have to do it yourself — it’s all part of the therapy.’
That was true. Beechy had instructed everyone to look after themselves — there was to be no star treatment. It was odd watching someone like Jackson make himself a cup of tea. It was like a major exercise for him. John Reid’s kitchen is massive and he was rummaging through loads of cup-boards to find everything. You could tell he wasn’t used to it.
The tea he made looked disgusting. It was really weak — the colour of chicken soup — and he piled in five or six sugars. God knows what it tasted like. (I have no idea about this, as I’ve heard many conflicting accounts of Michael’s culinary skills. Paris says he made “the best French toast” and other witnesses have mentioned him cooking meals for the kids. But who knows; perhaps his culinary skills had improved considerably by the time the kids were born).
Jackson really had a hankering for Hob-nob biscuits. He ate six or seven with that cup of tea and dunked them all in it.
He didn’t appear to mind making the tea himself. He seemed almost normal at times. He had a sense of humour, too. He used to call Beechy ‘The Mad Professor’.
One night when he came down late for a soft drink we started talking about his dancing routines.
Andy mentioned the famous Moonwalk and jumped up to have a go. He tried to slide across the tiles but was no good and made a real hash of it. Then I tried. We were just mucking about and Jackson was really giggling and said we had done all right. Then he said, ‘Okay, guys – I’m sorry, I’ve got to go to bed.’ With that he spun around and glided out of the kitchen backwards in a perfect Moonwalk. He was still giggling and had the drink in his hand while he did it. He was in his socks and he really floated across the tiles. It looked brilliant. You could tell he got a kick out of doing it for us.”
Jackson’s eating habits surprised Steve. The singer would eat in the large kitchen with Beechy and the other ex-addicts sharing therapy with him. Everyone believes that Jackson is a strict vegan who doesn’t eat meat or dairy products — but he likes chicken.”
“I always thought he didn’t touch meat,” says Steve. “But he tucked into roast chicken quite hapilly. He only ate the white meat, not the dark. Generally, though, he ate very little and just picked at his food.”
As part of the therapy Beechy asked Jackson not to wear make-up. At first he refused to wipe it off, telling everyone that it made him feel comfortable, but gradually he stopped tarting himself up. Steve says: “Jackson actually looked a lot better without his make-up — more human and natural. (This comment was totally unnecessary, especially the “more human” part, but I kind of understand what he meant. Michael DID look much better without it, although in ’93 I didn’t think he was yet going overboard with it). He used to wear long false eyelashes as well as white face paint which made him look ridiculous. He always used to wear a plaster over his nose. But as he became more comfortable he relaxed. I think he felt he didn’t have to hide behind make-up in front of us. He also stopped wearing his hat all the time. At first he never took it off except when he went to bed. Then he’d leave it on the banisters and put it on when he came down. After a while it stayed on the banisters all the time.” (This may be true; it was very hard for Michael to let his guard down and just relax; in order to do so, he had to feel very comfortable. This reminded me somewhat of Paris and her comment in her makeup video about never showing her bare face).
Jackson gradually began to muck in with the others. He vacuumed his bedroom and make his own bed. (Again, probably true-patients are almost always expected to take charge of their own chores and responsibilities). When he was not in therapy he liked to watch films in the small cinema in a barn at the side of the house which Reid had converted into a games room and gym. He also watched TV but the programmes were regulated so that he never got to see the news.
Steve laughed when he saw bulletins claiming that Jackson was staying in London at the Charter Nightingale Clinic.
Steve says: “He liked watching films in the cinema. He loved ‘Whatever Happened To Baby Jane’ — he watched that three times — and ‘Uncle Buck’ with John Candy.
But most of all he wanted everyone to watch his all-time favourite — ‘Gone With The Wind’. I was sent out to get a video of it. I drove for miles and went to a dozen video shops but not one had it. The closest I could get was ‘The Making of Gone With The Wind’. I thought he would get all uptight that I had failed, but instead he said, ‘That’s fine, Steve. Thanks for trying.” He was really well-mannered like that.
Once he went on his knees and started playing piano in the barn. He played a few notes then began singing. It was a love song and sounded really good — and he had actually written it right there in front of me. It was amazing to watch. It took him about six minutes. When he got up I said, ‘ Did you just write that?’ He said, ‘Yeah, but I’ve forgotten it already.” Then he started to look for something else to do. (This sounds a bit like the typical mania that accompanies coming off of an opiate addiction, but is also, from what I know, very typical of Michael’s natural personality and creative style).
“No matter what his problems are, the guy is a complete genius”
Michael arrived an addicted zombie and left us as a real fun guy
Minder Steve Tarling saw an astonishing change in troubled superstar Michael Jackson after he arrived in Britain to fight his addiction to painkillers.
Steve who guarded Jackson throughout his secret stay last year, says: ”In just a few days he turned from a sad lost soul into a happy person who could communicate again.
In the beginning he was withdrawn and nervous and hardly said a word. He was in his own world. But gradually, as he was weaned off the drugs, he came out of himself. He started to relax and was more comfortable with everyone. He laughed a lot more and chatted with everyone. Before his treatment he was too messed up to be bothered. But afterwards you could have conversations with him.”
Steve, 33, watched while the treatment went on last December at the mansion at Rickmansworth, Herts, owned by Elton John’s manager John Reid. He says: ”Jackson‘s actually a bright and intelligent person. He is very interested in our Royal Family and he asked me lots of questions about them and said how much he likes Princess Diana. A lot has been said about him not being able to look people in the eye but that never happened as the treatment started to work.
He has incredibly striking eyes. I likened them to Bambi — wide and innocent — and he never avoided eye contact when he was chatting to me. The change in him was quite amazing — a really massive improvement. He started to sleep better and would often be the last one down to breakfast. Everyone had breakfast together between 8.30 and 9am. Towards the end of his stay Jackson used to come down about 9.45am after having a good lie-in.”
“He also started to eat more. He used to pick at food but he started to finish his meals and noticeably put on weight. You could see him fill out a bit in the face.
He looked brighter and just seemed much more in touch and generally together. His confidence seemed to grow and he became more at ease in every way.
Beechy Colclough and David Forecast did an amazing job with the therapy and all credit must go to them.
The circumstances could not have been more stressful for them. Jackson had serious problems which are hard to deal with at any time but, to make it worse, the whole world was chasing him.
Beechy and Forecast had to work under those conditions but they still pulled it off. They managed to turn Jackson from a zombie who couldn’t walk or talk properly to an amiable and fun guy who seemed happy. He was genuinely on the up.”
As Jackson’s condition improved Steve was able to take him out for the day to give him a change of scenery. They secretly went for a drive to a friend’s house in the country where Jackson played computer games with the young son of Steve’s friend. Steve said: “It was an amazing house, with all the trappings of wealth but Jackson has all that. He was more into playing a racing car computer game on the television. I sat with him and the boy for hours as they played the game.
I was aware of the allegations about Jackson but he behaved with that lad like two little kids together. Totally innocent. Jackson kept getting beaten because he hadn’t played the game before but he got better. Whenever he made a mistake he said, ‘Jesus Christmas!’ Apart from that he never swore the whole time I was with him. He was polite and well-mannered.“
Near the end of the first week Michael Jackson’s business advisers in America made a panic-stricken phone call to the star. They were scared stiff that public opinion was turning against the star and that everyone suspected he was hiding out to avoid facing child sex abuse charges brought by Jordy Chandler.
They insisted that Jackson should be filmed at the house undergoing therapy to prove that he was sick and need treatment.
Steve says: “They were really uptight and paranoid. They were going mad. They called the house and started trying to bully everyone around. They were terrified that no one believed he was being treated.
But the deal was for me and Elizabeth Taylor’s security man to look after Jackson. Liz wanted Jackson kept totally away from his people to give him a chance to recovering. Things started getting very confused when Jackson’s men flew over after ten days to take him to another house. Liz’s bodyguard didn’t want to let them take him — and started talking about hiding Jackson in a cupboard when they arrived. It was farcical trying to try to hide him from his own people and in the end I was told that they were taking over.
I was assured that I would be paid in full for my time. They said that money was not a problem. They trusted me with the job and I dropped everything to do it. In return I trusted them to honour the financial side of things.”
“I have tried many times to get paid but have either been ignored or fobbed off with excuses. I worked round the clock protecting Jackson, paid people out of my own pocket for their time and what did I get? Nothing.
Jackson has millions yet this is how I get treated. I doubt this is down to him because I don’t think he has a clue about business. But the people around him should know better. It’s now nine month since I worked for him. I kept silent when the whole world wanted to know where he was – and all I have got in return is an insult.”
We may never know the full extent of what happened to Michael in November of 1993, or what he endured. For sure, it was a major life adjustment that must have forced a lot of reflection on his life’s direction. It probably wasn’t all bad, at least not after the transfer to the country. But from all indications, it was an experience that never would have happened if Michael hadn’t completely hit rock bottom. It was a cry for help that, at least for a few weeks in November of 1993, stopped the presses and forced the world to take notice.
It’s not surprising, then, that in the last week I have found myself going back many times in my mind to the events of November 1993. Although the circumstances that have led to Paris’s hospitalization may be somewhat different, it has been no less a tragic set of circumstances-and, undoubtedly, no less of a traumatic experience. And while every article, it seems, has had a different spin on the cause, depending on the “source,” I don’t think the truth is too hard to figure out. Paris, just as her father was, has been forced to grow up too fast, and to suppress far too much “stuff” in the name of putting forth a brave face to the world. By the time Michael ended up in that London facility, he had stuffed down thirty years’ worth of trauma and pain, all while putting on a brave front to the world.
Paris, at fifteen, has been putting on that same brave face for the past four years. Up until the early morning hours of June 5th, that is.
But if there is any silver lining, it’s that she has at least managed to cry out now, perhaps before it’s too late. When Michael was fifteen, he was still too busy doing as he was told, being that perfect golden child, to adequately deal with the traumas of his own childhood.
However, while some are looking at this as the perpetuation of a cycle, I don’t see it as such. For Paris, the biggest trauma of her life, even though albeit she is dealing with many things, is the absence of her father-the father who had fought so hard to ensure that his kids would never have to endure the pain he had known. If this is the perpetuation of a cycle, it is one that has occurred despite all of Michael’s most valiant efforts to prevent it, simply because he is no longer here to prevent it.
But, being all of fifteen, it means something else, as well. It means Paris still has a twenty year headstart on her dad. Perhaps if he could have cried out and been heard half as loudly at fifteen, he might not have ended up in such straits in 1993, at age thirty-five. Or worse, dead by the age of fifty. Perhaps. But we’ll never know. The circumstances of Michael’s life were unique; yet in many ways, I see his children dealing now with many of the same issues. In some ways, it is still the fallout from fame, even though his kids have yet to earn their own fame-if they ever do. They didn’t ask to be born. But they are here, and making the best of the hand they have been dealt.
As of this writing, Paris is due to be released. I have no firsthand knowledge of Paris’s experience, but I can tell you, just based on what I know about hospital psychiatric wards and how they operate, pretty much verbatim what she has been through this week. She has been sedated (sometimes to the point of oblivion). She has been experimented on with various medications. She has been pricked all hours of the day and night-blood work for this, more blood tests for that. No doubt, she has been questioned, probed, and analyzed. She has felt the loneliness and the isolation-as well as the culture shock of this regimen. And with so many hours of quiet time-away from the distractions of Twitter, music, and the internet-no doubt, a lot of time to think. And, perhaps, finally, to grieve.
Debbie has said she wants to get her the hell out of LA for the summer. I hope she is able to do it.
In the meantime, I am praying that I never again have to write a blog entitled “Like Father, Like Daughter”-unless it is Grammy night and Paris has just won eight of them. But this may be an excellent opportunity to assess whether a life in entertainment is worth it. If Paris is already obsessing over the hateful things people say, as at least one article has suggested, she must know it is only the tip of the iceberg of what her father had to deal with. Sadly, Paris seems to have inherited Michael’s love of the spotlight and his all-encompassing need to be loved by the world-but along with it, the crushing sensitivity that comes with the realization that not everyone is going to love you. Her inheritance, it seems, is the same two-edged sword that made her father so great, and yet so vulnerable to the world’s cruelty.
Perhaps it is time for the little girl who only wanted to be like her daddy to find her own way. While there is still time to do it.
The big question that remains is: Will the world now leave her alone long enough to give her that chance?