Flowers, balloons and other mementos left for the Jackson family outside their home in Encino, California, are collected daily; and quickly replaced by new ones the following day.
Give Michael Jackson his due: his final exit is lasting longer than the Victory tour from 25 years ago. The man passed away June 25th and yet he won't be returned to the Earth [which is an assumption I'm making; for all I know, he'll be stuffed and mounted at Neverland] until July 7th.
In all seriousness, there is something tragic about Jackson's death. While there's a touch of Elvis' overdose/heart attack at Graceland in 1977, there's also the Marilyn Monroe drug/homicide/suicide angle [I won't sully the names of those two icons by mentioning why-is-she-a-celebrity Anna Nicole Smith].
By almost any definition, it appears that Jackson's final years were full of pain, denial and out-of-touch narcissism. Investigators have found the names of at least five doctors who prescribed drugs to Jackson - and that's only the number they are willing to admit off-the-record. Any chance that Jackson's career would be the focus in the aftermath of his death went out the window [along with a few of the doctors, no doubt].
Before getting into the medical nightmare, something else struck me: Michael Jackson did almost everything in his power to shield his three children from the camera. He didn't mind using them as props, don't get me wrong; and for that he should've been ashamed [assuming that was still possible]. But in terms of their identities, what they looked like, what they did, he was a fanatic about protecting them. It was to very, very few people that Jackson shared the lives of his children [hell, I don't think their mother was one of those people]. One person that he did share it with - and here again you call into question Jackson's ability to make [correct] judgements about people - was 70-year old sleazeball Al Malnik [as my grandmother would have said, 'Naturally, he's gotta be Jewish']. Malnik is one of those self-made millionaires who flutters around celebrity millionaires - yet no one knows exactly what he did to get his money.
Jackson was quite close with Malnik, who has [turn the creep-meter off] a 7-year old daughter himself. When with Malnik, Jackson actually felt comfortable enough to allow Malnik to photograph him with the children - both his own and Malnik's. These were private moments for Jackson meant to be shared with his friend Malnik and their closest friends.
And yet, less than a week after Jackson's death, Malnik had inked a deal with NBC to release the entire trove of photographs, which the network wasted no time in posting on MSNBC. The photos are endearing. They show a side of Jackson that makes you realize that he actually was a human being. I'm not going to link to them, though. There is something about looking at them that made me feel dirty. No, they're not those kinds of pictures, sicko. It's just that, Jackson never intended the likes of me to see them. My curiosity, naturally, led me to view them all. But somehow I think that was wrong, hence they're not here. I'm sure you can find them on the Internet if you want to.
I couldn't get the photos - or my sick desire to see them - out of my head for a long time. To me, Malnik's decision to release them just so typified Jackson's dealings with people and underscored his understandable lack of faith or trust in anyone. So many people turned a buck off of Jackson in his life. Granted, he played the 'Oh, woe is me' card a bit much. But that doesn't change the fact people betrayed him for his whole life. If Elvis had the Memphis Mafia - who kept him medicated in a cocoon-like environment over the last years of his life, living off his name, just as they have for 30 years after his death - at least they were people Elvis had known his whole life. People went in and out of Jackson's life so fast that the members of his inner sanctum changed almost literally daily.
Those talking heads you've seen on the television the last 10 days touted as "Jackson Associate" are merely winners of the lottery: they happened to have been in Jackson's inner circle when he died. Had he lived another year, 9 out of 10 of them would've been gone by that point; replaced by 9 others. If it is hard to imagine having all of that wealth and fame and still being miserable, think about what it would mean if everyone you consider a 'friend' turned out to be nothing more than a sycophant. Combined with the physical pain Jackson suffered from years of performing, plus the emotional demons he dealt with - that either led him to commit child abuse or were the root cause of his incredibly unhealthy relationship with children - and it's not hard to see why he sought to be medicated.
Which leads us back to the drugs. By now, of course, it's well known that authorities removed drugs and other medical evidence from the Holmby Hills mansion where Jackson was stricken. While they are trying to determine whether the medications were properly prescribed - and you'll find a hard time getting anyone to take a bet with you that they all were properly prescribed - and whether they played any role in his death. It would seem obvious, though, that it's not a question of "whether" they played a role, but rather "what" role they played.
Jackson - like many celebrities - had a plethora of pseudonyms he used throughout his life, for everything from hotel reservations to email accounts. Some of these pseudonyms, unfortunately, also appear on the prescription labels of the drugs found at Jackson's rented home. More interesting, though is that - in some cases -- the drugs had no prescription labels on them at all. Even for someone with Jackson's celebrity, that would be incredible. It would mean that he had a supplier who had access to those drugs on a common everyday basis. Since it's unlikely that Jackson befriended his friendly neighborhood CVS pharmacist, then, it means some doctor or doctors were providing him the drugs, fully understanding that what they were doing was illegal [not to mention unethical and probably immoral].
The most significant finding - so far - is the discovery of numerous bottles of the powerful sedative Diprivan at the home. Some of the bottles were full and others were empty. None had prescription labels, so investigators - uh, obviously - are trying to determine how Jackson got the drugs.
Diprivan is an extremely potent drug that is supposed to be dispensed by a person trained to administer anesthesia, such as an anesthesiologist or a certified registered nurse anesthetist, and it is typically used in hospitals. It is not, therefore, what one should find in a private home - even a rented one. The drug can be deadly if self-administered - and it is still unknown if Jackson self-medicated or was assisted by someone else. It is also dangerous if administered by someone not trained in what is called airway management and cardiac life support.
Diprivan is the market name for propofol, and is one of the most widely used IV drugs for general anesthesia. The product label from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says a patient being given the drug should be monitored at all times for early signs of abnormally low blood pressure, low oxygen levels and stopped breathing. Problems with the heart or breathing are more likely to occur after rapid administration of the drug. The label states that equipment to provide artificial ventilation, supplemental oxygen, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation "must be immediately available." It's unclear whether any of this equipment was found in Jackson's home.
Apparently, abuse of Diprivan is a growing problem. According to a 2007 study of Diprivan abuse, in an e-mail survey of 126 academic anesthesiology training programs nationwide, 18% of departments reported one or more incidents of Diprivan abuse in the previous 10 years. Of the 25 individuals who abused propofol, seven died as a result, including six who were residents, according to the study.
Based on what the drug is supposed to do, it's not hard to see why people would want it. Essentially, it makes you completely numb. It totally takes away all anxiety, all fear, and it's incredibly relieving of pain, anxiety and stress. People do it to escape. I hear that.
The California Attorney General's office has offered assistance to the Los Angeles County Coroner and the Drug Enforcement Agency [DEA] - both of whom are involved because of the investigation into doctors suspected of improperly prescribing drugs. The involvement of the AG's office is noteworthy. Earlier this year they brought charges against doctors for supplying model Anna Nicole Smith with addictive prescription drugs in the years before she died. The DEA is expected to investigate whether doctors who prescribed medication for Jackson had a face-to-face relationship with him and provided a diagnosis, as required by law.
Diprivan first surfaced as a possibility when a self-described Jackson "nutritionist", Cherilyn Lee, said the singer complained to her earlier this year about having insomnia and asked her to get Diprivan for him. Lee went to CNN with the information shortly after Jackson's death. Lee says she is a registered nurse. Lee said she told Jackson, "This medication is not safe." She said she never saw him take the drug.
If Jackson suffered from insomnia as has been reported, and if he was using Diprivan to fall to sleep, he was playing Russian roulette. Diprivan should never be used for insomnia. As mentioned earlier, the drug is normally administered in a hospital setting with EKG equipment, a blood pressure cuff and a blood-oxygen monitor in close proximity to watch a patient's status. Also on hand in a hospital is supplemental oxygen. Of course, unless you have a trained physician to rescue the patient if something goes wrong, all of the monitors in the world mean nothing.
We'll learn more in the days and weeks ahead [if not years]. In the meantime, Jackson's funeral final takes place on Tuesday. Something tells me, though, that the real show has only just begun.
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