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Author reveals what Michael Jackson was like as a friend

- Associated Press - Monday, November 14, 2011

A personal assistant turned personal manager to Michael Jackson said the King of Pop had been taking propofol as early as 1999, and that the singer was drugged up ahead of his 30th anniversary concerts in 2001.

Frank Cascio, who became a family friend to Jackson in 1986 at age 5 and eventually one of the singer's closest friends and employees, writes in a new book that he first noticed Jackson taking the drug Demerol while accompanying the singer on his "Dangerous" tour in 1993.

He also writes in his book, "My Friend Michael: An Ordinary Friendship With an Extraordinary Man," that Jackson started the first of two anniversary shows in 2001 an hour late as a result of being drugged up in his dressing room.

"My naive belief that Michael wouldn't let his medicine interfere with the show blew up in my face," Mr. Cascio writes. "I can't begin to describe my disappointment and panic at this moment."

The Associated Press bought an advance copy of the book, which was set for release Tuesday by William Morrow, an imprint of News Corp.'s HarperCollins.

Mr. Cascio became a friend of Jackson's after his father introduced him to the singer. Mr. Cascio's father worked as a manager of the Hemsley Palace towers and suites in Manhattan, where Jackson stayed. After that, a 5-year-old Cascio and his younger brother, Eddie, spent time with Jackson at his Neverland Ranch.

He said Jackson was first introduced to Demerol in 1984 when he burned his head during a Pepsi commercial shoot. Mr. Cascio writes that he first noticed Jackson using the medicine on his 1993 "Dangerous" tour.

"Now, on tour, and again in deep physical pain, Michael turned back to those drugs," he writes.

Mr. Cascio said Jackson also took propofol after hurting his back in Munich in 1999 when the singer's aerial platform fell from 50 feet instead of lowering slowly. Mr. Cascio also writes that Jackson had taken Demerol to treat the skin disease vitiligo, and grew worried about his drug use.

"It had become clear to me that Michael's drug use was escalating," he writes. Mr. Cascio said he sometimes paid doctors in cash "because all of Michael's medical issues had to be kept from the public and their cost off the books." He also said he had some of the prescriptions written out in his name.

"Over the years, I had grown accustomed to seeing doctors coming and going, particularly in late tours, when Michael was under great stress and needed help falling asleep."

Mr. Cascio said he wanted to seek help, but didn't know how. Ahead of Jackson's 2001 anniversary shows, he said, he spoke with Janet, Randy and Tito about their brother's drug use. He writes that Jackson's siblings approached him, but the singer "simply pushed them away."

Dr. Conrad Murray was convicted last week of involuntary manslaughter for supplying the insomnia-plagued Jackson with the powerful operating-room anesthetic propofol to help him sleep as he rehearsed for his big comeback.

"But in the end, physical and mental anguish prevailed, and Michael died in his endless quest to attain some inner peace," Mr. Cascio writes.

"My Friend Michael" also takes a look at some of Jackson's personal and professional moments, providing a somewhat behind-the-scenes look at the King of Pop's life.

Mr. Cascio writes that he and Jackson "had gotten stoned on a few occasions up in the mountains" and that Jackson would drink wine out of juice bottles and soda cans.

Mr. Cascio and the singer grew close. In 1993, when Jackson had been accused of child molestation charges, he asked the Cascio family to visit him in Israel while he was on tour. He later asked whether the boys could stay on tour with him.

"He went to my father and broke down crying," Mr. Cascio writes. "People might question my parents' judgment in sending two young boys off to spend time alone with a man who had been accused of molesting another boy. But to us, the suggestion that we were in any danger was completely absurd."

Jackson invited Mr. Cascio to work as his personal assistant a year after he graduated from high school. He later became the singer's personal manager.

Throughout the book, Mr. Cascio writes that Jackson never had sex with children, but had a love for them and wanted to father 10 children of his own.

Mr. Cascio said Princess Diana was at the top of Jackson's list of women he wanted to date, and that Jackson made out with one of his fan club members.

"He tended to like tall, slender women whom I'd describe as nerdy in a sexy way," he writes.

Mr. Cascio also said that Jackson used to claim that Omer Bhatti, a dancer originally from Norway, was his son, though Mr. Cascio did not believe him. Jackson later acknowledged that it wasn't true.

"By way of an explanation, Michael gave me the same reason he'd given for his marriages to Lisa Marie [Presley] and Debbie Rowe. He needed to show the Saudi prince and the rest of the Arab business world that he had a family," Mr. Cascio writes.

When he worked as his personal manager, Mr. Cascio said, he had to interfere when John McClain, now the co-executor of Jackson's estate, and the director of Jackson's "You Rock My World" music video, wanted the singer "to use makeup to darken Michael's skin for the video" and "to fill in his nose with putty." Mr. Cascio said Jackson locked himself in a bathroom and cried.

"They think I'm ugly?" Jackson asked. "They think I'm a freak, they think I'm a freak, they think I'm a freak."

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