- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 12, 2009

LOS ANGELES — In his final days, Michael Jackson was robust and active — or dangerously thin and frail. Begging for access to powerful prescription drugs — or showing no signs of ever having used them.

It depends who’s talking.

A dizzying collection of puzzle pieces about Mr. Jackson’s health and habits has come to light since his death on June 25. With as much as a month before a toxicology report determines the cause, more are sure to emerge.

Each is likely to fuel further speculation. None is sure to produce a satisfying conclusion.

Some who knew him even seem to contradict themselves.

Here’s what’s known so far:

• During his final rehearsal at the Staples Center, Mr. Jackson was captured on video doing his signature moonwalk and dance spins. Randy Phillips, CEO of concert promoter AEG Live, told CNN that Mr. Jackson was “a healthy, vibrant human being.”

• Mr. Phillips later told ABC that concert organizers feared that Mr. Jackson was losing weight and showing signs of wear and tear. Mr. Phillips said he hired a staffer whose purpose was to remind Mr. Jackson to eat.

• Dr. Arnold Klein, Mr. Jackson’s dermatologist, who said he last saw Mr. Jackson less than a week before he died, told CNN’s Larry King that the singer was in “very good physical condition,” in “a very good mood” and “was very happy.”

• Dr. Klein also told CNN that he had given Mr. Jackson the painkiller Demerol but warned him about using the powerful sedative Diprivan. He also confirmed that Mr. Jackson was a former drug addict who went to rehab in England.

• “The Incredible Hulk” star Lou Ferrigno, who was helping Mr. Jackson prepare for a planned series of London concerts, told the Associated Press that he never saw Mr. Jackson take drugs or act aloof or speedy, and that the singer wasn’t frail when he last saw him at the end of May. “I’ve never seen him look better,” he said.

• Two of Mr. Jackson’s former confidants, medium Uri Geller and ex-bodyguard Matt Fiddes, said they tried in vain to keep the pop superstar from abusing prescription drugs. Mr. Geller said he suffered a terrible falling-out with Mr. Jackson over the issue, but not before he had to “shout at Michael, to scream at Michael” in an effort to confiscate the singer’s stocks of medication during his travels in England.

• The drug Diprivan, an anesthetic widely used in operating rooms to induce unconsciousness, was found in Mr. Jackson’s residence, a law enforcement official told the AP. Also known as Propofol, the drug is given intravenously and is very unusual to have in a private home.

• Cherilyn Lee, a registered nurse, told the AP she repeatedly rejected his demands for Diprivan, but a frantic phone call she received from Mr. Jackson four days before his death made her fear that he somehow had obtained Diprivan or another drug to induce sleep.

• Akon, the Senegalese R&B singer and producer with whom Jackson recently recorded songs, told Billboard.com that “Michael is just one of the healthiest people that I know. He was pressuring me to stay healthy, like: ‘Akon, eat right. What are you doing out there on the road? Are you eating? Are you exercising? Are you drinking a lot of water?’”

• Dr. Klein said Mr. Jackson had been suffering from lupus, a chronic disease in which the immune system attacks the body’s own tissue, and a skin disorder known as vitiligo.

• Mr. Jackson’s personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, administered CPR on Mr. Jackson’s bed, rather than a hard surface, “with his hand behind his back to provide the necessary support” because the singer was so frail, the doctor’s attorney, Edward Chernoff, said.

• Mr. Chernoff also told the AP that Dr. Murray never gave or prescribed for Mr. Jackson the painkillers Demerol or OxyContin, and said the doctor didn’t give the pop star any drugs that contributed to his death.

• Among other things, Dr. Murray’s lawyers have acknowledged it took up to 30 minutes for paramedics to be summoned to Mr. Jackson’s home after he was found unresponsive.

• The Jackson family requested a private autopsy in part because of questions about Dr. Murray’s role, the Rev. Jesse Jackson has said.

• Kevin Mazur, a photographer documenting the Staples Center rehearsals for a tour book, told the AP that Mr. Jackson looked in perfect health. “He was very upbeat, very happy, having a good time with the dancers,” Mr. Mazur said.

• Spiritual teacher Dr. Deepak Chopra told the AP he had been concerned since 2005 that Mr. Jackson was abusing painkillers and spoke to the pop star about suspected drug use as recently as six months ago. Dr. Chopra said Mr. Jackson, a longtime friend, personally asked him for painkillers in 2005; Dr. Chopra said he refused.

• Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton said detectives are looking at Mr. Jackson’s prescription drug history and trying to talk with his numerous former doctors. He also said police are waiting for the coroner’s report before ruling out any possibilities in their “comprehensive and far-reaching” probe, which includes the Drug Enforcement Administration and the state attorney general’s office.

Associated Press writer Michael R. Blood contributed to this report.

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