- The Washington Times - Monday, July 13, 2009

Sis: MJ murdered

Michael Jackson was killed by a band of greedy hangers-on, his sister La Toya claimed in interviews with British Sunday newspapers, reports Agence France-Presse.

The King of Pop’s sister spoke about her younger brother’s death and the aftermath with the Mail on Sunday and the News of the World weeklies.

“I believe Michael was murdered. I felt that from the start,” Miss Jackson, 53, said.

“Not just one person was involved, rather it was a conspiracy of people. He was surrounded by a bad circle. Michael was a very meek, quiet, loving person. People took advantage of that.

“Less than a month ago, I said I thought Michael was going to die before the London shows because he was surrounded by people who didn’t have his best interests at heart.

Miss Jackson said she had ordered a private autopsy.

Mr. Jackson, one of the world’s most popular entertainers, died June 25 . He was 50.

“Michael was worth more than a billion dollars,” Miss Jackson said. “When anyone is worth that much money, there are always greedy people around them. I said to my family a month ago, ‘He’s never going to make it to London.’ He was worth more dead than alive.”

Murder under Californian law can include killings that are not premeditated.

Miss Jackson accused a “shadowy” group of cutting her sibling off from his family and friends and forcing him to sign up for 50 comeback concerts at London’s O2 Arena, shows billed as “This Is It.”

They saw him as a “cash cow” and “got him hooked on drugs. — I think it shocked his system so much it killed him,” said Miss Jackson, an author and reality show participant who once appeared in Playboy and also served as a spokesperson for a psychic network.

She also claimed that jewelry was missing from her brother’s house and that no cash was found, despite the fact that he regularly kept more than a million dollars around.

Miss Jackson said the family had an open coffin viewing before the July 7 public memorial in Los Angeles’ Staples Center arena. She put one of his sequined gloves in the coffin, while Mr. Jackson’s daughter, Paris, 11, put half of a heart-shaped “mood necklace” around his wrist, keeping the other piece. Miss Jackson said it was Paris’ idea to speak at the memorial.

Her other views of Mr. Jackson’s children: Paris wanted to be an entertainer, Prince Michael was “assertive,” and Prince Michael II — also known as “Blanket” — was “very funny, a real prankster like his father.”

Miss Jackson went on to say that her brother would “absolutely not” be laid to rest at his Neverland ranch and added that his brain, removed in the autopsy, had been put back in his body.

And, she said, Mr. Jackson updated his will roughly every five years, “so we expect another one to emerge from 2007.”

Clean and sober

Oscar nominee Robert Downey Jr. — once the face of drug-addled, Hollywood bad boys — has received his five-year-chip at Alcoholics Anonymous, says Denverpost.com, citing a report by radaronline.

The “Iron Man” star recently told those attending an AA meeting in Los Angeles that being sober has changed his life.

He said he makes the time to visit different AA meetings to keep people positive and show them that even though he was strung out on drugs at one time, it’s possible to live a sober life.

Raising the barre

The Royal Ballet of London said it will perform in Havana on Tuesday for the first time in its 78-year history, featuring an appearance of its star Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta.

The storied classical ballet company and its 96 dancers arrived late Friday in Cuba accompanied by 50 technicians for five performances, including a tribute to Cuban ballet legend Alicia Alonso, Royal Ballet artistic director Dame Monica Mason, told Agence France-Presse.

Despite suffering from partial blindness, Miss Alonso, 88, continues to head the National Ballet of Cuba, which she helped found 60 years ago.

Meanwhile, Cuba’s National Ballet is scheduled to perform in the United Kingdom next year, accompanied by Mr. Acosta, the Royal Ballet’s principal guest dancer.

No laughing matter

Comedian and radio personality Artie Lange has been charged with driving under the influence of an intoxicant and careless driving after a minor traffic accident in central New Jersey, Associated Press reports.

Toms River police say Mr. Lange’s 2009 Nissan struck the rear of another vehicle around 1:30 p.m. Friday. Police say no one was injured and both vehicles had only minor damage.

Police say the responding officers’ observations led to Mr. Lange, 41, of Roseland, N.J., being charged. He was issued summonses and released pending a municipal court appearance on Thursday, AP said.

Mr. Lange, a regular on “The Howard Stern Show,” recently authored a best-selling book, “Too Fat to Fish.”

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports

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