Michael Jackson, the sensationally gifted child star who rose to become the "King of Pop" and the biggest celebrity in the world only to fall from his throne in a freakish series of scandals, died Thursday. He was 50. Jackson died at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. Ed Winter, the assistant chief coroner for Los Angeles County, confirmed his office had been notified of the death and would handle the investigation.
The circumstances of Jackson's death were not immediately clear. Jackson was not breathing when Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics responded to a call at his Los Angeles home about 12:30 p.m., Capt. Steve Ruda told the Los Angeles Times. The paramedics performed CPR and took him to the hospital, Ruda told the newspaper.
Jackson's death brought a tragic end to a long, bizarre, sometimes farcical decline from his peak in the 1980s, when he was popular music's premier all-around performer, a uniter of black and white music who shattered the race barrier on MTV, dominated the charts and dazzled even more on stage.
His 1982 album "Thriller" _ which included the blockbuster hits "Beat It," "Billie Jean" and "Thriller" _ is the best-selling album of all time, with an estimated 50 million copies sold worldwide.
The public first knew him in the late 1960s, when as a boy he was the precocious, spinning lead singer of the Jackson 5, the music group he formed with his four older brothers. Among their No. 1 hits were "I Want You Back," "ABC," and "I'll Be There."
He was perhaps the most exciting performer of his generation, known for his feverish, crotch-grabbing dance moves and his high-pitched voice punctuated with squeals and titters. His single sequined glove, tight, military-style jacket and aviator sunglasses were trademarks second only to his ever-changing, surgically altered appearance.
"For Michael to be taken away from us so suddenly at such a young age, I just don't have the words," said Quincy Jones, who produced "Thriller." "He was the consummate entertainer and his contributions and legacy will be felt upon the world forever. I've lost my little brother today, and part of my soul has gone with him."
Jackson ranked alongside Elvis Presley and the Beatles as the biggest pop sensations of all time. He united two of music's biggest names when he was briefly married to Presley's daughter, Lisa Marie, and Jackson's death immediately evoked that of Presley himself, who died at age 42 in 1977.
As years went by, Jackson became an increasingly freakish figure _ a middle-aged man-child weirdly out of touch with grown-up life. His skin became lighter, his nose narrower, and he spoke in a breathy, girlish voice. He surrounded himself with children at his Neverland ranch, often wore a germ mask while traveling and kept a pet chimpanzee named Bubbles as one of his closest companions.
"It seemed to me that his internal essence was at war with the norms of the world. It's as if he was trying to defy gravity," said Michael Levine, a Hollywood publicist who represented Jackson in the early 1990s. He called Jackson a "disciple of P.T. Barnum" and said the star appeared fragile at the time but was "much more cunning and shrewd about the industry than anyone knew."
Jackson caused a furor in 2002 when he playfully dangled his infant son, Prince Michael II, over a hotel balcony in Berlin while a throng of fans watched from below.
In 2005, he was cleared of charges he molested a 13-year-old cancer survivor at Neverland in 2003. He had been accused of plying the boy with alcohol and groping him, and of engaging in strange and inappropriate behavior with other children.
The case followed years of rumors about Jackson and young boys. In a TV documentary, he had acknowledged sharing his bed with children, a practice he described as sweet and not at all sexual.
Despite the acquittal, the lurid allegations that came out in court took a fearsome toll on his career and image, and he fell into serious financial trouble.
Jackson was preparing for what was to be his greatest comeback: He was scheduled for an unprecedented 50 shows at a London arena, with the first set for July 13. He was in rehearsals in Los Angeles for the concert, an extravaganza that was to capture the classic Jackson magic: showstopping dance moves, elaborate staging and throbbing dance beats.
Singer Dionne Warwick said: "Michael was a friend and undoubtedly one of the world's greatest entertainers that I fortunately had the pleasure of working with. ... We have lost an icon in our industry."
Hundreds of people gathered outside the hospital as word of his death spread. The emergency entrance at the UCLA Medical Center, which is near Jackson's rented home, was roped off with police tape.
"Ladies and gentlemen, Michael Jackson has just died," a woman boarding a Manhattan bus called out, shortly after the news was announced. Immediately many riders reached for their cell phones.
So many people wanted to verify the early reports of Jackson's death that the computers running Google's news section interpreted the fusillade of "Michael Jackson" requests as an automated attack for about half an hour Thursday evening.
In New York's Times Square, a low groan went up in the crowd when a screen flashed that Jackson had died, and people began relaying the news to friends by cell phone.
"No joke. King of Pop is no more. Wow," Michael Harris, 36, of New York City, read from a text message a friend sent to his telephone. "It's like when Kennedy was assassinated. I will always remember being in Times Square when Michael Jackson died."
Associated Press Writers Derrik J. Lang in Los Angeles and Virginia Byrne, Nekesa Mumbi Moody and Jocelyn Noveck in New York contributed to this report.
Pieter mailed me the following:
There was a great comment on Yahoo today on a posting blog about Macauley Calkin's silence about Michael and the whole boylove aspect of his life.
Such a delicate and fragile soul beamed into our lives and touched a huge portion of humanity. He raised awareness for many charitable causes, donated to countless charities. Michael carried the burden of his media circus throughout his life since the age of 8. We must contemplate what courage and moral conviction Michael had within him to stand up to his critics and tell the 20th century world about his private life. It was immediate character assassination. It seemed to be the stupidest thing anybody could ever do. But looking back, it was the Bravest thing that he ever did. For he spoke the truth. At a time when the Moral Majority was attempting a fundamentalist dictatorship in the USA, "little Michael" stood before the world press and declared his love. It was a saintly act, courageous, and bold. It reminds us that America is not a truly free country. And that by his friendship with Nelson Mandella, South Africa now has even more freedoms in their constitution than the USA.THINK!
I dunno about Nelson Mandella and your constitution but I know they knew each other and it must have influenced it. You probably know the story better since you have moved there. I loved the Jackson Five when they first hit the airwaves and have several 45's like ABC. But I was horrified when he changed his appearance. But then, I also have gone through the phases of wanting to be blonde and hairless, skinny and boney, then taking estrogen-like Thai herbs in Thailand. (Yes! My hips started to widen so I stopped.) So I have a little understanding of what he must have felt. I had Gestault therapy as a teenager so I try to put myself in someone's frame of mind automatically. I think Michael also had this compassionate nature.
Referred to by Pieter and found on: Examiner.com.
Macaulay Culkin has not issued a public statement yet about the death of his friend Michael Jackson.
Yet, Culkin has a long history of being silent about his friendship with the King of Pop.
Five years ago, however, Macaulay Culkin, who has lived a quiet life in recent years with girlfriend Mila Kunis, broke years of previous silence and discussed his friendship with Michael Jackson on CNN's Larry King Live.
“I wasn’t one of his fans,” Culkin told King. “I think that’s one of the reasons we connected. I called him a jerk all the time. I called him a fathead and he gets it.” As for the molestation allegations and what happened when he was at Neverland, “That’s what’s so weird,” Culkin responded. “Nothing happened. Really. We played video games.”
Not long after his first interview about Jackson, Culkin took the stand during Jackson's criminal trial to defend his childhood pal.
During the trial, Culkin reported that Michael Jackson "never" sexually molested him or touched him in an improper way when he was still a child star.
Referring to the allegations at the time as "absolutely ridiculous," Culkin summarized staying at Neverland Ranch as "good old fun."