By Jeff Gottlieb
5:03 PM EDT, May 30, 2013
About six weeks after Michael Jackson’s death, an AEG executive told a producer for the “This Is It” documentary to delete footage of the singer looking too “skeletal.”
Witnesses in the Jackson family’s wrongful-death suit have testified that they were worried about the singer’s health and dramatic weight loss in the day before his scheduled comeback tour and had expressed concerns to tour officials.
The paramedic who came to Jackson’s Holmby Hills home after the 911 call on June 25, 2009, testified that the singer was so emaciated that he thought Jackson was an end-stage cancer patient who had come home to die.
“Make sure we take out the shots of MJ in that red leather jacket at the sound stage where the mini-movies were being filmed,” AEG Live president and co-chief executive Randy Phillips wrote.
“He looks way too think (sic) and skeletal.”
Phillips sent the email to Paul Gongaware, who was back on the witness stand Thursday for his third straight day of testimony. Gongaware, co-chief executive of AEG Live, was a producer of the documentary.
Gongaware replied to Phillips, his boss, “ok will have a look when it comes on screen.”
In another email, Gongaware wrote, “We are ok with the band, singers and dancers doing inteviews now. The only thing we ask is that they keep it positive and stress that MJ was active, engaged and not the emaciated person some want to paint him as being.”
Answering questions from Jackson family attorney Brian Panish, Gongaware said he was not trying to control the film’s message. “We’re asking them to keep it positive,” he said.
Gongaware said nothing was taken out of the documentary, which included rehearsals for the scheduled 50 concerts in London.
Gongaware’s testimony again emphasized the contrast between the answers he gave during his deposition under oath in December 2012 and his responses in the courtroom.
In testimony Wednesday, he agreed that Phillips meant “thin” in his email, instead of the word he typed, “think.”
Asked during the deposition what Phillips meant, he replied, ”I don’t know what he meant.”
The wrongful death case was brought by Jackson’s mother and three children against AEG, the promoter and producer of the London concerts.
The family contends that AEG negligently hired and supervised Conrad Murray, the doctor who gave Jackson the fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol. AEG says that the doctor worked for Jackson, and that any money the company was supposed to pay Murray were advances to the singer.
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