By Jeff Gottlieb
5:03 PM EDT, May 31, 2013
This post has been corrected. See below.
The “This Is It” concert series in London — which was to have earned Michael Jackson millions and served as a triumphant comeback — was to be the performer’s final tour, a ranking concert promoter testified Friday.
Paul Gongaware, co-CEO of AEG Live and Concerts West, which was producing and promoting the concerts, said the English capital was chosen for the shows because of Jackson's enormous popularity there. During a previous tour, Jackson had sold out 10 shows at the 75,000-seat capacity Wembley Stadium, Gongaware testified.
The plan originally was for 10 shows, but it was bumped up to 31 and then 50 because of the enormous ticket demand, the AEG executive testified in a wrongful-death case filed by Jackson’s mother and children.
Gongaware said he would have liked Jackson to have given even more performances at AEG's O2 Arena.
He said that at one point Jackson decided to do 31 because Prince had performed 21 concerts at O2.
Gongaware's recollection of events surrounding Jackson's London news conference announcing his first tour in more than a decade give a different perspective than the worried emails his boss sent at that time.
Gongaware said he was annoyed but not surprised when Jackson showed up a couple hours late.
“Michael really doesn’t like to do those things," Gongaware testified. "His schedules don’t always run like clockwork."
The tour announcement took place at the O2. When Jackson saw Gongaware backstage, "he came up to me and gave me a big hug and said, 'Make sure the teleprompter has big words. I don’t have my glasses.'”
Gongaware said Jackson did not smell of alcohol or appear drunk.
“He was good," the AEG executive testified. "I think he was excited."
But emails from Randy Phillips, AEG Live's chief executive and president, tell a different version. "MJ is locked in his room drunk and despondent," Phillips wrote. "I [am] trying to sober him up.
"I screamed at him so loud the walls are shaking," Phillips told him. "He is an emotionally paralyzed mess riddled with self-loathing and doubt now that it is showtime."
In a previous interview with The Times, AEG attorney Marvin Putnam said Phillips had exaggerated in his emails and that Jackson's behavior appeared to be a case of "nerves."
[For the record, 5:50 p.m., Saturday: The original version of this story mistakenly identified Paul Gongaware as co-CEO of AEG Live and Live Nation. He is co-CEO of AEG and Concerts West.]
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