Kenny Ortega, the director of Michael Jackson’s planned comeback shows, has broken down in tears while giving evidence at the megastar’s wrongful death trial.
Kenny Ortega said Michael Jackson’s appearance was “very, very troubling” at a rehearsal, days before his death in June 2009.
“I saw a Michael that frightened me,” Kenny Ortega told the jury.
The director was giving evidence for a third day in the case against live event promoter AEG Live.
AEG Live is being sued by Michael Jackson’s mother for $40 billion over his death.
Katherine Jackson claims the company failed to properly investigate Michael’s personal doctor, Conrad Murray, and missed warning signs about his failing health as he prepared for his This Is It tour.
Conrad Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after giving Michael Jackson a lethal dose of the anaesthetic propofol in 2009.
The company has denied any wrongdoing.
Kenny Ortega gave evidence at Michael Jackson’s wrongful death trial
Kenny Ortega told the jury on Wednesday that, based on Michael Jackson’s condition, he didn’t believe the This Is It concerts could go forward.
The director said Michael Jackson appeared to be under the influence of an unknown substance during at least four rehearsals.
Kenny Ortega said he was under the impression Michael Jackson’s strange behavior followed visits to his doctor.
Michael Jackson’s state was “fairly obvious” to others involved in the production, he added.
The singer also missed several scheduled rehearsals, said Kenny Ortega, adding that during a session six days before his death, he was cold, shivering and seemed lost.
Kenny Ortega, 63, told the court that Michael Jackson improved somewhat as the night went on but wasn’t coherent when he arrived that day. The singer didn’t rehearse that night.
Reading an email he sent to the CEO of concert promoter AEG Live hours after the rehearsal, Kenny Ortega shed tears as he described Michael Jackson as a “lost boy”.
Kenny Ortega said he sent the email to alert AEG officials about Michael Jackson’s condition and trusted them to get the singer appropriate care.
He said he repeatedly called Conrad Murray that night, “the doctor who I thought would be the most natural person” to help.
“Then I reached out to AEG, Michael’s partners, to make sure they were aware of how I felt and what I saw,” he added.
Kenny Ortega outlined a tense meeting with Conrad Murray the following day, during which Murray assured him and AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips that Michael Jackson was capable of rehearsing.
AEG has denied it hired Conrad Murray and said there was no way it could have known the doctor was giving Michael Jackson propofol as a sleep aid.
Kenny Ortega – who directed the High School musical trilogy – is the highest-ranking tour worker to give evidence at the trial and had the most direct contact with AEG executives and Michael Jackson.
The trial, currently in its 11th week, is expected to last until the end of July.
AEG Live’s CEO Randy Phillips claimed in court on Wednesday that Michael Jackson was “desperately broke” before his ill-fated This Is It comeback tour.
Randy Phillips made the claims as he testified for a sixth day at Michael Jackson’s wrongful death trial in a Los Angeles on Wednesday.
He told of an emotional Halloween meeting with Michael Jackson at a hotel where the singer claimed “they were living like vagabonds”.
Randy Phillips added: “He actually broke down and I broke down. We both broke down.
“He got emotional. He teared up about his family and having a good life with them and a place to live and a residence they could call their own.
“I felt incredibly bad that this incredible star was at the point where he just couldn’t buy a house with all this money he made. It just didn’t make sense.”
Randy Phillips also told AEG attorney Marvin Putnam: “It was the first time Michael really told me why he wanted to go back to work.”
Michael Jackson’s mother Katherine and his three children are suing the concert promoter, alleging it negligently hired, retained or supervised Dr. Conrad Murray, who was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter over the singer’s 2009 death.
Meanwhile Randy Phillips also told jurors he knew Michael Jackson as a sophisticated, forceful businessman and not the drugged-up performer who’s been described throughout an ongoing civil trial filed over the singer’s untimely death.
Michael Jackson was a far more complex figure than has been portrayed during the trial of a case filed by Katherine Jackson against AEG Live over her son’s death, said Randy Philips, the company’s president and CEO.
Michael Jackson was desperately broke before This Is It Tour, promoter Randy Phillips claims in court
Randy Phillips said based on meetings he had with Michael Jackson in 2008 and early 2009, he found the singer to be a “sophisticated man who had control of his life”.
The portrait of Michael Jackson that’s been presented to the jury during the seven-week trial has been inaccurate, Randy Phillips said.
Michael Jackson was described by both sides in opening statements as struggling with prescription drug addiction throughout his life.
Randy Phillips said he disagreed with the descriptions of Michael Jackson “because he’s been presented as drug-addled 5-year-old. That was not the man I dealt with. The man I dealt with was forceful. Kind, but determined. He was a force”.
Jurors have been presented with conflicting accounts of Michael Jackson, even from Randy Philips. They will have to weigh the different portrayals when they decide who is liable for the singer’s June 2009 death.
Katherine Jackson’s lawyers contend AEG failed to properly investigate the doctor convicted of causing her son’s death, pushing her son too hard to perform and missed warning signs of his health.
AEG, however, contends Michael Jackson hid his addiction to the powerful anesthetic propofol and that the company could not have foreseen that the singer’s doctor was giving him the drug as a sleep aid.
Millions and possibly billions of dollars are at stake in the negligent hiring trial.
Randy Phillips said he didn’t see signs that Michael Jackson was struggling with prescription drugs when he met with the entertainer to discuss options for his This Is It comeback concerts scheduled for London’s O2 Arena in 2009. He has also told jurors that Michael Jackson never told him he was having trouble sleeping.
The executive has described the superstar as difficult to work with, often changing managers and ideas about what he wanted creatively.
In testimony later on Wednesday, Randy Phillips described having to coax Michael Jackson to a London press conference in March 2009 to announce his concerts.
Michael Jackson was a couple of hours late, appeared hung over and was concerned no one would want to see him perform.
“He is an emotionally paralyzed mess riddled with self-loathing and doubt now that it is show time,” Randy Phillips wrote his boss that day.
He testified that he just wanted to get through the event and forget it ever happened.
The six-man, six-woman jury has been shown numerous emails throughout the trial in which high-level tour workers expressed concerns about Michael Jackson’s health, his weight, and whether he was ready for the shows.
Many of the concerns were voiced by tour director Kenny Ortega, who Randy Phillips at one point told not to attempt to serve as an amateur doctor or psychiatrist.
Randy Phillips acknowledged earlier this week that statements he wrote to Kenny Ortega about Michael Jackson’s physician, Conrad Murray, were untrue.
Among those statements were Randy Phillips’ assertions that AEG Live had checked out Conrad Murray, and that the deeply indebted physician didn’t need the job.
Conrad Murray was convicted in 2011 of involuntary manslaughter for giving Michael Jackson a lethal dose of propofol. He is not a defendant in the civil case, although AEG Live lawyers said early they intend to call the former cardiologist as a witness.