Michael Jackson: The Tapes, the Autopsy
Friday, October 2, 2009; 1:00 PM
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach was online Friday, Oct. 2, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss his book, The Michael Jackson Tapes, which is an account of his recorded conversations with the pop star as his spiritual advisor that took place in 2000 and 2001 and explore Jackson's feelings about fame, family and relationships. In addition, Boteach will address the latest news about the leaked L.A. coroner's autopsy report which states that Jackson was a "fairly healthy" 50-year-old before he died of an overdose.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Hi. It's Rabbi Shmuley. Thank you all for joining us this afternoon. It's the eve of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot and I wish everyone a very joyous holiday. I look forward to your questions and comments.
Pittsburgh, Pa.: If you had the opportunity to talk to Michael today, what would you say to him?
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: I would tell him how said I am that he died so prematurely, how I believed his death was so avoidable. How tragic this is for his children who don't have a father or a mother and for all the people who loved him. And how important it was for him to change direction in life so that it did not end up in tragedy.
New York, N.Y.: Rabbi Shmuley: What is your opinion of the "documentary" produced by Martin Bashir in 2003? Do you feel that Michael was treated fairly in it?
Also, do you still have a relationship with Uri Geller?
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: I told Michael, when Bashir's people contacted me in order to reach Michael, that the last thing he needed was to bring cameras into his life. He needed to get control of his life, to reorient his existence toward spiritual purpose and a consecration of his fame to a noble cause. He was famous enough. He didn't need this documentary. I lament that he participated when his life was not ready to be opened to scrutiny.
Pittsburgh, Pa.: What is your response to the autopsy report that was released to the public yesterday? It stated that Michael was in relatively good health and that there were no additional drugs found in his system, which directly contradicts your claims of him being a prescription drug addict.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Michael himself admitted to an addiction to prescription drug medication around 1993. As has been widely reported, he sometimes resorted to painkillers in order to deal with medical issues. I told him that he had to learn to live with his pain, and make changes in his life, instead of medicating the pain away. I wanted him to address its root cause.
We as a society are often guilty of the same. Americans consume three quarters of the world's anti-depressants because materialism will never bring happiness. We have to rediscover spiritual purpose, which is exactly what I told Michael throughout our friendship.
Pittsburgh, Pa.: On Dateline, you stated that you weren't sure if Michael was innocent with regards to the child molestation charges. After spending two years taping the man -- how could you possibly be unsure? Certainly, something would have tipped you off if he was guilty.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: What I have consistently said is that I never saw anything that would lead me to conclude that Michael could ever harm a child.
Harrisburg, Pa.: I don't want you to break any confidences, but what do you believe Michael Jackson would have wanted the world to know about his feelings on spirituality?
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: The most beautiful part of this book is Michael's depth when it comes to spirituality. He was a devout Jehovah's Witness who regularly knocked on people's doors to persuade them to believe in G-d, as he describes in the book. Michael believed that G-d was absolutely essential in people's live and he and I talked about religion and spirituality constantly.
Lodi, Calif.: What was the purpose of the book you were going to write with/for Michael? Was it to be an autobiography or a self-help book?
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Michael was incredibly wounded and deeply saddened at the fact that he was turned into a pariah by the media. He hoped in this book to reach the public in his own voice and demonstrate his truest and deepest self so that people would know who he really was rather that what the newspapers said he was.
Anonymous: Was Michael Jackson ever baptized?
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Michael sent me to interview his mother Katherine for the book. It's one of the most interesting chapters. In it she describes how Michael was raised as a devout Jehovah's Witness from a very early age. She deeply laments that Michael decided to disfellowship himself from the Church. I lamented the same and endeavored greatly to reconnect him to the Church which I believe had kept him humble and grounded.
Eagle Rock, Calif. : Rabbi -- Do you think anyone could have saved Michael? He had a large family and millions who loved him (myself included), but it doesn't seem he was really close to anyone. It just makes me so sad, and wish I could have been in his life.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: What will always puzzle me is why Michael's love for his own children, Prince, Paris, and Blanket, was not enough to keep him alive. He was an exemplary father and loved his children very deeply. Sadly, he had indeed become isolated from the many others who loved him.
Los Angeles, Calif.: In the Catholic Church, In the Baptist Church, in the Mormon Church, and in most Christian organizations I know, when a person talks privately to his spiritual leader that is consider sacred and absolutely confidential. A Father/Priest/Minister is supposed to keep it a secret until his death. Is that different in Rabbi Boteach's faith? Why is a spiritual leader exposing to the whole world tapes of private conversations, giving interviews on TV, and publishing a book to promote himself using a dead person's intimacy? Is that OK?
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: There is nothing in this book that breaks any confidences. These tapes were made not only with Michael's approval but at his behest in order that a book be published. This is exactly why Michael sent me even to his mother for her inclusion in the book, as you'll discover in the book. It was his desperate wish to make his heart known to the public. And indeed, we have already received thousands of emails from people the world over saying that the book, and indeed my interviews, have completely altered their perception of Michael. People never knew just how much he suffered and the loneliness he experienced. Please read the book and I believe you'll feel the same.
Springhill, Fla.: Why did Michael think he was ugly?
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: What I write in the book is that all of us living in this culture have somehow been conditioned to believe that we are not attractive. There is too much self-loathing with regards to appearance in America. Michael was guilty of it, as are so many of us. In his case, he referenced the fact that his father made hurtful comments. But there can be no question that a culture that promotes external appearance over internal beauty is going to produce a glorification of youth over wisdom and Michael relates in the book that he desperately feared growing old.
Knocking on doors: How in the world could Michael knock on anybody's door unnoticed? Was this as a kid or adult?
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: He relates that he would disguise himself. The adults, he says, would not know whom he was. But the kids always figured it out. Michael says he was missionizing even after the release of the Thriller album.
Richmond, Va.: I loved your TV show, I was able to learn something important about myself everytime I watch the couple on each episode try to work things out.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Thank you. One of the things through which Michael and I connected was a broken childhood. My parents divorced when I was a boy and I have since devoted my life to healing families, which is what my TV show 'Shalom in the Home' is all about. I see this book about Michael in the same light. It is a deep book of healing and Michael is incredibly courageous in sharing his pain so that parents might learn to always prioritize their children.
Ashburn, Va.: You had plenty of time to publish the book before the 2003 arrest. It could have saved his life to get his message out to the public. Why didn't you publish this book in 2002? It feels that you are just another one in a long line of people who exploited Michael Jackson for your own personal fame and fortune.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: This book could not have been published when there was zero sympathy for Michael in the public. It's entire purpose was to have people open their hearts to the real Michael Jackson and judge him more favorably. The 2003 arrest reinforced an already existing view that Michael was not the person he purported to be. I am sure we all remember those times.
As far as fame and fortune are concerned, my life's passion has been healing families and bringing values to our culture. I have a long history of doing so and have published 22 books on these subjects over the past 20 years and a great many have been best-sellers, thank G-d. So I have not gotten into publishing because of this project.
On this particular book I accepted an extremely modest advance and have already dedicated a substantial portion thereof to Michael and my mutual dream of creating a regular national children's holiday. For me this comes in the form of a weekly national family dinner night. We call it 'Turn Friday Night into Family Night.' Please go to www.fridayisfamily.com and sign up. You will also have noticed that I have utilized every media opportunity of late to highlight this very important initiative and will continue to utilize further revenue to that end as well as one of my passions, support for parochial education so that children can have values in the classroom at a young age.
Montreal, Canada: First of all Happy Sukot and Hag sameah!
My question is -- did Michael ever speak about or believed in true love?
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Happy Sukkos to you as well. Yes, Michael was a real romantic and speaks movingly in the book about his belief in love.
Anonymous: Who do you believe was the real love of Michael's life?
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: In the book it seems that he adored, absolutely adored, his mother. And as far as a romantic relationship is concerned, he speaks very movingly about his affection for Lisa Marie Presley, his first wife.
Denver, Colo.: Looking back to your time with Michael, is there anything you would do or say to Michael that may have changed the path he was heading and possibly have changed the outcome?
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: I have thought of this many times since his death. I wish there were but don't believe there was. I tried very, very hard to get Michael to gain control over his life. He first listened and we made considerable progress. But he began to treat my counsel, and indeed my loving rebukes, as something annoying. I miss him greatly and mourn his loss.
Burbank, Calif.: But Rabbi, you write on your Web site that Michael may have done something criminal or immoral. Can you explain that comment?
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Michael confessed on international TV to sharing a bed with a child. This is unacceptable and immoral and he promised me, when I warned him about never being alone with a child, that he would never do it. When I saw him say this in the Bashir documentary my heart sank. I have consistently said that I never witnessed anything that would lead me to believe that Michael could harm a child.
Birmingham, U.K.: What do you think the world needs to know most about Michael Jackson?
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: When you read this book you will see how how hard Michael tries to communicate to the world's parents that you must love your children unconditionally and that fame and fortune are never a substitute for love and affection. We should heed his very moving advice.
Platte County, Mo.: How can the public be sure that the comments and viewpoints expressed in the book as attributed to Michael, are truly accurate (no dishonest editing)since he is unable to sign off on the final product? There were parts of Living with Michael Jackson that were edited in an extremely dishonest and unethical way to portray him inaccurately.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: We have already given media outlets the portions of the audio tapes that they have requested and I am sure you have all listened to the substantial material.
My purpose in this book was always to portray Michael in the most authentic and favorable light, but without making the mistake, in any way, of whitewashing some of the errors he himself confesses to that led to tragedy. Michael wanted his life to serve as an inspirational message to parents of what to do and not do. He did not want these tapes or this book to be hagiography. This was an honest book, not an exercise in PR. I know that some people who love Michael are troubled by just how honest he is about his pain, loneliness, and brokenness. But I find his honestly positively inspiring and redemptive. I find it surprising and saddening that so many who claim to love him feel that Michael should have censored himself and come across only as the perfect King of Pop. But he wished to be known, as he makes absolutely clear in the book, not as an aloof icon or caricature, but as a man. A man who reached for things higher, who inspired and electrified. But who was also was scarred very deeply by being forced into a life of performance at too young an age.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: I thank you all for your time. This Sukkot (festival of Tabernacles) is the 10th anniversary of the first time Michael asked me to take him to Synagogue where we danced and prayed together. He will be much on my mind. He is sorely missed.
G-d bless you all, G-d bless Michael's children to whom the book is dedicated, and may Michael rest in peace.
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