Stars pay tribute as Jackson death investigation continues

Monday, June 29, 2009

LOS ANGELES/LONDON - Celebrities paid tribute to Michael Jackson at the Black Entertainment Television’s 2009 awards show, while officials continued to investigate the King of Pop’s death.

The organisers Sunday rearranged the show to focus on Jackson’s musical legacy and stars going into the event lauded Jackson for breaking down racial barriers in pop music.

Host Jamie Foxx donned a variety of Jackson-like costumes throughout the night - starting from his opening monologue which he delivered in Jackson’s signature red leather jacket and single glove, and which he followed with a re-enactment of the choreography from Jackson’s Beat It video - including the famous moonwalk.

“No need to be sad,” said Oscar-winner Foxx. “We want to celebrate this black man.”

Jackson’s father, Joe, also attended the awards show. “I wish he was here to see all this, to hear all this,” he said. “I just wish he could be here to celebrate himself. Sadly, he’s not here, so I’m here to celebrate for him.”

“He is one of our heroes,” said music mogul and rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs. “As African Americans, we are not going to let everybody beat him up.”

Meanwhile, Los Angeles police confirmed they had questioned Jackson’s private doctor, Conrad Murray, who had attended to the pop star in his dying hours Thursday. Jackson, 50, died of cardiac arrest.

Details of the three-hour police interview were not known. Police told the media in a statement only that the doctor had been cooperative. His lawyer however issued a statement denying that he had supplied Jackson with prescription painkillers on a regular basis.

An official autopsy Friday showed no foul play suspected in Jackson’s death, and police say Murray is not a suspect.

Late Saturday, a pathologist hired by the family conducted a second autopsy on Jackson’s body, the Los Angeles Times reported on its website.

But questions continued to swirl about the pop star’s untimely death, with Jackson’s former child minder detailing drug abuse in an interview published Sunday, in which she said she regularly had to pump the late singer’s stomach to remove the dangerous drug cocktails he took.

Grace Rwaramba, 42, who worked as a nanny to Jackson’s three children until last December, gave a rare insight into the singer’s drug and financial problems in an interview published in the Sunday Times in London.

“I had to pump his stomach many times. He always mixed so much of it,” she said of the various drugs Jackson had taken.

“There was one period that it was so bad that I didn’t let the children see him … He always ate too little and mixed too much,” Rwaramba said.

She said that at one point she had turned to Jackson’s mother and one of his sisters, asking them to intervene.

In 1993, Jackson’s former concert manager Marcel Avram said the King of Pop would frequently used painkillers such as morphine and Demerol. The pop star had to cancel a world tour because of his addiction and underwent treatment in London.

Rwaramba also gave details of Jackson’s nomadic lifestyle that took him from country to country, and of his falling under the increasing influence of the extremist Nation of Islam sect.

Rwaramba, an employee in the Jackson household for 17 years, flew out of London to join the Jackson family in Los Angeles Saturday, the Sunday Times said.

“He didn’t want to listen; that was one of the times he let me go,” she said.

Rwaramba was dismissed last December but has since had contact with the children, according to the newspaper.

On one occasion in April, she said, Jackson was so poor she had to buy balloons for his daughter’s birthday.

It remained unclear Sunday whether tickets sold for Jackson’s planned series of 50 “This is it” concerts in London that were due to kick off July 13 would be refunded.

With millions of concert tickets, VIP tickets and reservations for special tours already sold, concert organisers AIG Live now face a liability of around 300 million pounds ($610 million). The company had invested some 20 million pounds in preparations.

Randy Phillips, the head of the US entertainment company said AIG Live would provide details of reimbursement on Monday. “Fans are advised to hold on to their ticket vouchers/proof of purchase.”

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