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Former Jackson Publicist Remembers a Fragile Michael

By Dave Eberhart   |   Friday, 26 Jun 2009 09:22 AM

Michael Levine, who has created campaigns for such luminaries as David Bowie, Sandra Bullock, Michael J. Fox, Demi Moore, Nike, Ozzy Osbourne, Pizza Hut, Prince, Sharp Electronics and Barbra Streisand, spent a few minutes with Newsmax remembering yet another former client: the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, dead of an apparent heart attack at age 50.

Levine revealed that in his opinion Jackson had been on an impossibly difficult and often self-destructive journey for years. “His talent was unquestionable, but so to was his discomfort with the norms of the world. A human simply can not withstand this level of prolonged stress,” the PR icon said.

Newsmax: Where were you when you first heard the news that Michael Jackson had died?

Levine: I was at lunch with my assistant about a block from my office in Beverly Hills. We got a cell phone call from my office.

Newsmax: When was the last time you saw him?

Levine: I haven’t seen Michael Jackson for seven or eight years. He was at that time physically fragile; he seemed a very sensitive kind of human.

What many don’t realize is that he was one very shrewd psychological cookie. He knew how to operate the media as well or better as anyone I have ever seen, and I have dealt with hundreds of major celebrities.

In a kind of empathetic way, if you resonate to sensitive people, as I do, there was a likable part to him. That first child molestation allegation [1993] was the beginning of his journey to this pattern of bizarre behavior that proved the end of him.

Newsmax: Did you ever really believe he was going to muster the energy and health to go on his dramatic comeback tour?

Levine: No, I didn’t. I thought there was some potentiality that he would do some of them but not all of them. I just couldn’t believe it.

Newsmax: Was he ever the same man after that first child molestation incident?

Levine: Let’s think of his idol, Elvis Presley. He died at 42, Jackson died at 50. Both were engaged were engaged in a militant form of self destruction. There were just too many incidents in too many arenas that placed him in real jeopardy, which is why I wasn’t surprised when I heard the news of his death.

Newsmax: Do you think this tragedy could have been avoided if Mr. Jackson had received more help and support -- from family, fans, doctors...?

Levine: What is help and support? He may have, in fact, been enabled by family who did not take a strong enough position on pharmaceutical drugs. So, the question becomes what is support? Most of us have family and friends that say when we do something stupid: ‘Hey, knock it off.’ But superstars tend to hire and then fire such people in their lives, so they don’t have that all-important fire alarm.

Newsmax: How would he like to be remembered?

Levine: He seemed obsessed with his legacy as the King of Pop. He worshiped Elvis. This was the core of his belief system.

Levine was Jackson’s publicist during a very rugged time for the iconic singer in 1993 and 1994. Jackson was accused by Evan Chandler of molesting his then-13-year-old son, Jordan Chandler.

Jordan Chandler told a psychiatrist and police officials that he and Jackson had engaged in acts of kissing, masturbation, and oral sex.

On January 1, 1994, Jackson settled a civil suit out of court with the Chandler family and for $22 million. Jordan Chandler refused to testify in the criminal proceedings.

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