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Jackson's Final Moments; Remembering Michael Jackson

Aired June 26, 2009 - 23:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, breaking news: new and disturbing facts are coming to light about Michael Jackson's death. Today, we've seen a barrage of tough news, 911 tapes released, attention focused on his doctor hired by his concert promoter.

Also initial word from the autopsy, growing reports from people who knew him that the "King of Pop" was in a world of pain and had been for years.

The questions tonight, what was he taking for it? Was he addicted? And what role, if any, it played in his death.

We'll tell you what we know tonight. No speculation, only the facts, starting with this from Ted Rowlands.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If Thursday was about shock and sadness, Friday was about questions, how and why did Michael Jackson die? The initial autopsy was completed today, but it may take weeks to know the cause of death.

However, the medical examiner's office did release one finding, that Michael Jackson was using prescription drugs at the time of his death. And...

CRAIG HARVEY, L.A. COUNTY CORONER SPOKESMAN: There was no indication of any external trauma or any indication of foul play on the body of Mr. Jackson.

ROWLANDS: Jackson went into cardiac arrest yesterday and from inside the bedroom, details of the frantic, desperate effort to revive him were revealed today in the call to 911.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, I have a -- we have a gentleman here that needs help and he's not breathing. He's not breathing and we need to -- we're trying to pump him but he's not, he's not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ok, ok, how old is he?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's 50 years old, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 50? Ok. He's unconscious, he's not breathing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, he's not breathing, sir. ROWLANDS: The voice on the call says there was one person with Jackson when he stopped breathing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did anybody witness what happened?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Just the doctor, sir. The doctor's been the only one here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ok, so did the doctor see what happened?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doctor, did you see what happened?

ROWLANDS: Jackson's personal physician has been identified as Dr. Conrad Murray, a cardiologist who works in Houston and Las Vegas and who is licensed to practice medicine in California.

A source close to the family says Murray had spent much of the last two months with Jackson as he prepared for his upcoming concert series.

Last night, police towed the car he was driving away from Jackson's rented mansion. Officials say it may contain, quote, "medications pertinent to the investigation." The doctor is said to be cooperating with officials.

Did drugs contribute to Jackson's death? Today, former family attorney Brian Oxman offered his chilling opinion.

BRIAN OXMAN, FORMER JACKSON FAMILY ATTORNEY: He had overmedication and it was a serious problem and the exact people who were doing this, I'm not going to point any fingers. All I know is that I had warned that this was a problem and this is my worst fear. It is -- it is a nightmare.


COOPER: Tough words. Ted, you're at the coroner's office. Is Michael Jackson still at the coroner's office?

ROWLANDS: Yes, Anderson, the body is still here in the possession of the coroner's. However, it is available for release to the family. The family is still finalizing arrangements as to the mortuary that will take the body. The coroner's office however, is finished with the autopsy and finished with the body.

Again, the most important information that they are waiting on is those toxicology reports. They say that they expect them in about four weeks.

COOPER: Ted, from listening to those 911 recordings, is it your understanding because I think this is the way I interpret this, that the 911 operator was told that Michael Jackson was being given or they were attempting to revive him by doing chest compressions while he was still lying on a bed.

Is that your understanding? ROWLANDS: Well, that's what the caller told the 911 operator when the operator asked, where is he? Where is he? The patient and he said, he's on a bed and right away, you could hear the operator say, "Get him on the floor. Get him on the floor."

COOPER: But you're not supposed to do chest compressions on a soft surface. There has to be a wooden board or a hard floor beneath the person.

ROWLANDS: Obviously and that's what the 911 operator wanted to make sure.

Now, it could have been a panicked individual on the phone who may have just said bed and may have been a surface that was hard. We don't know.

We do know that this doctor was with him and obviously, you could feel the tension and hear him in the background performing what he was hoping would be life-saving techniques on Jackson at the time.

COOPER: All right. Ted Rowlands. Ted, I appreciate it.

And you heard Brian Oxman's take in Ted's report. It was echoed and amplified today by long-time Jackson friend Dr. Deepak Chopra who spoke earlier with Wolf Blitzer. Listen to what he has to say.


DR. DEEPAK CHOPRA, MICHAEL JACKSON'S FRIEND: Ok, so after the trial in 2005, Michael came and spent a week with me. He stayed at my house. He came to our center.

At one point he suddenly asked me for a prescription. He knew I was a physician. I had a DEA license and he asked me for a prescription for a narcotic.

And I said, "What the heck do you want a narcotic prescription for?" And it suddenly dawned on me that he was already taking these and that he had probably a number of doctors who were giving him these prescriptions. So I confronted him with that and at first, he denied it, then he said he was in a lot of pain. He said he had back pain.

I knew all the pain was muscle aches and pains and musculoskeletal pains from the stress that he was going through. I said, "Michael, you don't need these drugs for that. There's so many ways to do it."

And for a while, I lost him. I've had that happen with me with other celebrities in Hollywood. There's a plethora of doctors in Hollywood. They're drug peddlers, Wolf, they're drug pushers. They just happen to be having a medical license.

And I hope that this episode today, this tragic death of a great human being, will bring to light the huge problem we have in Hollywood with some of the medical establishment. The celebrity doctors who not only initiate people into the drug experience, but then they perpetuate it so that the people become dependent on them. I will be bold enough to identify these people at a certain time, but I think the police should do their own investigation. And I think this is something that really should be investigated because it's a disease. The number one cause of drug addiction in the world and particularly in the United States is not street drugs, but medical prescriptions given legally by physicians.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "SITUATION ROOM": Do you know what drugs he was taking specifically?

CHOPRA: Well, at one time, I knew about Oxycontin. I knew that he would get injections of Demerol and other narcotics and I was really desperate to try and help him.


COOPER: Deepak Chopra today, talking with Wolf Blitzer.

Toxicology reports from the coroner's office as you heard are going to take several weeks. Until then, there's going to be a lot of speculation. There are already plenty of rumors.

Tonight we're reporting only the facts that are known. 360 M.D. Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us -- he's both a neurosurgeon and certified medical examiner; also, addiction medicine specialists Dr. Drew Pinsky.

Sanjay, we just heard Deepak Chopra saying that he knows Michael Jackson was using Demerol and Oxycontin and he was referring at least back to 2005. Could those drugs have killed him or played some role?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, a lot of drugs can, at certain doses if they get toxic or high enough, can cause death in different ways.

For example, the medications that Dr. Chopra was referring are what are called respiratory depressants. So they make you stop breathing or slow your breathing down so much so that you are really not getting enough air or specifically oxygen into your blood and that lack of oxygen in the blood can affect your heart and ultimately your brain. And that's one way that these drugs can cause sudden cardiac arrest.

COOPER: Why would someone be getting injections of Demerol at the same time that they're taking Oxycontin?

GUPTA: Well, that's a great question. You know, I mean, one thing you can't say about most of these opioids -- these types of medications -- is that some people could develop tolerance to them so what may have worked a year ago won't work as well now and so on.

So that's why you start increasing doses as well as different types of medications. But it's very hard for me to speculate as to why injections of Demerol and Oxycontin.

COOPER: Dr. Drew, how easy is it in Los Angeles for a celebrity to basically find a doctor to give him whatever he wants. I mean you heard Dr. Deepak Chopra is calling these MDs drug pushers.

DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST, "LOVELINE" ON WESTWOOD ONE RADIO: Yes, I know. I think -- I spoke -- Dr. Chopra and I were in the green room just before he went on that show and I think I whipped him into a frenzy there; but we do agree precisely on this point that there is profound overuse of opioid medication. That there are physicians that feel gratified by being able to take care of celebrities and I think although well-meaning sometimes, they end-up stringing these people out and unknowingly getting them addicted.

Look, this is a very serious tragedy. But I agree with absolutely everything that's been said so far. This is how my patients died. It looks like a rose, it smells like a rose. All my patients when they go through these experiences end up with chronic pain, they end up receiving meds from multiple doctors and they end up dead.

That's how it works in the addiction world right now.

COOPER: I want both of you to hold on a second. We're going to have more with Dr. Drew and Dr. Gupta in just a moment.

We're getting just thousands of comments through the last 24 hours on the blog at and also to our show page. You can join the conversation, the live chat happening right now at

Also ahead tonight, the stars speak out: Bette Midler's affectionate farewell. Also, ex-wife Lisa Marie Presley stunning revelation: what Michael Jackson told her years ago? A chilling prediction of a day like this to come.

And later, Michael Jackson's role as a racial trail blazer, the first African-American star on MTV. He broke a lot of barriers.

A lot more ahead as we look into the death and look back on the remarkable life of Michael Jackson.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: Dame Elizabeth Taylor saying her heart, her mind are broken, a long-time friend.

We're back with Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Drew Pinsky.

Dr. Drew, it's interesting we're now hearing from people, Brian Oxman, Jackson's family spokesman who said, point-blank, he was overmedicated. You hear from Dr. Deepak Chopra saying Jackson approached him about getting a prescription back in 2005.

I talked to someone who was close to Jackson for a time in the legal realm who said, he wouldn't say it publicly but said, sometimes when he talked to him, he just seemed stoned. Why couldn't anyone help him then?

PINSKY: Well, I think there are two major issues here. If this -- is our speculation is correct that, A, the patient has to want to get better, number one, even when they really want to get better it's very hard to get them better.

And number two, one of the most divisive issues in medicine right now is how to manage chronic pain. There are doctors in camps out there that would say the problem with Michael Jackson is he's not getting enough pain medication. And how dare we let him suffer. He says he's in pain. Who are we to say he's not, give him more.

And there's a whole philosophy that that is what should be done. So yes, that patient would look intoxicated.

Certainly not in my camp, I believe he should have been -- look, the outcome couldn't have been any worse than we've ended up with here, let's put it that way. And unfortunately, I'm hoping that this, really, treasure in our country, is the loss, that we can at least shine a light on the problem of prescription medication abuse and addiction in our country, which is massive just as Deepak Chopra had said earlier.

COOPER: Well, Sanjay, it's interesting because Deepak Chopra was saying that it became clear to him that Michael Jackson was sort of doctor shopping and had a number of doctors who he was getting prescriptions from that Chopra was just one of the doctors he hit up for it.

Is there a system in place to track if somebody is doctor shopping?

GUPTA: It can be very hard to do and I run into this all the time and Dr. Drew I imagine does as well.

You get a patient shows up at your office and asks for pain medications. In order to try and figure out if they're getting pain medications from another doctor involves quite a bit of footwork.

There's no sort of just Web site or some sort of national registry you can go to, to sort of figure that out. There's been a lot of talk about that sort of thing but it's very hard to regulate -- Anderson.

COOPER: Dr. Drew, you say the situation is similar to the death of Anna Nicole Smith. How so?

PINSKY: Well, that was a person, whom we watched publicly become addicted to opiates, to actually leave the country to maintain her addiction. She clearly had severe mental health issues, who clearly had addiction issues and yet we all sat in disdain and watched as she finally died.

I mean, how many more celebrities, that are really national treasures, are we going to lose to prescription medication before we step-up while they're still alive?

In fact, in my opinion, the one shining example here is Britney Spears whose family stepped up -- was enlightened enough to step-up -- take direction from a professional team, step in. And again, I don't know if she's an addict or not but she certainly had severe mental health issues and it's because her family stepped in and followed directions and did something really hard. They did a conservatorship to keep this young woman alive and now she is still with us. Nobody did anything like that unfortunately for Michael Jackson.

COOPER: Sanjay, we've heard that Jackson was training, and getting ready for his tour. His manager said he was in great shape. There was report he passed a physical this year. I guess, otherwise the tour wouldn't have qualified for insurance.

That does seem to conflict with reports of someone who may have been heavily medicated.

GUPTA: Yes and chronically medicated or chronically addicted to drugs.

Well, there's two things. I mean, it's possible. One thing is that these drugs do have a half-life so they're going to last a certain amount of time and maybe he was taking large doses and stopping for a little bit and taking large doses or he was developing a tolerance.

So he was taking the medications all the time but was able to have these periods at least where he wasn't as lethargic and able to perform. And Dr. Drew probably sees patients like this all the time but that's maybe how that all sort of jives together.

COOPER: Why would -- why would Michael Jackson have a full-time doctor around the clock or at least a full-time doctor who was with him and I guess, left his own practice and has been hired by AEG, which is the company that was putting on these series of shows in London to just take care of Michael Jackson?

GUPTA: I really have no idea. I thought about that a lot. And maybe it was something contractual that he asked for from AEG, he just wanted to have this doctor available all the time.

Unless someone has some sort of chronic illness or is bed ridden or needs some sort of constant care, it's really hard to explain why a doctor would need to live with him around the clock.

COOPER: Dr. Drew?

PINSKY: Yes, that was a very bizarre feature of this, but back to the insurance issue. We've all had insurance physicals. They're fairly cursory. All he'd have to show is that either, A, if he's on meds, he's following the appropriate plan of the doctors prescribing them or B, not even mention that he's on medication. And it's not that in- depth a physical typically or, again, pure speculation, maybe as part of the insurance issue, they wanted a physician to monitor him. We just don't know.

COOPER: Well, a lot we don't know. Dr. Drew Pinsky, I appreciate your expertise and Dr. Gupta as well. Thank you very much. As always, we want to hear from you. Keep sending your comments to our live blog. A lot of viewers just want to communicate with each other and talk about what you're going through, your memories of Michael Jackson and your questions and concerns.

You can also check out a great photo gallery and timeline of Michael Jackson's life at

Just ahead tonight, what happens to Michael Jackson's three kids, two by a woman who's already signed-away parental rights?

Also later, what South Carolina' first lady said today when asked about her cheating husband. Hear for yourself when we continue.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: Still ahead, Michael Jackson's children. Who will get custody? We're going to look at what life has been like for Jackson's two sons and his daughter and concerns about what happens to them now.

But first, Erica Hill joins us with the other news, the "360 Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, dramatic new video from Iran today as President Obama denounces the Islamic Republic in his harshest terms yet.

Scoffing at Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's demand for an apology, Mr. Obama called the government crackdown courageous and cautioned hardline leadership, quote, "think carefully about the answer for those protesters who have been arrested, beaten and killed."

A squeaker on Capitol Hill as the House passes the White House-backed Climate Change Bill with virtually no Republican support. A vote of just 219-212 that means the bill, which aims to reduce a nationwide greenhouse gases 83 percent by 2050 in part through greater use of renewable energy.

Convicted Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff could be facing 150 years in prison. In court papers filed today, federal prosecutors insist sentencing that guidelines require the lengthy term and adding, any lesser sentence should still guarantee Madoff will spend his life behind bars. Madoff's attorney has requested his client serve just 12 years. The 71-year-old is due in court for sentencing on Monday.

And South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford returning to work today, kicking-off his weekly cabinet meeting with yet another apology but no indication that he will resign. Meantime, first lady of South Carolina, Jenny Sanford, expressing shock her husband dared to visit his mistress after, quote, "he was told in no uncertain terms not to." She also spoke of her family and the governor's political future.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JENNY SANFORD, WIFE OF GOVERNOR MARK SANFORD: His career is not a concern of mine. He's going to have to worry about that. I'm worried about my family and the character of my children.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you talked to him about him resigning?

SANFORD: What about going back to Columbia?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About your family.

SANFORD: Me with my family? I'm taking it a day at a time. Right now, we're going out at a boat. We're going to look at the tall ships. I'm not going to tell you about that, you all have a good time. I wish we had room a boat for you but we do not.


HILL: Somehow I think it's actually good for her that there's not room in the boat for everybody.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, I can't imagine the position she is in and those kids.


COOPER: Coming up next on 360, Erica, Michael Jackson's kids. He tried to shield them from the public all these years. Now, of course, he is gone and who gets custody of them? What's going to happen to them and what must they be going through right now? We'll try to take a closer look.

Also tonight, Lisa Marie Presley: she said Jackson knew his life would end this way and she had more to say about his prediction. Some shocking words, we'll have it for you ahead.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: A plea for privacy from Debbie Rowe, the biological mother of two of Michael Jackson's three kids. Debbie Rowe gave birth to daughter Paris and son Prince Michael Jr. She gave away her parental rights for an undisclosed sum of money and then fought to take them back.

Our breaking news tonight, of course, Dr. Deepak Chopra telling CNN Michael Jackson approached him for prescription pain killers, that news as allegations continue that pain killers could have led to Jackson's death.

Now, yesterday, Michael Jackson's three kids lost their father. The question tonight, what will happen to them in the future?

Erica Hill reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HILL (voice-over): Michael Jackson's children were perhaps his best- kept secret, rarely seen in public without something covering their faces. The youngest infamously dangled over a Berlin balcony is even known as Blanket within the family.

They traveled the globe with him but despite the appearance of a secluded life, a source close to the family who knew the children when they were younger tells CNN they were very well adjusted and loved music, calling them sharp, socially interactive and noting the family was very close.

In a statement reacting to Jackson's death, his ex-wife, Lisa Marie Presley, noted his children were, quote, "everything to him," but whether his children will stay with his family is unclear.

One person who could fight for custody, Jackson's ex-wife and the mother of his two oldest children, Debbie Rowe.

LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The California courts like almost all courts in this country have a strong preference for a biological parent. They want children to be with people who are their blood relatives.

So if Debbie Rowe did not sever her parental rights entirely legally, she's first in line to have custody of the kids.

HILL: When Jackson and Rowe divorced in 1999, she gave up her parental rights but then fought to have them restored in 2005 during Jackson's child molestation trial.

Rowe's former attorney Iris Finsilver, tells CNN's Special Investigation Unit those rights were reinstated but didn't say whether Rowe will seek custody of 12 year-old Prince Michael I and 11-year-old Paris.

(on camera): And while courts may favor a biological parent, there is also the matter of the late singer's wishes. It's unclear whether Michael Jackson had a will and if he did, whether he designated a guardian for his children.

But even then, his choice may not be granted custody in the end.

BLOOM: In a will, we can bequeath property. Children are not property, they're human beings. What we can do is set up a guardian and indicate in our will, we want that person to take care of our kids after we're gone. And the courts are going to take into account that preference. But child custody is never final. Courts always want to do what's in the best interests of the children.

HILL: Right now, all three children are with the Jackson family. A former attorney for the family tells "People" magazine Michael Jackson's mother Katherine is caring for them.

Jackson biographer Stacy Brown tells ABC news Mrs. Jackson wants to keep them but claims Jackson wanted his long-time nanny to have custody should anything happen to him. No matter who gains custody, life for these children will never be the same.

Erica Hill, CNN, New York.


COOPER: For their sake, let's hope at least their long-time nanny is allowed to stay with them. It's clearly one of the most important relationships in their lives.

Today there was heartbreaking word from Lisa Marie Presley. You saw a little bit of them -- of her words in Erica's piece. Presley was married to Michael Jackson for just 19 months.

She's sharing with the world a deeply personal conversation she says she had with Jackson. It was about her equally famous father Elvis and the shocking prediction he had about his own fate.

Tom Foreman has more on the connection between two iconic superstars who died far too young.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was "The King." He was the "King of Pop." And she was the woman in both of their lives. Lisa Marie Presley says she was talking with Michael Jackson at one point in their two-year marriage when he stunned her.

"I can't recall the exact subject matter," she writes, "but he may have been questioning me about the circumstances of my father's death. At some point, he paused. He stared at me very intensely and he stated with an almost calm certainty, 'I'm afraid that I'm going to end up like him. The way he did.'"

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was not pronounced dead until 3:30.

FOREMAN: Elvis died in 1977 at age 42 after collapsing at home on a summer afternoon. The cause initially reported as heart failure. But subsequent investigations found Elvis had consumed a large amount of pain killers. Michael Jackson was 18 at the time; Lisa Marie just 9.

So, she says, when she heard Jackson's terrible prediction, "I promptly tried to deter him from the idea, at which point he just shrugged his shoulders. 14 years later, I am sitting here watching on the news and the memory of this conversation hit me as did the unstoppable tears. I wanted to save him from the inevitable."

Presley has hinted at this before, telling ABC's Diane Sawyer a few years back, after divorcing Jackson...

LISA MARIE PRESLEY, FORMER WIFE OF MICHAEL JACKSON: I fell into this whole, "You poor, sweet, misunderstood thing. I'm going to save you." I fell into that. I fell in love with him.

FOREMAN: In this new internet posting, Presley goes much farther, saying many people were worried that he was engaging in self- destructive behavior. She doesn't say what precisely, only that he could use his power for good, "and when he used it for something bad, it was really, really bad."

She writes, she is devastated by what happened, but he knew exactly how his fate would be played out someday and he was right.


COOPER: Tom, you know, over the years, a lot of people have said their marriage was basically a sham, a publicity stunt. She wrote about that. What did she say?

FOREMAN: Here's the real surprise, Anderson. Specifically she writes, "I'm going to say now what I've never said before because I want the truth out there for once. Our relationship was not a sham, as is being reported in the press. It was an unusual relationship, yes, where two unusual people who did not live or know a normal life found a connection; perhaps with some suspect timing on his part. Nonetheless, I do believe he loved me as much as he could love anyone and I loved him very much."

She goes on to add that she divorced him, Anderson, because she became exhausted trying to save him from himself and what she calls the vampires and leeches that surrounded him.

COOPER: Interesting. Tom, appreciate it, thanks.

Many of you continue to share your thoughts about Michael Jackson with us on our live chat. If you want to join the conversation right now,, I just logged in myself.

Next on 360: Berry Gordy, my interview with the Motown founder. He knew Jackson was destined for greatness the first time he saw him perform. Tonight, he talks about that first performance, the early years and the warning signs.

Also tonight, groundbreaking controversial Michael Jackson and the question of race, something he refused to be defined by, yet he did break down so many barriers in part of our "Uncovering America" series when 360 continues.


COOPER: Michael Jackson exploded onto the national scene in 1968, signing with Motown Records; their first four Motown singles hitting number one on the Billboard Hot 100. One of the first songs Berry Gordy heard a young Michael Jackson's sing was Smokey Robinson's "Who's Loving You?" Here it is.




COOPER: Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5. Joining us now, Motown founder, Berry Gordy.

Berry, when you heard Michael singing that song, "Who's Loving You" what went through your mind?

BERRY GORDY, FOUNDER, MOTOWN: That he was a man in a child's body. He sung that song like he had been living it for 50 years. I mean, no one his age should be able to sing the blues and the feelings that he had in that song. I was amazed.

COOPER: It's interesting because you say he was a man in a child's body at the tender age of 10 or 11 and yet what is often said about him as an adult was that he was a child in a man's body.

GORDY: First of all, he was a sensitive, complicated young man. He was, you know, two personalities: offstage, he was shy; onstage, he was tremendously in command. He worked all day. And he practiced all night. And he was a perfectionist even then.

COOPER: I want to show some of that perfection on stage right now. Michael Jackson singing "ABC." Let's show some of that.




COOPER: He seems so joyful on stage and such presence and such command and yet we now know that by his own admission, his father beat him. He says his father was very cruel to him. At the time, was that well known?

GORDY: Well, I never knew it, frankly, myself, because I never saw that. You know, I -- and Michael didn't display that when I was around him, you know.

He was a joyful, loving, this and that and so forth. He was a child- like, wonderful personality on and off stage.

I'm sad and numb about this, but the love that's pouring out for this young, brilliant genius man, you know, I just wish that he could have felt what we're feeling about how great he was and what he meant to the world all over.

COOPER: We've certainly seen that all over the world for the last 24 hours and no doubt, for many days to come.

Berry Gordy, I appreciate you reminiscing with us. Thank you.

GORDY: Ok. My pleasure.

COOPER: The legendary Berry Gordy.

Last night on the program I haven't mentioned my strange trip to studio 54 with Michael Jackson back when I was 10 years old. It was after the premiere of the movie "The Wiz." One of our producers has an even more interesting encounter with Michael Jackson. Check out the site, our blog, see how she ended up playing piano for him in her living room. It's a great account. Coming up, "Black or White," Jackson's music touched many lives. It also broke a lot of barriers. We'll talk about Michael Jackson's victories and struggles with race next.


COOPER: Some of the images we've seen over the last 24 hours, people remembering Michael Jackson. Tonight, tributes to Jackson continue to pour in.

The latest from Kenny Ortega, choreographer for Jackson's intended comeback tour. He was with Jackson just two days ago. Here he is answering questions about Jackson's physical state.


KENNY ORTEGA, CHOREOGRAPHER, "THIS IS IT" TOUR: It was awesome to watch him. You know? It was not like watching, you know, a 50-year- old man returning to the stage. In fact, you know, there were nights where you looked up there and it was like he was timeless, ageless.

He was the Michael Jackson that we all remembered, you know, with that same incredible electricity and performance know how; an entertainer of entertainers.


COOPER: Fans the world over mourning Jackson, that grief a tribute to his remarkable ability to transcend boundaries. His 1982 monster hit album "Thriller" united fans of every color. He broke racial barriers becoming MTV's first African-American star.

But Jackson himself but, in some ways, a paradox transformed beyond racial definition by countless surgeries. In tonight's "Uncovering America" segment: Michael Jackson's complex relationship with race.

Joining me now: Jehmu Greene, a former adviser to Hillary Clinton; also with us Emil Wilbekin, managing editor of

And Jehmu, you say Michael Jackson transcended race in a way really that no artist has every done. How so?

JEHMU GREENE, FORMER PRESIDENT, ROCK THE VOTE: Absolutely. I hear people say it's impossible to transcend race in a racist society. But Michael Jackson transcended culture, gender, generation. He comes as close as you'll ever see.

COOPER: How did he do that?

GREENE: I think when people heard his music, they didn't hear black music. They didn't hear race music, which is how the recording industry used to refer to music by black artists. They just heard music. They just saw his talent and that really broke through some of the cultural barriers that have been there, that we still see somewhat segregation in churches on Sundays in this country.

COOPER: Emil, do you think he struggled with race?

EMIL WILBEKIN, MANAGING EDITOR, ESSENCE.COM: I think that definitely race is something that you just inherently see in him as a struggle. You see the color of his skin. You see what he is, but it wasn't something he wore on his shoulder. I mean, you would see him at the Soul Train Awards, you would see him at BET as much as you would see him at the American Music Awards or the Grammys.

He hung out with black people and white people. It wasn't this kind of constant thing, but you do see the transition from him being a brown-skinned young man to a very, very fair, alabaster-skinned white guy later on, so there is something going on there.

COOPER: What is going on? What do you make of that?

GREENE: I think that there are all these different rumors and we've heard the ones from he wanted to look more like Diana Ross. I think at some point, if that was the case, he went past looking like Diana Ross.

I think whether it was the skin issues that he had, how true that was, everyone, in a sense, struggles with their identity and someone who was under such a microscope in the way that he was, I think that we just saw his struggle in ways that are unprecedented.

COOPER: It's also not clear, I mean his desire to change his physical appearance had anything to do with race or he talked about being teased by his father as a child for the way he looked.

GREENE: When you're called "big nose" by your dad over and over, I mean, how many 16-year-old girls get nose jobs in this country and is it that they're questioning their race or is it that they're trying to look a certain way?

When you look at white America and how many times they go into tanning booths? Are they trying to be more black or, you know, there are those same questions that are answered on a daily basis by other people. I just think he was under such a microscope and had, of course, a much larger set of sad and tragic issues that he had faced in his life.

COOPER: It's interesting, you think back to black and white. He says, I'm not going to spend my life being a color, yet he did break so many boundaries, MTV, we talked about last night, he was the first major African-American artist to be an MTV star.

WILBEKIN: Well, yes, and you think of "We are the World," I mean, him bringing that diverse group of musical people together for charity to do something good. You think of him going to award shows with everyone from Brooke Shields to Madonna. He just, it surpassed everything, like, if you look at the reports around the world today from Asia to Africa, everyone is mourning/celebrating.

I mean, in London they had a massive moonwalking thing. That is the power of Michael Jackson. He just transcends culture. COOPER: There was an article, I want to get this right, a columnist in the "Chicago Tribune" suggested that while he did break barriers for African-Americans his, quote, "definition of beauty stemmed more from a white standard." Do you think that's true?

GREENE: I think there are lots of questions out there. Did Michael Jackson want to be white? I would say clearly not. That was not the case. He, you know, he was struggling with image issues, I think, again, in a way that many people do but just under a much closer microscope.

COOPER: A much bigger stage.

GREENE: And, you know, there are the issues of the skin disease, vitiligo. We don't know how true and how not true that was. I think it's just -- again, he has his image issues that are struggles of every single person in this country on a daily basis.

COOPER: Yes. It's fascinating. Jehmu Greene, appreciate you being on the program. Emil Wilbekin as well. Thank you very much.

A lot more to talk about. A lot of people remembering Michael Jackson with his music.

Erica and I are going to share our favorite Michael Jackson moments when 360 continues. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Coming up, Erica and my favorite moments of Michael Jackson performing over the years; that's tonight's "Shot."

But first, Erica has the "360 Bulletin" -- Erica.

HILL: Anderson, a plea deal today in the so-called Jena 6 case. There is no jail time for the five black high school students who pleaded no contest today simple battery charges; simply a fine and week's probation to settle civil lawsuits. The case, of course, triggered national controversy because the victim was white. The black student from Jena Louisiana school have been complaining of racial harassment there.

In northeast Oklahoma tonight a deadly accident. CNN affiliate KOTV reporting at least nine people have died after a tractor trailer slammed into cars stopped on the Will Rogers Turnpike by an earlier accident. A highway patrol officer said it looked like a war zone with debris and bodies everywhere.

A follow-up to the Air France Flight 447 disaster: investigators probing two recent failures of air speed sensors aboard Airbus-A330s, similar to the one that crashed. Those planes, though, did land safely.

And when it comes to the most dangerous high school sport? Which ones can get you hurt? The riskiest? You ask? Cheer leading right there. According to a new study, researchers crunched some data from '82 to 2007. Cheer leading takes the top spot followed by gymnastics.

I'm not surprised.


HILL: Seriously look at some of these cheerleading, the way they throw people up in the air, the gymnastics, it ain't easy.

COOPER: It certainly is not. And you've got to smile the whole time, I guess that's the hardest part.

HILL: That's probably the hardest, riskiest part.

COOPER: Coming up next on 360, classic Michael Jackson. We pick our personal favorite numbers and show stoppers over the years. What's yours?


COOPER: Erica, the Michael Jackson tributes are pouring in. We have to confess that the one that's going to take place tomorrow in the Philippines is unique. Remember this?




COOPER: Yikes. I don't even remember that part of it.

HILL: I forgot that guy, or was it a woman. I don't know if I want to know which one it was. Some flair right there. Jazz hand, everybody, jazz hand.

Who could forget that one? They're doing a special tribute, 1,400 Filipino prisoners tomorrow; a thriller-inspired zombie routine.

COOPER: Let's see that again, shall we?

HILL: There we go. Can we -- oh, yes. Yes. See those hands?

COOPER: Wow. I've never seen that angle on this video before. Wow.

HILL: Clearly we know who the star is at the prison, don't we?

COOPER: Clearly that's the most popular person in that prison.

HILL: Absolutely.

COOPER: Anyway...

HILL: That's a tough act to follow. They're paying their respects tomorrow with a tribute performance. COOPER: We'll no doubt bring you that on Monday.

Now for our favorite Jackson moments, although it's hard to top that. I personally want to thank Michael Jackson especially on these sad days. I like to think of a very young Michael Jackson so alive on stage, so full of raw talent and raw potential.

This is Michael Jackson in 1970, The Ed Sullivan Show, the Jackson 5 performing "ABC."




HILL: I love that. It's hard to pick a favorite. One of my favorites, I will say, 1983, the moonwalk that stole the show. It happened during the Motown 25th anniversary special.

Of course, he was seen in "Billie Jean." Jackson brought the house down as he pretty much always did. Check it out.




HILL: There you go. Did you ever try the moonwalk, Anderson? I tried several times and failed miserably.

COOPER: Really? No, I never even...

HILL: I was terrible. I know it's hard to believe since I'm such a graceful person as you all know.

COOPER: But I remember watching that. Let's keep try to keep showing that if we can. I'd rather than not keep yammering on. I remember watching that and just thinking I had never seen somebody move in that way other than James Brown doing some moves.

HILL: Right.

COOPER: Michael Jackson just took it to a whole new level.

HILL: It was pretty incredible. And there's been so much talk about James Brown and Michael Jackson over the last couple day and the parallels there and the inspiration that he took from James Brown.


HILL: It really is hard to choose just one moment because all those songs, too, when you hear them, they really take you back. They're great.

COOPER: They're great.

You can see all the most recent shots at

Hey, that does it for 360. Thanks for watching.

"LARRY KING" starts now.

Have a great weekend. I'll see you Monday.