LOS ANGELES (AP) — An AEG Live LLC executive denied Monday that he pushed Michael Jackson to rehearse for his ill-fated comeback concerts, refuting earlier testimony by the singer’s longtime makeup artist and stylist.
Paul Gongaware said he never told Jackson’s assistant to get the singer out of a locked bathroom and to a rehearsal, an incident that was described to jurors by makeup artist Karen Faye.
“Never, never happened,” Gongaware said, shaking his head.
Faye testified last month that she overhead Gongaware tell Jackson’s assistant to do “whatever it takes” to get the “Thriller” singer to a rehearsal. She described Gongaware as sounding “angry and kind of desperate” on the call.
Gongaware told jurors hearing a negligent hiring case filed by Jackson’s mother that the entertainer was under no obligation to rehearse.
The differing accounts are just one of several pieces of contradictory information jurors will have to consider when testimony in the case concludes. Katherine Jackson is suing AEG Live, claiming it failed to properly investigate the physician convicted of administering an overdose of the anesthetic propofol to her son.
AEG denies it hired Conrad Murray, or could have known that Murray was giving the singer propofol as a sleep aid.
Faye, whose testimony was interrupted when other witnesses had to be called, will return to the witness stand before the trial’s conclusion and is likely to be questioned by AEG’s attorneys about the Gongaware incident.
Gongaware also said he was mistaken when he wrote in an email that his company was paying for Murray.
“We want to remind him that it is AEG, not MJ who is paying his salary,” Gongaware wrote in the email, which was sent after Jackson missed rehearsals. “We want him to understand what is expected of him.”
Gongaware said AEG agreed to advance Murray’s $150,000 a month fee to Jackson, but the costs would have come out of the singer’s share of “This Is It” earnings. He said he never instructed Murray about how to care for the singer.
The promoter and producer also told jurors on Monday that he never considered doing a background check on Murray, or anyone such as Faye, who was working directly with Jackson.
Murray had several liens and child support judgments and was facing foreclosure before agreeing to work with Jackson.
“I just expect doctors to be ethical,” Gongaware said. “Their financial side of their life shouldn’t affect their medical judgment.”
The executive was shown several emails that he was sent less than a month before Jackson’s death in which tabloid newspapers were speculating the singer was suffering from cancer.
Gongaware urged his company not to respond. “Our redemption will be when he does his shows,” he wrote about Jackson. “We don’t have to sell tickets, so we can just sit back and prove them wrong by just doing it.”
The trial is entering its sixth week. AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips is expected to testify later this week.
Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP