MONTREAL — It was almost like being in trash tabloid heaven.
Michael Jackson’s mom plans a dukes-up court battle over her son’s estate! The judge in the Anna Nicole Smith case wants to mediate to spare Jacko’s kids further heartbreak! Even Geraldo Rivera’s involved!
Best-selling tell-all author Ian Halperin, his eyes shaded by large red-lensed glasses, was ripping the lid off the latest turmoil in the pop icon’s seemingly neverending saga at a news conference that had everything but an Elvis Presley sighting.
For 90 minutes Monday, the event at a Montreal hotel churned out more gossip than a supermarket checkout line.
“Katherine Jackson is contesting officially Branca and McClain as being executors of Michael Jackson’s will,” Halperin announced on Monday, citing sources within the Jackson family and the Los Angeles Police Department.
For those not hanging on every tidbit about Michael Jackson’s continuing post-death life, Branca is John Branca, the architect behind Jackson’s financial empire, and McClain is John McClain, a record-company mogul and family friend.
Halperin, who wrote the recently released Unmasked: The Final Years of Michael Jackson, also said he had confirmation that at the time of the self-proclaimed King of Pop’s death on June 25, Branca and McClain “were not his choice to run his estate.”
There are other indications the Queen Mum of Pop is not amused.
Katherine Jackson’s lawyers have already asserted she should have “a seat at the table” in executing deals for her son’s estate, powers that now rest exclusively with Branca and McClain.
But Halperin says the concerns of the Jackson family run deeper than that and Katherine Jackson has accused financial handlers in the singer’s entourage of fleecing the pop icon of more than $600 million during the last 20 years.
Halperin says the family wants to protect the future income of Jackson’s three young children.
Halperin said he had spent the last few weeks investigating Jackson’s death, including consulting with the “most credible journalists in the world on this case, including Geraldo Rivera.”
Rivera, who Halperin pointed out had defended Jackon’s innocence on child-abuse charges, was also the only journalist to have interviewed the singer’s mother since his death.
Halperin said the entire Jackson saga reminded him of the death of sex symbol Anna Nicole Smith, who died in 2007 and was the subject of a tawdry court battle over custody of her child and where she would be buried.
The similarities in the celebrity deaths were also not lost on Larry Seidlin, the judge who adjudicated the case involving Smith’s burial.
Seidlin, who described Jackson’s case as “Anna Nicole Smith 2,” said by a telephone call that was piped into the news conference that he was so engrossed by Halperin’s book when he read it that “I ended up missing my racquetball game.”
Seidlin said many of the circumstances around Jackson mirrored Smith’s final days and that his experience in adjudicating that case could be helpful to settling Jackson’s affairs. He then offered his services as a mediator.
The Montreal native, whose book has appeared on the New York Times and Globe and Mail best-seller lists, said he learned from a close Jackson friend that the pop star supported his book after Halperin sent word it would be balanced.
Halperin, who will release a documentary on Jackson in 2010, interviewed Jackson about 18 months ago and described him “as one of the smartest, most compassionate men I’ve ever met.”
“He was very respectful of anyone he met and unfortunately his downfall was that he surrounded himself with bad people.”