Michael Jackson's choreographer, Travis Payne, who worked for "This Is It" hinted that the singer might be misusing prescription medications. Testifying for AEG Live which is accused by Michael's mother Katherine of negligently hiring disgraced Dr. Conrad Murray, the dancer claimed MJ seemed to be out of it especially after visiting his dermatologist Dr. Arnold Klein.
"Sometimes in rehearsal Michael would appear a little loopy, under the influence of something, but mostly when he would come to the rehearsals from the dermatologist," Payne said, adding that he believed "Michael was undergoing personal cosmetic procedures, so he could feel great and do a good job" on his concert series.
Klein was placed under scrutiny during Murray's involuntary manslaughter trial back in 2011. The dermatologist was widely reported to have given the singer painkiller Demerol while administering Botox to him. AEG insisted they did not hire Murray and Klein. While the former is already on the witness list, it's unclear whether the latter will testify in the case.
In court, Payne said he expressed his concerns about MJ's health to Kenny Ortega after witnessing signs of insomnia, weight loss and paranoia on the late King of Pop. Ortega once sent the singer home without rehearsing due to his troubling condition, which affected his performance as pointed out by the director in an email saying MJ had "been slow at grabbing hold of the work."
"This Is It" band director Michael Bearden voiced similar concern. His email sent to Ortega before Michael's death was displayed in court. "MJ is not in shape enough yet to sing this stuff live and dance at the same time," Bearden wrote. "He can use the ballads to sing live and get his stamina back up, Once he's healthy enough and have more strength I have full confidence he can sing the majority of the show live."
Payne also testified that Michael asked a teleprompter be placed near the stage as an "extra security" to help him remember the lyrics, something that he had never done in his previous concerts. He also had troubles of learning the dance moves, the choreographer claimed. His condition led to talk that AEG Live might consider to cancel the concert.
The dancer recalled the day Michael died. He said he heard the news from radio while he was on his way to the singer's Holmby Hills rented house. He was told to return to the Staples Center and wait for Michael there. He was present when Ortega was informed about the singer's death by phone. "I remember Kenny collapsing into his seat and crying," he said.
Payne remained composed when giving his testimony but later struggled to hold back his tears after several hours of testy Q&A with Katherine's lawyer Brian Panish. "I don't have a dog in this race, so I don't want to be painted as a guy who's trying to mask anything," Payne said. "I'm just trying to have a conversation with you and tell the truth."