Last week, Montreal publisher Transit Medias was in court fighting to keep his company's controversial biography, Guy Laliberté: The Fabulous Story of the Creator of Cirque du Soleil, on Canadian bookshelves. Now, it's leading the worldwide scramble to exploit the death of Michael Jackson, hoping to have a hastily revised but long-anticipated biography of the singer printed and distributed as early as Tuesday.
Both books are the work of Montreal-born author Ian Halperin, whose previous subjects include singers Celine Dion, James Taylor and Kurt Cobain. While Halperin's portrait of Laliberté created an uproar when it was first published in Quebec this spring, the author first gained worldwide attention for the Jackson book in January when British tabloids reported his predictions that the star would be dead within six months.
Thanks to that ghoulish prescience, Halperin has become a staple figure in the postmortem media frenzy. He claimed that Jackson was dying from a rare protein disorder called Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. Alpha-1, a genetic disorder, can seriously damage the lungs and liver and in some cases cause blindness. But cardiac arrest, the ostensible cause of Jackson's death, is not normally associated with the disease, a spokesperson for the Alpha-1 Association of America said Monday.
At the time, a spokesman for Jackson said the singer was perfectly fine and denounced Halperin's story as a fabrication. But the author stuck to it. This Sunday, he added fuel to the fire by sharing more details with the London Daily Mail, including descriptions of Jackson's secret trysts with boyfriends and the alarming collapse of his health in the final days before his death.
"It was greed that killed Michael Jackson," the author claimed. "It was clear that he was in no condition to do a single concert, let alone 50. He could no longer sing, for a start. On some days he could barely talk. He could no longer dance.
"Disaster was looming in London and, in the opinion of his closest confidantes, he was feeling suicidal," Halperin added.
The author also alleged Jackson suffered from emphysema and gastrointestinal bleeding.
New York's Simon & Schuster, which published Halperin's biography of dead rock star Kurt Cobain, reportedly has U.S. rights to the Jackson biography. The company did not return calls. Nor did officials from US magazine, which is reportedly going to press with an excerpt this week.
Halperin declined comment, except to say that he has been working on the book for six years and it is no rush job. "I timed it because I knew around this time he was a candidate to die. I'm being totally upfront about that."