Holiday weekend LA reads

Internal emails at Anschutz Entertainment Group tell the real story of just how bad off executives knew Michael Jackson was as he rehearsed for the London concerts in the weeks before he died in 2009. The LAT's Harriet Ryan gets the goods and shows what goes on behind the scenes. Kudos to the film editors who made Jackson look halfway together in "This Is It," the film cut after his death using rehearsal footage. Sample from the Times story:

"MJ is locked in his room drunk and despondent," [Randy] Phillips said in an email to his boss at Anschutz Entertainment Group, the Los Angeles company staking a fortune on the singer. "I [am] trying to sober him up."

Across the Atlantic, where it was still early morning, AEG President Tim Leiweke read the message and fired back on his BlackBerry: "Are you kidding me?"

"I screamed at him so loud the walls are shaking," Phillips told him. "He is an emotionally paralyzed mess riddled with self loathing and doubt now that it is show time."


Those rehearsing with Jackson began sounding alarms in mid-June, according to the emails, a month before his scheduled debut in London. They complained he missed rehearsals, was slow picking up routines and would have to lip-sync some of his signature numbers.

"MJ is not in shape enough yet to sing this stuff live and dance at the same time," the show's musical director informed supervisors in an email. Jackson missed another week of rehearsals, and when he finally showed up June 19, he was too weak to perform.

Emails reviewed by The Times show far greater alarm about Jackson's mental state than has emerged previously.

"He was a basket case," a production manager wrote. "Doubt is pervasive."

"We have a real problem here," Phillips wrote to Leiweke.

The Church of Scientology auditioned actress-members for the role of Tom Cruise's girlfriend before he got involved with Katie Holmes, Vanity Fair's Maureen Orth reports in the October issue. She says the secret 2004 project was headed by the wife of Scientology chief David Miscavige, and that a finalist — Nazanin Boniadi — lived with Cruise for awhile then was exiled to a Florida Scientology center and eventually made to clean toilets with a toothbrush and dig ditches at night. Scientology denies it all.

Orth reports that in November 2004 Boniadi was flown to New York, where she met Cruise. That’s when she first sensed that this was possibly going to be an arranged marriage. For their first date Cruise and Boniadi went to dinner at Nobu with an entourage of Scientology aides, then to the skating rink at Rockefeller Center, which was closed to the public especially for them. The two spent that first night together but, according to several sources, they did not have sex. At the Trump Tower, where Cruise and the entourage had rented an entire floor, Cruise purportedly told Boniadi, “I’ve never felt this way before.” She was given a second confidentiality agreement specifically about Cruise to sign. Boniadi could tell her worried parents (her mother was also formerly a Scientologist) only that she was in New York on a special Scientology project.

Though the first month of the relationship was bliss, by the second month Boniadi was more and more often found wanting, Orth reports. According to the knowledgeable source, anything she said or did that Cruise found fault with he immediately reported to a member of the Scientology staff, and she would be audited for it. This began with her very first words to him, “Very well done,” regarding his receiving Scientology’s Freedom Medal of Valor. The phrase implied that Cruise was her junior. According to the knowledgeable source, Boniadi also offended Scientology chief David Miscavige, who speaks rapidly, because she kept saying, “Excuse me?” when she was entertaining him and his wife during a visit to Telluride.

Burt Bacharach remembers Hal David, his music writing partner who died at age 91.

Former Los Angeles City Council member Michael Woo, dean of the College of Environmental Design at Cal Poly Pomona, reviews "The Chinatown War: Chinese Los Angeles and the Massacre of 1871," by Scott Zesch from Oxford University Press.

Frances Brown on the LA Times op-ed page: All I really needed to know about Burning Man, I learned at Kandahar

In South Los Angeles, photographer Camilo Vergara documents 30 years of changes in a building that in 1980 housed the Greater Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, at 10828 S. Avalon Blvd.

More by Kevin Roderick:
Tale of three tree tales
Lily's Library is Valley's answer to Libros Schmibros
Correction o' the day: making it up edition
Holiday weekend LA reads
Villaraigosa takes the spotlight in Charlotte
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