By CAROLINE IGGULDEN
He said: “We all have weaknesses and Michael’s was that he trusted the wrong people most of the time. He thought all people were good, which they are not.”
David, who won huge popularity in Britain with his appearance on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! in 2006, chatted to the singer on the phone just two weeks ago.
He also revealed that Dr Tohme had masterminded Michael’s mammoth run of 50 comeback concerts at London’s O2 Arena, which were to have started next month, without telling the singer the full facts.
Speaking exclusively to The Sun, David said: “Michael told me he was excited about getting back on stage. I told him I was proud of him. But I really believe in my heart of hearts that the pressure of those concerts killed Michael.
“He thought there were going to be ten dates as announced. But then all of a sudden Tohme, along with Randy Phillips, president of organisers AEG, had arranged 20, 30 then 50 dates.
“Michael was being told, ‘You are going to set the world record for concerts at the O2, you are going to beat Prince’s record.’
“They knew how to feed into his ego. But when Michael realised his schedule, he began to panic. It was one show after another, with hardly any days off. He should never have been tied to so many, especially a guy who dances through more than half of his set.”
Poignantly when Jacko unveiled his concerts at the O2 at a Press conference in March, he told the crowd: “This will be it. When I say this is it, I really mean this is it. This is the final curtain call.”
For 56-year-old David, besides being convinced it was the gruelling schedule in the run-up to the concerts which killed Jackson, he also feels promoters AEG were irresponsible to book so many dates with only four months to prepare.
He said: “They should have realised doing a concert one day on, one day off, would be tough for any performer, let alone someone who hadn’t been on stage for nine years. It was ridiculous.
“Michael was working his ass off for eight hours a day to prepare, the schedule didn’t allow him proper time to rest.”
Referring to the singer’s 2005 acquittal following a five-month trial over child sexual abuse charges, David added: “And they didn’t factor in that he was raising three kids and getting his life back together after that terrible trial. Michael wanted to put on the most amazing show ever. I know for a fact he was rehearsing until 2am the morning before he died.
“I produced the last concert Michael did in 2001. He was brilliant but it was only two shows and he had many months to prepare and a sensible schedule when we rehearsed in the day so he could get a good night’s sleep.
“It is ridiculous to have an artist to rehearse until the wee hours of the morning because when he got home his adrenaline was so up, the only thing he could do was revert to pills or shots or alcohol to relieve the tension.”
David became friends with the star when he was 16 and Michael was 11. They grew so close that Jacko was best man at his wedding to LIZA MINNELLI in 2002.
The singer’s long-term battles with ill health were a regular concern to David, who told how Michael’s recent determination to be agile on stage led him to start obsessing over his weight.
David said: “Michael was getting thinner and thinner. He lost close to 15lb in the last six weeks – he wasn’t eating enough. Supposedly the chef who had worked for him was let go two weeks ago, with no one there to cater to Michael’s dietary needs.”
David – who called Michael “M” – revealed that in the last month of his life, Jackson brought back Frank DeLeo, the man who managed him in his 1980s heyday, pushing Tohme into the background.
David said: “Frank had Michael’s best interests at heart. He would never have let Michael sign for 50 shows so close together.” As I chatted to David in his London flat, it was clear he was still struggling to come to terms with the reality that his friend has gone.
During the interview, he shared a tearful phone call with Michael’s heartbroken brothers TITO, JERMAINE and JACKIE, who rang to discuss the funeral.
David dismissed rumours that it would be a Muslim ceremony and told me: “It won’t be held until next week because the family wants another autopsy. I will be flying out for it.”
He also told how, in the day after Jacko’s death, he had more than 400 texts of commiseration from celebrities, ranging from WHITNEY HOUSTON to LIAM HOWLETT from THE PRODIGY and his wife, ALL SAINTS singer NATALIE APPLETON.
But at the same time as the texts flooded in expressing grief for the star, Hollywood-based Julien’s Auction House was organising a sale of Jackson memorabilia. It was advertised as being from David Gest’s collection and took place the day after his death at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.
Furious David said: “I never consigned any of these items to Julien’s Auction House in LA. I have instructed my legal representatives Sheridans solicitors to sue the auction house and let buyers know this was not my auction.
“I think it is terrible that the auction house would carry out a sale of items belonging to a man who had not been buried yet. Even if I once owned any of these items this should not have been misleadingly portrayed as my personal auction to the Press and buyers. I received no money from this sale.”
night Martin Nolan, executive director of Julien’s Auctions, said: “The items were consigned to us by a third party who got them from David Gest at some time in the past. This is an auction that we had planned back from the spring. When we heard Michael had passed away we did toy with the idea of pulling the 21 items but this was an important part of history and we decided to go on.”
David also told how money worries weighed heavily on Michael’s mind in the last years of his life.
He said that the way Jacko lost his grip over his career and finances towards the end of his life was in stark contrast to the acute business sense the star displayed in his younger days.
He added: “Michael was one of the shrewdest men in the industry. He controlled every facet of his career, he knew every dollar. No one could make money like him.”
But David believes Jackson slowly began to lose his grip on his affairs following the freak accident in 1984 in which his hair was set ablaze during the filming of a Pepsi commercial.
David said: “He was in terrible pain and all he cared about was feeling better. He started taking prescription pills to numb the pain and he also started drinking. It was then that his judgment started to become clouded.”
But despite Jacko’s controversial life, David believes it will be his brilliant music and innovative dancing that the world will remember as his permanent legacy.
He said: “I believe people are going to look back at Michael Jackson as the most extraordinary entertainer of the last 40 years.
“He was an innovator who broke down barriers no black man had done before.
“Michael came up with the name King Of Pop and over time people agreed he deserved this title.”