An unauthorized biography about pop icon Michael Jackson’s final years says the singer once considered moving to Montreal because polls indicated Quebecers rejected child abuse allegations against him.
Unmasked : The Final Years of Michael Jackson says the megastar behind such hits as Thriller and Bad spurned the United States after surveys indicated many Americans still thought him guilty even though he was acquitted of child abuse charges in 2005.
Author Ian Halperin, who predicted in December 2008 that Jackson would be dead in six months, writes that Jackson’s first choices for a new home were Britain and Berlin, followed by Montreal.
Jackson died June 25. The cause of death has not yet been determined.
"Quebec had always held a special affection for Jackson and it happened to be the only jurisdiction in North America where polls showed that the majority of residents firmly rejected the child abuse allegations against him," Halperin writes in the book, released Tuesday in English and French by Montreal’s Transit Publishing. Halperin, who has previously written unauthorized biographies of celebrities such as Céline Dion and James Taylor, also penned a bio of Guy Laliberté that the Cirque du Soleil founder complained was based on unsubstantiated rumours.
In the Jackson book, Halperin cites unidentified associates of people who dealt with the singer as well as "one of the city’s leading realtors" for his information on the possible Montreal move.
The realtor told him and a group of people at a June 2007 cocktail party at the Montreal Grand Prix that she was in the process of selling Jackson a house and that he had already been to Montreal twice to look at potential properties.
"He came incognito," Halperin quotes the realtor as saying. "He even attended a hockey game while he was here."
Although Jackson was shown places in the upscale Westmount and Outremont districts, he didn’t see anything that suited his needs. Privacy was paramount to him, the realtor said.
Jackson did like a "swanky mansion once owned by the Bronfman family," although it wasn’t for sale.
Halperin also explored other Quebec connections, including negotiations between Jackson’s Neverland Entertainment Group and a Montreal film company to start a new film production division.
Despite announcements a deal had been struck, it eventually fell apart because of Jackson’s financial problems, Halperin writes.
Jackson liked idea of separatism
Halperin also recounts a conversation he had with now-deceased Montreal broadcaster Ted Blackman, who told him of a chat between the singer and a francophone journalist Blackman overheard in the mid-1980s.
"They were discussing whether or not Quebec would be better off being separate from Canada," Halperin quotes Blackman as saying of the backstage encounter at a Jackson show in Montreal.
"Jackson replied, ’Oui, oui.’ I was amazed. Jackson said he thought Quebec could be another Paris and that Canada was too culturally lame to sustain Quebec."
Blackman reportedly said Jackson ignored anglophone journalists and spoke to French-language media in broken French, accepting a fleur-de-lis key chain from one reporter.
Halperin’s book was literally on the printing presses when news of the pop star’s sudden death was announced. It was pulled so a brief update could be included.
Halperin says in his conclusion to the book that while he started his investigation believing that Jackson was guilty of child abuse, he couldn’t find any evidence to support the allegation.
While he criticizes sensationalist media, he also says Jackson also bears blame for his own misfortune because of behaviour that "bordered on criminal stupidity."
The author, who says he got his information from friends and associates of Jackson, paints a disheartening picture of the pop star’s declining years. He says ill health likely would have prevented Jackson from completing a comeback tour that was scheduled to start in London, England, this week.