Interview with Karen Faye, Michael Bush & Dennis Tompkins
Once again Chris Cuomo and Elizabeth Vargas
Chris Cuomo: Good evening and welcome to the second hour of our Michael Jackson anniversary special. We're going to get personal now and begin with three people whose connection to Michael Jackson was hands on for over 25 years.
Elizabeth Vargas: Only they saw him as he really was in life and in death, without the glamour, without the makeup. Tonight, Cynthia McFadden has their inside stories. These are the people who prepared Michael Jackson during and after life.
It was the most private of times for the most public of people. Michael Jackson's family and closest friends had come together at Forest Lawn Cemetery to bid him a final farewell. To prepare Jackson, his family had turned to the three people who'd been dressing him and making him up for more than a quarter century. Dennis Tompkins, Michael Bush, and Karen Faye.
Cynthia McFadden: Karen, the family called you and asked you to make Michael Jackson up.
Karen Faye: Yeah. Nobody else could have.
Cynthia McFadden: How did you do it?
Karen Faye: It was an honor to do it. It was an honor to do it. I knew how he wanted to look. So I did. For his family, for his children.
Cynthia McFadden: And you all dressed him?
Michael Bush: Yeah, the family called and said, you've worked with Michael for so many years and we need you to do his outfit. And you're going, like, okay, if he ever needed me, he needs me now.
Cynthia McFadden: So, what did you pick?
Michael Bush: Well, the only thing I can say at this point, because the family wants to keep...
Dennis Tompkins: His most favorite.
Michael Bush: ...wants to keep it, there's elements of everything that was his favorite looks over the years. Everything was new.
Cynthia McFadden: Were you proud of it?
Dennis Tompkins: Very. Very, very.
Karen Faye: It was beautiful.
Cynthia McFadden: There had to have been a glove.
All: Mm-mm, No.
Cynthia McFadden: No?
Dennis Tompkins: No, he didn't want that.
Michael Bush: See, to Michael, the glove was "Billie Jean." That represented that song. That wasn't...
Cynthia McFadden: Not himself.
Michael Bush: That's not Michael, that's the song, that's my performance, that's "Billie Jean."
[ Karen Faye’s personal video]
Karen Faye: You want to put on the jacket?
Michael Bush: You wanna put on the jacket?
And these were people who knew the man behind the music.
Karen Faye: Michael Bush, you're gonna like this. This is you working.
Knew him stripped of the artifice he so cleverly showed the world, unguarded moments captured by Karen Faye.
Michael Jackson: I'm not lit properly. This isn't fair.
Karen Faye: Oh, that's right. Where is the bounce card?
ABC News paid to license footage and photos from his three friends' private collections. His inner circle was determined Jackson would exit as the world had known him, as a showman.
[end of video]
Michael Bush: The work that me and Karen did with Michael at Forest Lawn I think bonded us for life.
Dennis Tompkins: Nine hours, wasn't it?
Michael Bush: Nine hours.
Karen Faye: Nine hours.
Cynthia McFadden: You didn't know you'd be the actual person to dress him that last time.
Michael Bush: I never expected, even when we did the costume, to do that. I thought, you know, hand it through a door. I'm done.
Karen Faye: And then I assisted you.
Michael Bush: And I think the hardest thing is, I mean, they asked me to help. Everyone is gone. We have to get him in the coffin. So I had to help pick him up and place him in the coffin. And to me, it's like, well, I got to do this for my best friend.
The final touch, Tompkins designed this crown to bid the King of Pop farewell.
Cynthia McFadden: May I pick it up?
Dennis Tompkins: Yes.
Cynthia McFadden: It looks like (inaudible) here. It's not real, is it?
Dennis Tompkins: It's faux, faux Urman (PH).
Cynthia McFadden: It's a show crown.
Michael Bush: Show crown.
For perhaps the greatest showman of them all. You can't help but think he would have loved seeing his children proudly carry that crown.
Michael Bush: When the casket was brought in at Forest Lawn into the service, Prince and Paris and Blanket lifted it and put it on the center of the flowers on the coffin.
Cynthia McFadden: That must have been a moment.
Dennis Tompkins: Definitely.
Michael Bush: Yeah.
This is the first time Tompkins, Faye, and Bush have talked about their employer and friend.
Cynthia McFadden: So, Karen, tell me about the first time you met him.
Karen Faye: I met him in the summer of 1982.
She'd been called in to do his hair and makeup for the cover of "Thriller," which would become the biggest selling album of all time, and he'd brought along a surprise, a baby tiger.
Karen Faye: I was more fascinated with that tiger than I was with him. So I think he really enjoyed that my attention wasn't totally focused on him.
Cynthia McFadden: In fact, a little known fact, you flashed him that first day.
Karen Faye: Oh, okay. I undid the top of my jeans and I just flashed - I happened to have worn some tiger underwear that day. And he went, ah. He was just so embarrassed by that. I quickly buttoned it up, but I think that's why he called me back the next job.
Cynthia McFadden: You think?
Karen Faye: I think so.
Cynthia McFadden: He liked people who had a sense of humor.
Karen Faye: Yes, absolutely.
He also liked people who had a sense of style. For more than two decades, the majority of Jackson's most memorable outfits came out of the workshop run by Dennis Tompkins.
Cynthia McFadden: If you had to sum up his style, what was it?
Dennis Tompkins: Liberace has gone to war.
Karen Faye: Liberace has gone to war.
Cynthia McFadden: Liberace has gone to war. There you go.
Dennis Tompkins: And I say that's pretty good.
His genius as an artist is unquestioned, but we wanted to know about the persistent rumors that followed him.
Cynthia McFadden: There's been a lot of talk about whether or not he was abusing drugs. Nobody was in a more intimate position than the three of you to know.
Cynthia McFadden: And popular wisdom was that after the Pepsi commercial, where his hair caught on fire, he had to take painkillers.
Karen Faye: That's not true.
Cynthia McFadden: That's not true?
Karen Faye: That's not true because that's not where it initially started.
Faye insists Jackson's use of prescription drugs began in 1993, nine years after the Pepsi commercial.
Karen Faye: Just before he went on tour for "Dangerous" he had an operation in order to help the scarring. But he didn't have enough time to heal. We were getting on a plane and going right to Bangkok. So in order to keep going, he started using some painkillers, because it was very painful when the nerve endings are severed.
Cynthia McFadden: Do you know what he was taking?
Karen Faye: Oh, no. No, I don't.
Cynthia McFadden: It wasn't out in the open? It wasn't...
Michael Bush: No.
Karen Faye: No, no.
But it was while they were in Bangkok, Jackson's world exploded.
Ron Claiborne: Police sources say the charges involve a 13-year-old boy.
Amidst reports that California authorities were investigating him for sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy.
Karen Faye: So now we're talking physical pain and now we're talking emotional pain.
Michael Bush: The day that that came out, he was stepping onstage in front of like 80,000 people.
Jackson went through with the performance, but the price was high.
Karen Faye: It was devastating because he had to go out every day in front of a world and the media who was telling everybody that he was a pedophile, but he still went out and had to face everybody.
Aided, Faye says, by painkillers.
Karen Faye: It gave him some sort of ability to get through it.
But even then, Jackson couldn't sleep, say Bush and Faye, and the combined toll of the allegations and touring was showing, at least backstage.
Karen Faye: You have to understand his adrenaline was so intense, sometimes it would take him two days...
Michael Bush: Mm-hmm, two days to go to sleep.
Karen Faye: ...for his adrenaline to come down from one show.
In 1994, Jackson settled out of court with his accuser, but nearly a decade later, yet another boy came forward, also alleging sexual abuse.
Michael Jackson: The most loving thing to do is to share your bed with someone.
That remark from a British documentary was so incendiary, it fueled Jackson's prosecution.
Michael Bush: You say the word bed, a lot of people think sexual. And that was the farthest thing from Michael's mind. I mean, we would go do an awards show, you come back, everyone jump on there with 15 people on the bed watching the show or cartoons or whatever, a movie he had to show.
Cynthia McFadden: You never saw, you never heard anything over the course of a 25-year relationship that made you think that Michael Jackson was a pedophile.
Michael Bush: No, nothing.
Dennis Tompkins: No.
Karen Faye: Nothing. I absolutely feel I would have seen something over the years, but not a thing.
Not guilty, a dramatic victory for Michael Jackson.
And after a three and a half month trial, Jackson was acquitted, but the taint of the accusation continued to linger. Tonight, for the first time, his friends reveal how devastating the trial was for him. They were there at Neverland every morning, getting him ready. Faye says the routine was always the same, beginning at 3:00 AM.
Karen Faye: Before I washed his hair, we actually knelt down on the ground and he put his arms around me and I put my arms around him and he would put his head right here, and weep. And we would pray for God to help us, and for people to know the truth. And then we would get up and wipe our tears, and I would wash his hair.
Cynthia McFadden: Do you think he thought he was going to be convicted, Karen?
Karen Faye: He didn't know. I mean, it was so vicious. He had to walk the red carpet into that courtroom every day in front of all the cameras.
And every day for that long walk, he had a new outfit designed by his old pals, delivered every morning at 6:00 AM, a boost for his morale.
Michael Bush: And after you got him dressed, it's like, we love you. No, I love you more.
Cynthia McFadden: Did you think that he was vulnerable enough that he might die?
Karen Faye: Yes.
Karen Faye: Yes.
In his art, Michael Jackson played repeatedly with the idea of metamorphosis, from "Thriller" to "Black or White," to "Ghosts," where he becomes a middle-aged white guy. And looking back, it seems as if Michael Jackson viewed his own face as yet another canvas, another opportunity to explore change. For the first time tonight, we talk to the woman who knew his face almost as well as he did. Karen Faye, his makeup artist for more than 25 years.
Cynthia McFadden: Of course, stage makeup is one thing, but makeup on men in life is looked at as very peculiar. Especially during the trial, when he's wearing eyeliner and what appears to be lipstick.
Karen Faye:It's very sensitive for me to even talk about, because these are things that are very, very private. He didn't like the line that was drawn between what's allowed for men and what's allowed for women. He really was very androgynous in the sense that he just took whatever is available to enhance himself as art.
Cynthia McFadden: So, in some ways, people have said that he saw himself as an artistic canvas.
Karen Faye: Absolutely, that's the explanation...
Dennis Tompkins: That's nicely put, yeah.
Karen Faye: ...also for the plastic surgery. He was always trying to perfect everything.
Cynthia McFadden: Plastic surgeons have looked at his face and said that the nose actually became almost nofunctioning because of the repeated plastic surgery.
Karen Faye: That's not true.
Cynthia McFadden: That's not true. He didn't have to wear a nose prosthesis?
Karen Faye: No. Absolutely not.
Cynthia McFadden: But a lot of people believe it. So let's straighten it out.
Karen Faye: You know what it was? It was the tape that he used to wear on his nose. And everybody thought that was...
Cynthia McFadden: Why tape?
Karen Faye: Because I guess after plastic surgery, it keeps it in form or else it would expand.
Cynthia McFadden: Because a lot of people think he went too far. You never said to him, Michael...
Karen Faye: I thought he was beautiful, and I would always tell him I thought he was beautiful. Personally, I think it went a little too far. But, like, I never, ever, because I understood it.
Faye says she saw Jackson announce his new tour on television on March 5th of last year.
Michael Jackson: This is it.
And soon got a call from him, asking if she'd team up with him once again for their fourth tour together.
Cynthia McFadden: From the time you first talked to him about going back to work in March to May, did you see a change?
Karen Faye: Yes.
Cynthia McFadden: Tell me about it.
Karen Faye: I think he was frightened.
Cynthia McFadden: Of?
Karen Faye: Being judged again. He said during the trial, "I can't believe the world is doing this to me." He said, "I gave everything that I had, I gave them my music, I danced for them, and this is what I get in return."
And not since the trial, she says, had she seen such fear in Jackson's eyes.
Karen Faye: And when it really got down to standing up in front of an audience, all that fear, all that doubt, all that cruelty that people directed at him, he was afraid. He didn't want to go through that again.
Cynthia McFadden: When you looked at Michael Jackson's face at the end, it looked sad.
Karen Faye: He was very sad.
Cynthia McFadden: He was starting to lose weight.
Karen Faye: Oh, he wasn't sleeping, and he was losing weight drastically. The week before he died, probably about 15 pounds, I would say.
Cynthia McFadden: And he didn't have 15 pounds to lose.
Karen Faye: No, no. In fact, when I met him in March, one of my very first concerns was that I thought he was too thin to really be able to do a show. But, you know, I thought, we'll have plenty of time once he starts working out, getting on the dance floor, he's gonna eat, he's gonna build himself up again. But I did tell Kenny Ortega, I said, "Kenny, we really have to get some weight on him."
The director, choreographer.
Karen Faye: And that was the main concern.
Cynthia McFadden: So there was a lot of pressure going into this.
Karen Faye: A lot of pressure.
Cynthia McFadden: This was going to be his first major appearance since the trial.
Karen Faye: A lot more shows than he wanted or agreed to do.
Cynthia McFadden: And the first time his kids were gonna see it.
Karen Faye: Yes.
Cynthia McFadden: So there was a lot on the line.
And Jackson wanted to top himself. Better dancing. Better costumes. Even the 3-D movie as part of the show.
Cynthia McFadden: Did you also feel that he was taking drugs at that time? Medication of some sort?
Karen Faye: I really don't, can't really go here, because of impending trial and things like that. So we can't, this is like a difficult area.
Cynthia McFadden: Well, were you concerned about him?
Karen Faye: I was extremely concerned with Michael's well being. I was very concerned with his well being.
Cynthia McFadden: You'd seen him in dicey situations before. Were you more concerned than you'd ever been?
Karen Faye: Absolutely, a lot more concerned.
Michael Bush: He was, like, bone thin and he'd grab me on the arm and say, "You promised me you wouldn't tell."
Cynthia McFadden: Tell what?
Michael Bush: What I'm seeing.
Cynthia McFadden: Did you tell anybody?
Karen Faye: Absolutely.
Cynthia McFadden: What did you say?
Karen Faye: I was talking to the people who had the power to do something about it.
Cynthia McFadden: What were your fears?
Karen Faye: I feared that Michael was physically unable to do the shows in his condition.
Cynthia McFadden: Did you think he was vulnerable enough that he might die?
Karen Faye: Yes.
Cynthia McFadden: Yes?
Karen Faye: Yes.
Michael Bush: There was just these telltale signs. When is someone going to pay attention? Because, to me, it was blatant.
Cynthia McFadden: What was blatant?
Michael Bush: The way he was, like, onstage rehearsing.
Cynthia McFadden: What was different about it?
Michael Bush: A lot of start/stops. Usually when you did a music video with Michael, they'd load the camera full of film. They would run it until it ran out. You didn't do two bars of the song and stop. That was Michael's energy. He fed off of what was going on.
Cynthia McFadden: He didn't have his usual stamina.
Michael Bush: No, and then you start speaking up, like she said, to the powers that be and it just seemed like it was falling on deaf ears or we'll fix that later, or there's more, something else would seem like it was more important.
Because when you see the video that was put out of the rehearsal of the "This Is It" concert, it sure looks like Michael Jackson is on top of the world.
Karen Faye: Okay, it's great editing.
Cynthia McFadden: It isn't the reality that we're seeing?
Karen Faye: Absolutely not. Even if you look at the songs, the way they're edited, he has three different outfits on for one song in most. They were taking bits and pieces from different rehearsal dates to be able to put it together to make it look like he got through a song. But - we really didn't get through a whole song. I think maybe, I think we got through two ballads all together.
And sure enough, here in the number "Smooth Criminal," five outfits for the same song. But ABC News spoke to three of Jackson's dancers who, in the final rehearsal before he died, say Jackson was going all out. And that they were shocked by his death. As for his weight loss, the concert's producers, AEG, say they, too, were concerned, and hired someone to monitor his eating. But Faye and Bush still insist Jackson was nowhere near ready.
Karen Faye: I didn't think he could do a show.
Cynthia McFadden: And this was not the Michael Jackson that you had worked with for 25 years.
Karen Faye: No. He didn't have the control that he was used to having.
On the 25th of June last year, Karen Faye was waiting for Jackson at the Staples Center to begin rehearsals, when she got the call she dreaded. Michael Jackson had been rushed to the hospital.
Reporter: Michael Jackson was brought here in full cardiac arrest.
Reporter: And is now in a coma at the UCLA.
Cynthia McFadden: When did you find out?
Karen Faye: Kenny kind of instructed us to keep going and rehearsing and getting ready. Do what we're supposed to do. We're not sure what's going on right now. Let's just carry on as usual. I was headed back to my room, my makeup room, and Kenny came out of his office, and he put his arms around me and held me up and whispered in my ear, "He's gone. We lost him." And my knees just collapsed.
Cynthia McFadden: Do you think Michael Jackson needed to die? Do you think that was inevitable, or could he have been saved?
Karen Faye: I think if people paid attention, we'd still have him.