The Thriller singer, who was adored by fans around-the-world and became one of the most significant figures of the 20th century before he died in 2009. Jackson was preparing for his comeback ’This is It’ tour when he was found unconscious at his rented mansion in Holmby Hills, Los Angeles, having suffered a cardiac arrest after his personal physician – Dr Conrad Murray – gave him medication to help him sleep. In August that same year, the Los Angeles County Coroner ruled that Jackson’s death was a homicide and charged Dr Murray with involuntary manslaughter on February 8, 2010 – which he would later serve two years for.
But, 25 years earlier, on January 27, 1984, Jackson suffered an injury that changed his life forever – after he and his brothers signed a promotional deal with Pepsi – that broke records for a celebrity endorsement.
Investigative journalist Dylan Howard reveals during his explosive new book ‘Bad: An Unprecedented Investigation into the Michael Jackson Cover-Up,’ how things panned out on that fateful day.
He writes: “Pepsi had paid Michael a then-unheard-of $5million (£3.95million) to star in a series of commercials for the soda company.
“Despite the hefty payday and maintaining control over how he was portrayed, Michael still had reservations about doing the gig.
Michael Jackson was adored by fans
Dr Conrad Murray was charged with involuntary manslaughter
“‘I feel it’s wrong to endorse something you don’t believe in,’ the star said after inking the deal. ‘I think it’s a bad omen… I still don’t have a good feeling about it.’
“The first of two ads aired in 1983 and featured children in the street imitating the star.
“Michael made a brief onscreen appearance to show his approval.”
The book goes on to uncover the details of the deal.
It adds: “He also reworked the lyrics to ‘Billie Jean’ to sing Pepsi’s praises as the ‘thrill of today.’ Naturally, that year, Pepsi sales skyrocketed.
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Michael Jackson was injured during the commercial
“Michael filmed the second commercial on that fateful Friday in January.
“The singer teamed up with his brothers to stage a flashy rock concert at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California.
“The venue was packed with fake concert-goers and lucky fans.
“The cameras captured the Jackson gang ‘backstage’ drinking Pepsi and then followed them onto the stage to perform the adapted ‘Billie Jean’ jingle.
“At the climax of the 60-second commercial, a pyrotechnic eruption silhouettes Michael during his dance-filled path down a set of stairs leading to the stage. At least, that was the original plan.”
But, things went horribly wrong for Jackson, leading his brothers to think someone had made an attempt on his life, Mr Howard claims.
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The Jackson brothers were concerned
Jackson speaking at a press conference
The book adds: “During the infamous sixth take of the scene, Michael – who was rather foolishly instructed to remain posing at top of the stairway until after the fireworks went off – was within feet of the explosion – close enough for sparks to splash on his head and ignite his heavily styled hair.
“During his 10-second descent, Michael still had no idea that he was on fire.
“The commercial crew converged on the singer, who began involuntarily spinning, hoping to put out the roaring flames.
“Several people used their jackets to help snuff the blaze.
“His brothers, confused by the pandemonium, thought he had been assassinated.”
Jackson suffered second-degree burns to his scalp, but the book claims that the pop star did not want to worry his fans – so was stretchered out in front of them to show he was not badly hurt.
The new explosive book was released in the US last week
It continues: “When Michael finally stood up, the centre of his scalp was hairless. He grabbed the singed, bald area with his silver gloved right hand and was rushed off stage.
“After getting bandaged, Michael was put on a gurney.
“He requested to exit the arena through the crowd, not out a back door.
“He wanted everyone to know that he would be okay. Michael even kept his glove on.
“‘I just remember we were all abruptly excused for the day,’ said actress Kathy Griffin, who was an extra in the audience that day.
“‘The last thing a production would do following an accident like this would be to announce to hundreds, if not thousands, of extras something like, ‘There’s been a horrible accident. Everybody go home.’”
Pepsi settled out of court, and Jackson donated the $1.5million (£1.18million) settlement to the Brotman Medical Centre in Culver City, California – its Michael Jackson Burn Centre is named in his honour.
Jackson underwent treatment to hide the scars and, although the procedure was relatively minor, it led to a series of cosmetic surgeries that ultimately changed his appearance.
To conceal his scarred head from fans and paparazzi, the star also began wearing wigs.
Jackson signed a second agreement with Pepsi in the late Eighties for $10million (£7.9million) – the campaign covered 20 countries and provided financial support for Jackson’s Bad album and 1987-88 world tour.
‘Bad: An Unprecedented Investigation into the Michael Jackson Cover-Up,’ is published by Skyhorse Publishing and was released in the US on July 7.