Excerpt: Wendy Walker's 'The Producer'


1:44 p.m. We've just learned that Michael Jackson was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Los Angeles... we're told it was cardiac arrest and that paramedics administered CPR in the ambulance.

Oh, no. What was this? Please! I e-mailed the staff member who had sent it:

1:45 p.m. We might have to do something on this. Check it out please.

I got on a conference call with several of my producers while one of them phoned Jermaine Jackson, Michael's brother, to ? nd out what he knew. She sent me this:

1:47 p.m. I'm on with Jermaine's wife right now. They had no idea.

I immediately e-mailed Lisa Gregorisch, my close friend and executive producer of Extra. She always got the celebrity breaking news fast and we often validated our information with each other.

1:48 p.m. I am sure you know this. An insider just told me that an ambulance just went into the compound of Michael Jackson's home. No details or for what reason or for whom. Minutes ago, the ambulance just left Michael's home with sirens sounding.

Lisa wrote back:

1:49 p.m. Yes, it could be cardiac arrest.

My staff continued booking the show about Farrah and I told them to keep Larry off all press calls, at home and on his cell phone. We had to find out the truth about Michael Jackson before he said a word to anyone. What if Larry answered his phone, was asked a question, and made a comment that was not true? When I was sure Larry would not answer any calls, I placed a call to criminal attorney Mark Geragos, a regular on our show and a former lawyer to Michael. "Mark," I said, "we're hearing that Michael Jackson might be very sick. Or dead."

Mark said he would check it out. Five minutes later he called me back. "I've been told he's dead," Mark said, "but they're not confirming it yet."

What should we do about the show? It was a tough call, but my gut told me this was more than a rumor, partly because I knew that Geragos had reliable sources inside the LAPD. It was after 2 p.m. when my staff and I started booking an alternative show, just in case the rumors were true, which was looking more and more likely. Show number three would feature the deaths of both Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett. It's hard to book a show when you don't know if someone is alive or dead. Imagine the sensitivity required in asking someone to come on the show "if and when" their loved one dies. Or if he has already died. And still, we had to do it.

My anxiety was at a high pitch when we had four hours left and we weren't even sure what we were going to do that night. I could lose my composure, which would waste precious time, or I could follow my gut, which told me that a tragedy of some sort was occurring around Michael Jackson. I had come to trust my intuition after so many years of depending upon it, and besides, I reminded myself, if it was a rumor, why would it still be circulating this many hours later? I felt the immensity of the situation. If Michael was really dead, similar to the deaths of Elvis and Marilyn, it would touch everyone on an international level. But we had to find out the truth quickly so we could put together the right show.

At 2:50 p.m., we got another e-mail from the TMZ Web site:

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