Excerpt: Wendy Walker's 'The Producer'


We've just learned that Michael Jackson has died. He was 50. Michael suffered a cardiac arrest earlier this afternoon and paramedics were unable to revive him. We're told when paramedics arrived, Jackson had no pulse and they never got a pulse back. Since it was TMZ, a celebrity and gossip entertainment site, it was still considered a rumor, but it was getting much too real to ignore. Should I continue to book guests for Farrah as well as Michael? There was no one to ask, so I made a quick decision. While the buzz about Michael's death continued to escalate, I sent out the following e-mail to my staff:

3:08 p.m., PST. Assuming the news is true, we will be going live at 9 and possibly at midnight. Concentrate on Michael Jackson... it is a bigger story because it is a shock. Do not book any more guests for Farrah unless they know Michael. It is about Michael. Show number four was in the works, and the first order of business was to confirm that the rumors of Michael's death were true. Each of us made calls depending on whom we knew best. I called back Mark Geragos, who was getting the news from his sources. All of my producers and I were working in tandem with the network since they needed to get a production truck to the hospital and Jackson's home as we contacted every friend, colleague, and business associate of Michael's, putting out an APB on the guests we were trying to book at the last minute.

The hour was late and we were working on booking a long list of people when I pushed back from my desk, feeling light-headed. When was the last time I ate? I hadn't been this immersed in a story since Scott Peterson was convicted of killing his wife and his unborn child. I walked into the living room to second my daughter sitting on the couch, reading a magazine. Walker was on the floor beside her. "I'm pretty sure Michael Jackson is dead," I told them. "This is a moment you'll never forget."

I remembered exactly where I was when John Lennon, Marilyn Monroe, President Kennedy, and Princess Diana had died. I knew that if Michael really was gone, this was the same kind of monumental loss that would send the entire world into collective shock. But I had a show to book. I returned to my office and got back on the phone, so far removed from where I'd been when I woke up that morning, it was hard to believe it was the same day.

In the next half hour, the Los Angeles Times reported:

Pop star Michael Jackson was pronounced dead by doctors this afternoon after arriving at the hospital in a deep coma, city and law enforcement sources told the Times.

It wasn't long after this bulletin that I was e-mailed a photograph of Michael's head, presumably dead. The photographer wanted money for it. He was wasting his time. Soon after, CNN made the announcement that Michael had died. Now it was official.

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