Excerpt: Wendy Walker's 'The Producer'


Céline told Larry on the phone, "I am shocked like the rest of the world. It doesn't sink in right now. I'm overwhelmed by this tragedy. I have to say that Michael Jackson's been an idol for me all my life. I remember being in my house when I was very, very young and having his posters above my bed. He's been my idol all my life, I looked up to him, and my goal was to be maybe doing the same show business world as him."

And Liza Minnelli called in and said, "Oh, Larry, I couldn't believe it, honey. I got a call at two o'clock in the morning from a lawyer telling me that he's gone into cardiac arrest. They said he had been complaining of chest pains, you know? He changed show business. He hit with a force that was spectacular as he started to grow up. And then he grew and grew and grew. All the time. He grew all the time."

Talk about flying by the seat of our pants, we were actually booking guests while the show was on the air. Larry would say, "We just got this person on the phone," and he would launch into an interview with no preparation whatsoever. Michael's death finally felt real to me when I saw the live picture of the helicopter that was transporting his body to the morgue. And the news just kept on coming.

As the story unfolded, I noticed a rhythm that is often present when we are dealing with breaking news. It actually takes on a whole different feel than a prepared show has when you know exactly what you are covering and with whom. With breaking news, you are constantly getting new information and an energy takes over as the story unfolds in a natural way. That was the case with the Michael Jackson story as we began to let the incoming news items guide us.

Somewhere in the midst of all of this, I went to tuck my kids into bed. Then it was back to my office, but now I was using my large office in another portion of the house that had been converted into a state-of-the-art newsroom with a dozen screens that allowed me to check breaking news on all the cable and broadcast networks, national and international. The news about Michael was spreading fast all over the world, and global reactions were pouring in about the shocking and untimely death of this musical icon.

By 2 a.m. it was all over—at least for the day. This was a story that would not end with a single day of coverage or even a week. I knew it would go on and on as accusations of drug overdoses and finger-pointing at so-called unscrupulous doctors began to dominate the conversations, along with relentless reports of Michael's bizarre and unhealthy lifestyle. And then there were rumors about Debbie Rowe, one of Michael's ex-wives, the mother of his two oldest children.

I dropped into bed exhausted and amazed that, once again, I had made it through a day that dealt me so many dips and turns I should have gotten seasick. After all, I had awakened with one show in mind and had booked three more before Larry went on the air. I'd answered thousands of e-mails, much more than my usual number, I had taken care of my kids, and we had all done our jobs. And the show had gone on.

The next night Deepak was among our guests. Here is a segment of his interview, staggering in its directness and in Deepak's commitment to be the first person who dared to speak about this.

CHOPRA: In 1988, he [Michael] called me out of the blue and asked me to teach him meditation. I went to Neverland and we had a weekend together and became friends since that.

KING: What was he like?

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