March 5, 2009 -- The story of Michael Jackson staging a comeback is sort of like the boy who cried wolf. By now, most people have stopped believing.
During a news conference at London's O2 Arena, the King of Pop assured about 2,000 fans -- some who applied for tickets to hear his announcement, others who walked in off the street -- that come July, he would be giving his "final curtain call."
"I just want to say that these will be my final show performances in London," he said to the screaming crowd. "This will be it. When I say this is it, this will be it."
Looking fit and heavily made up, his straightened black hair a contrast to his scarlet mouth, Jackson showed up at the news conference 90 minutes late after traveling by bus in a motorcade.
He was there to launch his comeback -- and apparently final -- tour in London, where he'll give a series of 10 concerts in July at the O2 Arena. Concert organizers say he could do as many as 25 concerts. It's rumored that popular British boy band JLS, discovered on the popular British reality show "The X Factor," may be one of his opening acts.
Jackson appeared to soak in the crowd, who shouted his name and "I love you," by pausing several times during his very short statement. He also seemed to make a point of showing how fit he was by pumping his fist a couple times in the air.
"I love you," he said to his fans. "I really do, you have to know that. I love you so much. This is it. See you in July."
Then he was gone, after only two minutes.
Some in the crowd, apparently disappointed that they had waited so long for so brief an appearance, responded with angry shouts and stampeded for the door.
Will the fans come back for Jackson's concerts?
Sam Corbett, a radio plugger for Warner Records in London, told ABCNews.com: "I wouldn't buy a ticket to go and see him. He makes me feel sad these days and doesn't seem well enough to give a performance like he used to."
Ben Johnson, a magazine editor from London, told ABC News.com that he would definitely go to a gig but not because he's a huge fan, "I'd be going more out of curiosity," he said. "I've heard he's not doing new stuff, so it might be a tad depressing seeing a 50-year-old man still trying to do the moonwalk and grabbing his crotch and the like."
What Will Jackson Come Back To?
"There's a question of how big an attraction he is at this point," Billboard's executive editor Robert Levine told ABCNews.com. "There are a limited number of people who are going to pay a lot of money to see Michael Jackson."
Maybe so, but Stacy Brown, a former family insider, believes Jackson will get a bigger crowd in London than in America.
"He definitely has a loyal fan base in Europe, particularly in London," he told ABCNews.com. "If he can give a quarter of what he used to, everyone will be happy."
Jackson family attorney Brian Oxman thinks this is the comeback fans have long awaited.
"The brothers don't know much about it," he told ABCNews.com. "Nobody has any direct word, but this looks to be the real McCoy."
According to press reports, Jackson could perform as many as 10 shows over a month. He reportedly stands to earn between $1 million and $2 million per show.
That is, if Jackson actually shows up on stage.
"Michael can be fickle, but I believe he is eager to show the world that he has some of his unmatched talent left to share with the world," said Pearl Jr., who does not use a surname and runs the Web site MichaelJacksonInsider.com.
In recent years, the "king of pop" has bailed out on a comeback tour with his brothers who made up The Jackson Five and an album for which Sheikh Abdulla of Bahrain paid $7 million but never received. Abdulla sued and the pair settled out of court.
Jackson's last performance, at the 2006 World Music Awards in London, when he sang just a few lines of the song "We Are the World," was a disappointment. It was his first appearance since his 2005 child molestation trial, in which he was acquitted.
Michael Jackson Healthy Enough to Perform?
Then there's the matter of Jackson's health. Recent pictures have shown him being pushed in a wheelchair, appearing frail and gaunt and wearing a "Zorro" mask while being helped across the street. In December, there were reports that Jackson was on his deathbed suffering from a rare lung condition, which his publicist denied.
"I find it astonishing that he's physically able to do it," said Brown, who co-wrote the Jackson biography, "Michael Jackson: the Man behind the Mask." "Michael will be 51 this year. This is not 'Benjamin Button.' He is not growing younger."
Brown recalled seeing Jackson's last live concert performance at Madison Square Garden in 2001 for his 30th anniversary show. Jackson buried his head in brother Jermaine's chest. Later, Brown talked to Jackson's brothers about it.
"Most people thought it was part of the show, but Michael was exhausted," he said.
"Michael Jackson was more famous for being a performer than being a singer," Levine said. "He's going to have to play his hits, dance the way he danced, be the person he was when he was popular. I'm not sure he's in that kind of shape."
Whether he'll moonwalk across the stage remains to be seen, but concert organizers have at least been reassured that Jackson is fit to perform.
"The man is very sane, the man is very focused, the man is very healthy," Tim Leiweke, the president and CEO of AEG, the entertainment company putting on the tour, said yesterday at a symposium sponsored by Billboard. "I think he has been dragged through the mud."
"Despite everything you read about him, he was fine," added Leiweke. "The man took a physical for us to go do these concerts."
Brown said Jackson is producing a "Thriller" show, in which he'll perform the music from his most successful album, "Thriller," which remains the best-selling album of all time.
The tour should also boost Jackson's bottom line.
"I recall Michael himself saying he didn't want to perform anymore. He's in that proverbial rock-and-hard-place situation," said Brown, who believes he's doing the tour for the money. "How else is he going to make money?"
There have been reports of financial trouble ever since his 2005 child molestation trial. Last year, he was forced to sell his famous Neverland ranch.
In April, 2,000 items from his Neverland estate will be up for auction at the Beverly Hills Hilton. The entire sale is estimated to bring in between $1.5 million and $3 million, according to Darren Julien, the head of Julien's Auctions, which is conducting the sale.
"I don't get into his personal finances," Julien told ABCNews.com. "It's not something I know much about, but I do know the best way to look at it is he's ending one chapter of his life and going on to the next chapter. That's going to be bigger and better."
Jackson's Auction in Doubt?
The auction is currently in doubt, however, after Jackson filed a lawsuit yesterday to halt the sale because he said he did not give permission to sell the items. The complaint, according to Julien, alleges that Jackson was never given an inventory of items for sale and never even authorized the auction.
"It's a surprise for all of us," Julien said. "I've been working with Michael and his manager, Dr. (Tohme) Tohme, and they have signed off on everything we've done. We're perplexed by it (the lawsuit). They are the ones who contacted us about doing the auction. If they never authorized it, so why did they call us?"
Julien said Jackson signed a contract before the company cleared Neverland of the items that Jackson left behind. He then sent two inventories with photographs to Jackson. Whenever Jackson requested some items not be sold, Julien said he honored that request.
"He's been very much in control of the auction," Julien said.
Currently, he is in Ireland, carrying out Jackson's wishes to take part of the exhibition on the road. "Three days ago Dr. Tome said we were doing great job and Michael very happy."
"We've put out all the money, given them 100 percent," Julien said. "It's a little bit disheartening. It just completely comes out of left field."
One has to wonder if Jackson will throw a similar curveball during his comeback tour.
Emily Wither contributed to this report.