In videotaped testimony shown to a jury Friday, Michael Jackson professed little memory of major financial transactions involving a former associate who claims the pop star owes him $1.6 million.
Jackson, who was interviewed twice in London by F. Marc Schaffel’s attorney, said he did remember at least one occasion when Schaffel delivered money to him on the set of a music video.
He said it arrived in a fast-food bag and they called it “French fries,” which became their slang for money.
But Jackson said he thought any money Schaffel gave him came from Jackson’s own funds.
“I would never ask him for his money,” Jackson responded. “That’s ridiculous. I would never.”
Schaffel’s lawsuit originally claimed Jackson owed him $3.8 million for unpaid loans, royalties and other debts, but he has reduced the claim to $1.6 million.
Jackson’s videotaped deposition was shown to the jury because the singer will not appear at the trial.
Jackson said he remembered Schaffel working on the production of his ill-fated charity record “What More Can I Give” but didn’t expect to pay him, thinking that his efforts were a charitable donation.
Schaffel’s embarrassing past
When he found out in late 2001 that Schaffel had a background in producing gay adult movies, Jackson said, he decided to fire Schaffel but didn’t do it personally because he didn’t want to embarrass him.
Asked how Schaffel wound up back in his employment in 2003 when he produced two TV specials that aired on Fox, Jackson said, “I didn’t directly rehire Marc Schaffel. It was somebody in the organization who obviously did.”
Jackson also said he couldn’t remember giving Schaffel instructions for such chores as paying Marlon Brando $1 million to appear at Madison Square Garden for a show Jackson was doing in September 2001.
“Did you want to pay Marlon Brando $1 million for appearing at your Madison Square Garden concert?” attorney Howard King asked.
“It wasn’t so much for the appearance as it was for the fact that he said he really needed it and I wanted to help a friend,” Jackson said.
When King pressed Jackson about whether Schaffel once loaned him a million dollars, he again cited a lack of memory but suggested he would not have taken such an amount if it wasn’t his.
“Nobody just gives me money,” he said. “That’s not right and I work for what I get. Don’t make like I’m begging from anybody. I have pride.”
He also laughed at one point when King suggested that Schaffel had given him $375,000 to go shopping.
“It sounds spoiled, but it doesn’t sound like me,” Jackson said. “Give me $300,000 to go shopping? That’s not me. I am sorry.”
King followed up with a question: “You’re not a big shopper?”
“Not like that, no,” Jackson said.