Jurors in a civil lawsuit against Michael Jackson on Wednesday heard increasingly frantic phone messages that the singer left for a business associate, demanding action on projects including a collaboration with actor Marlon Brando and the release of a charity recording.
Tapes of the messages left on F. Marc Schaffel’s answering machine were played to show his close relationship with Jackson and that he was entrusted with handling millions of dollars for the singer.
Schaffel claims the pop star owes him $3.8 million in royalties, expenses and other debts.
In one of the first phone messages, from 2001, Jackson said, “Marc, it’s Michael. ... Marc, please never let me down. I like you. I love you. ... I really want us to be friends and conquer the business world together. Please be my loyal, loyal friend. I love you.”
Schaffel testified that he had been working on a number of projects for Jackson and had even arranged a $10 million line of credit for him from a financial institution. Schaffel said Jackson had many demands, including searching out a home in Beverly Hills that could be a hideaway from his Neverland ranch.
In June 2001 Jackson left several messages dealing with what he called “the Marlon Brando deal.” The tapes shed more light on the pop star’s friendship with Brando, who died in 2004.
Schaffel said Jackson had an idea to do a video in which Brando would interview him and he would interview Brando at the actor’s island in Tahiti. Later, Jackson wanted to make an acting DVD with Brando. The project fizzled because of the enormous cost, Schaffel said.
There were several messages from Jackson saying Brando wanted to know what was going on with the project. “Marlon Brando has been pushing. He’s a wonderful man. He’s a god. He wants a lot of money. He wants to get things done right now,” Jackson said in one message.
Sept. 11 charity project cancelled
Jackson’s other concern was a record he had made called, “What More Can I Give,” which was to be a charity project for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The record was never released because of complications involving Jackson’s relationship with Sony.
Schaffel said the record cost millions and involved huge amounts of travel to record more than 30 major artists singing various verses.
By 2003, when it had not been released, Jackson called Schaffel with more urgent messages saying he had a plan for the recording to be a charity project tied to the Iraq war.
“It should be for America in Iraq,” Jackson said in one message. “... It’s a perfect cause. It means more now than any other causes.”
Schaffel also testified about a trip he made to Brazil in November 2003 to deliver $300,000 to someone in South America to take care of a personal matter. He never described the personal matter.
In Jackson’s 2005 child molestation trial, prosecutors claimed there was a plan to relocate a family making accusations against the pop star and take them to Brazil. The pop star was acquitted of the molestation charges.
Schaffel, who acknowledged that his background is in distributing adult videos, said he withdrew $300,000 from his own accounts and was never fully repaid.
Schaffel also said he is owed $664,000 in royalties from two videos sold to Fox television.
Those videos were produced to repair Jackson’s image after a documentary in which the entertainer said he shared his bed in a nonsexual way with children.
Schaffel’s attorney also called to the stand Florida businessman Alvin Malnik, who said he advised Jackson and found the singer bewildered by financial matters.
Malnik said he frequently loaned the singer money — $7 million to $10 million — all of which was ultimately returned. He said he once received an urgent call from Jackson saying he needed $1 million to buy a piece of jewelry for Elizabeth Taylor.
“The reason was that Elizabeth Taylor would not sign a release for her participation in the Fox special. He knew her well enough that he knew if he brought a piece of jewelry he could obtain the release, and that’s how it was done,” Malnik said.
Jackson, who had been living in Bahrain but last month announced he was moving to Europe, will not testify in person. In a videotaped deposition shown to jurors, the singer said he thought Schaffel had been paid because the business associate always seemed happy.