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Biographer Claims Michael Jackson Seriously Ill, MJ's Reps Deny It

December 22, 2008 2:15 PM ET

It started as a U.K. tabloid report sourcing an unofficial biographer, but it's grown into one of today's most talked about news items — Michael Jackson is rumored to be battling an illness that has left him half-blind and in dire need of a lung transplant. According to Jackson biographer Ian Halperin, the singer is suffering from a disease called Alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency, or A1AD, a genetic disorder that depletes a protein that protects both the liver and lungs. Jackson is reportedly suffering from chronic gastrointestinal bleeding, 95 percent blindness in his left eye and emphysema, one of the major symptoms of A1AD. Halperin says the illness has left Jackson barely able to speak and adds, "He needs a lung transplant, but may be too weak to go through with it."

This evening, Jackson's "official and sole spokesperson," Dr. Tohme Tohme, issued a statement on the singer's behalf that paints Halperin's assertions as a mere publicity stunt: "The writer's wild allegations concerning Mr. Jackson's health are a total fabrication. Mr. Jackson is in fine health, and finalizing negotiations with a major entertainment company & television network for both a world tour and a series of specials and appearances."

Rolling Stone did some digging today and determined that many of Halperin's other assertions don't hold up. The first line of Halperin's biography reads "Ian Halperin is also a former winner of the Rolling Stone magazine Award for Investigative Journalism." This came as news to us, so we looked in our own archives and discovered this claim has been greatly exaggerated: He did win an RS honor, but it was the College Journalism Award in 1985 and it was split among the staff at Concordia University's student newspaper in Montreal. Halperin also co-wrote a pair of "Kurt Cobain was murdered, maybe" books, scandalous biographies about James Taylor and Celine Dion (title: Behind The Fairytale - A Very, Very, Unauthorized Biography) and a new book called Hollywood Undercover: Revealing the Sordid Secrets of Tinseltown (not exactly The Greatest Generation).

Still, Halperin's claims are intriguing: Jackson was seen in a wheelchair earlier this year and The Sun quotes his brother Jermaine saying, "He's not doing so well right now. This isn't a good time." Plus, Jackson did claim to be sick when he was avoiding that whole Bahrain lawsuit trial in London. We put out calls to Halperin but have yet to get a response.

Related Stories:
Michael Jackson at 50: His Four-Decade Career in Photos
Say Goodbye To Neverland: Michael Jackson To Auction 2,000 Items
Michael Jackson Uses "Sick Note" To Avoid Contract Breach Trial

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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