LOS ANGELES — Michael Jackson’s ex-wife acknowledged Thursday that she was concerned that some of his frequent medical visits were motivated more by a desire for drugs than by the treatments he received.
Debbie Rowe testified during the trial of a lawsuit that she told Jackson about her concerns when he would go to his longtime dermatologist more than once a week in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Rowe worked in the office of the dermatologist, Dr. Arnold Klein.
“I didn’t understand why he would come in twice in one week,” Rowe said, adding that she was concerned he might be in search of drugs rather than treatments for blemishes with collagen injections. “I didn’t necessarily see what he wanted to have done.”
Rowe has offered a conflicting portrait of Jackson’s medical treatments during her testimony, saying earlier that she never saw him engage in doctor shopping or request specific pain medications. She said many of the visits were legitimately tied to treatments for the skin-lightening condition vitiligo and scars he sustained after being burned during a Pepsi commercial shoot.
Rowe, clutching a tissue and breaking down at times, described Jackson as suffering debilitating pain throughout the nearly 20 years that the pair were close friends. She said her husband trusted his doctors and depended on them to give him proper medications.
“When it came to the pain … it was more begging for relief than anything,” Rowe said. “He respected doctors so he wouldn’t question what they were doing.”
Rowe is the mother of the singer’s two oldest children, Prince and Paris Jackson. She and the pop star were married from 1996 to 1999.
She is testifying in a lawsuit filed by Jackson’s mother against AEG Live LLC, the promoter of Jackson’s ill-fated “This Is It” comeback concerts.
Rowe hugged Katherine Jackson and held her hand during a break in testimony. Rowe was called to the witness stand by AEG Live attorneys but told the jury on Wednesday that she was not testifying for either side and wouldn’t have come to court if she hadn’t received a subpoena.
Jackson’s scalp was badly burned when his hair caught on fire while filming a 1984 Pepsi commercial. The injuries left his scalp with painful scarring that required surgeries and injections of medications to try to lessen the pain and repair the damage.
Rowe said the injuries as well as the effects of vitiligo left Jackson feeling like he was disfigured. The singer was forced to wear wigs and de-pigment his skin and struggled to deal with the effects while in the public eye.
On another matter, Rowe said Jackson was devastated by his divorce from Lisa Marie Presley and because he didn’t have any children. Rowe said she told him they should have a baby together.
By that time, she and Jackson had been friends for more than a decade, with Rowe holding the singer’s hand as he received injections for numerous medical procedures and talking with him several times a week.
“I wanted him to be a father,” she said. “I wanted him to have everything he didn’t have growing up. I wanted him to experience it with his own child, with his own children.”
Rowe broke down when describing her recent relationship with her daughter Paris. She said she had been in daily touch with the teen until she had to be hospitalized on June 5, when paramedics were summoned to the Jackson family home in Calabasas. Paris, 15, took Motrin pills and cut her arm with a kitchen knife, according to emergency dispatchers.
Rowe was asked how Jackson’s death had affected his only daughter.
“She is devastated,” Rowe said. “She tried to kill herself. She is devastated. She has no life. She doesn’t feel she has a life anymore.”
Jackson family representatives have not provided an update or publicly classified her hospitalization as a suicide attempt. Jurors have heard from her older brother, Prince, but have only seen Paris through a couple clips of her deposition and have heard references to her struggling with her father’s death.
Katherine Jackson claims in her lawsuit that AEG Live failed to properly investigate the doctor later convicted of giving her son an overdose of the anesthetic propofol while he prepared for a series of comeback shows in 2009.
AEG denies it hired Conrad Murray or bears any responsibility for the singer’s death.
Marvin S. Putnam, the company’s lead defense attorney, said in opening statements that the case was about Jackson’s personal choices and his desire to use propofol as a sleep aid.