“I wasn’t a huge fan of Michael’s music back then, much-preferring bands such as U2, The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd, but I certainly recognised his genius when he performed on stage,” writes famed Irish plastic surgeon Dr Patrick Treacy, in his recently published book, Behind the Mask.
In a tell-all memoir, Treacy chronicles his journey from a small village in northern Ireland to becoming Michael Jackson’s doctor. Over a period of time, Treacy forged a special friendship with the late singer-performer.
We met Treacy during his recent visit to Mumbai, on his way to deliver a lecture at an aesthetic surgery and cosmetic dermatology conference in Goa. “The first thing Michael said to me when we met was ‘Thank you for helping the people of Africa.’ It wasn’t ‘I want you to be my doctor’,” says Treacy, who worked with HIV positive patients in Africa as a young doctor.
A life altering incidents exposed Treacy to the evils of HIV. In 1987, when he was treating a heroin addict in Dublin, a needle Treacy had used to draw blood from the patient, jabbed him in the leg. He immediately cut off a part of his leg to avoid infection. Remember, this was the time when hundreds and thousands feared being plagued by AIDS. “There were no drugs at all. AIDS was considered worse than Ebola, and television ads showed that even if you kissed somebody, you died of AIDS,” says Treacy.
Learning about the number of people who suffered from this dreadful disease led him to move to Africa for a few years. And according to Treacy, it was this “twist of fate” that brought Jackson to him. “I had written a few articles about my time in Africa, and Michael had read one of them. When he visited me years later, he was carrying the article in his pocket,” adds Treacy.
Meeting the star
In 2006, there were rumours in the Irish media that Jackson had been sighted near the village of Kinsale. This was also the time when the singer found himself embroiled in numerous paedophilia cases. “I had to set my perceptions of him to ground zero and just take him at his own face value. And, boy, had the world got him all wrong. He was a loving person. He was funny, but he carried an awful lot of sorrow because of all his skin conditions,” says Treacy, who treated the singer over two years.
For Treacy, his fondest memory of Michael is of his tucking his children in bed and kissing them good night. “In my experience, he (Jackson) wasn’t a pedophile or a drug addict. But he kept telling me that he thought people are going to kill him,” adds Treacy.
In his book, Treacy also recounts other chance encounters, such as meeting Saddam Hussain’s son Uday in Palestine, and a surreal telephonic conversation with Nelson Mandela. When Jackson wanted to hold a concert in support of AIDS patients in Rwanda, he turned to Treacy for help. “One day, when I was working on Michael’s leg and taking off some of the skin colour. He handed his phone to me. The voice said, ‘I believe you are helping Michael; thanks for helping Michael’,” says Treacy, who thought it was a concert promoter on the other end. “I asked him who is it? He says, “Madiba”. I say, ‘Look Mr Madiba, I am very busy. You can speak to my secretary later’ before passing the phone back to Michael,” he adds. It was only after the call got over that Treacy discovered the man on the other end was Nelson Mandela, and he had forever lost his chance of having a conversation with him.
Behind the Mask is peppered with many such anecdotes and photographs from his personal archive. While Treacy is well aware that people who buy the book will immediately skip to the chapters that chronicle the life of the late singer, he also believes that writing this book was the best way for him to pay a tribute to Jackson’s legacy. “His death was difficult (for me) because the world never knew him as a person…,” adds Treacy.
Behind The Mask is available on amazon.in
Publisher: Liberties Press
Price: Rs 1,393