Pop superstar Michael Jackson feared the ravages of old age, sought the company of sycophants and appeared to be abusing prescription drugs and cosmetic surgery nearly a decade before his death, according to a new book by a former adviser.
"The Michael Jackson Tapes" breaks little in the way of new ground but the book by Shmuley Boteach, based on 30 hours of taped interviews, provides firsthand detail about the performer's excesses and obsessions.
"I don't want to be seen now," Jackson confessed. "Because I am like a lizard. It is horrible."
Jackson died June 25 at age 50. His death is being treated as a homicide.
The self-described "King of Pop" seemed to sense during the interviews in 2000 and 2001 that his life was winding down. "I would like some way to disappear where people don't see me anymore at some point," Jackson said. "I don't want to grow old. I never want to look in the mirror and see that."
"He lost the will to live," Boteach said Friday on NBC television. "I think he was just going through the motions of life toward the end."
Boteach is an orthodox Jewish rabbi who has written self-help books with names like "Kosher Sex" and "Shalom in the Home." He was introduced to Jackson in 1999 through Uri Geller, a British entertainer, and acted as his confidant for many years. At times, the transcribed tapes sound like counseling sessions. Boteach said he and Jackson recorded the tapes with the idea of giving the public a more accurate image of the reclusive entertainer. Boteach said he soured on the book - originally slated for release in 2003. Boteach said Jackson began pushing him away as he criticized his departure from the recovery program they had set up - improvements that included waking up at a decent hour and not being alone with kids other than Jackson's own, for public relations purposes.
The friendship ended with Jackson's second arrest on charges of sexually abusing a child. Boteach said he resurrected the project after Jackson died because attitudes toward him had softened. In conversations, Jackson is quick to see himself as a victim and quick to criticize relatives - especially his father, who, Jackson said, beat him with an electric cord.
"He was rough," Jackson says of his father. "The way he would beat you hard, you know, was hard."
Ken Sunshine, a spokesman for the Jackson family, said Friday: "We will not dignify this with a comment."
The book makes it clear Jackson was interested in women sexually but very shy. He tells Boteach he had never asked a woman out on a date, although he admitted to having sexually charged phone conversations with Madonna.
In recounting one conversation, he said: "Madonna laid down the law to me before we went out," saying, "'I am not going to Disneyland, okay? That's out."'
Jackson said Madonna was jealous of him because his female fans screamed and swooned while her male fans were less demonstrative. He recalled her crying in admiration at one of his concerts. When contacted Friday, Madonna's spokeswoman, Liz Rosenberg, said, "Madonna has very fond feelings for Michael Jackson, and I don't think anything in the book is going to change that."
Associated Press Television Writer Frazier Moore in New York contributed to this report.