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What made Jacko wacko?

Whether he was dangling his baby over a balcony or sleeping in an oxygen chamber-- at times Michael Jackson appeared to revel in his nickname of “Wacko Jacko.”

world Updated: Jun 26, 2009 16:13 IST

Whether he was dangling his baby over a balcony, sleeping in an oxygen chamber or befriending a chimpanzee -- at times Michael Jackson appeared to revel in his nickname of “Wacko Jacko.”

The 50-year-old icon became a byword for eccentricity throughout his adult life as his staggering wealth allowed him to enter a lavish fantasy world where he could indulge his every whim, no matter how bizarre.

“He got to the point that he was so rich, so powerful and so famous, that he was allowed to kind of withdraw from any kind of reality,” pop culture expert Robert Thompson told AFP.

Many of the stories surrounding Jackson turned out to be untrue; some were even created by the star himself.

A 1986 tale about him sleeping in an oxygen coffin and another story about him seeking to buy the bones of The Elephant Man were both fictions fed by Jackson to a hungry media.

Nevertheless, they helped build the legend of “Wacko Jacko” and came as the star was in the midst of a visible physical transformation that became a recurring topic of debate.

Jackson insisted that his increasingly pale complexion was down to a rare skin condition known as vitiligo and lupus; his detractors speculated he had undergone skin-bleaching.

At the same time the star Jackson’s feature appeared to change -- thin lips, sculpted cheekbones and a narrow nose.

In 1988 he wrote in his autobiography “Moonwalk” that he had undergone several surgical procedures.

The same year he bought the California estate that was to become “Neverland”, his sprawling personal theme park crammed with video games, statues of superheroes, a mini-railway, fairground rides and a zoo.

Yet “Neverland” was to be at the center of the child abuse allegations that bedeviled Jackson throughout his career.

In 1993 a 13-year-old boy accused Jackson of abuse. Although Jackson denied the claims, he eventually settled for 22 million dollars and when the teenage witness ceased to co-operate with police, the criminal investigation ended.

The case marked the beginning of a decade of decline for Jackson -- but the wacky behavior continued.

In 1994 he married Lisa Marie Presley -- daughter of Elvis Presley -- after a whirlwind romance that sceptics claimed was a PR stunt. They divorced less than two years later.

Months after the divorce, Jackson was heading down the altar again, wedding nurse Debbie Rowe, who was to become the mother of the star’s first two children -- Prince Michael and Paris Michael Katherine.

A third son -- Prince Michael Jackson II, nicknamed “Blanket” -- was born from a surrogate mother in 2002.

Later that year Jackson dangled his son from the fourth floor balcony of a hotel room in Berlin, a move that drew worldwide condemnation. Jackson later said the incident had been a terrible mistake.

More child abuse allegations in late 2003 led to his trial two years later, which typically was played out in a circus-like atmosphere that Jackson appeared to delight in.

After his arraignment hearing -- where he pleaded not guilty to seven felonies after arriving 45 minutes late -- he famously clambered onto the roof of his car, clapped, stamped his feet and blew kisses to his fans.

Following his acquittal in June 2005, Jackson became a virtual recluse reportedly flitting around the world before re-settling in Los Angeles.

Right up to the end, he was the subject of intense tabloid speculation, last month denying that he had skin cancer after his comeback date was postponed.