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THE SITUATION ROOM

Michael Jackson Dies

Aired June 25, 2009 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: He is inside UCLA Medical Center right now. That's the picture as he is being wheeled into the emergency room over at the UCLA Medical Center.

Ted Rowlands is joining us now from Los Angeles. He is on the scene watching all of this unfold.

Ted, you are in Los Angeles. Help our viewers appreciate the enormity of what's going on right now, because Michael Jackson is someone who is not only well-known to everyone in the United States, but he is an icon around the world.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely, Wolf.

I covered his trial, as well, in Santa Barbara County, sat through that entire trial. And of course he was facing at the time molestation charges. And one would think that nobody would want to get anywhere near Michael Jackson.

Well, every single day, before court began, there were dozens, if not hundreds of fans, some who have moved from around the world and transplanted themselves to this tiny town, Santa Maria, in the central coast of California. And they would come out and support him. They would see him for about 30 seconds every day as he went in and then another 30 seconds as he left the courthouse.

The enormity of the effect that this entertainer has had on the world can't be understated. And that was a clear example of it, people that were just such fans, that no matter what this individual had gone through in his life or what he was accused of in this case, they were out supporting him, just wanting to get a glimpse at him.

Now, of course, when Michael Jackson -- he relocated back to Los Angeles here, so he has been a part of this community now since about May, after living in various places, first Neverland Ranch. Then, after he was acquitted in 2005, he left the country. He said he was upset with the allegations and couldn't live here. So, he left Neverland Ranch. That closed, went to Bahrain for a while, then came back to Las Vegas.

But, since May, he has relocated here in Southern California. And he has been out there a little bit more than he has been in recent years, attending a few events, and promising that this upcoming concert that he has been working on diligently according to his people was going to be fabulous.

There was some speculation when he canceled his concert, pushed it back a year that there were health problems. But at the time we interviewed one of his spokespersons, Randy Phillips, the president and CEO of AEG Live, who was a promoter of this.

And he said, contrary to newspaper reports, Michael Jackson does not have skin cancer. That was the report at the time. But he said -- quote -- "He is as healthy as he can be," no health problems whatsoever.

That was back in May. And all of the indications that we had was that indeed he was building up his strength, building up his health, in anticipation of this tour, which sold out in a matter of minutes 50 concert dates that were to begin a year from now, or a year from July in England. And he was working diligently on preparing for that.

BLITZER: And they were sold out, as you point out, within minutes. Stand by, Ted.

I want to bring back A.J. Hammer, CNN -- of HLN's "Showbiz Tonight."

As we watch this story unfold, and it's a dynamic story right now, we know he is at the UCLA Medical Center, A.J. We know that our affiliates are reporting he has suffered from cardiac arrest and that he was rushed by paramedics to the hospital from his home in Los Angeles.

The pressure he must have been under, even though the concerts weren't going to begin for a year, the pressure still must have been enormous?

A.J. HAMMER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: It has to have been enormous for him, because for Michael Jackson, every new step in his career, every time he tried to stage a comeback, if you will, it was a situation where he knew he had to do everything it took to win back the adoration of people who may have signed off being his fan and to also win some new fans.

I want to add to what Ted Rowlands was saying. When we spoke with the head of the company that was promoting these London shows that Michael Jackson has been preparing for and he shot down the rumors of Michael having any health problems, he also said that the 50-year-old pop star had to pass a stringent physical exam before the company, AEG, would ink their deal with Jackson to headline this 50- show residency in London beginning on July 8.

And the head of the company added that Michael was going to have to take another before the shows start. That's really the best at this time that we can offer as to any insight, Wolf, into what his current physical state may have been.

But, in fact, and this is back in May when we spoke to the head of AEG, he was telling us, Michael had taken and passed with flying colors a physical exam and was set to do it again.

BLITZER: Yes, interesting. All right, A.J., stand by.

Jim Moret is still with us as well, the former CNN anchor who has covered Michael Jackson for a long, long time.

As we watch this story unfold right now, the breaking news, he is at UCLA Medical Center, Jim, give us some perspective on "Thriller," because that album alone and the video that all of us remember so vividly, it was really historic.

JIM MORET, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, "INSIDE EDITION": It was a seminal moment, frankly. The reports, I have read anywhere between 47 million and 109 million units sold. It was huge.

It was produced by Quincy Jones. It was -- it defined a generation of music and the MTV generation. Michael Jackson pioneered music videos in a way that we hadn't seen before with -- attacking them like you would a feature film.

And his music and his talent reached an apex, I think, with that album that he frankly had never been able to meet since. I really want to also bring up a point that Jeff Toobin brought up a few minutes ago, because Jeff and I and Ted as well, we were all covering this trial up in Santa Maria a few years back.

And Jeff made a point that he looked rather sickly, Michael Jackson. And the way you would really describe Michael Jackson was frail. That would be a word that would often be used to describe him, because it looked like if you blew hard, he would fall over.

He really looked in many ways like a thin old man, not the vibrant pop star that defined this genre of music. And that really was the tragedy of Michael Jackson, not the enormity of his talent, but the fact that this talent was juxtaposed with this -- this tragic figure that was beset with all of these legal and money problems and his health problems as well.

BLITZER: Hard to believe it was 1982 that "Thriller" was released and within only a few months became platinum and then the biggest selling album of all times by far.

Let's get back to Jessica Yellin, because she has covered Michael Jackson out in California for a while.

Jessica, the word frail, you certainly brought that up before. It's absolutely true. Anyone who saw him in person saw how skinny he was and how frail he appeared to be, but he exploded on stage.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was a remarkable contrast. It is true, Wolf, that he was so electric and alive the way he danced and moved on stage.

But -- and it was something that I didn't realize how frail he was until I was literally standing next to him shaking his hand, talking to him. And you feel like you could truly hurt him by just shaking his hand. He had -- his skin was almost papery, as I recall it.

He wore a kind of makeup that you use for burn victims. It's very heavy, very thick. It looks like there's a stage mask on. One of his complaints, as we have reported, is that he suffered from something called vitiligo, a skin condition.

And his entire appearance, even his clothing hung on him the time I saw him. It was pilly, like old clothing that someone had warn many times. And there was just this sense of droopiness to him almost, which was in such contrast to how he was on stage.

But his family just hated it when people talked about his ailments, his conditions. You will remember that time he came to court in pajamas because he said he had a bad back and he was late to court. He infuriated the judge and finally wheeled in, in pajamas.

So, there were constant episodes he had and always a different story about what he was suffering from. But he did admit in public that he had many struggles with some painkillers and with various conditions that he didn't want to get into, but enormous secrecy surrounding him. His family insisted on that secrecy. And he seems like he was inside this bubble that he couldn't escape from.

BLITZER: I want to go back to Ted Rowlands, Jessica, because he is getting some more information. He is in L.A.

What are you picking up, Ted?

ROWLANDS: Well, Wolf, as Jessica has talked about family, we just talked to Brian Oxman. He is the family attorney for the Jacksons.

And he says that, according to Randy Jackson, Michael Jackson's brother, Michael Jackson collapsed in his home in West Los Angeles this morning. And they called paramedics. He says that the family is either at UCLA Medical Center or en route to UCLA Medical Center.

He says, Randy, LaToya, Jermaine, Jackie and Tito all either there or will be there soon. And Joe Jackson, Michael Jackson's father, is also -- has been alerted and he is on his way to Los Angeles from Las Vegas.

But a little bit more -- more information, in that Michael Jackson wasn't found necessarily in this state, but according to Brian Oxman, through Randy Jackson, his brother, actually collapsed in the home. And that is when 911 was called.

BLITZER: And so we are constantly getting some new information from at least some sources close to the Jackson family.

This is a story that's developing right now.

Let me just update our viewers who may just be tuning in. Just a little while ago, we got word that Michael Jackson, the pop singer, was rushed from his home in Los Angeles to UCLA Medical Center, where, apparently, at least according to our local affiliates, he suffered from cardiac arrest, was treated by paramedics on the way to the hospital. Then he was rushed inside the emergency room.

That's the latest we have from inside there.

Kara Finnstrom is joining us right now. She is outside the Jackson home in Los Angeles.

Kara, is that right?

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

Well, this is a home he had been renting. You can see it behind us here. There are helicopters circling overhead. There are lots of news media out here. This is an area where there are a lot of multimillion-dollar homes. He was renting a home in this area while he was preparing for those upcoming concerts in London.

We did speak with a tour bus driver a short while ago. Those Hollywood star tours regularly circle around the area. And she said a little earlier today, she saw all the commotion here. She saw the paramedics. She saw the fire crews. She did not see Michael Jackson herself.

But since then, these tours have been circling around. And, Wolf, Michael Jackson has a following very similar to the Grateful Dead. And from what we understand, ever since he has moved to this home and been renting it, those fans have been hanging around outside, so lots of tour buses going around, lots of folks trying to get information about how he is doing.

We can also tell you that just about two-and-a-half miles away from here is the Los Angeles hospital where he was taken. That's about a six-minute drive that paramedics had to contend with. Well, we are told they were continuing to perform CPR to try and resuscitate him -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to check back with you and get more information. Kara Finnstrom is outside the home, the Michael Jackson home in Los Angeles.

Just a little while ago, he was rushed from that home by paramedics to the UCLA Medical Center.

Hilary Rosen, our CNN contributor, is joining us on the phone right now.

Hilary, you used to head the Recording Industry Association of America. And I assume, over the years, did you ever meet Michael Jackson?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I did. I met him several times.

He was extremely shy personally, but quite sure of himself in the music world and very particular obviously about how he was presented and what his image was and his artistry. And he was a fanatic. I mean, one of the reasons that his career slowed in the later years was because he would take two, three, four years to finish an album, because he was constantly revising, constantly perfecting.

He was a legendary in the music business for his fanaticism about his art. BLITZER: So, he must have put enormous pressure on himself, especially now, as he was gearing up for a new world tour.

ROSEN: Well, and, of course, you know that following up being the best-selling artist of all time is quite an amount of pressure.

That album "Thriller" of course from 1982 sold more albums than any other single recording artist ever sold worldwide. And he never, of course, achieved that again, although he had lots of other hits. And they were constantly in the position, I think, of trying to make up for sort of the next -- the next big hit.

BLITZER: And that's what he was trying to do right now, gearing up, especially after that personal setback, an enormous setback back in 2005, when he went through that long trial and he eventually was acquitted, found not guilty of the child molestation and related charges.

What year is it did you actually get to meet with him? When did you know him?

ROSEN: Actually, later in his career, in the -- in the '90s.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: That's when you were working for the Recording Industry Association?

ROSEN: Yes, and it was after his biggest hits, although he was still riding on those hits, obviously. And in the '90s was really when he excelled as a businessman.

People don't always realize that the entire time he was going through all those personal problems, he was a very aggressive businessman. He bought the Beatles music publishing catalogue. He developed a partnership with Sony Music. And, later in his life, that's really where he made most of his money, was from his publishing, not from his recordings.

BLITZER: Because, in recent years, there was speculation that maybe he was having serious financial problems. You, I'm sure, had heard that?

ROSEN: Well, it wasn't speculation.

He had very -- he was a ridiculously a noteworthy spendthrift. He traveled with huge costs and lived a very grandiose lifestyle. And when the money didn't keep coming in, as it frequently doesn't for successful artists, he continued to spend and got himself very deeply in debt, which is why every comeback he looked to ended up having to be a bigger and bigger comeback, with greater and greater consequences, because he kept needing more money to sustain the lifestyle.

He eventually sold half of his publishing company to raise cash a few years ago. And the other half of it, I believe, is still in hock to banks all over the world.

BLITZER: Yes. But, presumably, he would have made a lot of money during this next world tour that he was preparing for and working hard to get ready.

ROSEN: That's right.

BLITZER: Hilary, I'm going to have you stand by.

If Jim Moret is still on the line with us -- Jim are you still with us.

MORET: Yes, I am still here, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, three children. He has three children, one from -- two -- from an anonymous surrogate, Prince Michael II, and two kids, Paris Michael Katherine Prince Michael Jr., from his first wife, Debbie Rowe.

Does he still have custody of these three kids, do you know?

(CROSSTALK)

MORET: Yes, as far as I know, he does.

With Debbie Rowe, the deal, if you will, was that she would be paid, that she would step out of the children's lives, and that they would be with him.

But you talk about -- your last guest talked about Michael Jackson's spending habits. A couple of months ago, there was scheduled here in Los Angeles an auction of all of the belongings, all of furnishings at Neverland. And that was ultimately canceled because Michael Jackson changed his mind.

But I did have an opportunity to go through and see this extensive collection. You cannot even imagine the millions of dollars that Michael Jackson would spend. And when you were addressing just a few minutes ago the amount he might have made again on tour, you also have to put in perspective he was constantly chasing his tail in recent years with respect to his finances, that he would have to make millions upon millions of dollars just to sustain his lifestyle. And he was spending more than he was bringing in.

And when you talk about this album "Thriller" and you look at the songs, "Billie Jean," "Beat It," "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'," for 80 weeks, this album was on the Billboard Top 10, for 80 weeks. And he never again was able to realize that success.

And even though he has had other successes, I think, in his mind, he often looked at himself as a failure, in that he couldn't attain what he had achieved in 1982 with "Thriller."

And it's a very difficult mark to reach again and again. But with respect to his kids, it's my understanding he had and retained full custody of his three children. BLITZER: Three children. I think one is -- the youngest is Prince Michael II, either 6 or 7 years old. The second youngest, Paris Michael Katherine, is 11. And Prince Michael Jr. is 12 years old.

Alan Duke of CNN is over at the UCLA Medical Center.

Alan, tell our viewers where you are and what you are seeing and hearing.

ALAN DUKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I am inside the hospital, Wolf, and just looking at the entrance to the emergency room.

And they have got it closed off. In fact, hospital employees, even with their I.D.s, cannot pass beyond a certain point to get close into the emergency room. Occasionally, you will see someone allowed inside through the front door, people who are somewhat familiar to the people who cover the Jackson entourage.

Out in front of the emergency room door is a familiar Cadillac, dark Cadillac Escalade that you have probably seen in paparazzi video of Michael Jackson being chauffeured.

There's a woman leaning up against it just crying right now. I don't believe she is related to Michael, but she is certainly in great grief. They are not saying anything here at the hospital. In fact, many of the hospital employees don't know or at least didn't know what was going on up until very recently.

And they are wandering around wanting to know why they can't get past a certain point. As you might imagine, news -- news people all around, the helicopters flying over -- it is quite a scene here at UCLA Medical Center.

BLITZER: The -- our affiliate KTLA, Alan, is reporting that family members have been called and told to come over to the hospital. And some family members already are at the UCLA Medical Center right now.

Jackson's mother, Katherine, arrived at UCLA Hospital around 2:30 Pacific time, which would be 5:30 p.m. Eastern time, that according to this report from KTLA.

Alan, when you get some more information at the hospital from a spokesperson there, you will let us know what they are saying about his condition.

It is widely reported he was rushed to UCLA Medical Center, suffering from cardiac arrest, clearly a very, very serious condition right now.

Let's continue our coverage with Ted Rowlands. He is in Los Angeles watching all of this unfold.

And I just want to remind our viewers, Ted, that you covered the trial back in 2005 when he was acquitted, found not guilty of all, all charges of child molestation.

Ted Rowlands is going to be joining us shortly. We are going to get back to him in a little while.

Jeff Toobin, are you still on the phone with us?

Unfortunately, he is not.

But Elizabeth Cohen is joining us, our medical correspondent, who can update us a little bit on cardiac arrest and how serious of a condition this could be, especially for someone as frail as Michael Jackson.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, exactly, Wolf.

Cardiac arrest is an extremely serious condition. It is not a heart attack. People sometimes get confused. When someone has a heart attack, they still have some heart function. Cardiac arrest means a complete loss of heart function.

Now, I just got off the phone with a cardiologist.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: You know, I am going to just interrupt you for a second, Elizabeth, because CNN sources are now saying, multiple sources, that Michael Jackson is in a coma at UCLA Medical Center, suffered from cardiac arrest, and is now in a coma at the UCLA Medical Center.

Elizabeth, tell our viewers who may not be familiar with a coma, what precisely this means? A coma means that he has very, very minimal brain function at this time.

And what happens is that, in cardiac arrest, if someone does not get help within minutes, like I mean really ideally within three to five minutes, they will and they often do -- sort of the norm, if you will, is to lose brain function.

So, it would not be surprising, if Mr. Jackson did not get help within minutes, for him to actually suffer brain damage, such as a coma.

BLITZER: Because, as we are saying, sources familiar with his condition, Elizabeth, are telling us he is in a coma right now.

I assume that if someone suffers from cardiac arrest and doesn't get the proper treatment immediately, literally within a matter of a few minutes, that next stage presumably would be a coma?

COHEN: That is -- that's often is what happens; that's right, Wolf, because the heart stops functioning. So, it is not getting oxygen to the brain. It is not getting the oxygen that the brain needs. And I -- I want to say something also, because I have sort of heard people around me saying, wow, only 50 years old, how young. And I was just talking to a cardiologist who said, actually, this is not that young. For men, this is not that young. It is not uncommon for this to happen, and particularly with African-American men. Unfortunately, rates of cardiac diseases like this are more -- are more common for African-American men this age than for white men or for women.

BLITZER: We see a crowd that is developing outside UCLA Medical Center right now, as word spreads around Los Angeles that Michael Jackson is in the hospital suffering from cardiac arrest.

And we have now been told by sources familiar with his condition that he is in a coma right now.

Elizabeth, people come out of comas, though, right?

COHEN: You know, they do sometimes.

But I would say, Wolf, that it is pretty unusual for someone to come out of a coma. Also, considering -- you have to consider what the coma is caused by. A coma that is caused by cardiac arrest means that it was caused by a loss of heart function. That is very serious.

It means that the heart had stopped working for a period of time. We don't know how long. And of course that's the key is, how long had he suffered a loss of heart function?

BLITZER: Stand by, Elizabeth. I am going to get back to you.

But I want to bring back Jim Moret right now. He has been covering Michael Jackson for many years going back to his days as an anchor here on CNN.

This latest information that we are getting, Jim, that he is in a coma does not bode well.

MORET: It doesn't. It's extremely disheartening. And we are watching this situation evolve in front of our eyes. And it's -- this latest news is frankly very troubling and doesn't bode well.

BLITZER: The whole notion of Michael Jackson in a coma, especially for all of us who literally grew up watching him perform, and he started performing when he was only 5 years old, and when he was 10, he was a star, part of the Jackson 5 -- he has been part of all of our lives for so many years.

It's just so hard to even think of this possibility, that Michael Jackson suffered cardiac arrest and is now in a coma, literally struggling for his life.

MORET: Well, and, Wolf, you look at the aerials that you are showing on air, and you see the number of people that have already gathered outside the hospital. If that isn't testament to the star power of Michael Jackson, I don't know what is. I can tell you that at the trial up in Santa Barbara County, there was a crowd every single day for the four months of that trial.

And I'm looking at your -- your aerials right now. And you can see the throng of people, the crowd of people gathered outside just waiting for word to hear about Michael Jackson's condition. And to hear that he is in a coma is very disconcerting at this point.

BLITZER: And you were telling us just a little while ago, Jim, that his three kids, age 6, 11, and 12, are still within -- in his custody and presumably were with him in Los Angeles.

MORET: That -- as far -- I have not heard anything otherwise. It was always -- what we had heard, it was always his intention to keep and retain custody of those children.

They were obviously very important to him and that he was legally their father, their guardian and they were with him. I don't know if they were with him in Los Angeles today, but, presumably, they were.

BLITZER: And we are just getting this in right now. And it's very, very sad news, Jim Moret and to all of our viewers.

Both "The Los Angeles Times" and CBS News are both now reporting that Michael Jackson has died. CNN has not confirmed that. But "The L.A. Times" and CBS News are reporting that Michael Jackson, 50 years old, the king of pop, has died, a very, very sad moment, Jim Moret, shocking to think about it.

It was only, what, an hour or so ago that we began to hear word that he was rushed to a hospital, and now these two news organizations reporting that he is dead.

MORET: I was thinking back to -- just to what Jeff Toobin said 30, 40 minutes ago, that this is extremely sad news, not altogether shocking, given the way Michael Jackson looked in the last few years.

But, obviously, it is a stunning -- a stunning development, on this day where we have already suffered the loss of Farrah Fawcett. That was expected, because she has been ill for some time. This -- this clearly is really out of the blue.

Even though Jackson looked frail to many people, he was embarking and planning to embark on this worldwide comeback tour. It was always his dream to come back bigger than he was. Whether that was possible or not, we will unfortunately never know.

But Michael Jackson is an enormous international superstar. And to think that he has gone now is -- is -- is stunning.

BLITZER: It's a shocking, shocking development.

We woke up this morning knowing that Farrah Fawcett, as you point out, was in critical condition. But now to hear that Michael Jackson, at least according to "The Los Angeles Times" and CBS News, has died is truly a shocking moment for all of us who have watched this man perform for so many years and watched his performance going back to the Jackson 5, when he was a little boy.

Once again, "The Los Angeles Times" now reporting that Michael Jackson has died at UCLA Medical Center, where he was rushed, just a little while ago, apparently suffering from cardiac arrest. Paramedics got to the hospital, brought him there, and tried to deal with it, but apparently not enough for Michael Jackson, "The Los Angeles Times" saying he has now died.

We have not -- we have not -- we have not confirmed that independently here at CNN, but we're working to confirmation that, but "The Los Angeles Times" saying he has died.

Kara Finnstrom is joining us. She's outside the Michael Jackson home in Los Angeles.

You have heard this very, very sad news, Kara.

FINNSTROM: Yes.

Folks are starting to gather here, Wolf, outside of his home. There is a small crowd just down the street. I don't know if Gabe (ph) can get his camera focused over there, but the police have actually blocked off both sides of the street, so that the tour buses can no longer go in front.

People starting to come up here, trying to get whatever information they can, Wolf. This is a home that he was renting as he was preparing for this big set of concert tours that he has coming up.

He was staying here. We understand paramedics came here this morning, rushed him to the hospital, and that that's about a six- minute drive from here. Now, we also were told by some of the tour bus drivers who come by here all the time that they saw all the commotion this morning.

They say, normally, outside of his home, there are about a half- dozen vans of his die-hard fans, people who actually live out here in their vans, because they want to be close to this pop superstar. All of those people have moved over to the hospital, Wolf, we understand, because they want to be closer to where he is. They want to get the latest information from there.

But, here where we are, the crowds have -- people have started up the streets, again, this area blocked off somewhat by police. But they have started walking up, trying to get whatever information they can.

BLITZER: And let me just recap for our viewers who may be just joining us at the bottom of the hour right now here in the United States and around the world. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We following a very, very sad story. CNN has confirmed from sources familiar with the situation that Michael Jackson is in a coma. But "The Los Angeles Times" is now reporting that he has -- has died.

CNN has not confirmed that he has died, but "The L.A. Times" says he has died. We have heard that he is in a coma right now. He was rushed to UCLA Medical Center from his home in Los Angeles suffering from cardiac arrest.

And, as our medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, was telling us, if you don't get treatment literally within a matter of a few minutes from cardiac -- of cardiac arrest, it is not good, and it is going to end up with death.

Jessica Yellin is watching this. She has covered Michael Jackson over the years out in Los Angeles and California.

Jessica, just to recap, "The L.A. Times" says he is dead. We have confirmed he is in a coma. We are working to confirm his death. But it is such a sad development. Obviously, people around the world are going to be mourning the superstar.

YELLIN: And, you know, I think, Wolf, of the times I have visited Neverland Ranch when I covered him, I was constantly there. There was never a time you'd go to his ranch where there weren't crowds outside.

For some of us, he was a part of our childhood. He was a piece of our memory of socializing.

But for so many people, he was like their Princess Diana. It's that that iconic adoration they have of him. And if he has truly passed, there will be such an outpouring of flowers and devotion around the UCLA Medical Center.

And it is also devastating to think, for his family, all those people who are in the public eye, as -- all their squabbling and all of their constant news items, gossip that they put out about each other, they all did center around Michael. He was sort of the center of that Jackson clan. And this will be absolutely devastating for that Jackson family who we've all grown up with, if, in fact, they've lost the center -- the man who they all really lived for -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He was the seventh of nine children, born in Indiana and eventually -- Gary, Indiana -- and eventually moving, as a little boy, to Los Angeles with his family at the age of 10. He was already performing with The Jackson 5.

You know what, I want to listen to some -- some of The Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson right now.

(MUSIC)

BLITZER: "I Want You Back," The Jackson 5 -- little Michael Jackson performing -- a superstar even at the age of 10. Wow!

I want to go to our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Cardiac arrest, a coma -- "The L.A. Times" now saying he's dead -- Sanjay, give us a little medical perspective on this 50-year- old.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it sounds like -- a sudden cardiac arrest is something that should be distinguished from a heart attack, which is, I think, the first thing most people think of when you hear a story like this. A sudden cardiac arrest indicates that there may have been some sort of problem with the heart where the electrical rhythm was not beating properly. Something happened, probably along those lines. That's typically what they mean with a sudden cardiac arrest.

What happens, Wolf, is that heart is simply not able to pump blood effectively to the rest of the body, including the brain. And after a period of time -- and it can vary between six to 10 minutes, around there -- the brain is not getting enough blood flow. It -- it just stops functioning and neurons -- those cells that are important in the brain -- just -- just don't work anymore and that's what causes the coma.

So sudden cardiac arrest that's persistent for six, 10 minutes, this is sort of a natural sequence of things that happens -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And coming out of a coma following cardiac arrest, is that -- is that even possible?

GUPTA: Well, yes. You know, it is possible, depending on how long the arrest took place and, also, how much of the coma is, in fact, caused by the arrest versus medical attention someone might be receiving.

So, for example, after a cardiac arrest, someone might be in the hospital. They were able to get the heart started again, but now have the patient on lots of sedatives -- medication to sort of keep them asleep. So it can be sort of a mixture of both a coma due to the arrest, as well as a coma due to medications.

And -- and people -- people do come out of those sort of things. It really is very dependant on timing -- how long was -- was he actually in full -- on cardiac arrest.

BLITZER: Sanjay, a 50-year-old; very, very thin; obviously, someone preparing for the next step in his career, a world tour; are those the symptoms, basically, for someone to suffer from cardiac arrest?

Normally, you think of cardiac arrest, you think of an older person and you think of somebody who's overweight, a smoker or whatever.

GUPTA: Yes, you bring up a couple of good points. First of all, his -- being thin is not necessarily an indication of overall health. Some people can be very thin and have terrible overall health. And vice versa, some people may not be as thin but actually have pretty good numbers when it comes to their cardiac health.

As far as age, keep in mind, Wolf, you know, sudden cardiac arrest really is different than a heart attack. When you think of heart attack, you think of the blood vessels that lead to the heart over time have become increasingly clogged. And when they get to the point where they're simply not allowing blood to be, you know, flowing to the heart anymore, it can cause a heart attack. And you're right, that is a little bit of an older group of patients.

But with sudden cardiac arrest, Wolf -- in fact, he's right in the -- in the age zone where you -- where you do see this sort of thing. In fact, 45 to 55, sudden cardiac arrest is a -- is a somewhat typical age range.

But, again, that -- that's different than a heart attack and I just, you know, want to emphasize that point.

BLITZER: Are there signs, symptoms that people should be aware of that they potentially could suffer from cardiac arrest or is this always just a total surprise?

GUPTA: It's a great question. Some people do have some what are known as arrhythmias earlier on. So they -- some may feel flutters in their chest, which can be very common and not at all dangerous.

But if they get that checked out and they, in fact, have a type of heart rhythm that is more problematic, sometimes people need to be on medications to control that -- the proper electrical beating of the heart. And that can sometimes be done with medications.

Sometimes people will be in a persistent abnormal rhythm and, in fact, they have to have cardioversion, where they actually put electricity paddles on the chest and give the heart a little shock to shock is back into a normal rhythm.

But -- but, you know, it's hard to know. You know, a lot of people may have a sudden cardiac arrest that sort of just comes completely out of the blue and they had no indication, no family history, never any symptoms of it prior to that.

BLITZER: And you're saying that if somebody suffers from cardiac arrest, the most important thing is to get one of those machines -- the defibrillators -- right there on the scene and do that pump, is that right?

GUPTA: Yes. You know, that's a great point. You know, shocking someone's heart back into a normal rhythm is the probably the most important thing that can be done. It's not always possible. You know, you may not be in a place where you have defibrillators. But there's been a lot of emphasis, Wolf, as you know, to put these defibrillators in public places, at least, so if someone witnesses a cardiac arrest, a pretty -- it's a pretty easy thing to do, to go ahead and deliver a shock to the heart.

BLITZER: Yes.

GUPTA: Pumping...

BLITZER: Remember a year ago, Sanjay -- you'll remember -- Tim Russert... GUPTA: That's right.

BLITZER: ...the host of "Meet The Press," he suffered from cardiac arrest. And at the time, there was a lot of speculation if there would have been one of those defibrillators there right on the scene, maybe he would have survived.

GUPTA: That's right. And it's probably the single most important thing to -- to sort of restore a normal electrical rhythm to the heart and to start letting the heart do the work that it's supposed to do -- you know, pump blood through the body.

Short of that, to your other point, Wolf, you can start pumping on the chest. And there's been some -- some new data sort of on simply pumping on someone's chest, doing it as fast and, really, as hard as you can -- 200 -- 200 times even within a -- within minute -- can really let the blood that's still in the body that still has oxygen in it flow through the rest of the body. And then that's been something that a lot of people are teaching, as well, as part of CPR.

So -- but, you know, obviously, a lot of this is just retrospective and no one knows, I guess, how long he had actually been -- been down before he was -- before paramedics got there.

BLITZER: And I just want to recap for our viewers, the "Los Angeles Times" is reporting that Michael Jackson has died from cardiac arrest.

CNN has not confirmed that. We have confirmed from sources familiar with his condition that he is in a coma right now. We're working to confirm all the latest information and we'll bring it to you.

But people all over the world are beginning to hear of these reports and his fans are legendary and they're beginning to mourn. That is obvious.

Let me play another little clip from the "Thriller" album. "Billie Jean," one of the most popular songs of all time.

(MUSIC)

BLITZER: The music video of "Billie Jean" from the "Thriller" album -- the greatest selling album ever -- ever. Michael Jackson performing "Billie Jean." That album came out in 1982.

I want to bring in David Caplan of "People" magazine, our sister publication.

David, you know, all of us grew up with Michael Jackson. It's hard to believe the "Los Angeles Times" now reporting he's dead.

DAVID CAPLAN, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: Yes, absolutely. This is definitely -- this is a shock. There's really no words to describe it, especially given today. He has been so iconic. He is, you know, a music legend. And, you know, the irony, if you can really even say that in this situation, is that it was just a matter of weeks that he was going to kick off this concert series in London that, for months, had been buzzed about, everyone was talking about it.

And, you know, and there were rumors leading up to it being whether or not, well, will Michael be able to pull it off, can he do all those concerts?

And then this happened. So it's just -- you know, it's just stunning. It's something almost out of a TV movie.

BLITZER: Take a look at this picture, David, if you can see it.

CAPLAN: Yes.

BLITZER: This is outside the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. People are just coming there. They've heard over the past hour, hour- and-a-half or so, that Michael Jackson was rushed to UCLA Medical Center and suffering from cardiac arrest. And they're just coming to pay their respects, to pay their tribute.

His fans, as I've been pointing out to our viewers in the United States and his fans around the world, they are, indeed, legendary. And you know that, David.

CAPLAN: Yes. Absolutely. I mean the fact that so many of his fans were able to mobilize so quickly when this news spread shows that his relevance remains strong after, you know, so many years. You know, he's been a little bit -- you know, a little -- not had a huge profile.

But it's incredible. These fans, they love him. They adore him. These fans are beyond emotional that right now that this is happening. And it's just -- it's, you know, you can't say that for many singers and musicians. There are very few people out there who manage to have that longevity in the music world, particularly among their fans.

BLITZER: Stand by, David.

I'll get back to you.

I want to stay in New York, though.

Richard Roth is at Times Square right now, where word is spreading rapidly that Michael Jackson is dead.

What are you hearing from folks there in Times Square -- Richard?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the crossroads of the world in Times Square. Michael Jackson was, of course, one of the most famous entertainers of the 20th century in the world.

With us are some people who were aware of problems going on with Michael Jackson.

Patrick works at the Times Square ticket booth behind us. What's your reaction about hearing Michael Jackson rushed to the hospital, all kinds of reports.

PATRICK: I think it's scary. I mean he's the king of pop. And when you hear about people like Ed McMahon going and then I heard recently that Farrah Fawcett just went, it's kind of scary. You know, I mean, he's such an icon and such a great man that I grew up -- with his music.

ROTH: What kind of songs -- what did you like in particular?

Any moments you remember in his vast entertainment career?

PATRICK: Oh my gosh. I remember when he was a little kid with The Jackson 5 and then doing "The Wiz," singing "Billie Jean," the "Thriller" album, one of the best albums ever, soon to be a major musical.

He was just an icon -- a legend. You know, I mean, he went through such hard times with the law and it was just all, you know, just ridiculous.

But he was a great man and one of our best entertainers of my generation.

ROTH: Did you ever moon walk in front of a mirror practicing?

PATRICK: Of course I do. I do it at the booth right now.

ROTH: Oh, really?

Well, there's a big line there.

Stand by.

We have another gentlemen, a younger man. You're a journalist. You're a Michael Jackson fan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

ROTH: What is it that you liked so much about this man, who's had a very colorful, troubled highs and lows in his career?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Well, I think like, you know, my generation and myself, I didn't grow up listening to Michael Jackson sort of in the way that my mom did and my dad did. But there isn't anyone I know -- not any one of my friends -- who doesn't realize that basically everything started with either him or John Lennon. You know, he's up there with that.

And I -- when I heard the news just now, I went and called each of my friends from high school because I felt so affected by it.

ROTH: Yes, we found you on the phone, in fact, calling.

Thank you very much. So there's obviously a lot of concern here with the different reports on Michael Jackson's fate -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Richard, we're going to continue to watch these reports coming out of Los Angeles that Michael Jackson the king of pop, is dead.

As we do and as we're getting more information, I want to play another clip from one of his most successful songs.

Watch this video -- "Beat It."

(MUSIC)

BLITZER: What a success. What a -- what hit, "Beat It," Michael Jackson performing that video. The "Thriller" album the most successful of all time.

Look at these crowds that are developing outside UCLA Medical Center right now, as word begins to spread that Michael Jackson is dead. The "Los Angeles Times" reporting that right now.

I want to bring in our CNN contributor, Donna Brazile -- Donna, like all of us, we grew up listening and watching The Jackson 5. And Michael Jackson brings back a lot of memories.

What's going through your -- your heart right now, Donna?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Very sad, Wolf. Michael Jackson was a genius. He was a humanitarian. He occupied a large space.

I remember as a little girl watching him. He -- the Jackson 5 was about hope, about love. My sisters and brothers and I would often say, well, who will be like Michael?

Who will marry Michael and Jermaine and Tito and Randy and Jackie?

So I'm thinking about Michael Jackson's family. He has an amazing family -- his parents. I met him several times. He was always shy, was sort of reluctant to take the spotlight. But he was a very soft and gentle human being who had a wonderful touch and cared about everybody.

And even during his most controversial moments, Michael always wanted people to come together. His -- he embodied love. He embodied it in his music, but also in his presence, not just as the king of pop, but someone who had a real soul for humanity.

BLITZER: Did you ever have a chance to meet him, Donna?

BRAZILE: Absolutely. Wolf, that was one of the greatest honors. I met him as a teenager. I saved money one summer. My mother had put aside money for us to go to Houston to see the Astros game. And I said, but I want to see Michael.

And my older sister, Cheryl and I, we went to The Jackson 5 concert.

And when I was working in the Clinton/Gore campaign, as you know, he came to Washington, D.C. to perform during the presidential inaugural. And Quincy Jones introduced me to Michael Jackson. I could have fainted, but I was a little older then.

But I love Michael Jackson. I have all his music. And, you know, I learned how to dance watching Michael Jackson, especially when he would appear on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

So Michael Jackson, God bless his soul. I just hope that people understand that this was a real human being who cared deeply for humanity.

BLITZER: An enormous talent.

Kara Finnstrom is out there at the home. We're seeing motorcycles and activity outside the Michael Jackson home -- Kara, tell our viewers what we're seeing.

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we have just watched this group of police officers pull up. And I think they're actually securing off the area.

If I can pull up a little bit -- sir, are you just securing off the area right here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We haven't been given our assignments yet.

FINNSTROM: OK.

They have closed off this road. You just heard him say they haven't been given their assignment yet. But they have closed off the road, trying to hold traffic back.

Definitely not seeing the crowd here that's been reported at the hospital where Michael Jackson was taken. But this is his home. This is in the Bel Air area. This is where he was staying and where he was rushed by paramedics -- from where he was rushed by paramedics to the hospital this morning.

Now, some people from the neighborhood have started to wander up. These two women joined us just a few moments ago. And you -- you live just a few blocks from here. You're hearing the reports from the "Los Angeles Times" that Michael Jackson has died. And you say you are big fans.

Tell us a little bit about your thoughts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I think it's just not really real right now. You know, we -- we're just -- we just came over here hoping that he was still in a coma. And, you know, it's -- it's just kind of -- I mean we're huge fans. We listen to him. We drive by here every day. Every day we're like, oh, maybe we should stop by and see if we can see him. I've seen him once and it's just like you never really think that something like this would happen, you know. FINNSTROM: And I know you said you kind of grew up listening to Michael Jackson's songs. So, for you, this is surreal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. This is very shocking. You know, I was a big fan. You know, I still listen to his music, you know, warming up for a game. And it's just -- it's so unreal right now. You know, I can't imagine that this would have happened.

FINNSTROM: Well, we thank you for joining us -- Wolf, a lot of people coming up here with cameras, their phones, taking pictures. Obviously, there's a pop icon -- a huge pop star. And a lot of people, you know, just -- just wanting to capture the moment and find out what they can.

But I can tell you, also, that there are usually about half a dozen vans that are parked outside of the Bel Air home. They are his ardent fans that follow him wherever he goes. And we understand that that group of fans, as well as many others, have moved over to the hospital where he was taken earlier today.

BLITZER: He would have been 51 years old, Kara, on August 29th.

Let's go to the hospital.

CNN's Alan Duke is over there.

The crowds are getting bigger and bigger as word spreads -- Alan, the "Los Angeles Times" reporting that Michael Jackson has died.

ALAN DUKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's -- they're moving us further and further back here from the emergency room, where I've been for the last, I guess, hour-and-a-half or more. And so we can't see nearly as much as we could just a few minutes ago.

But the number of fans crowding around the entrance to the emergency room has grown. The music of Michael Jackson is in the air. There's a fraternity -- a UCLA fraternity house just across the street from the emergency room entrance. And their balcony is filled with students. And they've got the speakers out and they're playing Michael Jackson's music in honor of Michael.

I'm looking at a couple of very familiar vehicles. These are Cadillac Escalades, dark blue, that -- you know, I'm sure you've seen the video of Michael Jackson's entourage traveling around the Los Angeles area. They're parked out here. And occasionally you'll see people milling around, very sad, some of them wiping tears away.

But we've not really been able to see any of the family members of the Jackson clan here walking around. I've been told by one journalist here that he did see Latoya enter through another entrance. But we don't know that's for sure.

The security is getting tighter here at the hospital. They've -- they combed the hospital for journalists and that's why I'm no longer inside. But they promise that they will have some statement at some point. But according to the hospital publicist, the spokeswoman said that under HIPAA laws, they're not able, really, to say anything until they get permission of the family, which, at least a few minutes ago, they had not yet received. And so they can't tell us any details of what's going on inside with Michael Jackson -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I assume that will change fairly soon. Those crowds getting bigger and bigger as word spreads in Los Angeles; indeed, word spreads around the United States, around the world right now, that Michael Jackson has died, according to the "Los Angeles Times."

He suffered from cardiac arrest, was rushed to the UCLA Medical Center. Paramedics brought him there, tried to revive him. He was inside the hospital, we're told, went into coma -- went into a coma. And now the "L.A. Times" reporting that he's dead.

Let me play another popular song that he had. This is a video. I want to -- I want to -- I want to put it up there right now, "Black or White."

Listen and watch.

(MUSIC)

BLITZER: "Black and White," a very popular video. A lot of us remember that song. So many Michael Jackson songs that we remember, going back to his days as a little boy with The Jackson 5, when they moved from Indiana to Los Angeles, signed with Motown Records. And the world was never the same after that.

Hilary Rosen, you know that to be true because he did have a profound effect on the music industry. You used to head the Recording Industry Association of America.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: That's right, Wolf. And when you talk about a song "Black and White," Donna referenced this before, he was a very dedicated humanitarian. He was the author of "We Are the World," which was the, you know, iconic humanitarian song that started a whole wave of artists coming out in the USA for Africa. And Quincy Jones ultimately produced that star-studded music video and song.

But it was Michael who was the lyricist and wrote that song. And he wrote so many songs that challenged the status quo and challenged the politics, in many ways -- and personal politics. "Man in The Mirror" is another song that sticks out as somebody who -- talking about how you need to take a look at what you're doing and your place in the world.

BLITZER: Who could ever -- who could ever, Hilary, forget "We Are the World," which turned out to not only be one of the most successful videos and songs of all times, but had such a profound effect on so many good causes around the world?

ROSEN: It really, in many ways, kicked off a movement -- a renaissance. Obviously, in the '50s and '60s, recording artists were quite well-known for being out there in terms of causes and things like that. And then there was the anti-war movement.

It was kind of the first post-Vietnam War effort that recording artists made in a big way for a humanitarian cause. And I think, in many ways, it galvanized a whole series of activities against Darfur and against African relief and against Third World debt. And it was really a forerunner to what a lot of Bono was doing.

So it -- it kicked off a -- a huge movement.

BLITZER: He was really ahead of his time as far as that is concerned.

Hilary, stand by.

Jeffrey Toobin is with us, as well.

He covered -- he covered the trial out there.

You know, it's sort of tragic, Jeffrey, that so many good things that he did -- entertaining the entire world and doing these good causes -- was spoiled, to a large degree, by that trial, even though he was acquitted and found not guilty of a child molestation charge.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: And, Wolf, there was a lot of ugly testimony in that trial. That was certainly a very defensible verdict on the part of the jury, which acquitted him of the child molestation charges.

But there was abundant evidence in that trial that this was a grown man with an unhealthy relationship with young boys -- and not just one, repeatedly. And he settled one child molestation case for widely reported $10 million.

There were persistent allegations -- persistent -- comments by Jackson himself that he slept in the same bed with young boys.

And, unfortunately, that and, you know, that horrible moment in Berlin when he dangled his young son over the balcony -- you know, just as his incredible pop genius and just as his incredible humanitarian legacy is part of what we'll remember him for, this ugly side was also there, as well, I think.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, let's go back to "Thriller" -- the greatest -- the greatest selling album of all times.

I want to play this video clip from Michael Jackson's "Thriller."

(MUSIC)

BLITZER: Back in 1982, "Thriller," it really was revolutionary, especially for MTV. It established these videos as an art form for rock and roll. There's no doubt about that.

Bryan Monroe is joining us on the phone right now, of "Ebony" magazine.

Bryan, you did one of the last interviews with Michael Jackson, is that right?

BRYAN MONROE, "EBONY" MAGAZINE: Yes, Wolf, back in -- at the end of 2007, when I was the editorial director of "Ebony" magazine. We had the -- a sit down with him across three days. We did a photo shoot and then an interview where we talked about, ironically, the 25th anniversary of "Thriller." And they were doing a big commemoration of that project.

And so we got to spend some time with him and really could see how he was doing, at least at that time.

He was in good spirits -- very, very talkative. We were only supposed to have probably about 20 minutes in the interview and the interview lasted close to two hours. And, you know, he was talking about his creativity. And he talked a little bit about how he wanted to be remembered and that his music was his only shot at immortality.

BLITZER: Did you get the sense he was healthy at that time, Bryan?

MONROE: Well, he seemed to be energetic. He was -- you know, he was a small framed man. He was just about to turn 50 at the time and was thin, but energetic. You know, he had a good spirit about him and was very, very talkative.

BLITZER: Give us some insight into -- into Michael Jackson, because you spent some quality time with him.

MONROE: You know, he was -- it was interesting. We spent the first day -- we did the shoot in New York and did the first day at the Brooklyn Museum. And during the photo shoot, we probably had five or six different sets we were working on. And he was very nice to everyone who was around him...

BLITZER: Bryan, let me -- let me interrupt you for a moment, because Deborah Feyerick is getting some -- some new video that's just coming in -- Deb, show our viewers what we're seeing here.

FEYERICK: Really, what we're seeing here, Wolf, is Michael Jackson being taken from his home in Holmby Hills in California, that was moments, really, after the paramedics tried to perform CPR and get him breathing again.

The firefighters who responded -- the chief said that, in fact, they administered extreme care to Michael Jackson.

Again, this is him being removed from his house about 12:30 Los Angeles time today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Deb.

Deborah Feyerick is joining us.

We're going to stay on top of this story.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT."

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