On Tuesday, the pop star's lawyers announced their intention to sue the Daily Mirror over its comments about the effects of his plastic surgery and the use of a portrait photograph. The Mirror said it was counter-suing over remarks by Jackson.
Several hundred had gathered in Hackney, east London, on the pavement outside Queen Elizabeth Hospital - 125 years old this month. Hundreds more were in the adjacent Haggerston Park, where Jackson's helicopter was due to touch down after its flight from Luton. One fan held up a banner reading 'Welcome back angel face'. Another was dressed exactly like his hero and seemed in encouragingly good shape. For them at least, the chance to see Jackson in the flesh ahead of his Wembley concert tonight was not to be sniffed at.
During the wait, the noise of passing aircraft was met with screams of anticipation, rising to delirium when his white helicopter clattered into view. As the blades slowed, aides opened rear doors. A large pair of black boots appeared and Mickey Mouse tumbled out. Minnie followed, then Michael in his black pseudo-military outfit. They paused on the grass, linking arms and bowing.
The reception party included representatives of the Hospitals for Sick Children Special Health Authority and a small knot of record company executives, all of whom were obliged to shake hands with Mickey and Minnie as well as Michael.
In the photographers' pen, and toting a particularly long lens, was the Daily Mirror photographer Ken Lennox, who took pictures at Jackson's Munich show. The singer's lawyers have won an injunction preventing further circulation of the disputed photograph. The visitors were hustled into a van and driven to the hospital entrance. Inside Jackson spent 15 minutes seeing young patients and signing autographs. Some expressed disappointment that the visit had been so short.
Sharon King, who works with children on the ward, said: 'We have been waiting here for hours for just a few seconds' worth of Michael Jackson. He said a couple of hellos and that was it. I don't think he knew what to say.'
Before Jackson left, a purple van with tinted portholes pulled up. A minder shouted 'Tell Michael to come out, keeping low'. And with that, the van nosed out into the traffic and was gone.
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