Jackson 'faking health problems'

JOHN CARLIN

Washington

Michael Jackson is in questionable shape. His personal physician said yesterday that he would remain in hospital over the weekend with suspected cardiac arrhythmia, a potentially life-threatening condition caused by an irregular heartbeat, after collapsing during a rehearsal in New York on Wednesday night.

But La Toya Jackson, the androgynous pop star's look-alike weird sister, said he was faking it. "I know all of Michael's little moves and his little schemes that he pulls when he thinks he needs attention. It's a publicity move," she said in a phone call to the New York Daily News.

A statement issued by Michael Jackson's doctor, who flew from California to attend to the emergency, said he was in a serious but stable condition and would "require several days of critical care, monitoring and treatment". Dr Allan Metzger said his patient was being treated for dehydration, gastroenteritis and irregularities in the heart, liver and kidneys, caused by an electrolytic imbalance.

La Toya's suggestion that the imbalance might lie closer to the brain was partly supported by reports that the King of Pop is suffering from an acute confidence crisis. He has not been on a concert tour since his marriage to Lisa-Marie Presley last year; at the MTV Video Music Awards in September he lip-synched to a recorded song, and brought along an audience of extras to cheer for him.

He was no less anxious about two concerts he was due to give this weekend at New York's Beacon Theatre. The show, which has now been indefinitely postponed, was to have been broadcast worldwide. Jackson, who insisted the broadcast should not be carried live, demonstrated his despair at the prospect of facing a disapproving audience by giving away the tickets free to members of his most ardent fan clubs instead of selling them to the public.

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