What are the odds against some goofball who lives 70 miles south of Hollywood and has no connection to show business having not one, but two separate one-degree-of-separation-from-Michael-Jackson interactions? And just to make it even stranger, both stories involve different doctors who cared for the King of Pop.
Those odds are pretty damn steep, I’d say. Which is what makes this story so damn unusual.
I had a good buddy who was a contractor. He was in the middle of building a home for me. One day I told him last week’s story about Michael Jackson and our receptionist.
“That’s crazy” he replied. ”In addition to your house, I’m also building a beachfront house for one of Michael Jackson’s doctors.”
That doctor was Arnie Klein, Michael Jackson’s long-time dermatologist. He was building a fabulous weekend beachfront estate in Laguna Beach, just a couple miles up the road from my far more humble new abode in Dana Point. (Although Laguna and Dana Point are only a couple miles apart geographically, they are worlds apart demographically. Laguna sits in one of the nation’s highest income zip codes, but Dana Point definitely doesn’t.)
How close were Arnie and Michael? Well, Arnie’s office manager was introduced to the world as Michael’s wife just about the time the first stories about Michael and little boys started to percolate. And rumors have always floated around that Arnie actually fathered Michael’s children via artificial insemination.
As the months passed and as both of our houses progressed, my buddy continued to tell me how incredible Arnie’s beachfront estate was turning out. ”You need to see it,” he kept saying, “And you need to meet Arnie.”
So he set up a tour. Arnie walked us through his stunning beachfront home. I’m pretty sure it’s only time I’ll ever seen a Rembrandt sketch hanging in a bathroom. He was a funny, charming, flamboyant guy so we all agreed to go to dinner at a great little Laguna Beach restaurant the following week.
“Make sure we’re seated next to each other,” I told my buddy.
There were probably ten people at the dinner. The contractor and his wife, Arnie and his significant other, me, and a handful of other people I have completely forgotten.
It was a great dinner. We all laughed. We chattered like we were longtime friends. He was quite the raconteur and told great stories about his experiences with well-known Hollywood celebrities. He was known as the Dermatologist of the Stars and the Father of Botox. Everyone who was anyone in Hollywood was one of Dr Klien’s patients. Elizabeth Taylor, Dolly Parton, Goldie Hawn, David Geffen, Dustin Hoffman, Linda Evans, Sharon Stone, Penny Marshall, and Carrie Fisher were among his devotees.
The conversation finally turned to Michael Jackson. Arnie told us that he’d once received a frantic phone call from Michael while he was on tour in Brazil.
“I’m having a skin emergency,” Michael wailed. ”I’ve already chartered a jet. You need to drop everything and fly to Rio de Janeiro to take care of me.”
”Did you go?” I asked.
”Of course, I went,” Arnie laughed. ”Do you know how much he pays me every year?”
I thought the ice had been broken and that Arnie had loosened up enough, so as dessert was being served I leaned over and said, “So, Arnie, I have a question about Michael Jackson.”
“What’s the question?”
“You’re his dermatologist. Are you the one bleaching his skin?”
”I can’t answer that,” he laughed. “Doctor-patient confidentiality.”
We’d enjoyed ourselves at dinner. We’d laughed. Everyone had had a couple glasses of wine and was in a good mood, so I continued asking him to answer the question all of American wanted answered.
“C’mon, Arnie, my lips are sealed. I swear I won’t tell anyone.”
“Can’t do it,” he replied.
“Arnie, buddy, pal. This is just between you and me. Are you the one bleaching Michael Jackson’’s skin?”
I kept this up for an hour. Arnie was amused by my persistence, but absolutely refused to answer the question. So I guess he racks up a few ethics points.
All that being said, he was clearly a very disturbed man. Vanity Fair described his descent into drugs, sex addiction, gay chubby chasing, money woes, the drug-aided death of Michael Jackson, a bitter feud with one of Jackson’s other doctors, an attempt by the California State Medical Board to revoke his license to practice medicine, and plenty of additional bizarre behavior.
Had I read this article prior to our dinner, I wouldn’t have bothered asking Arnie trivial questions about bleaching Michael Jackson’s skin. No, I would have asked questions that pulled on the loose threads of our societal fabric. I would have burrowed into the psyche and mores of the man and extrapolated their significance onto the canvas of 21st century America. Instead of asking the question America wanted answered, I would have asked the question America needed answered:
“Chubby chasing, Arnie? What’s that all about?”