Michael Jackson collapsed while rehearsing on a Manhattan theatre stage
It was on this day of music, the king of Pop collapsed while rehearsing on a Manhattan theatre stage, casting uncertainty over plans for a highly publicized national cable television special to be telecast on Sunday. Tests showed that the entertainer was suffering from low blood pressure.
Mr. Jackson, 37, was admitted overnight to Beth Israel Medical Center North at 170 East End Avenue on the Upper East Side, where he was taken after being stricken at the Beacon Theatre, 2124 Broadway at 74th Street, just before 5 P.M. He had been rehearsing for the Home Box Office special, which HBO officials say they hope will be watched by 250 million people worldwide.
Nancy Lindeman, a hospital spokeswoman, said that Mr. Jackson was in stable condition. His blood pressure was found to be an abnormally low 70 over 40 by an Emergency Medical Service crew that arrived at the theatre four minutes after the collapse, said John Hanchar, an E.M.S. spokesman.
Mr. Hanchar said a security guard at the theater had called E.M.S. Mr. Jackson was awake when the emergency crew arrived. He was given oxygen and was intravenously given two containers of water laced with salt and other minerals to aid his circulation, Mr. Hanchar said Quentin Schaffer, an HBO vice president for media relations, issued a brief statement that evening, saying, "Michael is stabilized." He added that rehearsals were continuing last night, when Mr. Jackson was not scheduled to be rehearsing anyway.
Mr. Schaffer said the entertainer's personal doctor was being flown in from California -- a sign of concern not only for Mr. Jackson's well-being but also for the huge sums of money that could be at stake.
The HBO special is to be taped at the theatre tomorrow and Saturday. Mr. Schaffer and others at HBO acknowledged that the status of the Sunday telecast was uncertain. "The concern right now is his health," Mr. Schaffer said.
Mr. Jackson was scheduled to receive an award last night at the Billboard Music Awards, which also took place in New York City.
HBO representatives declined to say how much they had spent on preparations for the concert, which have included renting the theatre for two weeks. But they said they have had high hopes for the event, titled "One Night Only," which was to be Mr. Jackson's first in New York in eight years.
For that matter, Mr. Jackson himself could have a lot at stake. His latest album, "HIStory," has languished on the charts, ranking No. 55 after 24 weeks, according to Soundscan, a company that monitors retail sales of recorded music. If the HBO concert were a success, Mr. Jackson would no doubt hope for a carry-over effect on his album sales.
Kevin Barwick, an E.M.S. technician who went to the theatre after the singer collapsed, said, "We treated him as if he was anybody else." He and a fellow technician, La-Shunn Knight, said the entertainer was lying on his side, clad in jeans and a T-shirt, and looking lethargic.
David Bookstaver, an E.M.S. spokesman, said the ambulance was planning to take Mr. Jackson to St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, but at the request of Mr. Jackson's entourage, took him to the Upper East Side hospital. Patients are allowed to choose their destination if the trip would require 10 minutes or less travel time than for E.M.S.'s preferred location.
Colin Carew, a dancer not associated with the show, said colleagues participating in the production at the Beacon had told him that Mr. Jackson seemed exhausted from rehearsals. "They said he was rehearsing and he collapsed," Mr. Carew said. "He's been rehearsing since this morning. They asked him if he wanted to take a break, and he had said no."
Linda Wolff, the owner of Joe's Boutique, a store next to the theatre, said she had picked up the sounds of Mr. Jackson's rehearsals all week through the walls. Just before his collapse yesterday, she said, "He was doing his song 'Black or White,' and then it just stopped."
Mr. Jackson's on-stage idiosyncrasies have included a white glove. Off stage, fans said they had seen him wearing a surgical mask recently while taking the short trek from his trailer to a side entrance to the theatre.
Heaters had even been placed along the path between the stage door and his trailer, a theatre guard told students at the nearby American Musical and Dramatic Academy. The guard said no one wanted Mr. Jackson to catch a cold.
News of his illness brought a crowd of onlookers -- fans, journalists, and the merely curious -- to the theatre. Several police cars soon arrived to keep order while the E.M.S. workers were inside.
On November 1993, Mr. Jackson cancelled a concert tour after admitting he had become addicted to prescription painkillers -- an addiction that he said grew from his anguish over claims that he had molested a 13-year-old boy. He has denied the accusations; a civil case arising from them was settled out of court.
The painkillers had been prescribed for Mr. Jackson after reconstructive scalp surgery. His head was badly burned in January 1984 by an explosion during the filming of a soft-drink television commercial.