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Jackson Trial: A Small Industry

We mentioned last week that enterprising locals are making bucks on the Michael Jackson trial renting out parking spaces and vantage points, and restaurants and stores are doing record business as well.

Specialists are also raking in the dough.

Sketch artist Bill Robles and two colleagues are providing the only visuals of the trial as no cameras are allowed in the courtroom. He is making $400 a day per media outlet from a collection of TV networks, the AP, and various foreign outlets on a case that may last up to five months:

    The pop star has proved challenging to draw. “He has a petite nose and prominent cheekbone alignment that comes down to the jaw. Fortunately, he has that big hair that almost covers it,” Robles says. “If you don’t hit him right on, people are going to say, ‘Wow, that doesn’t look like Jackson.’ So there’s a lot more pressure.”

    ….Jackson’s is just the latest high-profile case Robles has covered in his long career, which began in 1970 with Charles Manson’s trial. He has sat and sketched during the trials of O.J. Simpson, Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols and serial killer Richard Ramirez.

    “What’s amazing is that in this day and age of satellites, digital this and digital that, I still have my $20 drawing pad, my pen and my colored markers,” says Robles, who lives in Los Angeles. He declines to give his age except to say he’s “younger than Dan Rather,” who is 73.

    ….[Robles] usually draws six sketches a day. He can be creative. “You can edit out what you don’t want, slightly move things for the sake of composition.”

    But Nina Zacuto, who is producing the Jackson trial coverage for NBC News and has known Robles since 1979, says the artist is “very good at reproducing what you see in court. He’s done a remarkable job of giving you a sense of what these people look like. He’s really quick, and his style is very clean. I think everyone agrees that in terms of his sketches, he’s the best in L.A.”

    A few weeks ago, Robles made headlines when Jackson approached him to inquire about a drawing that showed the pop star with his three attorneys. “Jackson lit up like a candle when he saw it. He was totally fascinated,” Robles says. [USA Today]

“Hey, who is that cool alien with my attorneys?” Jackson asked (okay, I made that part up). See some examples of Robles’s work here.

27 year-old Edward Moss has an even more specialized job: he plays Michael Jackson in the nightly E! channel (and licensed to Sky News and Sky One, among others) reenactments of the trial.

(E! online)

The role hasn’t been super demanding thus far, only requiring a modest repertoir of facial expressions and gestures, but he’s ready if and when the King of Pop busts out a “Jacko moment”:

    “Well I’m not about to hop up onto the table!” he says. “Unless Michael does that in court himself, of course.”

    Moss has been impersonating Jackson for a decade, having initially been persuaded to mimic the star for an employee talent contest while working at McDonald’s.

    “The first prize was $200, and as I was being paid $4.25 an hour at the time I thought I might as well go for it,” he says.

    “People had been telling me that I looked like Michael since I was four years old. I’m not a huge fan of his but I decided to put the similarity to some use.”

    Moss won the contest and embarked upon a career as a professional lookalike, singing and moonwalking along to Jackson’s hits for audiences in the US, the Philippines, New Zealand and Japan.

    He also played Jackson on spoof horror movie Scary Movie 3 and appeared on US TV in Nip/Tuck, Mad TV and The Tonight Show.

    ….Moss is now expert at transforming himself into the star, a process he completes in just 45 minutes.

    First he applies pale make-up onto his naturally olive skin. Then he uses make-up to make his nose appear “a little thinner”, draws over his nostrils and eyebrows with black pencil then pulls on a long black wig.

    “I’ve never had any plastic surgery,” he says. “I’ve always said that if I couldn’t achieve his look with make-up then I wouldn’t do it.” [BBC]

Check out the transformation here. This is all pretty funny to me: I knew a Michael Jackson impersonator back in the ’80s who was very concerned about keeping up with MJ’s mutations. I think he gave up at about nose job #5.

A brush with weirdness:

    Moss briefly met the singer in 1997 while he was imitating him in front of Hollywood Wax Museum.

    He says the star, who was disguised as a woman at the time, had been watching his performance and told him he was “really good” before disappearing with his entourage.

This reminds me of a Leno joke: Michael Jackson was talking on the phone to Martha Stewart – he wanted to know what it was like to be a white woman in prison.

Speaking of Leno, his lawyers have asked for a clarification from Judge Melville stating that the trial gag order is not relevant to a “public personality” like Mr. Leno, who has been named as a possible defense witness (Jackson’s attorney has said the accuser’s mother sought money from Leno as well as other celebs).

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted, Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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