NBC News
updated 2/17/2003 12:38:48 AM ET 2003-02-17T05:38:48

Detectives investigating allegations that Michael Jackson had molested a young boy said they found some compelling evidence against him, but without cooperating witnesses, the Los Angeles district attorney declined to go forward with the case. Jackson, continuing to maintain his innocence, eventually reached a financial settlement with the boy’s family. Over the next decade, Jackson’s life would change dramatically — he’d become a husband twice, and a father three times. But once again, his physical transformation drew the most interest from the public.

EVERYONE’S FACE CHANGES as they age. But only in Los Angeles does your face get younger as you get older.

In the British documentary ‘Living with Michael Jackson’, from Granada Television, the singer claimed he has had only two plastic surgeries on his nose, and for good reasons: to help him breathe better and to hit high notes.

Dr. Wallace Goodstein is a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon. Although he’s never treated Michael Jackson, from 1991 to 1993, he shared a practice with Jackson’s primary plastic surgeon. He heard Jackson admit on TV to only two plastic surgeries, and says the singer is only off — by about 48 procedures.

Goodstein: “Three times a week I was in the office, and he probably was there once every six to eight weeks.”

Mankiewicz: “He was in his plastic surgeon’s office once every six to eight weeks?”

Goodstein: “Yes.”

Goodstein did not disclose any of Michael Jackson’s confidential medical information, but he was in a unique position to observe Jackson, and Jackson’s photos over the years tell a story quite different from the official one.

Mankiewicz: “So how many times has Michael Jackson had cosmetic surgery on his face?”

Goodstein: “My opinion, it’s well over 50.”

Mankiewicz: “Fifty?”

Goodstein: “Yes.”

Mankiewicz: “How much would 50 facial procedures cost a person?”

Goodstein: “Well, I would say that the average would be $10,000 to $20,000 a procedure. So you can do the math.”

Don’t worry, we’ll do it for you. On the low end, if each procedure cost only $10,000, 50 procedures is half a million dollars. And remember, that’s the low end. And keep in mind that most health plans don’t cover repeatedly altering one’s nose.

Mankiewicz: “Did you ever express any concerns to Mr. Jackson’s surgeon about the number of procedures that Jackson was getting?”

Goodstein: “Yes, actually I did. And his response was that this was what his patient wanted.”

But for a long time, Michael Jackson’s life has been only about what he wanted. Jackson’s friend, Donald Trump.

Mankiewicz: “You’re wealthy. You’re powerful. How important is it to have someone around you who can tell you when you’re making a bad decision?”

Trump: “I think it’s always important, but generally speaking, very successful people listen to themselves. I think that Michael only listens to himself. Michael doesn’t have outside counsel and Michael doesn’t want outside counsel.”

Mankiewicz: “And the result of that is there’s no one around to tell him don’t have any more plastic surgery.”

Trump: “Well, look, in every way, Michael did the right thing. With the plastic surgery, he did the wrong thing.”

You don’t have to be a fan of Jackson’s to notice that as his face changed, so did the color of his skin. The singer blames a skin disorder called vitiligo. While that may be true, plastic surgeon Wallace Goodstein says it’s likely that Jackson has deliberately lightened his skin.

Mankiewicz: “Give me an opinion from the outside. When somebody who was black just a few years ago, and is now considerably paler, what is that?”

Goodstein: “There are drugs you can take that will block the pigment production in the dermis, and I don’t know for a fact that that’s what’s occurred here, but my guess is it’s the most likely reason.”

Mankiewicz: “So in your opinion, that’s something that he affirmatively did, as opposed to something that happened to him?”

Goodstein: “Yes, in my opinion, that’s true.”

Some people with vitiligo lighten their skin deliberately to mask the effects of the disease. Music writer Toure sees a different motivation.

“What has happened is that this guy has completely imbibed the idea that beauty equals whiteness and whiteness equals beauty,” says Toure. “This is not totally uncommon. But nobody has the money to act on this. He did. So let’s do the nose. Let’s do this. Let’s do the skin. Let’s do that. And it’s a very sort of sad black man, just totally buying the idea that whiteness is beautiful and ‘I have to look like that.’”

Goodstein: “This photo was taken approximately 2001. Most notable change here is the fact that he’s developed the scar retraction or contracture just lateral to the nostril dome. And a triangular shape nostril as a result.”

Talking to a British TV crew, his brother Jermaine defends Jackson’s choice to have cosmetic surgery.

“Now he’s changed his nose and this and that but we’ve all done it,” says Jermaine. “If I don’t like the way I look, I’m going to change something, and whether it’s my hair, whatever. I feel I’m pretty normal. But still. He’s still got the same heart. He’s still got the same soul.”

He wouldn’t have been the first celebrity to want to change his look so badly that he was willing to go under a plastic surgeon’s knife. But in Jackson’s case, what was behind that yearning to change a face that millions already loved? Jackson says the changes are just the aging process at work. Others say it’s the desire to avoid that process. And if that’s true, then Jackson is Pinocchio in reverse. Whenever he lies, his nose gets smaller.

“Well, he clearly in ‘Thriller’ does not look like he did with the Jackson 5,” says Toure. “I’ll tell you, I don’t remember when it was. It had to be in the early ’90s, I think. And I looked at him and I said, ‘Wow, he can’t look any weirder than this...and two years later, I said the same thing...And two years after that, I said the same thing. ‘This is it. You can’t get any weirder than this’... And every year or so I look at him like, ‘He topped me yet again.’”

But even some of Michael Jackson’s friends are worried about the aftermath of what appears to be so many procedures.

Trump: “Michael was a terrific and is a terrific guy, but Michael is a different person today than he was then. Michael’s been badly maimed by plastic surgery.”

Mankiewicz: “Have you expressed that to Michael?

Trump: “I asked him once. I said, ‘Michael, what are you doing? Just what are you doing? Just, you’ve got to stop.’”

Mankiewicz: “And he said?”

Trump: “He didn’t really say anything and I never discussed it with him again. It’s not my business.”

Mankiewicz: “So you think the surgery has not just changed the way he looks. It’s changed him.”

Trump: “Have you ever had a bad day where you don’t feel you look good, you’re not the same person? Well, Michael doesn’t look the way he used to look. And you know, I think it’s affected him. I think it’s even affected his talent to a certain extent.”

Mankiewicz: “Do you think he’s aware of the image that he now has with people?”

Trump: “I think when Michael looks in the mirror, he says, ‘How the [expletive] did I do this to myself?’”

And what Michael Jackson did to himself might not be reversible.

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