The promoters of Michael Jackson's ill-fated 2009 comeback concert series in London feared he was unstable, with one describing him as a "mess", according to a spate of newly released emails.
The confidential emails from Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) and obtained by The Los Angeles Times suggest that in the weeks before Jackson's sudden death in June 2009, he was drinking and feared himself he could not perform.
The LA Times reports the 250 pages of messages "illuminate the extent to which top executives" at the Los Angeles-based company "were aware of doubts about Jackson's stability" as they prepared for the 50-show engagement.
"MJ is locked in his room drunk and despondent," wrote AEG Live director Randy Phillips, to his boss, company president Tim Leiweke, in March 2009, the newspaper reports.
Leiweke's immediate reply: "Are you kidding me?"
"I screamed at him so loud the walls are shaking," Phillips responded. "He is an emotionally paralyzed mess riddled with self-loathing and doubt now that it is show time."
The King of Pop was in London, due at a press conference to announce the concerts. When Jackson finally appeared, 90 minutes late, reporters noted his remarks seemed "disjointed and strange", the Times says.
"He is scared to death," wrote Phillips, who, according to the emails, ended up having to dress the singer with the help of Jackson's manager.
As doubts about the star mounted, AEG executives worried whether Jackson was going to be able to perform, according to the report.
However, the company felt confident their contract was solid.
"We cannot be forced into stopping this, which MJ will try to do, because he is lazy and constantly changes his mind to fit his immediate wants," wrote another AEG Live executive, Paul Gongaware, to Phillips.
"He is locked. He has no choice," Gongaware continued.
Just weeks before the concert debut, scheduled for mid-July 2009, show director Kenny Ortega warned Phillips "there are strong signs of paranoia, anxiety and obsessive-like behaviour".
He called for an immediate psychiatric evaluation, a suggestion AEG resisted.
Jackson died soon after, on June 25 at age 50, from an overdose of propofol, a powerful anesthetic.
His former doctor, Conrad Murray, was jailed for four years in November, 2011, after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter over the singer's death.
The email accounts contrast with AEG's public statements - and with a medical assessment the company arranged as a condition of the contract - that Jackson was in good health.
The messages are likely to figure in legal proceedings against AEG by the insurance company that had to pay out when the concerts were cancelled. The insurance company wants the payout nullified, alleging AEG falsely represented Jackson's readiness to perform.