The bizarre courtroom saga of Michael Jackson continued Tuesday with an attack of a wicked spider.
The pop oddity returned to court today, several hours late and on crutches, to continue his testimony in a $21 million breach-of-contract flap over canceled millennium concerts. Once again, he took onlookers by surprise as he limped into the Santa Maria, California, courtroom.
"It is a spider bite. It is real bad. If I showed it to you, you'd be shocked," the hobbled moonwalker told reporters. "It hurts very much right now as I speak."
He quickly explained that the attacking arachnid was not one of the pet tarantulas holed up at his nearby Neverland Ranch but a common spider smoked out by a routine fumigation.
This most recent headline-making incident is just the latest in a string of behavior wacky even by Jackson standards. Just last week, he shocked fans by dangling nine-month-old son Prince Michael II over a fourth-floor balcony railing in Germany. At the time, he called it "a terrible mistake" saying he got caught up in "the excitement of the moment." Berlin police decided not to pursue the incident.
Over the summer he went on a tirade against Sony Music boss Tommy Mottola, saying he was "mean, he's a racist and he's very, very, very devilish." When presented with a birthday cake at the MTV Video Music Awards in August, Jackson thought he received an "Artist of the Millennium Award" and began doling out the thank-yous.
And during this current trial, which began last month, Jackson hasn't exactly acquitted himself well.
The popster's longtime concert promoter Marcel Avram filed a civil suit seeking to be compensated for losses over canceled concerts that were supposed to ring in the new millennium. He claims Jackson agreed to headline 1999 charity shows in Seoul and Munich followed by New Year's Eve concerts in Australia and Hawaii and owes Avram for organizing, promoting and producing all four shows, as well as money he spent on the superstar's behalf.
First, Jackson reportedly wigged out over a too-close-for-comfort photograph of his ever-morphing nose during the trial. He then spent three days on the stand saying he cannot be held accountable for his actions because he is a "visionary," who has "so much stuff going on [in his life] that is astounding." He then cut his testimony short for the trip to Germany, where he accepted a humanitarian award and launched an international frenzy.
Last week, camera-ready lawyer Gloria Allred took it upon herself to write to California officials asking them to investigating the Babygate episode.
"In my opinion, given the height of the balcony and the fact that Mr. Jackson was only holding the child with one arm as he held the child over the side, the child was at risk of falling and being injured or killed," she wrote last week in a letter to the California Department of Social Services.
(Allred has squared off against Jackson before. She briefly represented the 13-year-old boy who accused Jackson of molesting him in 1993.)
However, California authorities have repeatedly said the incident was out of their jurisdiction.
Despite all the hubbub, the world's most famous surgical mask modeler seemed in good spirits today for his testimony, spiders notwithstanding. He shrugged off questions about the baby dangling while signing autographs and posing for snapshots with fans. During lulls in the testimony, he even made goofy faces for the courtroom photographer who snapped the now-infamous mug shots.
Asked about Allred's letter, Jackson was caught on videotape by Los Angeles' ABC-7 saying, "Tell her to go to hell."
As for the actual trial (the circus kind of makes you forget there's a reason for all this), Jackson spent much of the day recounting a phone conversation with Avram. Jackson says Avram called off the concerts during said call. Avram's lawyers say the call never happened.