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October 25, 2014

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Billboard Awards preview: Michael Jackson imagery is ‘as if he’s still alive’

Image

Joel Ryan / AP

In this March 5, 2009, file photo, U.S. singer Michael Jackson speaks at a press conference at the London O2 Arena.

Cirque du Soleil's 'Michael Jackson One' at Mandalay Bay

Cirque du Soleil's Launch slideshow »

Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour

Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour. The world premiere of Immortal was in Montreal, the location of Cirque headquarters, on Oct. 2, 2011. Launch slideshow »

A “real-life” Michael Jackson will appear halfway through the 2014 Billboard Music Awards on Sunday at MGM Grand Garden Arena despite last-minute lawsuits and court filings to block the spectacle.

“It’s as if he’s still alive. He’s totally real. It’s absolutely uncanny. People who have seen just a little of it have become so emotional, they have tears running down their face. They are sobbing because it’s as if he didn’t die,” I was told.

Late Friday, federal judge Kent Dawson ruled here that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prove that patents on previous hologram 3D images held by two companies and an individual had been violated.

The emergency lawsuit had been filed against the King of Pop’s estate and its trustees John Branca and Howard Weitzman by Hologram USA Inc., Musion Das Hologram Ltd and businessman Alki David, who says that he control rights to hologram technology.

A veil of secrecy has been lowered over the Billboard extravaganza. The only official word from ABC and Dick Clark Productions is that “it will be a history-making performance.” My original story about the imagery was posted at Vegas DeLuxe on Tuesday when Michael’s new album “Xscape” was released.

But I learned exclusively Friday night that Michael’s image to be unveiled about halfway in the three-hour ABC telecast is brand new technology.

“It was two years in development and took an additional six months to create for this network premiere,” I was told. “This is way, way beyond a hologram. It is way, way beyond what you know as 3D. This isn’t even digital. It is far more advanced and a totally new process.”

“This lawsuit to attempt to stop the broadcast was just a stunt. It was ludicrous,” snapped L.A. attorney Howard Weitzman, who represented Michael’s estate and Dick Clark Productions, who is staging the BBMAs for ABC. “The court’s decision is not surprising.”

I also exclusively learned that Michael will be seen dancing with a cast of dancers. He will be seen moonwalking back and forth the entire MGM Grand Garden Arena stage. He also will be seen dancing up and down stairs.

“This is the most emotional piece of television we have ever produced in our 40-year TV careers,” two Dick Clark Productions execs told me. “A few people have seen it, a tiny portion of it, already in the arena and have been crying — it’s that powerful. Incredibly, it plays even better on the TV screen, so imagine how viewers will react at home.

“They will be in a state of disbelief. It’s as if he’s still alive at the height of his career.”

I learned that Michael’s estate trustees came across undiscovered L.A. Reid recorded footage of Michael that they didn’t know existed. The lawsuit says the music will be a new song, “Slave to the Rhythm.”

“They didn’t know what they originally wanted to do with it or make with it except just wanting to capture him alive forever. That became the background format for this new technology. It might have gone to Cirque du Soleil. They might have found a way to complete the This Is It tour.

“This has never been done before. It is 100 steps beyond anything anybody has ever thought you’d experienced as a hologram. It is so real, it is so lifelike, there is no way an audience would know the artist is not there in front of them. So real an artist would actually never have to go out on tour again or need makeup for an appearance. The artist is there without being there. You cannot tell the difference.

“That will be proven Sunday night with Michael Jackson, just like he’s done before time and time again as a pioneer with music-technology breakthroughs.”

A few key major city radio DJs were given a 30-second sneak preview of the spectacle after signing secrecy agreements. Under strict promises of remaining anonymous, I was told: “Within 10 seconds, I was shaking. Then I started sobbing. Michael was alive. I had goose bumps. He was as real as the day I last saw him alive.

“I cannot tell you what he does, but his fans from this point on will never believe that he died. It will be four minutes they will remember forever.”

No plans for its future use have yet been revealed, but I am told that plans will be forthcoming and will be expanded to include other song material later.

Meantime, another lawsuit has yet to be determined. Cirque and MGM Resorts International have until next Friday to answer a case in Los Angeles Federal Court filed by Hologram USA claiming unlicensed use of the digital rendition used in Cirque’s “Michael Jackson One” at Mandalay Bay.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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