LOS ANGELES - Singer Michael Jackson, who rose to fame as a child singer and became an international superstar whose personal life became constant fodder for the tabloid media, was rushed in cardiac arrest today to a Westwood hospital, where he slipped into a coma and died, according to various media reports.
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Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Devin Gales said paramedics responded to a home in the 100 block of Carolwood Drive at 12:21 p.m. The 50-year-old Jackson, who was not breathing when paramedics arrived at the Bel Air estate he was renting, was taken to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, fire department officials said.
Citing unnamed sources, various media outlets reported that Jackson was pronounced dead at the hospital. Hospital and fire department officials could not immediately confirm the report.
Jackson, 50, was in the midst of preparing for a series of 50 concerts in London’s O2 Arena. Tickets for the shows rapidly sold out, and a limited number of extra tickets were put on sale on Wednesday. But rumors about the singer’s health had been raising questions about whether Jackson would actually perform all 50 shows.
When the singer announced the concerts earlier this year, he said they would be his final on-stage appearances.
Jackson, who became known as the “King of Pop’’ with the success of albums such as “Thriller,’' “Bad’’ and “Dangerous,’' first gained national exposure with his brothers - Tito, Jermaine, Jackie and Marlon - as part of the Jackson 5. The group opened for artists such as Gladys Knight and the Pips and James Brown.
Motown Founder Berry Gordon signed the group in 1968. But as their popularity grew, some of the Jackson brothers began branching out on their own.
But it was Michael who became a sensation - most notably with the 1979 release of the album “Off the Wall.’' His status as a musical superstar was cemented in 1982 after the release of “Thriller,’' an album that generated seven top-10 hits. While performing his hit song “Billie Jean’’ on a television special, Jackson showed off what would become one of his signature dance moves - the moonwalk.
The “Thriller’’ video, directed by John Landis, became an instant cult favorite, and is continually emulated.
Over the course of his career, however, his personal life came under more and more scrutiny, most notably an obvious change in his skin tone. In 1993, Jackson told Oprah Winfrey that the change was caused by a skin disease.
Also during that time, a 13-year-old boy claimed that Jackson had fondled him during a sleepover at the singer’s 2,900-acre Neverland Ranch compound in Los Olivos, Santa Barbara County. Jackson denied any wrongdoing and eventually reached a settlement with the boy’s family.
In 2005, he was tried and acquitted of lewd conduct with a minor in Santa Barbara County. After the trial, Jackson moved to Bahrain, far from the constant media scrutiny that dogged him in California.
Beset by financial difficulties, Jackson sold Neverland Ranch in 2008.
He married Lisa Marie Presley in 1994, but they divorced after only two years. He then married a nurse named Debbie Rowe, who - through artificial insemination - became the mother of two of his children, Michael Joseph Jackson Jr. and Paris Michael Katherine Jackson. He had another son, Prince “Blanket’’ Michael Jackson II, with an unknown woman.
Jackson and Rowe divorced in 1999.