Dr Etok hit the headlines last month as she travelled to America to give evidence to the Los Angeles Police Department over the investigation into Michael Jackson’s death based on what she had witnessed in a London hotel in March 2009.
The lifelong friend of tragic ‘King Of Pop’ Michael Jackson has told Sahara Reporters of her failed intervention over the star’s drug abuse just two weeks before he died. She said “I knew that Michael Jackson was in trouble, so, I did my best to reach-out to the people around him but unfortunately those appeals fell on deaf ears.”
Dr Etok has also lobbied US President Barack Obama and Gordon Brown to raise awareness of prescription drug dependency.
Dr Etok has been invited to assist the US Government to tackle prescription drug abuse and has submitted a seven-page report to the New York State Assembly in Manhattan on September 10 2009. She spoke to the Assembly, including government legislators, about alcoholism and drug abuse.
In the last year Dr Etok has been providing counselling and support to individuals coping with HIV/AIDS and works with other charities to prevent child abuse..
Saharareporters spoke with Susan Etok about her life with Michael Jackson.
SE: I met Michael 11 years ago.
SR: That would be…
SR: Exactly when?
SE: I met him in January/February time.
SR: January, February. I want to ask you this question about Michael’s sexuality. There is this book that is probably making a lot of money in sales saying that Michael is gay.
SE: Michael was not gay. He was just somebody who was brought up well, to respect women, and he was not a womanizer, he was a respectful man, a respectful person. He loved women and he respected them.
SR: But you know, someone asks how do you know Michael was not gay? I mean has he propositioned you?
SE: The reason that I know that he’s not gay is because when you’re around him you see the way he interacts with women. He will flirt, if he sees a beautiful woman he’ll get shy. He reacts like a normal heterosexual man to women. Now I know a lot of gay men. Gay men don’t respond to women. Michael will. If there’s a beautiful woman who walk into the room Michael will look.
SR: What about you look at towards the end of his life, you know photographs of him dressed like women. What is responsible for that?
SE: That he dressed like women? Michael was an artist. If you look at a lot of geniuses…Michael was a musical genius. All the geniuses that you see, they have an eccentric side to them, whereby they like to express their artistry and that was just Michael’s way of expressing himself. Some people do it through tattoos, look at these famous singers they have funny haircuts, they’ll have tattoos…Michael, that was the way he liked to express himself.
And he liked to be unique. And mysterious.
SR: That’s amazing. So, but you know him very closely? And now you say you’ve met him countless times?
SR: So all the time you knew him, what was the impression you got apart from being very shy and…
SE: He was only shy around people he didn’t know. One of the things I loved about him was he was a joker. As in he liked to have fun. He was very playful, he liked to have a laugh, he liked to play tricks on his friends, he liked all the things you associate with children like fun fairs, having fun, playing on the bike, animals, very, very gentle and very funny.
SR: If I may ask, were you ever attracted to him as a person?
SR: Why not?
SE: Because I saw him like a brother. That’s why: I saw him like a brother. And also, he’s much older than me.
SR: He’s not attracted to you?
SE: Was he attracted to me? I mean I don’t know. I never took it to that level. But you have to remember he’s 50, he’d have been 51 and I’m 32. When I first met him I was only like 21. And so he was much, much older than me.
SR: Well he’s Michael Jackson. He’s got fame, you know, everything that you…
SE: But you know, its like when you don’t know somebody you see them in a certain light, but when you know someone you don’t, I don’t see him like how everyone else sees Michael Jackson. To me he was just a normal person. Because I knew him for so long. When you first meet someone then maybe you’re a bit star struck, but if you’ve known someone for a long time they’re just a human being to you. And he was just a friend, almost like a big brother.
SR: Maybe take us back again. How did you meet him? Through family…?
SE: Okay. I went to America with a friend, she’s now dead actually. She’s a Nigerian. She’s the daughter of this former … health minister, the minister for health. The minister for health is called Dr. Joseph Ana. His daughter was good friend of mine and she traveled with me to America. She died in 2007 in Nigeria, anyway, so we went together. It was funny, me and her we were walking down the street and in America people don’t think that black people come from England, or if they do they think we’re rough, so they were very surprised that we spoke really well. So these two men, one of them is a rap star called Rated R, I don’t know if he is still famous in America, but he was a rap star at the time. He saw us and he started trying to chat us up and telling us to come with him. And he said that he was doing a movie with a film star called William Shatner called “Star Trek” and that he wanted us to hang around. So we thought okay, yeah why not.
SR: This was where? This was in Los Angeles?
SE: This was in Hollywood. Just off Hollywood, you know where the stars are, the stars on the floor. So we decided that we’ll hang around with them and then they said okay, you can be extras as in the background, so I’m in one scene in this movie sitting in the background while William Shatner is playing pool with another guy called Eric McCormick. So after that, we became friendly with all the different stars. Now at the time some of these stars were just up and coming. Now some of them are very big. But at the time they were just quite low level. Because this was 11 years ago.
SR: So you met him, and you started talking since then. Did he give you his number, or…
SE: He gave me his number, he didn’t give me his direct number, but he gave me the number of his assistant called Evvy and he told me that if I ever want to get in contact with him that I should just give Evvy a call. And he said to me, you know, if I want to come to visit him at Neverland that I should just let Evvy know and she’ll arrange it. And I wasn’t sure whether I was going to have time because we had an appointment to go down to San Diego and Tijuana, but on the way back we made one day so that we could go to Neverland and visit Michael.
SR: So when was the first time you went to Neverland to meet him?
SE: That trip, that same trip.
SR: So when did you go to Neverland?
SE: I can remember, but it was in February.
SR: It was in February okay. …. February 1998.
SE: Yeah. I wouldn’t like to put a specific date because I tell you what. When you do that, the fans will, to be honest it was so long ago I can’t remember, one thing I do know is that it was after Lisa Marie Presley’s 30th birthday. Because I remember one of the reasons why he went back to LOS Angeles was because it was Lisa Marie’s birthday. So it was after that.
SR: Okay. So how many times did you meet him after that?
SE: I can’t…I don’t know.
SR: So you say that you’ve met him countless times…
SE: But to be honest, how many times have you seen your friend…I haven’t sat down and counted because I’ve been over there many times.
SR: So you say Michael is a normal person, but the…
SE: Yeah, very normal.
SR: But then there’s the issue of drugs.
SE: Yeah. But this is what I’m trying to tell you. Is that I’m telling you that in the last month that I have been in the media I’ve been under immense pressure.
SR: What kind of pressure?
SE: The thing is the pressure is so much its like you’re permanently anxious because you don’t know what people want from you. Now multiply my case by a thousand million. Michael was a much bigger star than me. So it’s not that he was an abnormal person, his circumstance was abnormal because he was one of the most famous men on the earth and everybody has an opinion about Michael and anywhere he went hew as scared because if he just walked out fans would come and grab him, and want to talk to him and hug him and kiss him. It’s not a very healthy way to live.
SR: Okay, and about having a baby by him, you know, so you didn’t think that he was attracted to you but he liked that you come from a very intelligent family, I’m quoting what I read…
SE: I wouldn’t like to comment to be quite honest, I wouldn’t like because I don’t want to give fans ammunition. There is no. I would just like to say the reason that he was looking at me in terms of genes was because he liked my background and I’ll run through it. Number one, I grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness like he did. Number 2, I came from a very large family like he did and like all his family are musicians, all my family are academic. Number 3, my family is extremely close and he just liked the way that we had been brought up. And basically he used to say that he’d like to shake my dad’s hand because he thought he did a good job in terms of bring up the children well. And he likes that. And he’s not the first person that said it. So many people have said it before. Because in these days, I tell you, especially Nigerians been brought abroad, there’s so many that just go wayward. But in my family, let me tell you. My dad has a PhD. I have a PhD. My brother is a dentist. My sister is a doctor. My second sister is a medical student. My brother, younger brother, he’s about to do his MBA. And my little sister she is in school still. My auntie is an anesthesiologist. Oh that’s another reason why Michael was interested, because my auntie is a consultant that is the top form of anesthesiologist that you can get in England.
SR: What’s her name?
SE: I wouldn’t like to give her name because she’d be mad. And her husband is a top gynecologist. My cousin is a pharmacist. So you can understand what kind of family I come from.
SR: So Michael knew all that?
SE: Yeah he knew it.
SR: You said you exchanged emails with Michael.
SE: No, one email. I sent him an email.
SR: Does he respond to your emails?
SE: This email he didn’t respond to. He calls me. Because I sent this email, I can show you a copy of it, I sent this email to him, and basically I was saying I’m not going to provide you with what you’ve asked me to do. And I told him that he needed to seek help, that he needed to go see his GP, his general practitioner doctor in the sates. I didn’t know what was going on, but I’m upset that he never trusted me to tell me what was happening. Because at the time, I didn’t know that it was a drug problem. I just wondered why he wanted me to get these drugs for him. And I thought, well that’s strange. Particularly that one of the drugs was Diprivan, which is something they use in anesthetics.
See all the other drugs that he told me about, that’s fair enough. I could have very easily asked my aunt or one of my brothers or sisters to prescribe it, but they would have had to have given him an examination because they were just pain killers and anti-depressants, which are normal. But when he asked for Diprivan…you can’t ask for that. So that’s what made me think there’s something strange there and I didn’t want to be involved in it, so I said to him no, I’m not going to do it. But I was too afraid to say no to his face.
SR: So you sent him and email. And you say you can share that with me?
SE: Yeah I can share it with you.
SE: He did respond to that email. He called me. I sent hat email on the 20th of March. Now the 25th of March is my birthday. So on my birthday he called me to say happy birthday and he said to me, don’t worry about the drugs, that he’ll find someone else to get it for him.
SR: So that was 2009.
SE: Yeah, 2009. And then in April I thought about it, and I thought hold on: somebody else to get it for you. And then I started calling him and well harassing him and saying look don’t, stop taking these drugs, and don’t use them. And then we argued, we argued. And I said that I thought he had a problem and I threatened to go and talk to him mom and he told me off and he said that I should never involve his mom because he’s a grown man, I don’t need to run to his mom. And then I told him about all the different things that can happen, to think about his kids and all that, and in the end, in May 2009 I realized that if I keep on shouting at him, he’s going to stop being my friend and I didn’t want to lose the friendship.
So then I what I decided to do was I saw a Jehovah’s Witness magazine which I can also show you, I can send you an email of the think to the magazine. It’s a Jehovah’s Witness magazine which is a whole magazine on prescription drug abuse and how to get help. Now because he grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness and because his mom is still a Jehovah’s Witness, I believed that he would probably read that and maybe that’s a way I can help him without having to shout at him. You know how us Nigerians are, we don’t know, like we’re shouting dah dah dah, I was like that with him and I didn’t know what to do and like, I didn’t want to go tell the media because then, like you know, so and I don’t know what, these big people in America, they’re hard to get a hold of. And I did try to call some people that worked for him in the house and they told me to mind my own business.
SR: So what do you miss most about Michael?
SE: What I miss about Michael is his positive attitude about life despite everything that has happened to him. I don’t want to compare him to Jesus right, because that’s kind of like blasphemy, but if there’s anybody on this earth that’s human, imperfect, that’s ever been persecuted, I think that’s Michael Jackson. He was persecuted beyond belief, but still never heard him say one bad thing about these people. You never heard him shouting saying bastard this, bastard that, never.
SR: He never used curse words?
SE: No, he hated that kind of language. He doesn’t use curse words.
SR: This is amazing stuff. You are the only Nigerian who has met Michael. He has never been to Nigeria. Did you ever talk to him about Nigeria?
SE: It’s really funny I did talk to him about Nigeria because you know that he was trying to do that thing in Bagadry.
SR: He was aware of it?
SE: Oh absolutely. And there was even talk of him being involved in it, but he wasn’t sure about his commitments because of the concerts. In fact his brother went to Nigeria recently.
SR: Yeah I know that. His brother is always in Nigeria.
SE: Yeah his brother, Michael was going be, I don’t know how much a part of it, but he knew about it and he liked the idea but obviously he wasn’t particularly in a good place himself, because he had a lot of his own problems. But I believe that if he lived, he would have been very much a part of it. In fact, Michael loved Nigeria and he loved Africa, and that’s one other thing that he liked. He liked about the fact that I was from, as the call it the black Americans, the Mother Country. Africa. And despite being brought up in the west, I still maintained my roots, as in I know my village, you go in visit people in my village ask for Susan Etok they’ll know who it is because I go and visit them. So he liked that because there aren’t that many people who do that and in particular, I wasn’t born in Nigeria. So he as very enthusiastic about Africa, very, very enthusiastic.
SR: So he was probably going to make trips to Africa you know.
SR: Let me wrap up here and that doesn’t mean that I won’t call you back. I want to make a specific reference to one of the specific fans who caught you on the internet saying you are racist, laid off because you’ve complained of racism…that’s my job because I am an investigative journalist, but I’m interested in your own story because you are Nigerian. And our work is focused on Nigeria/Africa.
SE: Can I ask you a question, when you saw that written, what was you first impression? Did you believe it?
SR: My work doesn’t allow me make that type of conclusion. I have to investigate everything that I do. This is an interview; I’m just taking you through the ground rules here.
SR: And I’m wrapping up on this because bottom line you know some of these things will persist.
SE: So what do I have to say about that?
SR: I’m not telling you what to say. I’m just saying just to respond, I mean even your background, you’ve made some response here that takes care of some of these feelings. But I have a duty as a reporter to ask you these questions.
SE: Okay. So can I say something about all those things?
SR: Yes, why not.
SE: I’ve been doing quite a bit of my investigative work and also with my legal team. And those things that are written there are by people that I know who are just jealous about the media coverage.
SR: So you know them?
SE: Yes, I know who they are. I know who they are. I know whom these people are because they’ve come onto my own blog and written things but what they don’t realize is that I can see the IP address so I can trace up you know where it’s coming from. And these people, they go to a site that they think I will never see, usually quite a small one and write these things on there and these are people who are quite jealous. Jealous people who think, they think I’ve made all this money, they think I’ve made loads of money that I’m now a celebrity and they just want to find something to put someone down. In fact there’s even people that have gone on the site and say yeah I’m very close to Susan’s family and what she’s saying is rubbish. Now think about it. Even if someone did make it up, let us just take for example I made everything up. My family being a Nigerian family would never go to someone and say oh she made it up.
SR: And the other thing is you have a book deal, have people talked to you about a book deal?
SE: People have, but it’s not something that I’m looking at the moment, purely because I don’t have time and surely because I don’t know how I feel about writing about it. Because for me it’s not about me, it’s about Michael. And like I come from a research background, I’m not interested in fame or fortune, I’m interested in raising awareness.
SR: Let me ask you something on the lighter side. Since you became very famous, have you gotten a lot of suitors? I say suitors because that is how we call it in Nigeria.
SE: I have! A lot of guys. And what is really funny is celebrities as well. I don’t want to mention any names, but I’ve been contacted by celebrities who suddenly want to be my friend. But in terms of suitors, quite a few.
SR: Any Nigerians?
SE: Quite a lot, you know how they are. Quite a lot.
SR: Big politicians?
SE: Yeah but I don’t want to give any names though.