David Gest: ‘Michael Jackson never got over his hair catching on fire’

Singer's friend says accident changed his life and caused drug addiction

David Gest has claimed that Michael Jackson “never got over” the accident in which his hair caught fire while filming a commercial.

The singer’s head was infamously set alight when, during the recording of an advert for Pepsi in 1984, a fireworks display erupted behind him. Footage of the incident was re-examined following Jackson’s death, with many pinning the start of his prescription drug use to the incident.

Gest, a friend of the late star, told BBC Breakfast that the accident had marked a turning point in his life. “When he started his solo career and he left Motown, when he did ‘Off The Wall’, ‘Bad’ and ‘Thriller’, he was in complete control of everything he did. He was in charge,” he said.

“It was that accident, when you get a head concussion it changes your life because you get addicted to drugs, to get rid of all the pain, and that started with filming that commercial.”

Gest also claimed that Jackson had been forced to undergo a medical treatment known as ‘ballooning’, which involves expanding the scalp and is commonly used as a method of surgical hair restoration. He added: “He never got over that. He had ballooning, ballooning is when you expand the scalp, until the day he died he was being ballooned.”

Last week, a court in LA heard that the King of Pop was in “pharmacological never-never land” when he died. It was also claimed that his doctor, Conrad Murray, was “clueless” about the drug which allegedly ended the singer’s life.

Dr Steven Shafer, an expert who gave evidence at the trial, said that Dr Murray’s negligence in administering Propofol to the star directly led to his death. Dr Murray is not expected to testify during proceedings. The trial continues.

Michael Jackson was recently named the top earning dead celebrity for the second year running. His estate amassed $170 million (£106 million) between October 2010 and 2011, beating Elvis Presley into second place.