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Jackson lost will to live, confidante says

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Michael Jackson lost the will to live in recent years, a former close confidante said on Friday, as scores of fans camped out to be the first to see the singer's final appearance in the "This is It" movie.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, appearing on NBC's "Today" show, unveiled lengthy conversations he taped with Jackson during their 1999-2001 friendship, and said the "Thriller" singer suffered deep emotional pain.

"He lost the will to live," Boteach said. "I think he was just going through the motions of life toward the end."

Boteach also said that Jackson, who had plastic surgery several times, once confessed that he didn't want to appear in public, because he felt that he looked like a "lizard."

Jackson died in Los Angeles on June 25 of a prescription drug overdose, less three weeks before he was due to begin a series of 50 sold-out comeback shows in London.

Back in March, when Jackson visited London to announce the "This Is It" shows, he appeared in a military-style jacket and punched the air.

But the tapes collected by Boteach show Jackson to be a far less confidant man, who feared growing old and had suffered levels of loneliness and pain that the rabbi said "staggers the imagination."

"I would like some way to disappear, where people don't see me anymore at some point," Jackson said in the tapes.

"I don't want to grow old. I never want to look in the mirror and see that," the singer said.

Boteach has turned his conversations with the pop star into a book, published on Friday, called "The Michael Jackson Tapes."

JACKSON FANFARE

Boteach's book comes as Jackson's fans lined up in Los Angeles three days before tickets go on sale on Sunday for the October 28 release worldwide of "This Is It".

The movie is based on footage of Jackson rehearsing for his London shows and demand is expected to be strong for the two week limited release.

Some 200 fans were camped out on Friday, across the street from where Jackson had his final rehearsals, waiting to buy tickets to the movie premiere. The waiting fans will also get commemorative tickets designed by Jackson for the now canceled London shows.

Sunil Kumar, 25, a fashion design student from India, was one of the fans who slept on concrete overnight. Kumar said Jackson had a huge fan base in India.

"He's kind of a god of the dance," Kumar said. "No one ever danced like him in the whole world."

Tony Kirby, 51, wearing a black hat and an open shirt, sat on a lawn chair next to his wife, waiting it out as their 7 year-old daughter bounded around nearby.

"When we got here I wasn't even grey, I've got grey hair now," Tony joked.

The Kirbys said Jackson was a significant figure for African-Americans like themselves, because he showed a black artist could break through racial barriers and become a global star.

The fans camping out in Los Angeles will get their tickets at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday -- the same day global online ticket sales begin for regular showings of movie.

(Editing by Jill Serjeant)

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