By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - In the final weeks of his life, Michael Jackson slept with a toy doll on his bed, was so heavily drugged that he sometimes slurred his speech and his big comeback tour was plagued with problems.
That was the picture that has emerged of the King of Pop's private life during the first two weeks of the manslaughter trial of Jackson's in-house physician, Dr. Conrad Murray.
As bizarre as some of the revelations might be, they may add to Jackson's legacy as a genius whose stature has risen since his death in June 2009 at age 50, pop culture experts said.
Jackson's odd, sometimes pathetic demeanor -- largely forgotten in the worldwide grief over his death but on display again during Murray's televised trial -- may make him even more beloved by his fans.
"Lets face it, we're interested in this case because it is about Michael Jackson," said Bob Thompson, a professor of pop culture at Syracuse University.
"But the fact that he is gone also considerably changes how people perceive and emotionally engage in this kind of thing. The dead are the ultimate underdogs," Thompson said.
The most dramatic development in the trial so far has been a recording played for jurors in which Jackson speaks almost incoherently and slurs his words.
Prosecutors say Murray made the recording after giving Jackson a drug treatment as a sleep aid. Medical examiners found the singer's death resulted from an overdose of the anesthetic propofol combined with sedatives.
"I think that has introduced an element of pathos to Michael Jackson," Thompson said. "That slurred speech, he was saying, 'I was deprived of my childhood. I want my money to go to a children's hospital.' How do you argue with something like that?"
DOLLS AND BABIES
When prosecutors showed the jury a photo of a doll on the bed where Jackson's lifeless body was found hooked up to an IV, it made headlines.
Photos of Jackson's bedroom show he had several pictures and a poster of babies. The singer, who often said he was drawn to children because he never had a childhood himself, was tried and acquitted in 2005 of molesting a young boy.
Stacy Brown, co-author of a book called "Michael Jackson: The Man Behind the Mask," said the singer had collected dolls for years and had many at his Neverland Ranch in central California, where he also had theme park rides and a zoo.
"In the grand scheme of things, especially as it relates to him, I don't find it to be odd to have that doll there," Brown said. "If anything, I would expect there to be more."
But for Jackson's fans, a more disturbing revelation may be that the perfectionist "Thriller" singer appeared to be struggling during the strenuous preparations for his sold-out, 50-date London comeback tour -- his first for 12 years.
Jackson missed rehearsals in Los Angeles and those close to him had concerns about his health a week before he died. Tour director Kenny Ortega testified that on June 19, Jackson was too weak to rehearse and that he needed psychological help.
Brown said the picture of Jackson painted at trial "has only added to what's been going on since his death.
"And that is his image has been rehabilitated -- something that he might not have been able to do had he been alive."
(Editing by Jill Serjeant)
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