Randall Sullivan, the highly-acclaimed journalist, spent three years getting behind the mask of Michael Jackson, the most celebrated entertainer our world has ever known.
"There hasn't been anyone that famous in a single moment as he was during 'Thriller' time," he said. "I think that was probably the peak of celebrity for a human being."
Sullivan's new book, "Untouchable: The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson," in stores Tuesday, is a tale of family, fame, lost childhood, and startling accusations never heard before. It paints a portrait of a prescription drug addict who could spend $250,000 on a shopping spree without thinking.
"The shopping, like the drugs, were a, it was a painkiller for him," Sullivan said.
Sullivan said Jackson would often call business partners, including Marc Schaffel, and ask them to bring him bags of cash.
"In one case there was a phone call where he's asking Marc for $7.5 million," Sullivan said. "When Schaffel first gave him cash, for some reason he put it in an Arby's bag, it was like a French fry bag or something and gave it to Michael. And so that became an in joke, 'Well, I want you to Super Size this order.' 'Could you bring me some more money, but this time super size it?'
"He wanted to have money he could actually put in his pocket," Sullivan continued. "To him that was real money."
In his description of the King of Pop, Sullivan says Jackson was a man-child who couldn't leave fame, or family, behind.
"Michael was tired of being a song and dance man," he said. "He didn't want to perform on stage from the time, well from the time of the History tour, which was 1995, 1996."
Jackson, who starred as the Scarecrow in the 1978 blockbuster flop, "The Wiz," wanted to be an actor, Sullivan said. He had wanted to buy the rights to every Marvel character before anyone else thought of making them into movies.
"He wanted to play Spiderman," Sullivan said. "How that would have worked? I don't know."
And he wanted to play Willy Wonka in the 2005 remake of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," but he didn't get that role either. Jackson claimed to be a child trapped in an adult world. Sullivan said even as an adult, Jackson never got to express his sexuality.
"I think he did all that he could to neutralize himself," he said. "I don't think Michael was trying to be homosexual, heterosexual, pedophile, I think he was trying to be asexual: pre-sexual actually. I think he was aiming to be pre-sexual because he saw that as the one place where innocence and purity and great ideas and you know, artistic visions and poetic fantasies all abided."
Sullivan said Jackson long saw himself as a real-life Peter Pan, and his insistence on this make-believe role became so sincere that he had plastic surgery to copy the appearance of actor Bobby Driscoll's "Peter Pan's nose."
"He eventually gave himself the nose of the boy, the young actor Bobby Driscoll, who was the model for Peter Pan in Walt Disney's movie," Sullivan said.
There were of course the accusations that Jackson's love of children was, in fact, sexual. There is no proof Jackson molested anyone. In 2003, he was cleared of the only accusation that ever made it to trial, but he admitted to sharing a bed with pre-pubescent kids. According to Sullivan, he slept next to dozens of children.