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Michael Jackson bids for the elephant man

The Story


In 1987, pop star Michael Jackson makes a bid to buy the bones of Joseph Merrick, popularly known as the "Elephant Man". In exchange for the remains, Jackson offers the London Hospital Medical College $500,000. As we hear in this CBC Radio interview with David Edwards, chief administrator at the college, Jackson soon doubles the amount.

Medium: Radio
Program: As It Happens
Broadcast Date: June 17, 1987
Guest(s): David Edwards
Host: Alan Maitland
Interviewer: Dennis Trudeau
Duration: 5:02
Photo of Joseph Merrick (The Elephant Man) in 1889, from Wikipedia, is in the public domain.

Did You know?


• John Merrick, as he is referred to in this clip, was actually Joseph Carey Merrick. The mistake was made by his doctor, Frederick Treves, in his 1922 memoirs. Merrick died in 1890.

• Michael Jackson's interest was more than casual. According to his manager Frank Dileo, Jackson had read extensively about Merrick's story and had visited the hospital twice to view the remains.

• Two weeks after this 1987 story was broadcast, Jackson announced a solo world tour starting in September. It was his first since the 1984 Victory Tour with the Jackson family. On Aug. 31, 1987, he released the album Bad.

• In 1979, a play by Bernard Pomerance called The Elephant Man debuted on Broadway. It won a Tony Award for best play that year.

• In 1980, American film director David Lynch released his version of the play, starring John Hurt in the title role. It received eight Academy Award nominations including best picture, best director and best actor.


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