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Dermatologist to the stars and Jackson pal Dr Arnold Klein dies

Published 24/10/2015

Dermatologist Dr Arnold Klein treated Michael Jackson, Dame Elizabeth Taylor and other Hollywood celebrities (AP)
Dermatologist Dr Arnold Klein treated Michael Jackson, Dame Elizabeth Taylor and other Hollywood celebrities (AP)

Dr Arnold Klein, a pioneer in the use of Botox and other injectable substances to improve personal appearance, whose patients included Michael Jackson, Dame Elizabeth Taylor, and a host of other Hollywood stars, has died at 70.

Hollywood's "dermatologist to the stars" once said: "Put me next to a patient, give me a needle and I'm really happy." And he might have added: "Make the patient Michael Jackson and I'll be even happier."

Despite his star-studded patient list, Dr Klein, who died at Eisenhower Medical Centre in Rancho Mirage, California, on Thursday, was better known to the public as one of Jackson's closest friends.

It was a relationship that helped cement the doctor's reputation as the go-to man for stars such as Dame Elizabeth, Carrie Fisher and others who wanted work to make them look younger.

Jackson's friendship would ultimately prove a curse for Dr Klein after the King of Pop died at 50 of a drug overdose administered by another physician in 2009, and it was revealed that Dr Klein had been injecting him regularly with the powerful painkiller Demerol.

An investigation found no trace of that drug in Jackson's body when he died and Dr Klein was not implicated in the death, but the revelation permanently stained his reputation as one of Los Angeles' most prominent celebrity medics - s o much so that Dr Klein had largely fallen off the paparazzi and gossip tabloid radar until he died.

No cause of death was given by the Riverside County coroner's office and no investigation was planned.

Dr Klein's celebrity client roster once included entertainers such as Dolly Parton and Cher, powerful Hollywood executives, wealthy Beverly Hills socialites and even international royalty.

But his favourite patient was clearly Jackson. He called the entertainer "my best friend" in a 2011 interview, adding that he had joined Jackson and his children in celebrating the entertainer's last Christmas in 2008.

Rumours persisted over the years that Dr Klein had fathered two of Jackson's three children with Debbie Rowe, a nurse who had worked for him and married Jackson. Dr Klein denied it.

Dr Klein met Jackson in 1983 when he treated the singer for a skin rash. He quickly became his regular dermatologist, treating him for ailments that included the skin disease vitiligo that causes a patchy whitening of the skin.

Conrad Murray, another doctor who had been providing the powerful anaesthetic propofol to help Jackson sleep, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson's death.

During Murray's trial it was revealed that Dr Klein often provided Jackson with Demerol to ease pain during his friend's treatments.

Klein said in 2011 that the publicity drove away some of his international clients and political bigwigs who did not want photographers to see them entering his Beverly Hills clinic. But he insisted his Hollywood clientele stood by him. Fisher, for one, agreed.

The actress said at the time that Dr Klein was a brilliant and ethical doctor who would never have misused drugs and who helped her immensely with her appearance and self-esteem.

"It's like he's a painter but the brush is a needle," she said then.

Criminal defence lawyer Garo Ghazarian, who represented Dr Klein during the Jackson death investigation, called him a larger-than-life figure who was engaging, outgoing, candid and funny.

"In my line of work in representing different types of clients I respect all of them and their right to representation, but I don't necessary like each and every one of them," he said. "But I really liked Dr Klein. I really liked him."

Soon after the investigation Dr Klein filed for bankruptcy and blamed it on theft and fraud by former employees. They denied it, saying it was the doctor's own profligate spending that helped lead to his financial woes.

At one time he owned huge homes in Palm Springs, Laguna Beach and Beverly Hills, drove expensive cars and wore pricey jewellery. At the time of his death, he still maintained a clinic in Beverly Hills.

In a video from last year posted on his website, Dr Klein demonstrates a successful procedure on a patient to smooth out the wrinkles and improve the look of her face.

"What you want is a person not to look done but to look natural and to look good and better and rested," he said.

He also reiterated what he said in 2011: "All I'm trying to do is be the best doctor I can."

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