Do You Remember 40 Years Ago When Michael Jackson Caught on Fire?

Michael Jackson
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

During the height of his fame, pop singer Michael Jackson was doing a big Pepsi commercial. It should have just been a fun shoot but an accident happened that left him with lasting physical and emotional damage. In 1984, he was filming the Pepsi commercial featuring a performance of his hit song “Billie Jean” in front of a crowd at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Pepsi had developed the idea for the ad where Jackson would emerge from a curtain of sparks. While it looked impressive, something went wrong and changed his life forever.

During the sixth take, there was a pyrotechnic malfunction that set Jackson’s hair on fire. Of course, it was the ’80s and he was coated in flammable hair products. The fire quickly spread on his head and he was unable to put it out. While the fire was extinguished rather quickly, he was left with severe burns. He experienced second and third-degree burns on his scalp and face, even exposing part of his skull.

Paramedics wheel Michael Jackson into Brotman Memorial Hospital after being burned during the filming of a Pepsi commercial. Exploding fireworks set his jacket and hair on fire giving him second degree burns on his scalp. | Location: Brotman Memorial Hospital, Los Angeles, California, USA.

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Jackson was treated at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for his burns and smoke inhalation. Jackson once said that he thought he was dying and even saw visions of angels. This incident left him with some horrible emotional trauma, worsened by the fact it was captured on video and leaked to the media. Pepsi apologized, paid for his medical expenses, and offered him $1.5 million, which he donated to the Brotman Medical Center in Culver City, California, and founded the Michael Jackson Burn Center for Children.

Unfortunately, he had to undergo several surgeries to repair the damage and had to get hair implants. He often wore makeup to cover the scars and injuries on his face and wigs and hats to conceal his hair loss and scars. Jackson suffered from nightmares and developed a fear of fire and pyrotechnics after the accident. He also became more obsessed with cosmetic surgery and used painkillers and sedatives to cope until his death in 2009.

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March 2023

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