Pepsi on the video of MJ’s hair on fire: “why share such frightening images?”

PepsiCo has issued an official response to the video that’s circulating featuring Michael Jackson’s hair catching fire on that fateful day in 1984 when he was filming a Pepsi commercial. They’re thoughtful and considerate in their statement, saying they’ll never forget the incident, and don’t understand why someone would release the footage. They can’t hold anyone responsible for leaking the video because there’s no way to tell who owns it after all this time:

Pepsi has responded to yesterday’s appearance on the internet of footage of Michael Jackson being burned while filming an ad for the soft drink in 1984. Contacted by EW about the material, which was posted by US Weekly, Pepsi spokeswoman Nicole Bradley sent the following statement.

“We don’t know how the footage became available. Twenty-five years later, we’d question why anyone would want to share such frightening images. It was a terrifying event that we’ll never forget.

We were grateful for Michael’s recovery and for the chance to continue working with him on a number of successful projects.

As for Michael as an artist, his music helped us define a generation and, like everyone else, we’re deeply saddened by his passing.”

Bradley also told EW that the company is not currently attempting to get the footage taken down and that Pepsi itself may well not own the rights to the material. “We don’t know where it came from,” she says. “We don’t know what that footage is. It’s 25 years ago. We don’t know who owns it, so we have no recourse as far as I know. I can only tell you what I know. We didn’t put it up and we don’t know where it came from.”


Many of you said that the video was really disturbing and you wish you hadn’t watched it. Others said it put Michael’s prescription drug abuse in context and showed what a harrowing, painful experience he went through at the height of his career. His dermatologist, Dr. Klein, told Larry King that Jackson was using something called “tissue expanders,” or balloon-like devices in his skull to try and repair all the scar tissue there, and that the expanders just kept increasing his bald spot. He had a lot of problems that were often compounded by all the treatments he sought.

Pepsi knows why US Weekly released that footage. It’s a sensational video that shows a terrible accident in the life of a now-deceased International superstar. It’s likely that Michael Jackson would have been a much different person in the last decades of his life if his hair hadn’t caught on fire that day. We’ll never know, though. We can watch the video and be shocked, and maybe have some compassion for a man we used to dismiss as a warped eccentric version of his former self.

Michael Jackson is shown performing in Tel Aviv, Israel in 1998. Credit: ANG/Fame Pictures


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13 Responses to “Pepsi on the video of MJ’s hair on fire: “why share such frightening images?””

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  1. vixenella says:

    Out of all the things I’ve seen-pics of him in the casket,his body wrapped in the white sheet,and the leg pics-this is the most disturbing to me.

  2. Diana says:

    I don’t believe MJ’s addiction to meds began with this incident. According to Barry Gordy, MJ had numerous plastic surgeries prior to his work on The Wiz which may have been the starting point for his abuse.

    I think the original release of photos on the fire were shown from the front only. There appears to be an interest in the film clip it’s being shown on nearly every station.

  3. omondieu says:

    Seeing the whole thing really put things into perspective for me. In my teens, I’d often snicker at the idea of MJ’s hair catching on fire during the filming of this commercial. The idea was cartoonish to me. After seeing the video, I feel terrible. As an aspiring visual artist (ish), I have a high tolerance for bizarre and surreal images, so I didn’t really find the video THAT disturbing. I was more interested in that (as was stated in the original post with the video a few days ago) the video seems to depict two entirely different Michael Jacksons.

    First, we’re seeing this awesome musical force, this legend, trailblazer. He seems to be completely in control. His presence is almost divine. But then as soon as those crewmembers knock him down (seeing him fall into the melee of bodies broke my heart), we know the hero has fallen (metaphorically speaking), that he will never be the same after that. It felt like watching a scene from some Greek myth come to life: THAT’S what I found the most chilling about the video. MJ was like a contemporary Icarus, punished for his hubris. He needed to be reminded that he was a mere mortal, and didn’t have what it took to soar with gods.

  4. gg says:

    I would not be too quick to assume MJ’s entire downfall was due to the fire incident. He had so many demons that drug abuse seems likely in any case. Sadly.

    I think the biggest mistakes MJ made with regard to his public image were made by just not telling the truth. Why did he keep changing his stories about the origin of his kids? Why not just say “no comment”, instead of insisting his sperm cells were used?

    You get caught in one big lie, then another (the kids’ births), and that means you’re just a big liar and anything you say after that holds no weight. Understandably, nobody appreciates a liar. Then the false lawsuits start pouring in, since you’ve perjured yourself already, and everybody discounts his story on everything.

    Maybe other people have learned from this sad example.

  5. Shay says:

    “We don’t know who owns it”..

    But you don’t care to find out either? No respect for a man who lost his hair trying to help you sell your product but was then willing to work with you again when he could have chosen your competitor. It wouldn’t hurt to ask in-house counsel to investigate the ownership of the tape.

  6. ! says:

    Let’s face it. In this day and age of Internet, if Michael’s hair had caught on fire during a filming, it’d be online the same day. This isn’t shocking in the context of the world we live in, where TMZ posts the 911 calls of Donda West or shows pictures of Heath Ledger’s body being wheeled out to the ambulance.

  7. the original kate says:

    i don’t need to see anyone’s head on fire, thanks. the world is scary enough.

  8. fizXgirl314 says:

    it’s all about the money these days isn’t it? the media will put anything out there as long as it gets viewers and they get the big bucks rolling in… ultimately, the public is to blame… it’s true… we provide the market for it.

  9. trcyph says:

    This video was very shocking and
    horrifying. I never realized how bad
    he was hurt.

  10. Zoe (The Other One) says:

    @ The Original Kate – absolutely! No heads on fire for us please!

  11. gg says:

    Not defending or promoting, but I don’t anybody making money off of this 25 year old documentary clip.

  12. brigitte j. says:

    why was the michael jackson pepsi footage not completely shown 25 years ago?

  13. Susan says:

    For those who watched the video and didn’t want to see it, why did you see it? It wasn’t grosteque. Yes, I’m sure he went through a lot of pain. I, myself, had 2nd degree burns. It is painful. And like other burn victims, they didn’t abuse drugs over it. People are forgetting Michael was a very powerful person. And can easily get anything he wants and no one is going to tell him no. He wasn’t the perfect angel he projected. He was obsessed with control and his looks. Its ironic this footage surface right after his death. I think it was an agreement with Michael and Pepsi. It leaked? Com’on! Don’t always believe everything you hear.